This was a book I knew nothing about other than that I had seen it in the bookstgram world. Oh my word, I am glad that I had found it in the real world, because it was quite a read.
The brilliant thing about YA fiction is that many of the authors have the confidence to tackle some topics that, not so long ago, people may have considered a little taboo. ‘Beautiful Broken Things’ tackles the subject of mental health, which is something that is becoming much more talked about – and rightly so.
When new girl Suzanne arrives in Brighton and becomes friends with Rosie and Caddy, she turns their lives upside down. Is she new and exciting? Or is there something deeper that appears to fuel this fun-loving girl? As the story unfolds, and clues to Suze’s past begin to be revealed, Caddy and Rosie are forced to reflect on themselves and their friendships – and how far do things have to go before things go too far?
Sara Barnard creates characters that are relateable and reflect experiences many people have as teenagers, especially that difficulty many have in finding their identity. However, the bond of friendship is often the strongest, and young people are often far more willing to see past the potential character ‘flaws’ in others and support those around them to offer strength.
The subject of mental health is handled well, with great sensitivity, but is also makes it accessible as a subject. The great thing about books is that they start conversations and remove the stigma from some topics.
I can’t wait to read more of Sara Barnard’s work, as I could not put this book down. Have you read any of her novels? What are your thoughts?
July’s pick for ‘Maidens of Murder’ bookclub was ‘Destination Unknown’; one of the only works by Christie not to have been brought to life on the screen – big or small.
This has more the feel of a thriller than Christie’s usual works. A standalone novel set against the early days of the Iron Curtain it is a tale of secrets, science and suspicion. There is, of course, a hint of murder, but it is not quite as central to the tale as it would be with some of Christie’s more well-known works. However, it is enjoyable to read something that is not traditional for Agatha Christie, and that really reflects the post-war era she was writing in.
However, it is a little worrying that a novel that is 65 years old is still relevant today or seems to be as we live through some turbulant times. Certainly thought-provoking.
So, thank you again ‘Maidens of Murder’ for encouraging me to read a Christie I would never have picked up otherwise. As always, looking forward to next month’s pick.
Sir Ian McKellen is currently on tour to celebrate his 80th birthday. Also, his aim is to raise money for the arts, allowing theatres and companies to decide what the money raised will be spent on.
I have been a fan of Sir Ian McKellen as long as I can remember. He is someone who I rank with many of Britain’s great classical actors such as Dame Judi Dench, Sir Michael Gambon, Sir Patrick Stewart, the list is endless. And when the opportunity came up for me to see him on the stage of the RSC theatre, I was over the moon. It has been on my theatre bucket list to see Sir Ian McKellen on the stage, and what better place than Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s home town?
From the moment he took to the stage, the audience was fully captivated. Especially as he opened with a passage from ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’. McKellen held the audience’s attention as he told tales about his journey to stardom. There was so much humour and emotion as he took us on a tour of his career, we were even given the chance to see his Dame Twanky. I was grinning all the way through the first half – and possibly a little starstruck.
The second half was a wonderful nod to Shakespeare and all his plays. Sir Ian McKellen told anecdotes of productions he had performed in, as well as performing extracts from plays – he must be one of the only actors who can create a Shakespeare medley. In fact, I may have shed a little tear when paid tribute to some of the family and friends he has lost over the years. It was beautiful.
An evening in the company of Sir Ian McKellen is one of the best moments I have spent in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (and that’s a bold statement). Everyon around me was also having an amazing time, which was a true tribute to the talent of the star that is Sir Ian McKellen.
Well, a rather cutural weekend in mid-July started with a trip to my happy place (The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, for any newbies to the blog). The play of choice was the latest version of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ from the RSC.
This was an interesting adaptation of the classic tale, as the roles were gender-reversed. Kate and Bianco were the focus of the tale, men who came to the attention of the powerful women of Italy. However, still set in Shakespeare’s day, and the matriarchy of Elizabeth I. To begin with, I fully embraced the idea of strong females playing the game, having all the skill and focus to tame the men and achieve what they want. However, as you watch it, you realise that it is actually not a particularly friendly tale (as it is often romanticised as), but actually a tale of manipulation.
Now, this is a sign of a good production, as it makes you reflect and think about the tale that is unfolding in front of you. And maybe, as a female I was more aware of the tale as the women took the lead.
This was an excellent production. Purists may not enjoy the change of genders, but this does not take away from the tale at all. There is comedy and emotion in the production, and you are invested in the tale from the moment it begins. Bianco is fabulously vain; Kate is fabulously rough and ready, but goes through the transformation like a butterfly, and Claire Price makes Petruchia her own.
There was, of course, everything else you would expect from an RSC production. A simple but engaging set and a great use of music and costume to bring the tale to life. A clever reflection of past and present, I would recommend catching this porduction if you can, as I think it will lead you to reflect on this story a little differently to before.
Although, I have to admit that this experience was probably enhanced by spotting Sir Ian McKellen in the audience which will conviently lead to my next post…
Sometimes you just need to read a thriller book, unfortunately, this book was not as much of one as I would have liked.
There were all of the ingredients of a successful thriller; however, somewhere a little something was missing to make it as thrilling as it could have been. The idea of someone’s house being sold without their knowledge and the motive behind it was fascinating – the method of telling the story was brilliant, as it tapped into the current fascination with true crime stories. Also, the narrative allowed the victim and the perpetrator a voice. However, the characters were difficult to warm to or engage with. And one of the ‘twists’ is visible from the moment it starts.
Don’t get me wrong, I still read the novel until the end but it is not a book I would pick up again. If you like the pacer thrillers this won’t be a book for you, but I do think it would be a good beach read if you are ready to unwind. And you may well be left questioning who you should trust.
I have just returned from Krakow, Poland. The purpose of this visit was to visit Auschwitz and educate young people on the past, present and future of the Jewish community of Europe. After all as the quote from George Santayna states, ‘Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’
One of the greatest ways for us to understand the tragic events of the Holocaust is from the testimonies and memories of those who sadly had to experience them. One such survivor was Edith Eger, and has put pen to paper to bring us a true story of hope in her work ‘The Choice’.
I knew nothing about this book until a friend had read it and passed it on to me, as she wanted a History teacher’s view of it. And she could not have timed it better to coincide with my trip to Poland.
Oh my – what a book – what a life. I am so glad that Edith Eger felt she could tell her story as part of her attempt to release herself from her past.
Edith became a prisoner of Auschwitz when her family was sent there along with thousands of Hungarian Jews. She talks about her experiences in the camp – even her encounter with Doctor Mengele. However, this is not the sole focus of the book; this is about the choices she consciously makes to survive. And these choices are made by Edith every day, from the moment she was taken to the camp right up to now.
Edith Eger comes across as an extremely strong woman who did not want her past to define her, but to allow her to become the woman she is today. Now, she helps others to make the choices they need to, for them to become the best versions of themselves. Edith does not want others to make the mistakes that were made in the past.
This book is one that is almost impossible to put down, as you follow Edith Eger through her life story. It certainly made me consider the choices I make a little more carefully as, ultimately, we are the only people in control of our future and we do not have to rely on others or events beyond our control to take over.
This book is an inspiration and certainly made me look at my trip to Krakow a little differently to those trips I had made before.
My final title for my ‘Reading with Pride’ month was ‘What If It’s Us’. I had seen this book around a few times and have read other titles by Becky Albertalli, so I thought it would be a good read. And, oh it was!
This is a perfect book for any teenager who has struggled with first love and friendships, and all the complications that come with them.
This starts in the most ideally perfect romantic fashion. Boy meets boy but neither boy actually makes sure that they can see each other again. Although that does not put Arthur off searching for Ben using his best detective skills. Luckily, the universe intervenes and they embark on the adventure of a relationship and all that comes with it.
It tackles all the usual angst that comes with being a teenager, especially one starting a new relationship. Arthur has never had a boyfriend before and has quite a romantic view of life. Ben seems to be so much more experienced with his handsome ex, Hudson. But, really, they are both just boys finding their way in life. They just need confidence, their friends, family and, of course. each other to get them there.
This is a brilliant book, as it simply tells a wonderful LGBT+ love story. And this is totally how it should be in the 21st century – these stories should be mainstream and readily available for all to read. The range of YA fiction is brilliant and I am a little sad that there was not so much when my generation was growing up, because books can be so much support for so many people.
Many years ago in Mrs Dove’s English class, a group of students (including me) studied the play ‘Hobson’s Choice’. We also watched the wonderful black-and-white film with Charles Laughton and Sir John Mills. Therefore, when I saw that the Birmingham Royal Ballet was putting on the ballet as part of the summer season, I knew it had to be a treat for me and my Mum to go.
It was perfect! A fairly modern ballet as it was first composed, choreographed and performed in 1989. It is absolutely magical, totally reminiscent of those old silent movies. The story is told completely through the music, the choreography and the perfect expressions all the dancers performed. And, any ballet that can get ’10 Green Bottles’ into its score is good fun. Every dancer on the stage performed their character with great humour and emotion, and it really brought the whole story to life. The whole ballet was completely engaging and the audience were enthralled. There was even a little sing-along too.
‘Hobson’s Choice’ is such a delightful story which actually has a very strong female lead in the guise of Hobson’s daughter Maggie. This could be considered quite unusual for its time. But she is certainly the one behind sorting out her father and helping Will Mossop to really be appreciated for the talented boot maker that he is. She was performed brilliantly by Beatrice Parma.
Although, this may not be your traditional ballet tale, it was wonderful and I would absolutely love to see it again, as sometimes it does not feel like you can take it all in when you just watch it once.
Do you enjoy the ballet? Do you have a favourite?
I discovered that this book was going to come into the world by first following Lucy Powrie on Twitter. When you find out that people have had the chance to publish a project that means so much to them, I think it is important to support them.
So, as soon as I found ‘The Paper & Hearts Society’ in the wild I knew I had to purchase a copy. I am so glad that I did because this turned out to be the book I needed to read when I was an awkward teenager – in fact, I think it is the book that many of us bookworms needed as teenagers.
This novel brings together Tabby, Henry, Ed, Olivia and Cassie, who are all completely different but are totally and utterly unified by their love of books, leading to the deepest of frienships. It is a great cast of characters, and with my reading with pride month, it brings LGBT+ to the centre of the novel too (which, as recently announced, also lines up with Lucy Powrie’s second novel perfectly).
The thing I admired most about ‘The Paper & Hearts Society’ was the different topics it tackled, which must throw more challenges at young people as they try to carve their own path. Tabby faces bullying from her ‘friend’ Jess, which impacts her mental health and her friendships; social media impacts their friendships and each character has their own background struggles. All of this is handled well and you will laugh and cry with all of the characters along the way.
The final pages didn’t just leave me wanting more, and with yet another reading list – but also with a deep desire to become a member of ‘The Paper and Hearts Society’, and set off on a literary road trip.
Have you ever finished a book, hoping you could be part of the story?
I have decided that I wanted to try and complete June reading books to celebrate Pride month. This, of course, does not mean I do not read books with LGBTQ+ characters or themes the rest of the year, but it has been good to have a focus this month.
I have based all my choices on books that I have seen on Instagram or in the press. I did not read what they are about before I start, but just dived right in to find out more.
Unintentionally, the first two titles I chose had the same theme, and it has been fascinating to see how two different authors have handled the same theme.
First up is ‘My Brother’s Name is Jessica’ by John Boyne. Aimed at 9-12 year olds this book tackles the issue of Sam having to understand his brother’s desire to transition to become his sister – the person she believes she should always have been.
I was really pleased to find a novel that tackled such a subject for younger readers. Boyne tackles not only the emotions that Sam goes through, but also for so many different people that are impacted by Jason’s secret. You go on an important journey of self-discovery with all all the characters and I am not ashamed to say that I shed a tear or two as I reached the story’s conclusion. Boyne’s writing is so engaging that this was a novel that I struggled to put down.
My second novel this month was ‘Birthday’ by Meredith Russo. This has a similar theme as ‘My Brother’s Name is Jessica’ but is a YA novel. Morgan and Eric have spent every birthday together and have grown up together. However, Morgan has been struggling with a decision: should she live as her true self and will she be accepted if she does? Aimed at older readers, this novel is grittier at times and full of raw emotion. I felt as though I was living every emotion that Morgan and Eric were. And, there are some twists in this tale which make this book a gem and one of the happiest endings I have read in a while. (Although it is an emotional roller coaster).
It is great that there are now so many more books with a diverse set of characters and story lines for younger readers.
Have you read with Pride this month? Any recommendations?