Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

This is a novel that I was sent in a fabulous little bookswap in the summer. Not a novel that I would have picked up myself, but that is the beauty of all these brilliant bookswaps – they invite you to read books that you may not have picked up otherwise.

‘Clock Dance’ is a great novel, almost a coming-of-age novel, but for an older character. Willa Drake has lived her life the way she feels she should. However, it has not always turned out the way it should. Her mother was difficult, she became a widow young, and she doesn’t have the relationship with he family that she thought she would and, even, should have. So, when a chance phone call leads her to be the person looking after her son’s ex-girlfriend and he daughter, her life takes a very different path.

This story is a wonderful tale that shows that you do not always have to stick to the life path you are given and that sometimes taking a chance can lead to a different outcome.

A heart-warming tale told with humour, you really hope that Willa will take the opportunities that are thrown at her and throw off the limitations that she gives herself by doing what is expected of her. The final paragraph is one of the best in a book that I have read in a while.

This will encourage me to try some more novels from Anne Tyler, as this is only the second novel I have read and, for me, it was a 5-star read.

Have you found any new authors through bookswaps?

National Read a Book Day – or Not!

Do not let the title of the blog post confuse you – I am over the moon that it is ‘National Read a Book Day’ – however, I have been thinking about not reading books. Do not despair, I am not giving up books; I could never do that. Yet, do we have to finish books that we do not enjoy or say we love a book just because everyone else does?

While contemplating this question, I have decided that life is too short to read books that you do not enjoy. Or telling people you enjoyed a book that, let’s be honest, you didn’t.

Sometimes, it really disappoints me that I have to retire a book to the ‘Did Not Finish’ pile. A recent example of this was ‘The Secret Barrister’. I was so excited to receive it in a recent bookswap and actually give it a go. However, it just was not for me, despite my best efforts. Remember, this does not mean it is not a good book – it just means it was not the book for me. I am sure, for many readers, it was the perfect book.

This is a similar idea to the #blacksheepofbookstagram created by the lovely ‘Silver Linings and Pages’ and her bookstagram account. This is based on the principle that you may not enjoy that book that everyone else in the book world seems to hold in high esteem. My recent experience of that was ‘East Lynne’, a book club read that just was not as fabulous for me as it seemed to be for everyone else. But I have finally accepted that it is okay – after all, the world would be a boring place if we were all the same.

So, as much as ‘National Read a Book Day’ is a perfect day for us bookworms, it is also okay to like what you like and not like what you don’t like!

Happy reading!

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Two Sara Barnard novels in one summer – wow – I have clearly found another author who grabs my attention. ‘A Quiet Kind of Thunder’ was another remarkable YA novel that I wish had been around when I was ‘officially’ the audience of the genre.

What has struck me over the two novels I have read this summer from Sara Barnard is that she does not shy away from tough topics, and also creates fabulous characters. Steffi doesn’t speak; she becomes anxious in public situations. She is introduced to Rhys, who is deaf. However, they really understand each other. Communication doesn’t always have to be verbal, in fact sometimes the quietest people can be the loudest. Together, Steffi and Rhys help each other grow and face the challenges of being a teenager in the modern world – and, together, they find their voice.

This is a wonderful love story for the modern age and demonstrates the positivity that surrounds someone finding the right person to offer them support. It shows that there can be hurdles and bumps along the way, but often they can make people stronger.

The most wonderful touch about this novel is the symbols with each chapter that demonstrate the numbers in BSL. It has certainly inspired me to want to learn and have more of an understanding of another language.

I can not wait to read more from Sara Barnard, as she really has a talent for creating tales that have you hooked.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Taheren Mafi

This novel has an incredibly clever title and it took me rather a long time to realise this. But when I did, it made me love this book even more.

This is a tale that may seem like a popular one for YA fiction – a love story. However, this has so much more to it. Yes, it tackles the idea of love across the cultural divide (which we all know is something that maybe we should not be facing in the 21st Century), however the journey of self-discovery on these pages is fascinating. Maybe, one who fears prejudice may inadvertently demonstrate their own?

Shirin feels that there is absolutely no need to become part of the school community. After all, they will all have made their mind up about her, judging her on her hijab. However, she meets Ocean, who goes out of his way to find out more about her – and will not give up easily. As a friendship and relationship blooms between the two, it comes to light that Ocean is basketball player and the labels the two feel they carry lead to difficult consequences for both.

A I read this book I went through all the emotions for all the characters. It is quite an emotional page-turner. You certainly feel that, by the end, Shirin and Ocean have been on quite an adventure together – and maybe they are a little happier in their own skin by the end.

Measure for Measure

Our summer trip to the RSC was to see Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse’s favourite play, ‘Measure for Measure’. A probloem play, so I am told, as it does not appear to fit perfectly into any category.

This production, by Gregory Doran, is set in early 1900s Vienn. Angelo has been left in charge of the city to deal with the brothels and low morals that the citizens appear to be demonstrating. However, is he in fact, any more morally superior than the people he is accusing?

This production was certainly played for laughs (including actors corpsing which, for me, always makes the show more enjoyable). However, what struck me through some of the action and the soliloquies is that, again, Shakespeare’s plays could have been written for the age we are living in. Are those in control really deserving? Can we believe or trust anything we are told?

As always, the production was superb. The cast engaged the audience in the tale, the set so simple but yet so versatile, and the music creating the perfect atmosphere.

Overall, a highly enjoyable, yet thought-provoking evening.

Six: The Musical

I love the opportunity to go to London and see a musical. As Miss W had mentioned that she fancied seeing ‘Six’, I jumped at the chance to plan a little trip (especially as even students I teach had been telling me ‘to see that musical about Henry VIII’s wives’).

‘Six: The Musical’ is at the Arts Theatre on the edge of Leicester Square. Quite an intimate theatre, which is perfect for this show as it is more a brilliant rock and pop concert than a traditional musical narrative. In fact, it is such a simple idea that it is incredibly effective.

The wives act out their own singing contest to allow the audience to decide who the most hard-done-by wife of Henry VIII was. Historical fact is set to amazing music to allow each wife to tell their tale, in a way that would probably suit their character if it was the modern day. The songs are catchy and the audience really does feel like it is at a rock concert.

However, what struck me the most was not just the amazing all-female production but the excellent ‘political’ statement made about ‘his-story’. All of those women are connected by Henry VIII, the man who fact brought them to hsitory. Yet they are part of ‘her-story’ and are figures in their own right, none more significant than the other but each having made their contribution. We just, unfortunately, often remember what those who write ‘his-story’ want us to remember.

This show deserves all the praise and dedicated following it has gained. And, if it is causing people to become more interested in history well, then it has done a fantastic job.

New Beginnings at Rose Cottage by Erin Green

Erin Green’s fourth novel has hit the shelves, and her first published by Headline. An exciting August publication for all, readers and author.

‘New Beginnings at Rose Cottage’ is an absolutely wonderful novel; I enjoyed every moment of this tale that was inspired by a recent trip to Brixham that Erin went on with friends (and by the end I am pretty certain you will want to visit it too).

Three women are thrown together as they each book a ‘solo’ holiday at Rose Cottage. At first they appear an unlikely trio to become friends – but they all have a strong connection: the need to find new beginnings.

They have quite some adventures as each embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, their friendships blooms and creates strong bonds that are unlikely to be broken.

The characters in the book are relateable, but my favourite of all was Benni – in fact, by the end of the book, I decided many of us need to ‘be like Benni’. She is just fabulous but, for me, certainly blooms into the beautiful butterfly she deserves to be by the end of the novel.

Erin Green never disappoints with her books. And, although I have a terrible craving for fish and chips and a seaside holiday now I have finished the book, it was a great read and I am looking forward to the next story in 2020.

Grease: The Musical

Despite my love of musicals ‘Grease’ is one that I have never seen. I’m not really sure why; after all, I was in the chorus of a school production many years ago. So, when I was given the chance to see the current touring production at Birmingham Hippodrome I thought: why not?

It really was an ‘electrifyin” production. Grease is one of those shows that has a cult following; really dedicated fans who ensure they see it every time it is on as it is a show that engulfs the audience in the nostalgia of the age of rock ‘n’ roll. As well as involving a love story which is always a popular narrative.

Let’s be honest – when the first tune is ‘Grease is the word’, you are addicted to the show. The whole performance was wonderful, high energy, colourful, and fabulous. There was even a ‘flying’ car during ‘Grease Lightin”. The whole company were great, with Dan Partridge taking on Danny Zuko and Martha Kirby playing Sandy (you would not know it is her professional debut – she WAS Sandy). However, I am not sure I have ever heard an audience get quite as excited as the moment that Peter Andre appeared as ‘Teen Angel’, a short but sweet appearance which made the audience squeal.

I really enjoyed this porduction, and the nostalgia of rock ‘n’ roll and the start of teenagers as their own group. I am not sure that the ‘love’ story is one that works for the modern age, but it is good fun and I am not sure why I have waited quite so long to see it.

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

Again, I am late to the book party. ‘This is Going to Hurt’ has been all over the book world since it was published, however I was never sure it was the book for me. Yet I gave in and decided to give it a go. My word, it really is a book for me.

Adam Kay has shared with the world his diaries from his medical days. His own secret diaries from his shifts on the front line working for the NHS. This is one of the most revealing books about life on the hospital wards that you are likely to read.

There is such humour in the writing (not sure it is always intentional) some moments of horror (especially if you are squeamish) and real heartbreak. In fact, never has a book had quite such a powerful ending.

What is clear about this account is that it has not been written to name and shame the NHS. However, it does show the frustration that Kay felt working in such a profession that is being forced to survive in such difficult circurmstances thanks to outside factors. It is obvious why so many are forced out of such careers, despite their best efforts.

This is a book that I hope mamy of the readers in the UK – and maybe even the world – will pick up to educate themselves and raise their awareness of the medical world.

Have you read a memoir that is like an education?

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

The Royaly Military Tattoo has been part of the August Bank Holiday viewing for as long as I can remember, always looking like one of the greatest shows on earth. Miss W asked if I would go and see it, as it is also something that holds happy memories for her. And, I am so, so glad that we went; it was one of the best evenings of entertainment I have been to.

The theme of this year’s Tattoo is Kaleidoscope (a celebration of glorious symmetries), a celebration of the colour that makes this world the wonderful place we live in; a mixture of fabulous culture that makes up the rainbow of the world.

Military music has so much power and emtion behind it, from the moment the first note is heard, you have goosebumps and are engulfed in the Tattoo.

I don’t think I have the skill to describe how truly wonderful every moment of the Tattoo was. However, I can share that there were stunning performances from military bands from Nigeria, Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, France, New Zealand, China and the Shetlands Isles. As well as dancers transporting us all around the world and putting us right in the middle of their culture.

And then we are returned to the massed military bands, and massed pipers and drums. Together they create a human kaleidoscope as they continue to engage and entertain the audience.

However, for me, even more powerful than all of this and seeing a whole audience join for ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is when we were asked to remember all of those who have fallen or been impacted by war, supported by the projection of candles of remembrance on the castle and concluding with ‘The Lone Piper’ on the castle walls.

I may not have summed up every detail of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo because I am not sure words do it justice. However, military music, colour, dancers and fireworks make for one of the most marvellous shows I have ever been to. I would love to go back!