Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Graces - Laure Eve

I didn’t actually choose to read The Graces myself; it was one of the books that came as part of the August Illumicrate book subscription box. However, when I got the book out of the box and read the blurb I was very excited to add it to near the top of my to read pile. Well, I’ve just finished reading The Graces and I loved it.
River starts a new school and quickly discovers the Grace family. The Grace family are the town’s local legends with rumours swirling around the town about the entire family being witches. They keep themselves to themselves at school but every blue moon they invite someone to be their friend, this person is River. She doesn’t know what she’s done to capture their attention but she soon finds herself absorbs into the Grace families life, something that very few people have managed to do. 
The story itself is very similar to Twilight. Untouchable supernatural family who lets in a normal person into their house and into their secrets? Yes I’ve read similar stories before, did it matter? Not at all. I actually liked the Twilight novels except the love story in it started to bug me a little. The Graces is pretty much absent from any major love interest for River and I liked that. The story grabbed my attention from the beginning and it was an absolute page turner. I started the book this morning and have just sat since reading until I finished, I just had to know how the book was going to end! Personally I found the book not overly predictable and although I had a hunch towards what was going to happen towards the end it still came as a surprise when it did. At times the story did get a little monotonous but stay with the book! Believe me by the end few chapters, like me you’ll be begging for the next book to be released. 
The characters on the whole were enjoyable to read about even if some, particularly good looking, charming Fenrin Grace were very clich├ęd. Personally I wasn’t so keen on main character River, I didn’t like the fact that everything she did was so overly thought through and she was just so desperate to remain in the Grace families inner circle. However, I still enjoyed reading about her regardless.   
If you liked books such as Twilight but are looking for a book with a bit more to it than a love story then you must pick up The Graces. It will keep you hooked from beginning to end!

The Best Possible Answer – E Katherine Kottaras

Viviana has her entire life planned out, she will get good grades and she will get into a top university. Her parents know this and have engrained this onto her life from a young age. Of course, the best laid out plans never go the way you planned and when Viv meets a boy she falls in love with things change. Viv trusts him completely so when she sent him a racy photo of herself in confidence the last thing she expected was him to share the image around the internet. To top it off her grades are slipping, her family are falling apart and her laugh just isn’t going anyway remotely how was planned.
When I first read the blurb about The Best Possible Answer I thought that it would be a fun read but boy was I not expecting the serious book that I read. I did not expect such serious issues such as panic attacks to be raised and the author captures every single moment perfect. At times the serious issues made me have to stop reading a little while to process exactly what was happening. Some of the plot points in the book such as Viv’s ambition to go to Stanford seem to be dropped entirely as the book progresses but it’s nothing I couldn’t get over. 
It truly is such a wonderfully written story with equally wonderful characters. I found Viv enjoyable to read about and although she does make mistakes I think we handles things relatively well for her age. Her friend Sammie is great, she would stand up for her friends and always looks out for Viv’s best interests. I think everyone needs someone like Sammie in their life. The friends Viv meets at her summer job were great too in particularly Evan. Certain will it happen/wont it happen moments with Evan bugged me a little but Evan as character was a fantastic read. He was caring and like Sammie always have peoples bests interests at heart.
I enjoyed reading the book but personally I don’t think it was quite for me. It explores issues at school, with family and even mental problems and each one is explored realistically. For me, I thought it was a little too much and I find it a little overwhelming at times, Viv just seems to have every single bad thing you can think of thrown her way. I’ve heard from people who have said this book is one of their favourites so if you like the sound of the synopsis I would recommend picking it up. It’s a good read!
Synopsis -
AP Exams – check
SAT test – check
College Application – check
Date the wrong guy and ruin everything you’ve spent your whole life working for– check
Super-achiever Viviana Rabinovich-Lowe has never had room to be anything less than perfect. But her quest for perfection is derailed when her boyfriend leaks secret pictures of her to the entire school—pictures no one was ever meant to see. Making matters worse, her parents might be getting divorced and now her perfect family is falling apart. For the first time, Vivi feels like a complete and utter failure.
Then she gets a job working at the community pool, where she meets a new circle of friends who know nothing about her past. That includes Evan, a gorgeous and intriguing guy who makes her want to do something she never thought she’d do again—trust. For the first time in her life, Vivi realizes she can finally be whoever she wants. But who is that? While she tries to figure it out, she learns something they never covered in her AP courses: that it’s okay to be less than perfect, because it’s our imperfections that make us who we are.
E. Katherine Kottaras once again captures what it means to be a teenager in The Best Possible Answer.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

What I Go To School For - Musical

I love the band Busted and I think band member James Bourne, has a ridiculous amount of talent. So when I heard that James Bourne (and Elliot Davis) had written a musical about Busted, I instantly knew that I had to go despite it being in Brighton, many miles away from my home in Yorkshire! I have seen (and thoroughly enjoyed) the two other musicals the pair have written together, Loserville and Out There so I knew that the Busted musical was likely to be very good.

The Busted musical aptly named What I Go To School For after the bands debut single tells the story of Busted. Flashback over 10 years ago and Busted were the biggest band in the UK at the time, they had number one singles, platinum albums, sell out tours and a very loyal fanbase but as everyone knows the band didn't quite work out as expected. The story weaves in around many of the bands biggest hits such as Crashed The Wedding, Year 3000 and Thunderbirds. A couple of new songs composed for the musical are also thrown in for good measure but don't feel an inch out of place next to the well known tracks. 

What I Go To School For was being performed by the Youth Music Theatre group meaning that every single member of the cast were between the ages of 11-21 and unbelievably it was the first youth theatre performance that I've ever seen. Wow, is all I can say about it! The talent in the entire cast was unreal. I can honestly see most, if not all, of this cast making successful West End careers for themselves in the future, they were every inch professional and the talent on the Brighton stage was incredible. The stage changes were utterly smooth and it was all extremely professional. The entire cast had the audience eating out of their hands with the catchy dance numbers, funny moments in the script (my personal favourite being a scene involving Benedict Cumberbatch) and all course thanks to the well known sing along songs. 

I feel like it's also worth mentioning how perfectly cast the 3 main actors playing the Busted band members were. I've seen Busted perform many times and all three actors (Joesph Riley - James, Zac Robinson - Matt, Roman Lewis - Charlie) had got the performance style of their respective characters completely spot on. They all just seemed to perfectly fit the roles and it is truly astounding that they'll all under 21 and playing lead characters so incredibly. 

I have seen supposedly tear jerking musicals before but I have never broke down in tears as much as I did during What I Go To School For. The scenes which showed the breakdown of Busted, literally tore me apart in the middle of the theatre. The acting from the 3 actors playing James, Matt and Charlie was superb. The emotion portrayed in there voices whilst singing songs such as Meet You There, Everything I Knew and Over Now was better than most West End performers that I've seen.

Sadly, last night I attended the last performance of the What I Go To School For musical at Brighton's Theatre Royal but if the show gets announced for a UK tour or West End transfer then I cannot urge you to go see the show enough. Busted's songs weaved in perfectly with the story and the show story was absolutely enjoyable. I related to so much of the show as I was that fan that is in the musical who made banners and homemade shirts but I attended with someone who didn't care for Busted at all and they still walked out of the theatre raving about how good the show was. A fantastic show for the whole family!

Saturday, 13 August 2016

How To Keep A Boy From Kissing You - Tara Eglington

How To Keep A Boy From Kissing You by Tara Eglington is about sixteen year old Aurora Skye. Her mum walked out on her family and she’s left at home living with her NAD (new aged dad). Despite all her goings on at all, she’s extremely grounded and holds her morals high. Her biggest moral? She is saving her first kiss for her real life prince. The only problem with that is that no matter how hard she tries to find her prince he doesn’t seem to exist. Aurora and her friends audition for the school play and suddenly she finds herself cast as the lead alongside her neighbour and sworn enemy Hayden. It quickly becomes apparently that there is a kiss scene between the two causing Aurora’s wish to save her first kiss for her prince to be jeopardised. 

The title caught my attention from the start and I’m happy to say that I actually really liked this book. The outrageous extremes Aurora goes to prevent people from kissing her made me laugh out loud at times but then on the flip side Aurora’s need for approval from her mother despite everything is heartbreaking. Although the characters are somewhat exaggerated I do feel like they’ve captured high school life perfectly which I felt helped make the book even better.
I adored the characters. Aurora was instantly likeable and her friend group are just as enjoyable to read about. However, for me the stand out character is Hayden. He is simply one of the nicest characters in a book; I can’t really explain why without revealing spoilers but just know that he is a great character. I have to say though that all of the characters are so well developed and I love the way the author writes them. 

At times Aurora’s obsession with preventing anyone from kissing her (even when it was necessary for the play) got a little monotonous and from pretty much page one I predicted how this book would end, but personally I think that it only made the last few chapters all the more enjoyable. Although the whole book sort of revolves around Aurora’s first kiss, the actual romance in the book in very little. Certain chapters were just plain adorable though and I think the levels of romance for How To Keep A Boy From Kissing You is perfect.   
If you’re looking for a light hearted book I think you will enjoy this book. I would love to go back in time and give this book to 15 year old me as I think she would’ve absolutely adored this book! Having a quick google it appears that a sequel is available for this book, I’ll be patiently waiting for its UK release date as I can only imagine how swoon worthy book number two is going to be!

Synopsis –
Executor of the Find a Prince Program™ and future author, sixteen-year-old Aurora Skye is dedicated to helping others navigate the minefield that is teenage dating. Counsellor-in-residence at home, where her post-divorce ad-agency father has transformed into a NAD (New Age Dad) intent on stripping his life bare of ‘the illusionary’ (i.e. the removal of home furnishings to the point where all after-hours work must be done in lotus position on a hemp cushion) Aurora literally lives and breathes Self-Help.

When the beginning of the school year heralds the arrival of two Potential Princes™ who seem perfect for her best friends Cassie (lighthouse beacon for emotionally fragile boys suffering from traumatic breakups) and Jelena (eye-catching, elegant and intent on implementing systems of serfdom at their school) it seems as if Aurora’s fast on her way to becoming the next Dr Phil.

As Aurora discovers, however, Self-Help is far from simple. Aurora’s mother arrives home from her extended ‘holiday’ (four years solo in Spain following the infamous ‘Answering Machine Incident’) throwing the NAD into further existential crisis. With Valentine’s Day drawing closer and the new Potential Princes not stepping up to the mark, Aurora is literally forced to take to the stage to throw two couples together. However, being cast opposite Hayden Paris (boy next door and bane-of-Aurora’s life) in the school production of Much Ado about Nothing brings challenges of its own. Not only does Hayden doubt that Cupid is understaffed and thus in dire need of Aurora’s help, but playing Beatrice to his Benedict throws her carefully preserved first kiss for a Prince into jeopardy. As Aurora races to save love’s first kiss and put a stop to the NAD’s increasingly intimate relationship with her Interpretive dance teacher (guilty of putting Aurora on detention for a ‘black aura’) she is left wondering who can a self help guru turn to for help? Can she practice what she preaches? And can long-assumed frogs become Potential Princes?