Saturday, 25 July 2015

Snapshot reviews- Firestarter, Only Ever Yours, Firewallers, The Crane Wife

Hi everyone! Firstly, I had a brilliant time at the Sunday of YALC. I got more books than I should have done, and met so many wonderful people. Thank you everyone for a great day!

Second, Rebecca is the winner of a signed, unpersonalised copy of The Lost and the Found! I will post it some time this week/  There’s still one unsigned copy to be won... if you're reading this on Saturday 25th, there's a twitter giveaway going on... 


Third! I have a giant pile of books I’ve read that I don’t feel I can write fully about.  So I asked Georgia, aka the Bibliomaniac, if I could use her format of very mini reviews (such as here) and she said yes! Thank you, Georgia!  Here’s a very quick snapshot at some things I’ve been reading...





Friday, 17 July 2015

Book Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Title:  The Art of Being Normal
Author:  Lisa Williamson
Series:   N/A
Published:    1 January 2015 by David Fickling
Length:  368 pages
Source: library
Other info: This was Lisa’s debut
Summary :  Two boys. Two secrets.
David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.
On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.
When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…


Review: David, seen by everyone as a boy, really a girl, is continually teased and misunderstood by everyone bar his best friends, from parents to bullies. Leo is the new guy, with rumours about why he left his old school running around, and he just wants to be invisible. They  become friends after  Leo sticks up for David, and they
I enjoyed watching the friendship between David and Leo, the ups and downs and the things they tell eachother. Both narrations are well fleshed out, and so are most of the side characters.  My favourites were probably Alicia, Essie, and Felix, who are all great in their own way and who I want to befriends with.
I enjoyed the represntation of trans people here. I loved the fact that we see a trans character who has already undergone some of the transition process, and that being trans is not the only facet of their being, they have siblings, families, friends, and romantic issues to navigate too. I also liked the way we saw how gender expectations also influenced the trans characters’ perceptions of themselves, such as David’s despair at his growth spurt, defying his hopes to be small and feminine, because of the expectations society sets for women.
I  really appreciated the look at life as a queer child in a modern, less tolerant environment. I’m really lucky to live in a very tolerant school where our trans community, as far as I know, are treated with respect by both staff and students, and there’s no physical bullying. I know nationwide  figures for bullying, but like with many things, it all becomes more real, more important, if you’re reading a more fleshed out story, be it fact or fiction, than just looking at statistics.
I found  it weird that Leo continues to call David David and he when he’s learn David’s chosen name. I don’t know if that’s internalised cisnormativity or something. I just noticed and wondered why he of all people would continue  with that. It changes by the end though. Eh, I don’t know.
I really liked the look at  complex family relationships. Leo’s quest to find his father. David’s continual hiding and eventual coming out. The support given and not given to each child. It varies, and feeds into each character.
Emotions were had when reading this. Sadness for the environment that allows the continued bullying. Sadness and happiness when Leo and Alicia get together. Happiness and pride for David when coming out. Pure happiness at the Christmas ball they put up and how happy David.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to an eyeopening story about friendship, family, and  being transgender today.


Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Book review and GIVEAWAY! The Lost and the Found by Cat Clarke

Title:  The Lost and the Found
Author:   Cat Clarke
Published:   2 July 2015 by Quercus
Length:   441 pages
Source: publisher
Other info: Cat Clarke has written awesomeness! I have reviewed Entangled, Undone, A Kiss in the Dark, and Torn here. She has also written Fallen.

Summary : LOST. When six-year-old Laurel Logan was abducted, the only witness was her younger sister. Faith's childhood was dominated by Laurel's disappearance - from her parents' broken marriage and the constant media attention to dealing with so-called friends who only ever wanted to talk about her sister. FOUND. Thirteen years later, a young woman is found in the garden of the Logans' old house, disorientated and clutching the teddy bear Laurel was last seen with. Laurel is home at last, safe and sound. Faith always dreamed of getting her sister back, without ever truly believing it would happen. But a disturbing series of events leaves Faith increasingly isolated and paranoid, and before long she begins to wonder if everything that's lost can be found again...

Review: Six year old Laurel Logan was abducted.  However, after thirteen years, she’s back. The Logan family must deal with the resulting media coverage, and the challenge of putting together a family that’s changed so much.
I wanted to read this because I generally love Cat Clarke (she’s one of the few authors with a collection on my keep-forever shelf) and she’s good at writing books that leave you thinking.
I loved how we didn’t see Faith drop everything she had in in the pre-return life when Laurel came back, she kept with her relationship and her  friendship and they supported her. I loved the relationship that grew between Faith and Laurel.  I loved the family relationship (my parents are separated and I totally understand the resentment from one parent when the other gets a new partner (also, Michael is absolutely wonderful with his cooking and love of Harry Potter)).
I loved the gradual revelation of things regarding Laurel. Cat tends to write brilliant characters, with lots of elements to them, and she’s done it again. You see things lots of things get set up that can change things majorly, little tensions build, and you want to know how it’ll play out, even though at times it does take time to get to the reveal. I did see the big twist coming from the start. Not the details, but the main thing.  But I’m really happy with the way it developed from there, because we got a new side of Laurel that I hadn’t expected.
My favourite thing was the questions raised regarding the treatment of missing people in the media. It’s so accurate and it’s nice to see it coming up and being challenged. Also, the very last paragraph of the penultimate chapter, the second person thing before the news article. That just left me with emotions.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a slowly growing thriller about family and  many kinds of relationships.

Here’s chapter 8 of THE LOST AND THE FOUND, in case this hasn’t convinced you to read it.



And hey, I have two copies of THE LOST AND THE FOUND to give away! UK ONLY, ends end of 15 July 2015. EXTENDED UNTIL 22 JULY To enter,  comment with your email address and why you want to  read this book! Upto three extra entries may be gained by linking your spreading of the word of the giveaway, ie by tweet, facebook, or your blog. Good luck, and don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour!


Monday, 6 July 2015

TEDx HAPPENED!


You may have noticed me on Twitter speaking about TEDx. Well, it happened, and it went really well.
TEDx is an offshoot of the TED talks, where a collection of speakers come and do short talks on a subject of their choosing. The x marks the event as independently organised. One of my friends, Tanya, decided we should do a TEDx event. She looked into getting a license, she got one, and plans started being made.
  


We had a mix of students and external speakers and performers, all covering a range of topics.


NON PRATT, author of TROUBLE and REMIX, talked about how we condition generations into genders.
SARAH SKY, author of the JESSICA COLE series, gave us a quick tour though female spies, past and present.
The A LEVEL DRAMA group did part of their performance of Monsters, revolving around the killing of Jamie Bulger
SHONA DIXON analysed  the response to Ebola.
DR GEORGINA NEALL talked about, among other things, how she balances studying, working, and raising four children.
TOM POLLOCK, author of THE SKYSCRAPER THRONE series, examined the media's role in creating fear in the masses.
GABBY WASSER told us about how mushrooms can help, heal, or bring about an apocalypse
CHARLOTTE SPRUZEN was one of two explaining the science of science fiction, looking at how time travel would theoretically work.
SONDER, a band made up of two students, played two songs.
SARAH RABY BUCK gave the second science of science fiction talk, explaining how biochemistry could work on other worlds.
NATALIE RUSSO talked about the importance of language and why it's not too late to learn a new one.
JEANNIE GALSTON , ex Miss Universe, told us what it was like to be a model in the days before Photoshop.
NAFEESA MOHAMMED performed some of her work (she's an amazing slam poet) and what poetry means for her.
I, NINA CRISP, did a talk about why you should diversify your reading. What else would I say?
REBECCA JURDON summed up very eloquently the failings of an exam orientated education system.


All these talks will soon be available on YouTube, so if you missed them and want to see them, or if you want to relive them, you can! I'll link them when they're available.


We had a selection of world food, both main and desert. The highlights were the  cupcakes. We sold books, both the authors' and some diverse ones I highlighted in my talk.


We also had plans to have a bloggers' alley, but it didn't work out because we forgot that devices need to be registered to the school's WiFi system to work, and that the council's service blocks all blogs anyway. Still, it was brilliant to see FAYE (A Daydreamer's Thoughts) and FIONNUALA (Books for Birds).


Thank you, everyone who came and supported us, especially all our external speakers and bloggers who came from a long way away! Also, thank you all the people who worked hard on making TEDx Beaconsfield High a thing. It was brilliant.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Theatre Review- Luck of the Draw

Title: Luck of the Draw
Writer: Michael Smith
Director: Matthew Dye
Performed by: Renegade Theatre Company and VF
Cast: Neil Brown, Claire Deards, Tom Hurst, Niven Willett, Grace J. Willis, Hayley White, and Zac Abbott 
Seen at: Duke Street Theatre
Review:  Six friends, getting ready for a night out, with Papa John's pizza, waiting for the lottery results, and plenty of alcohol. It's funny, it's dirty, it's crazy. But then there's an accident which throws suspicion into the group, and by the end, the night has gone horribly wrong.
I wanted to see this because I love the  Renegade Theatre crew, and this was being advertised as a black comedy, which is definitely my cup of tea.
The humour was just as good as I'd hoped. Yes, you can think badly of me at laughing at various parts of it, because, as I said on the night, the majority of jokes are centered around things that cause people to go to hell (the effect of sexual favours for animals on a career in TV, potential necrophilia, what appeared to be multiple stabbings whilst everybody panics (I'm not sure about that one, I was laughing too much)) but at the time, in context, with the characters and the delivery, it was perfect.  I also enjoyed the running gags- it's a menorah is probably one of Tom's greatest lines. 
The writing, despite the mild bigotry that came in-character from some, is excellent. It's sharp and funny. Relationships and characters are established really quickly. The cliffhanger before the interval is huge, and act 2 went in millions of directions, expected and unexpected, bringing in things you thought were throwaway lines but turn out to be very important indeed.  I didn't really enjoy Neil's philosophising in act 2, though, but the poignancy of the phone call was a poignant breather before...everything else. 
The cast was brilliant. Everybody was completely in character, and they complemented and interacted with  eachother like a real group of friends would. The improvisation especially was on point (I only saw one show, but I heard an usher saying he noticed some parts improvised. The Star Wars lines between Grace and Tom! Perfect!)
The set and tech is very different to Spring Awakening. It's just a mess. There's nothing else to call it. Reflecting Niven's personality totally, made with little details like a Katy Perry poster and a full book/dvd case where you sat close enough to be able to see some titles.   I love how completely versatile Duke Street Theatre is, and how well they transformed the space for Luck of the Draw.  

Overall: Strength 4.5, just a 4* to a fast, funny, filthy show that I wish I'd seen multiple times. 
Links: Company

*If I hadn't had other theatre reviews with ratings, this would have probably been a 5. However, the last two shows I reviewed with a 5 were on a level that transcended every single expectation and left me breathless in awe, so that's my standard of strength 5 theatre shows.  The problems of having a numerical rating system that you can't extend upwards!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Book Review- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

So, it’s Pride Day, or whatever you call the day where really major cities hold their Pride celebrations, being the last weekend of June and thus commemeorating the Stonewall Riots. It’s also the day after the Supreme Court of the USA announced it’s a constiutional right for all people regardless of gender and sexuality to get married if they choose, and states can’t deny this. YAY!! In celebration, here’s a book I read for Faye’s LGBT Readathon and really enjoyed!


Title:  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author:  Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Series:   N/A
Published:    February 2012 by Simon and Schuster
Length:  368 pages
Source: borrowed from friend
Summary : Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Review: 1987. Two very different boys meet and form a friendship. Together they have fun, navigate their teenage years and, learn things about the universe and themselves.
I've had this on my to read list for ages, because it's on many people's lists of brilliant gay teen novels, and it's been hard to find (I don't think it has a UK publisher). Yay for friends who bother buying things off the internet instead!
This is one of those quietly brilliant books. I'm not always into discovering who you are type stories, but I liked this one.
My favourite thing was watching the friendship between Aristotle and Dante grow. It's organic, full of setbacks, but ultimately endures. It's a beautifully close friendship and love, and it just makes you smile for them, because it's the kind that makes you think they're soulmates, and makes it natural for things to progress at the end, but it would be OK even if it didn't because some kinds of bond are so profound they don't need anything else but if there is then that's fine too.
Close second is all the family relationships going on, from the easiness with Dante's father (who is a generally awesome person) to the awkwardness surrounding Aristotle's imprisoned brother.
Then there's  the development of Aristotle and Dante, Dante knowong what he wants, Aristotle figuring it out. They learn a lot, they go through a lot with and without each other.
Also, the final feeling the book left me with. It's not loud happiness, like Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, another gay story I got through quickly and loved. In Aristotle and Dante,  it's more a quiet kind of contentment, that everything's been resolved, that the future will all work out.
This is all becsuse of the writing (OK, all books are what they are because of writing, but here I want to make a point of it). It's narrated by Aristotle, and we see  Dante directly from his letters. We get all of Aristotle's thoughts and questions and emotions and view of the world and it all comes together into a story that feels real and full.

Overall:  Strength 5 tea to a tender, gentle story about many forms of love.