The Clasp by Sloane Crosley These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

One Singular Sensation

Sunday, February 24, 2013

On Friday, I had the great pleasure of seeing the West End revival of A Chorus Line and I was blown away. I assumed it would be good (theatre tickets are expensive so I rarely go 'just because') but I was not prepared for how much I would love it. 

I have loved the music of A Chorus Line since I was a child. I've only seen the film once or twice but I have listened to the songs many, many times over the years. I don't think I've been to a job interview without 'God, I hope I get it' filling my head at some point! I can't dance to save my life but I do remember 're-enacting' the opening number and 'I Can Do That' in my living room more than once. So, to see it all brought to life again right in front of me was an absolute joy. 

Firstly, the audience seemed to be on a bit of a high even before the show started- the excitement was palpable and I already heard a couple of people humming 'One'. I don't want to spoil anything so I won't go into too much detail but we were literally thrown into the opening scene and the momentum continued to build all the way until the finale. No easy feat when there's no interval to hide behind and regroup. 

The staging was brilliant mostly due to the use of the mirrors, particularly in 'The Music and the Mirror'. Also, The London Palladium is such a grand theatre steeped history, thus the perfect setting for this ode to brilliance of the performer, the entertainer. The songs have also stood the test of time - everything that is said is still relevant today. Each performer really shone both collectively and individually and everybody nodded and clapped in agreement when Cassie exclaimed 'they're all special!' The cast obviously enjoy perfoming A Chorus Line very much and their enthusiasm was catching. I tip my imaginary top hat to them and urge anyone who is after a fun and entertaining evening to grab a ticket.

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Friday, February 22, 2013

Publisher: RHCP Digital
Format: Kindle e-book
Rating: 3/5

Hmmmm, I have been putting off writing this review for over a week now. Like many others, I had been really looking forward to reading Just One Day. Reeeaaally looking forward to it. If I Stay and Where She Went are up there on the all time favourites list. So, it is with great regret that I have to admit I was left underwhelmed after finishing this book. 

Allyson is on a teens tour around Europe when she meets the enigmatic Willem.  Throwing caution to the wind, the two head off to Paris for a day and explore the city. However, the next morning, Willem is gone and Allyson is all alone in a big, unfamiliar city. Fast forward a few months and Allyson is at college with the cloud of what happened hanging over her head. Finally, she emerges from her funk and starts to let her guard down again, making a few friends in the process. With the help of said friends, Allyson decides she needs closure and jets off to Paris again. 

Now, where to start...I think the main problem I had with this book was Allyson. It is perfectly possible to have an unlikeable protagonist- in fact, sometimes this makes for a better story- however Allyson was unlikeable because she was just so flat. Nothing she said or did made me care about her and in turn I ended up not caring about Willem or the whole plot for that matter. I think if her BFF were the main character there might have been more spark to the story. I could believe Willem wanting to run off to Paris with her rather than Allyson. Having said that, Willem was not a great character either. He didn't do anything that made me see why Allyson was so worked up over him leaving. Ok, beauty is the eye of the beholder but in a book we need to at least glimpse at why two people are in love, do we not? When Allyson woke up and found him gone, I kind of thought 'good' and not just because I was tired and bored. I thought it would stir something up in her but no she just called her tour leader and spent the best part of a year moping about it. Perhaps it is a cultural thing but in my eyes, if you're bold enough to head to Paris with a stranger (even after watching Taken and all that), then you should be able to find your way back to the station and get yourself home again. 

I liked the fact that Gayle Forman didn't paint a romantic version of Paris but on the other hand this meant once again it was near impossible to begin to comprehend Allyson's feelings towards Europe and Willem. To balance the depiction of 'realistic' Paris, I go back to my initial point, the main characters needed to be stronger. 

As for the second part of the book, it just seemed to fall apart. I didn't like Allyson's new, gay BFF because it felt like he was part of a completely different story. Again, like her original BFF, he was too interesting for Allyson's story. He just showed up her blandness even more. The final part, in Amsterdam, felt a little rushed, however I suspect more will be said in the sequel. 

Overall, I suppose I would have thought this book was just ok if I'd picked it up randomly. However, I expected so much more from the author who gave us If I Stay. I think the blurb at the back explaining Gayle Forman's own travelling experience is the key along with cultural differences. I think she wanted to explain travelling to young adults and how the good outweighs the bad. However, where I live, a lot of young people are like Willem- just getting on a train (or a cheap flight) to the continent and bumming around for a bit. Like Allyson says, two hours on a train from St Pancras and you're in another country. So, perhaps I will prefer the second instalment a little more- who knows *gives a very French shrug*. 

My musical choice for Just One Day:

Party People In The Club It's Time To Cut A Rug

Friday, February 15, 2013

Some Friday choons- a bit of everything, old and new, taking you from Broadway to the club via Nashville. A little sample of what I have been listening to of late.

Why Eat A Whole Cake When You Can Have Five Cake Pops?

I have been extremely lazy when it comes to reviewing my latest reads, however I am in a bit of a reading funk. Almost everything I've read since The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp has been underwhelming (darn you Eva Rice for being such a good writer!). So, I've decided to just offer bite size reviews for the last couple of books on my list.

What's the deal? Lissa's boyfriend is more interested in the football team vs soccer team rivalry than her, so she bandies together with the other WAGs and they go on strike. A physical strike. The lady gardens are closed for the foreseeable future. Cue Ciara's 'Goodies'.  

Any good? Hmmnyeeah? I wasn't completely sold. On the one hand, I like that Kody's characters always seem like the regular Juicy wearing, Real Housewives watching kind of girl. On the other hand, nothing happened! Nothing new anyway. It was a typical YA story, which I wasn't expecting after The DUFF and Midsummer Nightmare (to a certain extent, for the latter). I just had higher hopes, is all. 

Should I get it? If you like Jennifer Echols. Or modern twists on Greek plays. 

What's the deal? The Earth has stopped turning (or something along those lines) and everything has gone to pot. It's End Times ladies and gentleman. So we have the last days as seen through the eyes of pre-teen Julia.

Any good? I was excited about reading this one because of all the critical buzz but it didn’t do anything for me. I found it extremely slow and despite the world ending, not much actually happened. I think my main bone of contention was that Julia didn’t sound like a pre-teen at all. Even a really mature pre-teen. Julia sounded like a forty something woman and that put the whole story off kilter.

Should I get it? If you liked My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares.

What's the deal? Pao is a Chinese Jamaican and the story follows  his life from arriving in Jamaica to finally settling down.

Any good? I really enjoyed this book. I have Jamaican Chinese  heritage so was probably a little more invested than the average reader but I thought it flowed nicely and wasn’t too long. Kerry Young has a simple yet elegant writing style. It was nice to flesh out some of the history that I’ve heard in bits and pieces over the year.

Should I get it? If you like to read about clashing cultures. 

What's the deal? Lucy is searching for her mysterious crush Shadow who is a grafitti artist, however her search is interrupted by Ed and his bestie Leo and all of their baggage.

Any good? I liked this novel but then again I do enjoy Australian YA. The characters were interesting and the story was compelling. Sometimes the language was a little airy fairy but it fit the characters’ artistic temperaments. I haven’t read poetry for a long time so I enjoyed Poet’s little interludes too.

Should I get it? If you liked The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta.

What's the deal? David Zinc had cracked. Just like Gretchen Weiners. So he finds a new job with two street lawyers pursuing what could be a lucrative case against a pharmaceutical company.

Any good? It took me ages to finish this. I just couldn’t get into it. None of the characters were that interesting- we never got to see much of their personal life or hear about their history. Even the court scenes were underwhelming.

Should I get it? If you like your procedurals….procedural.  

Seth Cohen I Command You To Save Summer Roberts From Darth Vader

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

And leave Blair Waldorf alone.

Today, it was reported that Seth Cohen (ok, Adam Brody) is dating his The Oranges co-star Leighton Meester (yes, Queen B, see here). It got me thinking about the good old days when Rachel Bilson and Adam Brody were together on-screen and in real life. The show was the coolest (for at least the first two seasons) and they were the 'It' couple for all the teens and twentysomethings. They were the couple everyone wanted to emulate- how many Seth/Summer wannabes did you know? How many arty nerdy guys breathed a sigh of relief once they realised Seth Cohen made it ok to voice their love of comic books? How many 'cool girls' breathed a sigh of relief when they realised it was ok to voice their love of the arty nerd? See, they were just blimmin' perfect. And then...they weren't. And they moved on. As you do when you're twenty two- or whatever. 

Rachel moved onto her Jumper co-star  Hayden 'Darth Vader' Christensen and they both kind of disappeared for a while. Hayden is still technically not around. I just checked his IMDB page and he has a few films in production. It's a shame because when I really think about it, he was like the Andrew Garfield of his day, wasn't he? 

Anyway, back to Seth and Summer...Adam went...somewhere with Brangelina? To an older woman? I can't remember what I read way back then. However, I guess the main point is that neither has been as high profile independently as when they were together, which is fine, I suppose, if they don't fancy being in the limelight anymore. 

This is a bit of a nonsensical post that isn't going anywhere decent anytime soon. I guess I just wanted to say: Seth and Summer, I miss you but I accept that you're happy with your current partners. In all seriousness, Leighton Meester seems like a really cool, down to Earth person. Kind of like Rachel Bilson. Maybe they'll become friends and have to do the awkward double dating thing like Zoe, Wade, George and Tansy...

Ok, I'll sign off now because I'm obviously having a bit of trouble separating fiction and reality. Back to the England game! 

It's Hard To Explain, They Don't Love You Like I Love You

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Soooo, this year is already looking up (musically at least). Two of my FAVOURITE bands are returning. I don't really have many favourite bands, I tend to just listen to a little bit of everything and I might manage to drag myself to a gig or a festival to see one or two. I'm not much of a festival person anymore- partly because I can usually hear one from my garden every year. Most of the time, it's just drunk and poorly (if at all) washed people, fashion mavens, and maybe one really good band. Occassionally, they're magical. For example, singing along "I don't care what nobody says, we're gonna have a baby" with King's of Leon as the sun sets perfectly. Or being part of what felt like a million people crowded into a tent just losing it completely to everything offered by LCD Soundsystem (look it has even been documented here). But, this isn't about them. This isn't about anyone else but The Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They are my forever go to artists (along with Muse, Incubus, Beck and Kings of Leon up until Because of The Times anyway). 

I think context is key. I found these bands when I was about thirteen/fourteen. At that age it is easy to become obsessed with pretty much anything. I bought all the CD's, posters, signed up to any and every mailing list- you name it. Looking back, I think the reason I fell in love with their sound is because they were sooooo New York. At least to little old me in the suburbs of London. New York was another one of my obsessions back then too (thank you, again, Gossip Girl) and The Strokes fit into my idea of what the lives of those Upper East Siders might be like. On the other hand, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs sounded so gritty and without trying. Those two bands are few of the only bands that sound like a place to me, if that makes sense. In my head, Muse sound universal. I can't pin point them. But then The Arctic Monkeys are so Northern to me and not just because of the accent. It's the sound. Similarly, Vampire Weekend always make me think of my short but sweet trip to Brown University because they just sound like it. I don't know, it's hard to explain.

Anyway, I am rambling too much. All I wanted to say was I'm glad they're back and I'm excited y'all! Sorry about that. I'm preparing for Nashville's UK premiere on Wednesday. I'll stop right now but  obviously I'm not going to leave you without a parting gift- some little aural sweeties for you.