My edition: Paperback, to be published on 6 November 2014 by HarperCollins, 357 pages.
Description: Marguerite Caine's physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite's father is murdered, the killer—her parent's handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.
Marguerite can't let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul's guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father's death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.
Set in 1950s Tennessee, when racial segregation was still a distinct part of society in the southern part of the States, we meet rhythm and blues-loving Huey Calhoun (Killian Donnelly).
He's not very good at holding down a job, but his contagious love for soulful songs eventually leads him to landing a slot on the local radio station and he quickly gathers a loyal following of impressionable teenagers who share his rebellious taste in Rock 'n' Roll music.
His rapid rise to fame causes outrage among many of the older locals, however, because while he promotes and plays tunes from black performers, both Huey and the majority of his adolescent fans are white.
Running parallel to Huey's story is that of Felicia (Beverly Knight), a singer in a black rock and roll bar owned by her brother Delray.
One night when he's wandering the streets, Huey follows the hypnotising sounds of Felicia's voice into the bar and, while initially he's perceived as completely cuckoo for showing his white-boy face in the establishment, he soon becomes friends with the locals and falls in love with the star performer.
But at a time when African-American Rosa Parks makes headlines for not giving up her seat on the bus to a white person, both government laws and prejudice stand forcefully between Huey and Felicia's growing romantic relationship.
With a focus on subject matter as loaded as racial discrimination it's surprising how joyful and exciting this show, which has a book and music by David Bryan and Joe Dipietro, truly is.
From the very first moment the curtain goes up, Memphis is a thrilling spectacle which has more than just hints of the upbeat contagiousness from Hairspray and is filled to the brim with slick and wildly impressive choreography reminiscent of West Side Story.
Plentiful with catchy tunes, colourful costumes, funny one-liners and a gimmicky set design, it is obvious from the start why this soulful show won the Tony Award for Best Musical. And having had a chance to grow and evolve on Broadway, where it ran for three successful years, the production currently gracing the London boards is polished to a tee.
While the entire production seemed flawless, with the large ensemble providing beautiful harmonies during the big group numbers, Killian Donnelly and Beverly Knight were the ones who really shone on that Shaftesbury stage.
Donnelly's Huey was endearing and bonkers at the same time, and with his funny improvisations he frequently had the audience in stitches. Knight is probably best known to the general public as a pop singer and it can always be risky to stuntcast a vital role in a musical but she more than held her own; her powerful pipes stole the show on more than one occasion.
I generally watch several productions each week, but it has been a very long time since I've been this impressed by a newly opened show in the West End. It single-handedly brings the glitz and glamour of a slick and stylish Broadway show-stopping spectacle to London, paving the streets to the Shaftesbury Theatre with soul and Rock 'n' Roll.
I love the Charing Cross Theatre for its location; smack-down next to Charing Cross Station where I take my train home from it is the easiest theatre in London for me to visit. However, despite its close proximity to travel means, the productions that make their way to the theatre have been more miss than hit for me and for a while I was reluctant to watch anything put up in the space.
This changed earlier this year when I saw the moving and mesmerising Lost Boy, which beautifully portrayed the parallels between George Llewelyn Davies and the iconic character of Peter Pan he was the inspiration for, as well as the hilariously stagey Ushers the Musical; the Charing Cross Theatre was once more in my good graces.
And so I was very keen to check out their latest production; Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Growing up in the Netherlands I was already very familiar with Brel's moodful melodies and with a cast led by West End favourites Daniel Boys (Avenue Q) and Gina Beck (Wicked), I had high hopes that this would be a very special evening indeed.
First things first, while this was initially billed as a musical this is far more a revue set in a nightclub in Paris; heavily perfumed air and smoky haziness filling the auditorium before and during the show to set the mood. Even the orchestra on stage had a gypsy, rustic appearance, elevating the authentic ambience.
For this production Brel's French and Dutch songs were translated into English which, while certainly beneficial for the majority of the audience to gain a greater understanding of the music's beautiful and meaningful lyrics, made it lose the French vibrato which makes Brel's chansons so iconic. There is something in the rolling R's that adds a rough romanticism to the language; bringing an entirely new dimension to the ballads, which the polite British tones simply could not.
Nonetheless, after a somewhat lacklustre start, the talented cast did a good job of projecting the heartfelt tones of Brel's chansons into the theatre. The quarter of performers was made up by the previously mentioned Beck and Boys and completed by David Burt (Kiss Me Kate, Crazy for You) and Eve Polycarpou (In The Heights), and each of the four singers brought something unique to the songs.
The start of the show lacked the passion and emotional punch Brel so beautifully weaved into his performances and so initially I felt disappointed watching the stilted production on that stage near Charing Cross station. However, when Polycarpou sung the exceptionally moving My Childhood, the revue did a turnaround for me and I almost started to believe that I was in fact watching a performance in an underground club in Paris in the 1950s.
The show was very much up and down the entire evening, but the moments of brilliance that emerged - Burt's Amsterdam, uplifting group number Brussels and Polycarpou's showstopping Ne Me Quitte Pas in the second half, which perfectly captured the raw and powerful emotion of Brel's original - were such delights that they were worth sitting through some of the too musical theatre influenced imitations of the iconic chansons.
Despite a perhaps lack of French understanding by what was a largely British audience, I believe Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris would've benefitted hugely from being performed in the original French (and on occasional Dutch) it was intended.
The powerful emotions that seep through the French language were sorely missed during the show, and while the cast was certainly talented and there were definite moments throughout that made this production worth a visit, there is only so much they could do with the material given and so rather than having an entirely exceptional show, there were only snippets of it throughout the night.
Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris is playing at the Charing Theatre until 22 November 2014, you can buy tickets here.
My edition: Paperback, published on 28 August 2014 by Simon & Schuster, 381 pages.
Description: Allison Weiss is a typical working mother, trying to balance a business, ageing parents, a demanding daughter and a marriage. But when the website she develops becomes a huge success, she finds herself challenged to the point of being completely overwhelmed.
As she struggles to hold her life together and meet the needs of all the people around her, Allison finds that the painkillers she was prescribed for a back injury help her deal with more than just physical discomfort - they make her feel calm and get her through the increasingly hectic days.
Sure, she worries that the bottles seem to empty a bit faster each week, but it's not like she's some Hollywood starlet partying all night. It's not as if she has an actual problem.
Until she ends up in a world she never thought she'd experience outside of a movie theatre: rehab. And as Allison struggles to get her life back on track, she learns a few life lessons along the way.
My edition: Paperback, published on 25 September 2014 by Hodder, 311 pages.
Description: It's been 21 days since The 100 landed on Earth. They're the only humans to set foot on the planet in centuries... or so they thought.
Facing an unknown enemy, Wells attempts to keep the group together. Clarke strikes out for Mount Weather, in search of other Colonists, while Bellamy is determined to rescue his sister, no matter the cost.
And back on the ship, Glass faces an unthinkable choice between the love of her life and life itself.
My edition: Paperback, published on 2 October 2014 by Hot Key Books, 418 pages.
Description: It is 2084. Nuclear radiation has poisoned the country. Society has fallen apart. Starvation is rampant, and power shortages have resulted in piles of obsolete gadgetry. Necessity has driven those who've survived to complete self-reliance, if they have the means to do so. For Melissa and her Nan, survival is just about possible, so long as they can guard the tiny crop of potatoes in their back garden and find enough fuel to cook on - and as long as they are safely barricaded inside their home by curfew.
For after dark, feral dogs hunt, and violent gangs from the old Olympic Stadium (now a miserable ghetto) roam to loot and plunder. If they catch you, they are not merciful; so when Melissa falls into the hands of Careem's gang, her prospects look bleak. But Careem soon realises that she might just be more valuable alive, as a ransom victim. However, he hasn't reckoned with Melissa's resourcefulness. Soon part of his young gang are completely beguiled by Melissa and her story of a hidden valley in Scotland - a place that sounds like a comparative paradise, if they can get there. But apparently only Melissa knows the way, and only she can lead them there.
But Melissa is hiding a secret. She has never been to Scotland in her life, let alone a mythically Elysian valley there. Can Melissa's stories keep her alive long enough to escape - or will they get her killed?
With the days rapidly getting shorter and darker again I can't be the only one desperately trying to hold on to the last rays of sunshine before that big glowing ball of comforting warmth will once again disappear for months behind a gloomy haze of non-stop rain and fog.
French skincare brand Pulpe de Vie promises to help capture that feeling of summer a little while longer with a body milk that is said to burst with sunshine and the natural goodness of fresh fruit. The ingredients certainly back up this promise as it contains 25 per cent grapefruit and blackcurrant waters, along with organic and fair-trade sunflower and hemp oils.
The first thing I noticed when using the lotion is that it definitely does what it says on the tin; it dazzles. The smooth and liquidy body milk spreads out easily and leaves a thin sheen of sparkle behind long after the cream has absorbed. Perfect for a night out on the town, though perhaps not the ideal addition to your daily morning routine when you're heading into the office.
For someone with a very dry skin, especially when the temperatures are drastically dropping, this is not the best product I have tried to counteract the dreaded dry patches or flaky skin. Yes, it works great as a soothing moisturiser when applied, but only for a short while as it requires regular top up.
If your skin is not quite as dry though and you just want something to nourish during the changing weather conditions, this works perfectly. And with a beautifully fresh and an almost addicting zesty fragrance, the body lotion definitely manages to conjure up images of warm summer nights spend in a picturesque village in France.
I love a good Jukebox musical, but after the mediocre Let It Be (West End) and Carnaby Street (UK Tour), I was wary of watching yet another show set in the same time-period and, I wrongfully assumed, with the same style of music as the aforementioned two. Because admittedly, when I first heard about a Kinks musical making its way onto the London stage, not one famous song title or hummable melody sprung to mind and so I had no idea when entering the Harold Pinter Theatre last week, that I'd be in for an evening of rock-in-your-seat feel-good entertainment.
Sunny Afternoon is an origins story in the same vein as Jersey Boys is for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and Backbeat for The Beatles, except this time around it focuses on a slightly lesser famous band to non-Brits; The Kinks. It chronicles the conception of the band from the early 1960s through to their incredible success in the next decade, including the band's ups and downs trying to make it in the USA, as they produce hit song after hit song by the likes of You Really Got Me, Dead End Street, Waterloo Sunset and of course titular track and arguably their most famous single, Sunny Afternoon.
Despite not being able to name a single one of the band's songs before
entering the theatre, while watching the show I recognised the majority of the music as they are of course incredibly well-known and they were performed near identical to the
originals. The casting of George Maguire and John Dagleish as Ray and Dave Davies respectively, the brothers who set up the group, was spot on as their voices emanated the classics to a tee. It was very much the Davies show in fact as the other band members, Mick (Adam Sopp) and Pete (Ned Derrington), disappeared to the background in the story of the sensitive older brother who expresses himself through songs and the younger wild child, often causing them trouble on the road.
The staging of the show was simple with a plain backdrop only changing after the interval. It very much felt like watching a real concert, as there was even a catwalk partway into the auditorium which was quirky and fun at first though it quite quickly felt obsolete as cast members continued to walk up and down the steps only to stand in the audience to watch the action unfold on stage. It became unnecessary and proved distracting when audience members continued to swivel their heads around and point at the actors quietly positioned to the sides.
Sunny Afternoon was very much a musical of two halves, with the first act exciting and energetic as the band got their initial taste of success and everything was still uphill. This was illustrated with fun and upbeat songs such as Dead End Street and Dedicated Follower of Fashion. It was in your face and loud - too much so at times though, they do need to find a better balance between the rock songs and the softer moments in the show. The second half on the other hand was much more quiet and mature, as the band members grew older themselves so did their music. There were some particular stand-out scenes where George Maguire gave heartfelt, goosebump-raising performances of Sitting In My Hotel and Too Much on My Mind.
The gentler second half didn't solely tug at the audience's heartstrings though as it was interspersed with a show-stopping moment to celebrate the band's biggest single, Sunny Afternoon, and, as has become the norm for jukebox musicals, an encore comprising a mash-up of The Kinks' greatest hits. But opposed to many other shows it was a short and fun addition to the musical and it didn't go on-and-on to outstay its welcome. Instead, they got the encore just right which reflects on the show as a whole which was an excellent balance of entertaining performances and an enlightening insight into the history of one of Britain's most iconic pop bands.
Sunny Afternoon is playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 31 January 2015, you can buy tickets here.
Many thanks to Official Theatre for the tickets to the show in exchange for an honest review.
My edition: paperback, published on 2 October 2014 by Hot Key Books, 267 pages.
Description: In Beacon Heights High, Nolan Hotchkiss is king. His charm, wealth and good looks are deceptively seductive, and many are the students whose lives and reputations have been ruined by it. All while Nolan continues to reign, unquestioned and undisrupted. Until now, that is.
Mackenzie, Ava, Julie, Caitlin and Parker seemingly don't have much in common. Each has their own friends, dramas and goals. But one thing they do share: they all have a deep hatred of Nolan Hotchkiss. And they all think it's about time he paid for what he's done. They come up with the perfect murder - a hypothetical murder, of course. It's all wishful thinking ... until they wake up one morning to find that their wish has come true. Nolan has been killed - in exactly the way they planned. The thing is, they didn't do it. So who did?
With The Pajama Game having just departed the West End, another Broadway classic from composer and lyricist-duo Richard Adler & Jerry Ross and playwright George Abbott has made its way onto a London stage; Damn Yankees. Rather than gracing the boards of a grand venue on the capital's famous Shaftesbury Avenue, the cast fill a small space at the back of a pub in Clapham. It was my first visit to the Landor Theatre and while I initially wasn't convinced when I heard about its location, having just three rows of seats meant the view was unrestricted for all audience members and the intimate setting added to the charm of the space.
The Pajama Game wasn't flawless but it was good old-fashioned fun (read my full review here) and I was excited to see another production from the creative team behind the show, especially since the original run won an astonishing eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Unfortunately this Faustian story, which originally opened on Broadway in the mid-1950s, hasn't aged well. The book felt dated and even the enthusiastic performances from the largely graduate cast weren't able to insert some much-needed joie de vivre into the show.
Alex Lodge (Joe Hardy) and Jonathan D. Ellis (Mr. Applegate) (c)Roy Tan
The story is this: Joe Hardy in an overweight middle-aged man who is obsessed with baseball. While he is reasonably happy in his marriage, his single-minded love for the game makes him easily deceptable when the slick Mr. Applegate offers him the chance of a lifetime. He promises to turn Joe back to his prime but with one exception, Joe will no longer just love baseball, he'll actually be an all-star player who will lead his team to victory. The offer sounds too good to be true, which of course it is as Mr. Applegate is none other than the Devil himself and everyone knows that if you strike a deal with hell's dictator that you'll end up getting hurt.
While this may sound like the Joe Hardy show, it's in actual fact Jonathan D. Ellis' portrayal of Mr. Applegate that steals the show, though that is not necessarily a good thing. While he certainly oozes charisma as the flamboyant devil, egged on by the audience he hammers up his performance and milks his scenes until the character becomes a caricature of himself. The over the top approach became aggravating after a while and seemed out of place in the otherwise dated material. Alex Lodge's understated performance as Joe Hardy on the other hand was charming if somewhat inexperienced considering he is supposed to be a middle-aged man, even if he does look like a hotshot in his early twenties.
Alex Lodge (Joe Hardy) and Poppy Tierney (Lola) (c)Roy Tan
Musically the majority of the gentler songs in this show weren't very memorable, save A Man Doesn't Know but that too came across as a slightly inferior version of Hey There from The Pajama Game. Damn Yankees' strength lies in the big and bold ensemble numbers. With a slick choreography by Robbie O'Reilly (who rightfully so has been nominated for an Off West End award for his work on the show) and beautiful harmonies, the rare moments this production shines are with the fabulously fun Heart, Shoeless Joe and The Game. With so much potential it's a shame then that there was no big showstopper before the interval or even a grand finale.
Returning to London so soon after The Pajama Game, it's inevitable to draw comparison between that and Damn Yankees and unfortunately it is the former that has both a superior book and music, not to mention a subject matter that is far less all-American and so more easily relatable for UK audiences. Damn Yankees did have its moments with a few big show numbers, an unanimously enthusiastic cast and delightful acoustics in the intimate space of the Landor where I'll certainly be returning to, but with dialogue such as "go home, get married and have children" the book showed its age and with a heavy focus on the least likeable character this isn't the home-run it could have been.
Damn Yankees is running at the Landor Theatre until 8 November 2014, you can buy tickets here.
My edition: Hardcover, published on 30 September 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton, 400 pages.
Description:'I was looking forward to us growing old together. Me and you, growing old and dying together.'
'Douglas, who in their right mind would look forward to that?'
Douglas Petersen understands his wife's need to 'rediscover herself' now that their son is leaving home.
He just thought they'd be doing their rediscovering together.
So when Connie announces that she will be leaving, too, he resolves to make their last family holiday into the trip of a lifetime: one that will draw the three of them closer, and win the respect of his son. One that will make Connie fall in love with him all over again.
The hotels are booked, the tickets bought, the itinerary planned and printed. What could possibly go wrong?
Lawrence and Jo have enjoyed a strong marriage, the envy of their friends. Even after thirty years they have lots to say to each other, many interests in common and, until recently, a good sex life.
But Lawrence seems wary and restless. Something’s wrong. Just how wrong, Jo is about to discover… Can they use their years of history – all the things they’ve shared – to overcome a devastating betrayal?
It's Friday so you know what that means, I have another book giveaway for you guys! A Most Desirable Marriage by Hilary Boyd was published this week by Quercus and I somehow ended up with two copies, so I'm giving away a paperback proof.
If you're the winner it'd be brilliant if you can write a review for the novel on your blog or a bookish site such as Amazon and Goodreads, but you don't have to if you don't want to :)
For your chance to win a copy of the novel, just follow me on twitter (@zarinatweets) and retweet the tweet linked below:
• Giveaway closes Thursday 16 October at 11.59pm.
• Open to UK residents only (sorry, postage is expensive!).
• Only those who retweet the Tweet linked above will be entered (manual RTs or copied Tweets do not count).
• The winner is selected at random and will be contacted on Twitter within 48 hours after the giveaway has closed.
To mark the second Books Are My Bag event this year, the impressive campaign celebrating bookshops across the UK has teamed up with bookbridgr for #ThisBookshop, in which they encourage people to talk about their favourite bookshop. When I found out about this I instantly knew which shop I would feature, a London icon: Foyles.
I visited London for the first time not that long ago, in 2006, so while Foyles and I don't go back decades (despite the flagship store gracing Charing Cross Road in one form or another for over a 110 years now!) it certainly feels like it. I made a special journey to the shop on my first visit to the capital and every trip since. And when I came to live in London myself in 2010 it became a fixture in my wanders through the West End - even increasing when our offices moved to just around the corner on New Oxford Street and I can now make a quick lunchtime trip to get my Foyles-fix.
Throughout the years I've not only spent many a paycheck in there after browsing the store for hours and coming across new hidden gems (of particular excitement was the discovery of a whole range of the Folio Society classics, including display copies which makes it so much easier to decide which ones to get), but I've also come to associate the shop for their unrivaled literary events and have met many fantastic authors over the years in the Gallery, such as Rachel Caine and Maggie Stiefvater, and more recently in their much larger events area in new-Foyles (I will never stop calling that), Anthony Horowitz and Meg Rosoff. The staff always make the events special and memorable by giving attendees unexpected goodies, dressing up for themed events (there was a particular excellent one for Halloween a few years ago) and their sheer enthusiasm.
Just before the big store move to an even larger space a few doors down earlier this year, the old Foyles building had an insightful exhibition on the rich history of the bookshop and the Foyle family's impressive influence on the bookselling market, which I believe speaks for itself. Find a (very small) selection of my pictures from the exhibit below and perhaps you too will be inspired by the fascinating story behind this one-of-a-kind bookshop and fall in love with it like I did many years ago.
My edition: paperback, published on 19 June 2014 by Simon & Schuster, 492 pages.
Description: At her beloved husband's funeral, Carla Pride discovers that Martin never divorced his first wife and has been living a double life with her. And his other wife, Julie Pride, is determined to take everything from Carla - her home, her money, and her memories.
When Will Linton's business goes bust he at least thinks that with the support of his trophy wife Nicole he will rise to the top again. But Nicole isn't going to stick around with 'a loser' and Will finds himself at rock bottom.
Molly Jones is being bullied into going into a retirement home by her 'concerned' daughter-in-law Sherry and son Gram. Then the love of Molly's life walks in through her door - a man who broke Molly's heart into little pieces many years ago. But he says he is dying and wants to spend the time he has left with her.
All people in need of a little love and compassion which they find by chance in the stationery and teashop on the corner run by the ever-cheerful Leni, a woman that site developer Shaun McCarthy finds annoying beyond annoying for her ability to remain unrealistically upbeat about everything.
But is the world of Leni Merryman as full of rainbows and sparkles as everyone thinks? Or is her smile papering over many cracks in her heart that will soon be shattered unwittingly by her new friends?
If you follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads or know me in person, it can't have gone unnoticed that earlier this year I fell head over heels in love with a beautiful Shakespearean dystopian novel by the name of Station Eleven and written by the incredibly talented Emily St. John Mandel. I'm a proud member of #TeamStation11 and will tell people randomly in conversation that this is THE book of 2014 that they have to read (find my full review here).
So when the lovely Sam Eades from Pan Macmillan invited me to the launch of the novel in London (after already sending me a proof copy back in May AND a stunning finished hardback when it was published), I quickly cleared my diary as I knew this was one event I really wanted to attend.
The launch took place at Goldsboro Books (the shop known for its extensive collection of signed first-edition novels, a book-lover's simultaneous literary heaven and their wallet's worst nightmare) just between Covent Garden and Leicester Square in the city centre, which was a super handy location for me as it was only about a 15 minute leisurely walk from my office.
I met up with Laura from Laura's Little Book Blog outside and we ooh-ed and aah-ed over The Museum of Civilisation (a prominent feature in the Station Eleven novel) in the window display before heading inside. At first we thought we were once again unfashionably early, but luckily we soon discovered that a group of people had already gathered in the room next door, so we quickly joined them after grabbing a glass of wine. As, of course, few book events are complete without one.
The Station Eleven books were displayed all along the shelves and once again it became clear how incredibly stunning the cover design was. The black and white image with the popping pink really stood out and I shamelessly stroked a fair few covers on display while we were talking to Sam (who also gave me a Station Eleven badge created by @Leilah_Makes. I absolutely love it, and will pop it on one of my bookish totes soon. Thanks, Leilah!) about all things Station Eleven and thanking her profusely for the invite to the event (not to mention for sending the book out in the first place). She was lovely and it was a so nice to get a chance to chat to her!
Sam also kindly introduced us to the woman of the hour, Emily St. John Mandel, cue me gushing embarrassingly about her stunning novel. She was very sweet (and gracious) about it all though - and let me ramble for a little while until we moved onto theatre chat (cue me rambling some more, books and theatre are my two biggest obsessions after all, which is another reason why I fell in love with the theatrical Station Eleven) in case she would be able to fit in a West End show in her busy touring schedule.
When Emily was whisked away to meet other people at the party, Laura and I spent a little while admiring all the gorgeous first-editions on the shelves at Goldsboro Books - I know where I'll be splurging when I win the lottery! - and before we knew it it was time for some wonderful speeches from Picador editor Sophie Jonathan and of course Emily herself.
Afterwards Laura and I also got our books signed, which made for a lovely tangible memory of the wonderful evening (that and the beautiful Station Eleven bookmarks we swiped). Thanks so much Sam for the invite!