Friday, 29 May 2015

Book review: Paper Swans by Jessica Thompson


My edition: Paperback, published on 31 July 2014 by Coronet, 438 pages.

Description: Ben Lawrence seems to have it all - the hot job, the flashy car, the luxurious apartment. But one tragic day in his past mars his future. Since the events of that day he hasn't truly got close to anyone. He made a promise that love was the price he would pay for his mistakes.

When Effy Jones - a bright, ambitious charity founder - walks into the PR firm where Ben works, neither realise that their lives are about to be turned upside down.

Paper Swans tells of how love can conquer all, and how when everything is broken one person can help to put the pieces together...

Rating:

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Book review: Always the Bridesmaid by Lindsey Kelk


My edition: Paperback, published on 7 May 2015 by HarperCollins, 400 pages.

Description: Maddie Fraser has never been anything other than the girl in the background: golden boy Dan’s little sister, crazy Shona’s minion, workaholic Sebastian’s ex and now she’s also the girl in the middle of her warring best friends.

Lauren has announced she’s getting married – just as Sarah’s husband asks her for a divorce. Nothing in Maddie’s career in event organising has prepared her for this particular combo of planning and real pain. The news that her ex is also tying the knot is the final straw. While the magazines say she should be leaning in, all she wants to do is sleep in.

But whether she likes it or not, everything is about to change for Maddie. For better or worse, this grown-up bridesmaid is taking centre stage…

Rating:

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Book review: We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman


My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 21 May 2015 by Ebury Press, 400 pages.

Description: Stella Carey has good reason to only work nights at the hospice where she is a nurse. Married to a war veteran who has returned from Afghanistan brutally injured, Stella leaves the house each night as Vincent locks himself away, unable to sleep due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

During her nights at the hospice, Stella writes letters for her patients, detailing their final wishes, thoughts and feelings – from how to use a washing machine, to advice on how to be a good parent – and posts them after their death.

That is until Stella writes one letter that she feels compelled to deliver in time, to give her patient one final chance of redemption...

Rating:

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Book review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman


My edition: Paperback, published on 7 May 2015 by Sceptre Books, 294 pages.

Description: Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon - the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window.

He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him "the bitter neighbor from hell." But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness.

So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul.

All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.

Rating:

Monday, 25 May 2015

Theatre review: McQueen at St James Theatre



©Specular

The opening to sort-of-biopic McQueen is like one of the designer's fashion shows; fantastical. Mannequins set the stage with almost ethereal movements until it's near impossible to distinguish between the plastic figures and those portrayed by actors. When they have found their places in the designer's workspace, a fragile, almost bird-like girl enters, Dahlia (Dianna Agron). When Alexander 'Lee' McQueen (Stephen Wight) finds the intruder he thinks she's just a fan, but somehow she manages to convince him to make her a dress and as they spend the night together he realises they have more in common than he initially thought.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Theatre review: Avenue Q (UK tour)



©Matt Martin Photography

Almost a year ago to the day I had the profound pleasure of discovering the joy that is Avenue Q when I reviewed it for Woman's World. I saw the show on press night in Greenwich and loved it so much that when it returned to London, Wimbledon this time around, I booked myself a ticket to see it again. So you can imagine how excited I was when I first heard the news that the tour would come back this year, and would once more play my favourite London fringe venue; Greenwich Theatre.

Admittedly when I initially saw that there would be cast changes for the tour I felt disappointed as the two leads that left, Lucie-Mae Sumner (Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut) and Tom Steedon (protagonist Princeton/Rod), made my previous viewings of this show so very special. Thankfully my other favourite, Stephen Arden (Nicky/Trekkie), was still a firm part of the musical and newcomers Sarah Harlington and Richard Lowe brought a breath of fresh air to it.

I was particularly stoked to see Richard in one of the leads as I loved his performance in the West End run of Loserville and while I have also caught him in The Light Princess at the National Theatre, it was brilliant to see him, deservingly, take centre-stage once more. He was already fantastic in his West End debut several years ago and he has only become even more impressive since. 

The Tony Award-winning show tells the story of recent graduate Princeton (Lowe) who feels a little disillusioned as he tries to find his purpose in life. With a degree in his pocket but no job to go with it, he can only afford to rent a place all the way down Avenue Q and that is where he meets our merry band of characters. A mixture of puppets and humans creates an ingenious and fun display and one that could almost be mistaken for the cheery innocence of Sesame Street, were it not for the fact that the musical is filled with profanity, adult themes and a character obsessed with porn.

It sounds mental, particularly when you add in wacky though oh so catchy tunes by the hand of Jeff Marx and Bobby Lopez (Frozen, Book of Mormon), which have titles such as If You Were Gay (That'd Be Okay), You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You're Makin' Love) and Everyone's a Little Bit Racist. But the charmingly honest and surprisingly realistic (considering half the cast are puppets) book by Jeff Whitty makes it work, aided by a fantastic direction from Cressida Carre and a delightful set design by Richard Evans (slightly updated from last year's tour).

I've been a massive fan of Sell a Door ever since I caught their beautiful and haunting production of Spring Awakening (also at Greenwich Theatre) and with both Avenue Q tours they have shown once more what a fantastic and inspiring company they are. This year they're also touring The History Boys and bringing American Idiot to the West End, so there's a lot of exciting theatre to look forward to from Sell a Door in 2015. I, for one, will be penning the dates into my diary as soon as I have hit 'publish' on this review.



Avenue Q is running at Greenwich Theatre until 24 May 2015. You can buy tickets here. After that it will be touring the UK again, including a return to New Wimbledon Theatre next year.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Avon Book Blogger Evening



HarperCollins only moved into their new offices on London Bridge Road (opposite the famous Shard) recently – yet I've already been there three times now (I think this warrants me getting my own entrance pass), and I continue to be impressed by the amazing view over London from it!


Most recently I had the pleasure to make a visit thanks to an invite from (the aptly named) Fabulous Book Fiend to join her for Avon's Book Blogger Evening last week. Obviously it would've been rude to say 'no' ;)

I loved that it was quite a small gathering of bloggers as it meant that we had plenty of time to chat to the wonderful Avon people and authors present, including Claudia Carroll, Fiona Gibson, Michele Gorman, Amy Lynch, Gil Paul and C.L. Taylor.


With Claudia Carroll

We spend a particularly long time chatting to Claudia and Amy and they were such incredibly lovely and interesting people – I could've easily spoken to them all night, but sadly, towards the end, we almost had to be kicked out (yes, I really didn't want to leave!).


With Amy Lynch

Thanks so much to the Avon team for hosting the such a wonderful opportunity and giving us the chance to meet your authors. I also loved the goodie bag we received as we left as I do adore my bookish totes and I didn't have one yet branding the Avon logo (I'm slowly collecting bags from all my favourite UK publishers!).

Friday, 15 May 2015

Book review: Catch Me If You Cannes by Lisa Dickenson


My edition: Paperback (proof), the four parts will be released throughout May 2015 by Little, Brown, 256 pages.

Description: Jess has decided it's time to get out of her comfort zone and live a little. So when her best friend Bryony, a journalist on a gossip magazine, is sent to cover the Cannes Film Festival, Jess decides to seize the day and go along for the ride. Two weeks of glitz, glamour and exclusive entry into celeb-filled parties is just the kind of adventure Jess needs.

Reality soon bites though when Jess and Bryony find they're staying in a dingy hotel far away from all the action and Bryony's expenses budget barely covers a glass of local wine. Undeterred, the two women are determined to live like the elite and enjoy one fancy night out to begin their holiday. So what if they have to tell a few white lies along the way? It's just this once. No harm done . . . right?

Rating:

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Book review: The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby


My edition: Paperback, published on 23 April 2015 by Virago Press, 306 pages.

Description: On November 22, 1963, the First Lady accompanied her husband to Dallas, Texas dressed in a pink Chanel-style suit that was his favorite. Much of her wardrobe, including the pink suit, came from the New York boutique Chez Ninon where a young seamstress, an Irish immigrant named Kate, worked behind the scenes to meticulously craft the memorable outfits.

While the two never met, Kate knew every tuck and pleat needed to create the illusion of the First Lady's perfection. When the pink suit became emblematic, Kate's already fragile world--divided between the excess and artistry of Chez Ninon and the traditional values of her insular neighborhood--threatened to rip apart.

Rating:

Monday, 11 May 2015

Theatre review: Carrie at Southwark Playhouse



©Photo Claire Bilyard

For someone who is such a big scaredy-cat that she has never actually seen a Stephen King movie, attending Carrie at the Southwark Playhouse may have been a peculiar choice, but tack the word "musical" onto anything and I'll be intrigued enough to check it out. This method doesn't always work out, mind, as I have seen some dire shows in my time, but in this instance I discovered a fantastic new production that is going straight into my list of favourite musical experiences.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Beauty review: Rapid Moisture Spray Lotion



If you follow my beauty reviews, you will know by now that I'm always on the look out for great body creams and lotions that really nourish dry skin and preferably last all day long. I've trialled some wonderful products over the years (I was particularly pleased with Eve of St. Agnes Hydrating Body Cream and Bronnley's Citrus Collection), but most of these were thick, rich creams that required a little effort to apply as they (understandably) didn't absorb as soon as they touched my skin.

I've mostly steered clear from thinner lotions because while they can be efficient for people who just want to give their skin a moisturising boost, it wouldn't actually work for a very dry skin such as mine and more often than not they are quite runny too and so rushed application before work in the morning would result is a bit of a mess as well.

So when I was offered to trial the Rapid Moisture Spray Lotion, I was instantly intrigued by the 'spray' part of the product's name. I didn't think that the lotion would work wonders as a moisturiser, but I was keen to try how this different form of application would work for me.

So what was my experience of using the Rapid Moisture Spray Lotion?

The first thing I noticed when I received the product in the post was that it doesn't come in a particularly appealing package. The metal can looks and feels similar to that of a can of hairspray or shaving foam, rather than the delicately designed pots and jars I've come to love from the more luxurious body creams I regularly use.

As it requires a spray function this was never going to be an eqsuisitaly shaped jar of cream though to be more eye-catching on the shelves perhaps the design on the outside could've been more delicate and colourful. Yes, the brown swirls reflect the cocoa and coconut shell that give the lotion its tropical fragrance, but solid browns simply aren't very appealing on the packaging of a skincare product - and it's the outside, not the effective product hidden within, that gives potential users a first impression.

But, just like you shouldn't judge a book by its cover (which, admittedly, I totally do) in this instance you shouldn't judge the skincare product by its packaging either - as it's the lotion within that counts and that worked very effectively indeed.

Holding down the nuzzle a perfectly-sized amount of the product was evenly distributed over my legs. As expected it was quite runny, but because it was such a small amount that was released there was plenty of time for me to spread it out and let it absorb without creating any mess. And while doing so the strong scent of coconut and cocoa punched the air, instantly transporting me to a much more tropical location. The fragrance was quite strong and lingered for a while, perfect to get you in the summer mood - or to pretend you're wandering a candy shop in Disneyland.

And despite being on the thin side compared to the more rich body butters I use, it moisturises very well and lasts for ages. Most of all though, this product stands out because it is incredibly easy and convenient to use. The spray works very well and is perfect for rushed mornings, so I will no longer occassionally skip my morning moisturising routine in favour of catching my train. Plus I smell like the tropics straight after use too, win/win!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Theatre review: Billy Elliot the Musical



Celebrating its 10th anniversary in London's West End this year, the musical about the boy who falls in love with ballet dancing against the backdrop of the 1980s miners' strike still feels very relevant. Margaret Thatcher may no longer be pulling the political ropes in Britain, but with the general election dominating headlines the conflicting agendas and social divides remains evident, not to mention that the show's underlying message about "being who you want to be" is one that unfortunately still needs to repeating today.