Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Book review: The O'Sullivan Twins (St. Clare's #2) by Enid Blyton



This summer I have re-read some of my all-time favourite children's books to discover whether I enjoy them just as much decades later. After the epic The Letter to the King by Tonke Dragt, I revisited my love for Enid Blyton by reading one of the St. Clare's novels for the Nostalgic Summer Re-Read challenge. This review was originally published here on Novelicious.

When I was about six years old I received what is still one of the best presents I've ever had: my mum's old Enid Blyton collection. It consisted of the St. Clare's books, Malory Towers, and a small selection of Famous Five, Five Find-Outers, and Adventure-series titles. From that moment onwards I was hooked on reading and for nearly 10 years I re-read at least the boarding school series several times a year. I also started to expand upon my collection of Enid Blyton titles at every possible flea market and second-hand bookshop occasion, and there were a lot of these during my childhood as I'm now the proud owner of several hundreds of her books; all the old versions that were translated into Dutch, with some titles in different languages too, and all still stored at my parents' place in the Netherlands – sorry mum!

Despite my obsession with the St. Clare's books in particular, and Enid Blyton in general as I read every possible book on her I could find (this was before the Internet existed) – I was mighty impressed by not only the wealth of books she wrote but also all her other ventures including producing a club magazine, writing short stories and doing a lot of good for children – I haven't actually read any of her books in about 15 years. So when the Novelicious Nostalgic Summer Re-Read was announced I knew it was the perfect opportunity to revisit one of my favourites.

Unfortunately I don't have access to my vast Enid Blyton collection here in the UK and I've just moved house so don't have a card to the local library yet either but, coincidentally enough, a few months ago I won a small Enid Blyton book collection and one of the titles included was The O'Sullivan Twins, the second St. Clare's title. I did contemplate for a bit if I should try to get my hands on the first book somehow first, especially as I hadn't read these stories in English before and so thought that with different character names I might get confused, but I tried a chapter and I needn't have worried, it felt as familiar as if I last read the books 15 weeks ago, and not 15 years!

Monday, 28 September 2015

Blog tour: Interview with author Sarah Lotz



Sarah Lotz is the author of many novels for both the YA and adult markets, some written under her own name and others co-written with fellow authors. She is probably best known for the amazing thriller-horror cross-overs The Three and Day Four, and her latest novel, Pompidou Posse, is published in the UK this month. To celebrate the book's release I had the opportunity to interview Sarah about all things writing.

Hi Sarah, thanks for joining me today for a Q&A on Page to Stage Reviews as part of the Pompidou Posse blog tour! The novel is a semi-autobiographical account of a time in your own life, can you tell me the differences in your writing approach between something so personal compared to writing books that are purely fictional?

Thank you! Lovely of you to invite me.

I’m not sure there is a great difference between writing a fictionalised memoir and a novel, as I tend to draw from real life when I do both.

Writing Pompidou was interesting as my memory of that time – living on the streets in Paris in the 1980s – was murky due to the fact that I was taking a lot of drugs back then (I know, too much information!), so I had to fill in the gaps.

Curiously, when I re-edited it a few months ago, I found that I couldn’t remember clearly which parts actually happened and which sections I’d fictionalised.

What is your writing process like? Do you have a strict schedule you adhere to, or any quirky habits that help you get into the zone?



I don’t have any quirks or tricks to get me in the zone, except for the writers’ stalwart, tons of coffee! If I’m not travelling or researching, then I write all day, every day. Sometimes I have to be forcibly removed from my laptop to eat and take the dogs for walk.

You have a tendency to move between genres and audiences, as other recent novels such as The Three and Day Four are thrillers aimed at a more adult market. Do you have a favourite genre to write in, or audience to write for? And how does your approach in writing novels differ between genres and audiences?

I’m naturally drawn to the horror genre, probably because I’m a life-long Stephen King constant reader. That said, I like to try out different genres to see how they fit. Apart from say, avoiding using hardcore curse words when writing YA for example, my approach is the same whatever genre it is – many months of panicking to make the story work! I never know if it will until the very end.

As to audiences, I have a group of lovely and very honest readers of all ages and proclivities who give me feedback when I’m done with the first draft. They usually let me know if I’ve screwed up audience-wise or not!

You've co-written books as well and I've always been curious as to how this works. For example do you each take turns writing a chapter or is it a completely collaborative process for every page? What has your experience been like?

When I write with Louis Greenberg, my co-author on the S.L Grey novels, we tend to write progressively, with each of us taking on a character and moving the narrative forward chapter by chapter. When we wrote The Mall, our first novel, we had great fun leaving each other’s characters in tricky situations, like a literary version of the game Exquisite Corpse.

When I write with my daughter, Savannah, the process is different as we have a very similar narrative voice, so we tend to take it in turns to write a section and then write over each other.

Last year I wrote a series of ‘choose your own adventure’-style erotica books with authors Paige Nick and Helen Moffett and the distribution of work in these was easy to sort out. They wrote all the sex scenes (I’m rubbish at writing sex) and I did the bits in between (clearly they got the short end of the stick as the books were 90% sex!)

Boringly, I’ve never had a bad collaborating experience – I can’t recall a single fight or hissy fit. All of the writers I work with are supremely talented and professional, and fortunately none of them are ego monsters.

Pompidou Posse has only just been published in the UK but can you tell me what you're working on now? And particularly, is there another title coming up to follow up the mind-blowing ending in Day Four? Because I need to know what was going on in those final chapters!

I can’t tell you what I’m working on now in case I jinx it! There will be a follow-up to Day Four, but it will also be a standalone novel that can be read out of sequence.

Thank you so much for your time and questions!

Thank you very much to Sarah for your insightful answers! Pompidou Posse is published by Hodder & Stoughton in the UK and you can get your copy from Waterstones, Amazon or your own preferred retailer now.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Theatre review: Hangmen at the Royal Court



©Simon Annand

The last Royal Court production I reviewed on this blog was the Trafalgar Studios transfer of Constellations back in July, so it was about time I visited the actual Royal Court Theatre near St. James's Park station again – especially as it's just a short walk from my office – and Hangmen was an excellent choice for my return to this lovely playhouse, as this was an incredibly well-written and captivating production – not to mention an absolute hoot.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Book review: The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt


My edition: Paperback, published in 2014 (originally in 1962) by Pushkin Press, translated by Laura Watkinson, 508 pages.

Description: It is the dead of night. Sixteen-year-old Tiuri must spend hours locked in a chapel in silent contemplation if he is to be knighted the next day.

But, as he waits by the light of a flickering candle, he hears a knock at the door and a voice desperately asking for help. A secret letter must be delivered to King Unauwen across the Great Mountains – a letter upon which the fate of the entire kingdom depends. Tiuri has a vital role to play, one that might cost him his knighthood.

Tiuri’s journey will take him through dark, menacing forests, across treacherous rivers, to sinister castles and strange cities. He will encounter evil enemies who would kill to get the letter, but also the best of friends in the most unexpected places.

He must trust no one. He must keep his true identity secret. Above all, he must never reveal what is in the letter…

Rating:

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

My Star for a Day... Weekend



You may remember me rallying the troops a few months ago after I had created a Matilda and Alice in Wonderland-themed Star For a Day itinerary as my entry into a blogger competition from Hotel Direct and thanks to all your amazing votes for my entry I won and got to experience all the literary London activities I'd been researching myself, which was very exciting!

I picked the August Bank Holiday weekend for the fun, so I had time to spread all the enjoyment over two days to really relish it all. Apologies for the delay in actually posting about this, but I've had some computer issues and was only able to transfer my images over last weekend.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Bangle making workshop with Jewellerybox.co.uk



I loved The Big Blogger Conference, which I attended last month, for many reasons but one of the very best things was discovering some fabulous new brands, of which Jewellerybox.co.uk is by far my favourite. Their stand at the conference was beautiful, Gemma was lovely, but most of all their incredible products speak for themselves. I was thrilled when the gift box I received at the conference contained their adorable sterling silver dinosaur studs – and I've been wearing them non-stop since.

I have also visited their website. A lot. And made a huge to-buy list. Which, despite the number of items on it didn't rack up a high bill at all. Because while each product I wanted to get is sterling silver (all I ever buy), the pieces are SO affordable, meaning I can expand my collection of cute silver studs, necklaces and bracelets without breaking the bank. Brilliant. Normally a web-only store they had a pop-up in London's Brixton this month and of course I had to give them a visit to admire their full collection in person. I also emailed over my order to Gemma, who made sure that it was ready to pay for and collect when I popped by (and I may have bought even more while there, ssshhhh).

And as an extra bonus, they also held a bangle making workshop for some bloggers, which was such fun! It was actually a lot more time-consuming than you'd expect and we didn't even do all steps as the main part was already prepared for us. We did get to make the rounded ends, smooth the edges of the bracelets, take a tiny hammer to the charm to create a cool texture, add our initials, fill it in with paint and attach everything together. They made it look so simple, but it really wasn't and it made me appreciate the time and effort that goes into making fabulous jewellery pieces even more.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Theatre review: Jane Eyre at the National Theatre



©Manuel Harlan

Despite being a self-proclaimed book geek, I have a rather embarrassing confession to make: I have never read Jane Eyre nor seen any of the various screen adaptations. In fact, I've done a really good job of living under a Charlotte Brontë-shaped rock, as I knew little about the story before watching the innovative production currently gracing the boards at the National Theatre, which in turn is an abridged adaptation of the two-part version staged at the Bristol Old Vic last year.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Theatre review: Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre



©Matt Crocket

In 2013 I went to New York with a friend for a theatre-heavy trip seeing nearly 10 shows in just one week. It was glorious. There were some productions we were keen to see straight off the bat, such as The Book of Mormon and Disney's Newsies, and there were others we discovered while there, including Peter and the Starcatcher and the joyful Kinky Boots. The latter I knew little about other than that the buzz around Broadway was all about these shiny red boots in the week before the Tony Awards, for which it was nominated for no less than 13 Tonys (and ended up winning a season-high of six of them, including Best Musical). All well-deserved, we thought, as it was one of the highlights of our trip and with the cast recording taking a top spot on our playlists, the feel-good enjoyment we felt after leaving the Al Hirschfeld Theatre continued for long after we had arrived back in the UK. So you can image our delight when this sassy show strutted into London's West End this month.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Theatre review: The Sting at Wilton's Music Hall



Bob Cryer (Gondorff) and Ross Forder (Hooker)

Tucked away in a side street a moment's walk away from the historic Tower of London is another place steeped in history; Wilton's Music Hall. The Grade II listed building dates back to the 18th century, though it has only been a producing space for the last decade. Having recently undergone a major restoration, the theatre has re-opened its doors with a production of The Sting, based on the 1973 movie of the same name starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Book review: The Sea Between Us by Emylia Hall


My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 27 August 2015 by Headline Review, 422 pages.

Description: In a remote Cornish cove, on one of the last days of summer, Robyn Swinton is drowning.

She is saved - just - by local boy Jago Winters, and it is a moment that will change both of them forever.

Over the next seven years, Robyn and Jago's paths lead them in different directions, to city streets and foreign shores.

Will the bond forged that day Jago dragged Robyn in from the sea be strong enough to bring them back to one another, or has life already pulled them too far apart?

Rating:

Monday, 14 September 2015

Theatre review: See What I Wanna See at Jermyn Street Theatre



©Jamie Scott-Smith

Jermyn Street Theatre is a gem of a performing space, located just steps away from London's famous West End. I only quite recently discovered it myself, but after watching beautiful musical The Return of the Soldier and thought-provoking play A Level Playing Field, this small theatre has quickly made it into my list of favourites. So when I read that off-Broadway hit musical See What I Wanna See was to make its UK professional debut here, I was of course keen to check it out.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Blog tour: Excerpt of Orkney Twilight by Clare Carson‏



Today I'm very excited to share an excerpt of Orkney Twilight by Clare Carson as part of the blog tour organised by publisher Head of Zeus!

Excerpt:

The day Sam realized that her father wasn’t quite what he appeared to be was one of those June days when the unexpected heat was making everything shimmer like a mirage. Nothing was quite what it seemed. From where she was standing Sam could see the gleaming cranes and gantries of Tilbury towering like an industrial Oz above the muddy flat- lands of Essex, hoists and winches moving magically as if nudged by some unseen hand, giant rusting containers floating weightlessly in the air and, running through it all, the amber pathway of the Thames heading enticingly towards the far horizon. It was like a belated seventh birthday treat. She hadn’t expected all this when she had conjured up the list of vague symptoms carefully calibrated to be too bad for school but not quite bad enough for a doctor’s appointment. Liz, for once, had lost her rag.

‘She is your daughter too, you know,’ Liz had shouted up the stairs. ‘I can’t take her with me again. I’m lecturing today. She’ll have to go with you.’

Jim had shouted back down that there was no way he was going to take her to work with him, it wasn’t allowed, it was against the rules. But Liz didn’t want to know, she didn’t care about him and his stupid work and what was allowed and what wasn’t, she had a job to do too and she wanted to get on with it. Liz yelled that as far as she could tell they made their fucking rules up as they went along anyway, and then slammed the door on her way out.

So there she was at Tilbury docks, happily ensconced in Jim’s crow’s nest office suspended in the scaffolding high up in the stratospheric blue of the sky.

‘Don’t touch anything,’ Jim had said, pacing the restricted rectangle of grey-marbled linoleum, not bothering to disguise his irritation at her presence. She was sitting on his fancy swivel chair, kicking her legs back and forth, making the seat twist around and around. He had watched her impatiently with his steely blue eyes, flicked his wrist, checked his watch, and pointed out the window.

‘Look. A kestrel. There’s a pair of them nesting up on one of the gantries. It must be hunting for voles to feed the chicks. Keep your eyes peeled and you might see it dive. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it going in for the kill.’

She had followed the point of his finger and located a distant tawny cruciform speck; an angel of death hovering motionless apart from the just perceptible flutter of its gold-flecked wings.


Has your appetite well and truly been whetted?! The paperback of Orkney Twilight is published this week, so get your copy now from Waterstones, Amazon, or your own preferred retailer. 

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Book review: You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day


My edition: Hardcover, published on 13 Augustus 2015 by Sphere, 288 pages.

Description: The Internet isn’t all cat videos. There’s also Felicia Day—violinist, filmmaker, Internet entrepreneur, compulsive gamer, hoagie specialist, and former lonely homeschooled girl who overcame her isolated childhood to become the ruler of a new world…or at least semi-influential in the world of Internet Geeks and Goodreads book clubs.

After growing up in the south where she was "homeschooled for hippie reasons", Felicia moved to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming an actress and was immediately typecast as a crazy cat-lady secretary. But Felicia’s misadventures in Hollywood led her to produce her own web series, own her own production company, and become an Internet star.

Felicia’s short-ish life and her rags-to-riches rise to Internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Now, Felicia’s strange world is filled with thoughts on creativity, video games, and a dash of mild feminist activism—just like her memoir.

Rating:

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Book review: Trouble Is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly


My edition: Paperback, published on 6 August 2015 by Hot Key Books, 314 pages.

Description: After her parents get divorced, high school junior Zoe Webster moves with her mother from Brooklyn to upstate New York, determined to get back to the city and transfer to the elite private school her father insists on.

But then she meets Philip Digby - the odd and brilliant and somehow attractive? - Digby, and soon finds herself in a series of hilarious and dangerous situations all centered on his search for the kidnapper of a local teenage girl who may know something about the tragic disappearance of his kid sister eight years ago.

Before she knows it, Zoe has vandalized an office complex with fake snow, pretended to buy drugs alongside a handsome football star dressed like the Hulk, had a serious throw down with a possible religious cult, challenged her controlling father, and, oh yeah, saved her new hometown.

Rating:

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Book review: All of the Above by James Dawson


My edition: Paperback, published on 3 September 2015 by Hot Key Books, 304 pages.

Description: When sixteen-year-old Toria Bland arrives at her new school she needs to work out who her friends are in a crazy whirl of worry, exam pressure and anxiety over fitting in.

Things start looking up when Toria meets the funny and foul-mouthed Polly, who's the coolest girl that Toria has ever seen. Polly and the rest of the 'alternative' kids take Toria under their wing.

And that's when she meets the irresistible Nico Mancini, lead singer of a local band - and it's instalove at first sight!

Toria likes Nico, Nico likes Toria, but then there's Polly...love and friendship have a funny way of going round in circles.

Rating:


Friday, 4 September 2015

Highlights From... The Big Blogger Conference!



I've been writing online blogs for the past 10 years, but my first one was really just a digital journal, which evolved into travel blog for my friends and family when I first went to Canada for 12 months and then to Australia for another year (with some USA, New Zealand, Singapore and Japan thrown in for good measure) and eventually it transformed into a squee-filled fandom outlet. Even with Page to Stage Reviews I never set out to be a "proper" blogger, I was merely looking for an online platform to aggregate my book reviews, which at the time were published all over the Internet, and bits and pieces I wrote for my day job as the editor of a women's website.

I soon met a fantastic bunch of fellow bloggers (on- and offline), PRs/publicists and brands, and realised there was so much more to blogging than writing reviews of things I enjoyed. But even after making all these invaluable connections and getting invited to a host of events to meet even more amazing people, I didn't consider myself a real blogger. After all, I was just one voice in a sea of many and I hardly had the name recognition, social media following or professional design to play with the big boys and girls.

This thinking changed when I went to the amazing Big Blogger Conference, organised by LDNmeetup, a few weeks ago. Not only did I meet a bunch of fabulous new bloggers outside of my small circle of mostly book and theatre blogging friends, but I had the chance to listen to some blogging greats at inspiring workshops and meet very friendly and welcoming new brands – all of which has spurted me into action to be better at what I'm doing and really think about my blog and the way I brand myself.

The entire day was brilliant from start to finish, but I wanted to share some of my highlights which I hope will inspire fellow small bloggers such as myself. When these girls organise another conference, or any blogging event really, I definitely recommend making the effort to attend as it was so incredibly useful and fun!


Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Theatre review: You Won't Succeed on Broadway if You Don't Have Any Jews at St James Theatre



©Richard Davenport

Just like Songs For a New World, which I saw a month earlier at the same venue, You Won't Succeed on Broadway If You Don't Have Any Jews at St. James Theatre in London's Victoria is more of a revue rather than a traditional musical. Though instead of focusing on the songs of one composer, in this case we travelled through musical theatre history as we hopped from one famous musician to the next.