19 October 2018

Northern Ballet's The Three Musketeers - Theatre Royal Newcastle

Last night we got our glad rags on and headed to Newcastle's Theatre Royal on our annual trip to the ballet. We have always been immensely entertained by Northern Ballet's performances, last year The Little Mermaid had us entranced, and The Three Musketeers was no exception.

A night at the ballet - Northern Ballet's The Three Musketeers - Theatre Royal Newcastle

I had managed to get us some pretty good seats (Row A in the Grand Circle anyone? Expensive but worth it) and I'd had a look at some of the rehearsal videos (absolutely follow Northern Ballet's Twitter they're always posting amazing videos) so excitement and expectations were high.

Being us, we were running a little late, but we made it in time after inhaling our pre-theatre meal (Lola Jeans, would not recommend) and even managed to order our interval drinks. The bar staff  even very kindly reserved us a table for the interval.

The atmosphere was amazing. The performance was so funny and engaging that it was easy to get lost in the story. And the story? It was hilarious. It was a fantastic adventure, packed with action.

I loved the sword fighting - it was seamlessly part of the choreography, it was intense and exciting to watch, and at times it made us laugh. The costumes were gorgeous, and the set was so lavish and clever.

The Three Musketeers was an outstanding performance, gripping and sumptuous all at once, with a wicked humour throughout. It's an easy story to follow and get lost in, and filled with breathtaking action.

There are plenty of tickets left for the remaining performances at The Theatre Royal before the production moves to the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre and then Canterbury Marlowe Theatre and I would 100% recommend going along.

18 October 2018

Release Day Review: Distortion by Victor Dixen

This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year after Ascension blew me away earlier this year, and I was not disappointed. Distortion again explores relationships under intense pressure and scrutiny, and examines the ugly side of reality TV.

Distortion by Victor Dixen coverAdd to Goodreads button
After a speed-dating show that is literally out of this world, twelve young astronauts are set to become the first humans to colonise Mars. They are also the victims of the cruellest of plots.

Léonor thought she was a pioneer on an extraordinary mission. She thought she had left all regrets behind her on Earth. But when memories are this painful, there can be no forgetting... 

The second thrilling installment in the Phobos series, following on from Ascension by Victor Dixen.

Source: Readers First Giveaway

5 Words: Friendship, survival, secrets, love, hope.

I had been eagerly awaiting Distortion since I finished Ascension, so I couldn't help but jump straight in as soon as I got it. And I was absolutely not disappointed.

Again we follow Léonor as the main protagonist, and Serena as the antagonist. I liked seeing both perspectives, how each side fought to keep secrets. Then we have Anthony and Harmony, who didn't get much page-time in the last book, adding a third viewpoint with mixed motivations.

The writing is different in style from what I'm used to, and it takes me a while to settle in, perhaps three chapters. I'm not sure if this is a result of the translation, but it doesn't impact my enjoyment of the books and I think it actually helps me to read them faster, but the style won't be to everyone's tastes.

Distortion by Victor Dixen is very much a story of hope. The ending of Distortion was quite a hopeless affair, and the cliff hanger had me turning to the author's note in outrage. Although no less of a cliffhanger, this book actually gives some an aspect of hope in the ending, which I really appreciated. I loved the further scrutiny of reality TV and human greed, control and manipulation.

This series is commonly referred to as Love Island in Space and although that is a fair and excellent comparison, I feel like it sells it short. Because the Phobos books are so much more. Yes, there are the intense relationships brought on by living in such close quarters, the coupling up, the cameras everywhere... But there is so much more to the story. There is drama and a fight to stay alive, secrets and subterfuge, a possible betrayal hovering ready to strike at any moment.

Distortion is an addictive page-turner. The events of Ascension are covered well enough that you don't necessarily have to have read the first book to enjoy it, but I would absolutely recommend it to get the wider story.

Have you read any of the Phobos books?

Got the space bug? Try:

17 October 2018

Five Random Questions

I've been thinking of doing a Q&A for a while now, but I had no idea what questions to answer. Then I remembered Jenny in Neverland's Random Questions Generator post, which I thought was a fantastic way to do a Q&A. So I typed "Random Question Generator" into Google and found this site which generates five random questions whenever you refresh the page.

Five Random Questions

What is your favourite Disney movie?
I am such a cliché in that Beauty and the Beast is my favourite. I can't help it, I just bloody love it. The soundtrack, the beauty of the art work, the story. All of it. It's just such a lush film. Second is Mulan, third is Sleeping Beauty, fourth is Moana. After that I'd really struggle as I generally love Disney and aside from my absolute favourites it's a case of I love them all equally. Ish.

Have you ever been done karaoke?
Twice. Both times while horrifically drunk haha. I'm usually a quiet wallflower, but one time on a night out me and a friend stumbled into a karaoke bar and thought "why not?" so belted out some Pink and Rihanna. I'm tone deaf so was probably awful, but I can't really remember much of it so silver linings?

What was your worst injury?
I've been so incredibly lucky to have never seriously hurt myself! But the worst is probably this one time I was walking through the park and all of a sudden I tripped over and was face down on the ground. I skinned all around my eye, there was grit in it, it was bleeding. Totally gross. Luckily it didn't scar! Just looked super gnarly for a week.

Which do you like better, shop online or shop offline?
I actually kind of hate shopping, especially for clothes. I like that offline I can try things on, and I like that online there's no forced human interaction! I think I'll go for offline, because I can see and feel and have a go. And also it's an excuse to stop off in a cafe and read for an hour. So yeah, offline shopping if it's somewhere like Primark, where the staff leave you a alone and there's a Costa Coffee on the third floor. Online shopping if it's some hellscape like Lush where the staff don't leave you alone.

What is the worst movie you've seen?
This is a difficult one - if I'm watching a film and I'm not enjoying it, I'm going to turn it off! One I did recently try to struggle through was Secret Life of Pets, which just wasn't doing it for me. I know it's an animated film, but the humour seemed so immature. I switched to Zootopia instead and had a blast. In terms of "so bad it's good" I'd recommend Strippers vs Werewolves to everyone who wants to have a laugh and watch a horror that isn't actually scary and doesn't take itself too seriously.

So there we go, a little random Q&A. It was actually really fun and I think I might make it a regular thing on the blog, a way to share random things about myself.

Would you do a random Q&A?

16 October 2018

Ten Reasons I Love My Local Bookshop

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

Top Ten Tuesday
This week is Top Ten 
Bookstores/Libraries I’ve Always Wanted to Visit 
Reasons I Love My Local Bookshop
I couldn't think of more than three for the original theme, so I'm changing it up and instead talking about some of the reasons that I love my local bookshop.
  • The Building
    Emerson Chambers in Newcastle is a gorgeous building. Art Noveau architecture, with the most whimsical roof I've ever seen on a building.
  • The Staff
    The staff are all so friendly and enthusiastic, and more than happy to chat and recommend books.
  • The Basement
    My favourite part of the whole shop is the basement, where the kids, YA, sci-fi and fantasy books lurk. A lot of the authors events take place down there too.
  • The Café
    This cafe does the best hot chocolate I've ever tasted, but also (more importantly) it had an excellent range of tea and a selection of delicious cakes!
  • Books, glorious books
    I love how sometimes I'll be browsing the shelves and come across a US edition, signed copies, and older title that I love. 
  • Displays
    So much thought goes into the displays for the books. I think my most recent favourite was the Pride display, which lasted almost two months and was full of colour, and a little note on each with the rep.
  • Stationery
    Notebooks and planners, oh my! Waterstones has the most gorgeous selection of stationery and it's so difficult to resist. Who am I kidding, I don't resist.
  • Loving Local
    My local bookshop takes pride in the fact it's in Newcastle. There are local gifts, small press books, and a whole display dedicated to local crime fiction.
  • Reviews
    One of my favourite things about Waterstones bookshelves is the reviews from the staff clipped on in front of the books.
  • Recommendations
    The staff know what they're selling and are only two happy to recommend a book that they personally loved. The personal touch is excellent.

    What's your favourite thing about your local bookshop?

    15 October 2018

    Getting Books to Review When You Have No Money

    I've spent a lot of my life without money, and I know how hard it can be. Especially if you're a reader. Because books are expensive. I have vivid memories of finishing the YA section in the library at high school and thinking "what next?". Luckily the librarian had a stash of books she kept hidden away to slowly rotate stock in, and let me read a lot of those. She also gave me my first review copy and sparked my love of sharing the books I read.

    I know as a reader myself, when I'm looking at reviews on a blog I'm more likely to read one for a book I've already read rather than one that's not even out yet. I always find that when I'm talking about a book that's been out for longer there are more people who have read it, so more people that I can talk to it about.

    Honestly, don't stress about always reading the latest books. I'm lucky enough to be able to get some books occasionally from lovely publishers, but I find that well loved, well read books are often the best talking points. And here are some tips for finding books to review when you have no money.

    Getting Books to Review When You Have No Money

    Read Your Own

    Start off with the books you already own. Read them. Review them. Take pretty pictures. Shout to the world about those books that you already have, that you obviously thought good enough to buy in the first place. Think of how much joy and author would have when a new review of a back list book pops up. Reread an old favourite and gush about it, share your existing passion.

    Go to the Library

    Hit up the library (if you have one). I'm a member of my local library (physical books) and an online library (ebooks and audiobooks). Libraries are not only excellent resources of books, but using them supports authors through things like PLR, which compensates authors for their books being available in libraries.

    You can often also join multiple libraries. I am a member of over five different library services and I use them all as they have different books in their catalogues.

    Find Freebies

    Check Amazon for freebies. There are so many free books on Amazon - some of them are always free, usually the first book in a series or a novella, and some of them are free as part of a promotion. I tend to check around once a week just in case. I have found some absolute gems, books that have gone on to become my favourites.

    And don't forget that a lot of classics are free as their copyright has expired, and are available through things like Project Gutenberg (which is how I read the Sherlock Holmes books).

    Enter Giveaways

    I used to get the majority of my review copies on Goodreads Giveaways, but now they're US only (boo) and I have to use other sources. Sign up for publisher newsletters, make sure you're following publishers across social media. And keep an eye on other blogs! Fellow bloggers are extremely generous and run lots of awesome giveaways.

    Every week I read the samples on Readers First and leave my First Impressions - even if I don't enter the draw for that book I can still earn points, and then use the points I earn to claim a book I really want at a later date. This is how I got my hands on The Island by MA Bennett.

    What are your top tips for getting your hands on books?

    14 October 2018

    Six Favourite Series

    Today I am joining in with Steph from A Little But A Lot's Six for Sunday! Today's prompt is favourite series or trilogies, and I loved thinking back on series I've loved, because there are a lot. It was hard to narrow it down to just six!

    Fashionistas by Sarra Manning
    Oh man, this series. It's a favourite and I reread it often, my ultimate comfort books. I love how each of the characters are so different and how their stories come together.

    Dark Gifts by Vic James
    This whole series is INCREDIBLE, honestly amazing. I'd recommend it to everyone. I love the alternate world, the exploration of control and power and family. And magic! And EEEK.

    The Extinction Trials by SM Wilson
    These. Books. Like... Wow. I have already read both books twice and I'm eagerly awaiting the third. The world is incredible, and I love how on the surface it's people vs dinosaurs, but as you delve deeper you realise it's far more than that.

    Ophelia by Sophia Bennett
    This series is gorgeously written, it's such a rich story. I love Mary's journey and I was so sad to see it end, as I want to read about her life forever.

    Slated by Teri Terry
    I recommend these books to so many people it's starting to get a bit ridiculous. The series is amazing, a wonderful look at the dark side of control and power (oh yeah, there's a theme to this list).

    Phobos by Victor Dixen
    I may only have just finished the second book, but I love this series. It's unique and fun and pure escapism, and perfect for fans of Love Island.

    What's your favourite series?

    13 October 2018

    Friendship is Hard

    I'm not good at this friendship thing.

    I find it hard to make friends and harder to keep them.

    It's like when I popped into being, something was missing. Something that made making friends - and keeping them - easier for other people and near impossible for me.

    I feel like a large part of it is down to me. I'm awkward around people, I'm quiet, I can sometimes put on a facade and appear confident and outgoing, but I definitely am not. Unless I push myself I am cripplingly quiet and easily overwhelmed. I'm rather like a wilting wallflower.

    When I do make friends, it's like I change. Once I'm comfortable around someone I love to talk to them. There's so much chatter and back and forth, sharing your life with friends is an incredible thing.

    Then I fall back into my old ways and hang back, and listen rather than talk. And then the drifting starts and the silence and it's quiet again and I realise that I got so comfortable that I forgot to work at it.

    But yeah, friendship is hard. But I love my friends so much, and I just have to remind myself to keep working it it.