On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher – Book Review.

Title: On the Other Side

Author: Carrie Hope Fletcher

Rating: 4/5

Fantasy: Fantasy, YA, Teen Fiction, Contemporary Romance


It takes a lot for me to get excited about a book so much to pre-order it. So far, my pre-order history has mainly consisted of the Harry Potters, and that has been a lifelong love. But with Carrie Hope Fletcher, I’ve rushed to bookshops to get my hand of my copy, and happily put a deposit down.

I’ve loved Carrie’s YouTube videos and West End Performances for years, and after loving her self-help book, All I Know Now, I was very excited to hear t25744542hat she was publishing her first fiction novel. And by now, I can happily say, I wasn’t disappointed.

When Evie Snow dies at the grand age of eighty-two, she is surrounded by family and remnants of a pretty happy life. However, when she attempts to get in the door of her personal heaven, she is stopped. Evie’s soul isn’t light enough to pass through the doors, and she has to unburden herself of three deep secrets that she has carried around with her for nearly sixty years. Now Evie has to go on a journey through her life, and on her way, she learns more about her own life, and the love she lost, more than she knew was possible.

Firstly, can I say I loved the premise. The idea of personal heavens has always attracted me since I read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Having a space where you feel you more comfortable and happy is such delightful thought. Fletcher has also obviously given a lot of thought into how she perceives a personal heaven, and how a soul must be unburdened from past strife to fully embrace it. I also loved how she dealt with the state of limbo, and how people adapt with their human deaths. The story featured a lot of magical realism which was fun and sweet to read, and it reminded me a bit of the worlds that Studio Ghibli create.

The love story was very sweet, and fairly powerful. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried in public whilst reading one particular moment, and I thought she captured the essence of first love and attraction very well. In my mind, Fletcher also incorporated people’s sexualities and preferences well in this text. The novel touches on homophobia well, and stories of ‘coming out’ is also dealt with grace and sensitivity. As the novel features bisexual, pansexual and gay characters, I feel that it fits well in with the contemporary YA market.

The story also has a deeper plotline. Despite dealing with lost love, it also deals with family issues and a strong-minded female protagonist who has to sacrifice a lot to help others. I really admired Evie Snow (the protagonist) as she decides to reject her parents controlling ways, and take control of everything for a time.

The characters were well thought out. Like I said, I enjoyed reading and learning about Evie Snow. Vincent Winters was a particular favourite too, as he was so sweet and thoughtful. To me, it was obvious that Fletcher had taken a lot of inspiration from her life, and even her and friend’s appearances, but it didn’t dampen or change the story. I also admired James Snow, for his kindness towards Evie.

The plot was also structured well, and I wasn’t bored when reading it. It sped through at a reasonable pace, and featured touching storylines. I liked how each of the secrets were split up in their own segments, and how they featured people that meant a lot to Evie. It was fairly-well written, but featured some metaphors and similes that were obviously targeted for a younger audience, and probably not a twenty-two year old Masters student.

However, this was warmhearted, whimsical read that I thoroughly enjoyed. To be honest, I didn’t want it to end, and will happily pick it up at a later date.

On the Other Side is out now.

Information –

 

Waterstones

Amazon

Author’s website

Author YouTube channel

Author’s twitter.

 

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (UK Tour at Plymouth Theatre Royal 2016) – Theatre Review

Title: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Cast: Lee Mead, Carrie Hope Fletcher, Michelle Collins, Shaun Williamson, Andy Hockley, Scott Paige, Sam Harrison, Ewen Cummins, Matt Gillet

Director: James Brining

Venue: Plymouth Theatre Royal/Touring Production.


Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen productions of West End shows being performed either in London or in local venues and, without fail,  I still get the jolt of excitement when I can come home with a glossy show programme. I love musical theatre, and enjoy spending my hard-earned money on tickets.'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' Tour

So when it was announced that the much-loved and highly-praised West End show of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! was touring around the UK, I knew I had to get tickets. Lucky for me, Chitty landed in Plymouth’s Theatre Royal for a week, so I took the day off from work, and equipped with a vast love for the songs and story, I sat in the theatre and watched as the fantasmagorical musical transported back to my childhood.

Adapted from Ian Fleming’s original story, and with award-winning lyrics from the Sherman Brothers, this musical really hit a soft spot for me. Ever since obsessively watching the film as a child, and wishing to be Truly Scrumptious, I knew that this production would definitely tug on the heartstrings.

Starring Lee Mead (Joseph and the Technicolour Dream coat and Casualty) along with Carrie Hope Fletcher (Les Miserable and War of the Worlds) as Caractacus Potts and Truly Scrumptious respectively, this power duo really had the voices and the on-stage chemistry to pull these characters off well. I particularly loved Carrie’s rendition of ‘Doll on a Music Box’, in which she had all the poise and voice of a real stage actress, and I must admit, I completely fell apart at Mead’s soulful version of ‘Hushabye Mountain’. The rest of the cast also took to their parts incredibly well. Slapstick duo of Sam Harrison and Scott Paige as the Vulgarian spies, Goran and Boris really had the best one-liners in the play, and provided a light and suitable relief, whilst Matt Gillet’s Childcatcher really sent chills up my spine. Ex-Eastenders stars Michelle Collins and Shaun Williamson also took the parts of Barone'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' Tourss and Baron Bomburst well, and did a rousing version of ‘Chu-Chi Face’.

The music and the choreography was also very diverse and fitting, with a particular highlight being Mead dancing in the ‘Me Ol’ Bamboo’, I felt the dancing never took any shine or attention from the actors, but only enhanced the viewing pleasure.

But one thing that really made me go ‘Wow’ was the spectacular use of special effects designed by Simon Wainwright. The use of an actual car, along with the use of video screens was a stroke of genius, as we watched Chitty ‘fly’, ‘swim’ and ‘dive’ over Beachy Head. The video projections were also used well to illustrate the car’s original Grand Prix glory days, and gives us a good backstory into the car’s history.

This production really took my breath away for how beautifully it was directed. It was exciting, whimsical, sad at points, hilarious at others, and with a cast that really delivered on those famous songs, it is a family favourite show that any person of any age would enjoy to see.

I’d definitely recommend it.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is still touring now. Links to available dates and venues are below.

Chitty The Musical.

 

Hamlet (Royal Shakespeare Company 2016 Production) – Theatre Review.

Title: Hamlet

Cast: Paapa Essiedu, Marcus Griffiths, Tanya Moodie, Cyril Nri, Natalie Simpson, Clarence Smith, Ewart James Walters, James Cooney, Bethan Cullinane.

Director: Simon Godwin

Venue: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon


As I’ve said before, being an English student has given me the opportunity to watch dozens of adaptations, performances, reimaginations and versions of William Shakespeare’s plays. Howevhamlet_production_photos_march_2016_2016_photo_by_manuel_harlan_c_rsc_187355-tmb-img-820er, when I had the privilege to watch the 2016 Royal Shakespeare Company’s production, I felt like I was watching something entirely new and entirely different.

Although still set nominally in Denmark, the play gives us something new and takes on a west African flavour. With cultural heritage and identity crisis at its core, Hamlet is first shown at his graduation ceremony oversees, but the death of his father makes him rush home to a country that he now feels completely lost in. And with the subsequent marriage of his mother to his father’s brother (later revealed his father’s power-hungry murderer), Hamlet is completely lost in the Danish court.

For the first time in RSC’s 55-year history, the titular character of Hamlet was given to a black actor. And what a marvel he has turned out to be. Paapa Essiedu shone with all the poise and calm of a seasoned actor, but with the young age of 25 and a baby-face to match, it is clear that this young man will become something of a success story in the coming years. When he spoke the immortal and well-loved soliloquy starting with ‘To be or not to be’, it was then we saw the once-suited and smart Prince turn into something new. We watch as tears roll down his face, his eyes half-closed and as though the words are tumbling from his mind. It is then we see Hamlet’s descent into madness and despair.

The cast were all beautifully selected, and fit in their respective roles well. We see Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude (portrayed by Tanya Moodie) fall from a dignified and regal queen, into a shell-shocked mess, and Natalie Simpson’s Ophelia is sweet, suitably sassy and cocky in the first half, but distressingly unhinged towards the end. Edward James Walters also gave a chilling performance as the Ghost, as he rose in a mist of dry ice and traditional African costume, and Clarence Smith’s Claudius was sleek and well mannered. However, one of my personal favourite’s was definitely the portrayal of Polonius. Cyril Nr'Hamlet' Play directed by Simon Godwin performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon, UKi has given Polonius a new breath of life, by making him somewhat of a court jester, as well as a scatty and fussy parent.

With Hamlet, so much has been done with it in the past, it may have been challenging to breath new life into this timeless play. However, with a thrilling soundtrack of drums, limb-jerking dancing and graffiti, Simon Godwin’s Hamlet is visceral, raw and gives us a rising star who doesn’t so much as shine but blaze as our mercurial Dane.

Hamlet is at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon until August 13th. Book now, or see it live at participating cinemas. Visit The Royal Shakespeare Company website for dates.

 

 

A Girl Called Alice by Christina Henry (Essay) – The Nightmareland Blog Book Tour

(Below is an essay written for the Nightmareland Book Blog Tour by Christina Henry for the promotion of her Alice and The Red Queen books. Big thank you to Christina for allowing me to be involved in this unique idea, and all those at Titan Books. Enjoy!)

A GIRL CALLED ALICE by CHRISTINA HENRY

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass is a tale beloved by millions, so embedded in our cultural memory that nearly everyone can conjure up an image of Alice – from the original story, a film remake, a game or one of many re-imaginings done by assorted authors through the years.

Alice has taken on the quality of myth, a character no longer bound to her creator or origin story but a modern-day legend open to interpretation like those other contemporary fairy tale figures from Neverland and Oz.

Many people have never read the original Alice but feel as though they have, because so many qualities about the Alice story have entered our shared lexicon – falling into a rabbit hole, for instance, is a phrase that’s taken on a meaning and life of its own quite apart from the original story.

And images from the story – the disappearing Cheshire Cat who leaves his smile behind, the Mad Hatter and the tea party – have become a kind of shorthand, s
hared experiences that make us feel like we’ve all been part of Wonderland for a very long time.

I asked my son why everyone loves Alice, and he immediately answered, “Because there’s adventure. And magic.” I think these are exactly the two qualities that attract children and adults to this story time and again.

There is something enchanting about a world that you can fall into, where there is adventure but somehow never any real danger (despite all of the Red Queen’s blustering about taking off Alice’s head I never worried, as a child, that such a thing would actually happen), and where magical things occur with matter-of-fact regularity.

Then there is Alice herself. She’s very pragmatic throughout the story, in a way that makes everything else real. The famous quote about believing six impossible things before breakfast was actually said by the White Queen in response to Alice’s remark that “one can’t believe impossible things.”

This is fairly astonishing given that Alice has already seen and done more impossible things than most people, but it’s her clear eyes that make her such an attractive character. Alice is very firmly rooted, and that fact roots the story as well. When a fantastic world has this kind of steady grounding it’s easy to believe in talking caterpillars and disappearing cats.

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Tour dates and relevant blogs to visit!

Less FOMO, More GOMO! – Summer Plans and Enjoying Yourself!

With summer approaching at a frankly alarming pace, it’s definitely time for us to shack off our winter blues and coats, stuff them into a corner and pull on our dusty sunglasses and straw hats. So, with the help of Eventbrite and their wonderful summer campaign of putting our FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) to bed, and embracing the GOMO (Going Out More Often), I’ve decided to share my own summer plans, and what to do when you’re on a tight budget, or just a little stuck for plans in this hot next couple of months.

1: Book a holiday!pirate-bay-staniel-cay-3

Now, I start on a high note, I realise this. People view holidays as expensive and tiring, but this doesn’t have to be the case. When I say holiday, I mean just time away from your normal life. If you want to have a holiday, but don’t fancy the exotic, book a stay-cation in your county or country. Stay-cations can be reasonably inexpensive, and can have all the feel of a new place, but with the familiarity of the language, currency and culture. Or just spend a night away from your house, and have a new view to wake up. Sometimes breaking the routine can really help you get in touch with yourself as a person, and not just a worker or whatever role you live your day to day life in.

This summer I’m flying over to Ireland and seeing extended family. I haven’t been to Ireland since I was quite young, so I’m excited to explore the country of my ancestors, and being able to reconnect with my roots.

2: Do something that scares you… Even once!

This is both a big and a small point. Scary things don’t necessarily come in packages of spiders, heights or small spaces, but in trying something new, or something that you never thought you wocomfortzone1uld do. But this is the summer of reinvention. So even for one hour in a day, do something that will genuinely scare you. For some people this is travelling, or buying and wearing a bikini in public. For some it’s going out socially, or conquering old fears. But once you’ve done it, the feeling of accomplishment will outweigh the initial fear, and you will be able to look back at that time and go ‘Yep! Well done me!’

This summer, I’ll hopefully be starting a new chapter in my working life. This wouldn’t just be a filler job, but actual experience in my chosen career path, and I’m so excited, but terrified of the future coming at me. I don’t feel ready to be an adult, and start this chapter just yet, but if I won’t do it at 22, then when will I?

3: Go to a concert or live music event.

It was Victor Hugo who said ‘Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent’, and this is a sentiment I love living by. Listening to your iPod when you’re running day to day errands, or on the commute from work fills an-argument-for-live-music1up those empty hours, and gives you something to look forward to. So why not actually witness it live? There is nothing I love better than going to a gig that I’ve been looking forward to, and hearing my favourite songs being played loud and proud in a room full of equally excited fans. Live music gets you dancing, gets you excited and gets conversations going between like-minded people, and even if the concert wasn’t particularly memorable, I’m sure the experience would be.

And this summer will be a huge one for live music. And whether you want to pay a  lot, or just find something free and local, it’ll always been something to reminisce on.

This summer I’m going to see the Hoosiers perform with my best friend, and I cannot wait!

So, these are my little summery plans and experiences, and I hope I’ve prompted any readers to go out and just take this summer by the horns and live it! Because I’m sure you’ll be regretting it come the cold November nights.eventbrite_logo_gradient_v2

And if you need any more inspiration for this summer, visit Eventbrite. They are the largest self-service ticketing platform in the world, and they help people find and plan events.

 

 

Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016) – Film Review

Title: Alice Through The Looking-Glass

Cast: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Rhys Ifans, Matt Lucas, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen

Director: James Bobin

Genres: Action, Adventure, Disney, Fantasy, Book-to-Film Adaptation, Gothic

Rating: 3/5


As you can tell by the title of this blog, this particular reviewer has an affinity to Alice in Wonderland. I was named after that book, and have had it as part of my literary life as much as any other childhood book.

When Tim Burton released his 2010 reimagination of Lewis Carroll’s tale, I fell in love with how he took the original characters and put his own unique spin on what would happen if Alice grew up and returned to Underland (incorrectly named ‘Wonderland’ by the child Alice), and I assumed there would be a Looking Glass sequel. So when I saw it in the cialice_through_the_looking_glass_film_posternema with my boyfriend last week, I went in with all the expectations and knowledge from the book, but unfortunately came out a little disappointed.

We find Alice a few years after we left her in Burton’s original film. After rejecting Hamish’s marriage proposal and becoming a sea captain of her father’s ship, The Wonder, Alice has explored Asia and returns to England with a head full of plans, reports and expectations. However, her whole world comes crashing to a halt when she finds her mother in a perilous financial state, with the loss of her home and the ship looming thanks to the efforts of her daughter’s jilted suitor.

But as usual, Underland beckons, and Alice manages to find another Narnia-esque portal through a disused mirror. Alice soons tumbles back into the world of her childhood adventures, but she soons releases that all is not well in the magical land. The Mad Hatter seems to be in a depressive slump and falling farther and farther into madness, thanks to the memories of his deceased family, and Alice is dispatched to travel back through time and save his family from their brutal slaying by the Jabberwocky.

But in order to do so, Alice has to deal with Time. And Time isn’t just a abstract concept in this film, but an actual half human/half robotic demigod, whose prize possession is the exact thing Alice needs to steal to complete her mission.

The audience is then treated to a series of different time periods and origin stories. The Mad Hatter is shown as a young boy and then a fresh-faced youth who is the black sheep of his austere hatting family, and we are given new reasons for the Red Queen’s swollen head and her hatred for her sister. And through a series of incidents, Alice has to save the hatter, mend time as well as save her mother.

So, what did I think of the film? Well, like I’ve said, I adored the first film. I really enjoyed the cast (I still do in this film), love the setting and beauty of the CGI and imagination of Underland (I still do), and I really liked the dynamic and chemistry of the characters and how they interact. But this film was lacking something. Maybe due to the fact that Burton was only a producer and not the director of Looking Glass, but this film didn’t have the sparkle and zazz of the 2010 film.

The plot was busy, and wasn’t particularly strong in the plot points. The whole idea of Time was good, and I loved the setting of the clock and the visual element of that, but I didn’t necessarily think the Hatter’s family needing an origin story, and there wasn’t a need to alter time lines. However, I did enjoy seeing the young Red and White Queen, and where their quarrels and differences came from. null

I also loved the smaller details of the films, such as Time having creations he called seconds, which turned into minutes, and why the Red Queen was so keen to cut peoples heads off. But I did feel that it was slightly jumbled and too busy for one film.

The characters were also good, with the memorable cast of Johnny Depp playing a ditzy yet loveable Mad Hatter, and Mia Wasikowka’s Alice being a proper no nonsense and tomboyish version young woman. Sacha Baron Cohen’s personification of the robotic, German-accented Time was also a refreshing and comical feature, and there was real poignancy and emotion of hearing the late Alan Rickman’s voice as Absolem.

But all in all, I felt that despite it being an overall entertaining, light-hearted romp in Underland, this film was really missing something. It didn’t have the gothic beauty of Burton’s original film, nor was it particularly strong in plot wise or story wise. It just felt a bit distracting, colourful and all over the place. Which is shame.

In the words of the Mad Hatter from the first film, ‘You were much more… muchier. You’ve lost your muchness’.

 

This Savage Song by V. E Schwab – Book Review.

Title: This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity Book 1)

Author: V.E. Schwab

Rating: 4/5

Fantasy: Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult, Fiction, Adventure, Teen Fiction


 

The world of Young Adult fiction is a hard category to break into if you’re an author, and equally hard to wade through if you’re a reader. There are categories within sub-categories within sections within communities etc, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming at the choice.

But, to me anyway, there always seems to be one theme and one consistent subplot through these stories, and that is of romance. And to be honest, this has become overused, over-tired and irritating. Especially when it drives the narrative, and without it, the story wouldn’t work.

So when I was sent this book to review by Titan Books it felt like a breath of fresh air. As when I picked up and devourted  This Savage Song, it had all the promise and familiarity of a well-written YA fantasy novel, but without all the use or plot-need of fated romances or even love.

In This Savage Song,  we are set into the world of Verity, a divided city where the violence of the streets has started to creat and manifest itself into real and grisly monsters. Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to this city, and both have their own agendas and ideas on how to survive in this dangerous world. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the inhabitants of his side pay for his protection. August just wants to be human, as good-hearted as his father – but his curse is to be what the humans fear. The thin truce that keeps the Harker and Flynn fathis-savage-songmilies at peace is crumbling, and an assassination attempt forces Kate and August into a tenuous alliance. But how long will they survive when the streets are safe, and the monsters no longer want to lurk in this shadows?

What I liked about this book is the easy flow of writing and the fact the plot never seems to dip or just go slow. The action is fast-paced, continuous and keeps you hooked from page one until you close the book. I haven’t read any of Schwab’s other books, but I’ve heard they’re equally as entralling. The two main characters were also fleshed out well. I felt that although August was my personal favourite, due to his selflessness and overall wish just to be human, Kate was also interesting. Schwab went indepth with her character, and by slowly exploring her weaknesses to the readers and the characters, she felt so real, and living through a mask.

The world-building was good in some parts. I really enjoyed the use of violence actually creating monsters, and how different levels of violence impacted on which sort of monster would manifest. I also enjoyed the political views of Callum and Henry, as they deal with the creatures in different ways. The end was also good to tease the reader for the next book. However, sometimes I needed clarification over which secondary character was which, and I would have loved to find out more about the history of the city and how the monsters came to be. I felt that a map of the city would’ve been useful, as I couldn’t really orientate myself as I was reading.

But one thing I did love was how it was just a good, well-written fantasy novel. When reading it I was so glad over the lack of romance, as another author could’ve easily put it in and just made it about two star-crossed lovers. Kate and August are just allies and friends who were trying to make the city better. Romance was never needed, and I didn’t miss it.

All in all, this was just a good urban fantasy novel. The writing didn’t annoy me, the characters felt three dimensional, and the premise was good and it didn’t failt to deliver a good story. It did help me revisit my fondness of the YA genre, and did give me some faith that not every book has to feature romance. So I’d heartedly recommend this novel to any fantasy fan.

This Savage Song is out June 7th – Buy it here!

 

Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone by G.S Denning – Book Review


Title: 
Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone

Author: G.S Denning

Rating: 4/5

Genre: Alternative History, Fantasy, Mystery, Detective Fiction, Retelling, Supernatural


When it comes to Sherlock Holmes, there have been dozens of reimaginings and retellings of the famous figure.  Whether it be young Holmes, modern day Holmes, American Holmes or Robert Downey Jr Holmes, we’ve seen Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters been changed and rejigged for different audiences.

So when I was sent Warlock Holmes for review, I wasn’t surprised that another author had given our favourite consulting detective a new story and a new life. But what I was surprised about was how much I enjoyed this crossover.untitled203_1

In the original stories, Sherlock Holmes was a genius whose deductive skills were unparrelled and his mind was virtually unchallenged by regular people. Warlock Holmes, on the other hand, is an idiot. A good man, yes. A font of archane and witchy powers, who communicates with demons, devils and otherwordly creatures, yes. Yet his deducing skills rival that of a knat. So when he meets and subsequently befriends the brilliant Doctor Watson, they make an unlikely but excellent duo. And with the help of the nilistic vampire Inspector Vladislav Lestrade and actual ogre Inspector Torg Grogsson, Holmes and Watson go through a delightfully ‘weird’ version of London and solve mysteries.

This book reimagines six of Sherlock Holmes most popular cases (excluding Baskerville) and puts the occult spin on each one. And through each one, the writing is easy, fluid and comedic. Denning sticks to the original stories quite well, which gives the stories a good standing to fall back on. And with the addition of fantastical creatures, it just adds more to the text, rather than take anything away.

Throughout the text, Denning has swapped the dynamic between Holmes and Watson, yet it doesn’t lessen the relationship between the two men. I actually love the more idiotic and dim Holmes, as he does excel in the occult-ish sense, but lets Watson take the lead. The author also has put a fair bit of slapstick and quite silly comedy throughout, but as this wasn’t meant to be a serious retelling of the Sherlock Holmes saga, I felt like it didn’t make it feel too childish.

As a whole, the book is easy to read and very enjoyable for Sherlock Holmes fans. With Moriarty cropping up as a malevolent spirit who possess Warlock on occassion, and then coming to quite a dramatic ending, I actually found myself eager for the next book. Denning has left it with a marvellous cliffhanger, and to be honest, has written such a good retelling, it almost makes it feel believable.

All in all, a funny and lighthearted retelling of Conan Doyle’s stories, and a must-read for fans.

Warlock Holmes is out on the 27th May 2016 – Pre-order it here!

 

The Jungle Book (2016) – Film Review.

Title: The Jungle Book

Cast: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Esposito.

Director: Jon Favreau

Genre: Action, Fantasy, Drama, Disney, Adventure

Rating: 4.5/5


In the past few years, we have been lucky enough to see some of the  ol’ Disney favourites being remade and rejigged for a newer audience. Alice in Wonderland has, and is still having, the Tim Burton treatment, whilst Cinderella and our favourite baddie Maleficient have been given live-action counterparts and new movies to entrathe-jungle-book-heronce audience back into the cinema seats. And when it was announced that they were going to be doing the same with The Jungle Book, I was so excited. As somebody with younger siblings, I’ve watched The Jungle Book a lot, and still find the story and songs as charming and whimsical as the day I first watched it. And as time passed, and a star-studded cast was announced to be playing my favourite animal roles, my excitement grew. And boy, did this film not disappoint.

Adapated from the 1894 collection of stories by Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book tells the story of the orphaned Mowgli, who was raised from a very young age by a wolf pack in the jungle. Despite considering himself a wolf, and feeling right at home with his adoptive family, Mowgli’s life is turned upside when a threat from the fearsome and rengade tiger, Shere Khan, forces him to flee the jungle and join the human village. Assisted by his friends, Bagheera the panther and Baloo, the bear,  Mowgli is sent on a journey of finding out who he is, and who is is capable of becoming.

What I love about this remake is despite going into the film already familiar with the plot, it never lost its magical feel. The original 1967 movie was the last time Walt Disney gave a movie his personal touch,, and there is something masterful about that film that spans generations. But this new version only updates this feeling. Gone is the old-fashioned animatioTHE JUNGLE BOOKn, and it has been replaced with state-of-the art technology and CGI. The animals looked hyper real, and the songs (despite being radically cut down to only including ‘The Bare Necessities’ and ‘I Wanna Be Like You’) feel natural and not just like another Disney musical. The story had relatively the same storyline, but with a new plot development including Shere Khan and the leader of the wolf pack, Akela, the film creates new and ingenous twists on the familiar story.Also, by using some of Kipling’s later stories, such as with the addition of the the Water Truce, along with The Law of the Jungle poem, it really gave the first part of the film a literary and emotional tie to Kipling.

The cast were utterly fantastic and fiting for the characters they spoke for, but what really stole the show for me was Idris Elba’s Shere Khan. The old villianous tiger has been reimagined to far more bloodthirsty and dangerous, and Elba’s smooth and sometimes arrogant tones really add something to the tiger. Both Scarlett Johansson, in her memorising portrayal of the nefarious Kaa, and Bill Murray for his rendition of the mellow ursine Baloo won high praise from me. Lupita Nyong’o’s gentleness and maternal warmth brings a dignity to Raksha, the mother wolf. And without the cool wisdom of seasoned thespian Ben Kingsley, Mowgli’s guide through the jungle, Bagheera the panther, would have fallen short.441210-shere-khan-the-jungle-book

But be warned, this film is not for children, or the faint hearted. Despite only being rated a PG, the film has got some dark points, and with the detail of the CGI, the animals feel more realistic. Tigers have become tigers, and not just cartoon characters. So, this isn’t going to be a film you take a six-year-old to see.

But all in all, a fantastic rendition of Disney’s classic masterpiece, and if this is anything to go by, I’m very excited to see what the next live-action adaptation is going to be like.

The Jungle Book is out now!

The Swans of Fifth Avenue – Book Review

Title: The Swans of Fifth Avenue

Author: Melanie Benjamin

Rating: 3/5

Genre: Celebrity, Memoir, Historical Fiction, Women’s Literature, Chick-Lit, Contemporary Fiction


“Babe Paley simply never made an empty gesture, and here she was, assembling a parade of them. But her feet, her hands, her mind, her heart, were all restless. Truman.”

Throughout all my years of being an English student, one author has cropped up time and time again during my studies. His words have always struck a deep emotional chord with me and I would eagerly devour his stories whenever I could. To me, Truman Capote was, and still is, such an enigma in his writing, as he not only invented the idea of the ‘nonfiction novel’, but brought to life the cult favourite of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And it 9780345528698wasn’t just his literary talent that he was praised for, but his flamboyant and very decorated personal life as a social butterfly and celebrity favourite.
So when I was sent The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin to review, I was thrilled.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue focuses on 1950s/60s New York City and author Truman Capote’s life and his relationship with the higher tiers of society. At the peak of the society, women of immense power, money, familial ties and intrigue stand apart from the rest. These are Truman’s ‘swans’, and they represent a world of riches and beauty that Truman desperately wishes to be part of. And at the head of this group, socialite and style icon, Babe Paley is the undisputed queen. Glamourous, elegant and always dressed exquisitely, Babe Paley oozed glamour and sophistication. But beneath the perfect wife and woman façade, Babe Paley is a highly sensitive and passionate individual who craves love and affection that she is not receiving through her perfectly suited, yet loveless marriage. And when Truman Capote sweeps into her life with a larger-than-life personality, he sets Babe’s dull world into glorious Technicolour. And through winning the affection of Babe, Truman is granted unrivaled access into the snake-pit that is New York high society. But is Truman trustworthy? And what do you do when secrets get revealed, and the picture-perfect charade comes crashing down about you?

Now, this story is indeed very glamourous and scandalous. With a fairly fast pace and well-timed flashbacks and forwards, it keeps the reader interested, and allows you to become immersed into a world that seems entirely foreign from the everyday. From wearing Chanel suits to light lunches at the Plaza and into shopping sprees in Tiffany’s, this world seems so entirely rich and vibrant that is feels almost dreamlike. Now, despite the novel having a darker and more real undertone – with the Truman Capote scandal, the hidden lives of the glamourous women (drink, drugs, sex scandals, domestic abuse etc) – this novel isn’t particularly hard-hitting in those senses. To me, these were issues that really could have been explored and in better detail. In my opinion, this novel just wanted to have a halcyon glaze of glamour and beauty.

The ‘Swans’ were really an interesting group of women. They were all beautiful, charming, malicious, and as two-faced as they could come, and they thrived on attention and the scandal that surrounded their lives. With loveless marriages, money issues, drug and drink addiction and cosmetic surgery pressures, these women were constantly scrutinised by their closest friends as well as society, and I found them all to be highly interesting and unique characters. I particularly found Slim Keith and Gloria Vanderbilt to be interesting figures as they stood apart from the rest of the swans, and gave the taste of individuality and strength.

The relationship between Babe and Truman was always one of interest. To me, Benjamin has really written it as a relationship that seems so co-dependent and unhealthy, it borders on obsession. Both with unresolved mother issues, these two lonely hearts were drawn to each other for different reasons. And whilstbabe-paley-wearing-a-creation-of-traina-norell-photographed-by-horst-p-horst-from-american-vogue-in-1946 Truman ultimately sacrifices his relationship for the sake of a quick buck – his infamous short story ‘La Côte Basque 1965’ fictionalises and reveals all of Babe’s secrets, resulting in his Swans cutting him out of New York society – there is a sense that Truman really did care for Babe. And with the latter chapters showing both Babe and Truman’s downward spiral, due to illness and drink and drug dependencies, it is then when the book really does come into its own. After watching interviews and reading books on Capote, I thought that Benjamin really captured his spirit well.

Throughout the novel, I thought Benjamin captured the intimacy and secrecy of this world well. Sometimes it felt very intrusive whilst reading it, as though you, the reader was being allowed into the gilded cage and offered up the secrets.
All in all, I found this novel enjoyable. Yes, it some parts it was too sweet, and skimmed over the darker parts of the novel. But it was a light, and comfortable read. Perfectly suited for travel or a holiday. But don’t expect to be reading hard-hitting literature here. Full of scandal, intrigue and beautiful clothes, this novel transports you away to the cool interiors of Bergdorf’s, St Regis and Tiffany’s.

To buy this book – Amazon/Waterstones

Author’s website – Click Here