Monday, 14 August 2017

Cover Spotlight Monday: The Fandom by Anna Day

Hi everyone! I'm back with a brand new cover spotlight and I do hope you're all as excited about this book as I am. Today I'm looking at the brand new cover, only revealed just last week, for Anna Day's The Fandom, due January 2018.

Cosplay ready, Violet and her friends are at Comic-Con.

They can’t wait to meet the fandom of mega movie, The Gallows Dance. What they’re not expecting is to be catapulted by freak accident into their favourite world – for real. Fuelled by love, guilt and fear, can the friends put the plot back on track and get out? The fate of the story is in their hands ...

A fast-paced, genre-flipping YA fantasy adventure from a brand new author, writing in homage to the best YA fiction.

I've been lucky enough to receive a proof copy of this book from the lovely Jazz Bartlett at Chicken House Books and am currently part way through. I absolutely adore it so far and was completely excited to see the cover finally revealed last week.

Isn't it beautiful? I can't analyse it in depth really as I normally do, being that I haven't finished the story, but I still want to spotlight it nonetheless. I think the thorns do give it a fantasy vibe, with feeling akin to sleeping beauty (the needle) or Russian folktales, but whilst also emphasising a real danger to the characters; for how useful would we actually be if we got transported into one of our favourite worlds, in truth? The tagline 'No story is worth dying for' really does emphasise that danger also, and makes the reader wonder what type of story the characters have gotten themselves into and what consequences it may have on them. Really I think the cover just does a good justice of making the reader curious about the story, enticing them to preorder, drumming up buzz, and of course persuading them to delve straight in come release day. It is simply gorgeous.

What are your thoughts on The Fandom's cover? As always do feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter, and thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Spotlight Sunday: Diversity Recs - Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Hi everyone! I'm back with recommendation number 2 in my Spotlight Sunday: Diversity Recs series and this time it's all about Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde!

When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.
Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Reese Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.
Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

I absolutely loved this book for so many reasons. The story itself is just so wonderful, especially for someone who very much classes herself as a geek and loves attending comic conventions, but what I really adored was the amazing representation included within.

Charlie is one of our two main characters; out-going, loud, bubbly. She's a Vlogger who's broken into the acting ranks with a home-based (Australia) movie that's made it quite big and brought her to one of the world's biggest comic conventions. There she's all too happy to promote the sequel, until her ex-boyfriend appears. However, things start to look up when long-time crush Alyssa Huntington - another Vlogger - appears. Charlie's bisexual, and her suddenly blooming relationship with Alyssa brings a lot of issues to bear, both regarding her career and not, but what I really loved was how the author didn't shy away from the issues but instead brought them to the light. She discusses and addresses not just the sexuality itself but bi-erasure and homophobia. The issues Charlie and Alyssa face are real, powerful, and passionate, and as a reader who identifies as bisexual I found it hugely welcoming and beautiful.

Taylor meanwhile is the binary opposite of Charlie. Where Charlie lives for the light, Taylor is happiest following her lead. She loves her friends, loves being around them, but she's perfectly happy for them to take the attention. It's in these aspects that I saw a lot of myself in Taylor. She suffers from severe anxiety which makes a lot of things - especially attending the comic convention - very hard for her, and I could 100% understand every emotion she went through. More importantly though Taylor has Aspergers, which is a representation that seems to be rarely found in YA, even today. Though I did not personally understand everything Taylor went through in regards to her Autism, I empathised with her struggle, and found the book to be very informative. 

To finish, I also loved the anti-body-shaming messages the story portrays, again with regards to Taylor's storyline. Throughout her entire story which yes does include romance, she never once feels the need to change or adapt herself of her lifestyle, and that is such a wonderful message to portray. Taylor is perfect just the way she is, knows that herself, and it's a message we should all take to heart.

Overall I think this story really is just promoting love and kindness, self-belief and compassion, in all ways, shapes and forms. It's a truly uplifting and inspiring tale, as well as just being fun to read, and one that I really do recommend.

As always, thanks for reading, and I do hope you enjoyed this week's representation. Don't forget to tune in August 27th when another rec will be revealed, and feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Theatre Review: Les Miserables at The Queen's Theatre.

During my attendance to YALC two weeks ago I also attended The Queen's Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, London, to watch an amazing performance of Les Miserables. The Principal Cast on Friday 28th July were as follows;

Jean Valjean - Killian Donnelly
Javert - Hayden Tee
Fantine - Carley Stenson
M. Thernadier - Steven Meo
Mdm. Thernadier - Jacqueline Tate
Cosette - Charlotte Kennedy
Marius - Paul Wilkins
Eponine - Karis Jack
Enjolras - Hyoie O'Grady

Having watched the show for the first time in 2012, and owning both the 10th and 25th Anniversary DVDs, I knew I was in for a treat, but wow, I did not expect the almost 3 hour show to be as incredible as it was.

If you've seen the show, the movie, or read the book, you'll know first hand how powerful the story is. Valjean's journey to redemption against Javert's journey to conscience is a beautiful tale, where the characters both mirror and oppose each other. I simply adore it, and it never fails to make me cry.

One of the most powerful elements of the show however is the music. Heart wrenching ballads, intense ensemble pieces, and tearjerking instrumental pieces tell a story in themselves. As a big fan of the show and a lot of the numbers themselves, I always want to sing along and yet on July 28th I was so drawn to every actors' voice I could barely utter a word. Every member of the cast, be it principal or ensemble, were amazing, but two in particular really struck a chord with me.

I am a known fan of the character Enjolras, but Hyoie O'Grady's performance was incredible. Not only did he look the part, his voice rang out in clear clarity across the theatre, exuding the power of the character's poetic words in such songs as 'Red and Black', and during the intense barricade scenes. He was a joy to witness, his final scene drawing tears from my eyes. Being that Les Miserables is the actor's professional debut I cannot wait to see what the next few years bring for him.

Killian Donnelly meanwhile was a most impressive Jean Valjean. His acting was in my opinion completely flawless, drawing the audience in intently to the character, but it too was his voice which moved me. Listening to him sing I heard vibes of Colm Wilkinson, especially during 'Bring Him Home'; another moment that drew tears.

Of course, what makes Les Mis so incredible, at least in part, is the staging. A full size turntable is in use during many scenes which really helps to pull the audience into the story, and to incite sadness, especially during a certain barricade scene (If you know, you know).

But one of the most incredible parts of the evening was during the finale. As the final scene drew to a close and the bow began, the audience leapt to their feet; a standing ovation, and one well deserved. It was an absolutely incredible experience and one that I'll never forget.

In the two weeks since I haven't been able to get the night out of my head, and I honestly cannot wait until I can see this cast again (Now in just a few weeks time!).

I hope you enjoyed my review, and thanks for reading. As always do feel free to leave a comment below, or @ me on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Saturday Series: Love, Hate, or Both?

Hello everyone! With YALC having drawn to a close it was time for me to decide on a new Saturday Series. Having ran a small poll on Twitter a few days ago for Les Mis fans as to who was preferred - Enjolras or Marius - this idea was born. In 'Love, Hate, or Both?' I will be discussing characters and series', and my feelings towards them. In the first, as this was how the series came to be, Enjolras and Marius. Spoilers for Les Miserables ahead.

Ramin Karimloo as Enjolras.
Nick Jonas as Marius.
Les Miserables 25th Anniversary at the O2 Arena.
I know the story of Les Mis like the back of my hand, but Marius has always annoyed me. Though I can understand Cosette's 'insta-love' due to her lonely childhood and the fact that Marius was probably the first boy to show any interest in her, I cannot understand Marius' reasoning. Later in the show, during the song 'Drink with Me', the Barricade Boys (Minus Enjolras of course - his only mistress is 'Patria') lament over the women they've loved, so surely Marius was not as isolated as Cosette had been. Yes Grantaire states 'Is Marius in love at last?' during 'Red and Black', but that doesn't mean he's never had a relationship before, and yet suddenly upon meeting Cosette for all of a second, he is ready to give up his commitment to the revolution. It just doesn't strike right with me.

We get a good understanding of and insight to Marius' relationships with his friends and comrades during 'Empty Chairs and Empty Tables', how the loss has left him grief stricken, and yet he shows up late to the Les Amis de l'ABC meeting during 'Red and Black' and shows little commitment to or agreement with the revolution and the statements Enjolras makes. Perhaps Enjolras is a little harsh in response ('Who cares about your lonely soul? ... Our little lives don't count at all') but he is right to a degree in the fact that they have been planning the revolution for a great deal of time before Cosette appeared, and yet Marius accuses him of not understanding his plight ('Had you been there tonight you might know how it feels...'). I know that Marius does later commit to the revolution during One Day More ('My place is here, I fight with you') but it's only shortly after, at the Barricade, that he is still lamenting over Cosette, whom he has only spoken to once since. It's my opinion, of course, but it's simply a little too insta-love for my liking, and probably the only part of the musical I don't 100% enjoy.

Enjolras meanwhile is more severe, yes, but his unwavering commitment - even in the face of death - is what I love so much about him. He's rich, beautiful, and yet all he cares about is the welfare of others. His determination to stand up to those opposing equality and rights, to fight to the death for freedom and peace for all, is something to be admired. So maybe he doesn't understand Marius' plight, but he understands the worse plight of many others to much more of a degree, so how can he be faulted for that? Even when faced with certain defeat and therefore death, when given one last chance to flee ('You have no chance, no chance at all. Why throw your lives away?'), he stands tall against the oppressors and gives everything he has left ('Let us die facing our foes, make them bleed while we can'). He knows they have failed but hopes others will see what they have managed to achieve and build on it; that one day his country will be free, even if not by his hand ('Let others rise, to take our place, until the earth is free!'). His death scene, how it is portrayed with him still clutching the revolutionary flag, never fails to bring tears to my eyes. He is certainly a character to look up to.

What do you think?

I do hope you enjoyed my first in the 'Love, Hate or Both?' series. Do feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter! Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Saturday Series - YALC Wrap Up - Day 3

Hey guys! Welcome to my final wrap up for YALC day three! I hope you enjoy it!

Day three was a much calmer, slower day than the previous two. I had no reason to go to LFCC (and was very glad of that!) and ended up sleeping in I was so exhausted! Still, it was an amazing day as I've recapped here.

By the time I finally got to YALC around 10:30 I had to go straight to Chris Russell's signing queue. It was a little long for my tired feet, but very much worth it. Chris was lovely - he's a Yuki fan too! - and I also managed to snag a copy of Blackbirds from the Harper booth while I was waiting (Well I had to dash from the queue but I was at the end anyway, so ;) ).

I quickly moved from there to Anna Day's queue, which was mad busy as Chicken House had been giving away loads of proofs, but I have already started Anna's wonderful book so it was more than worth it. I'm so so happy I got to meet her, and I saw Jazz again too.

I then met back up with the lovely Kat and together we got proofs of The Treatment by C. L. Taylor which were signed by the wonderful author, again from the Harper booth. Afterwards I went to the GeekyClean booth which I'd been eyeing all weekend and bought Unicorn Kisses lip balm, Sun Summoner lip balm, and Magical Girl perfume oil. They smell divine!

I then had one final whizz around the booths, where I bought some more wonderful books and got a lot more swag (Watch out for a potential giveaway once I've sorted through!). I also managed to snag a proof of The Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles which sounds so amazing. Here's what I got overall;

I really hope you enjoyed my day three wrap up. Check out days one here and day two here!

Thanks for reading, and as always do feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf