Saturday, 24 December 2016


Tonight is Christmas Eve and in Iceland this means an annual Christmas book flood!

Sadly I don't live in Iceland and no one is flooding my house with books right now, but I do have three books I've decided to read over the three days of Christmas (If I don't achieve any more that is!)

1) Frostblood by Elly Blake.

2) The Memory Book by Lara Avery.

3) Let it Snow by Green, Johnson and Myracle.

What are the books you're hoping to read over Christmas? Do let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Saturday, 10 December 2016

West End Review: The Phantom of the Opera

On November 7th I had the pleasure of watching one of my favourite musicals performed live at Her Majesty's Theatre, Haymarket, in London's West End. The Phantom of the Opera starred:

The Phantom: Ben Forster
Christine Daaé: Celinde Shoenmaker
Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny: Nadim Naaman
Carlotta Guidicelli: Lara Martins
Monsieur Firmin: Siôn Lloyd
Monsieur André: Philip Griffiths
Madame Giry: Jacinta Mulcahy
Meg Giry: Daisy Hulbert

In short it was an incredible show but - as always - there are some negatives to go with the positives. As a whole the entire cast was an amazing ensemble, but some did stand out above the rest.

Celinde Shoenmaker was a marvellous soprano and Christine, balancing the character's gentle nature with her deep fire. Her relationship with Daisy Hulbert's Meg was also enchanting; the latter portraying a wonderful part in her own right despite not being the leading actress.

Lara Martins had only just returned to the role of Carlotta, but it seemed as if she'd never been gone. Her stage presence and vocal range were phenomenal, brining a real life to the part.

Nadim Naaman was also phenomenal as Raoul. I'll be honest of never being a Raoul fan, even including Hadley Fraser's 25th Anniversary performance, but Naaman completely changed my view. His Raoul wasn't just confident and protective, but compassionate and powerful. He was a joy to watch.

Mulcahy's Giry was a fine portrayal but in my mind Madame Giry is meant to be a silent power, and this Giry didn't quite exude the control and fear over the ballet girls that I expected.

Forster's Phantom was sadly the most disappointing, though only in parts. I am a huge fan of Erik, and especially of his gentle, passionate ballads. Music of the Night is quite easily my favourite but it seemed Forster just didn't have the vocal range to pull off the ballad completely. Perhaps he was fighting a cold or other illness, I can't be sure, but his voice seemed to crack in places, and at times he was hard to hear. That said, his renditions of Point of No Return and Down Once More gave me chills.

It's quite obvious he's a wonderful singer and actor who can exude power like the flick of a switch, but I don't entirely feel like he has a master of the more gentle ballads that make the Phantom as sympathetic as he is. He has talent indeed - I myself was rooting for him during 'Superstar' - but the range of the Phantom seems just a little out of reach at this time. His portrayal meanwhile was interesting and unique, if not a little too twitchy for my liking.

The sets, costumes and special effects were of course wonderful, really bringing the audience into the story, especially during such ensemble pieces such as Masquerade, and such pivotal moments as the falling chandelier. The direction was exquisite, and it was surprising how many audience members elicited gasps over The Phantom's reveal behind the angel for his reprise of All I Ask of You. Every inch of the theatre was used to entice and entrance, and it was an absolute joy to witness. A solid 4 stars indeed.

Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed my review. Feel free to comment below or on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Updated: 2016/2017 Winter Reads Challenge

Well I originally set this as my Countdown to Christmas reading challenge, with my goal being 10 books. I quite completely failed that, succeeding in only 3 - none of which I managed to review *Sigh* As a result I've decided to change this to a Winter Reads Challenge so that I have up until the end of February to complete it. I still only have the 9 books - 3 read - so I'm setting my goal to an easy 5. This way I can read Fix You which is a review book I missed last year and need to catch up with, and can also finish Let It Snow, which I started. Any more will be a bonus.

UPDATE: Well, I completely failed here haha, but never mind. As we come into September I will be reviving the Countdown to Christmas book challenge soon, which once again gives me chance to get these books read!

The list was;

1 - How to Stuff Up Christmas: Rosie Blake - Thanks to Corvus. Review up soon.

2 - Fix You: Carrie Elks - Also thanks to Corvus.

3 - What Light: Jay Asher - Thanks to MacMillan, and I have already read, and loved, this book. Review up soon.

4 - 10 Days of Dash and Lily: Leviathan and Cohn. Review up soon.

5 - My True Love Gave to Me: Perkins (Editor).

6 - Let It Snow: Green/Johnson/Myracle

7 - Wish Upon a Star: Trisha Ashley.

8 - The Little Shop of Hopes and Dreams: Fiona Harper.

9 - Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop: Jenny Colgan.

Hopefully I'll succeed where I failed this time!

As always, feel free to post a comment below, or @ me on Twitter, and thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Halloween Challenge: Results

Books Read: 3

I honestly thought I'd do better than this, but oh well, there's always next year!


Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: The only finished book from my original five challenge reads, but I adored it. I can't wait to finish the trilogy. Review up soon.

RoseBlood by A. G. Howard: Not on my original list, but a horror nonetheless. I loved this Phantom retelling and a review will be up as soon as the words coalesce from gibberish to english.

Phantom of the Opera by Gaston LeRoux: A classic I'd always been meaning to read, I finally took the chance this October. Review up soon!

In terms of my original challenge list, I also properly started Caraval, which I'm excited to continue this month.

Did you finish any great Halloween reads? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf