Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Book Review: Improbable Fiction by Alan Ayckbourn

Improbable FictionImprobable Fiction by Alan Ayckbourn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

During September and October of 2013 I worked on Communicating Doors by Alan Ayckbourn at my local amateur theatre. I'm currently working on a new play, and one of the actors recommended Improbable Fiction to me, as it was somewhat like this one.
It didn't take me long to get stuck in. It's easy to read Ayckbourn's work, it reads like a novel rather than a play. The characters in this one are all eclectic and different. I got some of the female characters mixed up initially but as the play got going it became easier. I love that the names of the characters are distinctive and unusual too.
As a lover of the theatre and creative writing I really identified with this play. I know the frustration of not being able to get started on a book. One of the characters says that the book is good because she hasn't started it yet and as soon as she writes words it makes it worse. Hearing it described that way makes perfect sense and something I completely understand.
During the second act of the play, the creations of each of the characters come to life. This was the part that I felt was just ingenious. I imagined it as a stage manager with all the costume changes and the lighting changes and wish I'd been to see the production of Improbable Fiction when it was on at the Attfield.

View all my reviews

Book Review: The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

The Husband's SecretThe Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Husband's Secret is the first book for the Weston Rhyn Book Club, organised by the lovely Joey McGuinness. We're all female with an eclectic and varied taste in books, but I firmly believe that book clubs are about reading what you normally wouldn't pick for yourself.
This book primarily centres around three women: Cecilia, Tess and Rachel. Cecilia discovers a letter written by her husband John-Paul to be opened on the event of his death, Tess discovers her husband has fallen in love with her cousin, who's like a sister to her and Rachel is struggling to get over the murder of her daughter Janie. Reading this book made me realise why I normally pick male leads as I found all three characters quite unlikeable. Rachel was the least annoying, but Cecilia with her Tupperware parties and how everything had to be 'perfect' drove me up the wall!
It's clear that Liane Moriarty has put a lot of hard work into this book and how each character's life winds into each other. But this isn't a thriller, as it's billed, it's a story about women and the choices that we make in life. I will admit that once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down, but I felt myself cringing or rolling my eyes at several things. Maybe my age and experience with married life put me at a disadvantage but I struggled to sympathise or understand some of their thought processes or choices. I also worked out what was in the contents of the letter, which was a disappointment for me because normally I like to be surprised.
The reason this was a three star rating rather than two was because of the epilogue. The author details Janie's life of what it might have been like and highlights how important and life-changing those small decisions are, which to me is interesting.

View all my reviews

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Book Review: Inca Gold by Clive Cussler

Inca GoldInca Gold by Clive Cussler
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I haven't read a Clive Cussler book in a long time and after finishing Darkly Dreaming Dexter I was in the mood for an adventure.
I have several of the Dirk Pitt novels on my shelf that I've bought and not got around to reading yet so I flicked through a few until I settled on one that I liked the look of.
Inca Gold opens in the 16th Century, where Francis Drake is busy pirating his way through the Spanish fleet. He comes across a jade box containing secrets of an Inca treasure and sends it with his second-in-command back to England. Only, the ship is caught in a tidal wave and the treasure is lost forever. Cue Dirk Pitt and NUMA.
There's one thing that can always be guaranteed with Cussler's novels, a swashbuckling adventure. The characters of Pitt and Giordino are like old friends to me now and I enjoy the relationship that they have. As I've read other novels featuring the characters I know how long they have been friends for, so I don't need to know it again but if Inca Gold is your first foray into this world then it's essential information.
The best parts of this book are the action and adventure elements. Pitt and Giordino travel through an underground river, fight the bad guys, explore underwater caves and save the girl. All of these are heart pounding and exciting. It's the stuff in between that lets it down. The dialogue between all of the characters reads like a dodgy movie script, as if it's meant to be heard by other people and not just a conversation.
There's also far too many characters, all with strange names that obviously paint them as bad guys. People are unnecessarily introduced, even so far as the last third of the book. As always, the author himself pops up, which I find a bit cheesy and clichéd. The situations the characters find themselves in are also a bit ridiculous and they always seem to survive, despite the odds against them.
I think I'll also add that Cussler is quite sexist. The females generally are to be saved and are there to make Pitt and Giordino feel good about themselves. They also spend a lot of time crying.
By the time I was halfway through this book, I was counting the pages to the end.
So overall, it was alright, but I've read better by Clive Cussler, so I'll probably delve into another one when I'm craving an adventure.

View all my reviews

Friday, 10 January 2014

We Could Be Heroes

As you get older your definition for the word hero changes. When you're young, your hero wears a cape and a mask, saves the day, kills the bad guy, gets the girl. Then the world opens ups, you're introduced to real people who have accomplished incredible things, people that you connect to, that you relate to, not just because they're the latest craze or the thing everyone is talking about.
When I was a child my main hero was Ariel from Disney's The Little Mermaid. So much so that I wanted to be a mermaid when I grew up. I know, before you point out, it's a physical impossibility.  I think part of me longed to be part of something, like Ariel, but I'm sure most of me just wanted long red hair and to be able to go swimming all day. Now I realise that it was youthful wonder and dreaming.
My other heroes from my childhood were mostly pop stars. I loved the Spice Girls, Steps and S Club 7. I collected albums, put up posters and took every opportunity to dress up. I had a short pink sequined dress (a la Baby Spice), and an all white outfit based on Steps' One For Sorrow video. My friends and I would practice dance routines. Every generation has their heroes and it was no different for me. I recently relived my youth and attended a Steps reunion concert and although I had a great time (I remembered all the words and the dance routines), I am now aware of it's cheesiness. At the end of the day, it's manufactured pop.
My musical heroes now are bands like Mumford & Sons, and older artists like David Bowie and The Eagles. Now I admire artists that write and perform their own songs and play instruments. For me, Mumford & Sons was a breath of fresh air, something new, something I'd never heard before. Their lyrics resonate with me and I can spot one of their songs a mile off. I was influenced by my parents' tastes, like The Eagles and motown music. Then I discovered David Bowie, who I adored for his uniqueness and individuality.
I have heroes now in all fields. I'm a lover of fashion, designers, film, theatre, actors, directors, books, writers, photographers... I admire Stephen King for his ability to write heart warming characters and put them in extraordinary situations. I love Tyra Banks trying to change the fashion world. I love Benedict Cumberbatch and his cheekbones.
When I talk to the kids in choir about their heroes the same people pop up time and time again. They love One Direction, which I'm sure they will grow out of in time. They also like Taylor Swift. This is one hero I am happy to support. She writes her own songs, plays a musical instrument,  but she's still too commercial for my own tastes. I try to introduce the kids to different music and the other day we watched the music video for Bowie's Heroes. Several of the children said: 'He looks like a girl!' To which I replied: 'Yes, that's the point.'

This post was inspired by...

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Fear Factor

You are born with a fear of two things, falling and fire. Fear of other things develop along the way.
Everyone is scared of something. I have this discussion with the kids at school all the time. What are they afraid of? Being seven year old boys, they often say: 'I'm not scared of anything!' I wish I had their brassiness.
When it comes to creepy crawlies I'm utterly rubbish, especially spiders and daddy-long legs. Spiders freak me out, the way they walk with their eight, thin legs. I once had an awful experience where a spider fell off a towel into the bathroom sink. At the time the towel was wrapped around my head. Daddy-long legs are just as bad, in fact they're worse, because they can fly. In the dark they fly into your face and into your hair. In the past I have known to move out of the comfort of my own bed to avoid one.
However, to protect others I have been known to face my fears. At volunteering a few years ago a bee flew into the room. Although I'm not afraid of bees, seeing him scared turned me into the 'protector'. The same goes for spiders and daddy-long legs. When faced with someone who's more afraid than I am I can overcome my own.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Strike A Pose

I love fashion. I love putting together an outfit, right down to the underwear and accessories. I love clothes that are the cutting edge, that are different, that make you stand out from the crowd. I love models, their androgynous looks, the thing that makes them unique and different. And even if it makes me a snob, I love buying designer items. I love designers themselves that aren't afraid to be a little different, even if the clothes they make aren't so practical. I love America's Next Top Model, Tyra Banks and the word 'smise' (smile with your eyes). For years I bought Vogue and read it cover to cover, studying each image and advertisement. Even if the fashion world rejects my size and shape (a six foot, size 22). Don't get me wrong I'm not under the illusion that I could be a model, I don't want to be. I love taking the pictures.
My friend Sian
Last summer my friend was interested in going in to modelling and I offered to take some pictures for her. The pictures turned out great, but at the end she wanted me to be into some pictures. I hated it, she didn't understand that for me, the picture taking was the best bit. I love putting the outfit together, picking the location, putting the outfit together to create the final product, create something fantastic, special and eye catching.
However, this post isn't just about fashion, it's also about style, my personal style. Despite the fact that I don't enjoy my picture being taken I still like getting dressed up and putting the outfit together. Over the years my style adapts and changes. I look at the fashion world and the current trends. Last year's A/W ranges featured a lot of Fair Isle thanks to Danish crime drama The Killing and it's lead Sara Lund. A trend which I embraced with arms wide open.
However, there are some items that are timeless and go with all of my clothes, even my fancy 'posh' stuff. I own six pairs of Converse All Stars in different colours: black, red, blue, yellow, purple and tan (although the last pair I've never never worn). Team a pair of them with a skater skirt (normally black) and a slogan or band t-shirt and that's an outfit sorted. If it's cold I add a pair of leggings to this ensemble. But they're also interchangeable with a dress, shorts or a pair of jeans.
That leads on nicely to my next fashion choice. I love the 50's style of a cinched in waist. Almost all of my skirts and dresses pull in at the waist to focus on the smallest part of my torso. I love the glamour and femininity of the flouncy dresses and skirts. The fact they fall to below the knee makes them flattering too, as long as they don't fall mid-calf. The glasses I wear are also 50's style.
I love most retro clothing (although I tend to veer away from 60's fashion as it simply does not suit my body shape). I own a pair of flares (although not embroidered like the ones on the right), a chunky Hutch-style cardigan and aviator sunglasses. I love shoulder pads and I even own a jumpsuit. Some of the residents at the care home have some fantastic items of clothing, paisley patterns and peplum jackets. I consider it retro, for them they've owned it since the first time it was in fashion.
One of the recent fashion trends which has been resurrected from the 90's (sadly, a fashion trend that I can remember) is grunge. Although I love the girlishness of the 50's, it's not always practical. I wear a uniform to work but volunteering in a school and stage managing means I have to wear flat shoes and clothes that dirt doesn't show up on for most of the time. The tattooed and pierced part of me adores grunge. I love tartan (but that's because I love Scotland) and anything with studs and spikes on is a winner for me. I love the washed out denim look too, and have seriously considered investing in some dungarees or a dungaree style dress.
Overall I think it's fair to say my style depends on my mood, and how girly I want to be. If I'm going out for a meal with girl friends I'll grab my red poppy dress that accentuates my waist and if we're not going somewhere too posh, pair it with red converse. If I'm going to school I'll wear my red Doc Martens with a tartan shift dress and leggings and if I'm stage managing I'll wear a t-shirt and a black skater skirt with a pair of Converse of my choice.
I'm so glad that the fashion world is changing and companies on the High Street and on-line are providing clothes in bigger sizes and 'tall' ranges, so that leggings don't stop just below my knee! New Look and ASOS provide the latest fashions and styles, and I always like to stay on top of them. Although I'm not an idiot, I'll only wear what suits me. I'm glad I skipped the neon faux-fur trend. Somehow I don't think luminous green ski boots are my thing!

This post was influenced by...

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain

The mind is a funny thing. It can remember song lyrics from your childhood, but don't ask it to recall what you had for lunch yesterday.
To remember the important, and not so important, things in life we invented mnemonics. The title of this post is a way of remembering the colours of the rainbow. Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain, Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet. It's not exactly an essential part of life, but one day when you're asked what the fifth colour of the rainbow is it will come in handy. There is also My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets, Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto. Although these days, it will just stop at Naming.
When I was at school my friend Cat told me a brilliant way to remember how to spell necessary. She said 'when you go out you need a coat (c) and a pair of socks (ss)'.
Anyway, I feel like this post is rambling on a bit. My challenge was to use the colours, either by picture or word and I have written them and shown you the colours, so that'll do!

This post was brought to you by brainwaves, inspired by...

Monday, 6 January 2014

Ode To Tina Turner

Thinking can sometimes be dangerous. Today's prompt asked me where and when I do my best thinking. But what does best mean? Thinking most clearly, the best ideas, the most thinking...?
I am under no illusion that I am definitely a night owl. I'm dead to the world until about seven, then I suddenly perk up, can't stop talking and my brain seems to overflow with ideas and thoughts. It is not unknown for me to stay up until the early hours of the morning working on a new story, or even jotting down notes. Then, when I attempt sleep it doesn't come at all, my brain is still churning from the activity. Sometimes, to get myself to sleep I tell myself the next part of the story. In the morning, I can sit and stare at a blank page for ages, willing for inspiration to come and it never does. But night is also when the demons come out. I worry about things, over analyse conversations and actions I've taken throughout the day. Or I worry about what's to come. I used to keep a diary to offload these thoughts. Maybe it's a practise I should start again.
Another good time for thinking, for me, is on public transport. On the bus I used to read, but now I find I think, staring out of the window. Again, I'm working on characters, or the opening of a new chapter, or I play out scenarios in my head. To be honest, whenever I am on my own it doesn't take much for me to get lost inside of my own thoughts. And as I said before, sometimes this is dangerous.
All I've learnt from this post, is that I simply think too much. So although I know Simply The Best time for me to think, and be constructive, I need to spend less time in my head, and more time in the real world. Although it's much less fun.

This post was inspired by...

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Love and Other Monks

The small boys came early to the hanging.

What a brilliant first line. When I found out that the prompt for the 5th of January was to pick your favourite book, take the first sentence and make it the first sentence of your post I knew exactly which book to pick. It was sitting in arms reach from my position in bed and although it's my favourite book I couldn't remember what the first line was. I remember how much I loved it, how much I relished every word, how I couldn't wait until bedtime to read it, how I hated certain characters with such venom. When I opened the book and read the first line all I wanted to do was carry on reading.

The Pillars Of The Earth is epic. That's probably the only way to describe it. It spans half a century and is filled with rich, interesting characters. We follow Tom Builder and his family as they arrive at Kingsbridge, desperate for work in order to survive. His story is intertwined with the Royals of the 12th Century, an orphaned girl Aliena and her brother Richard, Bishop Waleran and the monks of Kingsbridge and the horrific Hamleighs. And while all of this is happening, a cathedral is being erected. I've never read a book that is this grand, that is on this scale, that covers so many events and so much time and yet you still feel close to the characters, still feel like you know them, like they are a part of you.
I'm not normally a fan of historic fiction, it's not something I ordinarily go for, but I love the history. Ken Follett has obviously done his research because every detail is described, and he translates it so beautifully it's etched into my mind. If I closed my eyes now I can still see Jack Jackson's red hair and his beautiful sculptures, I can still see fire rage through Kingsbridge and I read it over two years ago.

In this post I was supposed to talk about the first sentence, and draw from there. But I figured a post about how much I adore the book, rather than the prescence of small children at executions would be much better to write, if not as interesting.
To read my review of The Pillars Of The Earth click here.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

New Girl

At the moment, all of the Daily Prompts seem to be about 'new', new things, new years resolutions and to be honest it's getting quite old! Nevertheless, I have actually tried a lot of new things lately and only one person has to ask before I start to rabbit on about all of them.
For ages I have wanted a tattoo. I spoke to friends and family about it and all had different opinions and different reasoning. My Mum thinks they look dirty, my Nan on the other hand was (surprisingly) supportive. I think she's living her youth through me, although she does own a leather jacket.
When it came to getting a tattoo there was one thing I was unmoving on. It had to mean something. I love reading, writing, all things wordy and I wanted a quote, some initials or an extract as my first quote. It also had to be something my opinion wouldn't change about. I didn't want to get ink and then regret it later. So I decided on my parents initials. My Dad is Kevin John Wadey, my Mum Karen Jean Wadey. Getting the tattoo itself was also spur of the moment. I was trying to find a time when my Mum and I were both free so she could be with me. Stuart (the lovely man in Fineliners in Oswestry), said: 'What about this afternoon?'
Growing up I was always quite 'mumsy', mature beyond my years, and the word sensible would pop up often when describing me. So getting a tattoo is something that was definitely outside of my comfort zone and despite my promise to Helen to not become addicted, I already have three more designs in the pipe works!

This post was inspired by...

Friday, 3 January 2014

Honesty Is Such A Lonely Word

I have had this debate with an old friend more times than I can count. What is the best policy? To be truthful, keep everything out in the open? Or are you a fan of 'what they don't know won't hurt them'?
I must admit, until recently I always believed honesty was best. Secrets are bad, truth is good. But I had never been in a situation where it really mattered. People and feelings are never as black and white as that.
I think in a relationship, you have to be honest, if you want that relationship to last. No relationship can exist without trust and trust and honesty go hand in hand. But that doesn't mean you have to tell them everything. There's a level of relevance. If you've got a bad case of wind, it doesn't need to be shared, but if you're having an affair with the boss, then that's pretty relevant.
I'm also of the view that if rebuilding a relationship is the aim, honesty is the key. If one person in the relationship has cheated and they decide to come clean then they should come clean with all of it. My friend used to say 'the truth will always come out in the end' and unfortunately she is right. If your partner finds out you have been keeping things, even the smallest detail, then they will suspect more lies and bigger secrets.
However, on a completely different note, if there is nothing to be gained by the honesty than someone's feelings getting hurt, then it is a selfish act. A way of clearing one's conscience. Although sometimes it is necessary to establish if a relationship is worth keeping. If I had been honest with a friend years ago, then I might have realised how much she wasn't a friend.
So to summarise, honesty may leave you lonely. It is best to take every situation as it comes.

This post was inspired by...

Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Last Resolution

I never normally make New Years resolutions, not now anyway. I used to make them, then would never stick to them and it would be a pointless exercise. I'd also be disappointed and there would probably be some self-beating for a bit too.
Now every New Year I make a promise to myself instead, two things. To be better and to be happy.
By being 'better', I don't mean in terms of competition. I don't want to beat anybody else (although it's nice to get recognition amongst your peers), I mean to get better as a person. To be polite, to be kinder, to not be selfish, to become more well-rounded, if you like. I try not to regret nowadays as it's easy to become lost in the past and forget about the future, but I'm a big believer in improvement. Everybody is constantly changing, whether it's personality, beliefs, the way we look. Events happen throughout your life that change the way you perceive things, meeting people and sharing new experiences all changes you. So long as those changes are for the better, I'm happy.
And that leads nicely on to my next aim: happiness. Happiness is always a tricky thing, it means different things to different people and sometimes you spend so much time looking for it you didn't realise you had it in the first place. Sometimes you think you are happy, when really you're just stalling the inevitable unhappiness that is just around the corner. These last few months for me have probably been some of the unhappiest times I have ever had, so striving for happiness in 2014 is even more important for me. My problem is working out what makes me happy and compromising so that I can be happy. For example, being a Care Assistant is not my dream job. There's nothing wrong with it, I enjoy it, but I don't see myself doing it forever. However, the 12 hour shifts enable me to volunteer at the primary school and run the choir, two things I absolutely love doing and would hate to give up at the moment. I only go to work 10 times in a month as I work long days, but not very often, so it leaves more days free for the theatre and for meeting with friends. 
I am always my happiest when surrounded by people, normally a small group, the friends and family I love. Over the course of 2013 I realised I was spending time with people that actually made me miserable. Letting them go was hard to do, but ultimately it'll make me happier. 
So no, no New Years resolutions for me, just a continuing improvement and a continuing discovery of what it's like to grow up and face the real world.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

It's A Kind Of Magic...

What would you do if you had magic powers? It's one of those questions, like, 'if you had three wishes, what would they be'. Everyone has an answer.
I must admit my answers are quite boring I think, in the grand scheme of things. If I had the ability to do magic I would use it to make the life that I have easier, it would be magic for convenience. The ability to iron my clothes, and change the colour of them, make them fit better. I would have the ability to teleport. In fact, this is the one I would probably use the most. If I could teleport to work I could have a lie in. I'd be able to go and visit friends and family in Sussex in the blink of an eye without having to spend countless hours on public transport and waiting on cold platforms. I could pop down in the morning and then pop back in time for volunteering. I could use it to visit the entire world but return to the comfort of my own bed and the cleanliness of my own bathroom. And all for free!
I would love to have the ability to travel through time as well as space, go back to relive amazing moments within my life, spend time with those that have gone. Or travel back in history to witness momentous events.
I would use my magical powers to make the world a more beautiful place, make flowers grow or clean dirt off the streets. But I wouldn't use it to alter life or death events. I'm not God or Cupid, it's not my job or responsibility.
I would use my magic powers to make the house a little tidier. Picture the Weasley household, spoons stirring pots, dishes washing themselves. I expect I would use it to gain a little money, because, let's face it, who couldn't do with a bit of extra cash. But I would also help my friends and family anyway I could, magically change the wallpaper, provide an endless supply of Dominoes.
I think at school it would become the most useful. For the children who struggle to read it would be incredible if the books sprung to life in front of their eyes. Can you imagine the look on their faces if The Gruffalo walked through the door? And at choir if I could magic up a stage, microphones and costumes with a swish of my hand?
I think over all, the magic I have would be magic of convenience.

This post was inspired by...