Monday, 21 August 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Wish I'd Read In High School

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish, here, inviting bloggers and readers to list their top ten for a certain category. 

Hi everyone! For the Top Ten Tuesday topic today we were asked to choose something on a 'back to school' related topic, so I've chosen the books I wish I'd read in High School. These books weren't published when I was in High School but I feel that if they were I would have been a lot more interested in reading and felt a lot less alone. Enjoy!

1) The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury.

Did you expect anything else? If I'd read Mel's books all those years ago my YA addiction certainly would have spawned sooner haha.

2) Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kath Ormsbee.

The sexuality rep is amazing and much needed for those who struggle(d) with their identity.

3) Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima.

Another wonderful fantasy that would have had me reading sooner.

4) Harry Potter by JK Rowling


5) Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt.

To prove being geeky and loving comic con isn't 'weird'.

6) Grishaverse by Leigh Bardugo.

More kick-ass fantasy.

7) Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.

As above.

8) Les Miserables - Victor Hugo.

So that I could have loved the story but also musicals earlier.

9) House of Windows by Alexia Casale.

Again to prove I am not alone.

10) Never Evers by Ivision and Ellis.

Just to get me through those hard days.

I hope you've enjoyed my TTT! Thanks for reading! Feel free to share your own link below if you have one, or @ me on Twitter, so I can take a look at your own TTT!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Cover Spotlight Monday: There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins.

Hello! Today's cover spotlight features one of my most anticipated releases of this year, a book that I luckily managed to get an ARC of at YALC and am so far really enjoying, and that book is There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins. I absolutely loved Anna and the French Kiss and have been desperate to read this book since I heard about it.

Scream meets YA in this hotly-anticipated new novel from the bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss.

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.

I've never been a big fan of horror films to be honest, but one genre I do love is the Mystery-Thriller, so a horror where you spend the entire film trying to work out who the killer is. Usually they're quite cheesy, but I'm talking Cry Wolf and My Bloody Valentine for example, which I adored. This book seems to me to be that genre but in novel form, and therefore it sounds amazing. The cover was revealed a few weeks back and so, while it's still fairly new, I really wanted to spotlight it in this series.

One thing that I really love about it is how simple it is. There's no over the top design, fancy lettering or special effects like gilded lettering. It's striking in its simplicity, the luminous pink colouring alone enough to draw the audience over. But what I love more about it is how creepy it is in spite of its simplicity also. It quite quickly reminded me of the scenes in horror films where the characters decide to explore an unlit house/room or are woken in the night, and conveniently don't turn the light on; they just use a flashlight instead, allowing any potential killer to hide in the dark. It's cliche, and silly, in the films, we shout at the TV for them to turn the light on, but at the same time it's so effective in heightening emotions and increasing our adrenaline and fear. That's exactly what this cover does. It freaks me out before I've even turned the first page, wondering what could be hiding in the dark, while the pink fluorescent lettering with it, though not red, gives the impression of blood. It's honestly just creepy, and that's why I love it so much.

What are your thoughts on the cover?

As always thanks for reading. I do hope you enjoyed the post. Feel free to leave a comment below or you can always @ me on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

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