Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Did I Mention I Miss You? by Estelle Maskame

Title: Did I Mention I Miss You?
Author: Estelle Maskame
Published by: Black & White Publishing
Publication date: 21st July 2016
Pages: 372
Genres: YA Contemporary/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

A year has passed since Eden last spoke to Tyler. She remains furious at him for his abrupt departure last summer but has done her best to move on with her life at college in Chicago. As school breaks up for the summer, she's heading back to Santa Monica, but she's not the only one who decides to come home...

Having been left behind to deal with the aftermath of their bombshell revelation and a family torn apart, Eden has no time for Tyler when he reappears. But where has Tyler been? And is she as over him as she likes to think? Or can Tyler and Eden finally work things out, despite their family and against all the odds?

If you've read my post from earlier this year called 10 Reasons You Need to Read DIMILY, you'll know this is an amazing trilogy. In fact, it's one of my favourites - and now it's come to an end.

In the final book of the trilogy, Eden is done with Tyler. It's been a year since he left and completely cut her off. Now, she's trying to start a new chapter in life... a life that Tyler isn't in. But when Eden returns to Santa Monica, having completed her first year of college in Chicago, she is forced to face Tyler, the future, and how much they've both changed.

Let's jump straight in: I love character development, and it's clear that everyone has grown up so much since the first book. This is actually something that Maskame is particularly good at, not to mention the cuteness; if you're looking for an intense YA romance with a twist, you need to read DIMILY. I'm actually envious of those of you who have yet to read these books; I wish I could experience them for the first time all over again.

I'll miss Tyler and Eden a lot. In fact, I'll miss everyone. Luckily, Maskame is writing a new standalone, so we'll have some new characters to fall in love with soon! I cannot recommend these books enough and if you haven't discovered them yet... well, what are you waiting for?
If you've read the first two books but have yet to get your hands on this one, never fear, because I have an extra copy to give away to one of you! This is open to residents of the UK only, and closes on August 3rd. Good luck!

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Tuesday, 26 July 2016

My Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Warning: this post contains minor spoilers.

On my birthday last year, tickets went on sale for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the eighth story and the brand-new two-part play by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. In the frenzy that ensued (seriously, if you tried to get tickets that day, you will remember the horrendous virtual queues) I managed to grab tickets to see both parts on 6th July. I mean, if you can't treat yourself on your birthday, when can you?

If you don't want to know what the play is about, skip to the next paragraph. Still here? Good. Right then, let's try and sum up what is technically a five-hour production... The play opens exactly where the films and books left off on Platform 9 3/4, as Harry and Ginny wave off their kids as they begin the journey to Hogwarts. It's Albus Severus's first year, and - coming from a family of Gryffindors - he's scared that he will be sorted into Slytherin. When Albus's worst nightmare comes true and he is sorted into Slytherin, his relationship with his father becomes strained. This gets even worse when he becomes friends with Scorpius Malfoy, starts to feel the burden of being named after Dumbledore and Snape, and nearly destroys the world...

My god, this was a perfect production. Let's start with casting. When the actors were first announced, I didn't have an opinion. No one reads a book in the same way as anyone else; it's completely unique, and we all imagine the characters in different ways. Because of that, even when the cast photos were released, I didn't have an opinion except that racism isn't cool and people need to grow up. I didn't compare the actors with the film cast, either, because this is an entirely different medium and, as much as I love them, Radcliffe, Watson and Grint are irrelevant to the play. It's not like they are the characters just because they played them first; they're actors who were cast in a production, just like Parker, Dumezweni and Thornley. Not having seen any of the actors in anything else before, I waited until the play to form my proper opinion. 

To me, the casting was spot-on. You know the actors you're watching are special when you're able to forget that you're in a theatre with 1,399 other people and that your legs are cramped because there's literally no leg room. Sam Clemmett (Albus Potter) and Anthony Boyle (Scorpius Malfoy) had such brilliant chemistry, and they both prompted a lot of laughter, as did Paul Thornley (Ron Weasley). It's a fairly dark play in places, but it definitely has more comedy than the films (and possibly the books, too - it's been a while!) Cherrelle Skeete (Rose Granger-Weasley), although we didn't see a lot of her, had the Granger personality nailed. It's not hard to see why Jamie Parker (Harry Potter) landed the lead role; he's completely believable as a man trying and struggling to be a good father with nothing to base it on. His acting was extremely emotive.

Having worked both backstage and onstage for a lot of productions (nothing on a West End scale, obviously) I was completely captivated by the magic happening in front of me and immediately wanted to go backstage to see how it all works. It is insane. The team behind Cursed Child have not played it safe; with all the creative risks they've taken, there's a lot that could go wrong, but the entire production ran smoothly. It was flawless. In particular, I have to point out a scene where Polyjuice Potion is involved. Y'know, the potion that can literally turn a wizard or a witch into someone else entirely? Yeah, that happened right in front of our eyes. I won't go into detail but that scene is so complicated and will have taken so much coordination, and yet the actors made it look effortless. Not to mention the fire, choreography and mid-air stunts...

In addition to that, I love plays where the action is moved away from the stage and into the audience. Highlights include dementors literally flying across the audience from every direction, and creepy writing that magically appears on the ceiling, the walls, and other surfaces at one point in the play.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a triumph. How many books can successfully transcend so many mediums, and so seamlessly? Spellbinding, clever, energetic and darkly funny, you must go to see it. Whether it's in one year or three, I'll definitely be making the trip to watch it again. (Also, I'm a complete theatre geek. Surprise!...)

Will you be seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? If you've seen it already, what did you think?

Monday, 25 July 2016

GUEST POST: How Far is Too Far in YA?

Having experience with anxiety and agoraphobia myself, I was very excited to hear about Louise Gornall's debut novel, Under Rose-Tainted Skies. With a housebound protagonist, I knew it would be an interesting read. What I didn't realise until fairly recently, however, was that Gornall herself also suffers with agoraphobia. The following post is about her decision to write about a typically 'taboo' topic - but how far is too far?

Look out for my review of Under Rose-Tainted Skies, coming soon!

Is there anything you wouldn't put in a book for YA readers?

Okay, guys! I'm going to bite the bullet and have a chat with you about something slightly controversial. I know some folks will disagree with me on this, and that's okay, but here it is: I don't think there is such a thing as too far in YA. I think if we're going to put limits on content, it should be more about context and how certain things are handled. 

Bottom line, when I was a teenager, if there was something I wasn't supposed to do, I'd do it, something I wasn't supposed to know, I'd find a way to figure it out, and that would usually only mean talking to my friends. I'm not saying this means teens should be exposed to everything, but I am suggesting that shielding them from discovering stuff is near impossible, and that maybe fiction is a safe environment for teens to explore some of life's darker issues/wants/needs. 

I was really lucky to have parents who wanted to prepare me for every situation, and who always provided me with a safe space to chat, but sadly, not everyone has that. This is overly dramatic, but when a conversation comes up about censoring YA, I always think of the shower scene in Carrie, when she comes on her period, and, having no clue why she's suddenly bleeding all over herself, automatically assumes she's dying. This in turn opens her up to a barrage of torment and ridicule. I don't know, I guess what I'm trying to say is that censoring books to protect teens seems ambiguous. Like, I'm not sure how protected a teen really is when they're not prepared for the scarier stuff in life. 

I could probably ramble on about this for a decade, but don't worry, I won't. I always find it's best to stop talking before I stop making sense and inadvertently shoot down my own argument.

I agree with Louise, actually; it might be controversial, but as long as a topic is dealt with in a sensible way, I'm cool with it. The sky is the limit! By censoring YA, you're censoring life, and things happen to people regardless of age. YA, in my opinion, should reflect that.

What do you think? Let's discuss!

Louise is a graduate of Garstang Community Academy, and she is currently studying for a BA (Hons) in English language and literature with special emphasis on creative writing. A YA aficionado, film nerd, identical twin, and junk food enthusiast, she's also an avid collector of book boyfriends. Her debut novel, Under Rose-Tainted Skies, is out now.