A Court of Thorns and Roses

By Sarah J. Maas

My Rating: ####/5

Goodreads Rating: 4.26/5

Published May 5th 2015 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

SHE STOLE A LIFE. NOW SHE MUST PAY WITH HER HEART.

Way back when I read a review on GoodReads where the reviewer described A Court of Thorns and Roses as “more or less softcore erotica”. As you can imagine, I put it down even before you can say “New Adult Fantasy”. I just don’t have the time, nor the stomach for that.

So years have gone by, more books in the series have been published and it has never lost momentum. Along with a large fanbase, loyal ACOTAR-ians (see what I did there) and more YouTUBE videos than you can count, people are still pushing it on me. So I decided to try again. It took another two attempts, to be honest as it still was not love at first sight for me.

But I do like it and I will be continuing with the series. I have already purchased the second book and fans are telling me how the second book is their absolute favorite.

The title nods to a Beauty and the Beast retelling and the cover is supremely inviting. My first impression was that the book was going to be disjointed and disorganized as there’s no Table of Contents, so I didn’t know what to expect from a chronological point of view. It is important to note that ACOTAR is not a Young Adult Fantasy novel as most believe, but New Adult Fantasy. I appreciate that the back cover clearly states that this book contains mature content. But it’s not smut at all and it’s not Fifty Shades of Awful erotica. There are mature, intimate love scenes that add to the weight and emotions this novel portrays. But the story flows beautifully and with ease. I didn’t once feel embarrassed or that the storyline didn’t follow events or character development.
The story is about Feyre who has been taken captive by a High Fae Lord in the Faerie Realm because she slaughtered a faerie. But there is a lot Feyre doesn’t know about her captor, her new home and the enchanted forests around her.
I found Feyre’s character to be refreshing. She is strong-minded and self-aware. Albeit a little predictable, Tamlin is handsome and gentlemanly. Lucien, Tamlin’s emissary, adds a bit of dark humor to the trio.
I cannot tell you my favorite, nor least favorite parts of the books without revealing spoilers. I can tell you though that as the story progresses, it gets better and better with twists and turns and plot reveals. The ending had my heart pounding in anticipation, and I couldn’t scan-read those pages fast enough.

Fans of The Bear and the Nightingale, Shadow and Bone and A Curse So Dark and Lonely will appreciate the complex storytelling, world-building and internal struggles of the characters in A Court of Thorns and Roses.

It’s the Rockin’ and the Rollin’ of it.

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My Rating: #####/5

Goodreads Rating: 4.24/5

Published March 5th 2019 by Ballantine Books

Trigger Warning(s):

  • Addiction to alcohol
  • Addiction to drugs
  • Un-abandoned nudity
  • Self harm
  • No sexual violence
  • No domestic violence

What makes a 1970’s rock and roll band, at the height of their career, walk off stage and never return?

7 band members; and they all remember it differently.

HOLY SHIT! This book!  Ya, sorry, that curse word is there and it’s going to stay there…

“Making music is never just about the music.  And sometimes it can be hard to tell where the sound stops, and the feelings begin.”

The book is written as an interview journal and the story is told in an oral biography format.  The narration is an account of each member’s experience and point of view.  The producer, agent, other crew members, and friends and family are also noted.  The 70s were all about drugs, sex and rock and roll.  Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is all about Daisy Jones, drugs, sex and rock and roll. 

The Six is a talented, albeit somewhat mediocre, rock and roll band.  They do fairly well but they haven’t hit the big time. In walks Daisy Jones – she is a young, gorgeous, spoiled, barefoot, wild-child with a voice that lays the proverbial “golden egg”.   No one’s lives are ever the same.

It was completely normal to do rehearsals, record songs and perform in front of thousands (if not millions) of fans, stoned and stupefied.  Especially if you were one of the biggest bands in the world. 

But what happened behind the scenes?  Did they get along?  Did they hate each other’s guts?  Did they have normal lives, with hopes and dreams or did they just care about where their next fix is going to come from or writing that NEXT BIG SINGLE??

“But that’s because it’s easy to disguise almost anything as a love song.”

Reid takes you through the ups and downs of band dynamics, sleazy agents and producers, relationships inside the band, attempting relationships outside the band, addictions, rehab, marriage, children, travelling the road, hitting the big time, reaching your lowest point and performing. 

Nothing has been left out of this book.  You experience sobriety with Billy in era where no one is sober… ever.  You root for Camila, the woman fighting for her marriage and the father of her children.  But above all, you feel stubborn with a devil-may-care attitude with Daisy, you cry with Daisy, you feel so intensely and without inhibition with Daisy, that it breaks your heart!   That is just how good Reid’s writing is. 

It’s Evelyn Hugo meets rock and roll!!

The book is loosely based on the British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac and their iconic Rumors Tour.  If you’ve never listened to Fleetwood Mac, you’ll want to listen to every single song after reading this book.

Read more about how Fleetwood Mac influenced Daisy Jones & The Six on Reese Whitherspoon’s book club – Hello Sunshine.

Amazon has ordered 13 episodes of a TV series adaption for Daisy Jones & The Six, to be co-produced by Reese herself.

Aladdin at O.A.K. Youth Theater

Last year we went to see O.A.K. Youth Theater’s production of Beauty and The Beast and WOW, it was amazing – see blog post here – so when they announced Aladdin earlier this year, I was probably one of the first to purchase a ticket.

Aladdin:

Aladdin (1992) A kindhearted street urchin and a power-hungry Grand Vizier vie for a magic lamp that has the power to make their deepest wishes come true.

O.A.K. retells the classic Disney fantasy with modern twists and turns, humor and classic nostalgia.  The cast is made up of 45 talented singers, dancers and contortionists.  Ladies and gentlemen, there is no lip-syncing here, these kids CAN SING!   It’s The Greatest Showman (2017) meets Aladdin.

Cast Members:

Aladdin is played by the very handsome Miguel de Sampaio.  I don’t believe that it is a coincidence that Miguel looks remarkably like a young Zac Efron – guys I am not even kidding, it’s doppelganger resemblance.

The charming Eldiré Strauss portrays a very beautiful Princess Jasmine.  In O.A.K.’s reproduction, Princess Jasmine has a sassy little sister, Princess Chamomile, who has you in stitches in the first couple of scenes as she teases Jasmine mercilessly about choosing a prince to marry.

In Beauty and The Beast in 2018, Matthew Otto was my favorite on-stage personality with his portrayal of Gaston. I was ecstatic to see him cast as the boisterous Genie this year.  His acting skills and stage personality is made for this role.

Music and Dance:

After the opening scene with the classic narrator introduction, the cast jumps straight into the toe-tapping rendition of “The Greatest Showman” originally performed by Hugh Jackman, Keala Settle, Zac Efron, Zendaya and The Greatest Showman Ensemble – this already gives you a sense of how much fun the production is.   Dancing includes acrobatics-; hip-hip-; modern-; ballet-; Gatsby and tap-dancing.

The second song is performed by Aladdin, Zahar and Princess Jasmine respectively with their rendition of “A Million Dreams” originally performed by Ziv Zaifman, Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams.  It shows how each character has their own dreams of a “better” or “different life”.  Zahar’s ending note being “a million dreams of a world I am going to take…” [insert crowd laughter and applause here].

The show continues with scene after scene of talented acting, singing and dancing, humoristic comments and nuances, making references to classic fantasy tales like Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, and The Road to El Dorado, and modern pop culture like the loveable Baymax, Baby Shark, Harry Potter, Frozen and Game of Thrones.  Donald Trump, Jacob Zuma, SARS, Susan Boyle and Lord of The Rings are made fun of (very tastefully) and of course the show would not be complete without true Aladdin classics like “Friend Like Me” originally performed by Robin Williams and “A Whole New World” originally performed by Lea Salonga and Brad Kane.

Other songs include:

  • The Other Side by Hugh Jackman & Zac Efron
  • Treasure by Bruno Mars
  • I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers
  • Havana by Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug
  • Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO ft. Lauren Bennett, GoonRock
  • Just The Way You Are by Bruno Mars

Genie – Matthew Otto:

Matthew shines!!!… like a Genie diamond.  His on-stage personality bursts at the seams with singing and dancing talent, quick wit and Elton John-like attitude.  His quips are quick, and on-point and he has the crowd in the palm of his hand throughout the whole show.   

His funniest quote – “Maleficent wants her dress back!”

His funniest moment – “I am Blue (Da Ba Dee)” by Eiffel 65

Once again – well done and congratulations to O.A.K. Youth Theater on another spectacular production.

Image credit: O.A.K. Youth Theater Facebook Page

The Professor and the Madman – for the love of words.

Director: Farhad Safinia (as P.B. Sherman)
Writers: John Boorman, Todd Komarnicki, Farhad Safinia & Simon Winchester (author)
Stars: Mel Gibson, Sean Penn & Natalie Dormer

The Professor and the Madman is a biographical drama set in the 19th century Ireland.  The movie is based on the 1998 book The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words written by Simon Winchester.

Have you ever wondered how the Oxford English Dictionary came to be?  Who wrote it?  How was it decided which words to include and their meaning?

This is about recording the evolution of meaning.”

James Augustus Henry Murray (eventually knighted Sir James Augustus Henry Murray), portrayed by Gibson is assigned the daunting task of gathering all the words in the English language, their origin, translation and meaning and compile what we now know as the Oxford English Dictionary. To assist with this enormous assignment, he enlists the help of the public. The public is asked to submit words to be included in the OED, along with quotations from books, newsprint, bibles and any other sources of literature.   

While being held at a psychiatric hospital, the brilliant, but very disturbed, William Chester Minor (Penn) comes across the invitation and devotes most of his time (and eventually his life) reading, researching, cataloging and submitting words and quotations to Murray and his team.  As such, Minor becomes one of the OED’s most effective and significant contributors.

Disclosure: I have not read The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words, but the film is brilliant.

The characters are well thought-out, interesting and likable.  The Victorian era is profoundly illustrated through dark, somewhat gloomy and cold spaces for those lower-; and middle-class families suffering poverty and hardship; contrasted with rich, warm and comfortable settings depicting the educated and upper-class society.  Sean Penn truly shines as The Madman and I cannot think of a better actor for Minor’s role.  Penn portrays calm, intelligence, anguish, wretchedness, lunacy and love in such an intense way, you feel it as if you were in the room with him.  Mel Gibson compliments Penn’s character with consistency, stoicism and true Gibson-style perseverance.  Seeing them together on-screen, makes you want to yell: “You can do this, just keep going!!”.

WATCH IT BECAUSE:

Book lovers: you’ll love this film with its passion for words and it’s beautiful and historical books #bookshelfappreciation. Minor’s ingenious cataloging system will make you want to unpack your bookshelf, read every single book and start your own cataloging system.

“James Murray: Who’s she?
Dr. William Chester Minor: The impossible.
James Murray: The more impossible, the greater the love. “

The technical stuff:

Genre: Biography, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Run time: 2h 4min
Parental Guidance: No sex or nudity, moderate graphic violence and gore and mild profanity.