Thursday 26 May 2016

Book Review & Giveaway (CLOSED): The Lost and Found Life of Rosy Bennett by Jan Birley

Last Updated: 8 June 2021

The Lost and Found Life of Rosy Bennett by Jan Birley book cover

AD* | Rosy loved her London life – her job in a designer shop, her gorgeous West London family house and of course her gorgeous family (although young sons are enough to test anyone at times). All that disappears when, one unremarkable morning, after one unremarkable school run, her husband collapses on a crowded tube carriage and dies.

As she struggles her way through the grief, she discovers her husband’s secret life: secrets accounts, secret deals that their solicitor knew nothing of, secret debts and what looks like a secret “very close friend” at least.

Totally unprepared and suddenly in debt, Rosy is forced to leave London to start a new life with her incredibly reluctant boys in the countryside. Can angsty urban teenagers cope with farm life, let alone enjoy it? More to the point, can their mother? It’s certainly not going to be easy but when you are at rock bottom the only way is up.

Monday 16 May 2016

Book Review & Giveaway (CLOSED): Something Old, Something New by Darcie Boleyn

Last Updated: 2 January 2023

Something Old Something New by Darcie Boleyn book banner

AD* | Will you marry me…again?

When Annie Thomas agrees to give her ex away at his wedding to his boyfriend, she thinks she’ll be fine. With her three children at her side, she can handle anything. Then she finds out her gorgeous first ex-husband Evan Llewellyn is flying in from his glamorous life in New York to attend as well!

An unexpected pregnancy ended their relationship and as she stumbles through the ups and downs of life as a working single mum – helping everyone else find a happy ending along the way – Annie refuses to believe their old and incredibly hot spark can still exist.

It’s only when she and Evan are forced to face up to the past together that they’ll discover if they can have their own happily ever after too!

Sunday 15 May 2016

Book Review: City of Shadows by M.J. Lee

Last Updated: 5 June 2021

City of Shadows by M.J. Lee book banner

AD* | A family has been found murdered in the heart of 1920s Shanghai. But what could have compelled them to open the door to their killer?

Inspector Danilov has always taken a unique approach to solving his cases. So, when he’s asked to investigate the violent death of a fellow police officer, killed in action, he doesn’t think twice about turning his attention to a different case altogether: the brutal murder of the Lee family, found massacred in their own home.

How could the deaths of an ordinary family account for a shooting halfway across the city? And what clues lie with the letter found clasped in the dead girl’s hand? Inspector Danilov’s instincts tell him he’s close. But when the investigation reveals deep corruption at Shanghai’s core, Danilov faces a choice: probe further, and expose the evil underbelly of the city? Or shy from duty…and keep the few people he loves safe?

Saturday 14 May 2016

Gig Review: Busted at The SSE Arena, Wembley

* Originally published here by Kettle Mag.

'Pigs will fly before Busted reform'.

That's what everyone (including the band themselves) was saying in the decade since pop trio Busted split up in 2005. Following reports of a 'rift' between Charlie Simpson and the other boys, Matt Willis and James Bourne, Charlie eventually left to pursue his musical ambitions fronting alt-rock band Fightstar.

In the years that followed, all three trod different paths with their music. Following the success of pop supergroup McBusted, of which James and Matt were members, a surprise announcement in November of last year put a stop to the endlessly-circling rumours. Seemingly out of the blue, the band announced a UK-wide arena tour, causing Busted fans across the country to go into overdrive on social media.

Busted are back

Six months down the line, and 11th May 2016 marked the first date of the aptly-named 'Pigs Can Fly' tour. Kicking off the tour at Wembley's SSE Arena, this was the band's first live show in 12 years. All eyes were on Wembley, as fans and critics alike waited with bated breath to see if Busted still had it after spending so long apart.

Support came in the form of Emma Blackery, who I have to admit I'd never heard of before, and I can't comment on her performance now either because I was stuck in a queue for merch when she came on; and Wheatus. Despite the fact that I always thought of Wheatus as a bit of a one-hit wonder (and to be fair they have every right to still be dining out on a single as popular as 'Teenage Dirtbag') they seemed to have attracted quite a loyal fanbase among the Wembley crowd.

Introducing the pigsty

After possibly the shortest interval I think I've ever experienced between a support band and the main act, we were treated to a slightly bizarre introductory pre-filmed segment featuring various people wearing white pig masks (yes, that was as creepy as it sounds) before the curtains came down to reveal 'the pigsty'. The pigsty is the latest in a long line of premium ticket upgrades offered by various bands and artists, promising greater interactivity and once-in-a-lifetime experiences in exchange for eye-watering amounts of cash. Following in the footsteps of the likes of the OMFG zone, the pigsty allows a select group of fans willing to cough up the opportunity to watch the show from on stage, behind the band. And I have to say, if I had paid for a pigsty upgrade, I would have surely felt slightly ripped off - it seemed to be much more of a ticket gimmick rather than a truly special experience.

Just as the fans were going into meltdown (the arrival of Mcfly's Harry Judd and Dougie Poynter a couple blocks along from me didn't help matters) the boys shot up onto the stage via trapdoors and launched straight into their first song, brand new single 'Coming Home'. We were off at last.
I was too young to see Busted live the first time around, but it felt like they'd never been apart. The entire set was full of energy, with the boys bouncing off each other and the crowd to produce an electric atmosphere. It was clear to see how much they were enjoying it and how much it meant to them to be back - Matt for one was jumping around the stage all night! With the exception of a few minor hiccups involving an inaudible guitar and Matt forgetting the lyrics to 'Crashed the Wedding' (luckily then being reminded by a fan in the OMFG zone) the whole evening ran like a dream.

Partway through the show the boys migrated to the smaller B-stage in the middle of the arena. Now that the giant inflatable flying pig had been moved to the empty seating block in the corner in S15, strings of lights hung down from the rafters to just above the band's heads to create the effect of a giant rope-light chandelier. It was simple, yet surprisingly impressive visually - a concept that was applied for most of the show.

Promising new music

The boys played all the fan favourites and their biggest hits from back in the day, interspersed with a sprinkling of brand new tracks from the upcoming album played to an audience for the first time. Although these new songs didn't get the crowd going quite as much as the old hits, I still thought they were excellent. It seems like the album will be a continuation of the more mature sound present on 'Coming Home', and these teaser tracks have definitely made me excited for the new release.

Without a doubt, the evening was an undeniable success, but I think Matt managed to sum it up best:
If you've got tickets to any of the remaining tour dates, you're definitely in for a treat! As it turns out, pigs really can fly.

Are you a fan of Busted? Will you be seeing them live? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Book Review: The Beach Hut by Cassandra Parkin

Last Updated: 5 June 2021

The Beach Hut by Cassandra Parkin book cover

AD* | A novel about love, loss, memory, and family relationships.

It is autumn time and on a peaceful Cornish beach, Finn and his sister Ava defy planning regulations and achieve a childhood dream when they build themselves an illegal beach hut. This tiny haven will be their home until Ava departs in midwinter for a round-the-world adventure.

In the town, local publican Donald is determined to get rid of them. Still mourning the death of his wife, all he wants is a quiet place where he can forget the past and raise his daughter Alicia in safety. But Alicia is wrestling with demons of her own. 

As the sunshine fades and winter approaches, the beach hut stirs old memories for everyone. Their lives become entwined in surprising ways and the secrets of past and present are finally exposed.

Friday 6 May 2016

Book Review: Diamond Boy in the Rough by Helen Faul

Last Updated: 5 June 2021

Diamond Boy in the Rough by Helen Faul book cover

AD* | What if he couldn’t control it? What if he didn’t want to?

Alfie Diamond, flat on his back, chilled to the bone in the freezing, unforgiving snow.

Shocked, dumbfounded but even so secretly excited, still tingling from the thrill, if that was the correct word to use, from his near-death experience but then again maybe it was just the mind-altering effects of hypothermia, who knew?

The images that had flashed before him during his “first” mind-blowing Awakening were alien to him, jumbled, super-fast messed-up glimpses of things to come and things of the past, but whose past, certainly not his, he would remember, surely, wouldn’t he?

The faces didn’t register, the language fell on deaf ears and yet he inexplicably felt connected, suddenly his life gained a sense of direction, no more bobbing about like a cork in the open ocean.

Purpose and motivation were coming his way, that much he had acutely been made aware of as the nerve endings of his brain cells fizzed with adrenaline-infused blood.

He was on a precipice, he could lay there and continue to stare up at the descending snowflakes, let the raw, biting cold take him or he could grab this adventure with both hands steamrolling into a new unknown future, a future born of a secret so far back, so distant into the past it would surely send him to hell and back.

Evil would seek to destroy him, Good would look to him as a saviour, him a naive, curly-haired East End boy, youngest of six children, average school grades, slight misfit on the outer edges of the obligatory social groups, not fit enough to be considered a 'Jock', not clever enough for the nerds and certainly not fashionable in his tatty t-shirt, shorts and scruffy trainers to be one of the 'beautiful people', a square peg in a round hole, well this square peg had been enlightened, today Alfie Diamond was reborn and if he ever got up onto his feet again, his first steps would be into a dangerous new world, a world he hoped included the beautiful stranger whose silken long hair trailed across his face as she hovered over him as he slipped in and out of consciousness, a world he hoped would not chew him up and spit him out.