Edinburgh International Book Festival 2017

Once a year something magical happens in Edinburgh. All the bookish people in the world gather together in Charlotte Square, a beautiful part of the city named after the wife of King George III. It seems a fitting place to hold the world’s biggest book festival, a place where literary royalty, and their admirers, assemble. Saturday marked the official opening of Edinburgh International Book Festival. Julia Donaldson, Val McDermid, Paula Hawkins and Anthony Horowitz were all in camp, and despite the drizzly weather, the atmosphere was electric.

I started my day with the festival’s Opening Up event with authors Carl MacDougall and Frank Cottrell Boyce, who were chaired by Sally Magnusson. Both authors were there to talk about their latest short story collections, MacDougall’s Someone Always Robs The Poor and Cottrell Boyce’s still to be named Scrabble themed collection, which is due to be released this Autumn. Readings from both books were stunning, with MacDougall’s words moving me to tears. I look forward to picking up both collections, very soon.

My second event of the day was Julia Hobsbawn’s Too Much Information. Chaired by Bob McDevitt the event explored the themes of Hobsbawn’s book Fully Connected and examined how human beings are coping with the dizzying amounts of digital information that we’re exposed to on a daily basis. It was an interesting event which highlighted just how many people are struggling to keep afloat in an age when we are drowning in data.

Next up was the Paula Cocozza and Gail Honeyman Wild at Heart event at the Festival’s Writing Retreat. The authors were both there to discuss their debut novels; Cocozza’s How to be Human and Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. Chaired by Lee Randall, the event featured lots of interesting discussion on the themes of mental health issues and loneliness.

My final event of the day was Sarah Moss & Helen Sedgwick’s Small Kids: Small Problems, Big Kids: Big Problems. I’ve been a fan of Sedgwick’s since reading The Comet Seekers (and interviewing her for The Scots Magazine in 2016), but I was completely new to Sarah Moss’s work. Both Moss’s latest novel The Tidal Zone and Sedgwick’s dystopian offering, The Growing Season, examine the complexities of motherhood. With beautiful, thought provoking readings from both authors, this event was my favourite of the day.

I left Charlotte Square with a head full of words and a TBR pile the length of my arm. I’m already looking forward to returning this Friday, for round two.

For further information about the Edinburgh International Book Festival, visit: https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/

 

 

A Murder is Announced by Middle Ground Theatre Company

I’m quite the Agatha Christie fan girl these days. Not only have I devoured many of her books, I’ve also seen a lot of her work adapted into plays including The Mousetrap, And Then There Were None and Witness for the Prosecution. So, when I heard that A Murder Is Announced was visiting the Dundee Rep, I knew I’d have to see it.

The play begins with the residents of Chipping Cleghorn reading a peculiar advert in the local newspaper, which announces that a murder is to take place at Little Paddocks, a home that belongs to Letitia Blacklock. Curiosity gets the better of the group and they gather at the house, just as the lights go out and a shot is fired.

The lavish production by Middle Ground Theatre, which features Bergerac star Louise Jameson and ex-Eastenders star Janet Dibley, puts Miss Marple’s detective skills to the test as she works to unravel this complex mystery. As always Agatha Christie’s writing, stands up to the test of time and I was properly on the edge of my seat throughout this spellbinding production.

It may have been more than forty years since her death, but the Queen of Crime is still a masterful storyteller who is more than worthy of her crown. With a nostalgic set, a taut script and a fantastic cast, I would highly recommend seeing this production of A Murder is Announced.

I’m also pleased to report that I managed to guess the murderer, although to be fair, I did guess about five other characters first! But that’s the fun of a good old whodunnit isn’t it?

A Murder is Announced is currently touring the UK. For further information, please visit: http://www.middlegroundtheatre.co.uk

*Disclaimer – I was provided with two tickets to the performance in exchange for this fair and honest review.

Review: Decanting Club

A few weeks ago I got the chance to try out a new wine subscription club called the Decanting Club. When I’m not busy watching shows, reading and writing reviews, I am partial to a glass of wine (or three) – so I decided to give it a go…

I have to say, coming home to find wine in my letter pile was somewhat delightful! The main difference between the Decanting Club and other wine subscription services is that the wine is delivered to you by the glassful, inside a special pouch which fits through your letter box. This way club members can try out the wine and see if they like it, before committing to buy a whole case or bottle at a discounted price.

Every Monday, the wine of the week is decanted and sent out in the post. The idea is that they can be delivered with ease through the letterbox and members can sample the wine one glass at a time. I like this idea a lot – especially as it means that I didn’t have to wait in for any big bulky parcels to be delivered. Plus, the thought that wine is winging it’s way to me on a Monday – the weariest day of the week – is also welcomed!

I tried out two weeks worth of samples. The first wine was Clip do Monte da Vaia – a beautiful white wine with a crisp finish and the second was Swartland Limited Release Mourvedre – a fruity red.

I’m usually more of a white wine girl, but I enjoyed both samples and would happily of had more…

And I suppose that that is the only down side of this service! Sometimes one glass doesn’t feel like quite enough! However, the opportunity to order more of a wine that you know you’ll enjoy, does make up for that!

To find out more about Decanting Club, visit: https://decanting.club/wine/

*Disclaimer – I was given a free two week sample of this subscription service in exchange for this fair and honest review.

Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon

I love reading a good thriller, so when I heard that Holly Seddon had a new one coming out this summer, I knew I was in for a treat. After devouring her novel Try Not To Breathe last year, I was desperate to get my hands on a preview copy of her latest book Don’t Close Your Eyes. The novel tells the story of sisters Robin and Sarah, whose ordinary lives are changed forever when a new family arrives in town. The book, which alternates between the girls’ past and present, is a gripping psychological thriller about childhood wounds and how they can last a lifetime.

Here’s the blurb…

Robin and Sarah weren’t the closest of twins. They weren’t even that similar. But they loved each other dearly. Until, in the cruellest of domestic twists, they were taken from one another.

Now, in her early 30s, Robin lives alone. Agoraphobic and suffering from panic attacks, she spends her days pacing the rooms of her house. The rest of the time she watches – watches the street, the houses, the neighbours. Until one day, she sees something she shouldn’t…

And Sarah? Sarah got what she wanted – the good-looking man, the beautiful baby, the perfect home. But she’s just been accused of the most terrible thing of all. She can’t be around her new family until she has come to terms with something that happened a long time ago. And to do that, she needs to track down her twin sister.

But Sarah isn’t the only person looking for Robin. As their paths intersect, something dangerous is set in motion, leading Robin and Sarah to fight for much more than their relationship…

The book is full of twists and turns which will have readers turning the pages late into the night. I read it in two sittings and couldn’t put it down until I’d finished that final, last page.

Don’t Close Your Eyes, which is out on the 6th of July, is bound to be a huge hit this summer. Make sure you get your hands on a copy!

Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon is published by Corvus.

You can pre-order a copy on Amazon.

 

Funbox Underwater Adventure

It doesn’t matter how many times I take my girls to see Funbox, it’s always an absolute pleasure. So when I found out that they were returning to Dundee, I knew we had to go.

This summer’s production, Underwater Adventure, sees the gang taking a voyage beneath the waves to the bottom of the ocean in a show that promised to be full of frolics and plenty of capers!! So how could we resist?

When we arrived at the theatre, it was already packed full of little mermaids and tiddlers who were hyped up and ready for the laughter and fun to begin. And they weren’t disappointed! As usual, the show included some new and very catchy tunes and some old classics such as My Father Went To Sea, Sea, Sea and The World Must Be Coming To An End – all of which were accompanied by some very funky dance moves which the children (and ahem… a few of the adults) copied with glee.

The show went down a treat with the whole audience adored Cha Cha Cha-ing along to the Funbox rhyme. As always the gang came offstage after the gig, ready to greet their fans. They are always so generous with their time posing for photographs and chatting with the kids, adding to the excitement of the day.

I can’t tell you how much I love taking my kids along to these shows. After seeing the Singing Kettle myself when I was a girl, I know how exciting a trip to the theatre can be for kids. When I take my girls along to see Funbox, I know that we’re not just having a good day out, we’re making memories that will last lifetime. So thank you Funbox. Keep up the good work!

Funbox are currently touring Scotland with their fabulously fun productions. For more information and to book tickets to see them live, visit: www.funbox.co.uk

*Disclaimer – I was provided with tickets to see Funbox in exchange for this fair and honest review.