Sunday, 24 December 2017

A Year of Books - 2017

I feel I have had quite a good year of reading in 2017, for the past few years I've been partaking in the Goodreads Reading challenges. In 2015 I read 55 books after I'd challenged myself to read 35, in 2016 I challenged myself to read 60 books and I only read 57. This year I decided to set a harder challenge and read 65 books (just to see if I could), and this year, somehow I managed to read a whopping 122 books with still 7 days to spare and because of that I'm going to see if I could read three more books to get it to a nice even 125.

2017 Reading Challenge

2017 Reading Challenge
Ella has completed her goal of reading 65 books in 2017!

I have read some brilliant books such as The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks and more. I also discovered some truly amazing writers such as Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970), Danielle Paige, Peter Swanson and again so many more.
This was the year that I left my comfort zone in terms of what I read and moving from simply reading young adult fiction to classics such as the works by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Psychology books such as Jon Ronson, Tony Buzan, non-fiction such as Sins of the Family by Felicity Davis and simply general fiction such as Vibrator by Mari Akasaka and Intimacy by Hanif Kureishi. I have also developed a love for plays, specifically Shakespeare plays since I really became invested in my work as a Theatre Technician and I even have a favourite of the year, The Tempest.
This year I have finally finished the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), I don't think I enjoyed them enough to read them again any time soon as it took so very long to get through them all but it was a fantastic read. I have this gift I think, I can read the first book in a series (The Fellowship of the Ring for example) in 2015, I can read the next book in the series a year later and the last one a year after that and still remember exactly what has happened in the previous books. Just thought you'd all be curious.
I have also developed in my love for a genre called cozy mysteries which consist of books written by people like Agatha Christie (1890-1976) and Frances Brody, cozy mysteries are defined as being "a sub-genre of crime fiction which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection takes place in a small, socially intimate community". I have spent many an evening curled up next to our wood burning fire reading books in this genre.
Overall I feel I've had a pretty good reading year and if anyone is curious in what I've been reading then feel free to click the widget above and it will take you to goodreads.

As for next year, I am going to continue to read books I haven't read before, I am going to read more books to do with the technical theatre industry and I am going to learn to write reviews, improve my Bookstagram (@book.monkey) and hopefully expand how far this blog is reaching.

Thanks for reading.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from me xo

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

The Case of the Caretaker's Cat by Erle Stanley Gardner Review

As ever Gardner's writing is brilliant.
In his will, Peter Laxter guaranteed his faithful caretaker a job and a place to live for life. But Laxter's grandson Sam says the deal doesn't include the caretaker's cat. When Perry Mason takes the case, he finds there's much more at stake than an old man's cat -- a million dollars to be exact. And as he investigates, he finds a web of greed and treachery among the heirs. But which one actually pulled off the almost perfect crime?
Perry Mason, criminal lawyer or seems to work as a detective an awful lot of the time.
Della Street, the attractive (well she is in my head) secretary to Perry Mason.
Unlike some of the books I've previously read by Gardner (no where near the majority) there seemed to be a lot more law as opposed to detective work, including one point where Mason referenced one of his law book (Chapter 13). That was one of the reasons I really enjoyed this book, seeing the law side of a crime instead of just the chase is really interesting for me. Other reasons being the story line, the conclusion and the fact Perry Mason is in this book.
I enjoyed that the whole story line developed from a Caretaker's Cat in such a dramatic and yet catchy way. And although it definitely didn't feel like something that could happen in real life (as in the development from something so small, to something so major), there was a well developed line of reasoning throughout making it intriguing and keeping a certain amount of realism.
I mean isn't that why we read fiction.

And like other Gardner books the conclusion was genius and went completely over my head. I really enjoy reading books that I can't work out the ending, just as much as I like the ones that make perfect sense. I think I enjoy being outsmarted for some odd reason. 
I really liked the development of Mason and Street's relationship, which again I can't describe too much due to spoilers but I squealed... Della is completely loyal to Perry and I really love that she seems to have complete trust in Mason as he often puts her in situations that could get her arrested it. And in this book that was done, but Gardner added a quality to Della that I haven't seen in previous Perry Mason books and that was her own knowledge of law that she learnt just working with Perry (or so that is implied). I enjoyed that, as it gave her empowerment that isn't often seen in women of books written in the 1930's. 
I have no complaints about this book except for the slight confusion I got just before the trial, however it was all explained in Perry's magical way at the end of the book so I can't complain. 

Would highly recommend 9/10
And FYI you don't have to have read any other book in the series to understand what happens.
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Book first published 1935 

Monday, 11 December 2017

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson Review

Well I must admit that was the perfect ending to a beautifully suspenseful book.

On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning and mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing very intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage that’s going stale and his wife, Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. Ted and his wife were a mismatch from the start—he the rich businessman, she the artistic free spirit—a contrast that once inflamed their passion, but has now become a cliché.
But their game turns a little darker when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.” After all, some people are the kind worth killing, like a lying, stinking, cheating spouse. . . .

Of a book that consists of murders left, right and center this still had a constant air of suspense of mystery. Ted is a character that seemed to be slightly dull for the most part until he was with Lily where talking to her made him seem more alive and I am one who looks at the world thinking we all just continue with our lives just coping and moving on. I think Ted is a slight representation of that fact of the world, then something perfect comes along that can solve all lives problems and you grasp on for dear life. Meanwhile Lily is smart, beautiful and unattached to the world making her what I think to be the makings of some kind of sociopath, one who has a weak consciousness but can still have feelings of morality and guilt and this is one of the reasons I love her character (I have a certain love for the study of behaviour). Absolutely beautifully written.

The book is split into 3 parts and changes point of view for each chapter meaning you learnt what each character knew and thought. I loved the way the story went up and down in how it was written with twists then a settled feeling with too many pages left (I wonder if you understand that feeling). There was never much to guess about but somehow Swanson could keep the suspenseful feeling throughout. My favourite parts by far were the chapters written from Lily's point of view (again my love love for abnormal behaviour has sparked that), they were smart and brilliantly executed. I especially loved that they started Lily's POV when she was a child and going through her youth to get her where she was. I enjoyed knowing that history yet still meeting her at the beginning of the story.

There were some chapters, particularly Miranda's that I found to be quite dull, but I remembered how good The Girl with the Clock for a Heart was, and stuck with it. I must say if you feel it to lag, just know it gets amazing so do stick with it.

But it's story was overall very good, and I couldn't put it down apart from when I was working. I will be handing this over to my mother and recommended it to anyone who will listen.

My rating: 8.5/10

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Book Published 2015

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Peter Darling by Austin Chant Review

I want to begin by saying I found this book completely by chance. I typed "Peter Pan" in the search engine when feeling the need to read a retelling and came up with this beautiful spin on the classic tale by J.M.Barrie. I must say I am impressed.

Ten years ago, Peter Pan left Neverland to grow up, leaving behind his adolescent dreams of boyhood and resigning himself to life as Wendy Darling. Growing up, however, has only made him realize how inescapable his identity as a man is.
But when he returns to Neverland, everything has changed: the Lost Boys have become men, and the war games they once played are now real and deadly. Even more shocking is the attraction Peter never knew he could feel for his old rival, Captain Hook—and the realization that he no longer knows which of them is the real villain.

Peter returning to Neverland has always been an idea that I've loved, after he runs away to grow up, whether it be with Wendy or in the case of the film "Hook" Moira, the idea of Peter returning with a new outlook on life which is gained after growing up has been one that has intrigued me. Like Alice where she can't seem to stay out of Wonderland. None the less that idea is a brilliant basis for a story and for Peter to return in Chant's book after 10 years is essentially like running away from all of lives problems, something that I know I have thought about and perhaps others too.
Peter's character was as playful as it was during Barrie's writing giving us the impression of the character that had been left behind after he wrote Peter Pan, but Peter's character had also developed after living 10 years and being Wendy Darling. I enjoyed the way Chant wrote Peter to interact with the characters such as Earnest, Hook and The Lost Boys, and the twists that came with their back stories (I promise no spoilers).
I've believe that Chant has quite successfully managed to write a children's classic story to appeal to an older group, he has managed to keep the general themes of the story but also added some quite "riskeyyy" scenes. I especially enjoyed when the book switched to Hook's POV, giving us a look into the mind of a character that we all laughed at at a younger age and developing the characters thoughts about Peter throughout the book. I found there to be a real passion in the way the different characters interacted and I was completely full of glee during the whole of Chapter 13(?) after they left the tunnels. 
Passion in the way it is written here is quite hard to come by as it can often come of as inexperienced or even written by someone who is straight and doesn't know the first thing about a homosexual relationship in any form. I also found the Peter/Wendy idea to be very thought provoking, I don't have much knowledge about being transgender but I do understand the basic constructs. I think this book introduced the Trans theme into this book incredibly well as well as the homosexual themes and general lust that seemed to effect every principle character in this book, some LGBT+ literature gets over sexualised because that's what some people believe the community to be but Chant has added every flush of the cheeks and gaze that has romanticized the whole thing. I think the fact that Chant is a trans, queer writer has a helped to make this book quite relatable (or as relatable as fantasy can be to the real world) to the LGBT+ community and has helped in the development of the characters personalities from Barrie's works.
I have found in the past that some fantasy novels have a problem with writing too much detail about the fantabulous scenery then missing out the rest of the story but I didn't find that with this story, there was the rights amount of detail and a gripping story.
I'm not 100% sure how to review a book without a murder in it, however this book was fantastic. I was kept hooked, the storyline had many lovely twists and turns, the characters were surprising in many ways and overall I couldn't help but fall in love with it all. I cannot wait for the second one, which I've heard will be written from Hook's point of view for at least the majority of the book.
8/10 would recommend

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin Review

The amount of times I've been told by my mother to read these books is really quite unbelievable. But of course she was right, this was pretty amazing.

Detective John Rebus: His city is being terrorized by a baffling series of murders...and he's tied to a maniac by an invisible knot of blood. Once John Rebus served in Britain's elite SAS. Now he's an Edinburgh cop who hides from his memories, misses promotions and ignores a series of crank letters. But as the ghoulish killings mount and the tabloid headlines scream, Rebus cannot stop the feverish shrieks from within his own mind. Because he isn't just one cop trying to catch a killer, he's the man who's got all the pieces to the puzzle... 

Based in Edinburgh I found that I could visualize a great detail a lot of the scenes mentioned throughout the book including The Meadows and the ever busy Princes Street. 
The majority of the book was not about the crime but about the characters and who they were, particularly about Rebus's character development. Being an ex-army man I have heard of many who find it hard to adjust into normal life after leaving for what ever reason and Rankin managed to capture that very well. Rankin has a way of making his characters feel very real, however this is done in a very different way to Christie's methods as I mentioned in my previous post. Unlike Christie, Rankin's characters have a sense of pain and realism that can't be presented in Christie's "Cozy Mysteries", you feel their pain and fear, their confusion and delight at every point in the book. Whether it be Rebus's resentment of Rhona or his love for Samantha you can feel it and it feels raw. Although every moment was vital to the story their really wasn't too much about the actual crimes committed, just paragraphs and mentions and yet the murders I believe have an impact on the reader, maybe because in the midst of all the character development throughout the book, there is death and lose and that can be a shock to the system.
The clues presented by the killer were smart, as well as mind boggling. Although I must admit I did guess who did it before Gill or Micky or even Rebus knew however it was thrilling to see them get to it and pursue the killer. 
My favourite part of this book would have to be Part 4 - The Cross, chapter 22. 
Side Note: I enjoyed the book being split up into 5 separate parts, each with a theme in itself. The understanding of the characters, the development of the crime, more clues, the last piece the suddenly makes everything fit together and the PURSUIT.
Back to my favourite part, this gave the characters as much a the reader a much deeper understanding of the reasons for the crimes being committed, as well as showing us a side of Rebus that we hadn't previously seen. Altogether this was a very impactful chapter and although it certainly didn't bring me to tears it was heart wrenching in a very emotional way. 
For the first 100 pages I could not put this book down, and only did when I felt my eyes drooping (I had started to read it quite late.)

I was recommended this by someone and will recommend it to anyone who will listen.
9/10 xo
Book First Published 1987

Monday, 13 November 2017

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie Review

The first Miss Marple mystery, one which tests all her powers of observation and deduction. “Anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe,” declared the parson, brandishing a carving knife above a joint of roast beef, “would be doing the world at large a favor!” It was a careless remark for a man of the cloth. And one which was to come back and haunt the clergyman just a few hours later—when the Colonel is found shot dead in the clergyman’s study. But as Miss Marple soon discovers, the whole village seems to have had a motive to kill Colonel Protheroe.

I find Agatha Christie to be a genius in her writings, and loved almost every Poirot book I read so far. This is the first Miss Marple I've read and I must admit it was fantastic. And although this is the first of a series the Miss Marple's, like the Poirot books for that matter can be read individually, in any order or in the right order, it's entirely up to you.

When Vicar Clements comes home to the Vicarage he finds a Colonel with a bullet through his head, him and the rest of the village set out to find out who murdered him.
As someone who has never read a Miss Marple before I truly loved her character, she saw everything, and knew everything in the village but I don't think she was actually nosy. She has a hobby and that's something that in a small village you need to have or you will go slowly crazy (and I'd know). I also loved the character who's POV it was, Vicar Clements, with a wife of 25 years of age. I am not religous and although I do recpect them, I don't have any kind of particular love for vicars, I think however that has changed to a certain extent. Clements was smart and constantly in the center of attention, which he didn't particularly seem to like very much. But I suppose when someone dies in your study, what can you do but investigate. Another character who I found to be very interesting throughout the book was a Lawrence Redding, an artist. I guessed almost at once his relationship to the Protheroe, and who he "admired", it was really quite obvious. Unlike the murder which I mention later, had me looking every which way.

Christie has a way of giving each of her characters their own unique personality, I believe it comes from being someone who has really lived life. Something that I found frustrating in this book was that all the women mentioned in this book seemed to blur together at times, making it hard for me to know who had said what at any given time. The three women that I often confused were Miss Wetherby, Miss Hartnell and Mrs Price Ridley as they were basically the three gossipers of the village along with Miss Marple but I knew precisely who she was as she was the detective of the book. Not knowing Miss Marple or confusing her with the other women in the book would be like confusing Sherlock Holmes with DI Lestrade, it just isn't to be done. If you have ever read a Christie book, you'll know that the aim of the book is not to solve the crime but make it so utterly impossible to understand and yet so simple that when you know the conclusion you are both impressed and left with the need to kick yourself for not realizing it all the moment all the facts were presented to you. I couldn't stop guessing and I am sure at one point or another I suspected every character in the book, including Colonel Protheroe...
Quite frankly I've missed reading Agatha Christie books with there smart and unexpected endings and this one was definitely in the top ones I've read along with The Murder of Rodger Ackroyd and And Then There Were None. I am really very glad that I have six more on my shelf, however no more Miss Marple's for the time being. (But Christmas is coming!!)
I would recommend this to everyone and give with a 9/10, because despite how fantastic it was I don't get confused by characters very easily but I did in this.

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Book First Published 1930

Friday, 10 November 2017

I See You by Clare Mackintosh Review

Every morning and evening, Zoe Walker takes the same route to the train station, waits at a certain place on the platform, finds her favorite spot in the car, never suspecting that someone is watching her...
It all starts with a classified ad. During her commute home one night, while glancing through her local paper, Zoe sees her own face staring back at her, a grainy photo along with a phone number and listing for a website called 

I am going to start this review by saying that the blurb of this book isn't nearly as exciting as the content. This book is about stalkers, murders, rapes and altogether things that make you scared to walk alone at night, by the time I'd finished this book it was past midnight and I needed a drink of water. I have never ran so fast or been so scared about going downstairs to my own kitchen, though by the time I woke up this morning I was fine. I am thankful that I didn't start reading this book until I was on the train leaving from London, this book is not only based in London but in the South of London where I've been staying for the past two weeks, I'd never have been able to leave the house. 
The two main characters in the book is Zoe Walker a mother with two children over 18 and a PC Kelly Swift, and although both these characters were quite something and developed a lot throughout the book neither was my favourite. My favourite character was actually Katie Walker, Zoe's 19 year old daughter, the reason she was my favourite character in this book was that I can relate to her at this point in my life, her a wannabe actor and me a wannabe technician. But this isn't about me. Both Zoe and Kelly have back stories that are necessary to the plot but seem slightly unrealistic in some of the ways Mackintosh linked the past to the present. However the characters themselves felt real, and during the climax of the story (the last few chapters where shit goes down) I felt like I was each character in turn, feeling the fear and betrayal that came with the story.
Side Note: I feel there is a certain art to making the reader feel exactly what the characters feel.
I am the type of person that enjoys working out a problem so the favourite part would have to be the conclusion, the catching of the bad guy (I'm using the word 'guy' in a gender neutral manner) but because it is the conclusion and the catching I can reveal very little. Though I can tell you that a was shaking, inches away from tears and frankly I was so caught up that my house could have burnt down and their is a very high chance that I would not have noticed, the story had twists and turns and I spent the whole time accusing every person that was mentioned. 
I will admit, it was a very slow start but once it picked up it didn't stop. And as I mentioned earlier I had some issues with how the past of the characters fitted perfectly with the events that were happening now, it just felt unrealistic. But of course I have never been a policeman or a victim of stalking, rape or murder so for all I know links between the past and the present happen all the time.
One last thing that I will mention before I finish is that I like how the chapters were set up, it would start with Zoe in first person then for the next chapter it was switch to Kelly's story but in third person, then ever five or so chapter you'd get narrative from the bad guys (again gender neutral) perspective. I will tell you know that narrative chilled me to the bone. If you are reading a book in the middle of the night and you turn the page to find the first line saying "I see you. But you don't see me. You're engrossed in your book..." Then believe me you will be chilled.
I would and will recommend this to anyone who will listen.

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Book published April 2017

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka review

Well overall this is an odd book and I have no idea how to start.

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was laying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes.

From what I understand of this book when it was written it came as something of a shock to the world as nothing had ever before been written like this. The Metamorphosis seems to have no real story line, very few twists or tricks and yet I couldn't put it down. I found Gregor to be an interesting character who seemed to value family and how they felt more than anything else, he also seemed to take to the whole turning into a giant insect thing very well.
Besides Gregor I found Greta to be one of the more interesting characters as she, unlike Mr and Mrs Samsa seemed to value the idea that family is more important than anything else in most situations, she also seemed more humane than the Mr and Mrs. I had mixed feelings about Mr and Mrs Samsa, they didn't develop as characters and I could barely understand what they thought of Gregor or how they were dealing with the situation. But perhaps when your son turns into a giant bug there isn't any understandable way to deal with it.
Side Note: none of the actions of any of the characters caused me any strong emotions, I neither cried nor laughed.
I didn't enjoy the minimal amount of dialect within this story, for me that tends to slow a book down considerably however in context of The Metamorphosis that lack of dialect does make sense and Kafka may have lost what the story was meant to be if he had added more dialect.

I don't really understand what this story was about and like I didn't know how to start the review I am also pretty clueless on how to finish it. Someone I know mentioned she had studied this in uni or perhaps college, either way she told me that a theme she believe The Metamorphosis covered was whether we were human even if in physical appearance we weren't. I considered that idea throughout reading this book and when I finished it, I had my conclusion. We are, humanity is within us, it's our personalities, our thoughts and memories. If you think about that while reading The Metamorphosis you might agree or you might not.

I'd rate this 6/10 but would defiantly hand it on to a friend or foe as I still think it is something that should be read in life.

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Book Published 1915

Sunday, 5 November 2017

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang Review

This is the story of a hen named Sprout. No longer content to lay eggs on command only to have them carted off to the market, she glimpses her future every morning through the barn doors, where the other animals roam free, and comes up with a plan to escape into the wild—and to hatch an egg of her own.

This book which has been adapted into a film, comic strips and translated into 27 languages was nothing I've read in a very long time. Being a stand alone books means you can pick this up at any point and read away, personally it took me less than 24 hours. This book is about an egg laying hen who doesn't like being in a coop and wants to explore, fly and hatch her own egg. This is about motherhood, standing up for what you believe in and taking chances. I tend to avoid general fiction but this was worth the read.
I haven't picked a favourite character because every one has certain qualities that are brilliant. However I really liked Sprout the main hen in this story, she had a strong personality and apart from the fact she's a chicken she is someone I would love to grow up to be. The Hen who Dreamed was written very well, in a way that made every character feel real and like I was witnessing the story as it took place. It also had fantastic twists and didn't shy away from the theme of losing friends/family, I read somewhere this book was classed as a fairy tale however I wouldn't put it in that genre, there wasn't magic or communication between little mice and princesses it felt very much like a real story that was taking place. (So don't pick this up if you are expecting something Cinderella.)
My favourite chapter was chapter 5, "A farewell and a greeting". This chapter I found stirred up my emotions the most making me feel like crying followed by me smiling like an idiot. That chapter along with all the others kept me reading almost none stop, and constantly excited for what would happen next to Sprout.
My copy is a paperback and consists of some of the most beautiful artwork at the beginning of each chapter, it set the scene for each chapter and made me look forward to what was ahead.. (See image below, sorry about the quality)

Although I thoroughly enjoyed almost every aspect of this book, I have a certain love for stories involving crime, thrills and mystery - this story had none of those. And although I wouldn't lower any rating a make because it isn't the genre I normally read, I'm not 100% sure how to rate or judge this book. I'm used to thinking about the crime and the conclusion, neither of which I can really look at in this book.
 As an 18 year old I enjoyed this book, I would also recommend this to my 13 year old sister along with my aunt and my mother. I think I covers a lot of themes that are rarely covered in books for younger reader as they can be considered slightly taboo. These themes are lose, unconditional love and perhaps discrimination, but since the entire book is from Sprout's point of view, and looks at the relationship between the chickens and the ducks young people could very well understand the messages it could be trying to put across.
I would recommend this to a friend or family member.
4/5 simply because it didn't have the thrill of the chase that crime books often do.

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Book Published 2000

Monday, 31 July 2017

Working at Helmsley Arts Centre

Since October of 2016 I had the incredible fortune to be trained at Helmsley Arts Centre (HAC) by Steve Woolmer who is the founder of SW Productions a theatre production company. From October to December a team of myself and 4 others, with Steve and another senior technician called Chris worked on Helmsley's pantomime production of Snow White and the seven non-specific furry forest creatures (we experienced copyright issues, the children loved it). I took the role of Deputy Stage Manager (DSM) which involved me being hidden away in the SL wing of the stage following the script and ensuring props were had by the actors and scene changes all went smoothly. During pre-production the team collected, built and documented all the props that were needed for the production, this included making a clock, a tree stump and a log out of paper mache, which I have never had much experience in using but found to be great fun. We also collected other props that would bee needed such as a basket for the Evil Queen and a trolley for the dwarfs (or non-specific furry forest creatures). The experience taught me a great deal about the working of a tech team within the industry, I've been a DSM before but only ever at college on the 2016 show Disco Inferno and after Snow White on the college's 2017 production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. This was a very different experience and working with someone who owns their own production company was brilliant, as I got to see the workings in real life and understand the industry from a different perspective.
As we were working with kids, throughout the show so we had to train ourselves not to swear which included us having a swear jar (there was about 35 quid in it by the end of the show which we used to buy nice coffee and chocolate).
After Snow White, we were offered the opportunity to continue working at HAC as venue staff while being paid a substantial amount, I hadn't realised we were going to get paid but agree anyway because it gave me great work experience and really helped with my understanding of my Level 3 Extended Diploma in Production Arts that I was doing at college. It also became something I could talk about at my university interviews, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama seemed very excited by it. Getting paid was just a bonus. I got the opportunity to work with both touring shows and 1812 productions. "The 1812 Theatre Company is the in-house amateur company of Helmsley Arts Centre, with a rich and varied show history - from Elgar's Rondo and Much Ado About Nothing to Quartet and Calendar Girls, as well as musical/comic revues and the annual Christmas show/panto.  We normally stage three major productions every year, and two smaller productions in the studio bar." Meanwhile touring shows come from all over the country to perform. A few of my favourite touring shows to work on were Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads which was written and directed by Adrian Berry, the performance by Snake Davis the Sax player a couple of months ago and Joe Stilgoe - Songs on Film who performed last month (all AMAZING). As for 1812 productions I've had the fortune of being able to work on quite a few, there was Snow White (I was DSM), Bugsy Malone (though I only made one prop for that show), Fallen Angles (I was sound operator and the show toured to Filey for two nights), Gaslight (I was lighting designer and operator - I also had no senior technician with me for two of the nights which was truly exhilarating) and Woman in Mind (where I was Stage Manager for the first time in my life). From each of these productions I learnt something different. each gave me a unique experience and introduced me to a wide variety of different people.
I also very recently (last week) worked on a show called The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter (as well as a skit called Lost Property by Jean Sheridan and Victoria Station by Harold Pinter), for which I was given a disk with the sound effects on and asked to make do. I had watched Steve use some software called Multiplay, a Windows based software designed to run cues for theatre which i taught myself to use. Although the new senior technician John has a degree in sound stuff I got him to do the lighting for that show while I did the sound because I had been to multiple rehearsals so I knew exactly where the sound effects should be, I felt quite proud that I was very slightly superior to the senior technician during this show.
I am so happy that my dear mother persuaded me to take part in the original panto team because in working at HAC I have made some fantastic friends, fantastic contacts, found what I really want to do with my life and become caused me to be very confident in doing lighting work in a theatre. Of course I realise that all theatres are different but I have the basic skills that can be applied to life outside of the small part of the world we call Helmsley.
If you are ever offered an opportunity like that, in a field you are interested in take that opportunity because it might just end up being on of the best things you ever do.


Helmsley Arts Centre
01439 771700

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Milgram Experiment - 1963 - Yale University

Aim: To see whether people would be obedient to an authority figure who was asking them to harm another person. (Specifically related to the Holocaust and the Germans following blindly during WW2)

Sample: Milgram used a sample of 40 males between the ages of 20 and 50 who had responded to an advert in a newspaper offering them $4.50 to partake in the study. Their occupations varied from unskilled to professional, from the New Haven area.

Procedure: When the participants (ppts) arrived at the university they were introduced to another “ppt” (this was in fact an actor or ‘confederate’ named Mr Wallace) and told the fake aim of the study which was to see if punishment can improve learning. The ppt and Mr Wallace then pulled straws to determine who would play the role of either learner or teacher - but it was fixed so Mr Wallace would always be the learner. The two were then lead by an experimenter (another confederate who was wearing a long grey coat), first to a room with an electric chair which the learner (Mr Wallace) would be strapped to then lead into another room with an electric shock generator with 30 switches going up in 15 volt intervals from 15 volts (slight shock) up to 450 volts (XXX) and a chair for the experimenter. The learner was strapped to the electric chair and at the same time the teacher was wired and shown what 45 volts felt like. The learner was given a list of paired word which he had to learn, the teacher would then test the learner by naming one of the words and asking the learner to say the word that matched from a list of four words. If the the learner got the answer right the teacher would move on, if the learner got the answer wrong the teacher was asked by the experimenter to shock him going up a level each time. The learner (Mr Wallace) was never actually shocked but pretended to react every time he was and made a point of getting most of the words wrong. While the ppts were shocking the learner, Mr Wallace would say things such as “I have severe heart problems”, and after 300 volts Mr Wallace stopped reacting to the shocks giving the teacher the impression that he was dead. If the teacher didn’t give a shock there were four prods that the experimenter used (Prod 1: Please continue, Prod 2: The experiment requires you to continue, Prod 3: It is absolutely essential that you continue and Prod 4: You have no other choice but to continue.), if the teacher still wouldn’t shock the learner they were allowed to leave the study.

Quantative - 65% of the 40 ppts went all the way up to 450 volts, and considered to have been obedient. The other 35% stopped between 300 volts and 450 volts but all the ppts did go up to 300 volts. (240 volts comes out of a standard UK plug socket)
Qualitative - During the study the ppts would ask things such as “who will take responsibility if he’s dead?”, they would also pull at their hair, bite their nails and break down in nervous fits of laughter.

Conclusion: Ordinary people are likely to follow obey authoritative figures even if it to the extent that it is killing somebody. This could be because they recognise the authority as morally right or legally based. (legitimate authority)
They may also have obeyed due to the Agent theory, they believed that the experimenter would take responsibility for anything that happened to the learner.

This study was a controlled observation, the advantages of it being a controlled observation is that this study is then relatively easy to replicate as proved when Milgram did the 17(?) other studies and the various other studies that have been done in the last 50 years by different researchers. As quite a bit of the data was quantitative it is really quite easy to analyse as shown in Milgram being able to get a lot of his data into percentages (e.g. 65%).

In Milgram’s study a lot of people argue that a lot of people argue that most of this study wasn’t Ethical, Milgram deceived his ppts in to believing that they were participating in a study about learning and how an electric shock can help to improve your memory, when it was in fact about obedience. Under respect of the core ethics there is ‘Right to withdraw’, only before they began was this true while in the first room but after it began the “experimenter” had four prods (according to Milgram but according to Perry when re-listening to the tapes of the study there were as many as 25 prods in some instances) and only after those four was the ppt allowed to leave. This experiment could have been extremely traumatising and I don’t think that was right but as I was saying this meant that the ppts did not have the immediate right to withdraw. I believe that Milgram did keep all his ppts in complete confidentiality and the ppts did give consent as it was in fact a self-selected sample so they all did consent to being part of the study. According to Milgram all the ppts were debriefed and told the “learner” was in fact still alive and hadn’t once been shocked, this comes under the core ethical principal responsibility, well-being/protection from harm, but as I said before until they were debriefed the ppts did believe they had shocked someone unconscious/dead, and I think that could cause some extremely upsetting feelings. In Milgram’s defence though he didn’t believe, and nor did his psychology students, that so many ppts would go so far as to 450 volts.

Externally this is not Mundane Realism, not something that would happen on a daily basis, when would you actually have to give someone repeated electric shocks? Another thing is that since this study was done in a lab in a university, it is also not the most normal setting so it is not very ecologically valid. The ppts don’t reflect the population as a whole, as they were all American males between the ages of 20-50 though in the Holocaust, the males that worked under Hitler were of the age and gender of the ppts Milgram used.

Milgram had a very unrepresentative sample, he chose only American men, but with various backgrounds, this was him being deliberately ethnocentric, trying to find out whether Americans would be as obedient as the German soldiers in the Holocaust.

The quantitative data consisted of the amount of ppts that went how high up with the voltages. For example 100% of the ppts went all the way up to 300 volts but only 65% went any higher to 450 volts. Quantitative data is easy to analyse and put into graphs and charts, the problem with it though is that Milgram couldn’t use the quantitative data to see any further than the numbers, in his own analysis, Milgram would have had to refer back to other data, which is where the Qualitative Data comes in. The qualitative data would have referred to the moral strain the ppts were feeling, stress resulting in hair pulling, asking questions like “who would be responsible?” The problem is that without the quantitative data again, it wouldn’t make much sense, you need both for the full picture.


Friday, 21 April 2017

Who? - Short Story

As I fell asleep last night, it happened again. He turned up in my dream. But I can’t describe him. Maybe he had blond hair. Perhaps not.
I sat at my desk this morning. I was tired. Coffee keeps my eyes open just enough to make it look like I am doing work. Chris walked up to me, I sat up straight, widening my eyes. He looked confused then said, “Dan, at this company we expect a certain level of work that is handed in” I glared at him, “sorry sir, I didn’t sleep well last night, I keep having weird dreams and waking up suddenly.” Chris thought for a second, evaluating the situation in front of him and how he can solve it in the most efficient way. “Take a weekend off” he said to me, “and if you don’t you will lose your job, you need a break”
I have a small suitcase in the side car of my bike. I felt calm. He hadn’t turned up in my dream last night. I am glad of that. Maybe he had blue eyes. It was possible.
As I rounded the last corner I reached the cottage, Hannah my neighbour had let me stay in it for the weekend. She had agreed with Chris, and while driving I began to agree too, I needed a break. The cottage was beautiful, there was a lake in front of it, and it was surrounded by pine trees. Secluded. Alone. That is how I like things. Hannah says it’s not good for me up I do not agree. A took the key out of the ignition and picked up my suitcase, pulling out the handle I rolled it up to the door. Finding the key I let myself in, flicking on the light switch as I passed through the entrance.  The room was cosy, in one wall was a fireplace set up with a lighter next to it.
The room is warm. I am sure I fell asleep in front of the fire because even though the room hasn’t changed he is there. He looks different. He looks scared. He looks like he is screaming. I wake.
I went to the kitchen and started cooking pasta, and heating up a tomato sauce I found in the cupboard. I went up to the fridge to get a bottle of beer. Suddenly I was scared, on the front of the fridge was a picture. He was in the picture on the fridge. He was blond. He did have blue eyes. I ran back to the front room, picked up the phone and rang Hannah. I was in a frenzy. She picked up, I practically shouted down the phone asking who the person on the fridge was. She didn’t answer for a second, then said “nobody, there aren’t any pictures on the fridge or in the house at all. I glanced around, she was right about the second one but I could see the picture on the fridge from the phone. I described the person in the photo, she thought then said “there’s a book on the shelf called, uh. Something like pinewood house… history by some woman, the person you described sounds like a guy from one of the pictures in that book.” I was confused when I hung up. I glanced around the room till I saw the book shelf, slowly walking over I found a book that looked like it had been together rather hastily. It was called ‘A History of Pinewood House’ by Maria Smithson. I sat down with a beer and opened the first page. The first thing I noticed was that it was all hand written, the date said 1975. As I continued slowly flicking through the book I noticed that things had been stuck in roughly, it looked like Smithson had been working against the clock when she wrote this.
I turn over the page and there is him. But this time I know I’m awake, he looks like he did in the picture on the fridge but in my dreams he looks tired, older somehow.
Hannah is the only person I don’t mind being with. My foster parents only kept me so they would get money off the government to help take care of me. They and anyone else makes me feel like I’m a freak. And I’m not. I’m not ill. I don’t any disorders. The only thing wrong with me is I’m allergic to peanuts. Hannah has lived next door to me for years, as long as I can remember actually. She has stormy blue eyes and purple blue hair, which she lets me dye. I can’t dye my hair because Chris says “It would bring the company down to let people be that unprofessional” so I dye Hannah’s hair. She doesn’t mind. It means she can read her book. She has a different one every 2 days. It makes me smile. Hannah, before I left told me that her family had owned the little cottage for years, so anything in it would have sentimental value. I respect that. Looking at the picture of him made me think. I wanted to know who he was. Under the picture was a passage of writing. Him, he was called Thomas. He was young in the picture but it looked like it had been added after 1975, in the last few months. It was almost brand new.
I’ve fallen asleep. He isn’t there. Thomas isn’t there. Hannah is there. I never dream about Hannah. She was smiling. Reading her book. I was dying her hair the purple blue she liked.
I woke up. Someone was shaking me, sitting up I saw him. Thomas. He was looking at me funny, like I had done something. Sitting up I looked at him. I could feel that I had the same expression on my face as he did. As he stared right into my eyes, he suddenly looked terrified. “I know you” he whispered under his breath. He then straightened up shaking his head. “Sorry” he said in a strained voice. I still hadn’t said a thing. I had no idea what to say. Then after straightening myself I said simply, “I know you too. You were in my dreams. And on the fridge. And in the book.” He glanced down at the book lying open, now on the floor. And saw a picture of himself. He looked older and more tired than in the photo. He looked like how he looked in my dreams. But not as scared. I glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece, it was 2.30am. “Why are you here?” he asked me slowly, calculating things in his head. I thought for a second then said,  matter of factually “I needed a break from work. My neighbour says she owned the cottage and that I could stay in it. I got here earlier. What about you?” He thought for a bit then shrugged. “Is that your bike outside?” he asked. I decided it was better to answer than ask the question again. “Yes” I reply. He nodded slowly. “Who are you?” I asked in a way that meant ‘I had better get an answer or else’. He thought. “Thomas”. He said it like that was all that needed to be said. He kept looking at me like he half recognised me. I decided to put out a hand of friendship, “do you want a beer?” I asked. He shook his head. “Who’s your neighbour?” he asked. “Hannah, Hannah Jones” He thought for a second. I didn’t know what answer to that I was expecting but it wasn’t the one he then said. “My aunt… Purple blue hair?” I nodded. I could feel the surprise on my face. “I thought she had no family”. He replied almost immediately with “she would say that. We aren’t on the best terms. I ran away when her and my mum agreed to put my brother up for adoption. I left. But not before having a huge argument with them.
I am tired. He is here and I am not asleep. He is standing in front of me and I am awake. I don’t know what is happening.
We sat in silence for an hour and 8 minutes. I was okay with that. I could just pretend I was alone. Or I could have almost pretended. He kept looking at me funny. I didn’t see it happen but I could feel his eyes on me. Then he said “what is your family like?” I shrugged. I jumped about foster homes till I was 16 because of “attitude” problems. Then at 16 I got fostered by a family who didn’t care. They just wanted money. Then I turned 18 and moved. Legally I still live there, that means the family still gets my money but I live alone working at a company that doesn’t let me dye my hair.” He looked down at the book which had still been on the floor since I woke up and picked it up. Looking at the picture of himself. He shook his head, saying “this is not a good photo” he then stood up and left the room. 12 minutes later he came back with a photo. Looking at the photo Thomas stood there. He was about 4 but recognisable. Next to him was a 2 year old. Brown hair. Hazel eyes. Like me. I stared at the photo. Thomas looked at me. Then said slowly. “That is you. Isn’t it?” I stared at him. “Impossible,” I said “I don’t have any family.” Thomas looked at me strange, “your name isn’t Dan then?” I was shocked. I hadn’t told him my name. He tilted his head. “Did Hannah look after you well?” I nodded, still in shock.
How can I have family? That is what is in my head. He isn’t making sense. Is he?
I could tell he knew he’d freaked me out. But he kept staring at me anyway. I had no idea what he was waiting for. After 10 minutes. He jumped up so suddenly I got scared all over again. He then smiled. But I still wasn’t. I glanced at him. He was tall. Taller than me. “How were you in my dreams?” I asked. The smile from his face suddenly vanished. “I’m not sure.” He looked concerned. “When did they start?” he asked. I shrugged, “only a few weeks ago. But I’ve been losing sleep over it.” Then he asked me the same question. My answer was the same as his. I didn’t know what to do with the information. “You were scared in my dreams” I said. He looked up quickly, “I did?” I nodded. “You looked happy in my dreams, you had a huge smile on your face sitting with someone in a café.” I shook my head. “That’s not right.” He looked at me questioning. I thought and then said “I don’t sit with people in cafés, I rarely sit with people at all. Only Hannah.” He was looking at me but wasn’t actually looking. He had a glazed look. Then he smiled again. “We should go. Now!” I shook my head, “its 4 am. I’ve been drinking. It would not be a good idea for me to drive.” Thomas grabbed the keys off the side. “Silly boy, grab that book, I’ll drive. But you’ll have to give me directions. I don’t know my way places.” I thought for a second, then decided that this boy was going to be persistent, I picked up the book and grabbed my coat. He was already outside, I switched off the lights and locked the front door. I put the key safely in my pocket that zipped up so things didn’t fall out. I pulled on my coat and hugging the book I walked over to the bike. He looked slightly stressed while holding the helmet which I’d left on top of the bike seat. I took the key out of his hand and opened the back of the side car. Out came an extra helmet. Thomas smiled. I pulled the helmet on my head. He put the other one on and we both got on.
I am trying to stay awake on this journey. I only slept a few hours. I had been drinking. I am pointing out which way he needs to drive.
I told him to stop outside my house. It was Sunday. It was 7 am. Hannah would be walking out the house in half an hour. She was going to church. She did that most Sundays. Not always but most. She would be up though. I pulled the helmet off my helmet and turned to Thomas. “Do you want to say hello to your aunt?” I made quotation marks with my fingers when I said ‘aunt’. He gave me a nod. And jumped off the bike. I climbed out of the side car. I was going to go into the house. I was tired. Thomas stopped me. “No you are coming with me. She is going to tell you the truth herself.” I sighed. But I didn’t argue. I followed him up the drive of Hannah’s house. He rang the doorbell twice. Hannah came to the door, her coloured hair was tied up in a loose bun above her hair. She smiled at me, then turned her head to look at Thomas. Now she was glaring. Then her expression changed again. It had turned into to fear. I was confused. Why was she scared? Maybe Thomas had hurt her. Then I had noticed her eyes kept darting between the two of us. She was scared of what we might have told each other. Suddenly I realised everything he had said was true. “What the fuck are you doing here Tom?” He smiled. A cheeky smile that a child makes when they have done something that they shouldn’t have done but that they enjoyed doing. “Well it is lovely to see you again auntie Han.” Her eyes were still darting between us when he had said this. Thomas then said slowly and calculated, “He knows. I told him all of it.” She looked down. She was embarrassed. Then she walked back into the house. Thomas followed Hannah. I followed Thomas. She turned and looked at us. We were all pretty much the same age give or take 5 years, yet she spoke to us like we were 20 years younger than her. “Thomas, we had to give up Dan. It couldn’t be helped. Your mother didn’t have money. She could barely handle Thomas and then she got pregnant again. She tried. But couldn’t deal with it. I found you later though, Dan and I told myself I’d look after you. Even if I promised your mother that I’d never tell you who you really were. I’m glad they didn’t change you name while you were in the system.” She looked sad. Thomas glanced at me. I didn’t have any idea what to do.

I have a family. In a weekend away I didn’t want to take I discovered a family. Thomas is a great brother. He is helping me. I am starting to enjoy being with other people besides just Hannah. We have both forgiven her. I am becoming a better person than what I was. I quit my job. I hated it anyway. They were mean. I am happy now.


Monday, 27 February 2017

Normal by Graeme Cameron Review


Published: 2015 by Harlequin MIRA

"He lives in your community, in a nice house with a well-tended garden. He shops in your grocery store, bumping shoulders with you and apologizing with a smile. He drives beside you on the highway, politely waving you into the lane ahead of him. 

What you don't know is that he has an elaborate cage built into a secret basement under his garage. And the food that he's carefully shopping for is to feed a young woman he's holding there against her will—one in a string of many, unaware of the fate that awaits her."

This book seems to be anything from "Normal", I have to admit it really was nothing like what I was expecting (see below), the cover suggests a book full of crime and mystery with an unexpected twist at the end but it seems almost like a romance. In all honesty I much preferred this to what I was expecting.
Unknown, as we never once discovered the name of the main character is a serial killer with a cage in his basement. I rarely read books written in first person as I find that over time they can confuse me or just get boring but somehow this book kept me hooked throughout. Last night I was up till 3 o'clock in the morning with my nose in this book because I literally couldn't put it down, this is the first time in a while I've read a book that has woken me up more as the night progressed instead of making me fall asleep. The paragraphs I found were snappy and didn't talk a great deal into unnecessary information.
The most interesting character I found was not Unknown, but Erica... Her character developed, I think most throughout the whole book but not in the way that a lot of people talk about character development. Micky Smith from the Doctor Who reboots had a positive character development between season 1 and season 4, Erica most certainly didn't although it was extremely interesting psychologically. Not to say I didn't find Unknown's character very interesting, the psychopathic inability to understand emotional feelings was very well portrayed in how this book was written, including quite a deep connection to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs [1], which is suggested that psychopaths would only ever need to reach the first two stages which are Physiological needs and safety needs. This is shown quite plainly that Unknown hasn't reached the third stage, Love and belonging in the quote, "It doesn't depress me that I don't get birthday presents. I've got all the material things I want." [p.147] But to continue the quote, "Although I'd maybe like to have received a card, just to show that someone, somewhere was thinking about me", it can be noticed that the quote is about in the middle of the book cause this clearly shows that the stages he had originally hit (stages one and two) had began to progress to Love and belonging, stage three.
To sum up in three words: fantastic, chilling, abnormal
Any book that I can't put down till 3 o'clock in the morning deserves high praise from me.
Would highly recommend, warning contains strong language and sexual stuff...

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