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Kate Nissen reviews the Amanda Baker event

11 May

Ever heard of a comedic poet? No, neither had I, until I had the pleasure of seeing Amanda Baker live at the Hexham Book Festival. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from her show ‘Snail Love’, but I was thoroughly entertained throughout her short, but sweet, act.

The show took place in the café of the Queens Hall, which created a relaxed and friendly atmosphere where you didn’t have to sit in uncomfortable silence with a few awkward laughs and obligatory applause. Our laughs were genuine and our applause was honest.

Amanda started off with her poem ‘Soap Opera’: an enjoyable poem with a mix of sarcastic comments and satirical humour about the soaps we watch. The audience enjoyed the poem, as most of us in Britain are secret (or maybe not so secret!) soap addicts, and what she was saying was very true and also very funny.

Amanda then went on to comment that inspiration for her poems can come from everyday things, for example TV and radio advertisements. This led on to another humorous poem, ‘Aspirational Bathroom’, which mocked advertisements from how they are said, to the strange things that are actually said to try and convince Joe Public to try, buy and use products. The truth in this poem generated many laughs.

The poems Amanda then proceeded to deliver varied from serious topics, such as Irish terrorists, to arguing with bus drivers and experiences of going to an all black church. However, all the poems had an individual spin, making the audience see the funnier side of subjects usually seen in a negative light.

After these comedic poems, Amanda went on to tell us how she had written a more serious poem about the grief after someone close to you has died. This poem was submitted for the Bridport Poetry Prize and Amanda said, ‘My socks were blown off when I found out that it was shortlisted.’ The poem demonstrated just how talented she is and left the audience speechless.

The audience enjoyed every moment of this event, from the witty sarcasm to the comedic rhymes. It was a brilliant, lighthearted way of listening to poetry.

Amanda Baker appeared at the Queens Hall, Hexham at 6pm, Thursday 3rd May as part of the 2012 Hexham Book Festival.

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Dorothy Hakim reviews the Meg Rosoff event

9 May

The words ‘fate’ and ‘hilarious’ sum up author Meg Rosoff completely. Last week I was lucky enough to hear her talk at the Hexham Book Festival and have never once regretted it since. Meg told us about fate and how it can change your life. She talked about it with humour and in such a way that, as I looked around the theatre, every single pair of eyes was focused on her. ‘It was fate’, she told us, that found her a lovely husband, stopped her becoming a screenwriter, didn’t let her publish a pony book with sex in it and made her famous. ‘It is fate’ that affects our lives every day whether we notice it or not, she said. Yet another reason we should stop, look and listen before we cross the road!: you never know what fate is going to do to your life. Those of you who have read Meg’s book ‘Just in Case’ will know what I mean when I say that she is obsessed with fate. I will let her off because she is such a fabulous writer. And I wish her the best of luck for the film of ‘How I Live Now’. Good luck Meg!

Meg Rosoff appeared at the Queen’s Hall, Hexham at 10.30am and 1.30pm, Monday 30th April as part of the 2012 Hexham Book Festival. For more information about the forthcoming film, you may like to visit Meg’s own website.

Bronwen Fraser reviews Meg Rosoff’s ‘What I Was’

24 Apr

'What I Was' cover image

Set in 1962 on the coast of East Anglia, ‘What I Was’ is told in the voice of Hilary, a sixteen-year-old schoolboy, as he arrives at a grim, gloomy boarding school called St Oswald’s. Hilary dislikes study and sport, teachers and pupils, and finds school life unbearable. But one day he meets Finn, a mysterious boy who lives alone in a fisherman’s hut on a small island. Drawn to Finn and his simple, nomadic way of life, Hilary builds a remarkable relationship.

This is a very compelling and mysterious read, even though there is not a great deal of action. But the setting and characters are so vivid, and you get to know them as the book progresses. The book draws you right into the atmosphere of the seaside setting, the subtle way the relationship develops between the two main characters and the secrecy in which they have to meet. I loved the descriptions of the fisherman’s hut and the constantly changing sea, which is like a strong force and atmospheric presence. It is a fascinating and thought-provoking read and has a very moving ending. I would highly recommend it to both boys and girls aged 12+.

Meg Rosoff is appearing at the Queen’s Hall, Hexham at 10.30am and 1.30pm, Monday 30th April as part of the 2012 Hexham Book Festival. She will also be running a workshop on ‘Finding a Voice’ at the Beaumont Hotel from 10am – 12 noon, Tuesday 1st May. Tickets for both events are available from the Hexham Book Festival website.

Dorothy Hakim reviews Simon Scarrow’s ‘Street Fighter’

19 Apr

Having just read Simon Scarrow’s book ‘Street Fighter’ I must say I really enjoyed it.  ‘Street Fighter’ is part of the ‘Gladiator’ series and is the sequel to ‘Fight for Freedom’.  It is a fast-paced story full of the adventures of Marcus – a slave in Rome in the year 61BC.  Marcus was trained as a gladiator and has now been sold to Julius Caesar to work as a bodyguard for his young niece, Portia.  Caesar is a consul in the senate and is trying to win a political war against his arch-enemy, another consul named Cato.  Yet Cato is intent on winning and he takes his side of the argument too far and it turns to war – war where the streets are plagued by vicious gang war attacks.  Attacks that are organised by the two rival consuls.  Attacks on Caesar’s life that only Marcus can stop…

Simon Scarrow is appearing at the Queen’s Hall, Hexham at 12:30 pm, Saturday 28th April as part of the 2012 Hexham Book Festival. He will also be making an appearance at the launch event for issue 3 of Cuckoo Quarterly (also at the Queen’s Hall, Hexham) at 3:00 pm on the 28th April. This event is free to attend but ticketed. Tickets for both events are available from the Hexham Book Festival website.