Category Archives: Reviews

Monstacademy: The Halloween Parade by Matt Beighton – Blog Tour Book Review

Goodreads Link

Synopsis

It’s not every day that a vampire borrows your pencil. When was the last time you sat next to a werewolf in maths?

Meet Trixie Grimble, the newest pupil at Monstacademy. Unfortunately, in a school filled with monsters, she’s the only ordinary girl and when she’s asked to help prepare for the annual Halloween parade, everything starts to go wrong.

Oh, and she’s also been kicked out of her bedroom to make room for a cat circus.

Fans of Jill Murphy and Isla Fisher will adore the silly humour and loveable characters in this delightful modern classic.

About the Author

Matt Beighton was born somewhere in the midlands in England during the heady days of the 1980s and continues to spend most of his days in the same shire. He is happily married with two young daughters who keep him very busy and suffer through the endless early drafts of his stories.

When he’s not writing, he teaches primary school (Kindergarten to some of you), messes around on canals in his inflatable kayak and supports his beloved Leicester City.

Website: http://mattbeighton.co.uk/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mattbeightonauthor

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mattbeighton

YouTube:https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCs9DBOkwtDpnTFBYZXUhUUw

What I Thought

This was lots of fun and perfectly captures the emotions of starting a new school. It’s ideal for kids to read at this time of year and especially if they are joining a new class where everyone already knows each other.

Trixie not only starts a new school but she is very much the odd one out and having to board there too. Not everyone welcomes ‘her sort’ at the school. Humans at a school for monsters, how very unusual!!!

Having just re-read all of The Worst Witch books by Jill Murphy, I can confirm the comparisons to them are well founded and luckily, like Mildred, Trixie eventually finds herself a couple of good friends to help her settle in … and save the day. There’s a nefarious plot that needs foiling and, can you believe that Monsters don’t like trick or treating?

There are some funny names included, especially for the teachers (Flopsbottom 😂) which will give readers something to giggle about. The illustrations by Amalia Rendon were great and really added to the story. I loved the picture of the school caretaker Grimsby and it was good to be able to visualise all of the teachers.

There is a subplot with Trixie’s mum and some cats, and it was good to see that this wasn’t all focused on school and I liked the hints at how their relationship developed that we got in the extra Christmas themed short story. Initially I would have compared Trixie’s mum to Mrs Wormwood!

Aimed at a slightly younger reader, I think this is the perfect gateway to Harry Potter and I highly recommend it as bedtime story material.

Author Matt is a primary school teacher and he’s included some fun activities in the back of the book too (a wordsearch and spot the difference – I’m still stuck on this btw Matt and there’s no answers 😱😂). I’m such a kid because I also loved the fact the book has its own ‘This Book Belongs to’ page.

The Halloween Parade has set things up well for an ongoing series and I’m looking forward to seeing how the characters develop. It looks like there are at least two more books in the pipeline including a choose your own adventure version (I used to love these).

Today is the last stop on the tour but do make sure you go and check out what everyone else thought. Thanks to Matt and Faye for my copy of the book which I read for the purposes of an honest review.

All of the Monstacademy series are available in both standard and dyslexia adapted format. To celebrate Dyslexia Awareness Week 2018, use the code DYSAWARE to get 15% of any Monstacademy orders at the Green Monkey Press Etsy store. Offer valid from Monday 1st October to Sunday 7th October 2018 at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/GreenMonkeyPress

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Eugenius – The Musical – Review

It has been around a week and a half since I saw Eugenius at The Other Palace – huge thanks to my friend Clarissa who said I would love it and let me have her spare ticket. Spoiler – she was right and I may now be a little obsessed. I’m sad that it’s unlikely I’ll be able to see it again before the run is over but if you can get to London and get tickets before the 21st October please do. You deserve this joy in your life. This show is so much fun and definitely deserves a full West End transfer and/or a U.K. tour (include Poole Lighthouse or Bournemouth if you do the tour please).

Set in 1988 (when I was 10) this is a show for geeks (and I suspect written by geeks – Ben Adams former A1 lead singer (and yes I did own their albums) and Chris Wilkins). It’s about Superheroes and friendship and the 80s and the music is supremely catchy, and there’s a dance at the end that will see everyone getting involved. You won’t be able to resist.

If you can’t get to see the show then the soundtrack is available, including a sing along version. I may have listened to it a few times!!!

Personally I was sold, and had a grin on my face, from the opening moment where our protagonist Eugene opens up a Book Light!!

There are pop culture references galore and if you want to go in without knowing anything more don’t read my list of references spotted further below.

The cast was excellent – especially the main trio of Eugene, Janey and Feris played by Rob Houchen (who reminds me of Aaron Tveit tonally), Laura Baldwin (who smashed The Future is Bright and had a touching reunion with her vocal coach after the show) and Dan Buckley (No Pants Dance had me creasing). Their songs were flawless and my favourites in the show – my top two got reprises too.

The passion from the whole cast and crew was so apparent when Clarissa and I saw it on the opening night of the revised run (with feedback from its first run taken on board and acted on). It’s still not quite perfect but it’s pretty damn close. Personally I wasn’t too sold on the fish people and I felt the staging of the song Hollywood was a little static (Clarissa mentioned preferring the first run choreography). There were also a couple of lines that I would consider removing to make this show much more family friendly, specifically the Cabbage Patch Kid comment and pervert in the bushes line in evil. I am glad they revised Super Hot Lady’s main song – although both the original version of her song (which I heard on the soundtrack) and the casting couch reference are very much a social commentary on how female actresses and superheroes were treated in the 80s (and relevant to the Me Too movement raised in Hollywood recently).

(Side note prompted by the family friendly comment – we met the most adorable Eugenius superfan and fellow Hufflepuff, and his mum, and I got to teach him the Hufflepuff handshake). If you happen to be reading this. Hi, hope you managed to get back to see the show again.

Lessons learned from the show

• If a colleague has a wardrobe malfunction (Hector had a knob fall off) make sure to pick it up to avert any accidents. That’s what Tough Guy would do, or even Lex!

• Don’t do the worm with a backpack on.

• Nerds Like Numbers – Geeks like gadgets.

• Be Tough but be Fair (with a motto like this I think Tough man is a Hufflepuff)

• Friends will be there for you.

• Don’t shoot for the stars – aim higher!!!

If you loved We Will Rock You and Starlord in Guardians of the Galaxy then I think this has similar vibes. This show deserves all the success.

Potential Spoilers – Pop Culture references. Mostly 80s based.

Film and TV mentions

Star Trek vs Star Wars – non GEEK confusion (Gasp)

Star Wars*- Yoda chat up lines and Ewok (Wickett)

Splash and its (not explicitly named) comparison to The Shape of Water

Footloose

Flashdance – She’s amazing = She’s a maniac homage

Dirty Dancing – Like the wind line in She’s Amazing

? Grease 2 – Who’s that guy song

Peter Pan – Second Star to the Left

Gremlins

Goonies – Hey you Guys

ET

The Neverending Story – mention of Atreyu in Hollywood (and btw YOU had a mega crush on him and cried when he cried when Artex downed in the swamp)

Karate Kid – wax on wax off

Big – Zoltar

Superman

Supergirl

Batman

Wonder Woman

The Flash

Flash Gordon*

Top Gun

Terminator

Rocky – Eye of the Tiger line in song

Nightmare on Elm Street – Freddy Krueger

Robocop

Indiana Jones

Beetlejuice (and stylistically Theo’s character looked like a cross between Otto and the guy from Mannequin)

Mannequin – window dresser at Macy’s

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Ghostbusters

Back to the Future – Eugene’s Marty McFly style outfit

Transformers – Megatron

Scooby Doo – cheerleader outfits look like Velma’s Jumper/skirt combo

Knight rider

Lost in Space – Kevin the Robot

Fraggles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

He Man – Skeletor – We’ll have the power

Thundercats – Snarf

Eldorado (I loved the total cheese of this show)

Harry Potter – very subtle ref with – less of the wizard stuff line – Nb: I can make most things relate to Harry Potter somehow

Musicals/Music influences

Blood Brothers (Hector and Tough Man – brothers separated at birth)

Papa can you Hear Me – Fiddler on the Roof

Gypsy

Chicago – Lex intro reminds me of Billy Flynn

Prince – 1999

Michael Jackson dance moves

Olivia Newton John/Jane Fonda dance moves

Flock of Seagulls hair

Journey

Evita

Things

Bum bags

Cabbage patch dolls

People

OJ Simpson

Jean Claude Van Damme

George Lucas

Kevin Bacon – did he get a name check?! I think so.

Stan Lee – Sun Spot, Bim Bam Boom(?), and Mephisto (I was not familiar with any of these (& Marvel in general)

*Guest vocal appearances by:

Brian Blessed

Mark Hamil

Warwick Davis (sings Hector’s part on the soundtrack)

Finally, I wasn’t sure I spotted any John Hughes film refs but … is the Eugenius semi-arm punch choreography an end of Breakfast Club Bender punch or a Grease Summer Night’s Travolta ear slide punch??

If the writers read this I’d love to know if I’m right on any of the less explicit references and if there are any I missed.

Ps. I totally ship EuJaney!!!

Charlie and Me by Mark Lowery – Back-to-School Blog Blitz

The Summer holidays are over but the feelings don’t have to be when you are reading a good book.

Charlie and Me: 421 Miles From Home is a Middle-Grade novel and a poignant story of families and running away. Brothers Charlie and Martin are on a very special trip down from Preston to Cornwall. They’re desperate to see the dolphin that lives in the harbour there. But although Martin’s used to looking after his younger brother, this is a very different journey for both of them – there’s something even bigger than the dolphin waiting for them once they get to Cornwall.

If you’re looking for a book to help you rewind these last few weeks of summer holidays with empathy and joy, this is the one for you!

I’m pleased to be able to share an extract with you as part of the Back-to-School Blog Blitz.

The town was just waking up – the smell of fresh bread from bakeries. Shopkeepers dragging racks of flip-flops and beach balls out of shops called Wild Bill’s Surf Shack or Bob’s Budget Beach Hut. Street cleaners emptying bins and aiming half-hearted kicks at the cocky seagulls that scrounged around the cobblestones.

We’d been roaming about for a few minutes before we caught a glimpse of the ocean – a narrow strip of blue between two cottages. ‘Might as well have a peek,’ Dad said. We followed a steep lane until it opened out onto the seafront, and WOW!

It was incredible.

The town nestled above a bay about a quarter of a mile wide. It was a perfect semicircle, like the sea had taken a great big bite out of the land. Colourful cottages seemed to tumble higgledy-piggledy down the slope towards it. The tide was right in and fishing boats bobbed up and down on a sparkling sheet of turquoise. To our right, the bay was fringed by jagged rocks that concealed the rest of the coast. At the far side over to the left, an old stone jetty stretched out to sea, with a small white lighthouse perched at the end of it.

Dad whistled.

Mum squeezed his hand and said, ‘Beautiful.’

‘What are they looking at?’ said Charlie, squinting at a huddle of people on the other side of the road. There were about seven of them standing by the railings and pointing out to sea.

Charlie didn’t wait for an answer. He darted across the road, right in front of a car that screeched to a halt just in time. The rest of us chased after him. On the far pavement, Mum grabbed him by the arm. ‘Don’t you ever do that again. I couldn’t bear—’

But Charlie wasn’t listening. ‘Wow!’ he said, pointing past Mum. ‘Look at that!’

‘What?’ said Mum, her fingers instinctively relaxing as she turned to look.

Charlie wriggled out of her grasp, peeled off his eye patch and pressed himself up against the railings. ‘That! Behind that big blue boat. Next to the dinghy.’

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