Saturday, 19 January 2019

Review: Tahereh Mafi's Superb 'A Very Large Expanse of Sea' ★★★★★

This week everything has been about Tahereh Mafi’s A Very Large Expanse of Sea. For five days, I lived, breathed and sacrificed sleep for this superb novel, breaking only to live-tweet my tears and heartbreak. A Very Large Expanse of Sea tells the story of a Muslim teen living in America in the years after 9/11 and it’s just as devastating as you’d expect it to be.

Shirin is sixteen-years-old and wise beyond her years. Give her a chance and she can rattle off a catalog of all the racist, bigoted things that have been said to her. Shirin chooses to wear a hijab and it has made her the target of violence in the past. Weary beyond her years, Shirin is biding her time in high school by putting in her earphones and ignoring the world around her.

Shirin’s carefully constructed world comes crumbling down when she meets Ocean James, a boy in her bio class. For the first time in ages, she meets a person who wants to get to know her and cares to look beyond her scarf. The problem is that Shirin isn’t sure she even knows how to let her guard down anymore but she also knows it was up for a reason.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea took me through every emotion possible. I spent a lot of it angry at the nasty, bigoted things that were said to Shirin. Author Tahereh Mafi has called this her most autobiographical novel yet and you can see this in the writing; a lot of what is said feels raw and personal. It’s not all hard work though, the story also made me laugh and swoon but the closing chapters simply made me cry. The point of sharing my emotional instability is not to alarm you, it’s rather to acknowledge that it has been a long time since a book captured all of my emotions in this manner.

I loved A Very Large Expanse of Sea and I appreciated the chance to read about the perspective of a young, American-Iranian Hijabi, a perspective that is very rare in popular fiction. I felt that the novel was diverse in other ways too, in a subtle way and was impressed by the depth of Shirin and Ocean’s characters. My mock-Printz reading group on Goodreads has pipped this as a possible Printz-award recipient and I agree, it is most definitely Printz worthy.

I give A Very Large Expanse of Sea a superb five out of five stars and recommend to lovers of superior, diverse young adult fiction.



Monday, 10 December 2018

Peter Murphy at the O2 Academy Brixton, 9 December 2018

For one night only, Peter Murphy played the O2 Academy Brixton on 9 December 2018 with special guests Desert Mountain Tribe. He thrilled the crowd with an energetic set that covered 40 years of Bauhaus and played the whole of In The Flat Field in track order. It was a gig to remember and one that makes me wonder why Murphy hasn’t toured more in recent years.

Peter Murphy at Brixton Academy

Desert Mountain Tribe

Supporting Peter Murphy was Desert Mountain Tribe who were a big surprise. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a band for the first time at a gig and wanted to run straight off and buy their stuff. Desert Mountain Tribe did this for me and it was great to hear a band that is obviously influenced by the likes of Bauhaus and Jesus and Mary Chain but who are still releasing albums. Highlights of their gig include “Leave It Behind” where Peter Murphy joined them on stage for vocals and their final and most epic track, “The King”.

Peter Murphy on stage with Desert Mountain Tribe

I really rated their lead singer’s voice. Jonty Balls has a kind of warbling wail which probably doesn’t sound all that flattering now that I’ve written it down but he reminded me a lot of Nymph’s Inger Lorre and I definitely want to hear more from this band.

Peter Murphy featuring David J

No matter how much I enjoyed Desert Mountain Tribe, we were there for Peter Murphy and David J.

Within seconds of “Dark Entries” starting, I knew that I’d severely underestimated how good the night was going to be. Everything from the perfect drum beats to the reverberating guitars was album-perfect yet undeniably live and Peter Murphy’s incredible vocals had command of the entire venue. In The Flat Field has some of my favourite tracks on, so naturally I was in raptures during “Double Dare” and “In the Flat Field”. I have to stress again how superb the drums were. The drums were one of the first things I noticed (and loved) about Bauhaus and Marc Slutsky did a brilliant job of delivering those beats.

Peter Murphy Stigmata Martyr Brixton Academy

The next five tracks of In The Flat Field were up next as the band played the album in track order. I was beginning to wonder if this gig could get any better when Pete absolutely blew us away with “Stigmata Martyr”. What a freaking brilliant performance. It’s one thing to love a band the whole of your adult life (and half of your teenage years) but something else entirely to see a track played live like that with such conviction and mastery 40 years after it was recorded.

After taking a short break on completion of the In The Flat Field set, Murphy was back to perform some of the biggest Bauhaus tracks of all time. Track after track, I was blown away by his performance on songs I never thought I’d have the chance to see live. After bringing the roof down on “Silent Hedges”, which Murphy dedicated to Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins, the band broke into “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”. I’m trying to think of something intelligent to say about this performance but I just can’t do it. I felt like I was there, on the very day when Bela left this earth, marking the passing of one of the true greats. It was a pretty cathartic experience.

And just when I was having an inner tug-of-war, trying to figure out which was the better performance, “Stigmata Martyr” or “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, the game changed completely when the band played  “She’s in Parties”. This was the very first Bauhaus track I taped from the radio, the very first track that a curious 15-year-old discovered that started my love of all things Goth. This track was everything and seeing it live will have to go down as one of the best moments I’ve ever had at a concert.

And still the band played on and still the performance got better and better. Highlights include “The Passion of Lovers” and the band coming back for their first encore with a cover of the brilliant Dead Can Dance track “Severance”. I was thrilled that Murphy would pay homage to one of the other greats of the Gothic music scene.

Then there was the final encore and how utterly transcendent it was. Peter Murphy, David J, Marc Slutsky and Mark Gemini Thwaite absolutely killed it with “Telegram Sam” and “Ziggy Stardust”, two of their greatest and most successful covers.

This year has been an incredible year with gigs like Arcade Fire at Wembley Arena, Nick Cave at All Points East and Elbow at the O2 but I reckon this was the best gig of the year if not one of the best I’ve ever been to. Peter Murphy is incredible and I am grateful that this teenager who only discovered Bauhaus long after they’d broken up finally got to see them.


Friday, 30 November 2018

Review: Marvel's Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. London

Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. London Iron Man

Last night was the sneak preview of Marvel's Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. at Excel London and it was a lot of fun. It was a typically wet and rainy November evening in London and it was good to get inside for a session of games, simulations and training to become a fully-fledged member of S.T.A.T.I.O.N. -  the Science Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network.

Our journey began in the Iron Man Engineering Bay where you got a chance to see how Iron Man’s suits have evolved over the years. This was definitely the biggest room with the most to see and do, as would match an man of Tony Stark’s ego. The biggest draw, as evidenced by the queues, was the simulated fight game where keen gamers could test what it would be like to fight inside the suit.

Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. London Hulk

Up next was a visit to Bruce Banner’s lab featuring a model of Hulk’s giant hand and brain scans of the effects of transformation on Hulk’s brain. There was also the chance to try out several of Hulk’s actions which I had way too much fun doing. That definitely wasn’t me giggling away to myself when two other visitors walked in.

Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. London Captain America's Shield

Next we were treated to the full set of intelligence relating to Captain America, complete with details about the science behind Steve Roger’s transformation into the Cap.

Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. London Captain America's Harley Davidson

I got to sit on Captain America’s bespoke denim blue Harley Davidson which might have been my highlight of the evening. That bike is massive and is definitely bigger than the 50cc bikes I rode as a 16-year-old. I think I want one.

I tested my strength on one of the simulators and am pleased to announce that I wasn’t completely rubbish. I think I might have beaten Steve Rogers in an arm-wrestle before he joined the programme.

The files on each of the Avengers were really fascinating, even more so because as a fan you know this stuff and it was amusing to see the ‘official’ and objective take on the Avengers, their origins, power and abilities. Mostly it made me want to start watching all the films from the beginning again because I really need a reason to do so.

Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. London Heart-Shaped Herb

At the end of the hall was a section on intelligence gathered on Wakanda to date as well as real life samples of the heart-shaped herb (so pretty!) and the Black Panther’s helmet.

Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. London Thor's Armour

Emerging from our short visit to Wakanda was The Thor Observatory, dedicated to Thor Odinson, King of Asgard and son of Odin. I loved the sight of Thor’s armour as well as the life-sized image of Loki and was fascinated by the collision of science and fantasy in the discussion of the nine planets, wormholes and blackholes.

Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. London Mjolnir Simulator

There was a Mjölnir simulator where I tested by worthiness and was horrified to learn that I could not lift Thor’s hammer. I like to tell myself that we’re just keeping up appearances and that I’m not really mortal.

Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. London Hawkeye's Arrows

There was a section dedicated to Hawkeye, Black Widow, Ant Man, Wasp and Falcon up next. I would have spent more time admiring the section on Hawkeye if it weren’t for the gigantic spider-sized ants running across the floor. I happen to like ants and spiders but have a cockroach phobia and those ants were a little too graphic for me!

Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. London Dark Elf

Towards the end there was a whole room dedicated to nemeses with Dark Elves, Chitauri and Ultron artefacts, weapons and paraphernalia. I always did love the design of the Dark Elves.

Finally there was the Tesseract, which I could not help activating time and time again. In my defence, there was a panel clearing instructing people to touch their palm to it in order to activate it. I actually had to apologise to a very polite man because I think he’d been waiting for some time while I played.

So, do you need to be an Avengers fan to enjoy Marvel's Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.? It definitely helps and if you’re a fan of Marvel like me, then you’ll have a lot of fun. But it’s not essential; when I was waiting in line to enter, there were two people behind me, one of whom was not a fan and didn’t know much about Marvel. I met him on the way out and he had really enjoyed himself, so much so that I expect he’ll be spending his weekend catching up on Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel's Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. immersive attraction will run for a strictly limited time at ExCel London from 30 November 2018 to 31 March 2019. See the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. website for more details. Tickets are £25 for adults, £14 for children and the experience takes about 90 minutes to complete.


Monday, 29 October 2018

Coming soon: Marvel's Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. at ExCel London

Marvel's Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. London ExCel

Sometimes I feel like a complete kid with this site. I received a press release about Marvel's Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. which will land in London in November 2018, and it is the most exciting news in the world, ever!

Following a hugely successful run in New York, Seoul, Paris, Singapore, Beijing, Taipei and Las Vegas, where it has set up a permanent exhibition, the Marvel's Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. immersive attraction will run for a strictly limited time at ExCel London and bookings are now open for 30 November 2018 to 31 March 2019. See the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. website for more details.

I’ll be going along to a sneak preview on 29 November and will tell you all about it. In the meantime, read the release below to learn more about how to get your Marvel fix.

Marvel's Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.

This highly anticipated multi-room experience offers fans of all ages the opportunity to delve into the super-workings and backstory of each member of The Avengers as they train to become an agent of the S.T.A.T.I.O.N.

Marvel's Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. Captain America
S.T.A.T.I.O.N. is an acronym for Science Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network, where guests will step inside the popular films and become part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe storyline, whether trying to lift Thor’s hammer or taking a sneaky peak at Bruce Banners Lab.

As part of their training, fans will get the opportunity to interact with props and characters straight from the big screen.

Highlights include:

  • The Thor Observatory – dedicated to Thor Odinson, King of Asgard and son of Odin. Test your worthiness by attempting to lift Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir, view Thor’s outfits and study the universe and its current parameters using NASA’s EYE on the exoplanets program.
  • Check out Captain America’s personnel file and explore the cutting-edge science that made Steve Rogers into Captain America.
  • Iron Man Engineering Bay – trainee agents have the chance to not only get up close and personal with Iron Man’s iconic suits of armour but also experience what simulated flight inside the suit would be like.
  • Ever wondered what Bruce Banner’s Lab looks like? Explore the Bio Lab transformation of Dr Banners superior brain as he morphs into The Hulk.

In a world first, and keeping up with the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, London’s Marvel’s Avengers Station experience includes never before seen character displays on Black Panther, The Wasp, and Thanos.

The experience has provided a super-powered dose of science and technology by NASA to enhance the authenticity of the experience and pique visitors' interest in real-world science and technology. With comprehensive educational materials available for teachers, plus supporting materials created by Quantum Victoria, it is a thrilling learning experience for high school kids to follow STEM pathways by amplifying the scientific themes and characters that are core to Marvel’s storytelling.

Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. debuts a huge collection of Avengers movie-based props and interactive technology for a strictly limited time in London’s ExCel between November and March 2019.

© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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