Saturday, 23 December 2017

Strictly Come Dancing Grand Final 2017

So I know it's a week late but I think I'm only just coming down from the high and the buzz of the last night of Strictly and oh what a night it was. The four finalists came to the floor with the professionals in a pro dance to What A Feeling, and what a feeling it must be to be in the final four. Over the last 13 weeks, the 15 celebrities that started have been slowly whittled away, with some unexpected twists and turns, to leave just one man and three ladies to battle it out on the dancefloor,performing not one, not two but THREE dances each to prove to the general public they are worthy of lifting the Glitterball trophy at the end of the show. The judge's scores are for guidance only and it is ultimately the public vote which will decide the champion for 2017. Your finalists for this year are Alexandra Burke, Debbie McGee, Gemma Atkinson and Joe McFadden. Who will triumph?

So for their first dance of the evening, each celebrity will perform a dance chosen by the judges. It will be something they have already performed in the run-up to the final and it’s usually something that the judges will want to see an improvement in. It’s never usually something that was a bad performance but never anything that was close to perfect.

First up is Alexandra and the judges have chosen for her the American Smooth from Week 3. This was her Movie week dance to Wouldn’t It Be Loverly from My Fair Lady. She was praised back then for her ability to bring the character to the performance but the judges wanted to see how her footwork had improved. I remember liking the dance back in week 3 and it was just as ‘loverly’ the second time around. It was clean, precise and again she brought the character into the dance. A good start from Alexandra.

Next up was Debbie and the judges requested to see her Salsa again from week 8. The cheeky eye test start aside, I loved this routine and the one-armed lift was still just as spectacular and jaw-dropping as it was the first time around. I love how Debbie has so much trust in Giovanni and lets him throw her and spin her, trusting in both him and her own ability to produce some beautiful and daring lifts. Another strong start.

Our third performance came from Gemma and for her Judges Choice, they were dancing the Paso Doble, also from Week 4. I remember enjoying this dance the first time around and thinking it was the moment when Gemma first started to look like a dancer, that she was starting to show promise of making it to the final and now here she is. This time around, the performance was even better and it was much sharper and cleaner. Gemma was the outsider of the four coming into the final but this performance showed why she was here and could certainly hold her own with the other contestants.
Joe was last to perform the Judges Choice and they had opted for his Viennese Waltz from Movie week. A Dr Zhivago routine was a lovely dance the first time around, romantic and gentle and moving, showing the lovely chemistry between Joe and Katya. The second time was just as moving but you could clearly see how Joe has developed as a dancer and smoothed off any rough edges to make this a very polished performance.
After the first round of dances, it was difficult to say who was going to win this as no-one had made any glaring errors and yet no-one had produced a routine that was head and shoulders above the others. All evenly matched.

The second dance of the night was the Showdances. This is an opportunity for the pros to show off their skills as choreographers and highlight their partner's strengths. There are no set rules for the Showdances so there can be as many lifts as you like and most showdances tend to feature highlights from previous routines. I always look forward to these as a non-dancer I can judge them for sheer entertainment value rather than technical aspects.

The running order remains the same so first up is Alexandra. She is dancing to ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’. There were elements of Quickstep, Charleston and Argentine Tango in there, including the bit where she stands on Gorka's foot (intentionally). I loved this step in the routine, however, I didn’t love this Showdance. It seemed too choppy and skipping from one thing to another. I also felt Alexandra lost her concentration at times and didn’t seem too sure about her next move which was unlike her previous performances. Not a great dance for me.

Next, we have Debbie and she was dancing to ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’. Giovanni chose to utilise Debbie’s ballet background, yet include some highlights from her previous routines including a full split, rumba elements and the neck spin from Musicals week. It was a gorgeous routine, very graceful and elegant. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think it may just be my favourite showdance after watching it several times. Maybe joint top.

Third to dance again is Gemma. She was performing to ‘Show Me How You Burlesque’. This was a different Gemma from the previous weeks. She was sexy, sassy and confident. There were Quickstep, Jive and Charleston in the routine and I even thought I caught elements of Argentine Tango which Gemma never got to perform as a dance by itself. It was a good, energetic routine and really highlighted how far she’s come as a dancer, including featuring her solo at the start, something she would never have had the confidence to do at the start of the series. For me, this was better than Alexandra’s dance.

The last showdance was Joe and he was doing a fairytale routine to ‘You Make My Dreams’. Another solo performance at the start of the routine as Joe and Katya told the story of Cinderella in just two minutes. On the night, this was my favourite routine but as I said the more I watch Debbie’s the more it joins Joe at the top. I still love this, as I love Joe as a dancer and the whole fairytale element. There were great elements from Quickstep, Charleston and Salsa in there and the whole routine was brilliantly choreographed by Katya. My answer was yes too.

So for the final dances, the couples all get to pick their favourite routine from the previous shows to perform in one last attempt to claim that Strictly Champion title. I am proud to say I correctly predicted 3 of the 4 routines that the celebs would choose, the only one I didn’t get was Debbie.

First was Alexandra and she chose to revisit the Jive from week 4. It scored her a whopping 39/40 the first time around. This was actually one of my favourite routines from Alexandra, I felt she performed it magnificently and it truly deserved the 40 score she achieved tonight. Her flicks and kicks were sharp and precise and she threw everything she had into the routine. A truly amazing performance.

Debbie was next and they chose to perform the Argentine Tango again. I really liked this as well, although I thought they may have chosen their Tango. It was good to see this again and I love the chemistry between Debbie and Giovanni. This dance really shows this off to the max and again well worthy of the 40 score bestowed upon it.

Gemma was up next and as I predicted, they chose their American Smooth from Blackpool week. It was another dance I enjoyed and Gemma looked flawless with plenty of grace and sway, fabulous lifts and she really enjoyed herself in her last dance and looked relaxed and happy which helped her performance.

The final dance of the evening went to Joe and he had chosen his Charleston to perform again. This was one of my all-time favourite routines from the whole series. It was cheeky, plenty of swivel and content without being overly cheesy or simple. It was a fun routine and performed perfectly and a very fitting end to a very very too close to call final.

So we are then treated to a great performance by Ed Sheeran, accompanied by a lovely dance from Karen Clifton and Pasha Kovalev, although its a shame Karen isn’t dancing with Kevin due to personal issues in their relationship.

But now it’s time for the moment we have been waiting for since the beginning of the series those long thirteen weeks ago. It's time for the champion to be revealed and it is…….


So cheeky chappie Joe raises the Glitterball with his very talented partner Katya. A very worthy winner and he was my favourite ever since week 1 and his fabulous jive (if you don’t believe me, check out my week one post, it’s there in black and white). Commiserations to the three girls who put up a great fight and made it a very close final but huge congratulations to Joe McFadden and Katya Jones, Strictly Come Dancing Champions of 2017.

So I wonder who will be competing next year. I don’t know and we have a full 8 months to go until next September when the newest line up will be revealed. Whoever it is, I will be back to give you my thoughts and views of the class of 2018.

Until then everyone, keep dancing.

Strictly Come Dancing - Week 12 -The Semi Final

Hey everyone!  Sorry that this is such a late post and I will be posting two recaps together.  I first thought about doing a joint recap and highlighting the semi-finals at the beginning of the last post but for a few reasons, I felt the semi-finals deserved their own post, separate to the Grand Final.

So let us kick off with the dances.  This week each couple had to perform two different routines so twice the workload for them.  I listed at the end of the last post which dances the couples still hadn't performed and each couple had a lot of work to do. In the dance-off, however, the couples could choose which of the two routines they would dance again, obviously choosing their stronger routine.

So onto the performances.  First up was Joe and he was dancing the American Smooth.  This was a beautiful routine to 'Have You Met Miss Jones?' (very apt as Katya's surname is Jones, although she is a Mrs).  I thought this was amazing, extremely well performed and a really polished performance.  The lifts were lovely and the synchronisation was impeccable.

Next dancing was Alexandra and she was doing the Viennese Waltz.  Now I have made no apologies for my dislike of Alex. Whilst this dance was perfectly fine, it wasn't particularly memorable and I have seen her dance better. I also felt the costume and the dry ice and smoke helped disguise her feet a lot.  Not her best performance but not bad.

Third up was Mollie in what can only be described as a disaster.  The Samba is not Mollie's dance by any stretch of the imagination.  She was stiff, her hips were not moving and the Samba rolls were excruciatingly painful to watch.  I mean she did her best but at this late stage, it was never going to be in the same class as the others.

Next up was Gemma and as I predicted, she got the Rumba.  I felt she gave it a pretty good shot, she had lovely straight legs and it was better than many so far this series, although I felt she lost her upper body movement as she was concentrating on her legs so much.  A decent effort but again nothing overly special.

Last up was Debbie doing the Jive.  I had big expectations for this given Debbie's prior performances and given that this dance is Giovanni's speciality.  However it just failed to live up to my expectations and unfortunately, this wasn't anything special either.  It seemed a bit clunky and awkward and Debbie wasn't exceptionally light on her feet which is surprising from her.  Still, she seemed to enjoy the dance and she had fun with it, but I feel it was overmarked by the judges.

So after each couple had danced once the leaderboard was as follows

Alexandra & Gorka39
Joe & Katya35
Debbie & Giovanni34
Gemma & Alijaz30
Mollie & AJ24

So onto the second dance of the evening and the same running order applied.   Joe was dancing the Argentine Tango for his second routine.  I thought this was his weaker dance and he had some unfortunate balance issues, much like Davood did last week.  He stumbled occasionally but that last counter lever lift was sensational and they made it look so easy.

Alexandra's second dance of the night was the Salsa and she brought the dancefloor alive.  I might not like her but she can't half dance.  This showcased her talents and much like the Jive in week 4 really showed her ability.  I think this dance earned her a place in the final.

Mollie danced the Waltz for her second routine.  Whilst nothing could have been worse than her Samba, this dance was actually pretty good.  A couple of mistakes but definitely her better performance and she has such good chemistry with AJ and this dance showed it.  Whether they are a couple off the floor or not, this dance was a beautiful show of feeling and romance.

Gemma's second performance was a Tango.  It was clean and sharp and I love her fierce expressions.  Much like her Paso, I felt this was a strong performance, fierce Gemma is a strong Gemma and her hold was great.  Alijaz kept her in hold for much of the dance which helped it look a cleaner performance.

The final dance of the night went to Debbie and it was the Foxtrot.  This was so much better than the Jive.  It was elegant, graceful, refined.  it had the feel of a proper Hollywood style dance, she looked beautiful and comfortable with Giovanni and it was a shame that Gio chose to take them out of hold and get another telling off from Craig and his ten-second rule (did he not learn in week 3?)  Still it was a gorgeous routine and another who cemented her place in the final.

So after both dances, the leaderboard stands as such

Alexandra & Gorka394079
Joe & Katya353570
Debbie & Giovanni343670
Gemma & Alijaz303262
Mollie & AJ243256

So the Sunday night dance-off and no surprises really that it's Gemma and Alijaz vs Mollie and AJ.  Gemma chose to dance the Tango again and Mollie chose the Waltz, again no surprises there as these were the two stronger dances.  All four judges chose to save Gemma and therefore Mollie was eliminated and just misses the final.

So let me introduce you to our four finalists for 2017

Alexandra Burke and Gorka Marquez
Joe McFadden and Katya Jones
Debbie McGee and Giovanni Pernace
Gemma Atkinson and Alijaz Skorjanec

Bring on the final!

Until then, keep dancing

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

ARC #Review - The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson

The Wolves of Winter

Author: Tyrell Johnson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Published: January 2, 2018
Page count: 304
Genres: science fiction, speculative fiction, dystopian fiction, feminist fiction
Date read: November 3, 2017
Number of times read: 1
eARC kindly provided by NetGalley


Station Eleven meets The Hunger Games in this ruthless, captivating story of a young woman’s survival in the frozen wilderness of the Yukon after the rest of the world has collapsed.

As the old world dies, we all must choose to become predators. Or become prey.

The old world has been ravaged by war and disease, and as far as Lynn McBride is concerned, her family could be the last one left on earth. For seven years, the McBrides have eked out a meagre existence in the still, white wilderness of the Yukon. But this is not living. This is survival on the brink.

Into this fragile community walk new threats, including the enigmatic fugitive, Jax, who holds secrets about the past and, possibly, keys to a better future. And then there’s Immunity, the pre‑war organization that was supposed to save humankind from the flu. They’re still out there, enforcing order and conducting experiments—but is their work for the good of humankind or is something much more sinister at play? In the face of almost certain extinction, Lynn and her family must learn to hunt as a pack or die alone in the cold.

Breakout debut novelist Tyrell Johnson weaves a captivating tale of humanity stretched far beyond its breaking point, of family and the bonds of love forged when everything else is lost. Reminiscent of Station Eleven and The Hunger Games, this is a classic and enthralling post‑apocalyptic adventure and a celebration of the human spirit. -- via NetGalley


When I read the description I was expecting the usual trope-riddled YA dystopia that we've become used to with the likes of The Hunger Games, Divergent and their ilk. This is not that. And I couldn't be more pleased by that. I enjoy those YA series (well I have issues with the endings of both of the aforementioned series but that's another matter entirely), but I really like that Wolves of Winter was different. I've never read another dystopian novel quite like this one, and I have read my fair share of dystopian novels. In my experience, it's rare to find a non-romantic, female protagonist in the 18-35 age range, and Lynn, at 24 falls squarely in that range. As a 31-year-old, I find that really relatable and pleasing. Sure there was a small bit of romance but it was incidental to the point of being inconsequential, which is another refreshing change from the usual love triangle. This is set right after the collapse of civilization - and it's such a realistic and plausible collapse that you can totally see something like Johnson's scenario actually happening - which makes it somewhat terrifying in my opinion. I also really love that it's set in Canada, but you know, personal bias there.

So if you're looking for dystopian fiction without some of the usual tropes (don't get me wrong, it still has LOTS of the tropes), or you're interested in a new adult character instead of a young adult, or even if you just want to read more Canadian genre fiction (the author lives in BC) then I would say you should consider checking this book out. It was a really fun read and I can't wait to get a physical copy when it comes out.

I'm undecided on whether or not I hope it becomes a series. It ended openly enough to have at least one sequel, and it definitely has series potential. But I also think it just ended really nicely to act as a stand-alone leaving the reader hopeful that everything will work out for Lynn, Jax and the rest of the world.

If you're looking for a dystopian novel with a 20-something protagonist instead of a teenager, and you like post-apocalyptic survivor stories, this one is for you!

Overall Rating

5 bolts

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Calendar Girls - Dec 2017 - favourite book published in 2017 - #CalendarGirlsBooks

Calendar Girls is hosted by bloggers, Flavia the Bibliophile and Melanie Noell Bernard – both have amazing blogs full of fun, bookish posts. Calendar Girls is a brand new monthly blog event inspired by Neil Sedaka’s 1961 song Calendar Girl. Just like in the song, we decided to use a specific theme for each month and choose a book based on these themes! The event is meant to incite discussions with other bloggers about books we’ve read and loved, is meant to help bloggers meet other bloggers, and also for bloggers and readers to find out about blogs which they normally may not have come across! Want to know more? Click on the links above! And it’s not too late to jump on the Calendar Girl train! Join now!

Favourite Book Published in 2017

Well, it's the last Calendar Girls 2017, and personally, I think it's been a superb inaugural year for Melanie and Flavia! And I am looking forward to continuing in 2018. This is actually kind of a tricky category for me. I think I am unusual among book bloggers in that, I really don't read a lot of new releases. Between an always growing unread book collection at my house (about 250 at the moment), working in a library, and having easy access to audio and ebooks through my public library, I read a lot of "older" stuff. At the time of writing this, I have so far completed 142 books for the year, and of that, only 10 are books that were published in 2017. Two of those 10 are audible special editions of previously published books and 1 is a new English translation. The 10 books published in 2017 that I read are as follows:

  1. The Handmaid's Tale - by Margaret Atwood, Audible Exclusive edition narrated by Claire Danes published on April 4, 2017
  2. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander published on March 14, 2017
  3. A Darkness Absolute - by Kelley Armstrong, published February 7, 2017
  4. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - by Mackenzi Lee, published June 27, 2017
  5. The Love Interest - by Cale Dietrich, published May 16, 2017
  6. Meddling Kids - by Edgar Cantero, published July 11, 2017
  7. History of Bees - by Maja Lunde & Diane Oatley, published in English August 22, 2017
  8. Faith, Volume 3: Superstar by Jody Houser, published May 10, 2017
  9. Bring the Heat by G.A. Aiken, published August 15, 2017
  10. Mockingbird, Vol. 2: My Feminist Agenda by Chelsea Cain, published May 2, 2017

Now which one ended up being my favourite book published in 2017? Let's see:

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Strictly Come Dancing Week 11 - Quarter Finals and Musicals Week

Take your seats please ladies and gentleman, the curtain is about to rise on MUSICAL WEEK.  As I said last week, this is only just behind Movie Week in my enjoyment stakes.  It's probably because I enjoy the whole Musical genre and have seen a few in my time, as a young girl I used to go regularly with my parents and still kick myself that I chose not to go and see Les Mis, a show I have since come to love but never seen live.  I have however seen Phantom three times and would happily go again.  Anyhow, I digress so let's see how our remaining six couples fared this evening, treading the boards, the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowds.....wait hang on?  Never mind!

Our pros and celebs opened with an Oliver inspired routine with a very high pitched AJ (was that him singing or lip syncing, I can't tell), he was an adorable and perfect choice for Oliver but the dance was a big theatrical routine, perfect for setting the mood for the evening ahead.

First up tonight it's Hello Gemma, or is it Dolly? Who can tell? Well actually, it's Gemma and she was dancing the Quickstep with her partner Alijaz.  It was a great opening number to begin with, she had the fun and quirkiness of the Quickstep but you could tell she was tiring towards the end and her frame suffered.  Still, overall it wasn't a bad dance but compared with some of the others, she needs to be upping her game considerably to make it to the final.

Next, we had Mollie and AJ with their Grease inspired Rumba to 'Hopelessly Devoted'.  Not a traditional Rumba, which so far have all been sexy and sensual.  This was more of a sweet and innocent dance, in context with the song choice. However, they lost marks for yet another illegal lift.  This isn't Mollie's fault, it's the choreography at fault which is down to AJ. He did the same back in Week 2 when they did the Tango so he's already been told once this series.  At this late stage, the last thing the celebs need is to lose marks because of sloppy choreography from the so-called pros.

After Mollie was my favourite Joe and his partner Katya.  He was doing the Samba, another dance that has caused some problems this year.  His music choice (Money Money from Cabaret) also seemed destined for failure and not suited to a Samba, however thanks to some wonderful choreography from Katya this routine really worked.  Not only did it work, it worked really well and I'm still gunning for Joe to lift that Glitterball, it would make me so happy.

Next up were a couple of Cats, Debbie and Giovanni.  Dancing the American Smooth to 'Memory', it was beautiful, elegant, graceful and yet again some fantastic moves and lifts which would be tough on a 29-year-old dancer, never mind someone who is 59.  I don't care how much background dance training Ms McGee has had before, I would be happy to see her in the final.  She has a wonderful connection with Giovanni and this comes across in their dancing.  A deserved spot at the top of the leaderboard.

The Argentine Tango.  Phantom of the Opera.  Oh my, the mood is certainly dark for Davood and Nadiya to take to the floor, or should I say be lowered to the floor.  With flashbacks to Blackpool, Davood drops from the ceiling complete with a Phantom mask to be met by his Christine.  I liked the dance, I like the theme however Davood did seem to wobble quite a bit, especially when catching Nadiya.  He was the first male celeb to tackle the AT but I'm afraid he didn't really shine.  Like Gemma, although he isn't bad the standard is too high and the competition too fierce for mistakes to be made here.

Closing the show we have Alexandra and Gorka.   Now I love Mary Poppins, although I haven't seen the stage show which is probably why the song lyrics were not the ones I am used to.  it is Musicals week after all and not movies.  What really threw me though (apart from poor Gorka trying to pronounce Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and please don't ask me to type that again), no my real issue was Alexandra's outfit.  Whilst I understand that it would be impossible for her to dance a Charleston in a long skirt traditionally worn by Mary Poppins, therefore a short skirt I can accept.  However, could it not be a short skirt version of her iconic outfit? Gorka was spot on as Bert but if you showed me a photo of Alexandra and asked me to guess the role she was playing I would not have been able to tell you.  Also, the boots she wore made the dance seem clunky and heavy despite how technically accurate it was.  Not a dance for me but she clearly impressed the judges landing joint top of the leaderboard with Debbie.

So at the end of Saturday night, this is how we looked

Debbie & Giovanni39
Alexandra & Gorka39
Joe & Katya37
Mollie & AJ31
Gemma & Alijaz29
Davood & Nadiya29

So how will the public vote influence who makes it and who has to dance off?  Quite a lot it would seem.

Onto Sunday nights show and a flashy opening number from the Dreamgirls and pros and then onto the really good stuff, the voting.  No surprises in that first into the dance-off is Davood.  He was a the bottom and he did struggle.  However, proving she is not popular with the public, it's another dance-off for Alexandra.  To have gone from top to bottom means she must have had either the fewest public votes or almost the fewest.  I think we know where this dance-off is headed, much like last week.  Unless Alexandra face-plants the dance floor, it's obvious who the judges will save.  To give Davood the credit he deserves, he did dance better the second time around and corrected a few wobbles but it was no contest and four judges votes put Alexandra through to the semi-finals and Davood was sent home, with his head held high.

Next week sees the semi-final and the contestants will have to learn 2 dances each.  I've been looking at what each of them has outstanding (there will always be one dance they don't do).

Debbie - Jive, Foxtrot, Waltz (already know they are doing the Jive and Foxtrot, it was mentioned in the results show)
Alexandra - Viennese Waltz, Salsa, Foxtrot
Mollie - Waltz, Samba, Argentine Tango
Joe - Argentine Tango, Waltz, American Smooth
Gemma - Argentine Tango, Rumba, Tango

Looking at these, I think Gemma could be in trouble.  It's unlikely they will give her both the regular Tango AND the Argentine Tango which means she's doing the Rumba and we all know how hard that is.  For the semi-final, that is tough.  But we will see what next week brings us, there could still be one or two surprises left.  I can't believe there are only two more weeks of Strictly left, it's gone so fast.

Until next time my lovelies, keep dancing!

Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1