Monday, 29 February 2016

Book of February: Poison

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Book of the Month: February
Last Monday of Every Month

An oldie but a goodie!

​I first read Poison in high school, and I fell in love with it straightaway, but as I became older it got lost on my shelves and spent about ten years gathering dust. Then, this month, I picked it up again and decided to see if I still enjoyed it that much.

Short answer: yes, I did.

Poison tells the story of a young girl (named Poison), who leaves her home in the marshes to find her baby sister who has been taken by the Phaeries. It has elements of Labyrinth in that respect; that it focuses on a girl trying to save her younger sibling from a fantastical race, but there's no Magic Dancing David Bowie here. Instead, we get creepy scarecrows, bone witches, spider women, and a guy called Lamprey who literally has a circular suction mouth.

In short, it's deliciously dark.

Poison herself is my kind of heroine. She's snarky, stubborn, and determined. At first, I got a Wednesday Addams-esque vibe from her, with her long black hair and sullen attitude. But as the story progresses, she also develops to show a high level of ingenuity and perseverance that I remember really admiring as a teenager.

The story is layered nicely, with rich and textured characters that really help to bring this grim but beautiful world to life. It has the threads of a good adventure story, but with a gothic hint that walks a perfect line between bringing out the darkness and not frightening younger readers away. When I first read this book, I loved those kind of stories anyway; I devoured Darkside and The Saga of Darren Shan like there was no tomorrow. But this one unites that darkness with another true love of mine: fairies. And not the Tinkerbell kind. No, these ones are conniving and manipulative, with a real wicked edge. They are the fairies that you're supposed to be afraid of; to always be second-guessing.

But, all in all, the main thing I loved was the importance of stories - the fact that the entire world rests upon the idea of a pen always touching paper. That's not exactly a new concept (those storytelling monks from The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus just jumped to mind!), but here it places the emphasis on a slightly different direction, which is very fresh and innovative, and completely in keeping with the dark undertones. And the way it impacts on the ending... well, let's just say all similarities to Labyrinth stop there.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Getting Into Inside Out

My Thoughts on All Things in the Creative World
Every Wednesday

It's no secret that I love my cartoons. And, going deeper, that I am pretty obsessed with Disney. It's a massive part of my life and I've always loved the stories that challenged me to think about the world. So, even when I was younger, I always gravitated more towards the darker and more complex stories. As I grew older, I liked finding the relevance in them too - they were no longer just helping me see things in a different way, but also helping me to apply them to my own surroundings. And in recent years, I haven't found a cartoon which managed to do that as masterfully as Inside Out.

For anyone who hasn't seen it, the premise appears simple enough, like most cartoons do. It's about the little voices inside your head. Sounds cute. Good for kids. Adults might get a laugh out of it too. General family fare.

​I was blown away by how much of an understatement that was. Yes, it's cute and funny, but this movie is deep. As in standing-ovation deep.

Without giving too much away, it centres around an 11 year-old girl named Riley, who moves hundreds of miles to a new home. Needless to say, she has a tough time adapting. And inside her head, five key emotions: Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust and Sadness, work together to try and keep her in the best possible mental state. Or, rather, four of them do. Sadness, not being understood, is always forced out of the equation so there is no chance Riley can ever be upset.

​​And there's the deep genius of this film.

​Seeing this as an adult, I can really appreciate it. But I honestly feel that if this had come out when I was a kid, it would have seriously helped me. It can be so difficult to understand yourself as a child, especially if you go through any kind of trauma or upheaval. Even afterwards, if you suffer from any kind of mental illness, it can feel like something really abnormal is happening in your head - something cold and distant when explained scientifically. But Inside Out presents the mind with literal and colourful locations that can really pin down the spinning top of confusion that psychology can bring. And this film is based very closely on actual psychology models, in more ways than one.

Under the pressure of our lives, we can often forget to call out for help and let ourselves cry. But nowadays, there is not only recognition of the fact that feeling sad on occasion is healthy, but that it is accepted. How many people - children and adults, are terrified at being caught crying? Terrified at expressing their feelings, even if they aren't always happy?

I can see parents using these characters and their setting as a metaphor to help their children figure out their emotions and how to express themselves. I can even see children doing it by themselves, imagining their own personified emotions at the controls based on what they feel. I know I would have done that if this film had been released 15 years ago. And I know it would have made a lot of mental mess a lot easier to understand.

Inside Out is a very important film, not just for the younger generation, but for any generation. I'm really glad it's getting the recognition it deserves.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Dare to Shine - Cover Reveal and Trailer Launch


In August 2007, Sophie Lancaster was viciously attacked and later passed away from her horrendous injuries. The only reason she was targeted was because she looked different.

Now, authors from across the world have come together to present an anthology of stories inspired by the joy of individuality.  From science fiction and paranormal to fairy tale reimaginings, fall into a celebration of life and difference, all to benefit ​The Sophie Lancaster Foundation.