Sian Thomas

I'm Sian, an aspiring writer and an avid (if not constant) reader. Literature is borderline my lifeline, and it is something I love to pursue in any way, shape, or form, including reviews! So here I am.

Review Lore, a podcast, Aaron Mahnke by Sian Thomas

5 Stars5 / 5

 

History is definitely intriguing to me. I already love stories, and there’s no loss when they’re true stories. However, I am far less interested in history discovered through school. Since, in all honesty, exams suck the life and the fun out of almost anything. This podcast was a way for me to experience history in a newer, and definitely more exciting way. This podcast would be great for people who are casually interested in history, or a good spooky/spiritual story.

Initially, I discovered it through a separate podcast I listen to, Welcome to Nightvale. In this podcast, one of the creators discusses some information about merchandise and tours before the episode begins. He mentioned a new movement called “Trypod” – a play on “tripod” to try, well, podcasts. And I decided to take this offer up! Here’s how I’m here now. I Googled podcasts. I found Lore. I listened to it, and I loved it.

http://www.lorepodcast.com/about/

Lore was undoubtedly a refreshing listen. I was overwhelmed by the amount of stories, folklore, tales, and mystery that were open to me. I was able to learn and enjoy countless dots of history scattered through the globe with a multitude of spooky, almost scary stories, that were true.

I’ve wanted to experience scary stories for a while now. I’ve really wanted a book to unsettle my stomach and plague my imagination with fear-enduring figures. I wanted, in all honesty, to experience and good and honest horror. I never found it in books. Which, I admit, I’m quite astounded that I have yet to find this in books, because I do consider myself a person extremely susceptible to an over-active imagination after a scary story. I’m astounded that horror, any kind from any book I’ve read, didn’t would do what I thought it is all set out to: scare me.
I thought books would work, but in their place, this podcast did. There were episodes that affected me particularly. The one about the Jersey Devil stuck with me. As did one that described in unsettling and inescapable detail the ins-and-outs of lobotomy. The detail was striking, and because there was nothing else my imagination could cling on to in a way of distracting me and minimising my fears, I was stuck in the scare that I’d wanted to feel all along. Which was amazing, which was exactly what I wanted – but it was as well, of course, scary as anything.

Lore was incredibly quick and easy! As an A-Level student most of my time is focused on school work, and I have less and less time for leisure as my exams creep up on me. So, a podcast with reasonable-length episodes was like some kind of blessing. They weren’t too long, or too short. And they were great to listen to after I got home, in that short and sweet period of time with no stress; between changing into my pyjamas , having a snack, and before actually sitting down to study. Lore is great for busy people.

I’ve learned through this podcast that all the great tales have the most infuriating and unsatisfactory endings – like all good unsolved things, I suppose, but in a way that is still loads of fun.

The narration is great. It isn’t rushed, and neither is it too slow. Similarly, the music flows perfectly in time with the words and the story.

I give it 5 stars – definitely don’t miss out on this gem of entertainment.

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    Review The Red Shoes, Matthew Bourne Company by Sian Thomas

    4 Stars4 / 5

     

    I don’t know very much about ballet. In fact, this was my first time ever seeing one. I was completely swept away by the beauty and the elegance of it.

    I did manage to follow the story. Although at first I was definitely a little lost. I did pick up the conflict between choosing passion or choosing love, and the eventual consequences that come to light as a result of the character’s decisions.

    The dancing was gorgeous. Every single person on stage managed to look beyond elegant, and way beyond beautiful. The music alongside was amazing to see. Everything was so in sync and perfectly aligned, like the cat wasn’t well-practiced, but more like dancing to it was intrinsically within them and not something they had to even think twice about. Like I said, I don’t know very much about ballet. My eyes aren’t critical to the specifics of the dances, but I was unaware of mistakes and critiques in a borderline blissful way. I enjoyed something pretty and stunning. And I really, really liked it.

    The setting was cunning, and extremely clever. There were things I didn’t expect to be used at all – like shadows, or smoke, the front of a train, audio of clapping – which I did mistake for the audience – and so forth. The ideas behind the production seemed big and well-thought out. Something daring but equally safe.

     

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      Review Beauty and the Beast by Sian Thomas

      4 Stars4 / 5

      Like everyone else,  I have my favourite Disney movie and my favourite Disney princess. Beauty and the Beast has never really been one of my favourite tales. Something about the story always seemed to spook me, in a way that made me wary or apprehensive. Also, I was never as bookish as I am now, and I suppose I couldn’t relate to Belle in the way I can, now.

      I want to start by saying that the film was visually stunning. It was, in all honesty, gorgeous. This includes the CGI, the minute details, the outfits. Everything. There was so much detail and so much effort put into the intricacy of the entire film that I was blown away entirely. I was in awe, so much so there were times throughout the film I felt that I’d left behind my cinema seat and been somewhere else entirely, somewhere within the story itself.

      The story was the same, obviously. Though, there were newer elements added in to account for some of the plot-holes in the animated movie. I think the last time I watch Beauty and the Beast was at least three years ago. I remember that I did like it, I never completely disliked it, but I always had my disdain about the tale. This time around however, I was completely engrossed, and I liked it much more than I remembered ever feeling so before.

      The songs were incredible. I don’t have much else to say about them, because in all honestly I just really and truly loved them.

      I had already heard a lot about the film including a gay character. Which it did, and I was definitely glad about it. It was a lot more subtle than I had expected, though. And I had thought that the gigantic franchise that is Disney would, for sure, go a little bigger with it. I wasn’t let down, per se, I very much loved that it was included. And subtlety isn’t technically something bad, either. I had just definitely assumed that it would have been bigger. It didn’t meet my expectations, but was still great and wonderful to see on the big screen.

      The movie was grand, with some parts that were truly tragic and some completely exuberant. I give it 4 stars.

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        Review The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini by Sian Thomas

         

        5 Stars5 / 5

         

        I  recently read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and I don’t know if I have the words to describe my reaction to it.

        Five stars, first of all, let’s start there. I don’t think I want anyone I’m close to missing out on such an outstanding and completely mesmerising book like this one. I’ve read so many books lately, and all of them have been good, but I think they have been good in their own right. However, none of them (at least, none of the recent ones I’ve read) have been quite as enthralling as this.

        I don’t want to go too far into the plot (I don’t think, for one, I could do it justice as it was incredibly intertwined and intricate), however I do want to say that it’s probably the saddest and most bittersweet plots I’ve ever had the utmost pleasure to experience. Two boys in Afghanistan, their lives and endeavours and trials and tribulations to come – everything life throws at them. It was truly tragic, with sprinkling happiness and and overall wonderful redemption.
        Sad stories are the best ones, I think. But I never expected this tale to be so true of that statement and also, somehow, change it. Sad stories are the best stories. I’ve learnt about the concept of catharsis at school and I think I really, truly, felt it. So maybe sad stories are the best ones, but maybe the sadness should be in moderation for me (it was really, honest and truly, the most heart wrenching and devastating yet amazing books I’ve ever read).

        One of the things I’ve noticed after reading this was how sure I usually am that, as a reader, I am going to receive my happy ending. This book changed that. Situation after situation that tugged my heartstrings and made me tearful made me less and less sure of myself. I’ve felt the normal, almost-rush of fear when you notice a book has a lot to complete yet so little pages to do it in. And I had that with this book. Yet, with every other book I’ve read I haven’t truly felt afraid that things wouldn’t work out. I always knew they would, because they always do. I didn’t have this with this book.
        I was unsure. A good kind of unsure. An exciting and all-encompassing unsure that left me not knowing if there could possibly be a happy ending coming my way after the turmoil the main character (Amir) had gone through, as well as the turmoil all the other characters had gone through, as well. There was one, single chapter left, and I did not know whether, within about the forty minutes it would take me to read it, I would be grinning or crying. Eventually, it was both, and I’m quite happy with that.

        As I said, it was an extremely bittersweet book, with the excellent kind of plot execution that always draws you in for the entire time (and then some – I’ve only just finished it and it’s still the only thing on my mind). It had the kind of writing that was honestly beautiful, full of lovely description and meaningful dialogue and fantastic general, actual, real storytelling which struck a cord somewhere within me and really made my heart feel for it(/the characters).

        I bought it to expand my horizons, to diversify my bookshelf. And I’m so glad I did. I went in borderline completely blind, and I came out the other side a little different to how I went in. I’ve been given a history lesson, a gratitude lesson, and probably also a lesson on writing (which I hope to carry into the future).

        I feel as if, through reading this book, the kind of problems I have faced or am expecting to face have been minimised and put a little into place. Which doesn’t erase them, but does make me feel a lot more at ease with my life tonight than it did when I woke up in the morning. And I like that. I’m happy I got that. It was unexpected and nice, almost like an extra gift from the author as well as a phenomenal experience.

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          Review The Girl From Venice, Martin Cruz Smith by Sian Thomas

          3 Stars3 / 5

          In the past, I’ve always been quite wary of wartime fiction, or general historical fiction. It was never something I particularly enjoyed, as I wasn’t big on history, or war, or reading about either.

          Since then, however, I have slowly brought myself away from this view. This is where The Girl From Venice comes in. Though not my first experience of historical or war fiction, it was still one I wholeheartedly enjoyed. Set towards the end of World War Two, the main character, Innocenzo (Cenzo) Vianello works as a fisherman in Pellestrina where he finds (what he thinks is) the drowned corpse of a lady. Wanting to do the right thing, he tries to take her where she can be identified. On the way he is intercepted, and by the time he is allowed back on his own boat, she’s hiding on the boat eating his food.

          The story follows their interactions, eventual separation and search to find one another again. Also exploring other factors in between, such as familial complications, political endeavours, the conclusion of the war, its impact, and love.

          I’ve only read one other book set in Italy, and that’s The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. That book stood as my all-time favourite for a very long time, and remains as such. The writing and scenery helped it gain this title. So, setting in Italy has always appealed to me. I love that the writing style in The Girl In Venice goes perfectly with it. Especially with this story. What with being a fisherman, Cenzo spends a lot of time in the water. The description of it (among the other places the story was set, as the characters did travel) saw that I got my fair share of gorgeous writing that made me feel so involved in a scene and so hooked into the story. If anything, it was probably my favourite aspect. It was an inspirational style, and one that drew me in until the very end.

          The book was very good. My interest in historical fiction and war time fiction seems to be developing nicely, and I’m glad I read this book and it helped me to see as such.

           

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            Review 300 Things I Hope, Iain S Thomas by Sian Thomas

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            5 Stars5 / 5

             

            Iain Thomas has, for a long time, been one of my absolute favourite authors. This title of favourite has not wavered since I read I Wrote This For You: Just The Words some few years ago, and continues to stand strong as his other works, such as this, find a place in my hands and a home on my shelf. I come short of saying I adore him, his writing, his books, his style. All of it has meant a lot to me, and this has not fluctuated – ever.

            300 Things I Hope is, at the title suggests, 300 things that he hopes. For you, me – for us – the readers. They are simple sentences, little lines, all of them hopes I do not doubt are wholeheartedly sincere and stretch all the way from the author straight to me, here. A part of it I can’t deny is a little odd. To be talked to through pages like this, indirect and directly, not in a way that’s exactly poetry or a story or an article. I know there are more people than only me that these words are going to be reaching, but it always feels like they were written just for me to read and love (which I do).

            I like words. There’s the brunt of it. I love words, and I love writing, and I love reading. I love finding work that somehow manages to shake up my thoughts and make me remember this so clearly. I put post-it notes on my favourite pages, because they did just that. For example, number 84, “I hope love moves through your heart like light moves through glass” because is that not a gorgeous sight to see? The glass on my front door reflects rainbow coloured sunlight on to my floor, and the idea that it could equate to love was such beautiful imagery that in went the post-it note because I felt changed, because I felt reminded of words and what they can do. They did this, after all.
            Or, number 101, “I hope that any noise you hear in the night is only someone you love coming home” because I have a lot of fears about things like this, and I was soothed.
            Or, number 144, “I hope that if something bad happens to you, that the world suddenly starts turning backwards and it unhappens to you” because a word that isn’t a word is used but it makes sense, and I liked that.
            Or 161, “I hope you find something unexplainable on the side of the road, like it was left there just for you” because I liked the idea of writing something that could stem from this idea myself, in all honesty.
            Or 211, 212, and 213: “I hope you write a message, put it in a bottle and throw it into the sea”, “I hope it’s a secret, and that someone, somewhere, knows it.”, “I hope you are someone’s secret and that somewhere in the ocean, there’s a bottle with your name in it”, because this also sounded like something lovely to write, and they way I imagined that glimpse into a story from a simple three phrases was so captivating that I didn’t want to let it go. Also, I think everyone quietly romanticised the idea of putting a message in a bottle and hoping someone, somewhere, picked it up. I did, even though I’ve never done it (though I have found one, once – it was, I assumed, a child’s drawing of a house. There was a lot of blue.) – but after the little helpful push from these three hopes, could I not do it through words? I could, I think, and I would like to.

            I’m trying to say that I love words. I love this book. I love this author. Not many other words or books or authors have pinched my mind and stolen my interest and held it, inspiring me to do something of my very own, and never letting me forget the spark in me at words strung together in a way that makes me so immeasurably happy.

            Five stars, because I have a lot of love to give, because this deserves every piece of it I am able to give.

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              Review How They Met And Other Stories, David Levithan by Sian Thomas

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              3 Stars3 / 5

               

              This book was a collection of short stories about love. Plain and simple.

              I like reading about love which is why this book caught my eye a good while back, and gained itself a solid slot on my Christmas list.

              I managed to finish the whole book in just a few short hours. I was utterly lost in numerous glances into numerous worlds of act, love, consequence, and situation, each of them varying and bringing me new stories, new characters, new plots that I loved.

              I was expecting your usual love stories, in total honesty. And I enjoy those, and I definitely did get some (people who meet on an plane, for example. Or the classic high school era of classes or prom). I didn’t, however, expect that the majority of the stories would be LGBT-centric stories. And I was pleasantly surprised! I said once or twice or five hundred thousand times in my life that LGBT representation (among various other types of representation) is important and still stand firmly by this view. So to be so swept up by such a surprise was such a lovely way to spend Christmas Day, for me.

              I also didn’t expect the drawing of my own inspiration for writing. I’ve heard or read or seen enough couples meet on a plane or one partner chase through the airport for the next five of my lifetimes, and I thought at least I take the inspiration from the idea of travel as an act of meeting which changed lives or an act of leaving which also changed lives. Maybe change the method of transportation. I’ve seen one separation by travel be done by boat, and I am fond of description, so I don’t doubt I could do my own but set in the docks. Or a train station. Who knows. But I’m glad I read the book through and through and found something to guide me to this idea.

              It was something fun to read. Before this I’ve lately been having to read far more serious books (e.g. The Colour Purple) so it was a nice breath of fresh air to step back into my comfort zone of cushy love and cheesy YA. I can’t lie, I like those kinds of stories. So to read them, and so many of them in one single book, I was delighted.

              This is a book, one of very few, where I’ve stuck little post-it notes at the start of the stories I liked the best. These three were, “Starbucks Boy”,  “Princes”, and, “Breaking And Entering”. Starbucks Boy because I love a good coffee shop story. There are certain plot points or story clichés I think everyone quietly adores. This is one of mine.
              Princes because it was the sweetest story, I think, out of them all. A younger brother approaching his Bar Mitzvah fights against their parents in order for them to let his older brother, our main character, bring along his boyfriend. Which was, like I said, sweet. And funny – granted the context of the story. Finally, Breaking And Entering because I absolutely love a spot of angst amongst all the blossoming love stories.

              It was undoubtedly a good read, and one I’m glad has reintroduced me to books after so long a break because of school and the like.

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                Review Wolfsong TJ Klune by Sian Thomas

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                5 Stars5 / 5

                I recently read Wolfsong by TJ Klune. Even now, as I begin writing, I can only hope I have the best words to convey my astonishment and amazement at how spectacular this book truly was. I don’t even know where to begin.

                Maybe I do. After a little thinking. I’ve read a handful of books that have touched my heart so deeply. I love reading because I love stories. Even if I find them not the most enjoyable, even if they had a lacklustre ending, even if I did enjoy them, but probably only once, the few books I’ve read that have whisked my heart away are something else entirely. They are always so full of emotion and immeasurable intensity. This book was that. This book was that, and more. So, so much more.

                I’ve read a handful of books that touched my heart deeply, yes. But there’s only one other book I’ve read that I’ve had to resist reading all at once. Or resist reading it because there was unimaginable emotion flowing straight from the words straight into my mind and heart and soul. Even this book succeeded that. While I read both with enforced breaks (maybe for my own good, I fear my heart may have pounded out of my chest) when I wasn’t reading this one, it was just quietly (sometimes loudly) on my mind. I wondered where the next chapter could possibly take me, I wondered how it could possibly end, and I was more than happy – ecstatic – to get my answers.

                Every time I let myself crack open this book and carry on, I felt like I was somewhere else entirely. Everything about it just felt so real, all the relationships and emotions and turmoil and actions, they all felt so real. And while I like fantasy-esque novels a whole lot (they seem to have the best stories for me), and this was one, and it was way out there because it was about werewolves (which I did realise by the title and the cover but for some reason it seemed to float away from me, though I caught it when there was talk of family nights and smells and a lot of talk about the moon. Oh boy, did it hit me then. I waited for the main character, Ox, to get hit with that twist with eager anticipation) it was new and enticing and everything inside just felt so predominant and so real.

                I think it’s something I find in a lot of books that are shelved and never really reread – that they never felt quite real. Usually, they are all story. Which is nice, too, but in a different way, I think. But with this book, with Wolfsong, there was the story and then feelings were also the story. I loved that. I loved that so much it made my heart ache because I want to write and that’s what I wish I can someday have the ability to write. Something like this, where the feelings are such a gigantic part of everything – because, isn’t that how things are? In day to day life? You do things depending on how you feel, right? It’s why the kind of books that I don’t reread, that are all story, stay that way – they’re usually dutiful. Having to do something because it’s them, they are the main character, it’s their duty. They didn’t have a choice.

                Wolfsong reiterates that you do. You have a choice. The main character, Ox, he has a choice. He picks what he does because of how he feels. I loved that so much. So much. This was a book that I was raring to read to know what happens next, who will do what next, what’s coming over the page, but this was also a book that I wanted to stop and slow down and cherish every second and just – revel in it.

                And what makes it better – it had leagues of LGBT representation. Love, just anywhere. Everywhere. No fear, no worries. Ox openly stated he was bisexual. In other pieces of entertainment I’ve experienced with bisexual characters, they never seem to say it. Maybe I’m looking at the wrong pieces of entertainment, or maybe writers just don’t want to do it, but to finally see it done was so refreshing – it was like I hadn’t stepped outside for years and suddenly I was racing around the streets or the woods or just anywhere. Air, everywhere. Like I could breathe easy by just keeping on reading. Green relief, like it says in the story. I think it was that. Green relief in the fact that neither of the characters in the main LGBT relationship died, either! I was a little worried, I do admit. I know that with the life-or-death situations all throughout the book it could have happened, and I really did believe one of the two were going to be killed off, and that it would have fallen into the Bury Your Gays trope (where one person who is LGBT dies, usually needlessly, usually after finding a partner) and I have never felt astounding relief and been so glad when it didn’t happen. I was invested. In the story, in the main relationship, and I was afraid that it was going to happen. And then, it didn’t. It didn’t happen, and I felt such amazing relief and thankfulness. Again, like it was all a breath of fresh air.

                The writing itself was extraordinary. It was dialogue and emotion and plot, and it seemed to be more, somehow. I suppose I could describe it as being written jaggedly? Either way, it fit perfectly. With the character, Ox, and the others. It fit with the story and how it unfolded. It fit with me, how it was jagged. I understood. I understand.

                There were scenes that amazingly hilarious, too. Jokes, or just how they seemed to play out. Things that were funny because of who said or did what and the reaction. I loved it. While it seemed serious and like important things were always happening, there was always room reserved for humour.

                There were so many characters. There were so many people to give your love to in the story, there were so many people to root for and fear for, to hope for and to just plain admire. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

                I don’t want to give anything away, I really don’t. I went in wholeheartedly blind and I came out the other side in awe. I think that’s how it should be for anyone else.

                I give it five stars. It is probably the best thing I’ve read all year.

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                  Review Disneys Peter Pan at the Everyman Festival by Sian Thomas

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                  4 Stars4 / 5

                  From the get go, I was excited. I’ve always liked Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, even though I tucked it away and kept it as something for myself to watch quietly on home alone days. This was strikingly different to that, and a million times more fun!

                  The entire thing was a wholeheartedly adorable. The whole production was truly genuine, full of love and sparks of magic all which light up the audience. Particularly the costumes. Each had a childlike charm to them, and were equally beautiful, hopefully making them more valued and appreciated by the younger people of the audience.

                  The actors were phenomenal. I could see the dedication within each actor and how seriously they took what they were doing. I could tell how much they wanted every member of the audience – children and young people and adults alike – to fully enjoy themselves. I could see the hard work and commitment under the surface of a perfect performance all paying off.

                  The actors themselves (and I hope beyond hope that I’ve got their names right from where I’ve found them, if not, please forgive me) Emily March, (who plays Peter Pan), Meg Jones, (who plays Tinkerbell), and Cadi Mullane (who plays Wendy) were all honestly fantastic in their roles. Their confidence and charm were all mesmerising.

                  I always have a weakness for watching characters I’m not supposed to during talking scenes, and this production was no exception. Each person I watched was fully diligent to their role, always focused and dedicated to an enthralling performance.

                  To be particular, firstly, I think Emily March’s performance as Peter Pan was stunning. The confidence and the sheer brilliance stemming from her words and flowing through to the audience was quite the experience. The lines were delivered with the loveable boyish charm Peter Pan has coupled with clarity. I struggle to convey my wholehearted astonishment I felt. It was incredible. Similarly, both Meg Jones (Tinkerbell) and Cadi Mullane (Wendy) provoked the same emotion. Meg Jones’ performance fluctuating between speaking to the audience or speaking in ‘bells’ was well done and enjoyable. Her acting altogether was delightful. Lastly, Cadi Mullane’s acting was just as exquisite and fun, full of love and joy.

                  One thing that was truly incredible was the singing. All of it was honestly dazzling. Coupled with dancing which was amazing by itself and true talent, I was left very, very impressed. The day was a fun day out, and something I’d recommend to families and friends alike if today hadn’t been the last showings. If it ever returns, I will hope for the chance to see it.

                  All in all, I give it four stars, as it was a truly wonderful production which I wholeheartedly enjoyed and would gladly see again.

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                    Review Devine Intervention Martha Brockenbrough by Sian Thomas

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                    There are a number of ways to describe Devine Intervention by Martha Brockenbrough. I think odd is good, and hilarious, and different! Different is a great one. It’s not every day your female protagonist becomes a dog, which is, I suppose, the simplest (and best) way to explain the situation.

                    It’s wonderfully intertwined (and thinking about it, The Game Of Love And Death by the same author was also wonderfully intertwined. Maybe it’s a theme? Either way, it’s something I adore). The writing is fun, deep, relatable, meaningful. The writing alone is an abundance of amazing things.

                    The story was a thrill to experience, while also dually being funny and even a little sad (maybe bittersweet, too, is a good word to describe it). Towards the end of the book (spoilers!) we see our first main character, Jerome, be reborn after his trials and tribulations of protecting our other main character, Heidi (the girl who kind of turned into a dog). I’ve always loved the idea of reincarnation/being reborn as a story idea, and this played perfectly into my open, excited hands.

                    This is, hands down, a great book, with a riveting story, fantastic characters, and amazing jokes. I loved every line.

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