Tag Archives: Sian Thomas

Review Cardiff Fringe Theatre Cafe by Sian Thomas

I went to a handful of Fringe events last year, and I was very efficiently swept up into that kind of theatre world. The Fringe Cafes, as well as the majority of the Fringe festival events themselves, have a very specific kind of feeling to them. One that I firstly associate with summer, since that’s when the festival really kicks off, and another that’s associated with quiet fun.
Not too jam-packed, and neither too empty that it could be kind of awkward, last night’s Fringe Cafe managed to achieve a really good balance and really open a door to a good night in a room full of people who were minded like me; who love theatre and jokes and that same quiet fun.

The night consisted of two acts and a quiz. The acts were good; performed well and low-key, the kind where there was no shame in flubbed words or coughs and honestly, I really liked that. It ties back into the vibe of the festival; it’s safe, and there’s a supportive feeling all throughout it. I was more partial to the second act, though. Both were monologues, but I did have more fun listening to the second. Something about it was a little more accessible; the trials of dating and trying to have a good time except you don’t have any money. I enjoyed it!

Admittedly, the quiz was my favourite. It made me the right kind of nervous when answers were being called out, and the right kind of excited when prizes came into the picture. It was fun to take a break; to enjoy the time with who I went with and be posed questions I definitely did not know the answer to at all, and ended up guessing (we still won a prize though, which was nice!).
I had a really great night; I enjoyed myself a lot and I was so glad I went to experience this last Fringe Cafe before the festival really kicks off!

I’m so sincerely looking forward to the rest of the events I can attend. I had an astounding time last year and I’m already sure I’ll have a brilliant time this year, too. This festival very quickly became very meaningful to me, and based on last night, I’m sure that’ll stay the same for this year.

I’m particularly excited for the open mic night at Deli Rouge on June 10th. I went to this event last summer and had such a wonderful time and it was there that my confidence had a huge boost. I’m very indulgently hoping that the same will happen this year, and I’m looking forward to hear the kinds of things people have written this year, to see if improvements make themselves known to my ears.

I’m happy the festival is back. I really am. Please, go to it. Enjoy yourselves as much as I have and as much as I am sure that I will.
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Sian Thomas

 

Review: Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella by Sian Thomas

 

(5 / 5)

Last March I was lucky enough to have a relative key me into ballet. I saw Matthew Bourne’s “The Red Shoes”, and when I was invited to see his take on Cinderella, I already knew I was bound to have a wonderful time – and I did. Though The Red Shoes will always harbour a soft spot in my heart because it was my first ballet, I think it’s safe to say I liked this one much more. First of all, as a novice, I think it’s pretty important that this time, I knew what was going on. The story of Cinderella does not escape me even as it harbours a few changes (like being set in London 1940 and having a war theme, and Cinderella’s family being bigger than I remembered).

Costumes were incredible, and I think by “costumes” I mean “Cinderella’s dress”, because if we’re being honest, I was excited to see what it would look like as an audience member, rather than in pictures and pamphlet photos. And it was stunning; truly. Even her costume before the dance was lovely. I’m always a fan of flowing skirts and dresses, so seeing the way they moved as people danced was such a treat to my eyes. So, in that vein, the dancing was incredible. Still, a year later I don’t know much (or anything) about ballet or dancing in general and my eyes continue to be unaware of mistakes and unable to form any critiques (not that I have any at all, actually).

When I left The Red Shoes, I remember I came out on a high, as if I could suddenly redirect my life even though it was 10pm and I would be going home to bed afterwards. The same high followed me out of the theatre after Cinderella. An odd kind of high, one that left me sitting quietly and thinking and reflecting and just trying to figure out what words I would use to really show how much I loved this performance. I couldn’t find many. It’s definitely a “you have to see it to understand” kind of thing (which is why I’m going a step further to place some links here: in case anyone becomes interested in going).

Five stars because it really was wonderful and I’d love to see it again and I know I would enjoy it just as thoroughly every single time.

Review: The Witches of New York by Ami McKay by Sian Thomas

I’ve recently finished The Witches of New York by Ami McKay. For quite some time, the book was the base of my “Big Pile of Books I Need to Read” – purely because it was the largest one. I thought it intimidating at first – I hadn’t expected it to be the size that it was. However, by the time I reached the end, I found myself wishing that it was longer. The book has potential, I do believe, but I’ll get to that later.

For a while now, stories with a strong aesthetic have appealed to me more than stories with some unfathomably-mind-blowing plot twist that I never asked to be on the other end of. This book, this style of writing, was right up my alley that it and I more or less lived in the same block of flats. It was so gorgeous – all this talk about a tea shop, girls, style, soft magic, attraction (straight and gay). Even the way littler things would be described; colour, cups, plants, glass, feathers on a bird, silk of a dress, the appearance of ghosts. All of it just seemed to constantly scream out for me, and it was what I enjoyed about the book the most. I have things that agree with me, the things I find pretty or such, and this book just seemed full of them. I love the way a tea shop exists; quiet and usually more than meets the eye (as was the case here). I love little glass bottles filled with things like glitter or seeds (as was, also, the case). I love small keys, things kept on a chain because of how important they are, I love different blends of teas that all, above having their own flavour, seem to also have their own meanings. There just seemed to be so much care and effort put into every little detail with this book, and I really loved that.

The characters and the story both I’ve decided not to go into very much. The characters, Eleanor, Adelaide, and Beatrice, were all intrinsic, individualistic, and all in all, just quite lovable. I’d rather people went into the unravelling of both them and the plot blind, but I will say: I did enjoy it; the story was gripping and the characters were lovely. It touched on a lot of things I like (amongst the already incredible scenery and the like) and I relate to: the subtle fear of pushy men that every girl seems to know and knows how to combat, the camaraderie of women. While intriguing, it wasn’t too fast. It really was enjoyable. I think a lot of people all sorts of ages would enjoy this book.

Back to potential: the book has it. Ending happily, but with just enough of a nudge in some characters direction, I feel like I did certainly have closure, but just a tiny smidgen of it was withheld. I suppose I may have become fond of stories with a neat little bow wrapped around them and then encased behind glass for the rest of time. That’s on me, I do think, but you’d catch me picking up a copy of any book that would follow at the heels of this one, that’s for sure.

Review: Gaslight by Eloise Williams by Sian Thomas

I read Gaslight by Eloise Williams recently. What pulled me to it was definitely the setting – I love a story set somewhere I was born, somewhere I continue to be (and probably will remain – I’m certainly happy for that to be the case). Cardiff has a history, it has looked so many different ways, been so many different things (which can continue to be true as we all trudge through time together). I really did enjoy experiencing it in the Victorian Era. Something about knowing my home completely differently while I also have the pleasure of following a story was lovely.

This may be a peculiar thing to lead off with, but I really liked the line under the title on the cover of the book: “Have you seen her?”. Sometimes words strike a chord with me; this did. I like the mood this seems to create from the very get-go. The book does have quite the atmospheric feel to it. From cover to cover, there’s something enchanting about the intricacies of the character and the setting she resides in. “Have you seen her?” makes me feel as if I should be looking; as if hints of the character (Nansi) or other characters or even of this version of Cardiff’s past are still all over the place, waiting for the kind of attention only I can give them, because I’m already where they were. Something about that, that co-existence, is pleasing.

The story itself I don’t want to spoil, but the allure of a theatre story (definitely with some other things thrown in) in this era was a good combination. It was nice to imagine, and it was just as nice to be led into imagining it and down the path of the story. There was a moment I liked in particular; Nansi steals a piece of sea glass for a show, and during the show that piece of sea glass is used to really sell an act. The way the audience’s rapture is described, and the way the ploy plays out and the anxiety and nerves of Nansi’s surrounding it, was always a scene that had me hooked because of how easy it was to get lost in it, to become enraptured myself.

I think the book is good for a lot of ages. I enjoyed it, and I’m sure that relatives my age or younger (or older!) would, too. There is something about a young person’s endeavours (in this case, Nansi discovering the truth of her mother’s disappearance and her family in general) and watching them grow from their starting point of “clueless” to a stronger character with an ending to be proud of. It’s nice in a sense, to watch someone grow like this. To watch a character stand up for people who can’t, to stand up against people she hadn’t dreamt of standing up to before. I am immensely pleased to hear that Gaslight won the Wales Arts Review Young People’s Book of the Year 2017 award. Being good for all sorts of ages, and a story of fair intrigue, I’d say it did deserve it – and the four stars I give it.

Review: Layton’s Mystery Journey by Sian Thomas

This review contains spoilers.

Trailer for Layton’s Mystery Journey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFz1tTNNRkM

As far as anyone was concerned this time in the last two years, the Professor Layton series was over. There were games and a movie and a book, and then it was finished. I remember how I felt the day some concept art snaked its way on to my timeline, and how incredulity and unimaginable excitement swelled in me: my absolute favourite series was still going. Some higher ups had decided not to leave us all the way that they had. How could I not be beside myself with utter glee? How could me, my friends who I met because of this series, how could we not let ourselves be absolutely encompassed by this incredibly lucky turn of events? We were so happy. I was so happy.
Layton’s Mystery Journey follows Katrielle Layton, Professor Layton’s daughter as she opens her own detective agency and solves a number of cases for London’s elite millionaires – the “Seven Dragons”. What I also thought was going to happen was throughout these cases, Katrielle would undergo the ongoing case of her father’s disappearance, since this is what I’d discovered was the #1 talking point whenever I looked into the game. “Professor Layton is missing! Will his daughter find him?” I thought she would.

As a series that existed differently to the previous Layton games, I obviously expected change. A new cast, new voices, new music, new scenery. I knew it was coming, so when it arrived there were no ill feelings between it and me. Much as how people say, “The movie would be good on it’s own” when the book was better but the movie was… okay… I can say that if this series didn’t have links to the older version, it would have been okay – it would have been good on it’s own. In some places it was even nice – to see things newly imagined. But my view was always going to be rose-tinted because of the old games, so I was helpless.

Some things were good. The music was good, but Layton music always has been (here’s a taste of this game’s music! : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4czbYlei3GY&list=PLVfglvX_VlEZniKUW5NEcdC_yaK6CipuV ). The puzzles were okay (since after all, it is a puzzle game), and I do appreciate that they existed as a tribute to the person who used to make the puzzles for these games, Akira Tago (1926-2016).

There was one character I did really love – Pipper Lowonida, the fictional Mayor of London (pictured on the right, below). She was the first character I saw! The concept art that found itself on my timeline was of her, and I always thought I’d like her. I was right! She’s the Mayor, but with a flare for festivals and parties, and with a happy and witty attitude. She was the best part of the game for me.

So, there was some good things. Not many, though, because now I have the chance to get into what really got under my skin.

This is something I realised a few weeks ago. I found myself less excited for Layton’s Mystery Journey as some of the other people I new. I thought maybe I had exerted it all too early, I thought the funny little online puzzle game (http://www.layton.jp/mystery-journey/laytonworld/uk.html) had depleted it (since I never finished it, and fell out with it just after it began). But, nope! It was something else entirely. I found myself reflecting on the prequel and sequel trilogies of the original Layton series, I found myself thinking quietly on how I loved their plots and characters until I stumbled on a big flaw. Lately with media I have been more than a little picky. Representation and mature story handling has become incredibly important to me, and I realised that the Layton series actually wasn’t ticking any of my important check boxes. Representation in terms of race? It wasn’t happening. Representation in terms of sexuality? Also wasn’t happening. In the original series there was one character who didn’t appear white – and he turned out to be a bad guy (bad move! Especially when this was the only non-white character of an entire series consisting of 7 games and one movie). This carried through into Layton’s Mystery Journey, unfortunately. There was one character who appeared non-white, yet his name was “Shadee” (it’s exactly what you’re thinking), and he was the main culprit of a case that our main characters were pursuing. They were pursuing him harshly, treating him badly, and didn’t apologise when they realised he wasn’t the culprit. (Bad move! It’s 2017 for goodness sake, show some compassion).
There’s also no representation when it came to sexuality. Heteronormative things came through easily in the past series (marriage, nuclear families, a young girl who gives a young boy a kiss and everyone in the vicinity giving each other those knowing looks even though the two kids in question were 11 at best), and this new game (the sidekick character, Ernest Greeves, is blatantly infatuated with the main character Katrielle. She doesn’t notice, and when she doesn’t another character is compelled to say things like “throw him a bone”, “give him a chance”. The problem I have with this is: Girls should not be prompted/feel obliged to appease a man just because the man in question has feelings for them. They shouldn’t have their independence and potential character growth thwarted just because a man has shown up and shown interest). Nothing about characters who weren’t straight, even though it is 2017. It’s disappointing, realising a series you love will not break the safe and traditional mould.
The last point? Every single plot of every single Layton game – and the movie – exists because of women’s suffering. This is a trope I do not at all like: “Woman gets hurt to unlock a man’s story”. So over the ten years that Professor Layton content has been being produced, it’s been the same story: a woman is hurt, somehow. A man’s story comes into existence because of this. So that’s all 6 original games, the crossover game, the movie, and this game! That’s bad. 9 times, a company can’t break from this storytelling? For ten years a company will keep themselves glued to this harmful storytelling? As the times change and representation and better treatment of female characters is needed and they do nothing? Yeah, I’m not exactly happy.
For this game, and for a long time, I really did not think they were going to fall into this trope. But they did, and it was right at the very end of the game. Turns out the bad guy was only propelled forward into taking the actions he did because his mother died. For this game I thought that, what with a new female protagonist, Level5 (the company behind the series) would be shepherded into treating their female characters better, but no. They don’t. They even forgive the antagonist, and move on like nothing ever happened. A white male character isn’t held accountable for his actions, but an NPC who appears black is lambasted endlessly through the case and treated poorly even if they did nothing wrong? I’m disappointed, massively so.
Continuing from that, here’s another of my big issues for the game: it is, as far as I’ve seen, hinged on the premise of “Professor Layton is missing – will his daughter, Katrielle find him?” And here let’s get into some big things that really made my blood boil: They barely mentioned this in-game. They barely talk about how the professor is missing, and when they do, it is off-handed mentions, vague information, and a flippant way of injecting it into the game as if no one really cares that this is the “overall plot” people were expecting. So, no, if you’re wondering, they don’t find the Professor. They don’t even look for him. There aren’t even hints throughout the 12 cases of this game that they plan on searching for him. Which is, let’s face it, a disappointment. I don’t know why advertising seemed to encircle this and then they go ahead and barely use it. I can understand that it’s likely to set up for a second game (which I don’t think I’ll be buying after my revelations and experiences with this game), but really what it felt like was laziness. A lack of a want to finish a story they led people to believe would be solved for the sake of making more money on the next instalment. Worse, they hinge a cutscene at the very end of the game in the post-credits, where it’s revealed that the main character, Katrielle, may not even be Layton’s daughter. She says she has solved the riddle Professor Layton left her (“If you’re not my daughter, then who are you?”). Some people took this as a good cliffhanger, but I took this as a slap in the face and the regrettable loss of £33.

I didn’t like it. Others may, and that’s fine, but Professor Layton content is no longer my cup of tea. I didn’t enjoy it and eventually trudging through playing it started to feel like a chore. Obviously I’m sad, I waited so long for this and was so excited and now I’m shrugging off a franchise I’ve loved for ten years. Hopefully this is better for me. With the fall of this, I just hope I can find better content I can throw myself into as deeply as I did this. Overall, I’m massively disappointed. One star.

Review: Wax by Gina Damico by Sian Thomas

Even though I’ve read a lot of books this year (we’re into the 20s, I think), and even though I have a lot more books to read (I have 21 in my room, but reading all the books out there would be stellar, too), I think I’ve found the best one this year. My favourite one for this year. My favourite one, possibly overall? The first book that might have just overtaken all the others that I love. Wax by Gina Damico swept me off my feet, and I couldn’t be happier.

One of the most remarkable things about this book is that it’s so funny. There were so many times that I genuinely laughed at what was happening – and that was new for me. I’ve smirked or smiled while reading before, sure, but I’ve never had to take a step back, put the book down, and have a right giggle before building myself back up and carrying on. The main characters Poppy and Dud erupted the most laughter from me, but a close second being the character ‘Jesus’.

All the characters were remarkable. My favourites no doubt being the main, Poppy Palladino and Dud. I can’t get into the relationship or their dynamic too much without spoiling it, but I did love the outspoken female who acts sort of like a role model or confidant, and harmless boy whose loyal to her. They felt like best friends, and reading their interactions were always great.

I love stories lately where most (if not most, then all) of the characters end up okay, with a happy ending. I got so tired of studying Shakespeare plays and watching all the characters die in the last few scenes, I got so tired of tv shows that were “going there” and killing off main characters, I got tired of books with “twists” that just kind of stung, and didn’t impress. In truth, I got real sick of characters dying, and it isn’t like I can reach the authors I’ve read lately, shake their shoulders, and tell them there are other things that can happen in life, and I’m so glad I didn’t feel this way at all with this book. The ending reminded me a little of Big Hero 6. Bittersweet, but still ultimately happy. With and without death, I suppose. You have to read it, to know what I mean, and so I don’t spoil everything horrendously.

I remember looking at this book and thinking it was a horror. I don’t remember why, it was a long time ago, and it sat in my Amazon wish-list for a really long time before it came into my hands. I think I noted the idea of spooky wax figures and was sold, because at that time I was super interested in getting spooked by a book. Even if that was my initial reaction, and was not the outcome, I’m glad of both. I’m glad I (somehow, even if the memory of how is blurry) found the book, and that I read it. I read one chapter yesterday, and the rest of the book today. I blitzed through it immensely fast because it was just so immeasurably enjoyable.  I’ve read the last two chapters a couple more times, now. I just love it so much. I am not sure anything else I read will come as close to how highly I think of this book. Which is both good (I found a new really great book!) and bad (I have so many other books to read and I am worried that they will not be able to come as close to how good Wax was). But nonetheless I give it five stars and recommend it wholeheartedly. It was so good. I don’t even have the words. I want to read it all over again.

Review: The Adventure Zone by Sian Thomas

The podcast, The Adventure Zone, has just recently finished it’s first ‘season’, so to speak. This is a podcast wherein three brothers, Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy and their father, Clint McElroy, play Dungeons and Dragons (loosely following the rules, as the podcast becomes less about the game and more about the stories entwining the characters they created). It’s a new, innovative, and interesting approach to storytelling which I look forward to seeing progress and become more prominent in the years to come. Although there are other storytelling podcasts (such as Welcome to Nightvale, Alice Isn’t Dead, or other Nightvale Presents podcasts) they don’t include adventure-esque games to propel and support their story. I really liked how the DM, Griffin McElroy, utilised this game and even deviated from it to better support his campaign. A great aspect of using it was a non-imposing introduction to the game. I know that many people don’t have an interest in the game or have a negative perception of it (I did, too), but because the podcast only hinges on it slightly (i.e. for battles or checks in ability, etc) it isn’t distasteful for those of us who didn’t think we’d ever like it. Besides, the elements of the game fall behind eventually, as you’re swept up in the story and with the characters.

The story itself is incredible. It’s something I can’t quite describe without pouring out the whole plot and every little secret and nook and cranny of the intrinsic campaign. But, without a doubt, it is the most enthralling and attention-grabbing story I’ve ever lived through. The end even includes wonderful closure (and a long “where are they now?” segment which soothed me spectacularly. Closure in stories is always wonderful, neat little bows to end a story and give it that perfect finish is something I always have, and always will, appreciate).

I don’t think I could begin to describe the staggering depths of my genuine love for this podcast, story, and characters. I don’t think any words I might have in my mouth could tell anyone about what it means to me. The simple fact that I could listen to this podcast in bed and picture it so vividly and individually unfolding before me was the most wonderful thing, that fit me to a T, and made it that much easier, is the closest I could get, so at least people can know how I came to love it, and so maybe they could, too.

Aside from the main three characters, there were a multitude of NPCs I shamelessly fell absolutely in love with. Even better, as the finale reached its conclusion, the brothers McElroy and their father were sure to include as many as possible, and the thrill of seeing old favourites sparked anew is irreplaceable and always feels amazing. The lengths that these four went to to simply include as many characters as they could to make others happy to see their return was phenomenal. I’ve never seen creators so open to their fanbase, and so willing to listen to them, too. They were considerate at every corner of this story, and that’s something I look up to. Some of my favourites is Angus McDonald (a young boy detective), Lucas Miller (a scientist), and NO-3113 (a robot). I can’t explain them too much without giving things away, which I really want to avoid doing, just in case anyone does decide to start up and listen to this podcast, but these characters, among others, are

The Adventure Zone even incorporates a fully-fledged soundtrack (https://griffinmcelroy.bandcamp.com/ / https://soundcloud.com/griffinmcelroy) which is honestly incredible, and something I love listening to in my day-to-day, or on my commute. I’m listening to it right now, as I write this.

I was waiting for the arc of The Adventure Zone to fully wrap up before reviewing it, and now that this part of it has ended I’m equal parts happy (so happy, it was such a thrill, I’ve never loved a story so much) and sad (I’m going to miss this arc and these characters a tremendous amount), but it is, honest and truly, one of the best podcasts out there, I think.
More technical information can be found at: http://mcelroyshows.com or http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/adventure-zone and this can also provide a place to listen to the podcast. It could also be found on iTunes/the podcast app on Apple phones, or anywhere else podcasts can be housed. I gave it five stars because I can’t recommend this podcast enough, I enjoyed it so thoroughly and so heartily that every day I am immensely grateful that it was brought to my attention. I don’t think I could ever sound objective about this podcast no matter how hard I tried because it just swept its way into my heart so easily and so strongly, and I’d let it every time. It’s good. That’s all there really is to it, for me.

I will say, in case anyone does pick up this podcast, the McElroy’s voices are hard to distinguish as first (or at least, I struggled at first), although it does get easier. However, I didn’t want to waste time listening to a story-based podcast and being confused and missing crucial start-up points, so, I recommend listening to a few episodes of the McElroy brother’s podcast, My Brother, My Brother, And Me first (http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/my-brother-my-brother-and-me) as to avoid this issue.

Review: Stories For The Silver Tree by Sian Thomas

The Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival has been the host of three events (this included) that I’ve been to recently, and each of them have all been astoundingly wonderful. Though the festival ends tomorrow, I look forward to its (hopeful) return. I hope it does return, I very sincerely do. I’ve had an incredible time, and seen some doubly incredible things.

Stories For The Silver Tree was one of these incredible things. I went in totally blind (I knew there was a trailer but elected not to watch it – I’ve always liked to go into theatre blind, I’ve found it makes me more open to plots and characters if I don’t look them up first).

The concept of this showing was amazing. I thought it was going to be a play. Like, a traditional, people-play-the-characters play. But it wasn’t. And I think it was better.
Instead of this, it was Tamar Williams and Darius Nash narrating and telling the audience (and singing, too – which was really good and something I enjoyed very much) the story of the main character (Bran). They also used clever sound technology which I’ve never heard of or probably could understand the mechanics of but, at face-value (which is how I tend to take things): It was very impressive and amazing. Using sounds from the audience or from props put on a loop right there and then during the performance to put more depth into a scene is something I’ve not seen before – and I loved it so much. Although, at the mention of audience participation, I did get nervous – but it turned out brilliantly.
The story was also so atmospheric. From the brainy sound tech, yes, but from the writing and the deliverance, I think for the last few hours I’ve been somewhere else; lost in pretty words and lovely scenery up in my head. That’s irreplaceable to me. I love and have always loved things that can make me feel like this. One phrase that stuck out to me was, “the turquoise of evening and the navy of night”. These words just fit together so nicely, and they were delivered so wonderfully (that made me remember them! Although I’m not sure I’ve got the direct quote right) that it made my experience of Bran’s story so much more meaningful.
I don’t know! It was very cute. And folk-y. And magical. And I just loved that all of that was wrapped up together and given to me as an innovative story, rather than a traditional play.

Although the festival ends tomorrow, and I am sad to watch it go, as today was my last day to experience it, there is another showing of Stories For The Silver Tree tomorrow, which I wholeheartedly recommend seeing! http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/events-list/2017/7/22/stories-for-the-silver-tree. Which is why I gave it 5 stars! It was delightful.

Also, more could be found at the Twitter pages of the performers: https://twitter.com/darius_nash , https://twitter.com/tamareluned.

Review: Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival Poetry Night by Sian Thomas

I’m so glad I got the opportunity to go to this poetry night. I’m so glad that the Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival exists, and is doing events like these. It actually makes me unimaginably happy far beyond belief.

I spent a whole night lost in words and poetry and prose and it was so, so wonderful. I was perfectly in my element – in a cute little cafe with fairy lights, a room full of people who all share my interest, watching the sky darken around us in a room, comfy chairs, supportive people. All of it was enthralling and it just made me so, so happy.
I love to hear other people’s writing. Something about it is so soothing and comforting and soft and just so easy to fall into and gladly lose myself in. Picturing the scenes behind story words and feeling the emotion behind poetry is just such a magnificent experience, and an irreplaceable one.

It was so much fun to watch other people prep themselves and share their own writing – which I know is something incredibly personal and sometimes hard to put out there into the world. But everyone was so supportive, and that was so amazing to see.
I, myself, had reservations about reading some of my own personal writing. I was sold that I wouldn’t be reading any up on the floor that I didn’t bring any with me. I saw other people do it, and a part of me started to feel okay -nervous, but okay – with the idea of actually getting up there and doing the same. I got the confidence to read aloud, and I did.
The wonderful hostess, Alice Downing, was comforting and supportive and the perfect person, I think, to host and guide this event. I don’t think I’d have read my own work out loud if I hadn’t seen how passionate and encouraging she was to everyone in attendance.

I had such a delightful time, and I’m so thankful that I heard about these events and went to them.

The Fringe Festival isn’t over yet, too! There are multitudinous other events happening, stretched up and down Cardiff, and each I’m sure is as incredible as the last. http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/whats-on/

Review: Alien Rain by Ruth Morgan By Sian Thomas

This review contains spoilers.

I recall seeing this on the Twitter page of I Loves The Diff’, which is what got me intrigued to read it.
Alien Rain by Ruth Morgan pulled me in for two reasons. Firstly, it was more of a sci-fi novel, and as someone trying to widen my horizons when it comes to reading, this struck me as a good a place as any to go to try something new. Secondly, the book is set in Cardiff. It’s firstly set in Cardiff (but on Mars), so the names of well-loved streets and public places are used here and there, but later is set in real, Earth-Cardiff.

I enjoyed an incredible amount that the novel was set in Cardiff (both on Earth and on Mars). This is something I have not experienced before. The closest I’ve ever come has been the Welsh theme of The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, or the occasional mention of a Welsh name in the webcomic, Homestuck. I’ve never seen something be based in Cardiff so heavily – and it was wonderful to see. However, I do worry that this was the only aspect of the book that I really liked.
While the sci-fi elements of it was good, I found it a little sad to hear the descriptions of a ruined and decrepit Cardiff. After all, I live here, and it’s still bustling and full, and I like that. To hear that Animal Wall was gone, or the Museum was falling apart, or that Cardiff Castle was more ruin than attraction, was a bit disheartening to envision.

The plot itself wasn’t too bad. I liked the message that intelligence can thrive in ways other than purely academic, and with that, the message that there is worth to be found in people outside of their academic achievement. As a student currently waiting for some exam results, this was pretty nice to hear, and eased my conscience up just a little.

However, my biggest bother with this book was the presentation of some of the characters. I usually consider myself easy to please, when it comes to literature. I usually find reasons to love characters anyways. I often welcome a love interest with open arms, and usually am able to trudge through a plot even if I find it particularly difficult to, or if it doesn’t sit well with me. This book was different to that, and I got more grateful that I was nearing the end with every page flip. I didn’t mind the flowering relationship between Bree (our female main character) and Halley (the male love interest), as it seemed a simple and innocent enough relationship that I could get behind. However, it was later found that Halley initiated the characters’ friendship and by extension, relationship, on being bribed to do so for the easiness of a science experiment – so it was fake. My biggest criticism of this is that when called out on this by Bree, Halley said:

(Halley): “Bree, you’ve got…”
“Don’t tell me I’ve got it wrong!” I (Bree) laughed.
“I was going to say, you’ve got to forgive me.”
(…)
“Why should I forgive you?”
“I’m the one who doesn’t deserve to be on this mission. I’m only here because I agreed to lie and cheat and spy on you for Carter. I am a liar, I’m despicable and I know I am. Still, you have to forgive me.”
“That makes no sense,” I said.
“Love makes no sense.”

And later,

(Halley): “I’ve fallen in love.”
“Will you stop using that word?” I (Bree) cried. “No one says that word! If you think for a moment that I could ever believe what you’re saying…”
“You have to,” he whispered. “Or I don’t know what I’m going to do.(…)”

There are so many things with this especially, which did shape the whole novel and the perception of it and other characters, that I found astoundingly bad.
This is a book in the YA genre. This is a genre that I continue to enjoy, because it was the one I experienced mostly as I started to really enjoy reading, and as of recent years, it’s becoming a wonderful and diverse genre, and one doing far better than it used to. This is a genre for people my age, and people younger. These scenes I have a problem with. While I was able to spot the problems, I’m not sure others would have, and it’s a dangerous line to blur for younger people.
Pushing forgiveness done out of love, when the relationship itself began on deceit is, firstly, not love. Expecting to be forgiven because you love someone, is not a reason alone to be forgiven. I do worry the author has made a mistake, consistently using “You’ve got to” or “You have to” as a way to make a male character feel far more forceful in wanting to be forgiven, and then using guilt to further this. A guilt trip into forgiveness when he was in the wrong just feels like poor writing, or even ignorant writing. People, especially recently, do not have the tolerance for this kind of characterisation and neither do I. I worry this would be behaviour people could attach themselves to and then look for – especially young girls who may enjoy the YA genre – and land themselves in a relationship where their feelings are not considered and their emotions are, effectively, abused.
This pushes the forcefulness of males which comes off very poorly. If a man was telling me I had to forgive him because he loved me I think I’d turn and run as fast as I could and for as long as I could go. This is a stereotype we need less of, as many, many people have coined on to its hindrance on men’s emotional well being, which needs to be addressed as much as hindrance of women’s chances in society, as this scene and beyond it only pushes the submissiveness of Bree, which goes against the rest of her character established through the rest of the novel. She is a character that went to great lengths and seemed perfectly capable of standing up for herself – until giving in and forgiving when Halley got hurt in a later scene, and then jumping straight back into action into her much stronger female role, which had already been established.

I’m angry. And I expected better of a book published so recently (2016), and a book written by a woman. A part of me feels let down, and I’m hoping the next book I read will bring my spirits back up.

I still give the book 2 stars. I did still enjoy that it was set in my hometown, which made it slightly more enjoyable, and on some level, I did enjoy the sci-fi story.