In which I adore Beauty and the Beast

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I have been waiting for this film. Waiting and waiting and waiting, giddy with excitement, and thrusting my grabby little hands at every trailer, clip, b-roll and featurette that surfaced. I adore Beauty and the Beast in all of its forms and am forever seeking wonderful adaptations to dig my teeth into (if you know of any, please list them in the comments).

Beauty and the Beast was probably my most-watched animated film as a child, not just because it’s based on one of my most loved fairy tales, or because it’s about a girl with brown hair who loves books, but because it has one of the most beautiful scores I have ever heard. The music under the narration of the prologue is a piece that has been playing on repeat in my dreams for most of my life. Alan Menken is a genius.

You can imagine my excitement when I heard the absolutely beautiful rendition of a portion of it in one of the trailers. I squealed so loudly that my boyfriend heard it even with his headphones on. Every time I hear that familiar refrain, I feel it in my stomach and my skin tingles. It’s, perhaps, my favourite piece of music ever written, so to hear it in that deliciously orchestrated manner was incredible but not nearly as incredible as seeing it in the film. I will admit that I did miss the stained glass prologue but the scenes that replace it more than make up for it. They set the tone and the standard for a visually stunning film. That whole sequence was glorious from the make-up to the costumes, to the dancing.

The casting of LeFou and Gaston was spot on. They were perfect, and the character growth in LeFou was possibly my favourite part of the whole film. The live-action definitely went darker with Gaston than its animated predecessor but still stuck the the slightly campy, wonderfully ridiculous stylings of the song ‘Gaston’. I bloomin’ love it.

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While it’s not my favourite Beauty and the Beast adaptation in existence – that accolade goes to Christophe Gans’ 2014 film La Belle et la Bête – it definitely makes me happy. It’s everything I wanted from the live-action, I especially liked that they wrote entirely new songs instead of including the extra tracks from the stage musical (though I love those too). I was slightly nervous about Emma Watson’s singing ability, and though her voice has been edited, it’s not too distracting and I was pleasantly surprised.

I would go and see it again in a heart beat.

One of the things that I love most about the whole thing is the posters. They are so incredibly beautiful and I want all of them. Just look at them.

Are these not some of the most beautiful film posters you have ever seen?

Overall, I think the film is lovely, and it was lovely to watch it in a cinema packed full of children – most of whom were dressed as princesses and made my heart leak everywhere.

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March: Instagram Highlights

A new kind of post, hello. I’ve wanted to do these for a while, a little round-up of my favourite images from my main Instagram this month. There are lots because it was so busy! It was also my birthday, so that helps.

Highlights include: puppy cuddles, excellent books, an artsy throwback, unashamed selfies galore, an artistic accident at work, launch snippets, and birthday presents.

If you want to follow, you can do so here.

#FolkloreThursday: The Cryptozoologist Chronicles – Shadhavar

Hello, people of the internet. You friendly neighbourhood Elou here with the second of our Cryptozoologist Folklore Thursday posts. I discovered this creature while looking up Persian mythological beasties I could hide behind a door in a drabble I wrote recently. I didn’t end up hiding anything behind the door but I did stumble across the shadhavar. So without further ado…


Shadhavar

Everyone has heard of unicorns, beautiful white horses with iridescent horns atop their heads and maidens swooning here, there and everywhere just to touch them. Shadhavar are also unicorns but not the ones I obsessed over as a little girl. Some accounts list shadhavar as peaceful creatures, loping around forests, making animals listen to them. This version paints the shadhavar as a deer or gazelle-like creature, with one hollow horn protruding from its head.

This horn is what interested me most. Unlike the twirled, straight horn of a unicorn, the shadhavar has a horn with 42 branches, which creates beautiful music as the wind travels through it. When the wind comes from one side, the tune is happy and jubilant but when it is blown through the other, the song becomes so mournful that it could make a listener cry. These horns were often made a present for kings and could be played as an instrument. (What king wouldn’t want a musical instrument which could so easily alter the emotions of their subjects?)

The other version makes the shahavar more like a siren – though still taking the form of a deer-like creature. Its horn has 72 branches instead of 42, and the music used as a lure. The shahavar calls to its victims through music, like the siren, and then eats them, bloodthirsty as it is.

In The Temptation of Saint Anthony Flaubert draws on this second interpretation for le Sadhuzag, a black stag with the head of a bull and 42 antlers. When the wind hits them from the south, they create a sweet tune which charms all animals nearby but when hit by the north wind they begin to shriek.

Whether carnivorous or calm, the shadhavar are intriguing creatures and I am very glad I found them.

Do you have any creatures you think I’d like? Have you heard of the shadhavar? Do you want one of those horns? We ask the important questions.

Happy Thursday!

Review: On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher

33785086Evie Snow is eighty-two when she quietly passes away in her sleep, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. It’s the way most people wish to leave the world but when Evie reaches the door of her own private heaven, she finds that she’s become her twenty-seven-year-old self and the door won’t open.

Evie’s soul must be light enough to pass through so she needs to get rid of whatever is making her soul heavy. For Evie, this means unburdening herself of the three secrets that have weighed her down for over fifty years, so she must find a way to reveal them before it’s too late. As Evie begins the journey of a lifetime, she learns more about life and love than she ever thought possible, and somehow, some way, she may also find her way back to her long lost love…

This is a bit different from my usual read, and I wasn’t sure I was going to read it (even though I am an unashamed Carrie Hope Fletcher fangirl) because I didn’t think it would be my sort of thing. Then, I discovered that it has little slices of magic in it so decided to give it a go.

I’m glad I did. I’m a sucker for interesting book production, so when Carrie announced that there would be a special, limited, Waterstone-only edition with purple sprayed pages, I had to buy it. It’s such a pretty little book. The whole package is lovely, from cover to typesetting.

The novel follows Evie Snow, who has recently died, on her journey to gain entry to her own personal heaven. When she died at 82, she was weighed down by her secrets so now in the waiting room of the afterlife, restored to her 27-year-old self, her door won’t open. Through a dual timeline, we are given both Evie’s past and her present. We come to understand why Evie was too heavy, why she made the choices she did and the consequences they had for other people, particularly the lost love of her life Vincent Winters.

I managed to read it incredibly quickly, it’s a very speedy read and a very easy read. The writing style is simple, sometimes leaning a little on clichés but it’s a cutesy read, so that approach works for it. The only thing that let it down in places was a trend of telling, rather than showing.

In these instances, we would be told something and then Carrie’s writing would show us that thing later in the paragraph, rendering the ‘telling’ moot. The most obvious example I can think of is when she reveals that Vincent is bisexual, she states it explicitly and hammers the point in, which felt a bit unnecessary when the next couple of paragraphs showed us his former relationships, one of which was with a man. Later in the novel, despite being with Evie, he shows attraction towards another male character – his sexuality was perfectly (and sensitively) explored in these instances. I understand wanting to make sure the reader knows that this is not a straight man, but you have to have faith in your writing skills and your reader, you don’t need flashing lights and a billboard when you’re already showing us. It is, however, really great that the effort has been made to be inclusive.

That was really my only complaint – I loved the story and found the characters endearing (the names took a while to get used to but once I had settled into them, they added a wonderful sense of whimsy to the novel). I adored Carrie’s approach to magical realism, which has been a point of contention among reviewers (especially those who weren’t expecting it). It is definitely unlike anything I have ever read. It is set apart from other novels in the genre and that can only be a good thing, I think.

On the Other Side is both very much my sort of thing (despite my earlier impressions) in its sense of whimsy, and very much not at the same time. I find that incredibly appealing.

If you’re looking for a sweet, quick read, with a little bit of magic and a lot of feeling, On the Other Side is the book for you. I will definitely be giving it a reread in the future.

Now, I just need to get my hands on Winter’s Snow.

Twenty-Six

Today is March twenty-sixth. In 1824 Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis was performed for the first time (though Wikipedia says this happened in April), in 1827 he died. Britain, 1934, driving tests were introduced for the first time. In 1953 Dr Jonas Salk announced the vaccine for polio. The first royal email was sent from the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment by Queen Elizabeth II in 1976. These are all things that happened on March twenty-sixth.

There are twenty-six letters in the alphabet. A rhombicuboctahedron has twenty-six faces. There are twenty-six black and twenty-six red cards in a deck. A normal human foot and ankle have twenty-six bones. Twenty-six is the only number between a square number and a cube number, and it takes twenty-six moves or less to solve a Rubik’s Cube.

I have been alive for twenty-six years.

I’ve decided that my twenty-sixth year is the year I get things done. I will reach my target, I will take the first steps to achieving my dream (which I have been avoiding for a while now because I’ve been scared – taxes are scary), I will continue this trend of unashamed self-love I have going on at the moment (we all have our bad days but I am determined to have more good days).

I have big dreams, and more determination than I ever expected to have, and big things are coming. Twenty-six? I am ready for you.

Review: Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

30841109In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favour of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.

One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband…

I watched the Victoria TV show religiously, as I will do when it returns for its second series. I’ve always been fascinated by all things Victorian, and I love old-timey Kings and Queens but oddly, I don’t read that much historical fiction. When I discovered Victoria was also a book, though, I had to read it because I am invested. Very invested.

The book and the show were being written at the same time (I do believe) and it shows, the book is so much like the series, which for me is perfect. It takes everything I loved from the series and delivers it in a delicious booky form. The difference between the book and the series being only where the book ends. If you’ve watched the series, you’ve already passed the end of the book – I am hoping there will be more novelisations released to coincide with the series, I definitely wanted to see a bit more of Albert, who only enters into the novel in the last act.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and found that the emotional moments pack the same punch in book form as they did visually. Victoria was just as feisty as I was hoping and had me rooting for her from the beginning.

Before I started reading, I was worried that the writing style might mimic classics from the same period – I have a lot of trouble reading classics (I just don’t click with that style of writing) but I so wanted to enjoy the novel. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the narration while dealing with the historical was actually quite contemporary in style. Praise be to Ms. Goodwin!

All in all, it was a lovely book, and it was lovely to revisit characters that I have missed during the break between series. A great read if you’re a historical fiction novice like me, and if you love all things Victoria. If you liked the series, you’ll like the book.

#FolkloreThursday: The Curse of Sleeping Beauty

MV5BMjI1ODMzNDYyOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDk4MTMxOTE@._V1_It’s that time again, and this week, I’m sharing another film. Sort of. I’m not going to be gushing about this one as I did with Song of the Sea, that’s why this is not a ‘Film Spotlight’ post. The spotlight is reserved for brilliance.

I stumbled across this film while trawling Netflix for something to watch, I started watching it but then had to stop because I am a wimp and I need people to watch scary things with me (even if they’re not that scary). Luckily, I was meeting with two of my closest friends, both of whom love fairy tales and wanted to watch some horror films. The Curse of Sleeping Beauty seemed like a perfect fit. The trailer made it look like a beautiful film but didn’t give much away. We knew it was going to either be: a terrible film, a terrible film that was also an adventure due to its terribleness (we love these), or a film that surprised us and was actually quite good. You never know what you’re going to get when you find yourself in the deep corners of Netflix, sometimes what you find is brilliant.

Alas, we were not so lucky. The film revolves around tortured artist Thomas, who has, we discover, inherited an incredibly creepy house and with it a series of dreams about a mysterious and beautiful sleeping princess. Of course, the house is at the centre of multiple disappearances. It started well, sort of.

For a large part of the film, we were scared. Faceless mannequins which move when you’re not looking are, after all, terrifying and if it had stuck to the creepy doll theme, it could have been a great movie. But no. It had to bring religion and the crusades and a lot more random pointless things into it. It was like they decided they wanted to write a completely different movie three-quarters of the way through. The first three-quarters were exposition. The plot didn’t really move until right at the end. We were shocked when we realised that the film ended in 15 minutes and yet we had no plot progression at all.

For the first three-quarters of the film, it was a creepy and suspenseful mannequin themed horror movie with fairy tale-esque elements. For the last 15 minutes or so, it was suddenly an apocalypse movie. In the time they had left themselves to conclude the story, they included a pointless, long-winded montage scene which really didn’t serve any purpose other than allowing them to show some ~edgy~ techno special effects. We could have done without it.

The highlight of my watching experience was witnessing my friend, Bekah, go into a full blown rage at their misuse of religious texts – her ranting and correcting was actually more exciting than the film.

Some of the scenes are beautiful, and Briar Rose’s costumes are beautiful if impractical but not even that can save this film.

Do you know of any great horror films based on fairy tales? I would love to find an actual decent one!

Happy Thursday!

Review: The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

27973757Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

This is a beautiful book. It is possibly the most beautiful novel I’ve ever seen. I want to find the designers, shake them firmly by the hand, and then steal their talent from them by the all-encompassing power of osmosis. (I am aware that I am not a plant and such things are not possible but a girl can dream.)

Just look. Look at these two pages.

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The entire book is printed in navy, with orange detailing and it really is something special. It also has a gate-folded cover with colourful maps on the inside. It’s is a beautiful piece of book production and I wish I produced it myself. Even if I had never intended to read it, I would have bought it just because it’s a beautiful object. (I always did intend to read it. I mean, just read the title, does that not seem like something I would love?)

I was a bit unsure of this book at first, it’s split into parts and the first section isn’t the most exciting thing I’ve ever read but I think if I were younger, I would have appreciated it a lot more. However, I am happy to report that once the action started, it was excellent. I felt nervous feelings in my stomach and everything, I definitely was not expecting that after the beginning. It definitely has echoes of The Firework Maker’s Daughter (which is one of my favourite things) so I very much appreciated that.

What I love most about this book though is the character development. There’s a certain character (Lupe) who begins as an entitled, brattish child and ends up as something entirely different, and it shattered my heart a little bit. The Girl of Ink and Stars doesn’t shy away from being brutal.

It went in directions I was not expecting and I found myself loving it. I loved the setting, I loved the characters, and I loved the mythology that bound the whole thing together. It’s a short read, but a good one and I am glad I stuck it out. It is poignant and lovely and a good way to wile away an evening.

In which we attend the Song Rising Launch Party

Song Rising Launch

Group photo was shamelessly stolen from Bloomsbury. I managed to crouch without flashing anyone, which is a victory in and of itself. Well done, Elou – you almost look graceful. Almost. Careful, people might think you’re sophisticated if you keep this up.

 

Greetings and salutations. How are we? I’m grand, I hope you’re grand.

A few months ago, I was invited to Samantha Shannon’s launch party for The Song Rising (which I have reviewed here, you should buy it) as part of Bloomsbury’s advocate scheme, and on March 7th, I had the pleasure of actually attending! The party was hosted in Edinburgh, at a fab venue called The Caves, and I am now desperate to use it as a photo shoot location. Even the bathroom was fabulous. I’d never been to Edinburgh before so I was incredibly excited to be exploring somewhere new (unfortunately, I chose completely the wrong footwear and at the time of writing, March 8th, my ankle is dying). I have a mighty need to go there again.

IMG_4713Thanks must go to the wonderful Jen, who not only came with me but let me stay in her pad (which I am horrendously jealous of and want for myself) and sleep on her bed which may as well be a cloud (I also want that). She also put up with my whining about my feet, the woman is a wonder. Thank you to Bloomsbury for choosing Edinburgh, we couldn’t have met up without you!

Anyway, onwards. After a quick meal at Wetherspoons (good ol’ Spoons), we wandered the winding streets of Edinburgh until we reached The Caves. With just that short walk, I fell a little bit in love with the city, it is one of those cities which looks like something that some extremely talented fantasy author dreamed up like somewhere trapped between several different times and yet is quite happy with its predicament. Edinburgh has such character.

The venue suited the book so well, I fell in love with it. It was a pretty chill affair, which I really liked and I think everyone got the chance to chat with Samantha. They’d laid out temporary tattoos as you entered, encouraging everyone to join the revolution, which I did with vigour (a banner hung on the wall which echoed the sentiment in a gloriously authentic-looking way). The whole set-up was incredibly inspiring, so thank you to all at Bloomsbury who organised it – top shindig, very well done.

Being the little photo-monkey that I am, I obviously took my camera, so it is without further ado that I present the best selection of images I took during the night (the light was beautiful in person but harder to work with photographically, so I hope I did it justice – it doesn’t happen often but I adore the grain in these).

I hope you enjoyed this little look into the launch party, there will be more Bone Season related goodness from me soon. I am currently in the planning stages of another Bone Season inspired photo shoot – you’re going to love it.

If you’ve never read the series, I urge you to give it a go and let me know what you think!

Until next time, bloglings!

Photo Diary: Cardboard Castle EP Launch and stepping out of my comfort zone

Below is an old post that I found in my drafts and thought was worth sharing. I think this is from 2014. It’s not so much of a diary as the title suggests, it’s more a ramble with some photos. I am okay with this. I mention the possibility of another post, and I might create that post. I do intend to go through my photoshoot archives and write about them, and so I will.


On October 11th, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of Cardboard Castle’s debut EP Inspired by Bunnies, which I was lucky enough to design (the design diary for the EP can be found here). While I went there as a very proud friend, I also went in ‘official photographer’ capacity, which was a thought which both thrilled and terrified me; I am not a live music photographer. I am a whimsical, fine art photographer, oneirographer, cloud-walker, storyteller but I don’t identify myself as a live music photographer. It was a challenge and one which I was happy to take on but also left me with wriggly tummy feelings and worry that none of the photos would be good.

The reason you are only seeing this blog entry now is because it took me a while to buck up the courage to look at and edit the photos. I didn’t know how I wanted to edit them at first, or whether I would even be able to. I mostly work with natural light or warm-hued lights (not proper lights by any means but rather desk lamps and similar things) so whenever I’m confronted with colourful strobe lights I can feel my brain trying to creep down my neck and away so it doesn’t have to work out what to do with them. I have done live music before but I don’t tend to be entirely happy with the results, or I do it as a favour and only edit photos I am asked to edit. This time I wanted it to be different, I wanted to take these photos and wasn’t asked or expected to, which definitely helped, I think. I offered to take them because I’d already created their album artwork and some other random press images.

Now, these aren’t my best photos by any means but I did end up shooting another gig for them as well, which probably turned out better than this one (I may write a post about it, watch this space). I am still unsure how best to edit multicoloured lights but I think I did well with what I had, and I think they capture the story of the night quite well. See for yourself.