Ghibli Heroines Tag

Hello, hello. I had a tiny blogging break which you may not have even noticed. The reason why will become clear in the near future (check me out being all mysterious). I think it’s great, and it is, and you will know about it soon.

I am finally getting around to doing this super cool new tag by Kate! I love a good tag, especially one that I’ve not seen around much. I feel all exclusive. I feel special. Everyone loves feeling special so this is a brilliant thing.

The Rules:

  • Please pingback, rather than link to Kate@Melting Pots and Other Calamities. She will only know if you’ve done this tag if you pingback.
  • Tag as many people as you want. Ghibli movies aren’t as popular as Disney or Pixar, so be careful that those you tag are at least somewhat familiar with Ghibli.
  • You can use examples from books, movies, TV shows, anime/manga, and webcomics.
  • As this tag celebrates heroines, please name either a piece of fiction or a female character, if you’re able.
  • Have fun!

Questions: 

Nausicaa, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind: (Even though this isn’t technically Ghibli, it’s still marketed that way). Nausicaa is a princess in a post-disaster world. She is compassionate and brave, a daring explorer who is capable and selfless.  Name a strong female leader. 

Oof. Well. Hm. I know Samantha Shannon hates the ‘strong female’ phrase (because it suggests that to be valuable, women cannot be vulnerable) but Paige from The Bone Season series applies in this case. She isn’t without vulnerability, and she makes mistakes, and she does fall and find it hard to get back up again, but she does what has to be done and she leads in a way that I’ve not really seen from a female character in fiction before.

Sheeta, Castle in the Sky: Although Sheeta may have a quieter demeanour than other Ghibli heroines, she is not a damsel in distress. She’s royalty, but doesn’t stay on the sidelines; she is involved, kind, and despite a sad past, hopeful. Name an inspiring member of royalty. 

I am British, so I absolutely cannot pass up the chance to mention the Queen. I love the Queen. I am one of those people. She’s wonderful. So to slightly cheat on this, I am going to choose Queen Elizabeth as portrayed in Netflix’s The Crown, but also Victoria (in Victoria).

Their characters as portrayed in both series (and the book in the case of Victoria) are based on real women and I think that’s why they’re so great. They exist/have existed, they have both been quite revolutionary, and as a little girl, I was obsessed.

Satsuki and Mei, My Neighbour Totoro: Before Anna and Elsa, before Lilo and Nani, there was Satsuki and Mei. Satsuki was incredibly young when their mother was hospitalised, and with their father at work, she has to take care of Mei. And Mei is only four, with a big imagination. Name a pair of siblings (or two friends who act like siblings). 

Tolya and Tamar, the twins from The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. I am partway through Ruin and Rising (having finished Shadow and Bone, and Siege and Storm the other day – reviews to come) and I love them. They are excellent.

It troubles me that I can’t think of two female characters to list here. I am sure they exist. I am sure there are some fictional female siblings or friends that act like siblings who I adore. I might have to look into this.

Kiki, Kiki’s Delivery Service: Kiki has to go off on her own to live alone, as is the custom among witches. She goes through many things that newly independent young adults face, like money problems, finding a place to stay, job searching, and loneliness, before finding her way thanks to her special abilities. Name a female character who has supernatural gifts.

Another pick from the series I am currently reading: Alina Starkov. She is thrust into the life of a Grisha and I am loving being on the ride with her.

Gina and Fio, Porco Rosso: Gina and Fio are both heroines in this film, and they couldn’t be less alike. Gina is a young woman who is very feminine, a singer and a restaurant owner. However, she is very resourceful and capable. Fio is a teenage mechanic who is independent, goes against the flow, and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She may be one of the best mechanics of her time. Name two inspiring heroines; one who is unabashedly feminine, and another who is more of a tomboy. 

I feel like the age of the tomboy has passed, there’s a lot less ‘boys must do this and girls must do this’ to be rebelled against in fiction now. The stigma around being girlish, and being like other girls is lessening and authors are responding with some unapologetically girly characters (I love it). When I read the word ‘tomboy’ there is no longer a character that comes to mind, or, in fact, any particular kind of person. A girl who would have been labelled a tomboy when I was a child for liking sports and playing in the mud and not wearing dresses is no longer a tomboy, she’s just a girl who likes sports and playing in the mud and not wearing dresses.

When I read the word ‘tomboy’ there is no longer a character that comes to mind, or, in fact, any particular kind of person. A girl who would have been labelled a tomboy when I was a child for liking sports and playing in the mud and not wearing dresses is no longer a tomboy, she’s just a girl who likes sports and playing in the mud and not wearing dresses.

So the tomboy portion of this question is hard to answer, and I don’t think I want to use that label. We’re going to slide on down to the feminine character, and we’re going to go with Genya from The Grisha Trilogy. She definitely has the feminine vibe going for her.

Angel, On Your Mark: On Your Mark is a music video that Ghibli helped a music group with. It may not have much of a story, but it’s beautiful and interesting, and not may people are aware of its existence. Name an underrated heroine. 

September from Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series. (You didn’t think I was going to get through a book-related tag without mentioning her, did you?) I don’t see a huge amount of people talking about this series, and it makes me sad. September is fantastic. She grows up through the books and she makes hard decisions, and she never fails to save the day in some manner.

Shizuku, Whisper of the Heart: Shizuku is an eighth-grade student who can’t quite focus on school as much as on her favourite books. However, through encounters with an ambitious boy who seems to have a likely chance at meeting his goals, a cat who rides trains, an antique shop owner, and a cat statue called The Baron, Shizuku is determined to meet her own goal and become a writer. Name your most relatable character. 

Oh goodness. I do not know how to answer this question. I don’t so much relate to many characters because what I read is often very much not anchored in realism and the troubles faced by the characters I read about are not really the sort of thing I can share in. That’s not to say that fantasy characters can’t be relatable – they can – I just try not to put myself into what I’m reading in that way.

That said, for the sake of answering this question, Carys from Hold Back the Stars (review to come) loves both space and learning new things, which are things I love too. So we’ll go with Carys.

San, Princess Mononoke: San has been raised by wolves her whole life. When humans begin to invade her home forest to make towns and use the resources for themselves while killing the spirits and animals within, San refuses to let it be. She takes a stand and becomes the village’s  greatest obstacle. She is such a force to be reckoned with that they even give her a name; The Princess Mononoke. Name a female character who is physically strong.

Well, obviously this spot is reserved for Buffy Summers. The slayer has a huge pool of strength to draw from. Sure, it’s powered by ancient demon essence but strength is strength.

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Chihiro, Spirited Away: At the beginning of Spirited Away, Chihiro starts off as a whiny, spoiled ten-year-old girl. However, during her time working at the spirit’s Bath House, she discovers parts of herself she didn’t know she had. The story is about her finding the strength she already had but was unaware of. Name a character who has an amazing character journey.

Lupe! She grew so much throughout her short time in The Girl of Ink and Stars that she absolutely has to be mentioned. Her character development is one of the standout things from the novel.

Haru, The Cat Returns: Haru is a typical high school girl; kind, clumsy, and a little forgetful. But she soon finds herself involved in events that are out of her control. In a way, it is because of her normalcy that she can find her way out of her situation and become stronger because of it. Name a female character who may not have any supernatural abilities herself, but is memorable anyway.

The first character that comes to mind is Tamika Flynn from Welcome to Night Vale. Sure, she has an incredibly impressive reading ability and a penchant for violence but to my knowledge, she doesn’t technically have any powers, and yet she is one of the most wonderful of Night Vale’s eclectic selection of inhabitants. 

Sophie, Howl’s Moving Castle: Sophie doesn’t think much of herself for a lot of the story. She doesn’t think she’s pretty or memorable, especially when compared to her younger sister, Lettie. It gets even worse when she’s cursed to look like an old woman. When she finds a new life that involves the mysterious wizard Howl, a fire demon, Howl’s apprentice, and many others, she is shown to be resilient and intuitive. Name an emotionally strong character.

Evie Snow from On the Other Side. She makes such difficult, selfless decisions and lives with the emotional scars to show for it. Well, the emotional scars come out of her in beautiful ways, via the medium of magical realism. She gives up everything for someone else’s happiness and that is a true sign of emotional strength, that she could function and live life through to old age is a testament to her character.

Ponyo, Ponyo: Ponyo is one of the youngest Ghibli heroines at only five years old. But she still gets a lot done, including becoming human, discovering things, finding a best friend, and saving the world. Name a hero who happens to be a child.

September again. Always September. She is my favourite child hero and she quite possibly always will be.

Arrietty, The Secret World of Arrietty: Arrietty is a Borrower; she is tiny and survives by stealing small things that humans won’t miss. Yet she’s curious about the human world, and does braver things than most humans would be incapable of doing, despite her tiny size. Name an unlikely hero.

This has to be Deeba from China Miéville’s Un Lun Dun. She is very much not the chosen one but gets on with things anyway. She’s feisty and fabulous, and she’s proof that you don’t have to be the chosen one to be the hero.

Nahoko, The Wind Rises: Nahoko has tuberculosis during World War 2. However, she doesn’t allow this to cripple her, and enjoys life to the fullest anyway, which includes painting and falling in love. Even being placed in a sanitarium doesn’t break her. Name an inspiring character with some sort of obstacle. 

Olivia Moore (of iZombie fame), if you consider being a still sentient zombie who has to eat brains to keep her wits and subsequently takes on personality traits from said brain an obstacle. I do. Being a zombie can’t be fun, even if the personality traits can be very helpful for the solving of murders and the ignoring of your own problems.

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Kaguya, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya: in a time where women were expected to follow social norms such as blackening teeth, shaving eyebrows, and being forced into arranged marriages, Kaguya refuses to play along. She would much rather be outside, dance, and play with friends. Name a female character who challenges social norms.

Hm. This one should come easily but it hasn’t… hm. I’m going to go with Evie Snow again because she does take the year to try to go it her own way instead of going the Snow way. True, she ends up going the Snow way anyway but that’s her choice for the sake of her brother, rather than something she is forced into. Her social norms may not be the social norms of the layperson but they still count!

I am also going to mention Carys again because she doesn’t idolise the Rotation in Hold Back the Stars, she likes to remember her life in the mountains of Wales, and she forms a love match when she knows she shouldn’t.

Whew! That was actually really difficult.

I want this tag to do well so I’ve found some cool anime bloggers to tag! (Hello, cool anime bloggers.) So without further ado, here they are:

Karandi from 100 Word Anime

Fujinsei

Reads, Rhythms & Ruminations

The Lily Garden

icebreaker694

Marvelously Mismatched

Nick from Anime Corps

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The Versatile Blogger Award

Back in March, I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by the lovely Romana from ABookNerd13 back in March – I am slightly behind in my tags (I definitely have at least one more to get done), whoops.

So to kick this off, here are the rules

  1. Display the award on your blog.
  2. Thank the blogger that nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  3. Share 7 facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 7 bloggers for the award and provide links to their blog.

I really love awards/tags which involve listing facts, even though I haven’t actually done one before. I like talking about myself, what can I say? It is with that in mind that I present seven potentially interesting things about my good self:

  1. I am incredibly afraid of heights. If I am enclosed, I’m fine, so flying isn’t a problem, nor was the London Eye back when I was 18. stand me on a chair, however, and I am suddenly unable to function like a normal human being. I also have trouble with uneven staircases, and natural staircases, and any staircase with gaps between the steps.
  2. I find distance difficult to process. I am forever glancing at my satnav when it tells me that I need to turn off in 700, 500, 200 yards. I have no idea how far away 700 yards is, or how far away a yard is. My depth perception without my glasses is abysmal. It is a problem.
  3. When I was little I added two extra lines into the middle of my Es. My reasoning was that the middle line would get lonely.
  4. I can’t tie my shoelaces like a normal human being. I have to make ‘bunny ears’ and tie them that way. I just can’t understand the normal way.
  5. I have a giant sweet tooth. The way to my heart is chocolate, preferably with some kind of hazelnut component. My other half has made it his mission to supply me with hazelnut chocolate Easter eggs. He’s doing well so far.
  6. I like it when people cancel plans. Well, unless I’ve pre-paid for said plans or already started travelling for them. I love having an extra day to chill and do whatever my tiny introverted heart desires. I used to hate it because I didn’t have a huge amount of spare time, and any spare time I did have had to be planned in advance. Now I have more, and I enjoy doing absolutely nothing with it. That or writing, creating, freelancing, binge-watching things on Netflix.
  7. I can listen to the same song on repeat for hours. Sometimes, I have a sound I want to listen to and nothing else, so I do. I sit in my little bubble and listen (my bubble often being my car, my beautiful little blue car).

I’ve chosen a couple of my new followers to tag, should they choose to. You should check them out. :)

The Buffy Project

Alicia from Story Garden

Vihasi from Everlasting Smile Wisdom

Ula from simple Ula

Cafe Book Bean

Ami from luv to read

Brandi from Brandilyn Gilbert

Go, Go, Power Rangers!

MV5BNDg2NzI3Njk2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDczODY2MTI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_I have been waiting for this film. Waiting and waiting and waiting. (Where have we read this before? Apparently, when I am passionate about films, these are my go-to phrases.) When it was announced, I am pretty sure I made some kind of unearthly squealing noise, and I decided right there and then that not only was I going to see it but I was going to love it.

The release date, coincidentally, was over the weekend of my birthday, so I feel like the great and terrible movie gods decided to give me a present. Power Rangers was my childhood, and the original film (with Ivan Ooze, that gloopy so-and-so) is something I watch regularly both out of nostalgia and genuine enjoyment. Nothing beats delayed whooshes and yells of ee-yah!

My tiny child heart was and is filled with glee at the thought of a new Power Rangers movie to sink my teeth into. I was determined to love it no matter whether it was terrible or not. I have a penchant for loving movies my friends think are terrible so I was confident that I would like it.

Luckily for me, it wasn’t terrible at all. It’s gotten some bad press but I think the people that gave it bad press are the people who wanted it to fail. One of the main problems people seem to have with it is the lack of morphing time but, dear reader, I put it to you that surely there wouldn’t be much morphing time in an origin movie. It’s not about the Rangers as Rangers, it’s about the Rangers becoming Rangers. Sure, they find the crystals but the film would end very quickly if that was all it took for them to fulfill their Ranger potential.  So, with that out of the way…

Power Rangers is such a diverse film. Of the five Power Rangers, only one of them is white, and the Blue Ranger (Billy Cranston) is not only black, but he’s on the spectrum and it’s not turned into an issue. Billy is Billy and the other characters love him and never try to belittle him.

Trini, the Yellow Ranger, is canon not-straight. She doesn’t give herself a label and the film doesn’t turn it into a coming out story, it is just who she is, it is normal. Power Rangers normalises the normal in a way that other films don’t. I can’t believe that in 2017 that’s still a phrase I have to use but it is, and Power Rangers is a step in the right direction. It is so refreshing to see.

As you may know, I haunt Tumblr often, and it’s so lovely to see the posts from people who can relate to these diverse, three-dimensional characters in a way that they may not have been able to before. As a white woman, I’ve never really had to dig and scrape for someone to relate to in pop culture, I recognise my privilege and while I’ve not really experienced a lack of representation myself, I do wish for a greater mirror in the world of literature and film for those that do. I’m heartened when I see the reflection growing, even if just a little.

The film is less centred on the Rangers aspect and more on the Rangers’ relationships with each other, how they go from being strangers, to being friends, to being Rangers. I love everything about it. What we do see of them in their suits and their zords is fabulous. There are little echoes from the show and while it is the same in spirit, the film is a different but related beast.

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It goes darker than the series, perhaps a sign of the time it has been created in. Rita is not the kitschy villain you might remember. She is a dark creature. She is one of my favourite things about the film. She is a villain, a real one.

All in all. I loved it. I knew I was going to love it but I didn’t know I was going to love it, you know? I want to see it again, right now.

#FolkloreThursday: An interlude

Hello! It’s Thursday, which means I am looking at Folklore. Well, that’s a lie. I don’t just look up folklore on Thursdays. It’s currently a daily thing for me. All in the name of research!

You’d think, then, that these posts would be easy and they should be but I have been trying to come up with a ‘list’ for this post and I just can’t think of one. I want to feature a list of something next, as I’ve been doing these posts in a pattern but alas, no list is presenting itself to me.

That’s where you come in. I hope. (If you’re willing, still reading, and interested that is.)

What would you most like to see? Think folklore, think lists. Bad-ass princesses? Most annoying mythological antagonists? What should I research?

Alternatively, are you a folklore buff? Would you like to write a guest post? Let me know!

My problem isn’t a lack of ideas but rather too many. Please help!

Review: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

29245653Hag-Seed is a re-visiting of Shakespeare’s play of magic and illusion, The Tempest, and will be the fourth novel in the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

In Margaret Atwood’s ‘novel take’ on Shakespeare’s original, theatre director Felix has been unceremoniously ousted from his role as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival. When he lands a job teaching theatre in a prison, the possibility of revenge presents itself – and his cast find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever.

This has been on my TBR list since it was announced and, shamefully, it’s the first Atwood I’ve read. Whoops.

I will definitely be fixing that.

Hag-Seed follows Felix, an ageing theatre director, usurped and left to rot in a tiny shack haunted by the memory of his daughter. It is from this shack that he plots his revenge and finds unlikely allies in the course he teaches at Fletcher correctional.

The Tempest is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, so I was definitely intrigued to see how this would play out. I love that Atwood didn’t just acknowledge the source material but actually used the play at the heart of her novel. I’ve not read any of the other books in the Hogarth series but I have read that the others don’t include the play in such a way. Go Atwood, go!

It unpacks the play, analyses it and spits it out as something magical. I love this book. It made me look at The Tempest in a new way and I now want to go back and study it, school style. Because I am a giant nerd. And proud.

The novel is a slow-burner, it’s very internal. Felix spends a lot of time in his head, plotting, imagining, and often hallucinating. It’s very much an exploration of his character.

I love character driven books, so this really worked for me.

It’s a fresh interpretation of Shakespeare while still sticking to the spirit of the play, and I really, really enjoyed it.

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.

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.