Book Review. The Dark Side of Alice in Wonderland by Angela Youngman.

TDSOAIW had two parts. The first part was about the writer of Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll, or as his real name was Charles Dodgson. If you are familiar with him already, this part you might skim. Angela Youngman then tells us about the relationships that Dodgson had with young girls – and the questions those relationships raise, one of those girls being Alice Liddell and her siblings, and how those relationships correlated with the Victorian times in which they lived. The writer has researched the various theories and thoughts of different people. Included are the far stretched theories, unlikely to be true. Like the anagram theory. When Angela Youngman described concrete evidence, what we have, this mentioned Dodgson’s bank details, and what was coming in and out of his account. I think I was surprised at how far people would go to try and glean answers, like scrutinizing someone’s bank details for discrepancies. I thought it was odd. So I thought overall this part was speculative. It was interesting to read how Dodgson sought permission from the parents of the girls he had relationships with, how he was manipulative and wanted to spend time with them, photograph them and how Angela Youngman explained the Victorian attitudes in the 18th century, and how we need to appreciate how it was then, and not think of it like we would now. Like allowing a grown man to spend hours alone with young girls, these days that would be thought of as … um … perhaps not. Even if Dodgson was trustworthy. We know now that it isn’t necessarily strangers, we need to be wary of, it’s the people in our families and friendship circles.

Part 2 started to appeal to my interest in history. It spoke about how Alice in Wonderland grew in popularity through the 21st century, the life of the real Alice Liddell, and Wonderland’s impact on popular culture. Like porn films being made based on the characters in the book. I’m not sure how that helps Dodgson and his reputation any. There was a great chapter on mental illness in Victorian times and how that may have influenced Dodgson’s writing, as well as the history of the ‘mad’ Hatter.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ebook copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Although the children’s story Alice in Wonderland has been in print for over 150 years, the mysteries and rumors surrounding the story and its creator Lewis Carroll have continued to grow.

The Dark Side of Alice in Wonderland is the first time anyone has investigated the vast range of darker, more threatening aspects of this famous story and the way Alice has been transformed over the years.

This is the Alice of horror films, Halloween, murder and mystery, spectral ghosts, political satire, mental illnesses, weird feasts, Lolita, Tarot, pornography and steampunk. The Beatles based famous songs such as Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and I am the Walrus on Alice in Wonderland, while she has even attracted the attention of world-famous artists including Salvador Dali. Take a look at why the Japanese version of Lolita is so different to that of novelist Vladimir Nabokov – yet both are based on Alice. This is Alice in Wonderland as you have never seen her before: a dark, sometimes menacing, and threatening character.

Was Carroll all that he seemed? The stories of his child friends, nude photographs and sketches affect the way modern audiences look at the writer. Was he just a lonely academic, closet pedophile, brilliant puzzle maker or even Jack the Ripper?

For a book that began life as a simple children’s story, it has resulted in a vast array of dark concepts, ideas and mysteries. So step inside the world of Alice in Wonderland and discover a dark side you never knew existed!

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Book Review. Ache by Scarlett Ward.

‘a seashell in a car door’ i love little phrases like this that evoke nostalgia for me. Love is written about in a way that feels new in Ache. i liked the poems of being outside, like a breath of fresh air. i think Ache is a great debut collection of poetry from Scarlett Ward and i will need to read it once or twice more, to fully appreciate and take in the poems. The language is beautiful.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

i soon learned

that if you’ve got to hold one nostril

while you’re inhaling to breathe easy

then darling that’s not respiration

that’s recreation

and that shit will kill you

but just never as fast as you’d like

Ache Scarlett Ward

Scarlett Ward is an incredible young West Midlands poet as comfortable on the page as in performance, with a real ear for language and an imagination to match. Her debut collection, created with help and advice from Liz Berry and others, doesn’t disappoint, as it takes its Insta-concerns (Scarlett has 10k+ followers) of depression, insecurity, mental ill-health and the deep and powerful ache of a love found, and turns them in to quite startling poetry -at times as light as petals, at others as heavy and violent as a hob nail boot. Read, gasp, enjoy.

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Book Review. Small Ghost by Trista Mateer Illustrated by Lauren Zaknoun

Small Ghost by Trista Mateer helped my depression brain. It validated how I felt. In parts, it reads off too – like when you’re feeling depressed and nothing feels right. There are a few hopeful poems too, a reminder that feeling like shit does not last forever. It comes and goes.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

she can’t remember why she’s trying to take care of herself

so instead she buys funfetti cake mix, popcorn and frozen pizza

Small Ghost by Trista Mateer

Small Ghost is a brief collection of poetry by Trista Mateer, featuring a narrative about depression and anxiety, with a central focus on coping mechanisms. It approaches the exhausting reality of mental illness with blunt emotional honesty, self depreciating humor, and cute illustrations.


thinks about airports and train stations and how rain makes everybody feel a different way

Small Ghost by Trista Mateer

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Be Wild, Be Free by Amber Fossey

I rarely buy books new. if I do, then I am throwing all caution to the wind. Especially hardbacks. I had to make an exception for this book. I don’t know if you follow Amber Fossey on Instagram @zeppelinmoon but her drawings and art and poetry do not fail to put a smile on my face. The beasts that Amber includes in this book are a range of sloths, manatees, blobfishes and my favourite, emu. I liked how the creatures swear. The swearing I think gives great comic effect to the writing. Be Wild, Be Free is an uplifting read. The words are about celebrating who we are and accepting ourselves. It’s told in a fun, sometimes silly way, and with animals. There’s lots of colour in the book too, which is useful if you’re reading the book and feeling flat that day.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

In Amber Fossey’s (AKA @Zeppelinmoon) beautiful first book, we are each reminded to listen, to look, to feel, and to remember what it is that makes us human.

This beautiful illustrated guide to life tells the reader how to become wild and free again, through a mash-up of poetry, fables, comic fiction and whimsical watercolour illustrations. Using the characters of sloth, bear, manatee, blob fish, and many more, we are shown that we no longer need to surrender to negative thoughts nor those who drag us down, and are prompted to ponder the beauty all around, reminding us how to simply love one another, and ourselves, again.

Do you ever hear the beasts scratching at the door? They want to be let out, to be wild & free!
They were sleeping too long, and now they’re getting feisty. Don’t be afraid, they’re pretty lovely inside, and never did i see a more lovely beast than you…

So come inside. You might be surprised, to remember how to feel alive!
With a heart to feel, a mind to learn & hands to build extraordinary things.
Go forth, fiercely, bravely.

A former NHS doctor and forensic psychiatrist, Amber’s work with severely mentally ill patients in hospitals, prisons and the community inspired her to write messages of finding hope amidst adversity in Be Wild Be Free. She encourages us to have compassion for those that society rejects, mistreats and ignores and for those suffering mental anguish. We are prompted to ponder the beauty all around, reminding us how to simply love one another, and ourselves, again.

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Quiet people still have a lot going on in their heads, if not more so.

Aren’t I good enough?

God knows, I try

And I thought I knew

                              But now I do

I am not loved

         Nor liked

I am not a person

        But food

For the sharks

Some words from a poem I wrote a long time ago. This poem is painful to read, partly because it is a poem I wrote when I was 16/17 and my writing has changed since then.

I did not understand when I was younger why people could be so horrible. Now I am older, I realise bullies are people that are hurting and having power over someone can be addictive.

I would say that I have never been bullied, because I did not think what had happened to me could be classed as bullying. People in school just didn’t like me. I was so sensitive as a child, I was completely passive and would not speak to people. I did not retaliate and so that attracted people, who would say things and push me around.

I grew up believing that I was worthless. I become so fixated on why I did not have friends. Why are friendships so hard for me to make and to maintain? What is wrong with me? I seemed to have different friends every term or school year. I struggled with boundaries, and holding a conversation, in relationships. I had a mindset that relationships are based on what I can give to a person, so that they will stick around. That’s something I grew up with and it isn’t easy to erase.  Even now if a group of people are laughing near me, I will instantly think it is me they are laughing at. I thought I was weird and had something wrong with me. That’s why I spent many years trying to be like everyone else, thinking if I like what they do and listen to the same music they do, etc., then maybe I will magically start to fit in. You know, when there’s a clingy child at playgroup and an adult is trying to get them to play or is finding another child to draw them into a group? I was that child. Except I wasn’t too clingy, I was so independent. I was happy doing my own thing and reading books, making up stories.

I am an adult now and I appreciate these days that universal popularity probably isn’t that great, not everyone is going to like me, and I am not going to like certain people. It’s more difficult with learning social skills and trying to tell myself I am worthy. I still believe if people are treating me like shit, it is because I am shit and not because that person could be having a bad day or whatever. I remember being in my first romantic relationship, and he was horrible, but he withdrew his love whenever he felt like it and it would be devastating because I thought this was someone who loves me unconditionally. Don’t use love like that, it’s cruel.  

I think the takeaway is it’s a lot of effort to be someone who you are not. Shame erodes confidence. I don’t think any of the teachers in school gave me useful advice, they didn’t tell me differences are what make us individuals and there’s nothing wrong with being someone who is more reserved and quiet. Quiet people still have a lot going on in their heads, if not more so. If the people around me built me up and let me be me, I could have shrugged off what the bullies made me feel because I would have inherently known that they were talking shit. As it was, they shaped my character.