discussion · fantasy

The Importance of Hermione Granger

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In honour of the release of additional Harry Potter material in the form of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, it seems only fitting to talk about how much this series has shaped my life. However, that could take years to fully explain so for now you will have to accept this rather shortened version.

I first discovered the Harry Potter books when I was 7/8 years old. I was wandering around the giant metal crates of books as the Scholastic book fair was at my primary school. My mum had always pushed me towards reading: if I wanted a toy she would make me wait a week and if I still wanted it then I could have it. If it was a book, I could have it right away. She sent me to school that day with money to go to the book fair and get whatever I want. That day when I eagerly scanned the shelves of the various containers, I came across a book called Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets. At the time I wasn’t aware this was the second book and I devoured it. I found out that there were in fact three books out at that point and my first read through went 2nd book, 3rd book, 1st book and then 4-7.

There’s no way I can really encapsulate how much this series meant to me, not only growing up, but even now. It gave that escapism I needed as a child and I was just in awe of this world that I was thrown into. I followed this small orphan boy into a world of magic and wonder, facing something so much bigger than him. I pictured myself fighting alongside them, defending them where needed. I saw myself sat in black robes lined with yellow at the Hufflepuff table in the Great Hall. I had found a place where I belonged. My mum would let me read one chapter a night before bed and then take the book off me and read it herself. We always had 2 bookmarks in our copy of the most recent book because she would take it to work with her and I’d get it when I got home from school. My most prominent childhood memory is sitting in class and my teacher declaring that our reading hour had started. Every single child in that room pulled out a copy of Harry potter and the Order of the Phoenix and began reading. Including my teacher.

Naturally, I adore the movies but there’s so much magic that you don’t get in those compared to the books and every year I find myself coming back to those books, even if it is only one of them. This series was by no means the first I read as a child, but it was the first that really stuck with me. When we went on holidays where we took the car (like getting the ferry across to France) I would demand we listen to the Harry potter audiobooks and I’d sit in the back reading the book along with the soothing tones of Stephen Fry.

When the final book came out, I stared at it for the first two days. We had two copies of the book at that point so mum was well into her copy, but I was terrified of the adventure ending, of parting away with the characters that had been the only real friends I ever had. One night, at 4am, mum came running into my room because I was hysterically crying; Fred Weasley had just died. At that time, I didn’t realise that they would continue walking alongside me to this day. At twenty years old, I was having fights with university friends about which Hogwarts house was superior, my university had both a Harry Potter and a Quidditch society. Some of the best people in my life right now became my friends because of our love for this story. At nearly twenty three, my car keys are attached to a Hufflepuff crest keychain. When I went to the Harry Potter worlds in Universal and the Harry Potter studios, I cried.

This blog post is title “the importance of Hermione Granger” because she was the first time I saw myself as a character in a book. Of course I’d read many books with characters who loved reading but Hermione Granger didn’t just love reading, she loved learning too. She didn’t just have a fascination for the magical subjects of Hogwarts (as she’d lived 11 years of her life in a non-magical world) but she even loved Muggle Studies; a topic about something she already knew probably more of than the teachers did. She is made fun of throughout the books for being the one with her hand always in the air to answer questions, always doing her homework on time and demanding that Harry and Ron start revising for their exams. Her knowledge saves Harry and Ron’s lives countless times. Out of all the things she could use a time turner for in the third book (minus the obvious plot point) she uses it to attend more classes than is physically possible to do without manipulating time. In Deathly Hallows she fills her bag with over ten books just in case there might be any useful information in them that could help further down the line: something that Harry doesn’t even think of when he originally plans to go alone.

My point is she loved reading and she loved learning but more importantly she never changed. She could’ve so easily shrunk inside herself and contained the things that made her such a remarkable character but she never hid her love for either of those things. She showed me that devotion to something you love is important and you should never ever be afraid to passionate about the things that mean the most to you.
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review · romance

Always With Love – Giovanna Fletcher

“And what if she’s not the one? What if this is all for nothing?”
“Then at least I’ll know I did the best I could. That I acted decently – always with love.”

 

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Blurb: “Sophie’s got used to being the girlfriend of Billy Buskin, the biggest movie star in the world. Sort of. But when she and Billy take a trip to visit his family in Los Angeles, she quickly discovers she’s totally unprepared for the chaos of Hollywood, the paparazzi and Billy’s controlling moth. And when Billy extends his stay in LA, leaving Sophie to fly home alone to Rosefont Hill alone, it seems there’s more than just miles between them. Now Sophie must decide if they can overcome their differences for good. Because not all love stories and with happily ever after…”

This is the sequel to Giovanna’s debut novel Billy And Me.

Sophia May is about to partake in the most monumental part of any relationship: meeting the parents. The story opens with her waking up on a plane to LA, anxiety bubbling under the surface. Billy is taking a break from the acting world and the pair decide to spend the festive Christmas/New Year period with his family. LA is a complete different world to Sophia’s tea shop on the hill and she finds it hard adjusting to the flashing cameras following her around. When a hotshot director offers Billy a role in his new movie, the break quickly comes to an end and Sophie finds herself flying back to England; alone.

In a recent interview, Giovanna said that she never feels like stories end at the last page as the book, much in the same way that life continues after monumental events take place in life. She finished the short story Christmas With Billy And Me then found herself wanting to know what happened when the couple made it to LA. So she wrote it to find out.

This is a really good, solid sequel. It was full of wonderful moments and very well paced. Everything felt like it happened exactly when it needed to in order to push the story forward. The lost act of letter writing being brought in as a romantic way of communication between the pair was just so heartfelt.

The only thing that let this book down for me was the horrible “can a man and woman really be friends?” cliché. It wasn’t really needed and I just dislike that concept.

Other than that, this book was another fantastic creation from the mind of someone who was born to write.
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fantasy · review · young adult

Mist And Whispers – C.M.Lucas

“Is it so far out there to believe there could be another world alongside ours? Think, how many stories have we read that have taken place in other worlds?”

 

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Blurb: “In the West-English town of Little Wolf Green, Scott’s bookshop is about to close down. Convinced the bookshop holds the key to her mother’s identity, sixteen year old Anya Piddling vows to serve Scott’s, whatever the cost. When four books of magic and myth take the world by storm, Anya begins a journey to discover the truth about the author, known only as the Weaver. Followed closely by her friends, and one surly, bitter ex-boyfriend, Anya soon realises a whole new world awaits: a world gone very wrong, with maddening whispers in the forest, magical winged kings and a dragon-boy that understands her, inside and out. But this world need a saviour… and everyone is looking at her.”

The story follows Anya who has obtained a job working at her favourite bookshop, Scott’s. She struggles with her identity as she lives in a foster home and her surname is that of the home’s founder. A rival bookshop makes a fascinating discovery of several handwritten books and the name of the author is unknown; all they have to go on is “by the weaver” written on the cover. The books were found in an abandoned manor house in North Yorkshire and the books sell 10 million copies in the space of eight weeks. The result of this puts Scott’s in turmoil; if things don’t change quickly, the shop will shut.  Anya then vows to find the other books by the weaver in the hopes of returning Scott’s to glory. Her adventures leave her not just to an abandoned house, but to another world.

I feel the need to put a disclaimer that my review is more of my experience while reading this book, than it is of the book itself.

I really enjoyed the start and getting to learn how Anya thinks and the conflict with the other bookstore had me hooked. However, after the characters ended up in the new magic world, this was where I started to feel uneasy. I expected this book to go a certain way and (I know this sounds silly but) when it did feel a little let down. It had the feel of Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy from the Narnia series but when they come back to the world for the second time. There was no adjustment period from any of the characters and it seemed like they were coming back home in a sense. As much as I yearn for some fantasy worlds to be real, I’d still panic a bit if any of them became my new reality.

I found myself skim-reading large sections of text from that point onwards.

I loved the relationship between Anya and Lorcan – the dragon boy – and that was the main thing that kept me powering through.
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review · young adult

Library Of Souls – Ransom Riggs

“Emma looked at me and I looked back, and though it was too loud to hear anything over the motor and the rush of blood in our ears, I thought I could read in her face both fear and exhilaration – a look that said you, Jacob Portman, are amazing and terrifying.”

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Blurb: “The adventure that began with Miss Peregrine’s Home With Peculiar Children and continued in Hollow City comes to a thrilling conclusion with Library Of Souls. As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s driving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children. They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all.”

This is the third and final book in the series and, as always, there is a pressure that comes with that; a pressure to create a satisfying ending.

Emma, Jacob and Addison are on a mission to rescue their peculiar friends and the ymbrynes from the wights. Top that off with Jacob’s new ability of being able to speak and control Hollows and you have a complicated situation. Using Addison’s incredible sense of smell, it takes them on the path to an old loop stuck 100 years in the past. It’s called Devil’s Acre and they believe their friends are being held there.

What I really appreciate about this series is the glossary at the front. I cannot begin to tell you how helpful it is to have one of those at this point in the story (Hollow City has one too). Ransom continues with the prose / photo format that makes this series so unique and once again, they add so much to the story. They just seem to root the world in reality.

Emma reminded of Hermione from the Harry Potter series in the way that she was on Jacob’s case a lot about practicing his power etc. I liked that there was a small group to follow this time as there are so many peculiars that it’s hard to keep track of who’s who. So having three characters as the primary focus made it easy to keep track of everyone and it was interesting to see how the dynamic work.

The Devil’s Acre loop was a fantastic primary location as it showed the true underbelly of the peculiar world.

The man issue I had with reading this book (and indeed with the previous two) is that it’s very hard to get into at first because Ransom has a well… peculiar writing style (ha!) that takes some adjustment and makes it hard to initially follow the action. I will admit I read 30 pages and then had to start from the beginning again because I had no idea what was taking place.

This series was the perfect length and as sad as I am that it’s over, I’m glad it hasn’t been extended beyond three books. It ended where it needed to and what a wonderful ending it was.

I will truly miss these characters.
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fantasy · review

The Queen Of The Tearling – Erika Johansen

“This is a dangerous time, Kelsea.” Carlin spoke to the window, her voice distant. “Beware of the Regent, uncle or no; he’s wanted that throne for himself since he was in the womb. But your mother’s guard are good men, and they’ll surely look after you.”

 

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Blurb: “It was on her nineteenth birthday that the soldiers came for Kelsea Glynn. They came to escort her back to the place of her birth – to ensure she takes possession of what is rightfully hers. But like many nineteen-year-olds, Kelsea is unruly, has high principles and believes she knows better than her elders. Unlike many nineteen year olds, she is about to inherit a kingdom that is on its knees – corrupt, debauched and dangerous. Kelsea will either become the most fearsome ruler the kingdom has ever known… or be dead within the week.”

The story follows Kelsea, a nineteen year old girl who has spent her lifetime in isolation. That is until soldiers turn up at her door one day. The Queen is dead and Kelsea is the rightful heir. It is time for her to leave everything she has ever known for a life of royalty. Told through several different perspectives, character motivations and thoughts on the new Tearling queen are revealed and many will do anything to swiftly remove her from the throne.

The initial start of this book was very slow for me as it was your generic “get person from point A to point B” formula and it wasn’t until quite far into the book that I felt hooked. I did, however, like that a lot of the information about the world, the ideals, and the kingdom were revealed through dialogue as Kelsea couldn’t provide this in her narratives as she was separate from that world.

Different perspectives in books can often be very hit and miss (*cough* Allegiant) and unfortunately for me, I didn’t get on with them. Some of the perspectives were interesting and made me want to read on but when that changed abruptly to others who I had no interest in, I felt like I was trying to make my way through thick mud.

On top of this the story didn’t pick up much of a pace and it was an incredibly slow build up that by time the action came around I didn’t care that much.

I left the overall experience feeling quite disheartened.
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