Posted in fantasy, review, Uncategorized

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them – Newt Scamander (J.K.Rowling)

“I would like to take this opportunity to reassure Muggle purchasers that the amusing creatures described hereafter are fictional and cannot hurt you.”

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Blurb: “An approved textbook at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry since publication, Newt Scamander’s masterpiece has entertained wizarding families through the generations. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an indispensable introduction to the magical beasts of the Wizarding World. Scamander’s years of travel and research have created a tome of unparalleled importance. Some of the beasts will be familiar to readers of the Harry Potter books – the Hippogriff, the Basilisk, the Hungarian Horntail … Others will surprise even the most ardent amateur Magizoologist.”

I originally read Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them when it initially came out several years ago, back when I would happily devour anything else Potter related that I could get my hands on. I still remember the wonder and excitement this tiny book brought me. Now, in the midst of a movie franchise of the same name, it felt like the right time to revisit it.

I chose to experience this book through the audiobook because Eddie Redmayne (who famously plays Newt Scamander) is the narrator. It was honestly the best decision I could have made. He is familiar with the character and therefore able to add the magic and brilliance that Potter fans will be familiar with seeing on screen. When he talked about the beasts in detail I felt almost like I was in a classroom listening to Newt as the teacher. In addition to this, the audiobook features lots of animal calls and atmospheric sounds that do a fantastic job of immersing the reader in the history of various beasts. I felt closer to the Potter series than I have in a long time.

The book features an updated introduction from Newt Scamander and filters in aspects from the movie and its timeline, making it feel more current than the previous edition. The rest is basically an A-Z of beasts featuring facts about them along with an “egg rating” of danger which I really loved because a 1 egg rating simply meant the creature was “boring.”

It was fascinating to be reminded of just how much exists in the Potter universe that we are familiar with, but also are still yet to see.

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Posted in children's fiction, fantasy, review

Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets | Illustrated Edtion – J.k.Rowling & Jim Kay

“The chamber of secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir, beware.”

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Blurb: “The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.”

Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets has always been a weird book in the series for me: it was the first one I read when I first discovered the series as a child, reading it and not realising it was actually a sequel, but as I’ve grown up, it has firmly become my least favourite in the series. However, like many I’ve found that the illustrated editions have added an extra bit of magic to a much loved series.

In terms of the story itself, I really do appreciate this one for the insights into Hogwarts history. Readers start to learn more about how the magical school came to be and the darkness linked to Slytherin house, along with the very start of how Voldermort started to look into dark magic. It’s also littered with many signs of what is to come in future books.

My favourite characters are Lockhart and Colin Creevey.  Lockhart is the ridiculous extravagant new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher and loves nothing more than talking about himself and all his brilliant accomplishments. One of my favourite scenes is when he sets a test in class which is all about him. Colin Creevey is an excitable first year Gryffindor student, obsessed with the famous Harry Potter. He always seems to pop up at the worst times but I imagine that if I was a character in this world, I’d probably be exactly like him.

In terms of the illustrations, I wasn’t as blown away with the contents like I was with Philosopher’s Stone. I thought it was a clever technique to have some pages black with white text to emphasise the darkness in places like Knockturn Alley but outside of that, I didn’t give the illustrations the attention they truly deserve. It also seemed like there were a lot more pages of just text compared to the last one and I except this will definitely continue and grow as the illustrated version turn on the longer books in the series.

Sadly, this is still my least favourite Potter book, but it doesn’t make it any less magical.

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Posted in discussion

Should Good Things End?

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It’s natural to not want books to end; to wish we could get endless information about our favourite characters, to know they’re alright after the story ends.

A few year ago, John Green addressed questions about The Fault In Our Stars by saying he had no right to dictate what happened after the end of the book because, after all, the characters’ lives end when the story does; something that he actually explored in the author character of the very same book.

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An obvious one to consider is Harry Potter. With a new movie franchise breathing life into this magical universe again, along came new illustrated versions of the books (published on a yearly basis, an exhibit at the British Library, cover redesigns for the minor spin-off books and, more recently, the announcement of 20th anniversary house editions for Chamber of Secrets. My love for this world is no secret, but sometimes it can feel overwhelming and it leads me to wonder: when does you run out of things to produce? When does it all stop?

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Another example is the Miss Peregrine trilogy, written by Ransom Riggs. To me, this series was the perfect length and the ending left me with a heart set to burst; it was the right goodbye for these characters and their world. But with the movie adaptation bringing along the Tales of The Peculiar companion and the announcement of a brand new trilogy… following the same characters.

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Someone I cannot help but mention is Cassandra Clare, who is very much known for creating series after series set within the Shadowhunters universe. The Bane Chronicles started off as a bi-monthly Ebook series but became so popular that it was produced in a physical form with an added story. Now some of the stories have started coming out in small, compact, beautiful editions.

I want to make it clear that this is not an attack on anniversary editions: I don’t mind new books to mark the milestone, to give us an excuse to revisit a well loved story.

But maybe there’s a beauty to the fact that things do end. It makes us appreciate them a lot more when there’s nothing else to be said, to know that we may never get answers to some of those lingering questions over the year.

Or maybe it’s just me.
Let me know what you think.

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Posted in children's fiction, fantasy, review

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Hufflepuff Edition) – J.K.Rowling

“He’ll be famous – a legend – I wouldn’t be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter day in the future – there will be books written about Harry – every child in our world will know his name!”

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Blurb: “Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

As part of the Potter generation, it only seems fitting that I re-read at least one book from the series every year and as this year marks the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, it only felt more prevalent. There are not enough words to fully convey what this this world and its characters mean to me but I’m sure any potterhead out there will be able to relate.

I try to avoid buying different copies of the same book unless it’s a rare occasion and this was certainly one of them: as part of the celebrations, brand new editions were rolled out, both in hardback or paperback, styled specifically for each of the four Hogwarts houses. Being an unapologetic Hufflepuff, it’s obvious which one I went for. Unlike other anniversary editions I’ve purchased, this one was definitely worth the money. There’s addition material from Rowling talking about the history of the Hufflepuff house, information that the common room along with the house ghost, head of house and noteable Hufflepuff characters from the universe.

To those unaware, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the first book in a seven-part series following an orphan boy called Harry who learns that he is wizard. He is taken away from his evil aunt and uncle to a magic school called Hogwarts where he quickly learns that he is famous.

The wonderful thing about this series is that, no matter how many times I read it, I always come back to it and discover something new or I’m reminded of things I’ve forgotten. I fall head-over-heels in love with this book every time I read it. While not my favourite out of the whole series, it’s impossible to deny the creativity and craft that went into this book and it paved the way for a growth of characters and a worldwide phenomenon.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a truly magical story that continues to teach the importance of making your own choices and the value of friendship. A lesson everyone can benefit from.

I may need to launch into an entire series re-read now.

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Posted in children's fiction, fantasy, review

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Illustrated) – J.k.Rowling & Jim Kay

“There will be books written about Harry – every child in our world will know his name.”

 

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Blurb: “Harry Potter’s life changes forever on his eleventh birthday, when beetle-eyed giant Rubeus Hagrid delivers a letter and some astonishing news. Harry Potter is no ordinary boy: he’s a wizard. And an extraordinary adventure is about to begin. The first ever Illustrated edition of J.K.Rowling’s magical classic is packed with glorious colour illustrations by Jim Kay, winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal. An utterly enchanting feast of a book, perfect for devoted fans and new readers alike.”

It’s no secret that I love Harry Potter. When Bloomsbury announced there would be new illustrated editions coming out each year I was beyond excited: an opportunity to experience my love for this story in a new format.

I finally sat down with my massive, very heavy copy and started reading. I was instantly sucked back into this world: reading about characters and a magical world I’d grown up being a part of. Through my re-read I decided to bump up my rating of this book to the full five stars. What is truly wonderful about this book is that, with the combination of the words and the illustrations, it felt like I was reading it again for the first time. There is the element of surprise as you don’t know what scenes are going to come to life in glorious colour. It made the whole reading experience even more exciting.

Through reading the first book again I was reminded of how fantastic and magical this story is and decided to bump up my rating to five stars.

The thrill I get from this new edition is knowing that a whole new generation will be able to experience the story with the pictures to go along with it.

I honestly cannot justify how beautiful this book is and while it’s  quite pricey, it is worth it if you can afford it.

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Posted in fantasy, review

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child -J.K.Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

“Hogwarts will be the making of you, Albus. I promise you, there is nothing to be frightened of there.”

 

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Blurb: “It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the ministry of magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes darkness comes from unexpected places.”

When it was first announced that there was going to be, in essence, another Harry Potter book, naturally I experienced mixed emotions. Harry Potter remains to be my all-time favourite series to the point where I feel like it’s a part of me. Alongside that the ending was so perfect that I was faced with the reality of what may happen if this extension was sub-par in comparison. After all, you can’t unread a book. I was happy to get an opportunity to experience this new story in some form as tickets to the West End shows are so limited that even if I managed to get my hands on them, I wouldn’t be able to afford travel costs to London.

The story takes place right where Deathly Hallows leaves off: on platform 9 ¾ with Harry sending his son Albus off to Hogwarts for the first time. I expected Albus to be the primary focus on this adventure and while he is in a lot of ways, we get to see into the lives of our favourite golden trio and what became of them nineteen years after the battle of Hogwarts.

The first thing I will say about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is that you can’t really give it a rave review or a terrible rating because this is a script and plays are meant to be seen not read. It took a while to get used to the format but once getting over that hurdle it’s easy to follow what’s happening. A lot is left to your own imagination as you’re just reading stage directions and dialogue rather than getting the pages of description that you would if it was a novel. I really enjoyed the path this story took and it’s easy to see why Scorpius Malfoy is becoming a favourite. I feel like the right parts of the adventures were depicted through the scenes and I just felt like I was home. There are a few things I found issues with and sometimes I felt the turn of events were too convenient but overall, as an addition to the Harry Potter timeline, I am very happy with it.

I’ve seen a lot of reviews saying that Cursed Child reads like fan fiction because the characters don’t “read” authentically and while I understand why readers think that, it’s important to remember that these characters fought in a war and they are all in their late 30’s so Harry is bound to not be like he was when he was 11.

Personally I found the first part much better than the second part which I think could have done with more work.

I came out of this experience sad that it’s over, relieved that it lives up to my expectations, but also happy getting to see how everyone was doing nineteen years later.

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Posted in children's fiction, fantasy, review

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix – J.K.Rowling

 

“He felt as though his heart was going to explode with pleasure; he was flying again, flying away from Privet Drive as he’d been fantasising about all Summer, he was going home… for a few glorious moments, all his problems seemed to recede to nothing, insignificant in the vast, starry sky.”

 

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Blurb: “Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friend Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to School and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…”

It’s taken over a year but I have finally finished my re-read of Harry Potter (in the fancy new UK editions). It’s not the first time I’ve re-read the series and I have no doubt it won’t be the last. This is the fifth book in the series, so you can clearly tell I didn’t re-read the series in order. One thing I have discovered is that every time I pick up one of the Harry Potter books and read them again, I become even more disillusioned by the films. I understand that changes need to be made etc. when it comes to an adaptation, but I just feel like you miss out on so much if you haven’t read the source material.

Like I said, this is the fifth book in the Harry Potter series and the longest; reaching exactly 800 pages in this edition. What I really like about this book that following on from the events in Goblet of Fire, is that everything has the “calm before the storm” feeling. Horrible things are looming that people are trying their hardest to ignore, but for the most part there’s enough warmth and joy that it makes you feel like, for now, things are continuing as normal.  You have Fred and George up to their usual antics, new and exciting classes and creatures, contrasting with Harry’s negative battle with being left out of situations, being left with no information and no contact with his friends. This book is when he starts to internalise a lot of what he’s going through and becomes quite bitter. He gets upset, he gets angry (and not just over exams) and that only gets worse when the Ministry of Magic appoints Dolores Umbridge as the new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher. Her character is insufferable as she grows in power throughout the plot, but one thing I will say is that she is tame in the movie adaptation compared to this book. She gave me headaches. A lot.

A while ago, someone said to me that J.K.Rowling is a “good storyteller, but not a good writer.” At first I was utterly flabbergasted. I think everyone can agree that Harry Potter has been hugely successful and continues to be long since the last book was released. However, upon my overall re-read, I’ve learnt that the person who made those comments is right. Maybe it’s because I do a lot of editing, or maybe it’s because I’m a writer myself, but I found myself saying “I would have cut that”, “oh that’s oddly presented” although you cannot deny that the world she has created is something that will fall into the classics of the future.  She paved the way for stories about magic schools and child wizards.

There’s so many subplots in this book that just root you back into the world, despite not wanting to admit that certain people may be making their return, such as Quidditch, St Mungos hospital, the prefects and Hermione becoming essentially a House Elf Activist. And may this is because I love learning, but it was interesting to see the characters stressing over exams and how the actual exams took place.

Overall, it’s another solid addition to the series and where I feel Rowling starts to get stronger. It’s moved its way up into my top 3 Harry Potter books.
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Posted in Non-Fiction, review

Very Good Lives – J.K.Rowling

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Blurb: “When J.K.Rowling was invited to deliver the commencement address at Harvard University, she chose to speak to the graduating class about two topics very close to her heart: the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination. Having the courage to fail, she said, is as vital to a good life as any conventional measure of success; imagining ourselves into the place of another – particularly someone less fortunate than ourselves – is a uniquely human quality to be nurtured at all costs.”

This book has fallen into my hands at such an important time in my life: I have just left University and in July I will have my graduation ceremony. Naturally, I’m searching for all the advice  I can get to handle myself in “the real world” after sixteen years in the education system. So, getting advice from the great J.K.Rowling? Sign me straight up!

Very Good Lives is a book version of Rowling’s 2008 commencement speech given at Harvard University, and sales of the book go to Lumos, an international charity founded by J.K.Rowling.  One of the things I love the most about this book is just how pretty it looks: the pages are decorated with beautiful artwork which made is such a pleasurable read. Most of all, it was really inspiring.

One fear I have – which I’m sure a lot of you reading this share too – is failure. This is a topic that Rowling talks about a lot, referring to her own experiences, but also talks about how it is impossible to avoid failure because of how life pans out. One thing she said really stood out to me:

“Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

It changed my outlook on failure. Rather than trying to avoid failure and give up living, I should embrace and learn from failure when I do face it.

Basically, it’s a wonderful little book showing that we are important, we should live for ourselves, not for others. And most importantly, we should use our incredible imaginations to create.

I recommend this to everyone going through an important milestone in their lives.

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