26 June 2017

What Harry Potter means to me

I couldn't let the 20th (!) anniversary of my favourite ever story pass by without a blog post, could I?  On this day in 1997, J.K. Rowling introduced us to Harry Potter, the boy wizard, and I know that I'm not alone in being so grateful that she did.


The impact that Harry Potter has had on my life is undeniable.  Anyone who knows me should be able to tell you that I kind of have to really love something to want to display it around my house, so the fact that immediately on walking into my flat you are greeted by 4 wands on the wall and a case containing the Marauder's Map says it all.  But whilst the merchandise is cool to have, my love for these stories goes much deeper.

Unlike many, I don't credit the Harry Potter series with introducing me to reading - I was already a well established bookworm when The Philosopher's Stone came out when I was 6, but it did provide me with a lot of other milestones in my life as a reader.  This was the first series I can remember being aware of as a series, actively looking for sequels and making sure to read them in order, eagerly waiting for those not yet released and being so excited to get my hands on them.  It was for Deathly Hallows that I went to my first ever midnight book release, something which was relatively unheard of before and I was so happy when my dad said he would take me! We queued outside WHSmith in Leeds (I remember feeling really smug that we were quite near the front!).

It's the first time I can remember feeling part of a reading community too.  As a young reader, I can't say I was aware of this as something missing from my reading experience - I just knew that I loved books, and would read as much as I could.  But now people were talking about Harry Potter at school, racing to be the first one to read up to a certain chapter, playing wizards in the playground.  When we were older, we would pass time by quizzing each other on our knowledge of the wizarding world.  So whilst I don't say that Harry Potter started me reading in the first place, I do credit it with nurturing my enjoyment of sharing books and stories with other people.


I love Harry Potter for a lot of the same reasons as everybody else - the writing is so clever, and Hogwarts is home to my favourite characters and all the magic and adventure that I still look for in novels as an adult, but the reason these stories hold such a special place in my heart is the lessons I have taken away from them.  Harry Potter taught me that nobody is perfect and to look for the good in everybody - even the Slytherins.  Hermione taught me to stand up for what is important to me, Dumbledore taught me to look for the light in dark times, Neville taught me to dust myself down and try again next time, and Ron taught me not to let the muggles get me down.  And there are so many other valuable messages to take away that will always be relevant to society - love, kindness, peace, the value of family and friendship, and tolerance and respect for others.

"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light."


Even at the age of 26, I still turn to Harry Potter for comfort and apply its messages to my life, and I believe I will for as long as I live.  I always tell myself to 'be more Gryffindor' and put on my red and gold stripes when I have to be brave, and I always make sure to cast my Patronus charm and eat a bit of chocolate when I'm feeling down.  I really have to say a big thank you to J.K. Rowling for that, because those are two things in particular that have got me through some tough times over the past few years.



It's testament to how special these books are that they are still so popular 20 years on, and finding new readers all the time - because they are so relevant, and I think even in another 20 years, young readers will still be able to find something to take away from these characters.  And we're so lucky that we're still being treated to parts of the story we haven't heard before!  That's something really unique to the Harry Potter universe, and I really appreciate the amount of effort J.K. Rowling puts in to keep the magic alive.

"Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic."


Happy anniversary, Harry!
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24 June 2017

Recently Read

 



The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen - ★★★★
As soon as I read the blurb for this one, I was in.  Kit is a phenomenaut which means she can project her consciousness into animal bodies.  Over the course of the story, she becomes a bat, a spider, a tiger, and an elephant to name just a few and we get to experience this with her.  Kit uses her ability as part of a research project hoping to help humans better understand and protect animals, but the company she works for want to start using phenomenautism for some more sinister things.  If you're in the market for some good science fiction, give this a go!

The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick - ★★★★
The Comet Seekers is a beautiful story following the lives of the two main characters Roisin and Francois.  In a similar way to One Day by David Nicholls, we catch up with each of them only at certain points in their timelines, when a comet is visible in the sky (hence the title) slowly finding out how their stories overlap.  I loved the writing and the themes of love and hope, and it's also such a beautifully designed book.

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld - ★★★
I read this fairly short book in a day and I really liked it, but didn't think it was amazing.  The Enchanted is told from the point of view of a prisoner on death row and is about the observations he makes about the world around him.  Quite a thought-provoking and interesting look at the death penalty and what drives people to commit horrible crimes, but I didn't feel overly connected to any of the characters in the way needed to make it a really emotional read - possibly just down to the time I was reading, but I give this one three stars.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden - ★★★★★
Such a beautiful book and one I'm so glad I finally got around to!  Arthur Golden describes the world of the geishas so vividly and it was such an absorbing, interesting read.  Perfect historical fiction.

Despite The Falling Snow by Shamim Sarif - ★★★★
I had never read anything set in Cold War Russia before but I loved it as this story's backdrop.  It was slightly less spy novel and a bit more romance than I imagined but I would choose both of these things in a book anyway so I really enjoyed it all the same.  I never felt the romance was overdone, just the perfect amount, and I was so swept up in Katya and Alexander's back story and their world.  I'm considering having everyone call me Hollyushka from now on.  So gorgeous.
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8 June 2017

All The Good Things

Using your best handwriting on the first page of a blank notebook
Squeezing hands with grandparents
Walking through crunchy leaves in Autumn
Curling up with a book when it's raining outside
Finding new music that you love straight away
Reading aloud to yourself sometimes when there's no one else home
Parking at the runway lookout with fish and chips to watch the planes
Seeing office workers having picnics with their families at lunchtime
 Solo dance parties while doing the washing up
Putting the world to rights with old friends
The first night in a fresh bed
That first cup of tea in the morning
Sunday afternoon naps
Laying in the grass making daisy chains
The feeling of leaving work on a Friday knowing you have next week off!

This list is inspired by Clare Fisher's new book All The Good Things as today is my stop on the blog tour! All The Good things is out now in hardback and don't forget to have a look at the other blog tour posts below for reviews and author content :)


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