Review: Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

26804769A startling and evocative novel, harkening to both One Day and Gravity, a man and a woman revisit memories of their love affair on a utopian Earth while they are trapped in the vast void of space with only ninety minutes of oxygen left.

After the catastrophic destruction of the Middle East and the United States, Europe has become a utopia and, every three years, the European population must rotate into different multicultural communities, living as individuals responsible for their own actions. While living in this paradise, Max meets Carys and immediately feels a spark of attraction. He quickly realizes, however, that Carys is someone he might want to stay with long-term, which is impossible in this new world.

As their relationship plays out, the connections between their time on Earth and their present dilemma in space become clear. When their air ticks dangerously low, one is offered the chance of salvation—but who will take it? An original and daring exploration of the impact of first love and how the choices we make can change the fate of everyone around us, this is an unforgettable read.

Before I say anything: look at that cover, take it in. It is gorgeous. The hardback is beautifully produced, with some of the stars spot varnished it really looks like a shining space scene. I bloomin’ love well-designed books.

I will admit, this was a cover buy – well, it was a birthday present but it was a cover wishlist add. It looks beautiful and it has stars on it.

But it’s so much more than a pretty book. I really didn’t know what to expect but the whole thing was poignant and heartbreaking. I cannot recommend it enough, it’s a beautiful, beautiful book.

At its heart,  Hold Back the Stars is a love story. It follows Carys and Max. It is the last moments of their lives, and how they each got to be there. It is their journey and their tragedy and it is breathtaking. The characters are so well-written, I really felt for them which is so important for a book which is so deeply character-led.  The supporting cast was also wonderful and I really don’t have any complaints.

The world-building was excellent, it was unlike anything I’ve seen before. In fact, the whole book was unlike anything I’ve ever read. Due to the nature of the story, it was very much about the little details and the details soared in this book, every question I had about the world was answered on the page, it’s like the book was reading my mind.

I just loved it. I am so happy when a book I know little about turns into a book I love and this definitely happened with this one. It is as beautiful inside as it is out and I want everyone to read it.

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

On insta-love

Greetings, greetings, one and all. This is a bit of a weird one, bear with me though because I think it’s worth reading. (Well, would, I am the one writing it.)

Insta-love. Not the kind you show on instagram by liking as many of someone’s photos as is humanly possible in one sitting (though, that can be good) but the kind you see in books and movies. Often hailed as unrealistic and annoying and a plot-ruiner.

Well, I have a confession to make on that front.

It’s not that unrealistic. (Controversial?) Sure, if it’s terribly written or portrayed and you’re getting no feeling from either character, I can understand it ruining everything. But as a thing, on the whole, it’s not that bad. Love is weird and it’s different for everyone. This is common knowledge. A love being different to the love I experience, doesn’t make that love invalid and I would never dream of saying it does so why do we assume insta-love isn’t a thing?

Why am I writing about this? Why am I defending insta-love? Well, quite simply, because I feel it myself. Perhaps not full-blown cherubs-with-trumpets-I-want-to-spend-the-rest-of-my-life-with-you-immediately love but it’s very fast.

Context: I met my boyfriend through online dating, we spoke for maybe a week before we met each other in person. We spent a day together and before he went home, I ended up deciding ‘Yup, this is the person I want to be with.’ (If we’re being completely honest, I decided that about an hour into the day.) He agreed. And so we officially became a thing. I didn’t need a second date to know that he was who I wanted, or that a relationship with him was both what I wanted and right for me at the time. Over a year and a half later, and here we still are, living together harmoniously in a little flat on the top of a hill.

I can’t ‘date’. I don’t see the point in devoting time to someone I don’t see or want a future with. If I decide to be with someone it’s because I’m in it for the long-haul from day one. When I was doing the online dating thing, if I felt a strong connection with someone (like my other half) I would cease talking to anyone else on that platform until I had confirmed whether it was something both of us wanted to pursue.

I feel very quickly and very deeply – I felt strong feelings for my other half before we even met. I am exactly the kind of character that gets complained about for being unrealistic but does my existence not make all of those claims a little bit false? Sure, it might be annoying as hell, and it might be difficult to understand if it’s not something you go through, but it’s very much a real thing.

It’s not all sunshine and roses, it hurts when it goes wrong – especially when it goes wrong after a short period of time and the people around you can’t quite understand why you’re so upset about it. That side of things, I think, needs to be explored more. I’m all for happy, wonderful love stories but I’m also all for raw, emotional, painful, not-quite love stories.

A lot of the complaints about it come from young adult fiction, and TV shows and films aimed at teenagers but it’s very much something that teenagers go through. I had so many dramatic unrequited teenage crushes and my teenage relationship(s), other than being a train-wreck, were very much that immediate, sickly sweet kind and so were many of the other teen relationships going on around me. What’s important, I think, is that books/films/shows that deal in insta-love should also deal with how to react healthily to it ending. There are so few stories that I know of that can be used as an example of a healthy way of dealing with a break-up, if you know any, do share them.

Is it just me? Am I the only person on this planet who gets insta-love and doesn’t revile it on principle? Am I speaking into the void?

Harry Potter re-readathon: The Deathly Hallows

9781408855959_309031We did it! We completed a series! The blog is alive! Alive with the sound of pages ruffling and words shuffling about on the spot waiting to be read. I am proud of this.

Here we are, on the last stop of our journey. The Deathly Hallows.

This book is painful. It hits you right in the gut so many times. With every grave injury or character death, I felt a crack splinter into my heart. It takes its toll – a mark of good writing.

It’s amazing to compare this to The Philiospher’s Stone, the two books are so different and yet they still feel like the same series. True, The Deathly Hallows is a much older, more experienced, and hardened brother to the sweet, innocent Philosopher’s but they are still brothers.

Speaking of brothers, I adore the Tale of the Three Brothers and I wish more folksy fairy tales were included in the body of the series. It added so much to the story and it felt like a real tale. I am a sucker for stories within stories.

Another thing I love about this book is that we get to visit the Ravenclaw common room and its wonderful riddle entry system. I identify as a Ravenclaw (if I haven’t already made that abundantly obvious) so I was so happy when the common room popped up in the books. It’s so wonderfully appropriate, I just want to curl up in there with a good book.

I am, however, still waiting for an epic Ravenclaw protagonist.

We get more helpings of McGonagall, who is just as bad-ass as I wanted her to be. It goes without saying (yet here I am saying it) that I am very much here for more McGonagall, in all of her forms. I am so glad she survives to pass her sass on to future generations of Hogwarts.

Like most Potter fans, however, I feel a great sense of exasperation towards the epilogue. I don’t think it was necessary and I think Harry needs to drastically improve his choice of names. There is no way Ginny had anything to do with that monstrosity. I refuse to believe otherwise.

I don’t quite know how to end this. I’d never thought this far. So I a just going to end it with this:

I bloody love these books. Thank you, J.K. Rowling.

#FolkoreThursday: Books I Want to Read

Greetings bloglings. We made it! We are in the second post. Folklore Thursday posts are officially a thing. Pat on the back for me. And for you for reading them.

Today, I’m going to share some of the folklore and fairy tale inspired books that I would really like to read. At least one of these is sat on the desk behind me so I will be reading it very soon. Hoorah! Anyway, without further ado, a list:

1. The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood

30052003Look at the cover. Just look at it. It is beautiful and wonderful and I wanted to read it for that. Then I read about it. Now I own it. It is only a matter of time. It’s described as a Victorian murder mystery, delving into folktale and superstition. The title is drawn from the Icelandic Huldufólk, from what I gather they are elves of some description. Having never looked into Icelandic folklore, I am intrigued.

I am unsure what to expect from it, not knowing anything much about Icelandic culture, or even whether it takes place in Iceland, maybe it doesn’t. I will be going into this one blind and that’s fine by me. Come at me, Victorian murder mystery. I am ready!

2. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

30809689It’s a new book by Neil Gaiman. Of course I want to read it. I already know that Gaiman is an exceptional author and that he knows how to handle his mythology so I am expecting great things from this book. I’ve never been disappointed by his work so I am almost completely certain that I am going to love it and I want it to fall from the sky into my waiting hands. Right about now. Any minute now.

No? Ah well, it was worth a try.

I’ve seen a couple of early reviews and from what I gather, it’s been well-received by those lucky few who have read it already. I am jealous. Incredibly jealous.

3. The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne M. Valente

17694319Yes. It is possible that every single Folklore Thursday post might mention Valente several times. I am not even nearly sorry.

Unfortunately, I am almost certain that I will never get to read this book. It is notoriously hard to track down and when you track it down, it is often incredibly expensive. Cue long sigh. I can dream. And what a wonderful dream it would be.

There is always some hint of folklore in a Valente work. I could probably list every book of hers I’ve not read here and they would all be valid (spoiler alert: there is another Valente book on this list).

4. The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker

21075386I am behind the times with this one. It came out a while ago and it has been on my wishlist since then. I just haven’t got round to buying it, and it’s not yet been bought for me by those in possession of my list (for birthday and Christmas purposes, I don’t force my loved ones to by me books – but if I could…). At least, I don’t think it has. I am doubting myself now.

I was mostly drawn to this book because it’s not about humans. It’s about very established mythological beings and I’ve never read a book from the perspective of a golem nor a djinni – heck, I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book about a golem or a djinni. I really need to get a wiggle on with it.

5. Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

28220892Russian folklore again gimme! (See my last Folklore Thursday post for context.) Vassa in the Night is set in modern day Brooklyn but promises all of the magic and wonder of the folklore it is based on. I want it and I want it now.

I’ve seen it described as quirky, nonsensical and whimsical – three words which just make me more excited. I love a bit of whimsy and a bit of nonsense and the quirkier the read the better. I think this book and I will get on a treat.

I’m intrigued to see how the folklore fits in with modern day Brooklyn, I’d’ve never thought to mesh the two together. I hope it lives up to the magical impression of it that I have so far.

6. Myths of Origin by Catherynne M. Valente

12180219I love a good origin myth, I love it even more when they are well-written, well thought out and completely believable. I know Valente is capable of delivering this so there is no doubt in my mind that these are going to be incredible. Again, it’s an old book but who said these lists had to be new?

Honestly, if I could live in Valente’s books, I would. She’s a poem in human form and I am pretty sure she’s in possession of magic. There is no other explanation. She has to be otherworldly.

Whether she is or she isn’t, she’s definitely talented and for that I am ever thankful.

So those are six books I want to read, which all have at least something to do with folklore, mythology and fairy tales.

Have you read any of these? Did you like them? Will like them? Will I love them? Will I be swallowed whole by a sudden gap in space and time? Who knows. Not me.

Happy Thursday.

Harry Potter re-readathon: The Half-Blood Prince

9781408855942_309034I am nearing the end of my nostalgic Harry Potter not-quite re-readathon posts (the actual not-quite re-readathon having taken place this time last year, cue whistling) and I am so happy about how excited I still get about these books (I wear my Ravenclaw jumper with pride – it is my favourite and I never want to take it off but if I do, I have a hoodie to wear in its place because I am just that invested). Even if I did hide my excitement for a number of years to hide my shame at not finishing the fourth book in one go.

This book makes me happy for many reasons but one of those is Ginny Weasley. I’d long seen the internet shouting about how great Ginny was but having only read to the middle of book four, and watching the films, I didn’t quite understand why before. I thought it was excellent but I didn’t understand. Now I do. Ginny Weasley is the greatest injustice in the films and I am so sad that I did not know that until last year. Well, I knew through tumblr but I didn’t really know.

Even though I think I got more out of this from reading it as an adult than I would have if I’d read it when I was younger, I wish I’d had Ginny in my life while I was in my teens. She is just the sort of role model I needed. If only I had a time turner. (Though, I can imagine so many ways that could go wrong. It’s probably for the best that I don’t have one. I can definitely see the world crashing down around me as soon as I caught up with the present. Or I would go too far back and just cease to exist in the present. I wonder if it works that way, I don’t even know.)

I also missed out on the hilarity that was Ron Weasley and Lavender Brown. I just… It’s great to see a ridiculous romance in teen fiction. There are too many all-important, way-too-serious romances in YA. Yes, some teens do have wonderful and meaningful and their-world-will-end-if-it-ends scenarios but a lot of teen relationships are ridiculous and over the top and incredibly cringe-worthy. It’s nice to see that teens in books also have those relationships. Perhaps, if I’d’ve read this book back then wouldn’t have been quite so ridiculous. I mean, I probably would be. But you never know.

I find it hard to pick a favourite book out of the last three in the series. I love them all whole-heartedly, as I always hoped I would. I did feel a sense of dread getting to the end of this one (which is unsurprising considering what happens at the end of this one), I knew I only had one more book before I had to stop reading them. I wasn’t ready for Harry Potter to leave my life. (My worries were unfounded, I later saw Fantastic Beasts and recently visited the House of MinaLima so the world of Harry Potter is still very much in my life – hooray!) It’s always nice to get that invested in a series.

I know I am preaching to the choir with these posts and that I was very late on the boat but at least the boat wasn’t so far out to sea that I could no longer catch it. There is still a community to be a part of and I think there always will be. This makes me happy.

Harry Potter re-readathon: The Order of the Phoenix

9781408855935_309037Phew. We are past my problem book. That’s a relief. The sense of relief I felt when I closed Goblet of Fire was paled only by the excitement of finally being able to read further into the series. I had waited years for this moment.

It was actually quite daunting. What if I didn’t like it? What if I’d built it up so much in my head that nothing I could read would compare to that build up? Had I ruined it for myself? I’d watched my friends fall in love with the last few books and I was so worried that I had missed it, that somehow by not reading them when they came out my enjoyment of them would cease to exist before it had even considered existing. Luckily, I was worrying for nothing.

I love the later books in this series. Even if I do get a little frustrated with Harry. But what’s a bit of frustration between friends, eh?

This book has a special place in my heart for one main reason: we actually find out what’s happening by way of prophecy. Before this book, each story seemed more separate. Goblet of Fire led us to this, and Order of the Phoenix dumped us head first into the crux of the story.

We lost even closer friends than Cedric, and our hearts were all but ripped out of our chests. (Just you wait… I could hear the pages whispering to me as I read. I knew what was coming, of course but that’s for later entries.) J.K. Rowling, I have realised, is ruthless. Maybe not the upfront kind of ruthless, but a quiet kind that sits in the back until just the right moment. That kind.

I cannot write this post without mentioning Dumbledore’s Army. This book is a gift because it gave us Dumbledore’s Army. A group of young people who want to learn, who want to defend themselves and who are afraid but don’t let that fear get in their way – a lesson we could all learn from. We get to see a lot more of the supporting characters in these scenes, which brings me to my next reason that this book is a gift. Luna Lovegood. Little Luna, lovely Luna. There is nothing I dislike about Luna, she is my tiny fave, and she should be protected at all costs. The fact that she is in Dumbledore’s Army is so lovely and poignant, especially considering she doesn’t have many existing friends that we know of – not that that bothers her. It is heartwarming to see her being accepted.

There is a third reason that this book is a gift (I know, three reasons in one book – I could list more, don’t tempt me), and that is sassy!McGonagall. I love McGongall. She is easily my favourite teacher, and not-so-easily my favourite adult character (alongside Molly Weasley).

Even though the story takes a dark turn, we still get humour in the scenes with McGongall and Umbridge (I do not like Umbridge), and for that I am thankful.

Harry Potter re-readathon: The Goblet of Fire

978-1408855928_309033 I have been putting this post off, as you might have guessed, and as I mentioned in my last post. However, I said it was to be my next post and so it is – even if it did take me months to pluck up the drive to write it. I have wanted to blog. I have wanted to post things but I haven’t wanted to write this particular post. So I avoided it. No more – three of my resolutions are linked to this blog (my next post will be about these – hooray for planning) and I would like to try my hardest not to fail them.

So here goes.

You might be asking yourself why I avoided this post even though I finished my re-readathon around this time last year, well, to answer that question we have to travel back in time. We have to go back to the year of Goblet of Fire‘s release, then the next, and the next, and the next…

My experience with the Goblet of Fire was a trying one for one simple reason: every time I reached page 362 of the original hardback, my brother would steal the book to read. Every. Single. Time. It was always that page. Eventually it got to the point where I couldn’t face reading those 362 pages again to get to page 363 and beyond. But I didn’t want to randomly begin reading on page 363 just in case I forgot any of the details. It was a horrible cycle, one which I never want to repeat with any other book. Luckily mine and my brother’s reading habits are no longer the same, and even if they were we live in different places so his access to my current read is pretty much nonexistent.

So that’s my confession. This is the last actual re-read, though I will still call the others re-reads for consistency. When I was a child, I never got past the fourth book and pretended I wasn’t that into the series as a cover. I lied. I love it wholeheartedly (especially now that I have a Ravenclaw jumper and hoodie to show off my pride, and a subscription to The Wizarding World crate from LootCrate, which I recommend). It’s a good thing that I have never really been bothered about spoilers.

The Goblet of Fire is my least favourite (tied, perhaps, with Chamber of Secrets), probably through no fault of its own. Part of me is glad I waited until I was an adult (and over the trauma of having to read the first 362 pages on a loop) to finish it. I feel like, even though it is my least favourite, I enjoy it a lot more now than I would have before. It is a book of change, and the book where everything gets a little more real. To re-purpose a line from later, the story opens at Goblet of Fire‘s close. From here on out, the novels are less stand-alone and it becomes clear that there really is a longer, deeper plot developing.

It also takes us somewhere a lot darker than the previous books, with the death of a loved character and the horrific manner of the spell which restores He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to his former glory (well, sort of).

In comparison to the first three books, my nostalgia is less joyful but the real joy now comes from my appreciation of the series as an adult and for that, I am thankful.

Harry Potter re-readathon: The Chamber of Secrets

The Chamber of SecretsHoo boy, I was supposed to post these every week for seven weeks, since I read the whole series in about 14 days. But alas, life happened, as it often does, but I have resolved to be more regular in my blog updates and book reviews and various other things. So I am posting this from the past. Hooray for queued posts! Anyway…

The Chamber of Secrets was never my favourite. Possibly because it sits between the first book (much excitement because it’s the start of the series) and the third which, until recently, was always my favourite. It’s pretty hard, then, for the book between those two to be quite as exciting. That said, it does have the joy that is Gilderoy Lockhart and his failure at life. (Or perhaps it’s not a failure, not until the obliviate mishap anyway.)

Though it was never my favourite, Riddle and the diary always fascinated me. I loved the idea of having a book that could interact with me, and I mean really interact with me, not a choose your own adventure or an enhanced ebook type deal. A really real book, which really did talk to me and respond to my words and actions. Who doesn’t want a book that tailors itself to them and them alone?

I often ignored the fact that the diary was evil. Or rather, I didn’t care that it was evil, I just thought it was cool.

Now that I am older, wiser, and more dashing (the crowd sniggers), I see it in a different way, even though I would  still like a really real interactive book. I can see now how creepy and twisted the Riddle in the diary is, and how much that scarred Ginny (especially when it is mentioned in later books). There are all sorts of mental manipulation techniques in the Potterverse and arguably this is the worst. Especially when you consider the life-sucking part.

Shudder.

I can now see what little-me overlooked, the ever so subtle setting up of the latter half of the series, though if older me hadn’t already known about horcruxes, I never would have guessed what relevance the diary would have had to future events. At first the series was seemingly less connected, the first three books had clear openings and endings and most things were left resolved, excepting the looming threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but once you go through them again, you see that it isn’t quite as cut and dry as it at first seemed. I like that. I like that a lot.