Friday, 30 December 2016

2016:: A Year in Review

So 2016 happened. It's been a storm of political pain and death after death. People shout and scream about 2016 and how in years to come we won't talk about 2016 when recounting history, but I want to talk about it. I want to remember this year, because between the turmoil that's been going on in the world, this has been the best year of my life. It has been a year of extraordinary experiences that I never dreamed i would encounter. Above all, this year has taught me that a month may seem blank when you glance upon each day of the calendar, but to expected the unexpected, and opportunities can arise from the strangest of places. Over the course of the year, I've documented each month as it unfolded; for both my own benefit and anyone whom is remotely curious. Here is 2016


As with every January, the year began slow and sluggishly, nothing massive or eventful happened, and instead a very quiet month was had. I chalked my hair. First blue and then red. College recommenced for 2016 and suddenly I was immersed back into A Level life.
Alan Rickman died halfway through the month. Out of all the famous deaths that occurred over 2016, this was the one that hit me the hardest, and not just because he was Snape, but because he was a wonderful actor that had so many film connections to my childhood. Finding out about his death was a moment I struggle to forget, but like so many Harry Potter fans, feel comforted in the knowledge that so many others mourned his loss.


I don't feel like I ever really caught a break in February. On the 4th it was Harry Potter Book Night, and so I dressed up as Nymphadora Tonks met up with my friends Charlotte and Bekka, and also the wonderful Laura at Waterstones. It was crazy and amazing but after that everything just seemed to slow down. February was a month of cancellations, me having to cancel on people and others cancelling on me. It was a month where I was meant to have a week break from college and yet spent the entirety of that doing Media Studies Coursework. I don't feel like I ever stopped, so whether it was a good or bad month is questionable. (But I did read some good books, take from that what you will.)

I hate to be boring,but March was all about work. I advanced in my search for Universities and was travelling to sort paperwork for my AS Exams. When I wasn't establishing future links, I was revising for my English Literature mock, (which went really well ), and generally hibernating in my revision lair. Having gone into full on revision in January, the conquest continued this month. Aside from that literally nothing happened; I didn't really go out, and when I wasn't working I was marathoning Jane the Virgin in the hope of improving my Spanish.


April was a month solely dedicated to revision. With my exams less than a month away, I stopped reading and pulled myself through any free hours with relistens to my favourite podcasts. Most days I was doing 7-8 hours of revision a day, and slowly pushed myself to extremes that I now regret, making myself more stressed than I should have been. I also had my first coffee. What an exciting life I lead that month...


Early on in May I travelled to Leeds to stay with friends whilst we went to see another one of our friends in an OperaSoc version of The Pirates of Penzance. The night itself was one of the best if not the best I've ever had. Between the alcohol and me learning to play Cards Against Humanity, and being with some of my favourite people, I couldn't have had a better night. I stayed up all night, and then promptly passed in and out of conciousness between 6AM and 8.30. However, a few days later my first exam hit. All my AS exams were over the course of 20 May days, spent travelling back and forth and staying in hotels the night before due to the distance my exams were from home. Stress overwhelmed, and eventually I reached I point where I couldn't remember a time when I didn't have revision to do. In all the madness, I took a one day break in order to see Alice Through the Looking Glass with a couple of my friends, which was good enough, but not great for a long awaited sequel. 


June was a month of struggling to reconnect with lost time. After five months of spending most of every day revising, with the end of exams came unlimited time and endless freedom. For the first couple of weeks, a lot of that time was spent simply wandering around the house, because I wasn't used to having those hours in my grasp. After that, June involved catching up with reading, writing, and everything else I'd put on hold whilst studying for my exams. Additionally, I quit my voluntary job. 9 months in I decided that whilst I was grateful for the insight and experience of working in a library, I wasn't happy there, and chose to focus on my second year of A Levels instead of continuing. We voted to leave the EU, and I was disgusted. June 24th was a morning of crying and watching as friends started making plans to leave the country and move across oceans. It was a morning of evaluating what I could no longer do with my life, and reassessing the political hope I'd had in a guest post at Weaving Pages


While July featured new adventures and expeditions, the month was tainted by a hard struggle with my mental health, which hadn't been so bad in a couple of years. Early in the month, I spent a week in Wales, absorbing the peace and calm that comes with the rural seaside. On the 29th I headed to Leeds to stay the night with my book club friends, which then bled into the 30th, in which I was an excitable mess anticipating Cursed Child. That evening we all went to the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and am overwhelmed by the emotions I experienced that night. Intense excitement could have been bottled in the countdown to midnight, and it is certainly I night that I never want to forget. Being able to celebrate something that means so much to me with friends also meant the world and made the experience a lot better than it would have been alone. Following getting my hands on the book, I spent the rest of the night reading, refusing to sleep until I'd finished. Following on from turning the final page, I chose to spend the last day of July celebrating Harry Potter in the only way I know how - loving it unconditionally. 


Plot twist after plot twist, August was a month of the unexpected. I spent 2 terrified hours queuing for Cursed Child tickets and succeeded. 2 out of my 3 AS-Level results arrived a week early, and nobody had been made aware that this would be happening, so I spent an hour staring at  the words 'Guide to Marking' as oppose to turning the paper over and finding out my results out of pure fear. Eventually when I did, I got A'S I GOT A'S! I don't know how the hell I did it, but I did! Also in August, I experienced my first University open day at York St John University. Having never visited York prior to this, I was in awe of the gorgeously historical city and spent plenty of time simply overwhelmed by the variety of past periods had been preserved within the city walls. Visiting the university itself inspired many days of longing for explorations in new places and freshly printed English Literature book lists. The month closed with many hours absorbing sun upon my new bike - a present for doing well in my exams - and finally seeing Finding Dory. 


September was a month of recommencements, and also recommencements of both academics and friendships. I hadn't seen my friendship group since the end of July and then got the chance to see them twice this month, both times accompanied by Mexican food in Wahaca. Then an old friend and I started Skyping after having not spoken face to face for nearly five years since he moved to the USA. To have the opportunity to pull a friendship out of the rubble after such a long time and be properly talking like nothing's changed is something of indescribable magic. Academically, my final year of A Levels began, and once again I was plunged into literary analysis, media production, and sociology. Halfway through the month, I voyaged into my second university open day, this time for Keele University. Despite Keele being a wonderful place to visit, it wasn't somewhere I could picture myself being happy at for 3 years, and so ultimately chose not to apply there.


October was by far one of the best, if not the best months of the year. Anne Shirley's famous quote of 'I'm so glad we live in a world where there are Octobers' never felt a fraction as relevant as it did this year. Yes, there were some bad moments, but on the whole, this was an incredible month. Throughout the month, I continued attending weekly screenings of the Harry Potter films in a local cinema - something which I hadn't had the chance to do originally for any film other than the last. Seeing the films in such an environment was emotional, to put it lightly, but also made me love the ones I was iffy about far more (OOTP). On the 15th, I got to travel to my 1st choice university - Bangor University, for an open day, and I couldn't have fallen further in love with it if I'd tried. That weekend killed me as I had book club the day after, but it was worth every second. Much to my dismay, I was nominated for a Champion Teen Blogger Award at the UKYABA's, I didn't win, but that doesn't matter; I'm just incredibly honoured to be nominated. Speaking of books, the month ended with 2 book events; over the course of 3 days my friends and I met Becky Chambers [author of the wonderful Wayfarers series] and went to the last stop on Rainbow Rowell and Leigh Bardugo's Worlds Collide Tour. Bar J.K. Rowling, Rainbow Rowell is my favourite author, and it was wonderful to finally meet and thank her after so many years of loving her books. 


Within six hours of the month commencing, my plans for the month had already been changed and multiplied. A 2AM email from MuggleNet confirmed that they were offering me an Internship as a Creative Editorialist on their Creative Team. Having applied for the internship, along with what is usually hundreds of others, the last thing I had expected was to be informed that had such an opportunity. My first 2 articles went live on the 25th and 29th of the month, my second article being viewed over 60,000 times. Then, 3 days later, another twist in the story of November occurred. Amber had tickets for the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them European Premiere and she asked me to be her plus one.  15th November was a whirlwind of emotions, mainly because I'd been waiting for such a long time to see this film, and not only was I getting to see it early and in extraordinarily exciting conditions, but I was getting to do it with a great friend, when as you'll know from my writings earlier this year, I expected to attend cinema viewings of Fantastic Beasts alone. As part of this a spontaneous 2-day trip to London developed, including the premiere and Kings Cross with Amber on the 15th, and then sightseeing with my Aunt on the 16th. I happily spent money I didn't really have on Potter merchandise, but opportunities are opportunities, my friends. Only a few days later, and I was jumping between my fourth open day, this time in Oxford, and going to see Fantastic Beasts  another 3 times and collect the script, all in an irrationally short space of time. 


A month of hot chocolates, Christmas wrapping, and trying to manage my busy digital life around a fortnight without internet, December was beautifully chaotic. Between doing my A Levels online as well as an internship and communicating with my friends via the internet, this was a long and surprisingly difficult struggle. Once again, my MuggleNet internship articles went live, 5 Harry Potter Moments to Keep You Warm This Winter, and Life Caught Between the Potter and Beasts Generations. On the 8th I at long last submitted my UCAS application to my referee at college, and within a few days, it had then gone live and been sent to the five universities I'm applying to. 48 hours later, and I had an offer from my first choice, and my third, then unexpectedly on the 21st, I got an unconditional offer from my second choice, meaning that no matter what happens, I am going to University next year. On the 18th, my friends and I had a joint birthday meal in celebration of five of us' birthdays in December at Las Iguanas, and then at long last, I turned 18 on Christmas Eve. The milestone was celebrated by heading to a country pub with family for drinks. Of course, Christmas then followed, spent mostly enveloped in newly gifted books by the Christmas tree. 

How was your 2016?

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Who Am I? - A Living Autopsy

Today I turned 18. Today I became an adult. For me, birthdays and age progression is a big thing. It always feels like a step up, and evolution of yourself, and with becoming an adult, this feels much more significant this year. With this, and apparently commencing 'adulting,' I've spent a lot of time evaluating myself and who I think I am, and in the process that you actually don't know a lot about me. The arrival of a big birthday feels like the perfect time to give you some more of this information, so when Amber tagged me in the 'Who Am I?' tag, a great opportunity arose. So sit tight and get ready to learn plenty of unnecessary information about me, because hooray for oversharing!

What is the meaning of your name?
There's really not very much to it, honestly. Holly is a sharp tree, usually tied to Christmas. My naming has nothing to do with the fact that I was born on Christmas Eve, because I was actually meant to be called Lydia. My parents just liked the name, and they thought it fitted me better [also my mum says I've grown into it - bright and... apparently prickly.] 

What is your Myers Briggs personality type? | The quiz
Discovering that I was an INFJ a couple of years ago made perfect sense, and I genuinely believe that the results of this quiz are astonishingly accurate [If you haven't already, then you really should do this quiz [exclamation mark]].

As an INFJ, I am considered to be 'The Advocate.'

  • I approach everyday situations and achieving goals through constant improvement.
  • Though I may be soft-spoken, I've very strong opinions which I will relentlessly fight for.
  • I am also susceptible to burn out easily through a likelihood of exhausting myself via trying to balance ideals with everyday life. 
  • Extremely sensitive, private, and a perfectionist to name a few weaknesses. However, on the flip side, my strengths include creativity, a vivid imagination, determination, and altruism. 

What is your zodiac sign?
Capricorn. I'm not a big believer in star signs, and so did a little research into what exactly being a Capricorn means in terms of personality.
Strengths: Responsible, disciplined, self-control, good managers
Weaknesses: Know-it-all, unforgiving, condescending, expecting the worst
I completely agree with the strengths, and in terms of weaknesses, all but 'condescending' are right, I think [I hope].

What Hogwarts house would you be in? | The quiz
I better be Ravenclaw on this....
*does the quiz*
Ravenclaw yaaaaaaaaay! [an eagle cries]
Ravenclaw: 18
Gryffindor: 14
Hufflepuff: 10
Slytherin: 6

Whilst I'm sure this is reliable, I'll ALWAYS favour my original Pottermore result over quizzes like this. I was sorted into Ravenclaw on Pottermore just over 5 years ago, with my secondary house being Gryffindor [as discovered through making multiple accounts and retaking the test until I got something other than Ravenclaw.]
Also -- if you want to know my Ilvermorny house... I'm a Horned Serpent!

What are your learning styles? | The quiz
Read/Write - 14
Visual - 9
Aural - 5
Kinesthetic - 5
According to the quiz, I have a 'mild read/write preference.' I've always been someone who favours the written word over any other type of learning, so this makes a lot of sense.

Are you more of a left-brain or a right-brain person? | The quiz

Technically 'equal brained' isn't entirely accurate, but I'm glad that I have such a distribution. Often I'll favour rationality and logic over chaos, but as a Ravenclaw, a lot of my actions are heavily based in creativity, imagination and curiosity. Personally, I'm happy that I lean more to being right-brained than left brained. 

What is your blood type?
I should probably find this out for future reference....

What career are you meant to be in? | The quiz
WRITER - YES! Considering I'm intending to start a degree which is partially in creative writing later this year, that's reassuring. 
'You have a skill for language, your imagination is vast and you are artistic and creative. Your brain is just overflowing with ideas, and all you have to do is get a piece of paper and share it with the world. You were born to turn words into magical stories.'

Which Divergent faction do you belong in? | The quiz
Erudite - characterised by knowledge. Oh I am such a Ravenclaw. According to the Divergent wikia - the most notable traits are book and media discussion, constant pursuit of knowledge, and curiosity is their greatest drive.

What does your birth order say about you? | The quiz
Well, I'm the eldest child. According to the study, this means I'm ambitious, protective, and responsible. Due to being the eldest, apparently higher expectations are placed on me by my parents.... I just hope I'm living up to whatever those are then...

That was surprisingly fun, and I definitely got to know a little more about myself in the process. So whilst I try to find out my blood type and blow out the candles on this wonderful 18th birthday, I tag....

Gee from The Books Bandit
Hannah from Stars and Above
Helena from She is Wondering

Saturday, 17 December 2016

12 Months. 12 Classics #2016ClassicsChallenge

In December 2015, I signed up to Pretty Book's 2016 Classics Challenge. By now, it's no secret that I've been struggling with YA in recent months, and thus have decided to branch out, and read of new adventures, new styles, and new authors. Outside of the literary canon [because let's not even go there] classics have become classics because they have been read and loved time and time again. They are books that, out of all the books ever published, a handful that many many people say are worth reading. 

Stacey's challenge was not limited to a set number, but as someone who had very little experience with classics before this, I challenged myself to read one classic each month. Now December has come around again, and I've read 12 classics, it's about time for a wrap-up.

January - The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
This was my first book of 2016, and it set the year off to a great start. The Outsiders is truly amazing. The entire book felt like one big exhale, and the teenage voice was pure and perfect. Over the course of three days, I completely fell in love with this tale, and became engrossed in the lives of Ponyboy and the greasers. When reading this, a part of me didn't want to open the book, because as long as the book is closed, I could tell myself that the characters were fine, and everyone in this world was okay. The symbolism and meaning is so thought provoking - this wasn't screaming to be studied, but everything was so subtly laid out in front of you, providing you looked close enough.  5/5

February - Ariel by Sylvia Plath
Whenever I'd spoken to fellow readers about Plath, all of them recommended that I started with her final collection of poetry; Ariel. Sadly, this turned out to be a great disappointment. Poets speak to the soul, and their work will effect each reader differently. Some poets will speak to a reader in a stronger voice than others. Very early on into the collection, i found that perhaps, although I expected the opposite, Sylvia Plath's writing, just doesn't work for me. There were some great pieces, such as Lady Lazarus, Daddy, and The Moon and the Yew Tree. But the majority just didn't spark genius like so many claim. 2/5

March -  The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Having adored Louise O'Neill's Only Ever Yours, naturally, this classical version felt like the next stepping stone in the world of feminist dystopia. Turns out I was wrong, very wrong. Whilst the premise and concept of Gilead [Offred's dystopian America] was certainly a shocking one, the story was lacking so much development. Offred was incredibly passive, and I feel like eventually she succumbed to accepting her oppression like 'well I guess this is just the way it is.' Where Atwood creates beautiful prose substance was missing - and where revelations or extra details were needed, Atwood relied solely on her writing style rather than plot to pull readers through the story.  3/5

April - A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt
Ah, yes, the required college reading book that somehow made it into this list. Trouble is that by the time April came around, I had already been in 'full-on-revision' mode for 2 months, and was at the point where my reading was slowing down ahead of exams. This was the last AS Level text we were studying, and thankfully was also a classic. Given the reality of Thomas More's execution, and knowing that that is what awaits him adds a poignant note to the play - because despite his awareness that the penalty for treason is death, More respectfully never gives into his morals and principles. Whilst insightful, I can say I've read more intriguing classics, and more moving plays. This just didn't speak to me. 1/5 

May - The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Color Purple is fascinating for looking at feminism and also feminism within the American south. But it's also incredibly hard to read; not just for its nature, but also for its style. Because of Celie's lack of education, in her first person narration, the language is choppy and hard to follow. For me at least, the book only developed in pace and Walker's language only really begun to shine through when Nettie's letters were brought into the story.

There were a lot of points in this book which made me uncomfortable, and that drew away from the reading experience, as that completely removed me from the story. Despite The Color Purple not being something that I intend to re-read any time soon I couldn't have more respect for many of the ideas that Alice Walker puts across in the novel [such as choosing for yourself what counts as losing your virginity.] The main reason that this only gets 3 stars from me is because of the slow pacing of the first half of the story, and yet after 150 pages, the story just seemed to gain so much - it was like reading a different book. Aside from this, the ending partially let me down, as although Celie was far more empowered in older age, part of her was forgiving of someone who had abused her for decades; and I just can't get my head around how she could be, or WHY she would be. 3/5

June - The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
In the process of reading this - I'm having a lot of trouble with the 'timeless' quality of this collection. Everything feels so historic and 18th century-esque, but then someone will casually use the phone, or 'hail a taxi.' It takes me right out of the story, and helps this otherwise beautifully prosed collection loose some of it's majestic qualities. 3.5/5

July - Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte 
I detest this book. Admittedly, the reason Wuthering Heights still gets 2 stars despite my jibe is because it did get progressively better in the second half; and there were parts surrounding Cathy's restlessness to escape Thrushcross Grange that I rather enjoyed reading. But aside from that, I just cannot see the appeal. 
This isn't a love story. It's a story of brutal obsession that spirals out of a love that cannot be admitted due to a class divide. It's a story of a man hellbent on getting revenge on people who've done nothing wrong, simply because he didn't get what he wanted. It's just a story of lust, hatred, and what goes wrong when you don't use your words. Whether or not I'd been reading this for my A Levels or not, I would have read this at some point in my life out of sheer curiosity; needless to say though, I'm disappointed. 2/5

August - The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery 
You could say that for a children's book, this left me speechless. I've nothing really to say on The Little Prince other than the fact that this is a truly beautiful tale about childhood innocence and the naivety of adults not having faith in those younger than them. The running idea of how children have it best because whilst they're not exposed to parts of the world, their imaginations are the most vivid and untameable in existence exists to remind the reader of what we lose and what we should choose to keep as we age. 4.5/5

September - Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Whilst I can understand the literary merit, and agree that the acclaim Letters to a Young Poet receives, where it speaks to others it didn't speak to me.
The first half of the letters felt like things that too many times I've needed to hear, and will probably need to hear again when I get particularly low; but upon reaching the second half of the collection, I just didn't care for what Rilke was saying. Then again, Rilke doesn't seem to at that point either - to me at times, he felt like someone trying to be a lot wiser than he actually was, and seemed like a reckless pen pal, who though appearing endearing, fails to conceal the idea that they have better things to do. I failed to gain a connection to the second half, and in skimming through the letters, this is where the book lost any chance of a higher rating. Perhaps I'll read this again sometime, when I'm older or in a different place mentally, but for now, I don't think I need Rilke's letters to Mr Kappus as much as I initially thought... 

October - Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Austen's dialogue is witty and sharp, but the narrative framing this is questionable. I didn't like how Austen appeared within the novel as if telling the story herself, yet I've read that this is the only one of her novel's in which this happens. Most of the time the plot was monotonous, recounting the adventures to and from the 'pump-room' of Catherine and Isabella. Described as 'Gothic,' and having just studied the Gothic in Wuthering Heights, I expected far more of that genre to blossom throughout Northanger Abbey. I expected darkened corridors in a lonely Abbey; I expected a little more mystery or an amping up of fear - and that's not what this book is. For the most part, I really loved Catherine. She's a little naive, but she's not stupid; and she doesn't fall for the manipulation of this odious Thorpe. She lives for the books she reads, and that's what kept me reading when I wanted to DNF this. 2/5

November -  I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith 
Whilst the premise was intriguing and the characters are surprisingly well developed from page one, I really don't care for where this is going. At 70 pages, I was bored, but I made myself keep reading in the hope that that would change - it hasn't. At 250 pages I caved in and read the full plot on Wikipedia, and it's not for me. Right now at least, I don't care for 2 teenage sisters falling for 2 much older American brothers and then ending up in some sort of love square. DNF

December - Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Deep in metaphors, imagery and symbolism, Fahrenheit 451 is utterly engrossing. Bradbury's writing style is enchanted with the bitter sense of reality, censorship and a level of social commentary that applies today, 60 years on from the book's first publication. This struck a chord with me in one particular line - 'Are we having so much fun that we've forgotten the world?'  Now, at the time we're in when print has conquered over ebooks, this reality feels a little out of reach, but it's grim and horrific nevertheless. No wonder this is a classic. 5/5

Thursday, 8 December 2016

LUMOS MAXIMA: Fantastic Beasts European Premiere

On Tuesday 15th November, I got the opportunity to do something incredible. This mad, mad story began with a text which pulled me out from underneath the comfort of a blanket and a slumber on a Friday afternoon nearly 2 weeks prior. At first, when I saw Amber's frantic caps lock text, I thought that my barely conscious state was playing tricks on me. But it was true: Amber had tickets for the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them European Premiere, and she wanted to invite me as her plus one. Me your local embodiment of Pottermore. The excitement didn't fully sink in until the following Wednesday when I got confirmation of my ticket, and everything else - a hotel, train tickets - fell into place. That was the point when suddenly, I realised that a long time dream of mine was becoming a reality.

Amber and I met in a fitting place - King's Cross, the home of meeting after meeting of Hogwarts students. Of course, I got lost and mistook St Pancras for King's Cross, but I found Amber in the end. I won't deny that I was a little terrified in anticipation of our meeting, simply because our friendship is one that's been exclusively online for four years, but when we met it felt like everything clicked back into place. Between taking the Underground and quickly stopping by Burger King for panic-purchasing food in an attempt to calm ourselves, we really lived the premiere life that night. 

To say the night was magical would be a cliche, but it's true. It's not every day you get to live a dream and get to do it with one of your greatest friends. 

You'd think that the process of actually entering a premiere would be pretty simple - as did I - but no. No. We'd been invited to a hotel to collect the tickets, which sounded fairly straightforward, but involved a trek in and around Leicester Square, China Town and being screamed at by police officers as an actor drove past us. Eventually, we ended up at the W Hotel, a hotel Amber and I mutually agreed we'd have to chop limbs off in order to even be considered for a night there. Beautifully decorated, even if someone had gotten a little carried away with the glitter, and looking slightly like an establishment out of Black Mirror [the touchscreen walls, entire room photo booths [which we spent a lot of time in attempting to take 'good' photos] and sophisticated dim lighting.] Naturally when we ended up in a lift with Luke Cutforth, Amber spent the entire ride down having palpitations. 

I don't remember how I expected a premiere to be, but it certainly wasn't like this. When I was 12 and watched the live stream of the Trafalgar Square premiere for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and through J.K. Rowling documentaries have seen flashes of the other premieres, the sheer mass of people never clicked. Screams and shouts from fans were explosions of noise as cast members came onto the stage beside us. The barriers segregating fans from guests were adorned with banners dedicated to the most famous of Harry Potter insider phrases and jokes; a sea of Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin scarves, [let's not forget those wonderful people who painted their faces in house colours], and of course, tidal waves of Harry Potter books and the original book of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It was terrifying and my anxiety was going through the roof at points, but those minutes when we were on the blue carpet simultaneously felt like coming home. Amber and I were surrounded by people who adored Harry Potter, who were willing to camp out in the cold and make desperate toilet and pizza runs for the sake of the wizarding world they so deeply care for. That level of compassion and dedication is something that is hard to come by in day-to-day life, and so walking down a carpet surrounded by Potterheads, for a major Potter moment was extraordinary.

If you've already read my review of the film, then you know my thoughts. But for the sake of continuity, I'll be brief here. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was everything I could have hoped for in the long three-year wait. I cried thrice over the course of the film, twice for nostalgia including the WB logo, and once for a heartbreaking moment. Tear-jerking and laughter-inducing, the magic has been reignited. An incendio has been cast and the fire that is the Harry Potter fandom is burning once again - not that it ever went away. Drunk on emotion and adrenaline, I came away from the premiere with a swarm of theories, and billions of questions for Amber on what she thought of the film. That is J.K. Rowling's power; because she's left me with countless wonders and loose trains of thought, and yet I'm content to wait for another 2 years for the next batch of answers.

We ended the night how it began, attempting to get back to Hogwarts via the Platform 9 3/4. I'd never been to King's Cross before, and after years of waiting, it was an incredible moment. We did 'the thing' and got a photo together - luckily I'd brought my Ravenclaw scarf and so there were no duels over who ended up lying about their house in the photo, and then browsed the Harry Potter Shop before Amber had to head for her train. 

I cannot thank Amber enough for such an amazing opportunity. This was something that I would never have believed to happen, but it was even better to do it with such a great friend. [Also, thank you to the people who invited Amber, because without that, we still wouldn't have met.] You've still got time to go and see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in cinemas - be quick before it apparates. And if you've already been, then feel free to watch Amber and I in motion picture below. In other words, watch me fangirl so much that somebody commented on Amber's video calling me a 'human emoji.'


Thursday, 1 December 2016

Letters to Winter - 2016

Dear Winter,

Hello again. Well, let's call this a premature hello. A call to the future from a girl who's feet are confined to Autumn. Your arrival isn't very far away, but you've always been my favourite season, and seeing as time will be slipping through my fingers when we meet, the clock hands missing my awaiting palms ready to catch, consider this an echo from the past. An opportunity to check in. 

Sometimes I wonder how to personify you. Who would you be, Winter? Would you be male or female? What would you drink? What would you think of Brexit? How would you feel about Christmas? Would you be proud to have the festivities within your realms, or begrudging of the burden, envying Autumn for their possession of two simple yet beautiful days - Halloween and Bonfire Night? In some ways, I see you as bitter, and cold, but deep down bearing a heart of chocolate, warmth, and love for all of those who enter your territory. Perhaps your bitterness is more aimed at those in the Southern Hemisphere, where your harsh winds and numbing spells of snow are never endured. What must it be like to have a hot winter?

These are the kinds of things I think about. I think about why we find stars so beautiful even if we know they are really spheres of fire that have the capacity to explode. I wonder about how it must feel to be twins and know that one of you wasn't intended. I question what I'd do if somebody handed me the Earth and placed it into my arms? Would I twirl it with care, exploring every crevice and admiring my insignificance on that vast globe, or would I let go, allowing it to smash into a million pieces, ashamed of the place our planet has become?  Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only person who has these questions, a little snowflake in a summery heat. But then I remember we all have these questions deep down; we're all little snowflakes in your welcomed blizzard. 

I think in the past year I've come a lot more into myself. Since starting my A Levels via independent study, I've spent more time than ever before alone. Isolation gives you plenty of time to take a good look at yourself and who you are; and maybe it's because I've been out of the environment in which I was shamed for being bookish and quiet, or maybe it's just because I'm getting older, but I don't think I've ever felt so comfortable in my body as I do now. Last year's letter to you, Winter, was riding on the back of a new experience, where feeling happy was a novelty. Now a year on, I think I'm doing okay. I'm unapologetically me, and I have friends who welcome me for that. I say all of this, and yet I'm in a swirl of changes. Personal Statements. University Applications. A dream internship at MuggleNet. A2 Exams... Perhaps I'm becoming who I'm meant to be, and if so then, whilst I have many flaws, I'm liking how this is working out. 

December will bring my 18th birthday, and finally what I've been waiting so many years for, what I've been working so hard for, is close to becoming a reality. I've been ready for adulthood for a while now, and now it's just around the corner, it's being welcomed with open arms. Once again, I'm ready for the next steps, because I feel comforted in knowing that the next steps are going to take me to the place I've craved, and the place I believe I'm meant to be. Where I've always known this year would be stressful, I don't think I realised just how stressful until October when I fell in love with my #1 university all over again, and yet still have to keep considering my options for if I don't get an offer from them. That's terrifying. It's terrifying to not know where I'll be next time I write to you. All I can say right now at least is that I hope it's somewhere good. 

Wherever I may be, I'll see you next year.

Holly x

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them:: FILM REVIEW

The lights grow dim, then fade to black as the screen widens. A nervous hum of chatter still rumbles around Screen 1, bursting with anticipation, worry, and utter excitement. November brings the perfect opportunity to don house scarves - Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin, the four colours once scattered when the lights were still glowing are united. Some of us have our wands; a girl in the row behind me is removing her spectrespecs for the benefit of 3D glasses; a final Hedwig's theme ringtone goes off, and laughter echoes all over. Then it grows quiet. We've all talked through the adverts and trailers, but now, a hush has fallen. The film is about to begin. 

I've been waiting for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them since September 2013. Fourteen-year-old Holly was euphoric, having finally completed her first read of the Harry Potter series and understandably craving more. Pottermore was helping, but this film still seemed exceptionally far off. When you're only 14, 3 years is a long time. However,  Fantastic Beasts has meant a lot more than simply being another journey into the Wizarding World. There was a time when I was using it as an end goal of life. It was one of the only things that were keeping me alive; the string tying me to Earth when I was at a point of not wanting to be here anymore. I remember being 14 and telling myself  'I want to live long enough to see this film. If I can just make it to Fantastic Beasts...' And now I'm here, and I'm not her anymore; instead I'm 17 and for the most part, I'm very happy with life. I made it, and I've seen it, and it didn't disappoint. Whether I'd liked it or not, this film will always hold deep sentimental value, but I'm so glad it is everything I had hoped. 

I was very privileged to have the opportunity to go to the European Premiere of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them with Amber. That in itself was an extraordinary experience which will get its own blog post, so here I'm going to focus on the experience on the film alone, and the film when I've gone and seen it for a second time since. 

It's difficult to describe the beauty of this film. From the very first moment, we are immersed into flashes of newspapers, revealing how 1926 Wizarding New York is a very dark and uncertain  place. Where many of us try and picture this decade as a reflection of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, the Wizarding World is not filled with flapper girls and jazz; instead, Grindelwald has gone missing, and MACUSA is on high alert. Fantastic Beasts is a film of eeriness, where a second wave of the Salem Witch Trials is being attempted, and the notion of witchcraft is horrifying. In spite of the gloom, however, this film is a beacon of light in a time of depression, both in the film and in our present day. 

Like anything and everything in the Wizarding World, this dawn of a new era astonished me. From the characters to the beasts to the plot, I fell deeply in love with Wizarding America, particularly with a certain quartet. Newt, Tina, Queenie and Jacob all brought something different to the table, and something that we hadn't seen in our Golden Trio. There are parallels that can be drawn between the trio and the quartet, but here, these 4 shone in their own light. I adored the level of complexity we received in each of these characters, and in so many others, even when this is the first of five films. Newt Scamander is clearly more than a creature-loving Hufflepuff, just to provide one example, and I cannot wait to find out more about him and the others. 

The casting was excellent. Johnny Depp as Grindelwald is questionable, but he had perhaps 30 seconds of screen time and therefore no real chance to show what he could bring to this evil wizard other than a line. Eddie Redmayne was perfect as Newt Scamander. Eddie is Newt. I'm so glad that this new franchise has taken the opportunity to showcase lesser-known talent, like that of Alison Sudol and Katherine Waterston to name a couple. Something that always struck me in the Harry Potter series was the near-flawless acting that was so utterly believable, and that seems to have bled through into this new series. Watching Fantastic Beasts, you can very easily forget that Percival Graves is really Colin Farrell acting or that Jacob is really Dan Fogler; it never felt like acting, but instead every scene felt natural. 

Soundtracks are so often overlooked when discussing a film, which is why I also want to take a moment to appreciate this one. When Pottermore released the main theme in early October, I was left massively conflicted. It felt like an awful amalgamation of too many styles being crammed into a 2-minute piece. Despite that, the piece worked a lot better when accompanied by motion picture as oppose to solo listening. This soundtrack is one of the best from the Wizarding World. It's not as good as Alexandre Desplat, but it's better than John Williams and Patrick Doyle [controversial opinion, but that's how I feel.] There were some occasions where I feel music was relied on too heavily, and the sound of the actual film would have been fine, but other than that, it was a stunning compilation of pieces that blended well into the atmosphere of the 1920's setting. 

The plot was fantastic [if you pardon the pun.] I DID NOT SEE THOSE PLOT TWISTS COMING. Like in the original series, there were so many points where I felt my jaw drop. Collective gasps and loud outbursts of laughter weren't uncommon in any of the screenings I've been to. I cried 3 times during the course of my first viewing. I don't cry at films. And THAT is the power of J.K Rowling: she can spin a web of entrancing magical fantasties that make you invested in every second, and then unravel it all with a single thread, leaving you thinking "how did I not see that coming?" Now, having seen the film, I can understand why this is going to take five installments to complete. So many questions have been left unanswered and it's hard to believe that for some of them we may have to wait up to ten years for those answers. Not that I mind. I don't think I'll ever mind; I'm just glad to be back in this world with a whole new story to unfold. When I discovered Harry Potter, I started at the end with all the answers. Now, I am starting at the beginning, and I am excited. I am excited for the waiting and the theorising and the fangirling. These next 8-10 years are going to be quite the journey. 

At a time when our world is changing for the worse, this film is the Lumos spell that was needed to be cast. For those of you who like me, live and breathe Potter, then this will feel like coming home. After all, it's like Luna Lovegood said, 'the things we love have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.' All I can say to you, a prospective or already avid viewer, is welcome home. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

4 Years of Lost in a Library

It's a weird thing to still be here doing this after 4 years. 
It's a weird thing to be where I am with blogging after the train wreck that was last year's blogoversary post. I'm going to keep this brief because I should probably save the major talk for the five-year mark in 2017, but I think it would be wrong to ignore another step towards a milestone.

Last year, celebrating the third blogoversary of this little website was more of a crisis than it was a celebration. It was a moment of panicking about what I was producing, and questioning whether anyone was actually reading what I posted here. When you spend so much of your time writing what you perceive to be interesting discussions it's hard when you believe nobody is listening. When you invest so much of yourself into this place that you've created to feel like you're achieving nothing from it, that's hard. It's hard to be at one with yourself when a conflict over something you're so proud of is internally raging on. 

I doubt I would have ever at the time decided to give up blogging. I don't give up, it isn't something that I do. Even now, when I have rough patches in my relationship with this blog, quitting is never an option for me. At the time last November, all I really wanted was advice on how I could improve, or be provided with some input on at least where I was going right - and I got all of that, and it really helped. 

In the past year, I feel like this blog has changed quite a bit. Whilst much of it is the same, I feel there's a lot more variety in what is published here. This may be a book blog, but it isn't just about book reviews; there's bookish discussion and there's also simply things that I like to write [aka, the truck load of Harry Potter posts that may have been apparating into your bloglovin' feeds over the past few months.] Now, a year on, this feels more like my site, my blog. Lost in a Library now seems more like my little corner of the internet - more so than it did before at least. For that, I have a few people to thank.

Thank you to my friends who amongst others, motivated me last year when I was struggling, and spur me on in my lower moments now. Thank you to the bloggers who did the same. Thank you to the people who continue to read Lost in a Library, even when I go M.I.A during exam seasons, and thank you to the new readers who I've connected with in the last 12 months, your support means a lot, and some of you have even become my friends. Thank you to the publishing houses who continue to endorse me reviewing their latest titles and providing me with opportunities to work with authors, opportunities which I would never have had without this blog. And finally, thank you to everyone who has put it with the fangirling, the extreme CAPSLOCK over Harry Potter, and the very critical book reviews I've published in the past year. Thanks for giving me opportunity to steer this blog into a gear that's more my speed and style and still sticking by Lost in a Library.

The next year is going to be a big one. Between finishing my A Levels and hopefully starting at university, Lost in a Library will be turning five a year from now. For me, that's huge, so don't think I'm going anywhere anytime soon. Unless Muggle-Hogwarts opens in the coming months, I guess you're just stuck with me for a little longer.

Holly x