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

Wednesday, 2 November 2016


It's no secret that I want to be an author. I've been writing stories for as long as I can remember, and still am with every spare moment I can grasp. In recent years I have had so many ideas that could potentially end up as books or finished manuscripts, and I'm never going to be willing to give up on this dream, this ambition. Of course, I work and work on my writing - endlessly, and yet, I've never participated in NaNoWriMo before. Nor do I intend to - which is interesting considering so many authors find this the catalyst in writing now published novels. So here's why:

I don't have time - This is the most important factor right now. A few months ago, I started my second year of A-Levels and am drowning in a sea of essays, revision, and studying. I also have a voluntary job and am trying to write my Personal Statement and UCAS Applications. Nowadays, there rarely comes a time for writing without considering the chapter I need to reread for Sociology or the notes I need to edit for English Literature. 

Whenever I do get the time, I often don't feel like writing - I do so much of it for college, blogging, and reviewing, and so when the time is available, I'd rather read, listen to a podcast, or talk to friends. This isn't exactly how I want it to be, but currently, this is just the way things are. When I do choose to write in this time, I write for hours upon hours on end, but referencing back to my first point, I just don't have the time for that at the moment.

I don't see a near future where I'll have the time for a NaNoWriMo - Following on from my A Levels, and providing I'm successful in my exams, then I'll be off to University next year. Judging from that, it's clear that I'm not going to have a free November for at least another four years....

Writing can't be pressured - For me at least, unless it's in an educational situation [such as in my aspired degree of English Literature and Creative Writing,] I can't force myself to write so much in such a short space of time. When I pressure myself in non-academic conditions, the writing isn't anywhere near the same standard or quality it can be otherwise, and I struggle to attempt the writing process when I know the outcome is going to be bad. 

NaNoWriMo is a fantastic creation, and it works for so many people. I'm just not one of them. 

What do you think of NaNoWriMo? Have you participated? Are you going to?

Holly x