How are you all? Well, what a shocking couple of weeks I’ve had: flu, foot injury and then what I think was Covid (all tests were negative but I’ve never felt that ill before and I’m still coughing…) I am here to share with you another explorations post. To be honest, I should have done this before so I apologise for it taking me so long! Anyway, rather excitingly, I’ve only gone and found another Telephone Library / Book Exchange box! I am so excited. They’ve become my latest obsession to find one so full marks to my wonderful dad for spotting this one for me!
Hopefully you’ll remember my previous post where I found one of these beauties in a village not to far from my parents house. You can see my previous post here. This is slightly further away but not by much. This wonderful (yet slightly messy) book exchange is in the glorious Bearley, near Stratford upon Avon. I did leave a good 12 books for the next person to find. I love these community projects so much because I love finding some great books and I also love leaving some books for other people. We never really know when our next favourite book will come! I am desperate to find more so please let me know if you spot anymore and I’ll have to find them!
My TBR is so big that my shelves are full and I have three piles of books on the floor. Being poorly has meant that my reading has slowed right down again but I’m hoping to get back on it now! I did pick up three books thought which have been added to the collection. There were so many exciting ones, it’s really easy to get carried away. Do let me know what amazing books you’ve been reading recently – you know I like to add them to the never ending list…
I really hope to find more of these! As I said before, let me know if you find one near you! I’d love to visit and leave books for people to find. I hope as well that you all continue to stay safe, well and read plenty of wonderful books. Thank you all for being so patient with me and supporting me in my absence. I adore you all. Until next time…
How are we all? I mentioned in my last post that I’ve got a couple of exploration posts to write and today I am presenting the first one. I love finding new places and seeing new things and today’s post is super exciting for me and my fellow Potterheads!
First spotted in London back in 2018 to promote the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, eight huge wands will now be touring the country to promote the release of the next film Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets. The installation features the wands of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Lord Voldemort, Newt Scamander, Tina Goldstein, Queenie Goldstein, Gellert Grindelwald and the Elder Wand. These beauties are a whopping fifteen feet high so perfect for seeing the details up close!
There’s also a light display and music from the shows too so I managed to visit twice! The evenings were much busier with hundreds of people queuing to see them! I saw them outside the City Hall in Hull which was very exciting but they sadly departed today to head towards their next venue. You can see them here:
March 11–17 – Birmingham, the Bullring
March 21–27 – Stoke-on-Trent, Smithfield
March 30–April 5 – Reading, the Oracle Shopping Centre
A must see for any Potter or Fantastic Beasts fan, these really did bring a bright of joy and light into this week in Hull. I think one of the best things for me wasn’t just seeing them, but seeing all the youngsters dressed up. It shows you that over twenty years later, the magic lives on. Fantastic Beasts means that there’s another generation to continue the love!
These daytime photos were taken very early in the morning so there wasn’t anyone around, thankfully. I hope you appreciate them! If you’re off to visit, wrap up (it’s cold again!) and embrace the magic. Are you off to see them? Do let me know what you think! Take care everyone and I’ll see you when I’m back for my next post.
How are we all? I really hope you’re all doing well and taking good care of yourselves and your loved ones. Naturally, I hope you’re all reading amazing books that I’ll want to add to my pile but I absolutely cannot buy anymore books…
Today I want to share with you a very exciting post based on something I stumbled across over my Christmas break. Now, the title of this post gives it away but it’s the first time I’ve ever found myself one. I’ve become so obsessed that before term started I visited three times making various donations too!
I stumbled across this telephone box library in Shrewley, Warwickshire when I was visiting my family over the Christmas break. I didn’t even realise it was there! I spotted it as I was driving past and now I’m desperately trying to find more. I think the thing I love most about it is the sense that my books are sitting there waiting to be discovered and loved by whoever picks them up next. I love the sense of community behind it too and the fact that they are there for everyone. This particular one has a whole range of exciting bits inside: fiction, non-fiction, cookery books, children’s books, DVDs, CDs and jigsaws.
Here I am, perusing the shelves! (Clearly I have no shame…) I did take three novels, one of which I’m reading now and will be reviewing next, and dropped ten off for others to enjoy. I’m really looking forward to going back there and seeing what treasures I find. I guess this is where the beautiful blogging community comes in… where are more of these gems? I’d be so keen to hear about where they are and the delights you’ve got from inside them. Here’s what I got!
If you love books as much as I do, keep an eye out for your own telephone library / book exchange when you’re out and about. You just don’t know what lies inside waiting to be discovered or quite realise what impact this will have on you.
Let me know about your experiences with telephone box libraries.
After ending 2021 on a high with regard to reading, I found myself feeling so much pressure for this year which has meant that my reading has slowed right down. However, after work yesterday I went to collect a book as a present. My New Year’s Resolution was to not buy any books… but I failed all because of this amazing book I read and wanted to share with you straight away. It’s something I knew absolutely nothing about, the cover just caught my eye. We all know how it is with a beautiful or eye catching cover! They usually end up in our possession eventually. Anyway, I really hope this book gets to you as much as it does me. Enjoy!
What’s it all about? This book quite simply is genius. If you know London, you may know Marby & Elm in Exmouth or have seen their super cute website here. However, back in February 2021, Eleanor Tattersfield came up with a clever idea following inspiration from a radio show for people to document their own lockdown confessions. After finding some postcards and seeing it as a sign, the project was born. Using the power of Instagram, followers could send their own confessions on postcards to the shop to be shared anonymously to unburden themselves. Literally anything and everything was shared and Tattersfield knew that these had to be seen. Using social media, these are still being shared today as well as within this book.
“As the secrets poured in, prominent themes emerged: food fetishes, masturbation, loneliness, breaking the rules, sex, love and surprisingly, the love of lockdown.”
I think the reason why I adore this book so much is because it is brutally honest. Part of me really wishes I documented my life better (or more) during lockdown. I look back and know that I baked a lot and sent a few thousand emails but I could have done so much more. This book is that. I also love the fact with it being anonymous, people will be absolutely honest and open. It really takes some nerve to share some of these confessions I must admit! The one below made me laugh so much because I had my own animal friends in lockdown. To be honest, they’re still around now! The only difference is mine are squirrels…
“Their wit, sincerity, creativity and diversity are completely and utterly compelling.”
As I was reading this, I just had an overwhelming feeling of pride really. That may sound silly but for people to share their lives with the world, to share their inner most fears and worries really is something. The postcards about family naturally made me think of my own and appreciate how much I did miss them in lockdown. This then led me to think about those people without family and people who were completely isolated from everyone. This one below really hit me…
Final Thoughts Overall, this book is pure joy. I read it in one sitting and found myself wanting to be a part of this too. I also really appreciated the fact that there is a template in the back of the book to send my own. Maybe, one day, I will consider doing it! If you’re interested in sending your own, you can find out more information here. The next time I visit London, I absolutely will be dropping by this store. I couldn’t not!
“A unique record of the lockdown: sometimes amusing, often surprising, and occasionally heart-breaking.”
It’s relatable, believable and utterly memorable. What an incredible little book!
I hope you’re all well and had a brilliant Christmas. I’m sure you all got plenty of wonderful books that I’ll be keeping an eye out for, that’s for sure. I thought I was making a good dent into my reading pile but then more arrived… I love it though!
Today, I finished my Reading Challenge of 2021! I honestly had the best time with my Reading Challenge reading things that I wouldn’t normally pick, revisiting books that have been living on the shelves for far too long and for finding books that have changed my world. December’s book is no different. I’ve read the wonderful The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. This was gifted to me far too long ago because of its gorgeous cover so I’m glad I’ve finally got around to reading it. The theme for December was: Read a book with a beautiful cover. There are just not enough words for how stunning the cover of this book is. If you’re wanting to review the themes for my Reading Challenge this year, please click here. I can’t wait to show you what I’ve got planned for my Reading Challenge 2022, but more on that later! Time to crack on with my review of this brilliant book.
What’s it all about? This is one of those books where all is not as it seems… Along with that, it’s one of those books where you can’t really give it the justice it deserves because there literally aren’t enough words. Regardless, I’ll give it a good go!
The novel centres around Cora Seaborne who I immediately fell in love with. She’s a widow but her husband, despite being wealthy is also quite abusive. With her new found freedom, she decides to ignore the constraints of her London society life and decides to take up amateur palaeontology. Whilst on holiday in Colchester with her son, Francis, and her companion, Martha, Cora is fascinated by a ruin caused by an earthquake which was rumoured to have awakened the Essex Serpent, a mythical sea dragon. Over time, the children and the locals become increasing convinced that the serpent is real and waiting to attack them. This irritates Will Ransome, the local reverend. The two frequently disagree about his faith and his refusal to believe in the serpent. However, the regular arguing brings them closer together.
“Cora, you cannot always keep yourself away from things that hurt you. We all wish we could, but we cannot: to live at all is to be bruised.”
This doesn’t go unnoticed by Dr. Luke Garnett, Cora’s friend whom she invites (well, begs) him to visit following a disaster at school whereby after Cora visits, the children fall into fits. With permission from Stella Ransome, Luke hypnotises Joanna, their eldest daughter. Unfortunately, Will walks in on this scene and is furious. As a result, a serious rift is caused between him and Cora. As if things aren’t complicated enough, both Cora and Will realise that they are entailed within an emotional affair, as do Martha and Dr. Luke. To make matters worse, Luke has been in love with Cora for some time.
Will decides to confess his feelings to Cora in a letter shortly before he learns that Stella is sick with tuberculosis, where she is rapidly approaching the end of her life. Meanwhile, Luke also confesses his love to her via letter too. Cora, naturally very cautious and wary of men because of her turbulent time with her husband, is angered by both letters. She ignores the letter from Will and writes an angry reply to Luke. Sadly, Luke received the letter the very same day that a knife attack maims him permanently in a way that ends his medical career.
Later, a mysterious stench envelopes the town, making everyone physically sick. Thoughts soon fly to the Essex Serpent and panic starts to rise. Will and some other villages go to look where they find a gigantic fish on the shore that’s dying. The smell comes from that and its death means that the villagers rejoice and celebrate because the serpent was obviously never real. Cora is persuaded to see her friends and returns. This creates an opportunity for Will and Cora to patch things up. This is just the starting point for the both of them.
“We both speak of illuminating the world, but we have different sources of light.”
Whilst Cora and Will result in consummating their relationship, Joanna discovers that the serpent actually turns out to be an old boat previously thought to have been washed away. This discovery leads to another: Stella, whilst delirious and confused from her illness, has gone to the boat to die. Thankfully, Cora and Will are able to rescue Stella and return her to safety.
The novel closes with the Ransome children living with their friends, the Ambroses, whilst Stella awaits her death. Will finds himself in a sense of flux – he is happy with Stella whilst still in love with Cora. Luke meanwhile finds peace living with his friend Spencer and Core moves to London. She now lives alone as her companion, Martha, has fallen in love and her son has gone to boarding school. Cora is happy living in solitude but she does continue to write to Will, urging him to reunite with her.
“CLEAVE. To cleave to something is to cling to it with all your heart, he said, but to cleave something apart is to break it up.”
Final Thoughts Firstly, and most obviously, this book is stunning. The cover is beautiful, the flowers ornate and the gold oozes opulence. However, for me it is the writing style that I absolutely love. It flows, it’s seamless and the description is divine. I wish I could write like that. I also thoroughly enjoyed the many letters which make up the narrative too. Letters provide a more intimate experience, we tend to see true emotions within them and these really added to the narrative. As I said at the start of this post, I genuinely don’t have the words to give this book the praise it deserves. But, it is clear to see why this book has won many awards. I urge you all to read it. You won’t be disappointed. What a brilliant way to close my Reading Challenge!
Happy summer! I’ve finally made it to my summer holiday where I can rest, relax, read and catch up with my wonderful blogging friends. I hope you’re all well and enjoying the summer vibes. We’ve been having some beautiful weather but a splash of rain yesterday has been really welcoming.
Today I want to share with you a theatre review. When I say today, I mean, this morning as it’s 4:30 am in the UK. Regardless, I’ve not had the opportunity to do one of these for ages so I’m really really excited to be writing this one today! You may have seen in my previous post that I was lucky enough to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical, Cinderella, on the second night of previews. We booked it last year for my birthday but it was one of many things to be postponed. Like everyone, we were feverishly absorbing any pre-released songs, desperate to see when restrictions would change so we could be back in the theatres once again. I really hope you love this review as much as I’ve loved seeing it and sharing it with you.
We all know and love the tale of Cinderella. Without spoiling anything for you, this Cinderella is very different. Webber takes the conventional Cinderella and literally turns it on it’s head. Everyone in Belleview is exactly the same: tall, blonde, beautiful, in love with Prince Charming. Cinderella is alternative, different and loud mouthed. Her best friend, Prince Sebastian, has to step up and marry when his brother, Prince Charming, disappears. What happens next is a fairytale but a tale with a difference.
The cast for this production have been widely shared. Cinderella is played by Carrie Hope Fletcher and Prince Sebastian is played by Ivano Turco. There’s also Rebecca Trehern and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as the Queen and the Step Mother respectively. I also have a huge soft spot for the step sisters too. The cast are simply wonderful. Carrie Hope Fletcher is a perfect Cinderella and Ivano Turco is a dashing prince. They also have such chemistry between them – they really do come across like best friends. In fact, the whole cast seem like a genuine group of friends which really helps. It was a privilege to see them all on stage together.
When I was a very little girl, I went to see Cats at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. Home to The School and Rock and now Cinderella, I remember how magical I thought it all was. I still do. I don’t want to ruin the surprise but there is a surprise with the stage which means you’re all the most closer to the action. It takes place at the ball as well, meaning the beautiful dresses are closer than ever!
Singing and Dancing
It’s a musical, so singing is an integral part of the show. There are a huge number of songs, all as catchy as the next. You can guy the album now (I’ve had it on repeat ever since it was released…) Bad Cinderella is arguably the song we all heard first as it was released as the show was announced. However, I really love Unfair by the sisters and also Beauty Has A Price. Carrie Hope Fletcher has three solos within the show, my favourite being I Know I Have A Heart. We absolutely have to give credit for Only You, Lonely You which is Ivano Turco’s solo song. It’s tender and moving and sung beautifully. It’s honestly an incredible album. I urge you all to buy this at least! More information can be found here!
I can’t tell you how much I loved this show. Being back in a theatre was an absolute joy. Being surrounded by likeminded people too really meant that the atmosphere was electric. I have so much awe and admiration for Andrew Lloyd Webber for making this show in lockdown. It’s got everything – singing, dancing, laughter, emotion, a fairytale, modern twists, excitement, love. It’s a show I’d go back and see in a heartbeat. I obviously made full use of the merchandise shop and left with t shirts, hoodies, face masks and key rings. I’ve missed the arts so much.
On the opening night of previews there was a standing ovation. On the second night where I attended, there was a standing ovation. And it was so deserved. Theatres are alive again! It’s such a joy to see, hear and feel it’s heart beating. This show is the perfect antidote to Covid 19, lockdowns and restrictions. It’s brilliant in every way.
Continue to enjoy the summer weather lovelies. Big Love to you all!!
How are you all? I do hope May is treating you well and is providing you with some much needed sunshine and lighter days. I have say, it’s glorious not arriving and leaving work in the dark. It definitely does something to your mindset – that’s for sure.
Well, on the eve of the UK opening up a little bit further, following our roadmap out of lockdown, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you a stunning book I received this week: The Book Lover’s Bucket List by Caroline Taggart. Like the rest of the world, I’ve really missed visiting places, seeing new things and making memories. Don’t get me wrong, I love home and the comforts of home, but I’ve missed exploring too. It’s like we all pressed a pause button on the past year. Yet, we have made it and there are many more beautiful times to come. I, for one, am using this delightful book to make plans for the not too distant future and I literally cannot wait! Thank you so much to The British Library for this copy.
What’s it all about? First and foremost, this book is stunning. It’s got a beautiful cover and gorgeous coloured and black and white photographs inside – some of which I will share with you. It takes some thought to piece together out literary heritage. There are the obvious places in the United Kingdom that are synonymous with the writers that come from there or wrote there. For example, my beloved hometown of Stratford upon Avon and the playwright William Shakespeare. What this book does beautifully is takes the four corners of the United Kingdom and gives bookworms an itinerary and ‘to visit list’.
The book starts with our capital, London, a hive of literary history. As we read this chapter, we travel from Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey to P.G. Wodehouses’s Mayfair, from the Dickens museum to Dr Johnson’s house. London is a home across decades of literary genius. It also is a home to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (a place I am still yet to visit!) to Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park – prominent features of the works of Dodie Smith and A.A. Milne. Platform 9 3/4s aside, my second favourite place in London is Paddington Station. Who doesn’t love that little bear and his marmalade sandwiches?
‘…It’s the bronze statue in the station that brings Paddington (Bear not Station) to life…In fact, if you look a little closer, you’ll see that Paddington’s muzzle is a good bit shinier than the rest of him. Lots of passers-by have succumbed to the urge to stroke it.’
From here, we travel to the Southwestern points of England where we encroach upon Agatha Christie’s sublime Devon. The picturesque scenery is one that always makes me feel like I’ve probably rested and rejuvenated myself. One of the most popular and prominent places is of course, Hardy’s Dartmoor.
Central England boasts such names of literary heroes like Philip Pullman, C.S. Lewis and George Bernard Shaw. Years of my own existence have been spent in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford upon Avon, home of Shakespeare’s plays. Somewhere else I really want to visit is D.H. Lawrence’s Birthplace and Museum. I feel in love with Lawrence’s work whilst at university but I fear this is a love I have since neglected.
‘…If you want to make a day of it you can take a walk in Lawrence’s footsteps. Heading northwest out of the village you soon read Colliers Wood Nature Reserve, whose reservoir features as Nethermere in The White Peacock and as Willey Water in Women in Love.’
From here we head towards Eastern England which gives us the locations for George Elliot, Rupert Brooke and W.H Auden and Anna Sewell. Let’s continue to the North of our country where we see names like Elizabeth Gaskell, Ted Hughes, Winifred Holtby and Philip Larkin. I studied at the University of Hull. Larkin runs in the academic blood of the north. One of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever visited is Lyme Park which is a National Trust property. Lyme is infamous for it’s setting of Jane Austen’s BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Know the novel or not – you will absolutely know Colin Firth as the ridiculously handsome, Darcy. The North also gives us the indescribable Lake District, home of Beatrix Potter and the Peter Rabbit stories. Again, I am lucky enough to have visited here but I am desperate to get back.
Wales and Northern Ireland have produced some of the most influential poets we have ever experienced. Poets like William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Dylan Thomas and Seamus Heaney. The beauty of these two locations are seen in countless poems, for us all to enjoy and experience together. Lastly, Scotland too has gifted us with some talented writers over the years too. Who could forget Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and J.M. Barrie. Whether it be their childhood setting or where the most famous books and poems are set, we really are incredibly lucky to have all of these at our fingertips. Who could forget Dunsinane Hill and Birnam Wood, from Macbeth?
‘And here you are, in the very same wood, nearly a thousand years later. Gosh. Pause. Time for tea? There was a nice-looking place just over the bridge. What do you fancy? Eye of newt? Toe of frog? No? Well, I expect they have scones. And we don’t have to talk to each other. We can just sit and read a book.’
Final Thoughts This book has given me a real boost. Just as the world is waking up again from what feels like a very long hibernation period, we can start to plan and explore and live again. Pick a writer and visit all the places associated with them. Pick a location and see what you learn. Either way, if you love books as much as I do, this book is a must for your shelf. It’s more than that. It needs to be with you at all times, just in case you get an opportunity to explore someone or some place new.
I hope my small glimpse into this book gives you a gentle push to get out there and explore again. Thank you so much to the British Library for sharing this with me. I’ve loved it and will continue to love it the more I experience it. If you see a girl with her head in this book and a range of post-it notes sticking out of the top, the likelihood is, it’s me on my next literary adventure.
I hope you’re all well. Whilst the rain is sloshing down my windows, I wanted to share with you a little gem of a book I’ve recently finished. I had written this post once but somewhere along the way it did its own Halloween trick and vanished. So, I’ve written it again!
As you may be aware, I’ve spent a lot of time this year branching out into non-fiction. It wasn’t a genre I paid much attention to if I’m honest but I’m so glad I’ve pushed myself because I’ve found some absolute wonders along the way. Today’s post is all about The Ravenmaster by Christopher Skaife. I absolutely love London and I’m saddened that it’s been nearly a year since I was last there. In my eyes it’s a vibrant city full of life and wonder. This book then became a treat for me really because it meant I got to visit the Tower of London, in my head at least. I hope you enjoy it a much as I did!
What’s it all about?
Told through the eyes of the current Ravenmaster or Yeoman Warden, Christopher Skaife tells us what his job is like at the Tower of London and the history surrounding the Tower. It was Charles II who insisted that the ravens of the Tower be looked after and protected because without them, the kingdom will fall. There has to be six ravens at the tower for it to be deemed safe and for the kingdom to reign supreme. This has now become legend and firmly part of British history.
“And a good morning it is. The ravens are at home in the Tower. I can breathe easy again – the kingdom is safe for another day.”
The book begins with an explanation of what Skaife’s job actually is. It goes beyond feeding, nurturing and protecting the ravens, it’s about protecting the Queen. Likewise just like in his previous job as a soldier for the British army. I naturally warmed to him and desperately want to meet him now! As only the sixth Ravenmaster, Skaife is privileged to see another side to the ravens that challenges the historic and common perception of them. We learn that there are a number of rules regarding the ravens but the biggest one I related to was that they like routine and if their routine is disrupted, they don’t take too kindly to it!
“There was the time one of our ravens affectionally pecked a cameraman on the back of the leg during a television interview about the Tower, for example: that caused a bit of a commotion.”
We are introduced to the ravens of the book: Munin, Merlina, Erin, Rocky, Jubilee II, Gripp II and Harris. I am pleased to see that the majority of these ravens still remain at the tower, despite the book being published in 2018. Regardless, each raven has their own personality traits and quirks. I guess it is easy to forget that animals can be like us too. I particularly enjoyed the anecdote of Merlina and her love of Pringles – a girl after my own heart, clearly!
“She has a particular ability to be able to spot a tube of Pringles from the other side of Tower Green, hop right up to an innocent member of the public, steal the whole tube, pop off the lid, and cram as many crisps into her mouth as she possibly can before being noticed.”
Some days are more challenging than others. We get given an insight into days when ravens escape, causing panic and concern. We see the lengths Skaife goes to to rescue and continually protect the ravens. Even so, the paying public are there to hear the story and the story needs to be told. I am and forever will be grateful for the heritage, culture and history that we have in Britain. This book joyfully shows us a small part of it. I also really enjoyed the communication and understanding between Skaife and the ravens: the language they have between them. It isn’t a case of humanising them, it’s purely based on understanding them.
“They certainly seem to have the capacity to remember. When former Ravenmaster Derrick Coyle visited the Tower some seven years after leaving… Merlina came straight over to him. It was as if he’d never been away. Seven years!”
As an English teacher, I’ve taught Macbeth every year and every year have the same conversation about ravens in the Lady Macbeth scene. Ravens are prominent in English Literature from William Shakespeare to Edmond Spenser, Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe. Personally, the next time I teach Macbeth I will be mentioning this book for sure. Ravens may have been associated with death but there is such more to them which is fascinating. As another day ends at the Tower, so does the book. The ravens are at home once more.
“Rising above it all were the birds. They rise above it still.”
I love, love, love this book for SO many reasons. We are so lucky to have such a rich and deep history. This book made me want to return to the Tower of London and when the world returns to some sense of normality, whatever that may look like, I absolutely will. For now, I’m pacifying it by looking at Twitter where we can keep up with updates from the ravens and the Tower. I’m thrilled to see the beloved Merlina is still there, bless her! (See for yourself here!)
Despite being a short book, it is packed with the here and now as well as the history. I’ve definitely grown in appreciation for the ravens and for the role of the Ravenmaster. I’m SO glad I found this book and it’s one that will be a permanent feature on my bookcase as well as a gift for my friends and family.
Enjoy the rest of Halloween loves! 🎃 Stay safe and well.
Happy October. 🎃 Well, I’ve survived week four of school. Naturally, the weekends mean I retreat into my little house and read and recover. I’ve also got the added advantage of seeing my lovely parents for my Mum’s birthday too. However, I’m still squeezing in reading time!
You may remember I decided to reread all the Harry Potter books. Well, I’ve managed to review all of them apart from the final one. So here goes!
What’s it all about?
The novel begins with the aftermath of Dumbledore’s death. At this point, Voldemort is attempting to take control of the Ministry of Magic. At the same time Harry is about to turn seventeen years old which will result in him losing the protection he gained from his mother. Members of the Order of the Phoenix relocate to the Dursley’s and prepare to move Harry to the Burrow. For this, they need a plan and decide to use poly juice potion so they all look like Harry.
“The last words Albus Dumbledore spoke to the pair of us?’ Harry is the best hope we have. Trust him.”
Unfortunately, the Death Eaters seem to be aware that this was the plan and attack the party. Mad-Eye Moody and Hedwig are killed and George Weasley is severely injured. Voldemort arrives to finally kill Harry but Harry’s wand keeps the spells from Voldemort away.
Harry, Ron and Hermione prepare to search for the final four Horcruxes. They are also the benefactors of gifts from Dumbledore: a Golden Snitch for Harry, a Deluminator for Ron and The Tales of Beedle the Bard for Hermione. They also receive the sword of Godric Gryffindor which has the power to destroy Horcruxes but it is prevented by the Ministry of Magic.
“I’m going to keep going until I succeed — or die. Don’t think I don’t know how this might end. I’ve known it for years.”
Bill Weasley and Fleur continue with their wedding plans and the day of the wedding is the day the Ministry falls to Voldemort. The wedding is attacked by Death Eaters. Harry, Ron and Hermione flee to Sirius Black’s family home, 12 Grimmauld Place which now belongs to Harry.
Whilst here, Harry manages to work out that the late brother of Sirius, Regulus, had stolen the Horcrux locket and hid it somewhere in the house. Unfortunately, this was then stolen by Mundungus Fletcher. The house elf, Kreacher, locates Fletcher but he reveals that the locket has been stolen by Dolores Umbridge.
The trio decide to infiltrate the Ministry and steal the locket from her but as they escape, Ron is injured and Grimmauld Place is now compromised. The three are forced to hide in the wilderness, with only their spells to protect them. No matter what they try, they are unable to destroy the locket. Time ticks by before they realise the negative effect the locket has on them. It leads to the desertion of Ron, leaving Harry and Hermione left to continue alone.
During their time together, Harry and Hermione learn about Dumbledore’s past, including the death of his sister Ariana and his connection with the dark wizard, Gellert Grindelwald. They travel to Godrick’s Hollow, Harry’s birthplace. There they meet the historian, Bathilda Bagshot. However, they soon realise that all isn’t as it seems. The real Bathilda has been killed and replaced with Nagini, who attacks them.
The two manage to escape but Harry’s wand is damaged beyond repair in the process, leaving him immensely at risk. A few days later, a doe Patronus guides Harry to a pond where he sees the Gryffindor sword. When Harry tries to to get the sword, the locket also nearly kills him. What’s more surprising is the Deluminator guides Ron back to Harry and saves him. He also manages to destroy the locket with the sword. Another Horcrux down…
Hermione is certain there is a reason why Dumbledore left her the book. The penny drops and Hermione spots a symbol that they have seen before, on an item that Luna Lovegood’s father, Xenophilius, has worn. They visit him and he eventually shares with them the symbol and what it represents: The Deathly Hallows. It contains the Elder Wand (an unbeatable wand), the Resurrection Stone (which can summon the dead) and the infallible Invisibility Cloak.
Xenophilius acts incredibly strangely and they soon realise that he has summoned the Death Eaters to catch them, in exchange for Luna’s freedom. The three manage to escape but Harry works out that Voldemort is hunting for the Elder Wand. This wand has been passed to Dumbledore after he defeated Grindenwald. Finally the pieces come together. The third Hallow is in his own Invisibility Cloak and the Snitch contains the Resurrection Stone.
A slight problem follows as they are captured and taken to Malfoy Manor. Bellatrix tortures Hermione, believe they stole the sword of Gryffindor from her vault at Gringotts. With the help of Dobby the house elf, Harry’s friend, they escape to Bill and Flyer’s house along with fellow prisoners, Luna, Mr Ollivander, Dean Thomas and the goblin Griphook. During the escape, Peter Pettigrew is killed for showing an ounce of mercy towards Harry. The absolute worse part for me was the death of Dobby.
‘Here lies Dobby, a free elf.’
Harry’s visions continue and the next is of Voldemort stealing the Elder Wand from Dunbledore’s tomb.Time is running out so the trio then decide to break into Bellatrix’s vault, believing that another Horcrux is hiding there. With Griphook’s help, they manage to breakinto the vault. There they retrieve the cup of Hufflepuff and escape on a dragon.
Amongst the chaos, it gave Griphook an opportunity to steal Gryffindor’s sword.Harry has another vision of Voldemort being informed of the break in. Enraged, he decides to check on Horcruxes, revealing to Harry what the final two are: Nagini and one at Hogwarts.
This makes the decision easy for them and they head to the beloved school. It wasn’t easy as Death Eaters are everywhere but make it with the help of Aberforth, Dumbledore’s brother. Voldemort is alerted to Harry’s whereabouts and decides to mount an attack on the school. The teachers and students alike defend the school whilst Harry, Ron and Hermione destroy the cup with the basilisk fangs from the Chamber of Secrets.
Harry discovers the final Horcrux and heads towards the Ravenclaw tower looking for the diadem. It is located in the Room of Requirement but in the process they are ambushed by Draco, Crabbe and Goyle. Crabbe attacks using a cursed fire but is unable to control it. The fire kills him and in turn, destroys the diadem. In the meantime, a number of characters are killed in the Battle of Hogwarts.
Voldemort is becoming increasingly annoyed that the Elder Wand isn’t performing as he expected it to. His reasoning is that Snape is the true owner of the wand as he is the one who killed Dumbledore. Voldemort murders Snape but Snape dies just as Harry arrives. Snape gives Harry his memories for him to see through the Pensieve.
These memories show a completely different side to Snape that no one expected. What appeared on the surface as absolute dislike for Harry, has roots in much more complicated grounds. Snape was a double agent, continuously watching over Harry and his friends, conjuring the doe Patronus because he was in love with Lily. We also learn that Dumbledore was dying after mishandling the ring Horcrux. His death with Snape was planned all along.
‘Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears. “After all this time?” “Always,” said Snape.‘
Harry also now realised he is the final Horcrux, unbeknownst to Voldemort, and must die at Voldemort’s hands to render him mortal. Harry gives himself up and instructs Neville Longbottom to kill Nagini. Harry embraced his fate and takes the Resurrection Stone to reunite himself with his dead parents and Sirius. Voldemort casts the killing curse on him.
What comes next is a dreamlike state where Harry is greeted by Dumbledore. He tells Harry about the original killing curse and how it left a fragment of him creating a connection but now the killing curse has been cast again, that fragment has been killed. Dumbledore also admits that his friendship with Grindelwald caused the death of his sister and estrangement from his brother.
Following this, Harry decides to beat death and head back for Hogwarts to end this for once and for all. He pretends to be dead and Voldemort buys it. Neville pulls the sword of Gryffindor out of the Sorting Hat and beheads Nagini.
Harry hides under his cloak as the battle rages on. Bellatrix is killed by Molly Weasley and Harry then shows himself to Voldemort. He explains how the Elder Wand’s loyalty transfers upon defeat, not the killing. Therefore, the previous master, was Draco not Snape. Harry then disarmed Draco at Malfoy Manor which means that Harry is the master of the Elder Wand.
“Not my daughter, you bitch!”
In retaliation, Voldemort attempts the Killing Curse on Harry but the spell rebounds, killing him. Harry used the Elder Wand to repair his own wand, intending to return the Elder Wand to Dumbledore’s tomb. He keeps his Invisibility Cloak and leaves the Resurrection Stone as forever lost. The wizarding world can live in peace forever more.
19 years later and once again we are on Platform 9 3/4s. The difference now is that we are seeing the children of the trio head to school. Harry and Ginny have three: James Sirius, Albus Severus and Lily Luna. Ron and Hermione have two: Rose and Hugo. Albus is worried he will be sorted into Slytherin. Harry tells him all about Snape’s bravery and that the Sorting Hat would consider his wishes. The novel ends.
‘All is well.’
It’s really no secret how much I genuinely love the Harry Potter series. I felt the same sadness that I felt when I finished it the first time round as a geeky kid who grew up with this. I still cry when I think about the death of Dobby. (I know, it’s silly! But he’s just too adorable!!) It’s a book I desperately try and get the kids in my school to read. It’s a book I try and reference as much as I possibly can as it is just magical. Every page is magical. There’s not been anything like it and I doubt there ever will be in my lifetime.
Thanks for sticking with me as I relieved this series. I hope you loved it as much as I did.
How are you all? I hope you’re all enjoying the incredible sunshine we are getting at the moment. I must say, I do feel quite lucky to be living near a little park to enjoy it. I wanted to share a review with you today about a book I read recently. I finished it in a few hours and I finished it thinking, wow what a girl. I’m talking about What Makes Us Stronger by Freya Lewis. I remember the reading the news before I left for school. It was a very strange day for me, because I saw students in front of me that were the same age. It puts things into perspective completely.
Monday 22nd May 2017. Ariana Grande was performing in Manchester to a packed arena. Freya Lewis was there with her best friend Nell. At the end of the show a bomb went off. This is her story.
What’s it all about?
The book opens with Freya talking about what her life was like before the concert. Freya was just a normal, fourteen year old school girl with a loving family around her feeling excited about her upcoming concert. This one was different: she could take a friend. She knew just the girl to take – Nell, her beautiful best friend. Freya wanted it to be a surprise so played along with the notion that she was unable to get tickets, until Nell’s birthday.
“For the rest of the day I basked in a halo of happiness as Nell jumped up and down telling everyone at school that we were going to see Ariana. It was the first concert she’d ever get to go to, which made it all the more special.”
Each chapter splits between before and after the concert. The following days were a strange haze for Freya. No part of her body had escaped injury from the explosion. However, the kindness and strength from those around her helped her to recover. In the early days Freya felt like she was recovering at a snail’s pace. Yet, slowly slowly, over time she did make some huge leaps. Her family visited and continued to give her the courage she needed, especially her sister, Georgia. The NHS professionals around her motivated her to believe she could and would get better. Eventually, Freya felt like she was beginning to make progress starting with scratching her head.
“A week ago, the mere suggestion that I’d be able to make such a tiny movement had seemed impossible. I’d achieved two big small things in one day: sitting up and scratching my head. They were definitely steps forward. And having Dad and the nurses celebrating with me in that moment, at this crazy house of four o’clock in the morning, made it all the more special.”
Ariana made the decision to visit the hospital in Manchester to see those who had been injured. I remember this being documented on the news. Reading Freya’s experience of this shows how innocent these victims all were. They were just out, listening to the music that they loved, watching their idol on stage, living their lives. The fact that their hero then went to visit them was something else. Freya admits it is something that she will never forget. I doubt anyone would! Ariana is presented in this as humble and dedicated to her fans. It is Freya’s mother that evoked the strongest emotion from me. The words of a mother.
‘As she turned to leave, Mum was hovering by the bed. She and Ariana looked at each other for a moment, then Mum’s face went serious. “Don’t worry, it wasn’t your fault”.’
Whilst her recovery was slow and steady, Freya was consumed by guilt. She knew she would putting her parents under significant strain. She knew that she was alive and her best friend wasn’t. She wondered how Nell’s family were and if they hated her for surviving. The same thoughts were had about school. Would they hate her for surviving? After these thoughts, Freya decided she was going to be positive and recovery quickly to help the pressure on her family. Knowing that the whole world was sending her cards, gifts and get well messages meant that it wasn’t just her family and friends that were willing her on. It was the public too. She would do it for all of them. Whilst her dad continued to update the world on her progress with his blog, Freya knew that if she gave up, the terrorist would win. She wouldn’t let that happen.
“The love those cards contained was really beyond words, and I wished with all my heart that Nell, who had been so loving and caring herself, was here to see it.”
Writing became therapy for Freya and thankfully, for us, that means that this book was born. We hear through Freya’s own words what the concert was like and immediately after. We see the people who went out of their way to stay with her until help came – the incredible Kim and Phil. We learn about the professionals who were there at the time, keeping her safe and alive. I don’t think any of us can imagine what the people that night saw, felt and experienced. It is here that Freya’s narrative splits so we hear her Dad and her Mum’s experience. It was her Dad that went to pick them up from the concert only to be greeted with chaos and destruction.
“In total, Freya was missing and in our minds probably dead for almost exactly one hour. The depth of pain that we felt during this hour, which was the longest of our lives, is indescribable. If I then reflect upon the situation for the families of those who were lost in this tragedy, including Nell, many of whom were uncertain of the fate of their loved ones for up to forty-eight hours in some cases, I simply become numb.”
Freya’s mother was at home waiting for her husband and daughter to return. Her experience is one of waiting and waiting. There was absolutely nothing she could do and no where to go. What really broke me was the fact that she was completely alone. She sat and cried silent tears, not wanting to wake Georgina as she had an exam at school the very next day. It is unimaginable to think how time felt at that moment: never ending I guess, but that is putting it lightly. Eventually, she receives news and heads to hospital. What is waiting for her there is similar to what greeted Freya’s father. Utter despair and carnage.
“We were able to observe her injuries and see just what a terrible state she was in; it was like a scene from the worst horror movie you could imagine. When they cut her clothes, they were recovered very carefully and placed in plastic bags which were then labelled. We were told that they were being sent to Forensics and would be used as evidence.”
Hearing the narratives of her parents inspired Freya further to make as much progress as quick as possible. Her parents were exhausted and she still felt bad for putting people out. However, the realisation of that night on them, spurred her on further. She started to feel hungry and begged for her mother’s spaghetti bolognaise. She was desperate to improve further and get herself into a wheelchair. Whilst physically she was recovering nicely, the emotional trauma was still something that she was struggling with. Missing her friends funeral also caused her upset. What is beautiful, is we do hear Nell’s voice throughout this narrative. It is dedicated to her and closes with a poem for her so this means that she is the first and last mention in the book.
“I think that the strength and bravery that I have now was passed on from Nell, because I always admired her courage and determination in life.”
Freya was now able to go home and this in itself created new challenges. But, with love, tough love and support she was able to succeed. Freya gave a speech at school, went out for lunch with her family and became exceptionally close to her sister. Freya had the opportunity to meet another idol, Harry Styles, at a concert where he dedicated a song to her and the new normal seemed to be falling into place. Jack, her personal trainer was helping her to build her strength at home and eventually she was able to walk again. This meant that it was also time to go back to school – after all, there was still learning to be had. Lastly, after all the fundraising, Freya won the NHS Hero Young Fundraiser Award. Freya’s attention was firmly on giving back to those who had helped her.
“Later, when we all gathered around the computer at home to look at our JustGiving page, we couldn’t believe the figure staring back at us: £40,000. In two days time, it would be the one-year anniversary of the attack – and the day our lives changed for ever… it gave me strength to know that, out of our heartbreak, we would be giving hope to others.”
The book ends with the closing reflective remarks from Freya. The lessons she’s learnt at such a young age, how she has had to rebuild her life despite the fact that is has been completely changed forever. Freya is honest about her up and down days but now knows that this is absolutely normal. What is especially lovely is the book ends with her thank yous to those who have been there from the moment she was found on the floor following the explosion, to those who helped her move and walk again. The book closes with a poem for her best friend.
“I will, and always will love you, my gorgeous Nell Jones.”
There were a lot of tears from me when I read this book. It is always very refreshing and shocking to read a child’s perspective. Whilst showing maturity beyond her years, Freya and her family faced unimaginable challenges. Not only did they come out the other end stronger, they have used this to do so much good. This book obviously means so much to Freya and I genuinely enjoyed it. It makes you reflect upon just how lucky we really are. This book was an emotional rollercoaster but it was an excellent gift from a teenage girl. Hope will always win. Good will defeat evil. I urge you all to read this.