Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics And Pesky Poltergeists – J.K.Rowling

“Slughorn’s genuine remorse for the damage he had done in telling Riddle what he wanted to know is conclusive proof that he is not, and never was, Death Eater material.”

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Blurb: “These stories of power, politics and pesky poltergeists give you a glimpse into the darker side of the wizarding world, revealing the ruthless roots of Professor Umbridge, the lowdown on the Ministers for Magic and the history of the wizarding prison Azkaban. You will also delve deeper into Horace Slughorn’s early years as Potions master at Hogwarts – and his acquaintance with one Tom Marvolo Riddle.”

This is the third and final ebook I read in the new Harry Potter collection and it was a very satisfying way to end.

Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists focuses on a host of topics such as the backstory of arguably the most hated character from the Harry Potter series: Dolores Umbridge, a chapter dedicated to our favourite poltergeist Peeves, and an analysis of the fatal mistake Horace Slughorn made with Tom Riddle and how he coped with the aftermath, along with his role in the battle of Hogwarts.

What I found the most interesting in this collection were the chapters addressing the history of the Ministry of Magic and how it came to be along with the history behind the famous Azkaban prison.

It was another insightful read and just adds to how vast and how much of this world J.K.Rowling thought about when she was working on the Harry Potter books.

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Hogwarts: An Unreliable Guide – J.k.Rowling

“The sorting hat spent nearly four minutes trying to decide whether it should place Hermione in Ravenclaw or Gryffindor. In Neville’s case, the Hat was determined to place him in Gryffindor: Neville, intimidated by that house’s reputation for bravery, requested a placing in Hufflepuff.”

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Blurb: “Hogwarts: And Incomplete and Unreliable Guide takes you on a journey to Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You’ll venture into the Hogwarts grounds, become better acquainted with the more permanent residents, learn more about lessons and discover secrets of the castle.”

This is the second of the new Harry Potter ebooks that I decided to pick up because they’re quick and easy reads.

Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide is a wonderful collection that pays attention to the relevance of Kings Cross Station to the both J.K.Rowling and the world of Harry Potter, an insight into the life of the maurauder’s and how the famous map came to be. The reader can expect to learn about the Hogwarts ghosts and their original names along with those that never made it into the books.

Secrets about the Mirror of Erised are revealed and there’s a quite funny chapter dedicated to the painting of Sir Cadogan which book fan may remember from Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban. Plus my personal favourite, a chapter about the Hufflepuff common room (I wear my badger with pride!)

As I’ve said before, these are pottermore essays so if you frequent the site a lot (especially in its original format) then it’s likely you’ve already seen these but this was certainly my favourite as it focused a lot more of aspects of the school itself such as what classes students study in year one and what options they get to choose later on.

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Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies – J.K.Rowling

“Minerva McGonagall was one of only a handful of people who knew, or suspected, how dreadful a moment it was for Albus Dumbledore when, in 1945, he made the decision to confront and defeat the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald.”

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Blurb: “These stories of heroism, hardship and dangerous hobbies profile two of the Harry Potter stories’ most courageous and iconic characters: Minerva McGonagall and Remus Lupin. J.K.Rowling also gives us a peak behind the closed curtain of Sybill Trelwaney’s life, and you’ll encounter the reckless, magical-beast-loving Silvanus Kettleburn along the way.”

When I first heard about even more Harry Potter material being launched into the world, I was both excited and sceptical. I will be reviewing each book over the course of this week so if you’re interested, keep an eye out.

This collection is basically the short stories that can be found on Pottermore, which as a free site makes the release of these ebooks feel very much like another chance to cash in on the new hype around the series. However, if you’re someone who’s a sucker for backstories then you’ll really enjoy Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies.

It’s split into four sections, focusing on different heroic characters from the Harry Potter series. Those are: Minerva McGonagall, Remus Lupin, Sybill Trelawny and Silvanus Kettleburn. The reader is given an insight into the lives of each of these characters along with learning more about the history of aspects they are linked to such as the “prejudice of werewolves” for Lupin and “history of the animagus” for McGonagall.

It’s a fun, quick little read and sure to give heart-warming feelings to any Harry Potter fans.

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The Importance of Hermione Granger

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In honour of the release of additional Harry Potter material in the form of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, it seems only fitting to talk about how much this series has shaped my life. However, that could take years to fully explain so for now you will have to accept this rather shortened version.

I first discovered the Harry Potter books when I was 7/8 years old. I was wandering around the giant metal crates of books as the Scholastic book fair was at my primary school. My mum had always pushed me towards reading: if I wanted a toy she would make me wait a week and if I still wanted it then I could have it. If it was a book, I could have it right away. She sent me to school that day with money to go to the book fair and get whatever I want. That day when I eagerly scanned the shelves of the various containers, I came across a book called Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets. At the time I wasn’t aware this was the second book and I devoured it. I found out that there were in fact three books out at that point and my first read through went 2nd book, 3rd book, 1st book and then 4-7.

There’s no way I can really encapsulate how much this series meant to me, not only growing up, but even now. It gave that escapism I needed as a child and I was just in awe of this world that I was thrown into. I followed this small orphan boy into a world of magic and wonder, facing something so much bigger than him. I pictured myself fighting alongside them, defending them where needed. I saw myself sat in black robes lined with yellow at the Hufflepuff table in the Great Hall. I had found a place where I belonged. My mum would let me read one chapter a night before bed and then take the book off me and read it herself. We always had 2 bookmarks in our copy of the most recent book because she would take it to work with her and I’d get it when I got home from school. My most prominent childhood memory is sitting in class and my teacher declaring that our reading hour had started. Every single child in that room pulled out a copy of Harry potter and the Order of the Phoenix and began reading. Including my teacher.

Naturally, I adore the movies but there’s so much magic that you don’t get in those compared to the books and every year I find myself coming back to those books, even if it is only one of them. This series was by no means the first I read as a child, but it was the first that really stuck with me. When we went on holidays where we took the car (like getting the ferry across to France) I would demand we listen to the Harry potter audiobooks and I’d sit in the back reading the book along with the soothing tones of Stephen Fry.

When the final book came out, I stared at it for the first two days. We had two copies of the book at that point so mum was well into her copy, but I was terrified of the adventure ending, of parting away with the characters that had been the only real friends I ever had. One night, at 4am, mum came running into my room because I was hysterically crying; Fred Weasley had just died. At that time, I didn’t realise that they would continue walking alongside me to this day. At twenty years old, I was having fights with university friends about which Hogwarts house was superior, my university had both a Harry Potter and a Quidditch society. Some of the best people in my life right now became my friends because of our love for this story. At nearly twenty three, my car keys are attached to a Hufflepuff crest keychain. When I went to the Harry Potter worlds in Universal and the Harry Potter studios, I cried.

This blog post is title “the importance of Hermione Granger” because she was the first time I saw myself as a character in a book. Of course I’d read many books with characters who loved reading but Hermione Granger didn’t just love reading, she loved learning too. She didn’t just have a fascination for the magical subjects of Hogwarts (as she’d lived 11 years of her life in a non-magical world) but she even loved Muggle Studies; a topic about something she already knew probably more of than the teachers did. She is made fun of throughout the books for being the one with her hand always in the air to answer questions, always doing her homework on time and demanding that Harry and Ron start revising for their exams. Her knowledge saves Harry and Ron’s lives countless times. Out of all the things she could use a time turner for in the third book (minus the obvious plot point) she uses it to attend more classes than is physically possible to do without manipulating time. In Deathly Hallows she fills her bag with over ten books just in case there might be any useful information in them that could help further down the line: something that Harry doesn’t even think of when he originally plans to go alone.

My point is she loved reading and she loved learning but more importantly she never changed. She could’ve so easily shrunk inside herself and contained the things that made her such a remarkable character but she never hid her love for either of those things. She showed me that devotion to something you love is important and you should never ever be afraid to passionate about the things that mean the most to you.
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Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix – J.K.Rowling

 

“He felt as though his heart was going to explode with pleasure; he was flying again, flying away from Privet Drive as he’d been fantasising about all Summer, he was going home… for a few glorious moments, all his problems seemed to recede to nothing, insignificant in the vast, starry sky.”

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Blurb: “Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friend Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to School and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…”

It’s taken over a year but I have finally finished my re-read of Harry Potter (in the fancy new UK editions). It’s not the first time I’ve re-read the series and I have no doubt it won’t be the last. This is the fifth book in the series, so you can clearly tell I didn’t re-read the series in order. One thing I have discovered is that every time I pick up one of the Harry Potter books and read them again, I become even more disillusioned by the films. I understand that changes need to be made etc. when it comes to an adaptation, but I just feel like you miss out on so much if you haven’t read the source material.

Like I said, this is the fifth book in the Harry Potter series and the longest; reaching exactly 800 pages in this edition. What I really like about this book that following on from the events in Goblet of Fire, is that everything has the “calm before the storm” feeling. Horrible things are looming that people are trying their hardest to ignore, but for the most part there’s enough warmth and joy that it makes you feel like, for now, things are continuing as normal.  You have Fred and George up to their usual antics, new and exciting classes and creatures, contrasting with Harry’s negative battle with being left out of situations, being left with no information and no contact with his friends. This book is when he starts to internalise a lot of what he’s going through and becomes quite bitter. He gets upset, he gets angry (and not just over exams) and that only gets worse when the Ministry of Magic appoints Dolores Umbridge as the new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher. Her character is insufferable as she grows in power throughout the plot, but one thing I will say is that she is tame in the movie adaptation compared to this book. She gave me headaches. A lot.

A while ago, someone said to me that J.K.Rowling is a “good storyteller, but not a good writer.” At first I was utterly flabbergasted. I think everyone can agree that Harry Potter has been hugely successful and continues to be long since the last book was released. However, upon my overall re-read, I’ve learnt that the person who made those comments is right. Maybe it’s because I do a lot of editing, or maybe it’s because I’m a writer myself, but I found myself saying “I would have cut that”, “oh that’s oddly presented” although you cannot deny that the world she has created is something that will fall into the classics of the future.  She paved the way for stories about magic schools and child wizards.

There’s so many subplots in this book that just root you back into the world, despite not wanting to admit that certain people may be making their return, such as Quidditch, St Mungos hospital, the prefects and Hermione becoming essentially a House Elf Activist. And may this is because I love learning, but it was interesting to see the characters stressing over exams and how the actual exams took place.

Overall, it’s another solid addition to the series and where I feel Rowling starts to get stronger. It’s moved its way up into my top 3 Harry Potter books.
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The One With The Damaged Books

It’s no secret that I love books… A lot. I’ve been reading as much as I can ever since I was taught how to do it. Most of my childhood (and in fact my life now) was spent with my nose in a book. However, in my younger years, it seems I didn’t care for my bookish friends as well as I do now.

Proceed with caution!

Charlotte

Very Good Lives – J.K.Rowling

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Blurb: “When J.K.Rowling was invited to deliver the commencement address at Harvard University, she chose to speak to the graduating class about two topics very close to her heart: the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination. Having the courage to fail, she said, is as vital to a good life as any conventional measure of success; imagining ourselves into the place of another – particularly someone less fortunate than ourselves – is a uniquely human quality to be nurtured at all costs.”

This book has fallen into my hands at such an important time in my life: I have just left University and in July I will have my graduation ceremony. Naturally, I’m searching for all the advice  I can get to handle myself in “the real world” after sixteen years in the education system. So, getting advice from the great J.K.Rowling? Sign me straight up!

Very Good Lives is a book version of Rowling’s 2008 commencement speech given at Harvard University, and sales of the book go to Lumos, an international charity founded by J.K.Rowling.  One of the things I love the most about this book is just how pretty it looks: the pages are decorated with beautiful artwork which made is such a pleasurable read. Most of all, it was really inspiring.

One fear I have – which I’m sure a lot of you reading this share too – is failure. This is a topic that Rowling talks about a lot, referring to her own experiences, but also talks about how it is impossible to avoid failure because of how life pans out. One thing she said really stood out to me:

“Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

It changed my outlook on failure. Rather than trying to avoid failure and give up living, I should embrace and learn from failure when I do face it.

Basically, it’s a wonderful little book showing that we are important, we should live for ourselves, not for others. And most importantly, we should use our incredible imaginations to create.

I recommend this to everyone going through an important milestone in their lives.

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