Harry Potter and the Cursed Child // Expectations

Tomorrow is one of the many days this year that us Harry Potter fans have been waiting for. This is the day for the people who can’t afford to go to London to see the actual play (which may be a little hypocritical of me going by my last post but hey ho), and the people who don’t live in the UK altogether. Or the people who just like books and plays. Screw that, tomorrow is a day for all Harry Potter fans, regardless.

I’ve been known as the Harry Potter kid throughout my school days. When a teacher mentioned the books or the films during class I’d suddenly see 20 or so heads swivelling around to judge my reaction, which would mostly be exaggerated excitement. Still to this day I will spend days having detailed discussions about the tiniest details of the series, and let’s face it: I probably know more about Harry Potter than the degree I am studying.

Then again, I can’t help but be concerned about the fact that this is a second generation story. Is this the start of a series where people will continue to milk out a successful franchise? Although I’m a firm believer that J K Rowling has the ability to make anything good, I’m still wishing that we had a Marauders saga, or something that doesn’t involve Harry, Ron and Hermione. I want to see something fresh, and something that can give us answers to questions I’ve debated with my friends for years.

Even so, I’ve preordered the screenplay. I don’t want to read it with low expectations, but I’m not going to automatically assume it’s the best thing ever written. I’ve heard amazing reviews for the play, but I’m hoping it’s not predictable, and I’m hoping it’s not repetitive. At the same time, we’re lucky that we’ve been given more material to talk about, or produce merchandise for, or even write fanfiction for. Some ships have sailed, but J K Rowling has let hers stay in the harbour for a little while more, even though it’s been almost a decade since the last book was released.

Let’s hope it’s worth it.

The Thing About London

London is a whirlwind.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit for the second time this week, but there’s something about London that completely wipes you out if you’re not used to it. There’s something about London that is incredible and wonderful to observe. It’s diverse. There’s any shop you could ever want (if you can afford it). The tube gets you anywhere you want to go in minutes. There’s so many things to see and do you’d have to stay for weeks if you wanted to visit everything in one trip. There are musicians everywhere, it’s like you’ve been dropped into a musical but you’re merely an extra in the crowd. One fades out and another fades in. Silence isn’t golden, silence isn’t heard of here.

The crowds can be terrifying. Some people have absolutely no mercy. If you’re not fast and graceful you will be squashed, or even worse, you’ll miss your train. Apologising doesn’t seem to get you anywhere, British courtesies don’t seem to work in London from my experiences, which is ironic in itself. 

Some don’t have any mercy when it comes to queueing either, if there’s an opportunity to cut in, they will. People are always in a hurry, people always have a destination to get to: a place to be or people to see. There’s no time for the present, there’s only time to prepare for the future. People have their journeys they repeatedly take daily, and people who get in the way of that seem to be absolute scum in the way that they glare at you. Saying that, some people were very gracious regarding my initial confusion. Some people gave directions like they were talking to a friend. Not everyone was harsh and brutal. 

The traffic is almost as crazy as the streets. You can get a taxi from almost anywhere, and crossing a road is more challenging than finding the place you need to go. There’s more to London than Big Ben and the London Eye. People are constantly taking selfies, recording memories with their phones instead of their eyes, not forgetting to add the Snapchat filter to clarify that they are indeed in London, and checking themselves in on Facebook to again clarify that they are indeed in London. Not only are you navigating through the people constantly moving against you, you’re navigating through the people who are absorbed in the moment on their screen. 

There’s something about London that makes me enjoy every visit. There’s something wonderful about it, how different it is to the small town where I come from, and the fact that people seem to be able to fully express themselves here in a way that would seem strange in Wales. People are united yet also very, very divided. People are people, yet some people are deemed as different. 

The Theatres have a vibe that other places will never have. I’ve been lucky to go to three different musicals this week, and each theatre was cool and different and completely refreshed my love for the stage, and the music, and the stories these people have to tell. No theatre is the same, and that adds to the excitement. 

Long story short: this week has been eventful, and now I’m overdue some time to just read undisturbed. Sweet. Cool. 

I felt a lot of feelings // Cloud Atlas Review

They say the best people in life give you books. By they, I mean me. You can win me over with books any day. Not only did my best friend give me a book last week which I reviewed the other day (here) but my boyfriend had since lent me The Cloud Atlas, which literally blew my mind.

Last night I wrote a blog post about a book hangover, which you can view here. If you hadn’t guessed already, it was induced by The Cloud Atlas. One nap and one mind map later, I am here to tell you why I felt all the emotions at once.

The first thing that makes this book stand out is the fact that there are six different stories. However, this is no collection of short stories, these are six CONNECTED stories. The stories are just as good isolated, as the references are subtle enough that it’s familiar and comforting, but the fact that there are these connections doesn’t take over the story itself. David Mitchell uses these six parts to tell stories across time, cultures and genres, and each character’s tale is thought provoking and important. There’s six people to get attached to, and everything falls together perfectly to create one story.

Here’s why. One of the most important themes in this story is the role of music, and how one character creates an iconic sextet which is almost mirrored in the structure. The Cloud Atlas Sextet focuses on six soloists, which makes it more poignant to me as a (sort-of) musician as you can see how they stand out yet also harmonise with the other sections. Oh man. EMOTIONS. There are connections with music and composition, but what I love about this book is the fact that you can become invested regardless of your interests. Everyone can think for themselves, right? You can also have an insight into the creativity process, and how it has no timeframe and no boundaries.

There’s also the emotional turmoil of experiencing six endings at once. It’s set out in two halves, so you read half of each story first then read the second half of each story. It sounds complicated but in reality it makes the stories fresh yet familiar at the same time. These stories are also written in a variety of styles, which could potentially confuse people, but overall it made it different and unique. It made me think, it was enlightening. What also makes you think are the issues that each story presents. Also the fact that the stories are written across different periods of time goes to show that problems with race, gender and justice don’t necessarily correlate with time.

As a result of the structure, you have very little time to deal with what you’ve just read because you’ve got more endings to finish, therefore at the end you’re sitting there questioning everything you’ve ever known. I’m still trying to organise my thoughts now. I’m not sure why this book has made such a large impact on me.

I need another nap. Or twelve.

 

The Book Hangover

There’s only one diagnosis I can muster for what I’m feeling right now, and that is a Book Hangover.

I’m sure the majority of us here have been sucked in by a book (This is mainly a book blog, if you haven’t I’m curious as to why you’re here). I’m sure you’ve all finished a book that’s absorbed and consumed you, and when you have finished, you just stare at the back cover for a while, a void slowly opening that was filled by the story you were just reading. You feel different somehow. You feel enlightened. You’ve learned something. However, you haven’t learned something in a classroom with twenty other people your age. You’ve learned something that’s very personal to you. You’ve discovered something that only you can truly relate to.

These feelings and thoughts lead to an internalised Book Hangover that leave you pondering and questioning many concepts for a while. Sometimes it’s just a few hours. Sometimes it’s days. Sometimes it’s weeks. Sometimes you’re lucky and someone you know has also read the book, and even luckier if they can somehow relate or empathise with how you’re feeling. Most of the time though, it’s a solo journey. An ever-evolving growth. A good book will give you something that will stick with you for a long time.

An easy solution is to simply pick up another book- a tactic that I’ve used many a time. Why re-enter the real world again so suddenly when there’s more fiction for you to devour, or another person’s life to be introduced to? Why preoccupy yourself again with actual legitimate issues when you can think about a new protagonist’s woes, and start to relate to a whole new character? There are concepts to be thought about, choices to make, realms to explore and new lessons to learn. Why wait?

Some feelings need to be processed. Some feelings need to be felt. These hangovers are one of a kind. You’re not trying to remember what happened, you’re trying to process it. I’m wondering where the concept came from, and how one mind could produce sentences that flow together in such a way that it makes you feel emotions so powerful that you can’t put your thoughts into words. Sure, you may have updated your Goodreads page to announce to the world that you’ve finished it, but are you finished with it? Probably not.

Expect a book review soon, that’s all I’m saying.

Pokémon Go or Pokémon No? // A Rant About Video Games

I’ve been watching the news a lot lately. Partly because I’ve taken a more active interest in politics, and partly because it’s always on when I’m doing a cheeky 7am gym session. This morning while I was doing my thing, blasting a good old Spotify playlist, I noticed that they were talking about the game that has taken the world by storm: Pokémon Go. Immediately I was intrigued, having downloaded it a few days ago (living in the middle of a Welsh valley is no fun in this game). However, the news report was basically a bunch of middle aged adults talking about how dangerous it is and how it’s terrible.

Instantly, I was angry. I’m not going to deny the fact that some people have got themselves injured or killed thanks to this game- but then again, is it totally due to the game? I’m sure the exact same thing could have happened whilst scrolling through Twitter, or Snapchatting the rare moment you were outside, or using literally any other phone app. Then again, if there’s something that kids and teens are obsessed with, it seems like adults like to find a way to crap all over it.

I was born in a time where technology and video games were new, computers were still giant cubes and iPhones weren’t even fathomed. My time was equally divided between playing outside with my older brother and playing computer games.

Now here’s the thing. Not only are there the violent shooting games that parents seem to use to drag down the whole franchise, but the educational and puzzle games that I grew up with. I learned German, Mental Maths, Spelling, and so much more thanks to those weird games with terrible graphics. Granted, I also spent many an hour playing Lara Croft and Spyro, but there’s level of critical thinking needed for video games that a book won’t hand to you on a plate. Some video games have a story so complex that it’s more thought provoking than a book. People who have played Undertale will know how emotionally attached you get to the characters even though the controls and the art are so simple. People who have played Portal will know how you need to think outside the box in order to progress. Even people who have played the freaking Lego Games, will have learned that different people have different skills and you can’t always do the best job alone. People jump to conclusions just because people have got addicted so quickly.

Were there not things you were obsessed with as a child? So many kids my age grew up dreaming of being a Pokémon trainer after watching the TV Series. So many kids now want to be the very best like no one ever was, and now all our dreams can be a sort-of reality. This is something that has taken the world by storm for good reason.

Can we also mention how kids are actually leaving the house and exploring their local area? Sure it’s probably only to catch that rare Ditto or Mewtwo, but the Pokéstops they find provide information about the various statues and rivers so they still have an opportunity to learn about what’s always surrounded them. This game has done something parents always struggle to do, and maybe that’s why they’re so quick to judge it.

Then again, it doesn’t help that very young children already have iPhones and other smartphones. Also, young children wouldn’t be exposed to this and more violent video games if parents aren’t aware of what they’re looking at online. If you don’t want your child to play violent video games, don’t buy them for them, and don’t play them when they’re in the house. If you’re worried about your child being run over at the age of ten, make sure they know about road safety, and make sure that they are on a pavement and not blocking other peoples’ paths before they add that Charizard to their collection.

If so many people are addicted to it, there’s got to be a reason for it. Right?

Is Love Too Simple? // The Potion Diaries Review

For some strange reason, one of the best times for me to completely immerse myself in books is after a night out. Although I still have the fountain of youth on my side in terms of hangovers, my tired brain is still trying to find a reason to cringe at me for the things I knock over or strange texts I’ve sent. I’m such a relatable teen. We all know how books provide the perfect escape, so while my body pulls itself together it’s a great time to join another person’s world for a while.

After finishing Storm of Swords, my thoughts lingered to a book my best friend had given me when I last saw her. This book was The Potion Diaries, by Amy Alward, which is one of the eight books chosen for the Zoella Book Club. As much as we can get skeptical about Youtubers taking over the world, you can’t deny that this book club is only doing a world of good. Getting young people to read is the opposite of a problem. What I like is the fact that there are books like The Potion Diaries which are mainly quite lighthearted and fluffy, alongside darker reads aimed at older readers like The Sky is Everywhere and of course one of my favourites, Fangirl.

As a result, I read The Potion Diaries in a mere few hours. It was an easy read, relatively immersing and I liked the concept of the story. I did like how it incorporated the new world of social media and technology with the traditional role of princesses and royalty, even if the whole division between normal people (called “ordinary” people here) and special, different people (called “talented” people) is a trope that’s quite overdone. You could see there were attempts to subvert these tropes, and we do learn that not everything can be done with magic.

Naturally, our protagonist, Sam, is an ordinary girl with an extraordinary gift, who tries to stay out of the limelight and is desperate to save people. As a result you could predict that it was going to be a happy fluffy romantic ending, especially as the crush is mentioned in the blurb, therefore it almost screamed out that they were going to be together in the end. Despite this, Alward does a pretty good job of keeping us on our toes, but although she presents all the reasons why he’s not a good person, Sam still seems to love him too easily. Maybe I’m too cold hearted, who knows. I was pleasantly surprised that there wasn’t a second love interest, and although there were plenty of opportunities there, I’m glad that was avoided. There were also hints to things like sex- but in all honesty, the blunt and almost random reference made me cringe a little. Then again, maybe it’s a symbol of how young people suddenly discover more adult things, but I didn’t think it was necessary.

Overall, it was a fun read, and definitely a lighthearted break from Game of Thrones. I think it will definitely appeal to younger readers and people who are trying to get back into reading, despite some of the overused tropes.

One last note: do books being written in the present tense bother you? I wasn’t sure whether to go into that or not because I’m worried it would seem like a really petty thing, but comment boxes are there for a reason, I guess. Let me know.

The Refreshing One // The Trials of Apollo Review

I’m in a bit of a reading slump lately. I’m not entirely sure why, but I have been incredibly busy and I’m finally back in the Motherland for the summer! My room is a boxed wonderland.

As a result, a lot of my books have been packed away and I have nowhere to put them at the moment, so my best friend became my hero and lent me the latest Percy Jackson book, The Trials of Apollo (although calling them Percy Jackson books isn’t necessarily accurate anymore, but you get my drift).

I completely forgot that Rick Riordan was still writing more for this series, but what I love about it is that it’s still fresh. He’s retained the essence of the universe, and characters he’s introduced to us earlier on in the chronicles are not forgotten, however the changes of perspective and the introductions of enough new characters continue to keep the series new and exciting,

One of the most interesting things about this book though is the fact that it’s no longer from the perspective of a demigod, but a god himself: Apollo. We get to see a whole new side of this universe and we can understand more about how they think, and the road to his redemption. It’s refreshing to see that they have their own fair share of suffering and it’s not just an easy life being a god, in a way.

It’s also refreshingly lighthearted, which probably makes it more suited to younger readers, but at the same time for people like me who have read them since the beginning, I can’t help but smile at the casual references to things like Spotify, Snapchat and Youtube. I hope they mention #brexit in the next one. Also he’s obviously diverse, yet it’s so subtle the way he mentions it, as he casually makes references to relationships between all genders. It’s cool and refreshing, and it’s not been made a big deal out of which makes it different to other more diverse novels.

There’s nothing really recycled here, too. Percy makes an appearance, but is yet to play a truly major role in this series, which is great because it gives other characters a chance to shine. We learn throughout the chronicles that it’s not just about the ‘big three’ Gods, and other Gods I’ve never even heard of can produce seriously powerful demigods. There’s also an element of teamwork and unity that the real life world seems to be missing out on.

Overall, I loved it. It was lighthearted, amusing and a very easy read. I recommend it mainly to younger readers but if you’ve read the others and are worried about this new one not being as good: trust me, it’s great.