A History of Magic | Harry Potter at the British Library!

A few weeks ago I attended an event at the British Library called Late at the Library: A History of Magic, a mixture of special talks and shows, and – most importantly – after-hours access to the Library’s new exhibition on occult history, through the medium of Harry Potter. The exhibition itself is something I’ve been looking forward to for about a year now, ever since I first heard that it might be happening, but going on this particular evening was definitely a stroke of genius on the part of my mother, who suggested it (and some good ticket-buying timing for my part). Sadly, she wasn’t able to come with me and be educated on all things Harry Potter, but my friend Grace and I had a great time anyway. 😊

Of all the events that were going on (aside from the exhibition itself), we spent the most time at the amulet-crafting workshop, where I made a little clay bead with a rune for healing on one side, and (at Grace’s suggestion) the kanji for foot on the other (as I’ve been having foot problems for a while now). At the other end of the table, a few people were also writing spells, but not being sure what kind of spells to make, we gave this a miss… I had also hoped to listen to a couple of speakers (Gary Lachman on Magic and Music, and a storytelling session with TUUP), but when the time came, Grace & I both agreed that we’d rather see more of the exhibition… Speaking of which, the programme advised setting aside an hour to make sure we saw everything in the exhibition, but it actually took a lot longer to get through it all; there’s a lot to see, and the crowds (which I imagine will be pretty constant for as long as the exhibition is open) made it very slow going.

Sadly photography wasn’t allowed inside the exhibition, but they had themed ceiling decorations like these (which I took in the queue outside) in every room.

Some highlights of the exhibition:

  • The hall was beautifully decorated, and each section’s decorations matched the theme of the exhibits that were on display. There was a Charms room, a Defence Against the Dark Arts room, a Care of Magical Creatures room, and so on. I particularly enjoyed the way that the Divination room was set up with teacups hanging from the ceiling.
  • Some of the rooms had interactive exhibits, too. There was a fun game in the Potions room which let you try your hand at mixing ingredients (digitally) to make potions, and in the Astronomy room there was a program that let you examine the stars and constellations that some of the Harry Potter characters were named for. I also spotted what looked like a digital tarot reader, but unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to have a closer look…
  • J.K. Rowling herself contributed a lot of her original drafts and concept art to the exhibition, and it was scattered all over. With the drafts especially, it was fascinating to see all the notes and corrections she made to the books as she wrote them.
  • Also on display were a lot of the paintings and drawings that Jim Kay has done for the new illustrated editions. A lot of these I had seen before, but some were new to me (I still haven’t read the illustrated Prisoner of Azkaban), and those that I was already familiar with were somehow even more impressive in their original state. Many of the character portraits he were actually painted on wood panels, which is something that seems obvious now when I look back at the texture of the prints they used for the books, but it took me by surprise when I first saw them. I guess I’m just so used to everything being painted on canvas…
  • An amusing conversation I overheard between two friends (paraphrased, of course):
    GIRL (disbelieving): You haven’t read Harry Potter?!
    HER FRIEND: Shh! If anyone hears you, I might get stoned!
  • To be honest, though, the whole thing was one long highlight in itself…

The exhibition will be open until Wednesday 28th February, and although tickets are sold out for December, it seems that there are plenty left in January and February. You can find all the details, and booking links at the British Library’s exhibition page. If you’d like to see everything on offer, then I’d definitely advise setting aside 2-3 hours to spend there (plan in advance for crowds), and perhaps more if you want to browse the gift shop as well!

Swag from the gift shop! Some of the things there were a little pricey, but I couldn’t resist picking up this wonderfully snuggly jumper (with a beautiful phoenix illustration on the front), and a toy Hedwig that looks adorably disapproving (probably at the amount of money I spent 😋). The catalogue I actually picked up at Waterstones a couple of days later, just to save myself the trouble of lugging it all the way home (it’s pretty heavy), but it’s something that I was planning on getting right from the start, so I have no regrets. 😁

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August Wrap-Up

Last month ended up being something of a reminder to me not to try to read too many books at the same time; I end up feeling like I’m not making any progress, even when I am, just because I end up going for such long stretches without finishing everything… All of the three books I read, I finished within the last week, and I’m still not even halfway through Now I Rise (which, you may recall, I put aside “momentarily” in order to concentrate on the Booktubeathon – which was a whole month ago)… 😓 But it’s quality over quantity, right? Here are the amazing books I read in August:

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. A fantastic novel about a fragment of a sentient starship who has been violently cut off from her main body, and is on a mission to expose the truth of how and why this happened to her. This is a very difficult book to sum up in any king of succinct manner, but since it was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for August, you can find my more detailed review of it here. Spoilers, though: I loved it, and can’t wait to read the sequel.

Warleggan by Winston Graham. The fourth book in the Poldark series, which follows the lives of Ross Poldark and his wife Demelza, along with their family and friends (and an enemy). Obviously I can’t say much about the plot without spoiling things, but for those of you following the (remarkably faithful) TV series, this book covers the second half of series two… And of course I’m still loving these books, with all their melodrama and misunderstandings. As has been the case with almost all the books so far, Demelza was the highlight of Warleggan, though I did also enjoy all of Caroline’s antics, and getting the chance to know her better; Ross’ character arc, on the other hand, has become increasingly frustrating, but I’m hoping that this book will have got us through the worst of his pig-headedness. (The ending seemed promising, at least.)

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. The third Harry Potter book, which I have been (mostly) reading along with the third season of the Harry Potter & the Sacred Text podcast. This is my favourite book in the series (and probably always will be), and re-reading it was a joy, especially with the extra food for thought that the podcast offered… It’s something of a shame that (unlike season two), this season didn’t coincide with the release of the Prisoner of Azkaban illustrated edition, but I guess that just means I’ll be due for another re-read in the very near future – and that’s hardly a chore! 😊

Upcoming Releases: Autumn 2017

The next few months seem to be choc-a-bloc with great new books I could mention here… but in the interest of not letting this list go on forever, I’ve picked out a few that I’m most excited for, or intrigued by that will be released in September, October & November

[All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 28/08/2017.]

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken (5th September)

This might seem like an odd choice, since although I like Alexandra Bracken’s work, I’m not a die-hard fan… but something about The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding just sounds incredibly charming to me. It seems to be about an unremarkable boy from a family with a history of being anything but, who finds out one day that he’s sharing headspace with a demon. The impression I’m getting is a mix of Naruto and A Series of Unfortunate Events, which would make for an interesting combination! I’ll have to wait and see, however; the early reviews for this book have been somewhat mixed… Excitement level: 6/10

Provenance by Ann Leckie (28th September)

I only read my first one of Ann Leckie’s books recently (Ancillary Justice), but I was so blown away by it that I couldn’t help but add this to my “most anticipated” list as soon as I found out that it was going to be a thing… What I can tell about it so far: deep space and thievery. What I assume about it from my experience with Leckie’s writing thus far: complicated politics, rich world-building and great characters and plot. What I haven’t been able to discern: whether or not this is set in the same universe as the Imperial Radch books… 😓 So I likely won’t be picking it up until I’ve finished those books first (which will hopefully be very soon!). Excitement level: 8/10

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (3rd October)

The Prisoner of Azkaban has been out for years, of course, but Harry Potter fans (who seem to make up the majority of the world’s population) are bound to know already that Bloomsbury has been re-releasing new, beautifully-illustrated (by Jim Kay) editions of all the books… and this year is the turn of my favourite book in the series! The art for the last two books was amazing, so I can’t wait to see what this one will look like! 😆 Excitement level: 10/10

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman (19th October)

The first of the three-volume Book of Dust, which takes place in the His Dark Materials universe, though it follows a new set of characters. I don’t know much more about this book than that; I really don’t need to, as I am sure to buy it anyway, and I doubt very much that I won’t enjoy it. Like many others, I feel like I’ve been waiting for this book for years, so naturally, I’m very excited that it’s finally (almost) here! Excitement level: 10/10

Tortall: A Spy’s Guide by Tamora Pierce (31st October)

It’s been so long since I read anything new from Tamora Pierce! So even though this seems to be a dossier-style book (along the lines of The Artemis Fowl Files or The Demigod Files), rather than a whole new novel, I will undoubtedly devour it. Hopefully, like the other two books I mentioned, there will also be a short story or two in the mix… Excitement level: 7/10

Summer Holidays ~🎶

This Friday my family and I will be heading off on our annual trip to Skye. I’m looking forward to escaping from the heat and humidity of Cambridge for a while, and (I confess) to having a break from work – but most of all, I’m excited for peace and quiet, and lots and lots of time to read books. ☺️ For the sake of not taking up too much car space, I won’t be taking more than a couple of physical books, but with them and my kindle, I hope that I’ll have enough to keep me going… Here’s what I’m currently planning on reading:

1) Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. I’ve been reading this along with the Harry Potter & the Sacred Text podcast, but I still have a lot of catching up to do, and long car trips are perfect for at least the listening part of the process, so I’ll definitely be bringing this book along. 😊

2) Now I Rise by Kiersten White. The second book in The Conquerors Saga (which started with And I Darken), which is going to be released on Thursday. Obviously, I haven’t got a copy of this book at the moment, but I do have a credit saved up at the moment from my book-buying ban (/restriction), and I’m planning on using it for this book, which I’m super-excited to pick up as soon as I can. Barring unexpected circumstances, I’ll head into town on Thursday to purchase a copy…

3) There really are a lot of Evil Spirits! by Fuyumi Ono. The second book in the Akuryou series, which hasn’t officially been released in English, though fan-translations are available online. Recently, I’ve been re-reading/re-watching/finally reading the sequel to to Ghost Hunt manga and anime, and since I’m enjoying it so much, I thought I’d also pick up some of the novels it was based on… I read the first one quite a while back (though I may decide to re-read it; they’re only short, after all), so I intend to start again from volume two this time.

As for the rest, I’m still undecided, but there are a few books on my kindle at the moment that I might give a go… They include: Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, or perhaps the second and third books in Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy (which I started during the Anti-Bullying Readathon in 2015 and loved)… Or I might cave in and finally buy A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir; it will likely depend a lot on my mood. 🤔 However, as has become the usual when I post one of these TBRsI will be trying to do a proper review of everything I read on my trip, so whatever I decide to read, expect to be hearing about it! 😆

Upcoming Releases: Summer 2017

In a miraculous turn of events, it’s actually been sunny here for the last few days – which is wonderful when you have the day off, but not so wonderful when you’re trapped inside all day… 😓 I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the good weather will stick around for a few more days, but if it doesn’t, then at least I’ve got some exciting new books to look forward to! Here are just a sample of the new releases I’m most eager to see in June, July & August:

[All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 27/05/2017.]

   

Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone, House editions by J.K. Rowling (1st June)

It feels like Harry Potter has been a part of my life for way more than 20 years, but the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone is imminent, and to celebrate, Bloomsbury are releasing brand-new editions of the first book in all four house colours! I’m not entirely certain if I’ll be picking one of these up (my heart is saying yes, but my self-control is saying no; I’m not yet sure which will win out), but don’t they look amazing? And they’re doing paperbacks, too! You can find the full range here.
Excitement level: 10/10

Never Say Die by Anthony Horowitz (1st June)

A follow-up to the Alex Rider series, in which Alex moves to San Francisco to recover from the loss of his best friend and guardian at the end of Scorpia Rising, only to come across a suspicious email that seems to indicate that she may be alive after all. A co-worker of mine mentioned to me last week that this book was a thing, and it was a huge bombshell! I never expected to have more Alex Rider in my life, but it’s a welcome surprise! 😆 Excitement level: 9/10

The Rise & Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland (15th June)

A time-travel adventure set in both 19th century London and 21st century America, and involving a group of agents who are tasked with travelling back in time in order to prevent the disappearance of magic. I’ve never read anything by Neal Stephenson before (or even heard of Nicole Galland), but I’ve heard really amazing things about his work, and this story looks like a super-fun place to start. 😊 Excitement level: 7/10

Now I Rise by Kiersten White (6th July)

The sequel to And I Darken, which retells the life of Vlad the Impaler and his brother Radu, had Vlad been born a girl – Lada – instead… And I Darken was an unexpected favourite of mine last year, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating Now I Rise ever since I finished its predecessor. It hasn’t been too long a wait, but it certainly felt like one. Excitement level: 9/10

Also out soon in paperback:

  • A Closed & Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (15th July)
    Excitement level: 8/10
  • Black Light Express by Philip Reeve (1st August)
    Excitement level: 8/10

February Wrap-Up

In a shocking turn of events, I managed to read seven whole books in February (as well as most of an eighth), despite it being a short month, and my being busy with work and friends – and the various podcasts I’ve managed to get myself hooked on… ^^’ A lot of these books are ones that I’ve been really eager to read, too, and I’m happy to say that they invariably lived up to (or surpassed) my expectations! XD Here’s what I read:

Michael Morpurgo//Kensuke's KingdomKensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo. A young boy – Michael – gets shipwrecked on an island, and meets an old man who was also wrecked there during the Second World War, and has been living alone ever since. A quick-paced and engaging read, with a great pair of lead characters. 🙂 Like most of Morpurgo’s books, there was a point in the story where it got very sad, and in this case it was the story of how Kensuke ended up on the island – not coincidentally, this was probably my favourite part of the book, along with the bits of Michael’s travel journal that we got to see before the shipwreck. I do wish, however, that Morpurgo wouldn’t include the author’s notes in his books that imply that they’re true stories; parts of Kensuke’s Kingdom may have been inspired by truth, but it’s definitely not the case that Morpurgo was shipwrecked as a child, and lived on an island with a group of orang-utang and an elderly Japanese man for a year… He did this in the introduction of War Horse, too (though to a lesser degree), and it’s beginning to feel a bit like a Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf situation… :/3 starsAlison Goodman//The Dark Days PactThe Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman. The second book in the Lady Helen series, which I’ve been obsessing over since reading The Dark Days Club last April – and this sequel really lived up to its predecessor, as well as my (ridiculously high) expectations! I’ve posted a review of The Dark Days Pact already, which you can find here, if you so desire, but in short, the only reason this book isn’t on my favourites list already is that I have an amazing feeling that the third book in the series will be even better! XD5 starsElise Kova//Air AwakensAir Awakens by Elise Kova. The first book in the Air Awakens series, which follows a young woman who works as an apprentice in the palace library, until one day she saves the life of the crown prince, and accidentally creates a magical bond between them in the process. I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting from this series, but I had a lot of fun reading this first book (which reminded me a lot in tone – and worldbuilding – of Avatar: the Last Airbender; a very favourable comparison, I promise 😉 ). The plot itself seemed rather simple, but it does seem to be laying a thorough groundwork for the rest of the series… I really loved all the characters, too, and fell completely in love with the world. I’m working on a review at the moment, which ought to be posted in the very near future.4 starsEmma Haughton//Cruel Heart BrokenCruel Heart Broken by Emma Haughton. A contemporary novel about a teenage girl called Laurie, who’s being torn apart by a big secret that she’s keeping from her family and friends. Her former best friend Charlie has done something he regrets, too, and it may already be too late for either of them to fix things. A hard-hitting, but also quite hopeful story, which I liked much more than I expected to… This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for February, so (once again), I have a more detailed review of it up already; you can find it here.4 starsWild Lily//K.M. PeytonWild Lily by K.M. Peyton. A wonderful, enchanting novel set in the 20s about a young man called Antony who demands an aeroplane for his birthday, and Lily, a spirited young girl who’s willing to do pretty much anything to get him to see her worth. Such nostalgia! (Even though this book is in no way related to the Flambards series.) I loved Lily and Antony both so much, and the aeroplane scenes were amazing! I’ve said a few times before that K.M. Peyton is the author who first made me love aeroplanes, and Wild Lily really spoke to (and re-invigourated) that love. The very matter-of-fact writing style took a little while to get back into, so I was initially a little worried that I wouldn’t like this book that much, but once I managed it, I was hooked. ❤ My brief description doesn’t really do the story or characters justice, but I do intend to post a proper review of this book, too – look out for it soon!4 starsJ.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Chamber of SecretsHarry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (illustrated edition). The second book in the Harry Potter series, which I’ve been re-reading along with the Harry Potter & the Sacred Text podcast. This is actually my least favourite book in the series, but I still loved it, and Jim Kay’s beautiful illustrations really enhanced my reading experience this time around. If I have one criticism, then it would just be that there seemed to be a lot less illustrations in Chamber of Secrets than in the illustrated edition of the Philosopher’s Stone… and also the sheer number of – very realistic! – pictures of spiders. 😥5 stars

Renée Ahdieh//The Wrath & the DawnThe Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh. Thie first book in a duology that retells the story of A Thousand and One Nights, where a young woman named Shahrzad volunteers to marry the murderous king of Khorasan in order to avenge her best friend – his previous wife, whom he killed the morning after their marriage. This book was being super hyped-up a short while ago, so I didn’t want to go into it with my expectations so high that they could never be met, but I have to say, The Wrath & the Dawn blew way past everything I expected. I loved all the characters, and the stories that Shahrzad told Khalim in order to delay her own death (though there weren’t as many of them as I expected), and the overarching plot of the series seems to be moving in a really gripping direction. If I had one complaint, it would be that at the beginning of the book I felt the need to rush through Tariq’s chapters in order to return to Shahrzad’s storyline (i.e. what I was actually interested in), but that’s more to do with how addictive the Shahrzad chapters were than anything to do with Tariq’s storyline itself – and I did get pretty invested in it eventually. ^^’5 stars

Autumn Activities Book Tag

There’s really only a few weeks of autumn left this year, but it’s never too late for a fun tag, in my opinion! The Fall Activities Book Tag (which I have conveniently re-named) was originally created by Ashley from Dreaming Through Literature, and I was tagged by Ariana from The Quirky Book Nerd – be sure to check out her great answers to these prompts, too!

Leigh Bardugo//Crooked Kingdom1) Apple picking – a book on your TBR that looks so delicious you can’t wait to take a bite out of it.

There are a lot of books on my TBR at the moment that I’m really excited about, but the one I’m most eager for is undoubtedly Crooked Kingdom by Leigh BardugoSix of Crows was amazing, and I can’t wait to see where the story’s going to go next!

Andrzej Sapkowski//The Last Wish2) Corn maze – a book that’s fun to get lost in.

I could pick any number of books for this prompt (mostly fantasy), but among those is the series I’m currently working my way through: The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski! So much is going on in these books that it’s a little difficult to follow at times, but it’s also incredibly engrossing, and I’m having a tonne of fun reading it. XD

Emily Carroll//Through the Woods3) Haunted house – a book that scared you silly.

I don’t read a lot of scary books (because I’m a bit of a wimp), but the graphic novel Through the Woods by Emily Carroll has some seriously creepy stories in it – including an actual haunted house! 😉 The art is wonderfully creepy, too, and it makes for a perfect Halloween read.

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets4) Pumpkin patch – the latest book you purchased.

The last book I picked up (for myself, at least) was the new illustrated edition of Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling, which is a thing of beauty. ❤ There don’t seem to be quite as many illustrations as in the first book, but what there is is really lovely.

Catherynne M. Valente//Deathless5) Scenic drive – a book that is beautifully written.

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente is so beautifully written that it’s practically poetry; the way she phrases things is unusual, but in a way that gives her words incredible power. I’ve not read any of Valente’s other works yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to the day when I finally pick some of them up.

Holly Bourne//Soulmates6) Pumpkin carving – a book you wouldn’t mind carving up.

For a complete change of tone, I definitely wouldn’t mind chopping up Soulmates by Holly Bourne, and maybe tossing the pieces on a bonfire afterwards. I very rarely read a book and feel like I’ve wasted my time entirely (even with books that I didn’t enjoy), but this one was so bad that it actually made me angry.

Philip Reeve//Railhead7) Hiking – a book that was an enjoyable romp.

The word “romp” makes me think of adventures more than anything, so for this I decided to pick something a bit more lighthearted and fun, so… Railhead by Philip Reeve! This story didn’t stand still even for a moment, and I enjoyed it so much that it was difficult to put it down, even for necessary things like eating and sleeping. 😛 [Review.]

Tamora Pierce//Street Magic8) Apple cider – a book to curl up under the covers with.

My ultimate comfort read – as I’ve mentioned about a million times before – is Street Magic by Tamora Pierce (or anything by her, really, but Street Magic is my favourite), so that’s the book I turn to if I ever want to huddle up in bed for a whole day… if I’m ill, or just miserable – or cold, as the case may be. 😉 I also listen to the audiobook of it a lot, whenever I’m out and about and sick of music; it’s a wonderful production.

C.S. Lewis//The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe9) Jumping in leaves – a book that reminds you of your childhood.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are hugely nostalgic for me. I remember first starting to read them when I was staying at my granny’s house for Christmas, and – once the holiday was over and I’d gone home – having to beg my parents for my own copies so that I could carry on reading. 😀

Bram Stoker//Dracula10) Scary movie night – your favourite spooky read.

As I said already, I’m not a huge fan of scary stories, but I did (finally) read Dracula by Bram Stoker earlier this year, and ended up really enjoying it. I wouldn’t say that I found it particularly spooky, but I reckon it still qualifies. 🙂 [Review.]

Becky Chambers//The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet11) Costume party – a book with an eclectic cast of characters.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers has a wonderfully varied cast of characters, who are really the driving force behind this story. Every member of the Wayfarer‘s crew is fully developed and sympathetic, and has an interesting story to tell… a good thing, since – stuck on a trip through deep space – there’s not much going on plot-wise. [Review.]