My Literary Trip to Oxford

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In a blog post earlier in the year, I made a list of bookish places to visit in England, the first of which was Oxford, one of the most literary places in the world. It is home to the famous literary group, the Inklings, who amongst it members were C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Roger Lancelyn Green, to name a few.

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

I, by rights, would consider C.S. Lewis one of my favourite authors, as his Chronicles of Narnia are some of my best loved go-to comfort reads. For the past twenty years, I have read and re-read those tales that provided (along with Tolkien and many others) the cornerstones of children’s fantasy. I like many others travelled with the Pevensies and poured my heart into the destruction of the White Witch. For Narnia, and for Aslan!

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

But how much did I know about the man behind the magic? Who was C.S. Lewis? So this was reason number one why I decided to visit Oxford, where Lewis spent a large chunk of his life. The Kilns, where Lewis used to live, gives tours by appointment and is situated in Risinghurst, just outside of the city center. Not only can you find Lewis’s home there, but also his parish, which is only a ten-minute walk away. The church is also his resting place, as people flock from all over the world to pay their respects to the author who transported them through the wardrobe. His brother, Warren Lewis, affectionately known as Warnie, who died ten years later, is also buried with his brother, who liked to be known as Jack.

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

Taking a tour of the Kilns was like being reacquainted with an old friend. I knew bits of trivia about Lewis’s life, but our guide shed light on just what an imaginative, gracious and fun-loving person he really was. One story stood out to me in particular. After his cat, Tom, had lost his teeth, Lewis’s wife, Joy, wanted to have the cat put down. Lewis would hear nothing of the sort, and every third day went to the market to get fish for Tom to eat, which he ground small enough so the cat didn’t have to chew, and declared it would be Tom’s pension. As he passed Tom in the garden, he usually doffed his hat, citing to a baffled friend, “Tom’s a pensioner, don’t you know. We treat pensioners with respect.”

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

Oxford history doesn’t just hold references to Lewis’s life and works, it also plays host to a large chunk of filming locations, particularly for the first Harry Potter film, directed by Christopher Columbus. I visited the Divinity School in the Bodleian Library, where the scenes for the Hogwarts Infirmary were filmed, and also Christ Church, where the Golden Trio meet again after the events of Philosopher’s Stone. Finally, I also visited New College, where a particular scene from The Goblet of Fire was filmed. Visiting New College was like stepping into Hogwarts itself. It’s safe to say this trip was filled with magic!

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

I was only in Oxford for four days but I absolutely loved every minute of it! I wouldn’t hesitate to go back again and I would definitely recommend it, especially if you’re a big literary geek like me!

Has my blog post convinced you to visit Oxford? Or are there other places on your list? Let me know in the comments!

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#HarryPotter20: One of the greatest friends I’ll ever have.

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In 2000, sitting on the carpet as an innocent and naive year 3, (approximately aged 8 for those international folk), our substitute teacher decided that for the last ten minutes of class she would read us a few chapters from a book she was reading. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling. She got out her copy, which was the adult edition, with a black and white steam train on the front, and began to read. Safe to say, I was hooked and pleaded with Mum to get it from the library, along with Chamber of Secrets and the Prisoner of Azkaban, both which had been released.

Every night, Mum would sit by my bedside and we would read about the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione and what they got up to at Hogwarts. By the time that Goblet of Fire was released that summer, just before I was due to turn 9, I wanted to start reading them independently, as a few chapters a night wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I HAD to know what happened next.

I had all four books in my collection, but as the three years without a new Harry Potter book passed, I had a lot going on in my home life that caused me to miss the release of Order of the Phoenix. My father was getting ill, we had to move from our lovely patchwork home that I’d grown up in, to a bungalow which was so unlike my previous home, and I’d started High School. It was an eventful year, and before I knew it, I’d been at High School for two years and Half Blood Prince was being released.

My brother, sister in law, and nephew were going on holiday to Spain to see my niece, and taking with her a copy of Half Blood Prince for her to read whilst she was traveling, and she wanted the UK edition to match the rest of her collection. I decided I would buy a copy too and read it on the plane over, but first I had to read the Order of the Phoenix and find out exactly what had happened where I left Harry, Ron, and Hermione nearly five years ago! Cue my first ever binge read!

So I was all caught up and ready for the final book in the series to be released! The Deathly Hallows! I had to wait two more years before I could get my hands on it but boy was I ready. At midnight, I went to Tesco with my niece and got in line with everyone else from my small town. We purchased Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and went home to read it immediately. Three days it took me because I paced myself and because I didn’t want it to end. My boyfriend at the time managed to read it in 8 hours whilst he recovered from tonsilitis. And suddenly, as the epilogue finished, the series was over, and the hole in my heart that I already had from losing my father grew bigger and bigger. Yes, I still had the films to watch, which was exciting of course, but it wasn’t the same.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione had been escapism for me, to help me through a time in my life that was truly terrible. How would I be able to cope without knowing another book was coming? Perhaps I needed to confront the hole in my heart instead of trying to fill it? And that’s what I did.

Long story short, twenty years on, I’ve come back to the series which I loved so much and read it again, eighteen years on from that day when I first heard those opening chapters. I loved it then and I love it still, and opening those books will always feel like a respite from the world. But now I don’t read them to fill the hole in my heart, I read them to remember what it feels like to love and have lost, and most importantly be human. Harry’s pain and grief validated my own, and having that transcend above all else means more to me than I could ever fathom.

Best Books of Apr-May-Jun 2017

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At the end of March, I wrote a blog post about the top books I had read in the first three-month period of the year. This is owing to the fact that when I do a yearly round-up, a lot of the books I read, I have enjoyed but because I only do a top ten, they miss out on the list. So I’ve decided to do a three-month roundup, to make sure those books I really enjoyed get their honourable mention that might narrowly miss out on my yearly list. So here are the books I’ve chosen from April, May, and June.

1.

The End of Oz by Danielle Paige

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My name is Amy Gumm. When a tornado swept me away to the magical land of Oz, I was given a mission: Dorothy must die. But just when we thought it was safe to start rebuilding the damaged land of Oz, we were betrayed. Now I’m following the Road of Yellow Brick as it helps me escape toward the mysterious land of Ev, where the Nome King rules a bleak and angry world. I thought my job was over, but it’s only just beginning. – from Goodreads.com

I can’t believe this series is over! I originally picked up Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige in 2015, right at the beginning of when I started book blogging. I really liked it, and there were minimal retellings of the Oz books at the time, and so ended up waiting with bated breath for The Wicked Will Rise to be released in 2016. Now, we’ve had the last ever book in the series and I’m still struggling to accept the fact that there will be no more books!

2.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

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When aging brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert decide to adopt an orphan boy to help with chores around their farm, Green Gables on Prince Edward Island, neither is prepared for the feisty and imaginative redheaded girl who is mistakenly brought to them instead. Nor are they prepared for the way in which she will change their lives. Through a series of hilarious misadventures, Anne’s uncompromising spirit makes her a striking presence in the close-knit village, bringing new friendships, first crushes, and, for her foster parents, a love and openness unimaginable before her arrival. – from Goodreads.com

Anne of Green Gables has been on my radar for a while, but my urge to read it increased when I watched the Netflix series Anne with an E, which is based on the novels by L. M. Montgomery. I found Rachel McAdam’s narration to be simply charming and I loved reliving the story of Anne and the Cuthberts. I can’t wait for season 2!

3.

The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C Hines

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Cinderella – whose real name is Danielle Whiteshore (Nee Danielle de Glas) – marries Prince Armand. But not long after the “happily ever after,” Danielle is attacked by her stepsister Charlotte, who suddenly has all sorts of magic to call upon. And though Talia – otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty – comes to the rescue (she’s a martial arts master, and all those fairy blessings make her almost unbeatable), Charlotte gets away. That’s when Danielle discovers a number of disturbing facts: Armand has been kidnapped and taken to the realm of the Fairies; Danielle is pregnant with his child; and the Queen has her very own Secret Service that consists of Talia and Snow (White, of course). Snow is an expert at mirror magic and heavy-duty flirting. Can three princesses track down Armand and extract both the prince and themselves from the clutches of some of fantasyland’s most nefarious villains? – from Goodreads.com

This was another book that I picked up really early on in my book blogging journey and I’ve ONLY just gotten around to reading it! As you know, I love retellings, and so the Princess novels, of which there are four, encompass quite a few fairy tale characters, such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and many more. It was such a fun read and I’m really looking forward to moving onto The Mermaid’s Madness, where the Little Mermaid will make an appearance!

4.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

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On Thursday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention. Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher. And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investi­gators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Thursday, he died. But on Friday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they just the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them. – from Goodreads.com

Thanks to Netgalley I was able to secure an advanced reader copy of this book to read on my e-reader. It was really fast paced, really fun and I was quite surprised at the ending! It’s definitely going to be up there with the top mysteries of the YA genre when it gets released.

5.

Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp

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If you have ever asked yourself where the Golden Snitch came from, how the Bludgers came into existence or why the Wigtown Wanderers have pictures of meat cleavers on their robes, you need Quidditch Through the Ages. This edition is a copy of the volume in Hogwarts School Library, where it is consulted by young Quidditch fans on an almost daily basis. – from Goodreads.com

I don’t ever remember reading this companion novel when I was younger, so I decided that during @readbyzoe’s #averypottersummer read-a-thon, I would FINALLY pick it up. I absolutely love Rowling’s companion novels. It’s such an eye-opener into the wizarding world and goes to show just how much depth J.K. has gone into over the years writing the Potter books. I loved it and it’s a must read for any Potter fan!

So these are the best books of April, May, and June! I can’t believe we’re half way through the year now. So it probably won’t be long before I’m rounding up another three months at the end of September. Have you got any books you read and loved in the last three months? Or maybe you read a few of these as well? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

My Unpopular Bookish Opinions

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When you read as much as I do, you’re bound to develop some opinions that others might not agree with. In fact, it happens quite a lot, so I’ve rounded up some of the most unpopular opinions I have on books. Quick disclaimer, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If you disagree with me, that’s great, but please respect my opinion just as I vow to respect yours. Now, let’s get under way!

Please beware, this post may contain spoilers.

  • I did not like the Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare.

I’d heard so much about the Mortal Instruments Series before I had even read it. It was an equal amount of good and bad feedback, so I can’t say that it swayed my mind either way before I picked it up, but it was definitely a series that people were talking about. I was apprehensive at first, because books with a crazy amount of hype can sometimes end up being disappointing, but after I saw the movie, I thought I’d give it a go. Never the less, I read the first two books and ultimately felt as though the series wasn’t for me. At the grand old age of 25, I can’t help but think I’m not exactly the target audience anyway.

  • I liked Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

I would like to lay a foundation before I go into my explanation of this. The Cursed Child is a play, not a novel, and therefore should not be compared to Rowling’s original works, as it is a completely different medium to the Potter books. Not only is it a different medium, scripts are supposed to be bare and factual, because the play comes to life when you see it performed, with costumes, lighting, staging and props etc. You’re really only getting a fifth of the experience when you read a play. I have been fortunate enough to see The Cursed Child performed live and enjoyed it much more than I did when I read it, because I was getting the whole experience, the whole vision that Rowling has co-created. Finally, the point I would like to finish on, is that the any spin offs from the Harry Potter series will be destined to be unpopular. We’ve spent ten years theorising what happened after Harry said goodbye to his children at King’s Cross, and the result of whatever JK Rowling created next would not please everyone. I’m just thankful we have more produce from the Potter-verse to get excited about.

  • I liked that Tris died at the end of the Divergent Series. 

Everyone I have spoken to about the ending of Allegiant has been up in arms about Roth’s decision to kill off Tris Prior, rather than go for a happily ever after ending that we craved for her and Four. With the Divergent series, Roth has never been about sticking to the status quo when it comes to the Young Adult genre, for example, her books don’t include a love triangle for the main character, which has been one of the most overused tropes in the genre. Tris dying at the end of Allegiant fits with the character arc that Roth set up for Tris since the start of Divergent. Tris had been searching since the day of the Aptitude Test what it meant to be “selfless”, something which she struggled with on a daily basis being born and raised in the Abnegation faction. Ultimately, Tris released that selflessness and bravery aren’t all that different. So Tris sacrificing herself for the good of Chicago, so that others may live free from the Bureau, is the perfect send off for the character, and brings Tris’s arc, quite literally, to a close.

  •  I thought The Maze Runner films were better than the books.

I read all three of The Maze Runner books and have seen the two films that have currently been released, and it’s safe to say, I prefer the films. I know that sentiment is practically book-lover blasphemy but it’s the truth. I think a lot of what was weak about the original books was erased or changed in the films, and I think that Wes Ball, who directed both The Maze Runner film and The Scorch Trials film, made, not only great adaptations, but also great science fiction and dystopian films.

  •   I like John Green’s books and style of writing.

John Green was the first author I read before heavily getting into the YA genre. I read Looking for Alaska back in 2011, and then read The Fault in Our Stars in 2012 along with Paper Towns, and Abundance of Katherines and Will Grayson, Will Grayson in quick succession. I found his writing, although at times repetitive in themes and structure, to be very poetic, lyrical and philosophical, which is just my taste. I’ve noticed in reviews that a few readers have found him to be pretentious, which I can understand, but for me, his writing really speaks to a part of my soul, and I’ll always treasure his books as they opened the door to the YA genre, and widened my reading tastes.

So these are my unpopular bookish opinions! Do you agree with me on any of these points? Or do you disagree? I’m happy to start a judgement free civil conversation in the comments!

Bookish Places to Visit in England

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I love travelling as it is, but what I love more than that is travelling to places of literary interest. London is a great place to begin, it being the capital and all, especially as there are so many blue plaques to find. But there are many more places outside of London that you can visit. Here are a few I hope to get to in the near future.

Oxford

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Oxford is probably one of the most literary places in England! The origins of CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and even Lewis Carroll who attended Christ Church College. You might be aware of the famous Inklings who, together with Lewis and Tolkien, met often at the Eagle and Child pub to share their work. To top it off, even a few scenes of Harry Potter were filmed around the city.

Yorkshire

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Yorkshire is world-famous in particular for the Bronte family. Charlotte, Emily and Anne were three sisters who wrote some of the most prolific and well-loved classics, and they lived with the rest of their family in Haworth, a small town not too far from Leeds where their father was the priest there. Another noteworthy literary site is the burial place of Sylvia Plath in Heptonstall, which also resides not too far from Leeds.

Edinburgh

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I didn’t realise that Edinburgh was as literary as it is, but in fact, it is very literary! Arthur Conan Doyle was born and raised here, in 11 Picardy Place, where there is a Sherlock Holmes memorial statue and the Conan Doyle Pub to celebrate the writer’s life. JK Rowling also wrote the majority of the first few Harry Potter books in and around Edinburgh. The Elephant House Cafe boasts that it housed the writer as she was drafting the famous Potter books.

Dublin

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Dublin is home to many, many literary greats! Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and James Joyce to name a few! It’s picturesque and hygge aesthetic is enough to set any blogger’s and book lover’s hearts alight! Joyce even based a short story anthology around the city he loved so dearly, titled Dubliners. If you’re looking for a bit more information on Dublin Writers History, there’s even a Writer’s Museum to get you clued up.

Devon

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In particular for fans of Agatha Christie, whose holiday home Greenway is now owned and maintained by the National Trust and well worth a visit if you’re a hardcore fan. Devon was also home to Sylvia Plath’s husband Ted Hughes, and was also the setting and inspiration for the popular Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.

These five places are on top of my literary bucket list, and hopefully after this post, they’ll be on yours too. Is there anywhere you’d like to go and visit? Literary or otherwise? Let me know in the comments!

Top 10 Films of 2016

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Continuing my end of year traditions of wrapping up my favourites finishes with my top ten films of this year. I’ve rated these films on the ones I’ve enjoyed the most, not on what I think objectively makes it a good film because I’m sure my ideas on what makes a good film differs to the next persons, and besides I am not a film expert. So let us get into the top ten films I loved this year!

10

Deadpool

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A fast-talking mercenary with a morbid sense of humor is subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers and a quest for revenge. – from IMDb

I thought Deadpool was hilarious. Although I don’t like gruesome films (and Deadpool has plenty of it) I managed to look past it and really enjoy myself! Ryan Reynolds is absolutely hysterical.

9

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

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Two hard-partying brothers place an online ad to find the perfect dates for their sister’s Hawaiian wedding. Hoping for a wild getaway, the boys instead find themselves out-hustled by an uncontrollable duo. – from IMDb

Once again, another comedy that got me in absolute hysterics. Anna and Aubrey, coupled with Zac and Adam was just a recipe for success. I laughed out loud for the majority of this film, and the actors natural chemistry together was just infectious.

8

Nerve

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A high school senior finds herself immersed in an online game of truth or dare, where her every move starts to become manipulated by an anonymous community of “watchers.” – from IMDb

From doubling over with laughter to something slightly more sinister. I had never heard of Jeanne Ryan’s YA novel Nerve before I heard it was to be adapted, but once I saw the trailer for this film I knew I had to see it. Thrilling is the only word I can use to describe this, and the relationship between Emma Roberts’ character and Dave Franco’s character was just so sweet to watch.

7

X-Men: Apocalypse

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After the re-emergence of the world’s first mutant, world-destroyer Apocalypse, the X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction level plan. – from IMDb

I understand that a lot of die-hard X-Men fans didn’t like this film. But as someone who first came into the X-Men franchise with First Class, I liked it as an exciting action packed movie, and still really enjoyed myself. I think all of the recent X-Men movies are really exciting, and this one is no different.

6

Bridget Jones’s Baby

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Bridget’s focus on single life and her career is interrupted when she finds herself pregnant, but with one hitch … she can only be fifty percent sure of the identity of her baby’s father. – from IMDb

It was the film we had all been waiting for! Finally the third Bridget Jones film was released and boy did it not disappoint. In fact, I’m glad they waited so long, because I feel as though the production really made an effort to get it right rather than make something heartless that they knew would do well at the box office. Bravo!

Now let’s see what movies have made my top five!

5

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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Five sisters in 19th century England must cope with the pressures to marry while protecting themselves from a growing population of zombies. – from IMDb

Yes, you read that correctly. Pride and Prejudice AND ZOMBIES. And yes, it is absolutely as nuts as it sounds. But it’s nuts in a good way, and the cast of this movie really bring the characters we love so much to life. And there are also zombies, which is quite a massive departure from the classic period drama pieces we’re used to.

4

The Divergent Series: Allegiant

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After the earth-shattering revelations of Insurgent, Tris must escape with Four beyond the wall that encircles Chicago, to finally discover the shocking truth of the world around them. – from IMDb

This entry is more of a personal one for me, as Allegiant wasn’t quite the finished product we were expecting. I absolutely adore the Divergent Series but Allegiant has confirmed the declining status of the franchise. I won’t go into detail about Ascendant possibly becoming a TV movie, but I will say I have fond memories of this movie just because I love the series so much.

3

Now You See Me 2

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The Four Horsemen resurface and are forcibly recruited by a tech genius to pull off their most impossible heist yet. – from IMDb

This was on of my most anticipated films of this year and WOW did it live up to my excitement. I think this film was better than the first (obviously not considering the sad departure of Isla Fisher) and really went bigger and better with the tricks / backstory / character arcs. I’m really hoping they make a third!

2

Star Trek Beyond

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The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test. – from IMDb

When they announced this movie, I could not have been more excited. I adored the first two Star Trek movies and I hoped and prayed that Beyond would be just as awesome. Guess what? It’s the best of the three! I didn’t expect that!

And my number one movie of this year is of course:

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Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them

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The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school. – from IMDb

This was my MOST anticipated film of this year, and now will be the most anticipated film of next year and the year after, and the year after that. I absolutely adored this film, with all the creatures and the characters too. I’m even more proud that Newt Scamander is a HUFFLEPUFF! #HufflepuffPride!

Anyway, this concludes my top ten films of 2016. Did I list on of your favourites? Or have I missed out one of the best? Let me know down in the comments!

Top 10 Books of 2016 (5&6)

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Okay, so we’re edging around the top five now. Let’s firstly have a look at the book that made it just outside the top five, and which other book beat it to the punch.

6.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places. – from Goodreads.com

Okay, so this one is cheating slightly because it’s technically a play and not a fiction novel BUT with that being said, I have seen the play live at the Palace Theatre in London, so I feel qualified to put this in as an entry, considering I saw it in it’s intended space. I appreciate that this play wasn’t for everyone, and not everyone has the means to see the play live in London. I think that’s a shame, because it truly is… well… magical.

5.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

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Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires – the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a dhampir. After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger . . . and the Strigoi are always close by. – from Goodreads.com

I saw the Vampire Academy movie before I read the book and really, really enjoyed watching Zoey Deutch as Rose Hathaway. She was fierce, sassy and funny and her presence in the movie made me want to read the books! I gobbled them up pretty quickly, and regret that there aren’t any more films scheduled to be made.

Tomorrow, we’ll look further inside the top five and see which two books fell just outside first and second place.