Friday, 1 September 2017

20 Years of Harry Potter : A fan's story

From a young age, I was adamant that I would detest Harry Potter. For some strange, inane reason, I'd came to the conclusion that the speckled prepubescent boy with a twig and his stupid school weren't for me. I know, it's embarrassing to admit but at that time I also thought that when someone was in their 'early' whatever stage of their life, it simply meant that their birthday had come earlier than expected. Needless to say, I didn't have my head screwed on quite right. However, the came a time during my last year at primary school (coincidentally when I was eleven years old) when I was forced to read Harry Potter. I was at a dead end. No longer could I simply refrain from watching the movies with my parents by hiding in my room or play with my cousin's lego Potter-themed sets because the tiny pieces were practically shiny, coveted antiques by the time I got round to playing with them (although my cousin would never admit this, he was very protective of his lego, even as a teenager). At my school there was a reading system that was compulsory to participate in. Eventually, I managed to make my way through all the books at my level until there were only seven left. I had no option. I didn't even know what book was the first one. Yet within a turn of a page, all my pre-existing doubts disappeared easier than Horcruxes. I couldn't believe how much time I'd wasted not involved in Harry's story.

I remember devouring one book at a time and finding myself in the hallowed halls of Hogwarts (see what I did there?). Every Friday my mum would rent me the DVD of the book I'd just read and purchase a copy of the book for me too. It is now tradition for me to reread the series each summer and I take my copy of the first book on every plane, it brings me solace that calms my fear of flying. I've even been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando with my parents. Even though it didn't provide me with the magic secondary school experience I've craved since that first chapter, it was a close second. Butterbeer is now a favourite drink in the McKie household and my copy of Hermione's wand sits proudly in my room. Harry has opened so many doors for me. I happily credit the books for awakening my love of fantasy and on those dark and stormy days, the books are there to console me (except the Cursed Child, I refuse to accept that as cannon). At the time that I first started reading the books, I related to Hermione wholeheartedly. I was obnoxious, determined and probably too much of a know-it-all for my own good. Yet, I know find myself relating to her character growth too. I don't really care if I flunk a test or two, as long as I tried my best and what's the harm in breaking a rule or two occasionally? I am also fiercely devoted to my friends and family and would risk even expulsion for them. In addition to all this, I feel more passionately about Gryffindor than my house at school (I'm a house captain and all, so don't repeat that) and would happily trade in my golf clubs and netball kit to get a broom and a shot at being a Chaser. I'm even nearing the end of my education yet I would give my last knut to go to Hogwarts and start as a first year.

If I could go back in time and read the series earlier, I would. My late uncle was even more of a fan than I was. His black hair and glasses even earned him the nickname 'Potter' and he was eleven years old when Harry was first freed from the cupboard under the stairs. It was only after his death that I discovered his hoard of books and my love for Harry Potter. If I could go back in time and tell him how ardently I love the same pages he did, I would.

So, I would like to do nothing more than thank the wonder that is J.K. Rowling for letting us all share Harry and his magnificent world. It's amazing, her Cinderella story of being a single mum on benefits to supposedly  being the only billionaire to walk the earth with a fortune made out of writing. If she isn't inspiring, I don't know who is.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Windfall by Jennifer E Smith Book Review (no spoilers)

Deep down, I know I shouldn't really admit this. It's a thing that could be regarded as treasonous to the world of reading as spoiling a book for someone. Heinous even. The first thing that enticed me about Windfall was the pretty cover. Yes, I hear your gasp most clearly but perhaps my reasoning will put me back in your good books. The matte mint cover reminded me of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, I book that I loved reading and once I'd read the blurb and learned that similarly to Fangirl, the book is derived of a spectacularly simple idea; What if a teenager won the lottery?

Just like that, I knew my eye had chosen well. Such a straight forward idea was startlingly compelling and I tip my hat to Miss Smith for putting her own twist on the idea. I devoured the book in a day and it is substantially paged. Told from the perspective of a Californian orphan living with family in Chicago, the book is incredibly emotive. I must admit it is not exactly what I expected, a few more details on what else the coveted money would be spent on would be intriguing but the impact of the win upon the main trio was exciting enough. The book dodges the cliche that easily could have a risen. 'Teenagers with problems finally win dream life.' No, the book isn't just about the money. I mean, obviously it was about the money, the lottery win is the essence of the plot. Family, friends of first love are key elements too, contributing to a lovely tale of teens finding themselves once they're world changes. I laughed, I cried and I enjoyed every twist and turn of Alice, Teddy and Leo's story. For an easy read with a charming tale, I recommend Windfall.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Wuthering Heights Review

Wuthering Heights. It's a very famous piece of classic literature that many of us have heard of. However, it's a brilliant novel that not enough of us have actually taken the time to read. Perhaps it's the complicated and aged diction of Emily Bronte's only piece of published work that's put so many of us off, or the love story predicted to be trapped within the pages that too many find the thought of an inexorable cliche awaiting them unbearable. Whatever the reason, I've found that the novel is as unpopular with my generation as an unflattering selfie and as a result, classic literature will eventually pay the price.

When I first bought the novel, I initially reckoned that it would be a tale of goodhearted characters battling through the repressions of the regency era for love and honour. The only thing I knew of Heathcliff were the comments made about him in the American sitcom 'Friends' and I thought Cathy would be some golden-hearted heroine, a little less stubborn than Elizabeth Bennet but more passionate than Juliet Capulet. As it happens, both predictions I made couldn't have been more wrong. Each character kept surprising me and never in a good way. Any time I thought that maybe one of the dour and brooding characters had set themselves on the right path, they decided to take an abrupt left-turn. Even dear Nelly, who was reputedly the most loving character spawned of Bronte's mind had enough gossip of the families she served to tell for a lifetime and recited it all to the first person who asked with no second thought. I was dumbstruck with the manner that Cathy Senior composed her self with and the girlish attitude that had somehow managed to form the personality of her naive daughter. 

Yet despite the vindictive and ill-tempered natures of the characters, each one was believable and well-rounded. Every character seemed to escape the clutches of the time's cliches. Heathcliff was not the Prince Charming who would be destined to sweep Cathy off her feet, and in turn she was not the penitent and amiable girl who chased potential husbands until the cows came home. Even the dour and dank setting of the moors was refreshing. I found that as a whole, the book was an alternative to the romantic tales being told of the time, perhaps Emily sought after a story more real. 

The whole two part story revolves around love, there's no denying that. However the message is clear, love isn't perfect. In addition to this, it's not only for rich and beguiling gentlemen and their golden-haired damsels, it's also for poor urchins from the impoverished streets of Liverpool and bossy little brats on moorland estates. Each lesson taught to the reader in the book is important. Sadly, love doesn't work out for everyone and in the case of those who found themselves at Wuthering Heights and in the control of Emily Bronte, love simply wasn't enough.