Monday, 20 March 2017

REVIEW - Pottermore Presents..

HogwartsAn Incomplete and Unreliable Guide
Hogwarts An 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 its more permanent residents, learn more about lessons and discover secrets of the castle . . . all at the turn of a page.

The reason it drops a star, and this I thought would probably be the same across all three of the Pottermore Presents series, is because of the fact that a lot of what is printed here has already been available on Pottermore for a few years. Despite that complaint which did hinder my enjoyment, I loved this compilation of the secrets of Hogwarts Castle. Though much of it is already released content, the majority of the passages in Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide were based on things that I wouldn't have actively chosen to search for on the website. For example - I never would have gone in search of extra information on the Black Lake, or the Hufflepuff Common Room, but I'm grateful that this has given me the knowledge of those aspects of Hogwarts. [Also, can I just add that, much to my surprise, I really enjoyed the new content regarding Sir Cadogan being an Arthurian Knight of the Round Table. My Merlin fangirl heart is singing.] 

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies
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 peek behind the closed curtains of Sybill Trelawney’s life, and you’ll encounter the reckless, magical-beast-loving Silvanus Kettleburn along the way.

Most of the information in here is already Potterhead knowledge, but it was nice to have a compilation with the new material in an ebook form. Honestly, I'm a little bothered by how some of the marginalia promoted the idea that only Gryffindors are capable of being brave, but that's on the part of Pottermore, not J.K Rowling, so I can look past it.

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists
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 installment is by far the best in the collection. I read this on my iPad on the long journeys to and from London for the premiere of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and it certainly held my attention when needed. Unlike the other two Pottermore Presents ebooks, I feel like I learnt so much new information that enriched our previous ideas of British wizarding history within these pages. Out of all three, this is the collection that achieves what the aim of Pottermore Presents actually was: to immerse us deeper into the wizarding world. The information and backstories on Slughorn, Quirrell, Azkaban and the Minstry of Magic were utterly fascinating. Whilst these aren't essential reading for a Potterhead, it's certainly given me greater perspective and knowledge on areas I'd questioned before now. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

EVENT RECAP: Samantha Shannon at Waterstones Deansgate

From her first publication, Samantha Shannon has been cited as "the new J.K. Rowling." Whilst her books are certainly taking a different direction from that of the Harry Potter series, Shannon's septology is equally striking. Bursting with clairvoyants, dystopian realities, an oppressed London and now the Victorian language of flowers, Shannon stopped by Waterstones Deansgate as part of her tour for the third book in the series, The Song Rising.

Sitting down to discuss her latest installment in the series, Shannon began by recounting her publishing journey. At the time that The Bone Season was first published, Shannon was a 21-year-old recent graduate of Oxford University, somewhat "shaken by the Oxford experience and the Oxford-bubble" (which inspired the prison camp appearance of Oxford in her work), and such success at such a young age was admirable. Having heard J.K. Rowling's story to publishing, Shannon realised you could write for a living and started writing at 12, completing her first "terrible" and rejected novel, Aurora at 15. The Bone Season was written over the course of her second year at Oxford; carefully balancing academic and novel writing through dividing into university work in the day, and personal writing at night. Shannon may say that she was an awful student, but what she has gained from late-night writing in cold student accomodation is extraordinary

Photo credits to @amyjanealice on Twitter
Initially inspired by the London district of Seven Dials, a place filled with sales of tarot cards and crystals, The Bone Season and The Mime Order had a firm basis in the heart of London. For Shannon, her home city is a place that she feels she'll never quite scratch the surface of, given the many layers of history and hidden places. However, The Song Rising takes a different direction, heading further afield in the UK to the North. Manchester has a heavy presence due to Shannon's family history, and her desire to draw on the industrial past of the city. This in turn was used to create a "choking" feel to the location. Edinburgh also features in the book too. I (someone who hasn't read The Bone Season yet) feel far more inclined to begin reading the series following on from this talk, but particularly from this fact and the knowledge that the dystopia isn't just walled within London. As she says herself, oppressiveness in dystopia is always concentrated through a specific country or city, but what happens to the wider world beyond that? Are they passive acceptors? Do they even know what's going on? Thankfully, as with Shannon's intentions, she confirmed that the world beyond Scion lands will be encountered in the coming latter half of the septology. Is Shannon trying to promote a message like Orwell? Through a meshing of paranormal fantasy and dystopia, maybe. Fantasy tries to take us out of reality, which plays harsh contrast with dystopia acting as a warning to us all.

Again, I as an outsider, was fascinated by how multi-faceted and instensely layed the Scion version of the UK is... it even has it's own alternate timeline! For example, the politics of the seven orders of clairvoyance and how each rank aspires to something; the fact that Scion has no religious undertones, contrasting to dystopias like Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale; and not to forget the fact that Scion society lacks homophobia and misogyny due to their being no real distinctions between genders in the accepted pansexual world. Even before I've immersed myself in The Bone Season series, I'm aware of this rich, wonderfully diverse world. 

Shannon ended with remarking that she roughly knows what's going to happen through her use of skeleton planning, but "as I write the flesh is added. Sometimes the joints change slightly, but they're always firmly there." She knows where she's going but not always how to get there. Maybe this will be similar for her characters, who their creator proudly declares she likes pushing to their extremes. Whether or not it'll be a happy ending is unclear, but we know it's going to be quite the ride.

Thanks so much to Waterstones Deansgate, and Teensgate for inviting me to this event free of charge in order to do this piece. For more from both, follow @WaterstonesMCR and @Teensgate on Twitter.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Holly: Creative Editorialist (I Got a Job!)

The epicentre of Harry Potter. The queen of Harry Potter fan sites, receiving millions upon millions of unique visits every single month. J.K. Rowling has praised it herself, even giving the site an exclusive interview back in the 2000s. You cannot go very far within the Harry Potter fandom without the site name reaching your ears as it spreads its arms wide across Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and several well-loved podcasts. 

It's also now where I work.
MuggleNet: the home of my first job.

I've been fairly private about this here at Lost in a Library, even if quite vocal on social media. Now that this is the start of a great story bleeding into a life dream, it feels appropriate to go back to the beginning and tell you what's been going on for the past few months, because even I find it hard to believe...

By the time November crawled around, one of the best months of my life had just ended. I was anticipating a sea of work and dreading trying to complete what were at the time disastrous drafts of my personal statement and university application. The month ahead looked bleak (obviously with the Fantastic Beasts premiere, a little sparkle was added back into my life,) and so as I scrolled through my emails at the crack of dawn on November 1st, the last thing I expected was the offer of an internship at Having applied for a different position six months earlier to no luck, I'd set aside my chances of getting an accepted, and totally forgot about what I'd applied to in late October. At first it was shock, then excitement, then fear - what if I wasn't good enough? I didn't even know how long the internship would last - what if I ran out of ideas for articles? For the first time in years, Harry Potter wasn't the source I could turn to for comfort, as Harry Potter was the problem. Elated, I accepted the offer, and was suddenly immersed in the workings of MuggleNet.

It was hard. Suddenly going into a position where you get to write for a major website and be told that a lot about what you thought of writing was wrong was hard. I was relearning everything I thought I knew about journalism and having to change my style so it wasn't so essay-like and more informal and chatty. Nevertheless, I did it, and with every article I could (and still can) feel my writing excelling beyond what I'd originally believed I was capable of doing. There were times in the first couple of months when I broke down crying, so desperate to get it right and not feel like an idiot, and I wasn't helped by the fact that in December there was no internet in my area for the entire month. But then there were a multitude more times in which I was just thrilled at the fact that I was there, fulfilling one of my greatest passions by writing about the my favourite thing. Then I sat, with my heart in my mouth waiting to hear news in January, to be told that I had an extended internship: one month to perfect where things had gone wrong previously or leave. No one will ever know just how many times I checked my edits, and the amount of Anxiety I felt submitted my final article, as having the knowledge that February was all or nothing made me realise more than ever before how much I wanted this job.

And now I'm here, on the first of March - my first official day. Upon receiving an email confirming my membership as staff under a week ago I was beyond happy. I am living my dream.

One year ago, I was listening to Alohomora!, wondering just how the people on the podcast got to work for MuggleNet... and now I'm here. Those people are colleagues, and I have a job writing for my favourite website; writing about the story that changed my life.

I have no idea what I'm trying to convey through this. Maybe it's just to say "I did it!" or maybe to make a point of being a little Slytherin every now and then. Determination is a virtue, use it. If you want the snitch, get on your broomstick, reach out, and grab it. 

Whilst we're here, I'm just going to link all of my MuggleNet pieces so far because I'm rather proud of them. Each one is somewhat like a horcrux, it represents a part of me and a part of this journey, and I'd be delighted to share these with you. 

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.