36 Before 36 ~ Visit Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the British Library

Try as you might, there’s no getting away from Harry Potter. Twenty years after the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the series’ popularity shows no signs of abating, and though J.K. Rowling herself rarely goes a week without putting her foot in her mouth, (or furthering the careers of domestic abusers) the books and films continue to enthrall.

I love Harry Potter as much as the next person, though as I get older and wiser I am certainly more aware of its problems than I was fifteen years ago. But I love the stories, so news of Harry Potter: A History of Magic – an exhibition taking place at the British Library, was very welcome indeed.

Harry Potter British Library
So I took myself off to London on a very, very wet Saturday morning, and, after spending a couple of hours wandering around Bloomsbury, photographing blue plaques, made my way to the British Library. In all honesty, other than knowing that the exhibition would include many of the original notes and doodles made by Rowling during the writing of the series, I didn’t know much else about what I’d be seeing. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn, once I’d entered, that there was a whole other element to it – something that should have been apparent from the name of the exhibition: A History of Magic. Alongside the very exciting notes and doodles, there were rare books, magical objects and artefacts peppered throughout covering each of the main subjects that Harry and his classmates study at Hogwarts.

It added a really fascinating dimension, as much of the inspiration for the subjects come from these traditions of folklore and magic. It’s also very humbling to stand next to a book that is hundreds of years old and realise that you are but a blip in the universe!

Harry Potter History of Magic

Of course, I did particularly enjoy seeing Rowling’s handwritten notes planning the stories, and Jim Kay’s drawings and illustrations are truly wonderful – my favourite was his drawing of Hagrid.

Photography was not allowed in the exhibition, of course, so I wasn’t allowed to take any photos to share with you, There is, however, a companion book available, which I haven’t bought yet, but I’m sure it won’t be long.

Sadly the exhibition finished at the end of February, and even before that, I think it was mostly sold out. But the book is probably a good alternative for anyone who didn’t get to see it, and I believe that some of the exhibits are going on tour around the world.

This was another 36 Before 36 item, so I’m already ahead of myself compared to last year!

1.Visit Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the British Library. 

 

There you stand in your dungarees

I have a thing for dungarees. I have a pair of short ones, but I’ve been on the lookout for some full-length ones for a while, and when I found a culotte-style pair, I couldn’t resist.

And with new clothes, comes the once-every-couple-of-years urge I get to do some outfit photos. I am under no illusion that I look like a bit of an idiot, and I feel so awkward while I’m doing them (even though my photographer, Hannah, is awesome and great at taking photos and just generally wonderful), but I’m trying hard to do things that I want to do, and overcome awkwardness and nervousness.

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Jumper ~ Primark
Dungarees ~ Tu at Sainsbury’s
Shoes ~ Very
Glasses ~ SpecsPost

As you can see from the photos, I am a bit squinty, and that’s because it was such a sunny Sunday! We haven’t had too much sunshine in recent weeks, so it was nice to have an entire weekend of it, even if it was still very much on the chilly side. Spring has not yet sprung, and as I write this, the skies are very grey and full of the promise of rain, but there’s the promise of better weather in the air.

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One more photo then, with a filter on it, because I think I look uber-cool in a seventies kind of way. I’m never going to be a fashion blogger, but these little forays into outfit posts are fun from time to time!

Vegan Adventures 001 ~ Fairfields Farm Crisps Heat & Eat

Item received for review purposes

There have been some exciting developments around these parts; I’ve gone vegan! It’s been a long time coming, to be honest; working as I do for a vegan company, in the industry that I do, I could and should have done it before now. But Veganuary 2018 was my starting point, and now here I am, over six weeks vegan, and I feel great!

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Now, I’m not the sort of vegan who is going to start preaching to you about why you should go vegan. I’m also not going to turn into a ‘vegan blogger.’ But I am planning to continue to eat far too much food, and when I find something delicious that is suitable for vegans, I plan to tell you all about it.

So when the opportunity to try some Fairfields Farm Crisps came up, I jumped at the chance. I love crisps – I know that I eat far too many, and being a vegan hasn’t changed that in the slightest – so many crisps out there are suitable for those on a vegan diet.

Fairfields Farm is a brand that I’m already familiar with, as they are extremely local to me – they are based 20 minutes down the road from where I live! I always see their crisps in my local East of England Co-Op, who have a Sourced Locally initiative that brings lots of local produce into the stores.

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But up until now, I hadn’t tried their Heat & Eat crisps. I received a box of crisps with two different flavours; Sea Salted with a Tomato Salsa Dip, and Cheese & Chive with a Caramelised Onion Dip. Sadly the Cheese & Chive flavour isn’t suitable for vegans, so I passed them on to a friend who confirmed that they taste great. (Whilst it’s incredibly common to find bacon flavoured crisps that are suitable for vegans, cheesy crisps remain mostly out of reach for now.)

The sea salted ones made a perfect Sunday afternoon snack for when my friend Hannah and I sat down to continue with our Friends rewatch (we’re up to series four). The dip comes in the bag, so you just rip it open, take the dip out, and put the bag in the microwave for thirty seconds. The crisps are tasty enough as they come; they are thick cut and full of flavour, but heating them up really adds another level to them!

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It’s also good to know that Fairfields Farm is an entirely energy-efficient business, meaning that these crisps are powered solely by renewable energy. It’s nice to have a tasty treat knowing that their production isn’t adversely affecting the environment too much.

If you’re vegan, tell me your favourite crisps!

Item received for review purposes. 

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Blog Tour ~ Force of Nature by Jane Harper

26363669_820356591500735_835523176619311104_nAlice Russell is missing. She went on a team building exercise in the Australian bush, with the company on who she is currently whistleblowing, and while her four colleagues made it back safely, she didn’t, and nobody seems to know what happened.

Aaron Falk, the federal police agent who readers first met in Jane Harper’s debut novel The Dry, has been secretly working with Alice to uncover some of the financial wrongdoing of the company she works with. When he discovers that she is missing, despite being an officer with the financial division, he’s drawn into the investigation,

Following on from The Dry, which I read and reviewed last year, I had no idea that Jane Harper’s next novel would feature Aaron Falk, figuring that this would be a stand-alone novel. The story itself is completely distinct from the family murder from Harper’s first book, but the consistency in the lead investigator of Falk is great; he’s a great character who I really enjoy spending time with. Although the focus of the story is with the missing Alice, Force of Nature continues to explore Falk’s relationship with his father, which made up a large part of the first book.

The case itself is a fun one to follow; the timeline splits into two, so we start almost at the end, with four women emerging from the outback, and one of them missing. We then go back to the start, discovering each woman’s character, and finding out exactly what happened, and why Alice goes missing. Interspersed with this action, we are part of the investigation with Falk, so as the police start to piece together what has happened, the narrative from the lost women approaches its climax, and the two timelines culminate together.

It’s a really fantastic crime novel, and it builds to such a pace that, as with all good crime stories, you reach a point where the whodunnit/what happened is so close to being revealed that you won’t want to put it down before you find out!

 

 

January 2018 Books

January Reads

The first month of the year was a good one for me, in terms of reading. I made a conscious effort to set aside more time for reading, instead of going to bed and playing on my phone while I listen to podcasts. I love podcasts, but I love reading more, so it’s important to me that I make the time. My next step is to buy an alarm clock so that I can put my phone on the other side of the room, because when I charge it near my bed, the temptation to check Instagram becomes too great!

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
With The Last Jedi in cinemas just before Christmas, along with the one-year anniversary of Carrie Fisher’s death, the fact that I had never read any of her books was on my mind when I was browsing through Amazon at the 3 paperbacks for £10. I added this one in and got to reading it right away. I enjoyed it up to a point; there’s no denying that Fisher was a wonderful writer, able to construct a witty one-liner at any given opportunity, and unflinchingly honest about her relationship with Harrison Ford, which forms the backbone of the book. But I wish so much space hadn’t been given to the actual diary entries in the middle of the book; I much preferred her retrospective look at her brief relationship with Ford, and her time on the set of the first Star Wars film.

It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne
I’ve never read anything by Holly Bourne, but I know she’s a darling of the YA scene. I’m not a huge YA reader – not because I don’t like the books, just because I don’t often read them, but I thought I’d give this one a go. Maybe I started with the wrong book, but I wasn’t entirely won over. It’s the story of a teenager called Audrey (why do YA heroines always have to have unusual names?), who is trying to deal with her parents’ messy divorce, and her own painful break up at the same time, while starting a new part time job and doing her A-Levels and worrying about the future. And of course, there’s a new romance to think about as well. It’s not that I thought it was a bad book, I just think maybe I hadn’t managed my expectations. I just found the whole thing a little bit samey as many other YA romances that I’ve read. There’s even room for a gay best friend!

Seven Year Itch by Victoria Corby
When I was a bit younger, I devoured chick-lit novels. At the start of the 2000s, all of those books seemed the same; a mid-to-late twenties woman who was either very successful in her career, or very unsuccessful, who went to All Bar One after work, who met a man who she initially had some sort of conflict with but with whom she ended up living happily ever after. This was one of those books, and I read it back then, and for some reason, certain sections have lodged themselves in my memory, but the title and author had escaped me. One night last month I was awake in the middle of the night, had a flash of inspiration, and downloaded the Kindle Unlimited version of it. It’s not a great book, but the story of a property scandal in the countryside is mildly entertaining, and it’s not hard to see how it could be re-written for 2018 if you take out some of the questionable gender politics and add in some slightly diverse characters (but no need to go overboard, Katie Fforde manages to write book after book about straight, white, middle class people).

Force of Nature by Jane Harper*
I have a full review of Force of Nature coming soon, so I won’t say too much here. But it’s a follow up to Jane Harper’s debut novel The Dry, which I read and reviewed at the very start of 2017. The case has changed completely, but the common thread is Aaron Falk, the police officer in The Dry who had returned to his hometown and found himself caught up in a murder case. As a federal police officer in the financial crimes department, Falk surprisingly once again finds himself caught up in an unusual case, as this time he ends up investigating after one of his key witnesses in an embezzlement case goes missing on a staff training course in a dense forest. Suffice to say, I really loved this book, and whizzed through it to find out what had happened and how it had happened. Full review coming next week!

Meet Cute by Various Authors
A short story anthology by various YA authors, Meet Cute features tales of ‘how they met’. There’s two teenage girls who meet after one lodges a customer service complaint via Twitter, and the other does everything she can to help her. There’s a futuristic story about the Department of Love, reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine, who perform relationship autopsies and the provide the chance to go back and try again. There are lots of lovely stories, some more engaging than others, and they are super diverse and inclusive (though off the top of my head I can’t remember if there are any male-male stories), and it was really enjoyable to listen to.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
This is a novel that was on just about every ‘Books to look forward to in 2018’ list, I was lucky enough to be offered it as a review copy. It follows four siblings who go together to see a psychic when they are children in 1960s New York; they are each told the date on which they will die, and the rest of the novel branches off in four directions as they live their lives under the shadow of the prediction. I will be reviewing this one in full closer to the publication date next month, but for now I’ll just say that I really liked it, and I’ve already recommended it to everyone I know!

Books read so far in 2018 – 6