Snapshots #1 | South Bank

If you follow me on Instagram (plug, plug, plug) you’ll know that about a week ago, I went to London. Specifically, one of my favourite places in the world, South Bank. There’s something about that part of London that feels so far removed from the rest of the city. There is something about that place that makes me feel at home.

My one true love in life is theatre and many years ago I made it my life’s mission to perform at The Globe Theatre. Visiting always reminds me of that ambition and gives me a little nudge of inspiration to keep working at it!

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Summer of Love at Shakespeare’s Globe

Further along South Bank is the National Theatre. I’d never been before so my Mum and I had a look around. We only stayed for a few minutes and all the accessible seats had been sold for the performances that day but I definitely want to go back ASAP, I’d love to see ‘Yerma’ or ‘Angels in America’.

If you are as much of theatre and book lover as I am, you will feel at home here. The National Theatre is also right next door to Forbes so you can see why I love South Bank so much! Just outside, there was a pop up second hand book store. Unfortunately, by this point, I was in a rush to get the train home so I couldn’t spend too long browsing. There were so many books, I could’ve lost myself in there for hours!

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By far my favourite thing about South Bank is there is always something new to see. That afternoon, a wedding had just taken place in St Paul’s cathedral. Like everybody else who was outside that afternoon, I stopped to watch the couple have their pictures taken and had a serious case FOMO – there were so many beautiful dresses!

Each time I visit, I’m surprised to discover new things. Every where you look, there’s a different street performer or art installation (my favourite was the ‘poet for hire’, who sat at his type writer, composing poems on demand.). Under every bridge is a different busker, from a jazz duo, a harpist and drummers.

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London is such a bustling place but it is in this little pocket of the city that it truly feels alive.

Ch-ch-changes

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am possibly the most indecisive person on this planet. I am constantly coming up with ideas, setting out to do them then changing my mind and giving up. It is well known at this point that I am constantly starting things and not finishing them (I can assure you it’s just as infuriating for me as it is for everybody else). I think it’s because I get bored very easily, so I constantly need new things to keep me occupied and excited.

With that in mind, it’s been seven months since I set up this blog and I can already feel this happening to this blog. Don’t get me wrong I love this blog and love the process of documenting my thoughts online. I also love reading other people’s blog posts. The whole thing is very therapeutic to me. Originally, the plan was for this to be a book blog (hence the name), however, lately, I’ve felt slightly pigeon holed by the topic. Whilst I will always want to write about books, there’s so much more I have to talk about. After discovering and falling in love with Grace Latter’s blog ‘Almost Amazing Grace’, I’ve found myself really drawn to the idea of writing more personal posts, making the blog like an online diary. That may not work out as I still like the idea of keeping this blog mainly anonymous.

Apologies for this sort of non-post, I just wanted to keep you updated! I’ll be back with regular and more interesting posts soon!

Hermione Granger: My First Feminist Hero

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a huge fan of Harry Potter. Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the publication of ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, so to honour this milestone, I wanted to write about one of my favourite fictional characters of all time. Hermione Jean Granger. It seems almost cliched to say now but when I was at school, I was a self-confessed bookworm and something of a know it all. When I first started reading Harry Potter, at the age of seven, Hermione was the first character I felt such a strong connection to. Her attitude and appearance make her stick out like a sore thumb, yet she is completely unapologetic about who she is. It was as if J. K. Rowling was telling me personally that it was ok to be all of the things which set me apart from my classmates.

For me, Hermione Granger is the true hero of the Harry Potter series – especially considering the fact that Harry and Ron would definitely not have made it out of Hogwarts alive – she embodies everything the Harry Potter books represent. She is thrown into an entirely new world and despite all the challenges and torment she is met with, remains unabashedly true to herself. This is made even more poignant when you consider the popular reading of Hermione as a woman of colour. Tumblr first made me aware of this reading and the more I’ve read about it, the more effective this reading becomes. From Hermione’s physical appearance – the only time her skin colour is mentioned, it is described as “very brown” – and the continued prejudice that she faces throughout the books from her fellow students. She is mocked and excluded for her love of learning but also for being a ‘muggle-born’. When you consider the reading that Hermione is a person of colour, the term “mudblood” suddenly seems racialised and carries so much more power as a slur used, famously, by Malfoy.

Whether you see Hermione as a woman of colour whilst reading the books or not (I have to admit, the possibility of that reading hadn’t even occurred to me until it was pointed out by somebody else), it is hard to deny that even without the big bushy hair, wonky teeth, and the intense enthusiasm for school, she is an outsider. Not only because she is a muggle-born but also because of her love and excitement for school. Particularly in the first novel, Harry is very judgemental of the fact that Hermione has read every book on her reading list and is actually prepared for the school year. As a young, enthusiastic learner myself, Harry’s judgement of Hermione was strange to me. If you have just discovered an entire world of magic, wouldn’t you be desperate to learn as much as you possibly could? Why would you not read every book about this new life that you could lay your hands on? Whilst she does everything she can to fit into this new world, it becomes apparent that, in the eyes of many, she is not welcome. She is a “Mudblood”.

Intelligence is not Hermione’s only trait. Throughout the books, her character presents a resounding message that, yes, education, books and intelligence are important but they do not have to be your defining traits and they definitely are not the only worthwhile things in life (“Books! And cleverness! There are more important things – friendship and bravery”), a lesson, I certainly needed to be taught when I first started reading the series. Hermione is kind, brave and fiercely loyal to her friends (not to mention how forgiving she is of Harry and Ron). She consistently stands up for what she believes in and is not afraid to speak her mind, whether that be talking back professors with too much power or her own friends. She is never too scared to tell people that what they are saying or doing is wrong. Yet along with all that fire and fierceness, she is gentle, compassionate and above all, she is brave.

Hermione Jean Granger really was my first feminist hero. After all she is the brightest witch of her age.

(And if all that isn’t enough, she punched Draco Malfoy in the face!)

Do you love Hermione as much as I do, or who was your first favourite character? Let me know in the comments!

Changing Minds

A few weeks ago, I posted a review of ‘Everything, Everything’ by Nicola Yoon. In it, I said it was one of my favourite YA books I’d read in a long time. I also expressed a slight discomfort with the handling of disability/chronic illness at the end of the novel but was willing to look past it because I loved the rest of the book so much. However, over the last few weeks, the more thought I’ve put into it, the more upset I’ve become with the portrayal of disability. This left me with a dilemma. Do I delete the original post and reupload an updated version? Do I post my new thoughts but keep the original one on my blog?

On the one hand, that review was an honest one and I don’t want to delete it just because I’ve changed my mind about it. On the other hand, however, the issue that I’ve changed my mind about, the representation of disability, is one that I’m extremely passionate about. I’m always trying to stress the importance of good representation particularly of people with disabilities. For me, it would go against a really important belief of mine if I didn’t address the issue I had with that particular novel.

We all change our minds, it’s a part of life and there is nothing wrong with it. I’m well aware that after some time, I may begin to disagree with some of my own opinions of certain books. So how do we deal with this? To me, if it’s a simple matter of a change of taste, there’s no problem with leaving the review up. What I’m struggling with at the moment is that my change of mind happened so quickly and so strongly that it would feel like I was lying if I didn’t rectify it in some way.

Maybe this is just a side-effect of settling into the world of book blogging. This blog is still in its early days so I’m constantly coming across little road blocks that make me rethink what I post and talk about on my little corner of the internet. That will always be the case. I’d interested to hear how others deal with this particular dilemma.

How do you feel about changing your mind about reviews? Maybe you’re a book blogger and you’ve come across this situation before, or perhaps you’re a reader and you’d be interested to read an updated review. Let me know in the comments below.

The Anything But Books Tag

I’ve seen this tag floating around the BookTube community and thought it might be quite fun to have a go at!

1. Name a cartoon(s) that you love

The Simpsons! I’ve been obsessed with The Simpsons since I was about 8 years old, it used to be a family tradition in my house, we would all watch one episode together before bedtime.

2. What is your favourite song right now?

I cannot believe I’m saying this but I really like Sign of the Times by Harry Styles. Sixteen year old me who thought she was too good for boybands is fuming right now.

3. What could you do for hours (that isn’t reading)?

Netflix.

So. Many. Shows…

4. What is something you love to do that your followers would be surprised by?

I love acting! I’m most comfortable when I’m onstage, pretending to be other people. Sometimes I think I’d like to make a career out of it, but for now, it’s just a hobby.

5. What is your favourite unnecessarily specific thing to learn about?

Whenever I discover a new favourite film or TV show, I look it up on IMDB and read all the ‘behind the scenes trivia’.  I don’t know if that’s interesting or just a really efficient way to waste time. Maybe both?

6. What is something unusual you know how to do?

This isn’t that unusual but I can quote the film School of Rock pretty much word for word. Don’t judge me, it’s a brilliant film.

7. Name something you’ve made in the last year (and show us, if you can)

This painting:

It’s not the best, but it was the first time I drew and painted anything in a while so I was pretty excited about it.

8. What is your most recent personal project?

My first answer would be that I’m writing a novel but seeing as this is the anything but books tag, I’ll say setting up an Etsy store! I’ve been sewing a lot of bunting recently so I was thinking of selling some. Watch this space for more information…

9. Tell us something you think about often (maybe while staring out of windows)

The future. It’s terrifying and exciting in equal measure! I also spend a lot of time dreaming up imaginary scenarios that I KNOW will never happen in real life. It usually involves me winning an Oscar.

10. Give us something that’s your favourite, but make it something oddly specific.

My favourite thing to eat when I get hungry in the middle of the night is cheese and crackers. I know you shouldn’t eat cheese before you sleep but I’d do anything for cheese, to be honest. I just love cheese.

 

This was a really fun tag to do! Feel free to leave your answers in the comments and let me know if there are any other tags I could do – bookish or otherwise!

 

Schedule Shake Up!

Hello!

Just a quick update post this week as I’m supposed to be packing for my weekend away (but let’s be honest, I’m going to leave it ALL to the last mintute…)

You may have noticed a slight change in posting schedule over the past two weeks. I’ve really enjoyed my first couple of months of blogging, but now I’m finding I have more post ideas and book reviews than I can keep up with!

So, from now on, I’ll be posting two blog posts a week, at least, for the foreseeable future. Wednesdays are for posts about particular topics such as representation, or top ten lists. On Sundays, I’ll be posting book reviews. I’m not sure yet whether this will be every Sunday (although I have a lot of interesting books on my TBR at the moment, so there will definitely be a lot to look forward to!). This way, I can post a wider variety of topics and still keep up with the book reviews, which I love writing.

I’m thinking of naming my Sunday posts so they’re easy to distinguish. Maybe Super Sunday, or is that a rubbish name? If you have any suggestions, please let me know in the comments!

Subjective Reviews: A Response

Last week, I discovered The Bookavid’s blog and came across one of their recent posts ‘How Subjectivity Ruins Your Reviews’. I wanted to share some of my thoughts in response to that post as it got me thinking about the way I review books. It’s also not a topic that I’ve seen discussed at all, until now but feel it’s a very important one within the book blogging community.

My first instinct when reading the post was to disagree. “Of course reviews should be subjective, that’s the whole point”, I thought. Whilst that is still something I believe, my stance has changed somewhat over the last couple of days. In my mind, reviews – especially reviews on book blogs – are more subjective as it’s all about the person’s response to the book. However, as The Bookavid says in their post, by giving a book a low rating of 1 -3 stars, simply because you didn’t like it, “you are possibly preventing readers from finding a read that will change their lives.”. I have to admit, this hadn’t occured to me before. It’s not news to anyone that one person’s reaction to a book may be completely opposing to somebody else’s but I’d never considered the impact a negative review could have.

Of course, this all depends on why you read and write reviews. Perhaps you really hated a particular book so you read reviews to see if others share your opinion or if they can change your mind. Or maybe you’ve read a book with diverse characters and you want to spread the word about books that are representing people of minority groups e.g. people of colour, lgbtq+ characters, or people with disabilities. We all read and review for different reasons, and that is fantastic.

Whilst I still enjoy writing and reading personal and subjective book reviews, I am now much more aware of the importance of a balanced argument. With that being said, the star ratings I give on Goodreads are 100% subjective as I use it as a personal account to keep track of the books I’ve liked and disliked over the years.

Perhaps, I’m very naive when it comes to this discussion, I’m incredibly new to the book blogging community and am still trying to find my feet. Not many people read my blog so the impact my reviews have will be minimal for some time, but that’s not to say I shouldn’t be trying to write the best reviews I can.

Thank you to The Bookavid for making me think about this in a new light!

What are your thoughts on subjectivity in book reviews? Let me know in the comments!