Breaking Up With My Book Boyfriends

I was scrolling through Instagram the other day and came across a post from one of my bookstagramer buddies. She had complied several memes to describe herself. I was humored by the effort and accuracy of said memes and found the majority of them relatable. However, one of the memes she chose to describe herself made me think and question my life.

This meme was somewhere along the lines of those “single, taken, mentally dating a fictional character” graphics. For years I have joked about how I only date superheroes and have ranted about all of my “book boyfriends.” But that was when I was single.

I found myself staring at this meme. I backtracked. I questioned my life. My future. 

“I’m in a real actual legit relationship with a real actual legit boy.” My thoughts raced around my head like overactive clockworks. “Like…an actual living breathing walking talking person and we have an actual mutual interest in each other.”

What did this mean? Was I suddenly one of the only bookstagramers that wasn’t allowed a book boyfriend now? Could I no longer comment “lol, totally relatable” when others fangirls posted about their relationship with a fictional character? I was in a real crisis!

With these thoughts lurking in the back of my mind, I inevitably moved on with my life. However, these trying questions were raised to the surface again soon.

My boyfriend and I were at an arcade, ready to cash in out points for a prize. Naturally, I considered getting a Funko Pop and immediately made a beeline for them.

“Look! Poe Dameron!” I squealed with pleasure at the sight of the Star Wars pilot’s figure.

With barely any hesitation, my boyfriend rolled his eyes, walked right toward the POP in question, and punched the box. Right in Poe Dameron’s expressionless collectible face.

Scandalized, I watched in shock. My boo? Punching my fictional boo?! Wait, no…I can’t have TWO boos…?! 

I laughed off the violent act towards the Star Wars memorabilia and instead redeemed my points for a coffee mug.

But those troubling thoughts were polluting my innocent book brain.

“You love him. You’re betraying him, Scarlett!”

“It’s too bad you can’t swoon over those fictional characters anymore. It used to be so much fun.

“Tom Hiddleston is wearing a suit and sunglasses. Don’t look, don’t look, don’t look. Ugh! You traitor.”

This is obviously silliness of the highest sort. The love I have for my boyfriend can never be felt for a person who does not exist. It is legitimately impossible. My boyfriend and I have the same great Creator and are connected together by more than emotions. A character has an imperfect human creator and has no real connection to me, emotionally or otherwise. 

That being said, my crisis was soon put to rest. My boyfriend knew what he was signings up for before the new Six of Crows book came out. He had already heard me go on and on about Kaz Brekker. He knew how much I loved Sherlock Holmes. That is one of the things he loves about me. Weirdly. Strangely. Questionably. Yes, he actually said that my ranting was “cute” and finds my attachment to fiction “adorable.” I mean, who would have thought?

Out of respect for him, I can’t fantasize about these men or put unrealistic expectations on my boyfriend. The closest I’ll ever get to that is forcing him to wear a Eugene Fitzherbert T-shirt. But when my heart get the feels whenever I get to that one chapter of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I no longer go into a book nerd crisis. Instead I enjoy the moment and give my boyfriend and extra long hug later.

5 Uncommon Books Harry Potter Fans Will Love

Once you’ve finished the Harry Potter series, you feel the desperate need to read it again. And again. And again. And then you read The Cursed Child. And then the Hogwarts Library. And then the Fantastic Beasts screenplays. Eventually you will run out of good Harry Potter related reading material.


But that does not mean you have to stop there. I know the desperate need to find a new world to join and love just as much as the Wizarding World.


Of course, you can read Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia just like everyone else. But there are some lesser known books that anyone who enjoys Harry Potter will find solace in just as much.

Nevermoor

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend is easily my third favorite book of all time. Just like the separation of the Wizard and Muggle worlds, the world of Nevermoor is split.

Morrigan Crow, like Harry Potter, is an normal child save for one thing. She is doomed to die on her eleventh birthday. And, like Harry, a mysterious stranger comes to her aid, Jupiter North. Jupiter takes Morrigan away from the dull and corrupt Wintersea Rublic to the wonderfully crazy Free State city of Nevermoor.

However, she has her own Voldemort pursuing her, the Wundersmith. Nevermoor has two books that succeed it and Townsend is still working on the series, so there is lots to look forward to.

The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is more of a mature read than Harry Potter but I still believe Wizarding World lovers will enjoy it.

Just like Rowling’s unique take on magic, Morgenstern has taken it to the next level. Magic exists, yes, but magicians hide amongst ordinary people. The magicians parade their gifts as mere conjuring tricks but do not need smoke and mirrors to create illusion. Two young people, Celia and Marco, youths with the gift of sorcery, have been bound together from a young age by their guardians. This bond has them playing their lives like a chess match, seeing who can outshine the other in a contest of magical prowess.

The Night Circus is the board and they are the players…or are they the pawns?

The Grishaverse

Just as Rowling crafted her own world, large as life, Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse is as real as Hogwarts.

Magic and normalcy are collided in the same steampunk/fantasy land. Grisha are men and women who can harness the power of elements. While they live amongst normal people they are often either praised or punished for their magic. Many Grisha hide their abilities and some do not even know the power is theirs. Three series and have been written in the Grishaverse so far, Shadow and BoneSix of Crows, and King of Scars.

I read Six of Crows before Shadow and Bone by accident, but I would advise reading the series in order, even if the former is so much better.

The Inquisitior’s Tale

The Inquisitor’s Tale or Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz is by far the most hilarious book on this list.

Set in the Middle Ages, Jeanne, Jacob, and William are the Medieval equivalent of the Golden Trio…plus a dog. Tales and folklore of magic are told and celebrated but when these three children are revealed to have miraculous abilities they are persecuted and rejected. Even threatened with burning at the stake! The story is told by a group of travelers at an inn; a Brewster, a nun, a librarian, the innkeeper, a jongleur, a chronicler, a king’s companion, a troubadour, and, of course, the Inquisitor.

The tale is original and the format unique, Potterheads of any age will love it.

The Night Gardener

Magic is not always good, as Voldemort and his Death Eaters have demonstrated. This rings true in Jonathan Axiur’s The Night Gardener.

Molly and her lame brother, Kip, are orphans and have gone to work for the Windsor’s. The Windsor’s live in a crumbling and bleak mansion in an island of woods and the family all have the same gaunt pale skin and dead black hair and eyes. But the most peculiar and ominous omen is the twisting tree that is apart of the house. Molly and Kip soon begin hearing noises in the night…loud footfalls and rustling leaves. What will the children do when the dark magic begins to overtake them as their hair and eyes darken, just like the grim Windsor’s?

What secrets are hidden in the mansion and, more importantly, the great tree that grows darker every day?


Reading these books will put you in the same magical trance that Harry Potter did, and most likely still does. Yes, they don’t have Harry, Ron, and Hermione in them but this is the opportunity to fall for new characters. I promise these books will not disappoint if you give them a chance!

30 Day Bookstagram Positivity Challenge

I practically grew up on #bookstagram. Believe me, I know what it is and I could define it if asked. However I am not here to make it a dictionary term. What bookstagram is and what it is meant to be are two different things at the present time.

My mother, @heathermaccreates, started her Instagram account back in 2012. Since then she has gained a following in the thousands and has loyal customers. She has shared her bookstagram journey with me and included me in all her favorite books, posts, quotes, art, and so on.

I have only joined the bookstagtam community recently but I have grown up around it. My mom used to wear a “#bookstagram made my buy it” shirt almost every other day, believe me I grew up with it.

However, the bookstagram I thought I knew then is nothing like the bookstagram I have come to know now.

When I was younger I used to be able to scroll down my mother’s Instagram feed and read all the great book synopsis’s and reviews. The comments were enjoyable and full of cool discussion and respectful debate.

Now however if you look up #bookstagram, there are descriptions of negativity, condemning any opinion in a book that diverges from the readers own. Comments are practically screaming arguments. People tag other bookstagramers only to criticize them.

What happened?

Here is what happened. Micro-aggressions happened.

A micro-aggression is when someone says something they think and someone else disagrees and attacks them for it. 

An example? A bookstagramer says they enjoyed the main character’s point of view. Someone comments “The main character describes the female lead as incompetent! The book had a pro-male agenda and was sexist”. The rest of the comment thread goes back in forth on what the bookstagramers believed and what was wrong with them if they enjoyed or hated the book, whether the book was sexist, racist, or homophobic, and what the author had done that made the book not worthy of reading.

As readers, we choose what we read. We choose what we enjoy in a story and we choose what we hate as well. We choose what we take out of the book, and we choose what we leave behind.

That is what reading is all about!

If a reader chooses to share their experience with a book on bookstagram, it is not to promote their own personal supremacy. It is so that they can share their thoughts with people like them. Other readers.

No matter what colour, gender, race, creed, or religion, we all have one thing in common. We are readers! We love a good story. We all cry when our favorite character dies, we all have to put the book down at the big plot twists, we all have the same emotional trauma after we finish a book, and we all have the same ecstasy when we start a new one.

Can’t we talk about how great it is that we are all readers? That we love the written word? That we couldn’t survive without it?

Let’s make bookstagram a positive place again. 

I’ve created a 30 Day Bookstagram Positivity Challenge and I encourage you to try it out. It is simple to do and I hope you will take the first steps to making #bookstagram a better place.

Happy Christmas From Hogwarts

I’ve haven’t officially celebrated Christmas for as long as I can remember but I love the holiday season. For the majority of the Advent, people are focused on love and giving. That is something I can truly appreciate. And what represents unconditional and selfless love more than James and Lily Potter? Here is what the Marauders and Co’s last Christmas at Hogwarts looked like, right before they graduated, began their fight against evil, and gave their lives for what they believed and loved…


Snow was falling outside, drifting lazily onto the almost silent Hogwarts grounds. It was the weekend and most of the students were inside the castle, busy getting ready to go to Hogsmead before they went home for the Christmas holidays. The silence outside was almost perfect…

Almost.

Making his way hastily to the giant oak doors of Hogwarts and swinging his head wildly back and forth to dislodge the amounts of snow that rested on it, James Potter ran into the school. Rushing through the halls, still chill from the freezing temperatures, he made his way to Gryffindor tower, and shouted the password (Humbug) in a voice that was higher than per usual. 

Climbing through the portrait hole and dashing into the room filled with student in black robes and crimson and gold ties, he called out for all to hear,

“I NEED HELP!”

Most of his fellow Hogwarts students ignored him. Odd behavior had become something to expect from the seventeen year old Potter boy. James’ friends, however, spared him a half glance.

“Nice to hear you finally admit it,” Remus Lupin commented with a bemused smile, returning his full attention to the large castle he was making from Muggle cards.

James walked over to where his friends were sitting, “I’m not kidding! Moony, Marlene, I really need your help!”

Marlene McKinnon raised an eyebrow. Having been previously transfixed on Remus’ card castle progress, James needing her help was something she hadn’t been expecting.

“Woah there, Prongs!” Sirius Black called in an mock offended tone. He too was building a (much sloppier) card castle, but out of Exploding Snap cards to rival Remus’. “Just Moony and Marlene? How come I’m excluded in your hour of need?”

“Yeah, and me!” Peter Pettigrew piped in.

“You couldn’t help a flobberworm cross a street, Wormy,” Sirius chuckled.

“Sirius…” Remus chastised in a cautionary voice.

“Just kidding, sorry!” Though he didn’t sound sorry at all.

James acknowledged his best friend. “Mate, you’re dead useful for a lot of things…but this isn’t gonna be one of them.”

“What’s your problem, James?” Marlene asked, getting up from where she sat next to Remus and plopping onto a plush bean chair nearby.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Asked Remus. “It’s Lily.”

Sirius rolled his eyes. “Of course.”

James’ face soured. “Hey, hey, now, you can’t just…stereotype me like that. My life does not revolve around that gorgeous red-headed angel of beauty and grace!”

A moment of silence passed. Remus, Marlene, Sirius, and Peter all nodded in agreement. “It’s Lily.”

“Okay, so what? It is Lily!”

“What did you do this time?” Sirius asked.

“Nothing!”

“That is highly unlikely.”

“No, really, I did nothing!” James whined. “Don’t you see? That’s the problem!”

“No, we don’t see,” Remus said with long suffering, “But if you explain, then we will.”

James opened his mouth to tell them all of the Terrible Horrible No Good Absolutely Troll thing he had done, but before he could say a word, Sirius’ tower of cards exploded in both his, Remus, and Peter’s faces. 

Once the had smoke cleared, once James and Marleen had stifled their laughter, and once the three soot covered boys had coughed up the ash that had made its way inside their mouths and noses, Remus cast a disgruntled look at his own card tower, knocked over from the explosion.

“I still win,” he said, glaring at Sirius.


“You…did what?” 

Remus, Sirius, Peter, Marlene, joined by Mary Macdonald and Frank Longbottom, had their mouths hanging open, starring with wide eyes at James. The boy himself, was looking away from their gazes.

“Oh, come on, you know me! Does it really surprise you?”

“Yeah, actually it does!” Sirius said, his left eye twitching. “How in Merlin’s name could you do something like that?! After all these years?”

Mary nodded, “Even wouldn’t dream you’d be that thoughtless…and I’m not exactly your biggest fan.”

“Don’t beat him up,” Remus said, looking around at his classmates, “I’m sure he feels the pains of what he’s done…I mean what he hasn’t done.”

“I do! But you guys-“ He was interrupted by a loud and forced cough from Marlene, “-and girls, have gotta help me fix it!”

“Can it be fixed though?” Peter asked. “It’s a little late for it now…and if it’s for Lily…”

“Of course it can be fixed!” Frank said, but the fake optimism was obvious. “We still have…twenty four hours before the train leaves?”

“Nineteen, actually,” Remus corrected.

James buried his face in a maroon pillow. “Lily is going to kill me!”

“And why is that?” 

All seven teenagers froze; Sirius in a sort of half grimace-half smirk, Frank in a too-wide smile, Marlene in a strange startled stance, Peter looked like he was about to run from the scene of the crime, Remus had his mouth half open and his eyes wide, and James…James’ face was still half buried in the pillow but what could be seen of his eyes were filled with pure terror.

Frank was the first one to brave moving. “Heeeeeeeeyyyyyyyy, Lily………”

Lily Evans, her lips pursed together in a thin line and a hand on her hip, looked down at the guilty party. “Okay, fess up, what are you all doing?”

“NOTHING!” They all said in unison, save for James who was still in his statuesque state. 

“James? Explanation, please,” she moved her head down and to the side so as to see her boyfriend better. “Why did you say I’m going to kill you? What have you done?” 

James looked at Sirius in fear for a brief second and then turned to face Lily. “Haha, the usual, you know?”

She smiled sternly (how can you smile sternly? Only Lily Evans and Minerva McGonagall shall ever know.) “Hmm…” she eyed him suspiciously. “I would be worried but Mary and Frank are here so…” she looked at the two in question. 

Mary waved a dismissive hand, “Oh, James was just telling us a prank he was planning to do on Lockhart. Sirius here,” she thrust her thumb in Sirius’ direction, “thought that we should get you involved without your knowledge. But James shot it down…like the good boyfriend he is.” 

Everyone looked at Mary with surprise. The lie had flowed so easily from her mouth…it sounded like it might actually be true. 

Lily cast her eyes on Sirius, “You know how I feel about your mindless pranks.” 

Sirius grinned sheepishly. “It was worth a shot-hey! Our pranks are anything but mindless! Do you know the effort we put in those things! It takes a lot of brain work to still be original after seven years of mischief making! And with all the-“

The words were cut off by Remus slapping his hand across Sirius’ mouth. “He means he’s sorry.”

“Nawideeont!” Sirius’ muffled voice said from behind Remus’ hand.

That made Lily laugh. “Thanks, James,” she said as she pressed a kiss on the top of his forehead. “Hey, you want to get on Slughorn’s homework now? I know you aren’t going to do it if I’m not watching you like a hawk.”

James, jumping at the change of subject, smiled back at her. “Yeah…yeah! Totally! To the library then, milady?” He stood up and bowed to Lily, who rolled her eyes.

“After you, sir,” she giggled and waved back at the others. “See you guys!”

The Gryffindors watched Lily and James leave. Before they were out of sight, James mouthed HELP ME. Once they had left the common room, Remus removed his hand from Sirius’ mouth and asked, “To Hogsmead then?”

“To Hogsmead,” they all agreed.

“I can’t believe James didn’t get her a Christmas present,” Peter said a little too loudly.

“SHHHH!” 

“…sorry…”


“It’s freezing out here!” Mary said, rubbing her arms for warmth. “I say we let James face the consequences of his actions and go back to the castle and warm up.” 

The Marauders & Co. had arrived in Hogsmead which was a fair bit colder than Hogwarts. The snow was thinner however, having been trod on by countless of holiday shoppers. There were hundreds of Hogwarts students that could be seen through the shop windows, buying last minute Christmas presents before the trip home the next day. 

Frank was at the head of the group, leading them down the cobblestone path. “We can’t just ditch James…he’d be really disappointed if he wasn’t able to give Lily a present this year. I mean, now that she’s agreed to finally go out with him.” He took off his outer coat and offered it to Mary. “If your cold, you can take this. I don’t really need it.”

Mary placed a hand on her heart and said in a girlie pitch, “Aww, Frank, that is so sweet!” She cast a glance at Marlene.

Marlene shivered and look expectedly at Sirius. When he took no notice of her she bumped into him and said, “Hey, I’m cold too!”

He glanced at her in confusion, “Marlene, I can’t control the weather.”

Remus rolled his eyes, took off his own coat and gave it to Marlene. “Let’s start at Honeyduke’s. I don’t think we’ll find the ‘perfect’ gift that James specified but maybe a few filler gifts would go well?”

They all agreed enthusiastically…what kid wouldn’t take any excuse to go into candy heaven? 

Honeydukes was full of students, as always. 

“We should have waited till tonight,” Peter shouted over the loud chatter of students and constant ringing the entry bell. “The we could have gotten Lily something without all the crowds!”

“Honeydukes isn’t open at night, Wormy!” Sirius pointed out. 

“Oh…right.” 

They became inevitably separated in the large store. 

Marlene found herself in the dangerous sweets isle, and she bought several acid pops to give to her younger brother…just for fun. Frank and Mary had rather wisely gone back outside to sit and wait for the rest of the group. Sirius was trying his best to find any kind of prank-like sweet…but he decided he’d have to wait until Zonko’s. Peter got lost. And Remus…You know the expression “like a kid in a candy store”? Well try this one, “like Remus Lupin in Honeydukes.”

Remus made his way to the front counter with a great amount of difficulty. The shop boy took one look at him and called over his shoulder, “Hey! It’s Crazy Chocolate Guy!”

“I do have a name,” Remus mumbled. 

A large woman walked over to the counter and the shop boy left to help other customers. “Well, what can I do for you…again?”

“Do you have any new shipments?” Remus asked with a polite smile.

“You cleared us out of the Caramel Dark Chocolate Brownie Fudge Toffee Bars. I can put you on the waiting list though.” 

“Oh, no thank you, ma’am, I’m stocked up for the holidays. But I would like to know if there are any candies that haven’t been released into the main shop yet.” 

The woman smiled. “And why would I let you purchase what I haven’t made public to my own shop?”

“Because…I’m your best customer?” He said hopefully. 

She considered him in amusement for a second and then she told him to wait a moment. Remus decided that if she was getting what he thought she was getting, he would buy himself a victory slab of Pumpkin Spice Caramel Marbled Creme Chocolate…or maybe a victory crate…


“So, what’ve we got?” Mary asked, rubbing her gloved hands together at the sight of their shopping bags.

“Acid pops!” Shouted Marlene, waving her bag high in the air.

Mary exchanged glances with Frank. “Er…” Frank winced, “you bought acid pops…for Lily Evans?”

“Pfft, no, stupid! For my annoying little brother. Why would I get them for Lily?”

“Well, seeing as you were supposed to buy Lily some stocking stuffers…” Frank trailed off.

Marlene slapped her forehead. “Oh, Merlin, I forgot!”

Sirius looked down at his bags. “Me too.”

“I got her a candy cane…” Peter said.

“So you guys didn’t get her anything?” Mary said, shaking her head.

“No.”

Everyone turned to Remus who had spoken. He carried two large crates in his hands. “You think this is all for me?” 

“Yes,” Sirius said looking at the bulging boxes.

“Very funny. Not even I could eat this much chocolate by myself.” 

Peter scratched his head, “I’m pretty sure you could.”

Remus did a mental face palm (seeing as his physical palms were full of chocolate). “Anyways, we are covered on sweets. I got her the new Strawberry Bourbon Mousse White Chocolate bars…they aren’t supposed to be released until February. And James now owes me five galleons.” 

“Impressive!” Mary gave him a small round of applause.

“Where to now?” Peter asked.

“Zonko’s!” Sirius said. 

“The bookstore!” Remus said.

“What?” They both asked each other.

“Bookstores are so BORING!” 

“Lily hates Zonko’s, Padfoot.”

“She doesn’t hate it, she said so herself!”

“Right, I think the word she used was ‘deplore.’”

“Which isn’t the same as hate!”

“Your grasp on vocabulary is obviously lacking.”

“Girls, girls, you’re both pretty!” Marlene interceded. “We aren’t going to Zonko’s or the bookstore. I think Lily definitely doesn’t want dungbombs or books from her boyfriend.”

“But Lily loves to read,” Frank commented.

“Yeah, because she’s weird like that, but if we got her books it’d be obvious that James didn’t buy them. He would rather be caught in a Slytherin uniform than in a bookstore.”

Remus nodded, “True enough.”

Sirius kicked a pile of snow. “But I wanna go to Zonko’s.”

“You can go later, okay?” Mary offered. “What’s in those bags anyway?” She leaned over to try and peak inside Sirius’ Honeydukes bags.

Sirius snatched them away from her. “Hey! I need to shop for Christmas presents too!”


Several hours later, the Gryffindors were dropping off. After they had bought Lily a year long self-refillable Butterbeer glass from the Three Broomsticks (James now owed them eight galleons and three sickles), Mary gave Frank his coat back and said she needed to finish some homework back at the castle. A fourth of the way down an especially long detour they had taken so Remus didn’t have to pass the Shrieking Shack, Peter complained that his legs were getting tired and he headed back. Finally, after they had bought Lily an advanced potions kit (complete with unicorn hair and a golden cauldron…James now owed them sixteen galleons, seven sickles, and three knuts) Marlene said that she had to meet up with Dorcas Meadows.

“You think we got enough?” Frank asked, sitting down in the snow and resting his present laden arms.

“Duh! The only thing we didn’t buy her was the Beatles!” Sirius said.

“I don’t know…” Remus cast his eyes over the presents they had gotten for James to give to Lily. “Why do I feel we’re missing something?”

“Same,” Frank frowned.

“Missing something? You’re joshing me! We bought her more than Prince Charles gets on Christmas!” 

“I think you’re overestimating how many presents Prince Charles gets. Shush now, I need to think,” Remus put down his crates of chocolate and rested his head in his hands.

“Fine,” Sirius growled, crossing his arms the best that he could, seeing as they were covered in shopping bags.

A few seconds passed and Remus turned on Sirius, “Really? Can you stop whining? We are trying to help our best friend!”

“I didn’t say anything!”

“You kept making that noise-“

“Both of you, shh!” Frank raised his hands. “I don’t think that was Sirius you heard, Remus.”

All three boys became quiet. 

“I don’t hear anything,” Sirius whispered.

“I do,” Remus muttered leaning his head to the left, straining to hear…whatever he heard. 

Another moment passed and then Frank and Sirius heard it too, a soft mewing from a distance. 

Remus, forgetting the chocolate on the ground, jogged down the path. Frank too left behind his bags and closely followed him.

Sirius stood alone and yelled after them, “Oh, come on, your gonna make me…oh, fine!” After that he promptly dropped his bags and ran. 

Once he caught up with them, he saw Frank crouching on the ground near a tree, Remus standing over him and leaning over to see…

…a kitten.

“Merlin,” Sirius muttered. “It’s a cat!”

“Yeah, we can see that, Padfoot,” Remus chuckled, still looking at the small animal. “So stay over there and don’t scare it away.”

“I’m not going to scare it.”

“Yeah, you would, Padfoot.” He put emphasis on the last word.

Oh, right, I’m a dog. Sirius remembered. He almost reminded Remus that he was a werewolf and could scare the kitten too, but he thought it best to let it slide.

“It doesn’t have a collar,” Frank said. “And it’s really skinny,” he looked up at them, “Guys, I think it’s abandoned.” 

“Aww,” Remus and Sirius fawned in unison.

Frank picked up the kitten and brushed some snow off of it. He smirked knowingly at Remus who nodded back in agreement.

“Well, great we got a free kitten.” Sirius said. “But we still got to find Lily another present, according to you two overachievers!” 

Frank and Remus blinked at Sirius. 

“What?”


“Merry Christmas, idiots!” 

“Sirius Orion Black, if you drop that dungbomb-“

And that is how they ended up spending Christmas in the Transfiguration classroom.


The majority of the seventh year students had stayed at Hogwarts for the holidays. For the most part, sentiment had gotten the better of them…it would be their last Christmas at Hogwarts.

Lily had planned to invite James over to her family’s house for Christmas, which is why he had panicked last minute, but received a letter from her mother saying that Lily’s sister, Petunia, was having her boyfriend over as well.

Needless to say, Lily changed her mind. 

Since James was staying, Sirius was staying too. Remus had to stay (the full moon was the day after Christmas) but would have chosen to celebrate with his friends anyway. And Peter was staying because everyone else was.

Minerva McGonagall had decorated her classroom spectacularly for the occasion. Taking into consideration that this particular body of students could get into all kinds of trouble, she thought it best to supervise them. And since Sirius had dropped a nasty dungbomb in the common room, she had moved the festivities to her classroom. 

Under the magnificent Christmas tree, cut and hauled by Rubeus Hagrid and decorated by McGonagall and Phineas Flitwick, was a multitude of brightly colored Christmas presents. Usually the Christmas presents were delivered to the student’s dorm room but this year McGonagall had made special arrangements. Even she had to (very silently) admit that she would miss this band of misfits after they graduated.

“She’d never admit she’d miss us,” Dorcas told Lily and Mary, “But she will.”

“Ah, good ol’ Minnie!” Sirius said, startling the girls by hanging upside down in midair, “I got her something real special for Christmas.”

“You got Professor McGonagall a present?” Lily asked. “Really? You?”

“That’s really nice of you, Sirius.” Mary encouraged. “What’d you get her?”

“A basket full of dungbombs-ow!” He rubbed his head. Lily had smacked it with the new pair of shoes Mary had bought her. 

“Mr. Black, get down!” McGonagall called from across the room.

“Can’t, Minnie! It’s James that’s charmed me!” 

“Here you go!” James flicked his wand and Sirius fell head first in the ground which made the Mary and Dorcas burst into laughter. Lily bit back a smile and yelled “James!” in disapproval. “Come on, over here, Padfoot!”

Sirius got up quickly, shook his mane of hair, put on his best “charming smile”, winked, and headed to where James stood.

“Hey, where’s the cat?” He asked his friends.

“Under there of course,” James pointed to the floor under the tree.

Peter panicked. “You didn’t put it in a box, did you! It needs air!”

“Don’t worry, Wormy,” Remus reassured him. “I cast a Bubble Head Charm on it and put holes in the box just in case.”

“You didn’t think we’d torture the poor thing, did you? Really, who do think we are?” James laughed. “By the way, if you just got the cat, what took you all so long when you were shopping?”

“Oh…that…well…” Sirius looked at Remus. 

“We did buy Lily a few things before we got the cat but…” Remus trailed off.

“But,” Sirius finished, “But you owe us eleven galleons and seven sickles for the stuff that got stolen.”

“Stolen?!”

“We dropped our stuff to find the cat and when we came back it was gone, okay?”

“Eleven gallons…” James shook his head. He looked at each of the Marauders in turn. “You guys had better gotten me something good for Christmas!”

“We all know Wormy got us socks,” Sirius said.

“That was supposed to be a secret!” Peter said. “How’d you find out?”

“Wormtail, you’ve give us socks every year. But that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate them.” Remus smiled.

“What about you two, then?” James inquired. “It better be something good.”

“I think Sirius beat me this year, actually. Mine’s over there.”

James followed where Remus directed him and picked up a gift with snitches flying around the wrapping paper. “A book? Really? Haven’t you given up trying to get me to read yet?”

“Just open it, okay?”

James ripped open the paper. “Okay, this is actually cool.” It was a a collector’s copy of Quidditch Through the Ages.

Remus shrugged. “You’ve practically destroyed the copy in the library, you’ve checked it out so many times. I thought you should have your own.” 

“Thanks, man!” 

Sirius glanced over at Lily. “Looks like your girlfriend’s opening her friend’s present first. We got time. Open mine, James!” 

James obeyed, readily. “The heck is this, mate?” He held up a box containing a quill set and ink bottle. 

“Now wait a sec, that isn’t just a quill set.” Sirius said, smirking. “I nicked those from Dumbledore’s office.”

James’ mouth dropped open. “THESE ARE DUMBLEDORE’S QUILLS?!?!” He hugged the box to his chest. “I feel closer to greatness already!” 

The gift giving continued. Remus had given Sirius a collection of David Bowie albums and a book on motorcycles. Sirius had been right, Peter gave them all socks but had also thrown in a few chocolate frogs. 

“Remus, open ours now!” James said with excitement. 

“Ours?” Remus asked looking between James and Sirius. 

“We both chipped in,” Sirius said.

“Let me guess, is is chocolate?”

“Just open it.”

Remus reached under the tree to where his friends had pointed and literally had to heave the package out. “If this is chocolate, it’s a world breaking record.” He carefully opened the wrappings and was speechless.

“We bought it ages ago,” James grinned. “Got it at Dervish and Banges.” 

It was a briefcase with PROFESSOR R.J. LUPIN embossed on the side.

Sirius and James watched their friend’s reaction. “You know,” James said, “because you want to be a teacher here, right?”

“You know I’ll never be able to.” Remus said quietly.

“Never say never, Remus.” The boys turned to see Lily standing behind them. “I’m assuming the briefcase is filled with chocolate?” 

“But of course,” James leaned over Remus and opened it to reveal extensive Honeydukes sweets. When he sat up he said “Lily, it’s your turn.”

“You got me something?” She sounded surprised. “Dorcas said you would forget…in fact, everyone said you would forget.”

“Me? Forget getting you a gift for Christmas? Never!” James looked sheepishly at her and shifted his glance from his friends to Lily and back again. 

She raised an eyebrow at him. “…you did forget didn’t you?”

James’ smile faltered. “Why would you think that?”

“Mary is rubbish at keeping secrets.” 

“Busted…” Sirius muttered.

“But I remembered that I forgot!” James looked around, waiting to be complimented on his thoughtfulness. “Doesn’t that count for something? Here!”

He reached under the tree and pulled out a large box wrapped in Gryffindor colors. She eyed the box. “It isn’t from Zonko’s, is it?” 

“No!” James affirmed.

She inspected the box closer. “Are those…air holes?” She gasped and then opened the wrapping and box. “Oh, James!” 

She pulled out the kitten that Remus, Frank, and Sirius had found in Hogsmead. It mewed softly at Lily, licking at her fingers. All the girls nearby huddled around Lily and squealed with pleasure at the small creature. 

“Ooh! Lily! What are you going to name it!” Mary asked, scratching the kitten’s ears. 

“I don’t know. Is it a boy or girl, James?” She looked up at him.

“Er…no idea,” he looked at Remus. “Moony?”

He smiled, “It’s a girl, Lily.”

“Hm…what do you guys think? What should her name be?”

Names began pouring in from all directions. 

“Fluffy!”

“Minnie…after McGonagall!”

“David Bowie!”

“That’s a boy’s name, Sirius.”

“It’s an epic name.”

“Gryffindor.”

“Holly!”

“How about Agape?” Lily asked James.

He shrugged. “It’s your cat, name her whatever you want.” 

“What is agape?” Sirius asked, his brow knitting together.

“It’s Greek, if I’m not mistaken.” Remus informed them. “It means love. More specifically unconditional, selfless love. Usually used in terms of God’s love or the love between a parent and child.”

“That’s deep,” Marlene said.

Lily cuddled with the kitten. James watched and nodded with approval.“Agape. I think it’s a good name. I mean, isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Unconditional love?”

Lily looked up at him and smiled lovingly. “Unconditional love isn’t just a Christmas thing. It should be a life long thing.”

And she was right. Agape would be life long for all of them.


NOTE: This story is NOT a licensed work. The author does not own any copywrite, trademarks and/or license. Absolutely all trademarks, licenses and copyrights are the sole property of the authors and/or publishers. All of this writers works and stories are “fan made”, and are NOT to be assumed as being licensed and/or official work. The production of this story is not intended to mislead or to confuse consumers. No infringement on the publisher/author’s name and trademark are intended. This product is purposed for Fan Fiction only.

The Gift of Family In Harry Potter

“I-don’t-want-“ said Percy thickly, as the twins forced the jumper over his head, knocking his glasses askew.

“And you’re not sitting with the prefects today, either,” said George, “Christmas is a time for family.”

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

I love the holiday season. Not only are the aesthetics and tastes of the season wonderful, but the spirit I feel during this time of the year is so uplifting. 

Family and gathering are a big icon of the holiday. And seeing as it’s the most wonderful time of the year, I might share a bit of how important family is through one of my favorite mediums…Harry Potter.

From the Weasley’s to the Dursley’s to the Potter’s, families of all shapes and sizes appear in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Family is an important aspect of the Wizarding World and I would like to take the time to delve into why. 

Harry Potter’s own family are gone. His mother and father died protecting him from Lord Voldemort. Just from this one example, so much context becomes available.

I feel like every reader will look at the Potter’s example of family and see the obvious – parents giving their life so that their son may live. But let me take the liberty of pointing out the maybe not-so-obvious; Voldemort’s lack of understanding of that love.

Think for a moment. Dumbledore knew exactly what Lily Potter’s sacrifice meant. He explains it all to Harry in the Philosopher’s Stone

“Your mother died to save you. If there’s one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mothers for you leaves it’s own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign… to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who left us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin.”

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Dumbledore knows this because he understands the magic of love and family.

Common wizards don’t know of this kind of magic. And that makes sense. But Dumbledore isn’t ordinary. He’s a great wizard. But Voldemort is a great wizard too. Dumbledore and Voldemort are two sides of the same coin, I often think. They are alike yet so very different.

Voldemort, who does not respect nor care for these values, dared to kill Lily and James. If he had any brains at all, he would have known that if he wanted to kill Harry, he couldn’t kill his parents. It’s that simple. If he had any knowledge of the magic of love, he would not risk such strong protection being transferred to his target.

But Voldemort is unable to recognize this. He does not know or understand what a family is and the love it can hold. He killed his own father and grandparents and tore apart countless families.

He corrupted himself into blindness. 

Is this a metaphor for what so many people are doing every day? So many of us humans disregard family, friends, love, and ethics, slowly at first and then steadily on, until we know longer recognize what these aspects of life truly mean. 

A large portion of this holiday spirit and season is meant to be shared with family. It’s one of the joys of Thanksgiving, Chanukah, and Christmas. However, I know a lot of people don’t feel this way. Many begrudgingly go to family Christmases and sit far away from their annoying relations as possible and stare at their phone in a shadowy corner. 

A simple act like, say, not wanting to wear your Mum’s Christmas sweater could mean so much more. 

Percy Weasley knew all the comforts of home. He had many brother’s and sisters, and a Mum and Dad who cared for him. But he became accustomed to these things. He lost sight of why they were important. 

Before I get into this, there are two examples from the Goblet of Fire I’d like to quote. Remember, at this time, Bill and Charlie are home for the Quidditch World Cup and don’t come home often. Percy no longer sees Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny every day at Hogwarts either. It is a rare thing for the whole family to be home together at once.

Just then a door on the second landing opened, and a face poked out wearing hourn-rimmed glasses and a very annoyed expression.

“Hi, Percy,” said Harry. 

“Oh hello, Harry,” said Percy. “ I was wondering who wad making all that noise. I’m trying to work in here, you know-I’ve got a report to finish for the office-and it’s rather difficult to concentrate when people keep thundering up and down the stairs.”

“We’re not thundering, said Ron irritably. “We’re walking. Sorry if we disturbed the top-secret workings of the Ministry of Magic.”

“What are you working on?” said Harry.

“A report for the Department of International Magical Cooperation,” said Percy smugly. “We’re trying to standardize cauldron thickness. Some of these foreign imports are just a shade too thin-leakages have been increasing at a rate of almost three percent a year-“

The second example comes a few pages later;

Bill and Charlie both had their wands out, and were making two battered old tables fly high above the lawn, smashing into each other, each attempting to knock the others out of air. Fred and George cheering, Ginny was laughing, and Hermione was hovering near the hedge apparently torn between amusement and anxiety.

Bills table caught Charlie’s with a huge bang and knocked one of its legs off. There was a clatter from overhead, and they all looked up to see Percy‘s head poking out of window on the second floor.

“Will you keep it down?!” he bellowed.

“Sorry, Percy,” said Bill, grinning. “How’re the cauldron bottoms coming on?”

“Very badly,” said Percy peevishly, and he slammed the window shut.

Percy had a disregard for family right from the start. It wasn’t so obvious in the Philosopher’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets but it is there. And it gets steadily worse as time advances. 

The biggest red flag that a lot of people don’t recognize is in the Goblet of Fire. When Percy comes of age, he gets a job at the Ministry of Magic. Then he slowly starts disobeying his father and mother, spends time locked in his room, and comes home late. Ron puts it this way;

“I don’t think he’d come home if Dad didn’t make him.”

I’ve seen first hand how estrangement works and J.K. Rowling’s representation of it is uncanny. It makes me wonder if she hasn’t experienced it too. 

Percy has turned of age and things appear to be alright to his parents. To Molly and Arthur, he is just ambitious and has big plans for his future. That may even be what Percy thinks too. But in reality he is just a child wanting to do what he wants, when he wants to, and doesn’t want any parental guidance, control, or authority. He uses the Ministry of Magic, Mr. Crouch, and his job as an excuse to exercise his new of-age privileges. 

And then, in the next book, he is estranged. He breaks his parents trust, wanting to go his own way, and wastes years. Years that he will regret.

Percy eventually reconciled with his family, hours before his brother is murdered. Percy threw away time pursuing things that were unimportant and self indulgent, when he could have spent a little more time with his brother, Fred.

I wonder how many times after the Battle of Hogwarts that Percy cried over the time he lost with his brother? I can imagine his thoughts;

If only I came home from work a little earlier to eat dinner with him and the family.

If only I hadn’t shamed him and his practical jokes.

If only I had played Exploding Snap with him when he asked me that one time.

If only I hadn’t left him behind and come back too late.

Percy made a choice and he payed the price.

I know it seems like a bit of a jump from murderous Lord Voldemort to nerdy Percy Weasley but then again…it wasn’t that big a jump after all. If a thing like disrespecting family and misunderstanding love can take one person from being a Percy to being a Voldemort…why risk it?

Thus, we ask again, why is family so important? Because family in Harry Potter is often used synonymously with love. Love is the main theme in Harry Potter and Rowling repetitively uses family as a motif to demonstrate this theme.

And I understand it can be hard to love your family sometimes. We’re only human. Or maybe you’re not a Percy. Maybe you’re a Fred. Maybe you’re on the receiving end of of hate and disappointment. I cannot give any comfort or answer to such dilemmas than this;

Life is a story. Love is an adventure. Family is a home. To have all three at once is a gift. The greatest gift. A truly precious and fragile gift. Don’t waste what you have, what you’ve been given. See the value in the simple things. They may seem small but they’re not. Nothing simple is ever small. Life isn’t small, love isn’t small, and family isn’t small.

Care for these gifts and they will care for you in return.

Writing Advice From An Awkward Adolescent

I do believe writing is one of the truest art forms still around. There is something special and even sacred about words forming in one’s head and traveling to one’s pen and paper. When my oral words fail me, the written ones, whether my own or someone else’s, rarely do.

I cannot give you any huge secret to writing. If you are like me, writing is beautiful yet frustrating at the same time. Writing can make you feel as high and as bright as the sun or like a dumb mole alone in the dark with nothing but a lot of worthless dirt. 

There is no secret to writing. There is no one way to do it. There is no potion that will wake you up in the morning like a Disney princess, that will enable you to sit in front of your typewriter or computer and churn out the perfect story effortlessly. I can assure you writing is NEVER like that. 

If anyone tells you writing is easy, they are treacherous liars who don’t deserve the life of a struggling writer (you know, the glamorous ordering the wrong type of printer ink online and waiting in the too-long line at a trashy Chinese restaurant.)

I cannot give you writing hacks, brilliant prompts, or one-size-fits all advice. The only thing I can give you is what I have learned.

The only advice writers should share is that which they have discovered themselves. When one writes as a hobby, as a career, or as a blogger hoping that someone somewhere is reading their probably bad work, they make for themselves a new journey of literary experience that has never been ventured before! 

From this journey, a writer gets exclusive writing content generated from their unique experiences. Discovering and sharing this content is a choice they have to make on their own.

Moving past this explanation, I would like to share my own “content.” These few tips are what I have learned in my few years as a writer. I know there are many more years of discovery out there in my future writing journey, but this is what I have now so…enjoy?

Be a Savage

If you write mostly fictitious works as I do, never be a nice person. On the page that is. When writing your characters, spare them no mercy. It may brake your heart to see what your little “mind babies” have to go through but do it anyways.

When good things happen, the reader gives an itty bitty hooray and then moves on. However, if you act as devil’s advocate for your characters, it leaves a big impression on your reader.

Here is my philosophy; if you make a reader cry or depress them…good job. You are a good writer.

Here is a writing exercise: Think about your plot. Now make it WORSE. Make a list of all the wicked, evil, twisted, and monstrous deeds you can do to your characters and then multiply it by eleven billion. If you have an idea that is merciless yet realistic in the story’s setting, do it. 

Had Had

I am not just a writer. I am also a reader. Most writers are and if they aren’t then they’re fakes. As a reader, I have a pet peeve.

Never EVER write “had had” in a sentence. Do it and I’m sorry, but I will have to deal you with you later.

I almost found myself writing “Despite the little sleep Sybil had had that night….”  in “Ravenclaws and Their Bad Omens” but stopped myself. Instead I wrote “Despite the little sleep Sybil had that night…” 

It makes just as much sense, if not more, to use just one “had.” Reading “had had” always trips me up and I’m sure others feel the same way. 

Years of writing, and that is the most valuable advice I can give you. Use ONE had, never TWO.

Don’t Have A Plan

I have a close friend who is a writer. She is a younger writer and has not yet perfected her style. That’s okay, neither have I. But she, no matter how many times it messes her up, makes a huge critical mistake when starting a new story.

She plans it out.

You know those little diagrams that demonstrate rising action, climax, falling action and resolution? The ones your English teacher used to give you to map out a story? They look like a melting caution cone…maybe that last one is just me. Those diagrams lie. They will never make a good story.

Why?

If you plan out your story, you have set in your mind the exact events that will happen. You leave no room for surprise. 

When I begin writing a new story, I keep my general theme in mind but I keep just that. General. Don’t put to much stock into the order of events in your story. Keep your theme in mind, but just write. 

Let the plot lead you. Don’t lead the plot.

Some writers claim to have a fully formed plot before they start writing, complete with climax and resolution. In the movie Knives Out it is said that the mystery author in the film had his plots come into his mind, fully formed. 

How dull.

When I write I know only the characters. Or I think I know the characters. If reading is an adventure than writing is a journey. I write knowing little about what I am about to encounter. Is my main character really the main character? Or will another take their place? What changes about the scene that leads to a captivating story? 

I started writing this post when I wrote my “Ravenclaws and Their Bad Omens” story. I had no idea what Sybil and Pandora where going to get into. I had only a vague idea on how they would talk and act. Would Pandora believe Sybil’s predictions or would she laugh at her friend’s silliness? Do the Marauders enter the story? I hoped they did, because I love them, but I had not one clue. 

At this point of the post, I do not know where I will end up. What will my resolution be? I still don’t know.

But I do know that I want you to know that when you are writing, you don’t need to know everything. There is only one person who knows everything and I can safely say that is not you. But, hey, that’s okay.

Have a Goal

What’s the point of writing if you don’t know what you’re writing for?

Sure, you might have a brilliant story or a flawless plot, but where does your motivation come from? 

Motivation isn’t “I want to write for a career” or “I don’t want to die alone and unread.” That has to do with you not your writing. Writing shouldn’t be about you.

Motivation is what you believe in, what keeps you ticking. What do you put your faith in? How does it inspire you? This motivation doesn’t focus on you, or at least it shouldn’t. If you are truly motivated, you should want to share this belief with other. You can do this with a theme.

Theme is paramount to a story. If your new rider or just aren’t fluent in writing lingo, a theme is the basic idea of your story. Maybe you want to convey that fate is inescapable or that love conquers all. 

Because I am a young Christian who puts her faith in God, that becomes my motivation. When I have a story, my themes come straight from scripture. These scriptures stay in my mind when I am writing. Whenever a character speaks or whenever a new scene begins I ask myself “Does this line up with my chosen scripture?” If it does not, I need to scratch it and try again.

Maybe you don’t feel led to use scripture as your themes. That’s your own choice. As long as your motivation is pure, true, and praiseworthy, the writing will speak for itself.

Find Your Own “Content”

Keep learning, keep discovering. Whether you’ve just written the first paragraph in your first story or if you have been writing for seventy years, don’t suppose you have learned everything. I promise you haven’t.

I may have these few tips for you now, but seeing as I intend to never stop walking in my personal writing journey, I know I will find many more. And I will share them, as it should be.

Share what you learn with others whenever you can. Who’s knows? Maybe one day your writing will make its way into some else’s heart and impact their life.

What could be a greater honor?

5 Most British Books

Britain should be commonly known as the land of great literature. Almost all the best books come from America’s motherland; Austen, Tolkien, Shakespeare, Lewis, and so many other recognizable and celebrated names.

These books are perfect for anglophiles and bibliophiles and should always be read with a steaming mug of Earl Grey.

North and South

 Elizabeth Gaskell wrote many books and short stories and is famous for detailing the lives of Victorian society in all classes. North and South is one of her more well known novels, though many of her works contain British-worthy romances and values.

English country sides are iconic in literature. While North and South takes place mostly amidst a bustling Northern city, the book pays homage to the simplicity of country life and contrasts it to the busyness of high-paced industrialism. Both sides of period England are done justice and represented in the book alongside a Jane Austen worthy romance.

Harry Potter

Not only does the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling take place in Britain but also appeals to younger and more modern audiences. 

One feature in the series I am keen to shed light on is the lengthy, descriptive, and delicious passages describing English cuisine. From dining in the Great Hall to luncheon at the Burrow, Harry, being a hungry teenage boy, takes a great interest in noticing exactly what is on his plate. 

The books include lots of treacle tart (Harry’s favorite), black pudding, steak-and-kidney pie, porridge, and kippers.

1984

George Orwell is often forgotten on lists of English authors. Though being born in India, he lived almost the whole of his life in Britain. 1984 is one of his finest works.

While this dystopian book might not have lots of tea drinking or polite conversation, it does reflect the British spirit of “onwards and upwards,” though not in a way that one may think. It takes quite a lot to get the main character to realize that there should be forward movement in society, not backward.

David Copperfield 

I am sad to say I watched the movie before I read the book on this one. Charles Dickens might be known for A Christmas Carol but it is David Copperfield that lives in my bookshelf. 

“Keep calm and carry on” cannot be demonstrated better than it is in David Copperfield. Following the life of a young boy to manhood and the many ups and downs, mountains and valleys, triumphs and trials of his life. Even in the darkest times of one’s life good, even wonderful, things can be found if one knows to look for and appreciate them.

Of all of Dickens’ works, the book reflects his life almost like a mirror image. And what can be more British than the man of the people, Charles Dickens?

Much Ado About Nothing

Ah, the Bard, of course. Nothing British can be spoken of without mentioning William Shakespeare, the truest of poets and playwrights.

Although Much Ado About Nothing does not take place in Britain (the setting is Messina, Sicily), the play portrays the ideal of British social grace better than any of the other Shakespeare plays. Honor and virtue are prized above all else, even life itself. 

These books belong on every true Anglophile’s shelf. These stories are almost as British as tea…almost. 

Books, War, and Potato Pies

I recall being in a bookshop when I first heard of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I can only call it fate. One of my best friends, Olivia, recommended it to me as we browsed the dusty clearance shelf. 

Olivia is the one friend I can safely say loves books as much as I. If she recommends a book, I am left in no doubt that it is a stunner. Which is why I am surprised that it took me so long to lay my hands on a copy.

The book isn’t scarce or hard to find. I merely forgot about it. Which is completely horrible of me. In my defense it isn’t too hard to forget. The title is quite a mouthful.

My mother and I were cleaning out our book stock when I saw we owned a copy. I was short on reading material, having have just finished a Jane Austen biography. So of course I sat down for a read. I am not ashamed to admit I did little else than that for several days.

I expected to be enjoying tea in a china cup with a scone sprinkled with sugar granules on top as I read the book. However, while the setting is in the Channel Islands (islands loyal to the British Crown, located in the English Channel, between the United Kingdom and France) and England, it is more than tea and crumpets. 

More than tea and crumpets? What a beautiful phrase.

The book is set in post WWll. It is a collection of fictional letters, wires, and telegrams sent and received amongst several characters. There is no real “main character” and I love the book all the more for it. No one is insignificant, and everyone’s role is equally as important as the next person. 

In the book, a journalist and author named Juliet Ashton has just hit it big with her collection on wartime anecdotes she published under the name Izzy Bickerstaff. 

She corresponds mostly with Sydney Stark, her publisher and friend, and Sophie Stachan, Sydney’s sister. Later, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a farmer from Guernsey who owns a book by Charles Lamb which Juliet previously owned.

That is when Juliet first hears of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Which is better? Juliet’s meeting the Society by mysterious letter or my encounter with the Society in a bookshop?I favor the bookshop, as is usual. 

Guernsey was home to German occupation for most of the war. Unlike  France who signed an armistice with Germany, the Chanel Islands were taken over by the Germans purely through force. 

The book does not emphasize on this, but while researching the occupation I learned that Guernsey was taken over two years before France was even in the picture. Winston Churchill had demilitarized the islands because protecting them led to no strategic advantage. 

These were BRITISH CITIZENS, left abandoned and unprotected by their own country. The injustice of it all just triggers me. Did you ever learn about the German occupation of the Channel Islands in school? Probably not. Yes, France was important and a part of significant World War history but were is Guernsey’s recognition?

Letters from Juliet, Sidney, Susan, Dawsey, as well as Amelia Maugery (a Molly Weasley to the Society), Isola Pribby (if the 1940’s had millennials), Eben Ramsey (that one grandpa…you know which), and others who are equally as important, paint a vivid picture of the horrors of war, too close too home. 

But this isn’t a hopeless novelization of war time. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is set in the fruits of war but the Society was birthed by community and fellowship, something the victims of occupation sorely missed. I won’t give out any spoilers but…illegal roast pig.

I have never learned a more valuable lesson than this; if feelings are mentionable, they are manageable. Fred Rogers taught that to thousands of children, including my mother, who taught it to me. 

War creates emotion and trial, brokenness and bonds. If we can talk about it with others, we can get through it. The experiences each individual in the Society goes through would be unbearable if they didn’t have their friends to help carry their burden.

Nothing is worse than cutting yourself off from people for any reason. The only way to heal and grow is to open yourself up and connect. And that is what the Society is all about.

I greatly recommend reading this book, even if you aren’t an Angliophile. It is an easy read but I advise taking the time to really take the book slowly. There are so many “in-between the lines” philosophies and deep and simple concepts that smooth the soul. Welcome to the Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society!

Remembering The 4 Best British Authors

A few thoughts come to mind when the word “British” is spoken aloud. The first is tea, the second BBC, and the third is books. British literature should be its own parent genre. I could honestly gush about the generally superior nature of Brit-Lit for paragraphs and paragraphs but I shall spare you the rant…for now.

I like to consider this month as “Remember November” not only because of Guy Fawkes day (if you do not know of Guy Fawkes day, please look it up) but also because Dia De Los Muertos, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and Remembrance Day all take place in November, it is the perfect month for reflection and appreciation for the past. November first is also National Authors day and in light of that and Remember November, I am on a mission to reacquaint myself and show gratitude for my favorite British authors.

There are several authors who are known well for paving and perfecting the art of writing in Britain. These celebrated names ring multiple bells in many memories and I would like to take a moment to commemorate them for their works and the thousands of lives they have changed through them.

J.R.R. Tolkien

If you have any knowledge of literature, fantasy, Britain, or Orlando Bloom (how else could you find this blog?) you are most likely aware of J.R.R. Tolkien. If you are not familiar with the name, allow me to refresh your faulty memory by reminding you he wrote the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Hobbit, the many LotR spin off books, and numerous fantasy epics.

Tolkien was a man of a strict moral compass. Less of strict in the sense of severity and insensitivity but strict as in Tolkien knew what he believed to be right and wrong, good and evil. He believed in what he believed and wasn’t afraid to believe it.

In any biographical passage of Tolkien, one must look at his works of fiction, him being a writer and all of that. And, inevitably, when reading Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit, one finds themselves reading a Christian journey. Tolkien once wrote to a friend that 

“I am a Christian, and what I write will come from that essential viewpoint.”

Tolkien did not write evangelical fiction but what he wrote reflected what he believed. If you are a writer, this should always be the case. Write what you know and write what you believe. Your worldview should always be clear to the reader. *end of writer’s perogative*

I almost feel the need of comparing Pilgrim’s Progress to Lord of the Rings. Each character in the series plays roles in what is known as the “Christian walk.” We have the burden bearing sinner who makes all the mistakes (Frodo and also Sméagol), the faithful friend who helps carry the load (Sam), the deceiver who wishes to divert the seeker from his path (Golomn), and the divinity figure who guides and sacrifices (Gandalf and Aragorn.)

One of my favorite Tolkien quotes that I believe describes his worldview and character best is this

“Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament…There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity, and the true way of all your loved upon earth.”

That one quote even beats his next best 

“Ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler.”

C.S. Lewis

When mentioning J.R.R. Tolkien it would be unjust to not also give some love to C.S. Lewis as well. The two authors were good friends. Tolkien led Lewis from atheism to Christianity and though the two men’s world views differed on many occasions they nonetheless regarded each other highly. 

Can I take a moment to appreciate this dynamic friendship? It isn’t often one sees two friends with different opinions. Nowadays if one person differs in perspective and opinion from another, they label each other as enemies. Friendship can be born on uneven ground but not many people know that, let alone are willing to give such friendships a chance. Okay, I’m done morally gushing now. Back to Lewis.

No author was ever more of a straight-sense talker than C.S. Lewis was. C.S. Lewis may have writ fantasy more often than not but he prized common sense and logic rather highly. Even in his works he made meaning evident and never hid nor  coated what he believed to be truth. 

Some of the best quotes representing this side of the author’s character are these (be prepared to either scream “AMEN” or be offended…your choice 😂)

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

“Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning…”

I love the fact that Lewis never beat around any bush and never sprinkled sugar on a single sentence. The job of a writer is to tell the truth. Most writers have their own way of telling truth…but Lewis just TELLS THEM if you know what I mean.

The Chronicles of Narnia are C.S. Lewis’ masterpiece. Even he adored the series and often called himself a Narnia (which is more than I could say for most authors who end up hating their characters…*cough* Doyle *cough*.) Like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Narnia follows an epic based look on Judeo-Christian themes. 

C.S. Lewis, having been redeemed himself, brings to the spotlight the redemption of humankind in his books. It is easy to see how important these ideas of forgiveness and grace might have been to him. The sacrifice of Aslan to save Edmund is one of the saddest most heartbreaking motifs ever written and one of the most pivotal.

Jane Austen

Dear old Jane. We all know her, we all love her (and if you don’t you need to read Pride and Prejudice right now!) I feel sometimes that Aunt Jane is too often stereotyped. Either fans assume her to be a old, dry, and boring old maid or a roguish, scandalous lady. I am relieved to be able to confidently report she was most likely neither. 

The best Jane Austen biography I’ve ever read was Jane Austen: Christian Encounters by Peter J. Leithart. If you enjoy Austen’s books and would like to know the woman more, go read that book. It really gives an elaborate and accurate depiction of what Jane was like.

One thing that really gets at me though is the stereotype of not only Jane herself but of her work as well. My closest friends consider Austen’s books to be full of romance, nice young girls, and big houses. Are you kidding? During these time periods, Britain was mostly at war! Jane grew up in the midst of both the American and French Revolutions. And it shows in the literature. 

She is constantly breaking through the social barriers put up for women and those of lesser means. Jane Austen had the ability to see through all the ridiculous facades and ideas of her period and could grab them at the root. She took these principles and exposed them in an appropriate and acceptable way. An few examples of this ability would be;

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”

“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

And she took plenty of turns to laugh at her society in her turn.

William Shakespeare 

There is a BBC America advertisement that proceeds most of my favorite BBC DVDs. A humorous narrator uses drops a giant Shakespeare head into a boiling cauldron says “When you take a class written society with no ability to address its emotions and let it simmer for a thousand years you frankly have the perfect recipe for drama.” 

It’s an accurate illustration.

Shakespeare is the beginning for many Brit Lit lovers. He was for me. 

I’m sure I read some British books before I picked up Shakespeare but I suppose I never recognized the elements that make a book so very British until I read Romeo and Juliet. I still know the balcony scene word for word. 

It’s hard to appreciate an author that sees to have been overused and, in the eyes of most people, overrated. School kids are basically forced to hate Shakespeare and his plays because of dull and pointless textbooks. Adults become biased against Shakespeare because of the many debates and theories that some find it necessary to cloud his name with. 

William Shakespeare and his works aren’t something that one can allow others to judge for them. Everyone should read his plays and study for themselves. I truly believe that for every person there is at least one Shakespeare play made just for them. 

Shakespeare is really something sacred. I don’t enjoy such things as where he was born (Stratford upon Avon) or when (April 1564) or all the history-textbook stuff that makes a historic figure into facts rather than a person. But I also don’t think that I can define or tell you who Shakespeare was. That’s for you to decide. Like I’ve said, Shakespeare is sacred.

There are many, many, great British authors. I have picked four that have impacted my own life and really make my British-soul-born-in-America heart throb. 

Who is your favorite British author? On this list or off?

5 Books Murder Mystery Fans Will Die For

It was a dark and stormy night. Rain pounded against the windows and the whistle of wind could be heard echoing against the chilled walls of the house. You walked down the dark hallway, an odd shape in your hands and a mysterious glint in your eye. You reached out, touching the doorknob, turning it slowly but with purpose. The door made a great creeeeeek opening. Your footsteps, light but powerful, crossed the threshold. You arrived at your destination, unsheathe the item in your hands, smile madly and-

Sit down to read your Agatha Christie.

Little does a reader know when they will become devoted to a genre. And if you are like myself, mystery is your cup of tea. You start when you are younger, Encyclopedia Brown and the Boxcar Children. You graduate to Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. Then you finally enter Sir Arthur Conan Doyl and Agatha Christie, amongst other literary and homicidal classics. 

As always, your tastes grow and your shelf space shrinks. As does your murderous TBR. You can fill it up again with these novels you probably haven’t read yet.

Devil In The White City

While a classic whodunnit is thrilling, Devil In The White City by Eric Lawson makes you aware of the Murderer’s every move, motive, and thought. The book takes you deep into the psyche of H.H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer and the owner of the murder hotel. It is so rare for me to come across a piece of non fiction that I enjoy, but Eric Lawson pulls it off perfectly in Devil In The White City (and In the Garden of Beasts, another great historical novel.) This novel is a real nail biter and I recommend it only if you have a stomach that can handle detailed murder.

Flavia De Luce

WARNING! The Flavia De Luce series by Alan Bradley is not yet complete and Bradley one to two years to write the continuations. However the eleven books that are full of gore, pigtails, chemistry, and tea tide a dedicated reader over nicely. Flavia De Luce is not a normal eleven year old, no not even close! She is a skilled sociopathic chemist detective with braces to top it all off. She has a nasty habit of finding dead bodies and getting on her older sisters nerves. Both the murders and the humor are on point and are sure to satisfy your morbid itch.

13 Suspicious Incidents

Mini mysteries are the best and so is Lemony Snicket…and the two combined are just what the pathologist ordered. File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents by Lemony Snicket is a collection of short story mysteries that the reader can solve and then turn to the back of the book to check of your analysis is correct. True to Snicket’s signature dry, morbid humor and satire, 13 Suspicious Incidents will tickle your funny bone and is appropriate for all ages.

Baker Street Irregulars

Sherlock Holmes is the icon of mysteries. John Watson too has the spotlight now and again. But (if you have read the books) do you remember the Baker Street Irregulars, Sherlock’s eyes and ears all over London streets? Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars by Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin chronicle Holmes and the Irregulars many cases. These children have a nose for crime and an observant mind and assist Sherlock in his most trying cases. If you like mystery with lots of action, this is the series for you.

Murder Most Unladylike 

Let me take a moment to list these genius titles; Murder Most Unladylike, Arsenic For Tea, Jolly Foul Play. The Wells and Wong series by Robin Stevens is both playful and murderous. Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are two best friends who attend boarding school and solve the many crimes they wander across in their spare time. There are many lovable characters, fun mysteries, and many cups of tea…always a great combination.

There are those who love cozy mysteries, horrific mysteries, and suspenseful mysteries. But I bet my deerstalker that all armchair detectives will love these novels.