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May Wrap-up

Yeah, so this is a little late. Shut up. Nobody's perfect.  (Except you, Toothless, dear.) You might notice things look a little different from last month, and that's because I've been hard at work creating a book blog where I can live and squee all day about the stories I read. Hopefully it'll be ready to go next month, but for now, here are the books I read in May! Some are quite brief because full, detailed reviews will be on the blog.   Tom's Inheritance | T.J. Green When his grandfather disappears, Tom travels into a magical world to find him. He meets the Lady of the Lake who tells him of his responsibility to wake King Arthur before darkness falls over the land. I had high expectations for this book that weren't met, but it is in no way a bad story. Although it reads more like middle grade and not young adult as advertised, and King Arthur only makes a short appearance late in the book, it's a fun, magical journey. Fairies and fantastical creatures add a unique twist on a familiar legend. The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding | Alexandra Bracken Young Prosper Redding has a demon living inside him, a demon who wants to destroy Prosper's family. Prosper only has a few days to break the curse, and in the meantime he has to put up with the demon's taunts and tricks. An insanely funny read with memorable characters. The writing is so witty and clever and engaging. It was fun and delightfully creepy. Full review to come. A Court of Wings and Ruin | Sarah J. Maas As Hybern brings war to Prythian, Feyre must decide who among the courts she can trust, and search for allies in unexpected places. I enjoy this series even though there are a lot of elements that annoy me. This is a lengthy book and some parts felt unnecessary, or at least unnecessarily long. It's probably petty of me, but a lot of words are repeated throughout not only this book but the series in general. There's only so many times someone can purr, snarl, refer to their significant other as their mate, or curl their toes in their boots before I'm rolling my eyes. I never feel connected to Feyre, I feel she has zero personality. But there is still something magical that I love about this series. The world is vast, and I like the animalistic behaviour of the fairies, I think it's unique and realistic. The war was an epic conclusion and I'm eager to find out how the story continues! This Savage Song | V.E. Schwab Kate Harker is a monster hunter. August Flynn is a monster. Heirs to a divided city, they are forced together under dire circumstances and try to use their positions to save their city. I love monsters (and I mean that in the most un-creepy way possible). This book is beautifully dark with expertly-crafted characters. Full review to come. Divergent | Veronica Roth Tris Prior's world is divided by factions based on valued attributes. Never feeling like she belonged with the selfless Abnegation, Tris chooses Dauntless during initiation, the faction that values bravery. This story is set in a unique, interesting world with a main character who isn't even likeable at times, which I love. It feels more like a set-up for the other two books, but was still action-packed and intense. Full review to come.  Son of the Dawn |Cassandra Clare Say what you will about making money, but I will devour anything Cassandra Clare writes about the Shadowhunters. Being a short story, there isn't too much happening, but I read it while having a coffee, so it was a super enjoyable way of spending my time. I like how we saw Jace being accepted into the Lightwood family, and I loved seeing him as a child, how arrogant he was even then. Daughter of the Siren Queen | Tricia Levenseller Now that Alosa has all three pieces of the map to the sirens' treasure, she begins a deadly race to the mysterious and dangerous Isla de Canta. This is a fun, fast conclusion to a fantastic duology that deserves so much more recognition. It's a perfect pirate adventure with a little bit of magic in the sirens. Full review to come. 5 stars. Our Dark Duet | V.E. Schwab Set six months after This Savage Song, Kate discovers a new kind of monster with devastating effects. Not only must Kate defeat this monster, but she also needs to come face to face with her own demon. Much more fast-paced - and heartbreaking - than its predecessor, this book had me glued to its pages then ripped me to shreds. BUT SO GOOD. IT'S GOOD. I'M GOOD. Full review to come. 5 stars. A Court of Frost and Starlight | Sarah J. Maas Feyre and the gang work to rebuild after the war as well as prepare for the Winter Solstice. A light, quick read where not a lot happens, but it's a welcome relief after the intensity of A Court of Wings and Ruin. Full review to come. I Was Born For This | Alice Oseman Angel is boy band The Ark's biggest fan. Jimmy is their frontman. Reality is not something either are familiar with, and when they are unexpectedly thrust together, they discover just how real life can be.  This was the YA Room's book of the month, and I found it addicting and so relatable, but with a few minor issues. Full review to come.   June brings holidays and winter my way, so talons crossed it's filled with snuggly blankets and good books and the mulled wine I got a taste for last week and have been craving ever since. May the book fairies bless your June with many page-turning exercises.




On depression and reaching out

Content warning for mention of suicide Click the spoiler tag to read the post. I don't talk about suicide in any depth, but I do mention it in the broader context of depression and little things individuals can do to help people who are depressed. I also want to mention that we all have shit to grapple with; these are just things I wanted to mention that could be good to do if you can do them. I'm not in any way advocating giving more of yourself than you want and/or are able to give; once it starts to take a toll on you, it's not a little thing for you anymore, either.




Queer and Proud - June 7, 2018

Everyone, it's Pride Month!   This month, the prefects wanted to celebrate as many stories (written by both published authors and writers from our very own archives!) featuring queer characters as possible. These stories should really be featured all year, but we figured Pride Month was a good time to list our favorites. We also wanted to try something slightly different this month, where we asked queer members of HPFT to write their own personal stories, and we want to thank you guys so, so much for submitting them.  If you still want to write a piece for our blog post, just PM @just.a.willow.tree and we can always edit it into the post! Also, quick shoutout to HPFT, because today's HPFT's birthday!  This community has been amazing, and a huge thank you to all the staffers who make it happen. <3 Without further ado, here are our recs (featuring commentary from the prefect that rec'd them)! All stories are listed alphabetically by title.   There are so many amazing, amazing books out there about queer characters, and since we're a writing community, we thought we'd share these first.  This barely scratches the surface of LGBTQA+ stories, but it's definitely a good starting point. And these books are all amazing and meaningful, we can't recommend them enough! (All book links are to Goodreads, so the M rating isn't necessarily for the book but for the comments within the Goodreads sections.)
A Boy Worth Knowing (M) by Jennifer Cosgrove
(rec'd by Claire) This is the absolute cutest progression of a relationship I have ever read. I love that Nate’s attraction to James is never played as the reason he’s isolated himself and their relationship is built on a genuine friendship that would make anyone happy.
The Abyss Surrounds Us (M) by Emily Skrutskie
(rec'd by Claire) Sea monsters and lesbian pirates. Do I need to say much more?? (Though if I’m being honest, the queer storyline is extremely secondary to the sea monster and pirates storyline but both are still amazing).
Autoboyography (M) by Christina Lauren
(rec'd by Claire) Have you ever changed the name of a character halfway through a book and just thought “I’ll just do a find and replace later, it’ll be fine”? Reading this book might make you think twice about that And not only that, but Lauren weaves together so many different issues seamless and will have you rooting for ___ from the very beginning.
  History is All You Left Me (M) by Adam Silvera
(rec'd by Claire) Not only is this book an emotional rollercoaster, it is also a masterclass in narrative structure. The story is told non-linearly through two different time periods and will have you begging for more from the first page.
  If I Was Your Girl (M) by Meredith Russo
(rec'd by Claire) Listen, this book grabs you right in the heart and refuses to let go. I read this almost six months ago and it still hits me just as hard as it did then. All of the characters are so raw and real and I promise that you will fall in love with all of them...well, almost all (Just a heads up that this book does deal with some very serious topics and themes so be aware if you do choose to read it.)
Leah on the Offbeat (M) by Becky Albertalli
(rec'd by Claire) I say this with the utmost love and respect--this is the fanfiction sequel of your dreams. Leah is just as amazingly perfect as she is in Simon and where else can you get a mainstream book with a fat bi protagonist??? Also, no spoilers but...road trip AU of my dreams.
Let's Talk About Love (M) by Claire Kann
(rec'd by Claire) I can honestly say that I have never read a book with an ace protagonist, much less a black bi ace protagonist. While I’m not necessarily recommending this for the writing, as someone on the ace spectrum it is a breath of fresh air to read a book and be able to say “yes, I know what that feels like.”
More Happy Than Not (M) by Adam Silvera
(rec'd by Claire) Do you like sci-fi? Do you like plot twists? Do you like crying non-stop for days because Adam Silvera ripped your heart out yet again? Then this is the book for you! I can’t recommend this highly enough. Adam is a genius when it comes to building up tension and foreshadowing and you will be gasping out loud when you come to the big reveal!
Openly Straight (M) by Bill Konigsberg
(rec'd by Claire) I’ll be honest, I was hesitant about this book when I first picked it up, but I ended up loving it dearly! It’s a super interesting take on the coming out story and though I wanted to smack Rafe upside the head a few times, his story and Ben’s are ones that carry a lot of weight.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (M) by Becky Albertalli
(rec'd by Claire) I don’t know what I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said a million times before. Please please please go read it.
They Both Die at the End (M) by Adam Silvera
(rec'd by Claire) Like all of Adam’s books, this will have you ugly crying in bed at 3am because you just can’t put it down. He weaves together so many narratives that will have you gasping in awe as you realize how they all fit in.   Our very own authors are so talented, so how could we not rec as many as we could? Since a lot of you have read the more well-known fics with queer characters already, we aimed to show you our favorites that you may not have yet read.  
  Abby Freaking Suso by clairevergreen/@clevernotbrilliant [Simon]
(rec'd by Rumpels) A story about slowly progressing desire and self-realization, Abby Freaking Suso is wonderfully sarcastic and all-around charming. Leah’s characterization is handled in such a brilliant way and I love how slowly the relationship changed over time to become absolutely everything. 
Dreams of Glass (M) by @nott theodore [HP]
(rec'd by Rumpels) Like all of Sian’s work, this is beautifully written (and I mean stunning, I have no idea how to write imagery quite like this). I’ve always been a sucker for Gellert/Albus but this one had me shook. The amount of feelings evoked from this piece is incredible and I highly, highly, highly recommend this. 
Eyes Like Skies by @FireOpal [HP]
(rec'd by Eva) Dominique, in this story, speaks to her love Imogen, and everything about this just reads as a beautiful, poetic love letter. It feels so personal, and really, that’s such an amazing thing to accomplish in writing fic.
Half Dead by @facingthenorthwind [HP]
(rec'd by Rumpels) This is the sequel to two certainties, which if you haven’t read that emotional rollercoaster, you definitely should, (see also: My poor, poor heart, the Sequel.) It’s a wonderful continuation of two certainties and I can’t imagine a way to possibly make this writing better. On top of being extremely well-written, it’s so much fun to read and I absolutely ADORED it. Careful though, it’ll continue to break your heart in the best way.
in the dawn, we shall enter the splendid cities. (M) by @Aphoride [Les Mis]
(rec'd by Eva) As we all know, Laura is a complete goddess at descriptions. The beauty with which she paints each individual scene, and the development of the relationship between Grantaire and Enjolras, is just absolutely breathtaking. This is not a romance in the typical sense, but it is well, well, well worth a read.
Life Reflected in Death (M) by M C Crocker/@scooterbug8515 [HP]
(rec'd by Rumpels) Insta-headcanon material. This does some wonderful character exploration on Regulus Black in the most brutally devastating way. It reveals much more about Regulus than I typically see explored and shows how much things like his sexuality have impacted him in his life.
Lingering by @banshee [Simon]
(rec'd by Eva) So I’m not including a summary here because if you haven’t yet read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, you’re going to get spoiled. So, go and read Simon, and then come back to this fic, because it’s like Julie pulled these characters straight from the book. They’re adorable and so relatable, and their dialogue is everything.
Peppermint (M) by @sapphicsunrise [HP]
(rec'd by Eva) This Ginny/Luna one-shot is short and adorable. Every second is filled with something that can warm your heart (including a hilarious appearance from the most canon non-canon duo, Seamus and Dean), and just watching Ginny and Luna drifting closer together will make your day.
Something (M) by @Chelts-rhj [HP]
(rec'd by Rumpels) Let’s be honest, when am I not impressed by this author’s writing? Something is a beautifully written piece about Dominique Weasley and a woman she positively adores. It tackles the heavy topic of eating disorders and the struggle Dominique faces while watching that woman struggle. Everything about this is handled so well and I cannot get over how deeply this piece moved me. 
Stolen Away (M) by @MegGonagall [HP]
(rec'd by Eva) What I absolutely adore about this fic is how it’s told from fugitive Sirius Black’s perspective. He remembers the joy and emotion from his past with Remus, and it’s that longing that really makes this fic so good. Meg did an amazing job with this!
Unstoppable by @sihaya [HP]
(rec'd by Eva) Short and sweet, this one-shot shows a short moment in the lives of Albus and Scorpius as they deliberate coming out to their families, and there’s just so much hope and honesty in these 740 words that you can’t help but feel touched.
Until the End of the World by @Stella Blue [Legend of Korra]
(rec'd by Eva) Fans of Legend of Korra, this is just for you. (However, I read this even though I’ve never watched the series, and I still loved it.) Every moment of this fic is pure fluff and happy, magical goodness, and you will be rewarded with depictions of a gorgeous world and a gorgeous couple.
  Your Way of Living (M) by @Dojh167 [HP]
(rec'd by Eva) If you’ve ever read Sam’s beautiful When I Go Out With You, you will love this short one-shot that details Susan’s moments where she first embraces herself as a poly person. (It features Luna, too!) And even if you haven’t read WIGOWY, you should read this one-shot anyway. It’s such a beautiful, eye-opening look at polyamory.   And of course there are other stories that we want to recommend that may not fall under books or fics! Check, Please! (M for language) [comic]
(rec'd by Eva) Eric Bittle is guaranteed to brighten up your day, with his abundant usage of Southern colloquialisms and his adorable obsession with baking, as he navigates being on a men’s hockey team (despite being scared to death of…bumping into other people). This story, while not perfect, is heartwarming and honest and true, with bright and beautiful graphics, and you will not regret reading this! (I binged this all at 3 a.m., if that accounts for anything. )
Fallout Series [video games]
(rec'd by Rumpels) Many video games have been increasingly adding LGBTQA+ characters and integrating player-led romances. Games in the Fallout series, a series of post-apocalyptic action role-playing games, have always been leading the way with this inclusivity.  Fallout (1997) was one of the first major releases to feature same-sex marriage in a video game. As far as player-led romances go, the Fallout series have always left sexuality choices open to the players preference. And while there are a lot of stories to be told as there are many different character outcomes based on player interaction, let me just tell you one of my most recent. In Fallout 4, one of the companions available to your character (to travel with you) is a spunky, stubborn, and fabulous NPC character named Piper. NPCs nerby will either like or dislike your decisions based on the decisions you make throughout the game, and you build a rapport with these characters. Long-story-short, my [female] game character winds up in some sort of relationship with this character. The only problem is that if I choose a different companion at this point, Piper extremely dislikes that which puts me in a predicament when it comes to finishing side-quests that require other companions.    We wanted to end this blog post with your personal stories.  Thank you so, so much to everyone who sent one in, it means a lot to us! And quick reminder that if you still want to write a piece, you can. <3
@scooterbug8515 --- That's it for today's post! We hope you enjoyed reading through it, and that perhaps you'll even pick up one of the rec'd stories or two.  We just want you guys to know that you are loved, and that you are safe here, and that you're all amazing. Keep being you, guys. We're going to sign off for now! Thank you for reading. <3 - The Prefects recs by clevernotbrilliant, just.a.willow.tree, Rumpelstiltskin
personal stories by just.a.willow.tree, MalfoysAngel, MuggleMaybe, scooterbug8515
graphics by just.a.willow.tree

Do I file this under S for Spain or T for Treats?

I’ve always wanted to join one of those subscription boxes (like Loot Crate) but have always been afraid that I would wind up with items that I couldn’t even give away so I never took the plunge...That was until two months ago when I found a box called Universal Yums.   Universal Yums is a subscription snack box that sends you an array of snacks each month from a different country. The boxes range from $14-$39 and come with a variety of snacks ranging from sweet to savory (and some spicy), a book with puzzles, games, recipes, and information about each snack and the inspiration behind them. They also include a poll where you can vote on the Best Yum, Runner-Up, Worst Yum and Most Unusual. More information can be found on their website Https://universalyums.com (All Audiences).   I figured this would be the perfect box for me since I won’t be able to travel the world anytime soon (I am planning on a European tour when my rugrat turns 18) so I signed up at first with the Yum Yum box (Medium box) and my first country was the birthplace of Picasso. That’s right folks, for my first box I got to travel to Spain. So like I said earlier, Each box came with a booklet that described each snack and the origins of it and a ballot to rank 4 of the snacks. The purpose of each blog is to share my thoughts on each snack and rank them on a scale of 1-10 as well as give you my picks on what was my favorite, least favorite, and a few other things. I’m hoping to make this a monthly thing as long as my bank account holds out and I can continue to afford the snacks.   First up in my Spanish food adventure are potato chips…..Not very original I know but these did have a unique flavor to them.    La Abuela Nieves Artisan Potato Chips: Iberian Ham Flavored Potato Chips These are inspired by real Iberian Ham which is supposed to be the best of the best of the ham varieties available in Spain. According to my info guide, this ham comes from the Iberico Hog which is fed a special diet of olives and acorns. The meat is cured for three years and results in a unique flavor. This was the first item I tried out of my box and I wasn’t impressed with the flavor. I thought they didn’t really taste like ham but took into account the fact that I’ve never eaten real Iberian ham so didn’t judge too harshly on that. The texture was that of most potato chips I’ve eaten and overall the flavor seemed similar to some I’ve had in the past. These didn’t blow me away at all and I have to rate them a solid 4/10. The next stop on my food tour was a cookie. First impressions weren’t that great because when I opened them they were broken and I wound up with a bunch of crumbs everywhere. Montedaco Doble de Limon: Lemon Shortbread Cookies These “cookies” are inspired by 500-year-old tortas de manteca (butter cakes) that were made by nuns in Estepa. In the late 1800s, a woman named Filomenia Ruiz Tellez decided to dry the cakes in the oven to allow the nuns to travel further with the cakes. The result is these cookies that didn’t grow mold as fast as the moist cakes. I was expecting a cookie similar to the American Version of a shortbread cookie. Such as these: These are crispy and while they are probably more like biscuits than actual cookies are really good they are the exact opposite of what I got.   What I got was the remains of a cookie that was so dry in texture that I couldn’t eat them without a glass of water to help combat the dry mouth that came with eating these. They also tasted nothing like any lemon flavored cookie or cake I’ve ever eaten. I wish I had taken a picture of what the remains of my cookies looked like. They apparently didn’t hold up to the travel well and like my guide says they were very crumbly. They continued to fall apart as I was eating them and I can only hope that they might be better if I was actually in Spain and could attempt to eat a whole cookie instead of crumbs. Again I was not impressed and rate these a 2/10. (1 point deducted because of the condition they were in) So far Spain isn’t blowing me away with their snack foods.   For our next stop, I had to channel my inner coffee connoisseur (not sure where I found her because I don’t like coffee) for some truffles.   Lacasa Trufas: Cappuccino Truffles I have to be honest, when I think of truffles, I think of those things that pigs dig up, not chocolate (I need to get out more) so I was momentarily blindsided by the fact that a pig could dig up a coffee flavored fungus before and why something so expensive would be in a $25 snack box,  I remembered that there was a sweet also called a truffle...Once I remembered that I was thinking I was going to get something similar to the Lindt truffles which I love but again it was different than what I got. (are we seeing a pattern here yet) I’m not going to go into the history of truffles and Spain that came in my guide but just know that it has something to do with Columbus and Cortes and Honduras.   When I opened my box of truffles, I tried to keep an open mind about the cappuccino flavor but that changed when I discovered that they weren’t individually wrapped and had melted together due to the Texas heat. It looked like they resembled Hershey’s Kisses at one point but hey chocolate is chocolate right?... So these weren’t bad and I was surprised to not have an overabundance of the coffee flavor. It was there but the bitterness of the cocoa powder they were dusted with at some point (I wound up with it all over my hands so It must not have melted into the truffles when they stuck together) took over and all I got was the chocolate. Despite being stuck together, they had a really smooth texture and I can’t say I hated them. Spain is slowly starting to look better and better I would rate these 4/10 (1 point deducted because of the state they were in when they arrived)   Up next we go back to the salty with a barbecue snack mix.   Puntazos Mix Cocktail de Maiz: Barbecue Snack Mix with Corn Nuts. According to my guidebook, corn nuts are a popular snack served in Spanish bars and are mixed with rice puffs and corn chips to create this mix. It wasn’t overpowering on the salt like the CornNuts that I’m used to so this mix was quite enjoyable and I thoroughly enjoyed eating this.   I can’t really say much on this other than I liked the taste and was impressed with it enough to rate it 8/10. Spain finally decided to show up with this one.   The next item made me question if Spain was still there. I don’t think I’ve ever had nougat before that wasn’t covered in chocolate so this was an experience.   San Andres Calidad Suprema: Creamy Almond Nougat This treat has been around for 500 years and is 60% almonds the one I received is considered Soft Turron since it is made with ground almonds instead of turron Alicante which is made with whole almonds. This was another one that I didn’t care for mostly due to the chalky texture.  It had a decent flavor even though almonds aren’t my thing and I have to give it a 4/10.   Next is another cookie that I’m glad to say arrived whole and wasn’t crumbs when I opened it.   Carmen Lupianez Tortas de Aceite: Olive Oil Cookies. Since Spain produces 43% of the worlds Olive oil, it’s no wonder that a snack made with Spanish Olive oil was included in this month’s box of treats. Living in Texas, there are olive oil cookies that are made in Mexico that I’ve been offered growing up but the idea of eating one never appealed to me since most Mexican snacks I’ve tried I’ve found to be disgusting at least in my opinion. I finally had to take the plunge this month and try one made with Spanish olive oil and had I eaten them as a kid, I probably wouldn’t have been so hesitant to try this one.   They had a soft texture and tasted somewhat like gingerbread but I could taste the oil and that was a bit off-putting for me. Overall they weren’t bad and while it’s not something I would want to eat all the time, I can see me eating them in the future. I would give these cookies a middle of the road score of 5/10.   The next treat in my adventure left me with a fire that was hard to put out…   Vidal Spicy Mangos: Spicy Mango Gummies I’m not a fan of mango so I really didn’t want to try them but once I did, I didn’t taste mango at all. With only a small bite of one gummy, my entire mouth was on fire. These things are so spicy that you can’t taste anything but heat. It took two large glasses of milk to put out the fire these things left behind. I was not expecting the assault on my taste buds that these provided. These I have to score 3/10. (2 points awarded because I was impressed with the amount of heat these things have)   Once I put out the fire, I was able to sit back and enjoy some bite-size candies.   Lacasitos Gold: Caramel & White Chocolate Candies. Finally something non-adventurous, These candies resembled M&Ms and I was pleased that the taste was an even balance of the caramel and white chocolate. With a score of 8/10, these are one of my top picks for a favorite snack.
  The next item after tasting them, I wish I didn’t have to try. But since I had to, I wish I had tried them first instead of waiting until I had tried most of the other items.   Shiki Shin Barbacoa: Barbecue Potato Snack These were almost pasta shaped and so blindingly white they almost looked artificially colored. If I hadn’t read the ingredient list provided I would have assumed they contained some sort of food dye. If the color didn’t impress, the flavor didn’t improve anything. They were so salty that it killed any potential for flavor they could have had. These left me with a bad taste in my mouth and the texture left a bad feeling. I would have to rate these a 1/10 but if I could rate them lower, I would. After all that salt, I’m glad my next item was sweet. Bonus points that it was chocolate.   Leticias Naranja al Chocolate: Chocolate Covered Candied Oranges These were actually really good. They consist of real orange slices that have been candied and covered in dark chocolate. I’ve always loved the chocolate oranges (just orange flavored chocolate that you smack on a table and it separates into slices) I find at Christmas and while these had a more overpowering chocolate flavor I thought they were well rounded and quite delicious. I would rate these a 7/10.     My journey almost done, I was slightly disappointed in my next two snacks. Both include nuts one contains my favorite and the other I’ve never eaten before but it is the most expensive nut in the world.   El Caserío De Tafalla Crema Pistachio: Pistachio Toffee I was expecting hard toffee and these were almost soft caramel-like and really tasted more like caramel than anything pistachio I’ve ever eaten. By the way, if anyone remembers the red pistachios please send me a PM so I have someone to reminisce with. I was disappointed that these didn’t taste like my favorite nut and also saddened that they didn’t seem to have any actual pistachios in them. I would rate these 3/10. (Points deducted for denying me my nuts and being basically caramel)   El Caserio Chocolate con Pinones: Chocolate with Pine Nuts These were similar to the pistachio ones as they were a soft chocolate candy with a woody taste so I was able to detect the presence of something other than just a chocolate flavored caramel. I gave one to a coworker and he said they tasted like what he would imagine tree bark tasted like. He actually spit his out and got to listen to me give him grief about spitting out the most expensive nut in the world. (According to The Google, Pine nuts cost about $20 a pound so roughly about $40 per kilo) They weren’t my favorite sweet in the box but they weren’t my least favorite. These receive a score of 4/10.   Last but not least the next item was inspired by an English biscuit and was one of my favorite snacks.   Ducats Maria Biscuits Chocolate: Chocolate Bon Bon with Biscuit (Maria Biscuit Bon Bon) To me, these are a combination of a Lindt truffle (see now I remember that Truffles are more than a fungus) and a Ferrero Rocher as they are a hazelnut surrounded by chocolate surrounded by a biscuit and covered in more chocolate.  They had a creamy center and melted in your mouth. I LOVED these. They receive a score of 9/10. So with my journey through Spain complete, All that’s left to do is share the results of the poll. The official Universal Yums Results are in parenthesis.   Most Unusual--Spicy Mango Gummies (Spicy Mango Gummies) Worst Yum--Shiki Shin (Chocolate with Pine Nuts) Runner Up--Barbecue Snack Mix with Corn Nuts(Caramel Candies) Best Yum--Maria Biscuit Bon Bon (Truffles)   Join me next time when I travel to the Philippines. (I’ve already received the box all I have to do is taste everything and compile the results). Also, anyone who is actually from Spain or familiar with the foods please correct me or clarify anything I might have gotten wrong or missed. I know some of the spelling is incorrect but since I don't have a Spanish keyboard I don't know how to add the accents in the correct places. Until next time,   Tasha   *Unless otherwise stated, all prices are in USD   Photos courtesy of me   Spanish Flag Photo from World Atlas.   Lorna Doone Cookie photo courtesy of Google   Special thanks to Universal Yums for providing the treats.

The Two Year Struggle

So while I was at work tonight, I thought of an idea for a new blog series that I would like to do. The idea behind his blog is to get a more intimate look behind the struggles and excitement during my writing process for Life As We Know It (LAWKI).  For those of you who don't know what LAWKI is, it was on of my first (and so far my favorite) attempt at writing a dramione. What exactly makes this one my favorite? Well besides the fact that dramione is my OTP, the concept behind the story was to really make this pairing seem realistic and to fit it into canon events. I didn't want my story to just be another seventh year rerun where Draco and Hermione are head boy and head girl. I really wanted to push the boundaries of dramione and work within the framework already given to us by J. K. Rowling. My main goal with this story has been to make people who don't normally like dramiones to read this and say "Wow, I can really see this happening and I really like this story." And some how, some way, I began getting those types of comments on my story.  Now I can't say that my time writing this story has been completely amazing and without any hiccups. As a matter of fact, I've actually been working on this story since 2011! And guess what? It's nowhere near being completed! Prior to posting this story here, I actually had 18 chapters written and posted which came to just under 50K words. You might be wondering where the other 11 chapters ended up since I have only posted 6 chapters here so far.  Here comes the part of the blog where I begin to explain some of the struggles that I've had while writing this story.  So a few years ago, I decided that while I absolutely loved the story I had written so far, it did not live up to the full potential that I knew that it could. There was so much more that I could do with this story to make it even more realistic than it already was. And not only that, but I felt like I had originally rushed the friendship between Draco and Hermione and that I didn't give it the proper time and attention that it really needed to help add that missing element to the story. And so the editing process began.  And for awhile it went really well! I loved the new edits and new ideas came rushing in for the story. My love for LAWKI continued to grow and I was so excited to sit down and work on the story any chance that I got. Chapters 1-6 were edited fairly quickly and posted and I was super excited about my ideas for a brand new chapter 7. The idea I had was something that was not seen in either the book or the movie but was definitely something that I could see happening during this time in the story.  Now imagine my shock and disappointment that when it came time to actually sit down and begin writing this chapter I just couldn't get the words out.  For the longest time, I sat with a chapter that was not even half written. I had a general idea for the ending of the chapter and roughly how I wanted that portion of the story to come about but it was the beginning portion of the story that was giving me the most trouble. I can't even count how many times I tried starting the chapter and getting it to the point that I needed to. Nothing lived up to the expectations that I held for myself.  So now here I sit, 2 years later with chapter 7 still not completed (though it is much closer to completion then it ever was).  And the thing is, that after these last 2 years, I think I'm finally figuring out why it has taken me so long to write this chapter. I put so much pressure on myself to make this story great, to make it realistic, and to make those who don't normally love dramiones fall in love with this one. I let the excitement over a new chapter crush the process of just getting the words down on the page, no matter how bad those words might really be. So instead of letting my story blossom, I chopped it down by expecting perfection the moment it was typed onto the page.  So while I'm still struggling to get this chapter written, I have managed to make huge strides towards getting it completed. I'm slowly learning to accept the words as they get written instead of letting myself put a large amount of expectations and stress towards the chapter. I looked for inspiration in new places and all of the love and support that I have gotten from all of  you as well as my amazing boyfriend at home has really helped to allow myself to relax and take it one day at a time.  So I guess, that's just Life As We Know It. 

Soulmate AU and Random Prompt Challenge Results!

Hello everyone! So I hosted the Soulmate AU and Random Prompt Challenge from February until the beginning of May, and I've got the results here!  Firstly, the challenge required the participants to combine a given Soulmate AU trope prompt and a Random prompt with a pairing of their choice. An example of this is where the pair have matching tattoo designs on their wrists, and Person A is a barista while Person B has a ridiculous coffee order, with the pairing of Harry Potter/Ginny Weasley.  Participants could choose to write in the Harry Potter, The 100, BBC Merlin, or Doctor Who universes, with no minimum or maximum length requirement. I really looked forward to seeing what everyone came up with as this was a far-reaching challenge regarding the prompts available and the numerous combinations possible.  So without further ado, here are all of the participants!  @dirigibleplums - +Ice Baby (T) @Slytherin_Ravenclaw_Chick - +Improvisations (15+) @ShadowRose - +Reckless (M) @Pixileanin - +Coffee and Curse-Breakers (M) @dreamgazer220 - +Marked Hearts (M) @TidalDragon - +Lucky Strike (T) @facingthenorthwind -  +two certainties (T/M) @just.a.willow.tree - +you again (T) All of these lovely people were competing for these prizes:  1st place: 5 reviews on pieces of their choosing + favorite story + promotion on my signature for 3 months 2nd place: 4 reviews on pieces of their choosing + favorite story + promotion on my signature for 2 months 3rd place: 3 reviews on pieces of their choosing + favorite story + promotion on my signature for 1 month And the winners are......*Drumroll*........  In 1st place, @Pixileanin with Coffee and Curse-Breakers! Pix wrote a wonderful post-war story about Bill Weasley and Tonks focusing on issues with non-moon-controlled lycanthropy, grief from spousal loss, and how to deal with soulmate marks that pulse when the other is in danger. The tragedy that we see right off the bat with Tonks attempting to deal with Remus's death but she can't due the appearance of two mysterious lines on her wrist linking her to someone to the point of death. She spends her mornings in line behind a man with a mysterious coffee order and one day that isn't so normal she finds herself face to face with this man and on the run attempting to save his life because they are linked together. The man happens to be Bill Weasley, and boy oh boy does Pix just up the ante with the angst by having Fleur killed shortly after the war as well but Bill does not know whether or not it was him. Pix smoothly pulls all of these tendrils together into one thrilling ride and used her prompts to her advantage.   In 2nd place, @dirigibleplums with Ice Baby! Plums wrote a fun, lighthearted story about James & Lily centered around the themes of ice hockey and figure skating, respectively, where soulmates had their partner's first words tattooed on their body. The brotherhood of James and Sirius is as perfect as ever and their dramatics together are just a fun way to begin the story. Once Lily and James meet on the ice, their fiery banter keeps the plot moving along and Plums did a great job of developing their story over time in a realistic fashion for people who started out hating each others' guts. The turning point seems to be where Lily sprains her ankle while skating and James gives her a piggyback ride to the university nurse to get it looked at. They progress from there until they finally realize that they do actually like each other romantically and start dating, and the rest is history! The background Remus/Sirius is also a pleasant addition to the story and gives James and Lily more to bounce off of regarding their personalities and character traits.   In 3rd place, @just.a.willow.tree with you again! Eva did a phenomenal job with her soulmate prompt where the pair's reincarnations continue meeting throughout the years. Teddy Lupin & Victoire Weasley begin the story back in ancient times when the werewolves and veela were in an all out war, but these two, unbeknownst to each other initially while in human form, had been together for a year. They tragically die in a fire set by humans after becoming trapped in a shed and too injured to leave. Eva then jumps forward some years to Victorian era with pickpockets and the height of criminal mischief, where they die from bullet wounds to the heart. Coming forward even more to present day sees Victoire and Teddy living together while Victoire preps for her Seventh Year and Teddy is working. Her great use of her random prompt in this section really emphasizes how all of the different Victoires did try to control or be in charge over Teddy, where in the modern setting he's finally had enough and beats a man up. It's a great look at self-reflection for Victoire and some seriously solid writing to have each reincarnation be so different from all the others yet still have the same base characteristics.  If the three of you lovely people could send me a PM with the stories you'd like reviewed, that'd be wonderful! To the rest of my participants, I sincerely loved each and every one of your entries, from facingthenorthwind's angsty Sirius/Remus one-shot to ShadowRose's bright and fluffy James/Lily multichap. Bravo to all of you, and thank you so much for entering my challenge!! Hugs and celebrations all around!! 




the b in lgbt

A year ago today, I came out of the closet – or rather, my mother shattered the closet I didn't even realise had been there. I've been debating all day whether I actually wanted to write about and share my journey since then, but introspection is generally a good idea, so. Here we go. (Thank you Anja and Sian for holding my hand.) In December 2016, I told my parents I wanted to dye my hair blue. This elicited no reaction, so I upped the stakes by telling them I also wanted a tattoo, and when that did nothing, I blurted "oh, and I like girls too!" Much like the previous two statements, all that got me was "that's nice, dear, good for you". My family's not conservative politically, but I suppose we could be described as rather traditional – we were all raised Catholic (faith'll be a blog post for another time, because hoo boy is there a lot to unpack there too), and there are Standards To Be Upheld Because You Belong To A Lineage that have been drilled into me for over two decades. I'm the eldest of my siblings, and as any older sibling will know, that tends to add a load of pressure because you're expected to be the youth's reference point. So, when I first mentioned that I liked girls that year, I thought I was joking. There was no way I was actually bisexual, was I? It wasn't right, wasn't proper, not for me at least – I have zero issues with anyone else's sexuality, I just personally happened to be straight. Ha, ha. For some reason I kept making allusions to bisexuality (that I kept mentioning the possibility really should've been my first clue that I probably wasn't quite as straight as I thought), most likely as a way to test the waters. Flash forward to June 3rd 2017, where mum is reading a magazine and talking about the actor on the cover to dad and I. Mum: I always thought he was like you, Val, at wind and at sails (this is a direct translation from French, but the original version still doesn't make any form of sense) Me: what does that mean? Mum: it means he's bi. And on went the conversation about the actor in question, while I quietly proceeded to have an existential crisis on the couch. My mum had, for all intents and purposes, taken a rocket launcher to the closet I hadn't even realised was there, let alone that I was standing in: hearing her say "he's like you, bisexual" made me realise that oh, yes, yes I am bisexual, that's what's been going on in my head for the past months. The fact that there's no term to accurately capture what happened during this conversation bothers me: I didn't come out to her nor did she out me, technically, because you don't out people to themselves, do you? My dad, however, required a proper coming out, and that didn't go quite so well. He made a joke about me bringing a woman home in front of a (conservative) friend, so I confronted him about it and asked him to watch his mouth because I wasn't yelling about it to the general public yet.  Dad, who thought he was being funny, hadn't been privy to my existential crisis a few days before, didn't realise I was serious, and wasn't too happy that I'd fight him on this. He then went through every item on the 'What Not To Ask A Bisexual Person 101' list, most notably "well at some point you'll have to choose" (no) and "if you marry a man, does that make you straight?" ("no, dad, I'm not gay if in a relationship with a woman and straight if with a man, I'm just bi all the time"), and was generally super uncomfortable with the entire thing. Pro tip: have these conversations in the car: whoever you're talking to can't run away. (Admittedly, neither can you.) My sister, much younger than I, was the next person I told, and for a kid who goes to private Catholic school and is surrounded by bigots, her reaction was amazing. She told me she was proud of me for telling her, but I still think I have more reasons to be proud of her because she apparently argues with anyone who expresses a homophobic opinion. My brother was surprised, because that boy is blind as a bat and hadn't seen a thing coming, and disappointed that I hadn't told him first. Honestly, that boy. Now (phew, that was long, I'd apologise for the word vomit but I simply can't not talk in circles), where do I stand a year later? I still struggle, sometimes, with the bisexual label. But as a friend once told me, bisexuality is still valid even if it's not 50/50 attraction to two genders. Including myself under the LGBTQ+ umbrella doesn't come naturally; that's probably those two decades of Catholic education I mentioned earlier. Moving countries for my postgrad degree has definitely helped in that regard, though – I found myself in a super friendly, non-judgemental environment and was out to most of my friend group really, really quickly. The friend group from my undergrad is another story – only a select few know, because the others are far less inclusive and I don't feel comfortable with them knowing. My dad still has trouble with the concept, in a "non-straight people are fine but I'd rather it weren't my children" way. I reference bisexuality a lot to normalise it, and am proud to announce that we've finally reached a point where my dad does too, but it's also obvious that he's not 100% convinced I mean it and is kind of hoping it's just talk. The bigger problem is that he sometimes makes comments in front of people and accidentally outs me, and doesn't understand why it's an issue, but I'm working on that. I'm lucky enough to live an environment where being accidentally outed doesn't put me in any kind of danger, so annoying as it is in some respects he's almost doing me a favour: it spares me having to do the announcement myself, which I still find difficult. This blog post is probably the most I've directly called myself bi, ever, which shows that a fair bit of road remains ahead. Overall, though, I'm looking forward to the trip.    




My second month back after a two year hiatus...

Hello everyone!   Back again for my May update! I feel like I've done so much this month but still not as much as I wanted to. For May, my goals were:     And well, I'm still here so at least one of these goals was accomplished!    I made Head Student, which was a huge surprise! Having only been back here a month at the time, I had never expected such an amazingly sweet welcome back gift.  So, to everyone for your support, it really means a lot to me.    I've only managed to complete 30/37 Sirrah chapters, editing and posting only five chapters this month. Which is pretty good, I think. I'm finally getting into the real drama where more edits need to be made, so it's going to take a little more time to complete. I also finally posted my Drarry this month (Scars from Tomorrow), which mean all of my previously completed one-shots--that didn't need fixing--are up on the new archives. I have not posted anything new, although I am slowly working on writing something. I know I said I would wait until I finished editing Sirrah to do this, but I couldn't wait. The muse took over and I had to start writing.    I have been posting reviews though! Not one every day like I said, but more like a smattering every few days. I managed to post a total of 23 reviews this month, albeit mostly on Slytherin author stories as I've also been super busy either nominating stories for the MFWHATAs or reading the other nominations so that I can properly make my votes. But now that that's over, I can finally go back to reviewing a little more regularly and writing as well.    I still have not made a Writer's Journal but it's slowly in the works.    I have written up a little sneak peak list of stories I want to write/continue. I have yet to decide if I should make it a blog post or save it for the Writer's Journal... please feel free to weigh in here.    On a completely separate real life note, I had a job interview this month. I spent most of the first two weeks of May stressing over it, and then the next three stressing as I waited for a response. I did not get the job, but I suppose I figured that when they didn't get back to me within the week like they said they would. Of course, government jobs take time to get. All I can do is keep applying until I'm finally the best candidate for a job. Plus, I can only get better with the more interviews I do, as terrifying as it is. And I might also look elsewhere. It's sad though, I do love the place where I'm working. I love the people I work with and I've made some great friends, but I just can't keep doing it anymore. Retail is killing me (i.e. literally driving me crazy) , and it doesn't help that the area is so bad and just unsafe. Not to mention, working jobs where you stand all day is just taking it's toll on me and my ankles, knees, legs, back, posture. Not that sitting all day is good for you, but it'd be nice to work somewhere where there's a bit of both.    I've also got some exciting real life things coming up! It's summer and there are carnivals every week! I may be going to one tonight, if it doesn't rain (which seems unlikely right now) and my friend is still able to make it. If not, there's always another carnival. And I will be attending a wine fest next Saturday with some work friends and that should be super fun. Already got my VIP ticket so we will be getting all the perks. So I will be getting my drink on  that day and actively supporting local businesses and the community at the same time.    And I may be acting (for the first time) in a short film. A co-worker/friend of mine has entered this cool film making fest to make an anthology of local creepy myths and legends, so it will just be a short little sketch (like a mini horror movie) and if it's chosen to be included, there's a possibility it could be put on Netflix. I'm not saying it will be great, the friend has never made a film before, and it's mainly meant to be a sort of learning experience for him. Plus, the other actors and I, aren't practiced actors by any means, but it should be fun. And I figured it could help me face my own insecurities and fears, not being a fan of seeing myself on camera or receiving judgement from other people. Plus, the role was practicality written for me, all expletives included .   I am really bummed a dear friend of mine is getting married at the end of the month and I don't think I will be able to attend. The wedding is four or five hours away, and I just don't have the means or a working car to make it and I'm sad because I love her and miss her and would like to be there to support her on her special day.   But that's enough about me! Choosing to stay pumped for new possibilities and trying to keep a positive outlook even though it's hard because I'm a realist at heart.     Also Happy Pride Month  to everyone! I can't wait to see what the awesome staff and prefects have planned for us this month!   xxNix   Edit: I almost forgot to mention my goals for June! So, this month, I hope to: Write and finish two new stories  Continue editing and posting Sirrah Continue my daily reviews Look for and hopefully apply to more jobs Be a better, more positive person   (note: I opened my computer intending to write a quick 100 words on this new story, and instead spent three hours writing this 900+ word blog... . Same thing, right?)  




May We Make It Through the Summer

Somehow it's the end of May, and I made it through another month. Welcome back to my ramble-blog! May was very long in some aspects, and in others it flew by. I was very busy—what with a conference I attended, then a visit from one my sisters, then a ton of family in town for my partner's graduation from law school...I'm exhausted. I don't feel like I've slept well literally in weeks. The bad news is the aforementioned exhaustion, busyness, stress, and some really bad anxiety mid-month. The good news, though, is that I did a little bit of writing (finally!), got to see family, and my partner and I finally picked out an engagement ring for me! He's planning to propose sometime later this summer, and I'm obviously really excited about that. In terms of writing, I've had such a desire to write and edit and post stories. I actually have that drive again, which is awesome. It feels like it's been missing for a while, and I'm happy it's back. Hopefully June will be more productive for me! Wish me luck! May was also really fun in the 'Puff CR with different reviewing activities and games we played. I love you, 'Pufflings! You're so wonderful, and I really enjoyed hanging out with you all so much this month.   Looking forward, our big move away from our current city is approaching. Our lease ends here on June 30th.  I'm excited for our next step in life, and I'm so happy for my partner's new job, but it will be really hard to leave here. It's been our first real home together, and we have so many friends we'll be leaving. It's going to be a huge change. Hopefully I can find a job I love and thrive in. And hopefully the transition isn't too hard. June is bound to be crazy, so we'll see how it goes. Thank you as always for reading and being patient with my rants. You all rock.




the inner monologue continues

I'm back with another pointless entry! Some of you liked my inner ramblings, and I enjoyed looking back on it too. So without further ado, here's a second installment of what's been going on in my head in the last 72 hours:  why do all my fics sound like essays and not actual fics. I read all these pretty sentences and I'm just like "nonetheless" and "with that in mind" bex no one is grading this, I'm sure your year 6 teacher would 100% approve of your connectives but damn Gina can we try and be descriptive???? CAN WE??? I'm trying to fight my writing style by actually reading. I haven't kept up to many of my 'new years' goals - but I have read at least 2 books a month. I read two books in a week the other day.  It's just a shame a lot of these are factual biographies.  SPEAKING OF - the factual biography I'm currently reading is about Britain's 'first' female serial killer and this writer is really on team Mary (Mary's the killer fyi) . She killed her kids??? and her husbands???? There's lots of proof, even if it is from the Victorian era. Okay I get that you're mad about the press being harsh on her but what's new?  I'm not saying I'm an expert on British serial killers but I'm pretty sure I'm an expert on serial killers  wow I need to stop reading criminal biographies. BUT the one about jack the ripper that I read was so objective and thought provoking and I have no regrets about taking it on holiday - in fact a lot of people were really interested and asked me questions. Yes my reading of three books definitely makes me a certified historian, ask away [insert cool emoji]  Maybe I should've done a history degree instead of drama  acting is all well and good but i've really limited myself - what the heck am I going to do with my life????? I want to go into the entertainment industry but I've left it so late. Extra work rarely brings you anything but extra work, if I get a 'proper' job I'll kill my dreams, part time jobs aren't the best idea for a bex like me bc my social anxiety is so crippling, but I can't afford headshots or doing free work because of things like rent and food etc, etc  and I have v limited work experience (nice going bex)  maybe I should just become a youtuber/social media kid who advocates mental health  actually I would LOVE to do that but I don't think I have the right look/voice/brain for social media  I suck at everything why am I like this ohmygod  These last few weeks I've had the biggest desire to just run away, change my name and start afresh. Go to a town where nobody knows who I am and just start again, but it isn't that simple.  And I couldn't move anywhere without taking my nan with me she's an absolute gem  insert totally new train of thought  I can't believe I read a book in only a few hours  to be fair it was a really good book, but as always the first book was better than the sequel the plot twist was everything though, I mean I didn't even see it coming  maybe that's because I was so invested in the romance side plot and the civil war main plot  and then BAM - reveal  speaking of reveals, r-r-RUPAULS DRAG RACE (gentlemen) START YOUR ENGINES  yes the theme music for rpdr does enter my head at any given time  Clearly Ru has ruvealed (hehe) her top three, Miz Cracker, Aquaria, and Eureka  but if it's a top four gig like last year then unless Asia messes up next week, she'll be in the top 4  At this point I kinda want cracker or Asia to win  Originally my top three were mayhem, cracker and monet & welp we all know how that went  IDK I'm just grateful that RPDR got me into the world of drag  I just watched Paris is Burning and it was such an eye opener  I've seen a few drag shows recently  AND IM GONNA SEE BIANCA DEL RIO LIVE THIS YEAR  [burst into everything is coming up rose's]  last summer was honestly the worst time of my life and I was in such a terrible place, so while things can only get better I really want this summer to be different.  Seeing Bianca Del Rio live, socialising, maybe doing a little bit of travelling would make all the difference <3 <3   //end inner monologue    books mentioned (In case anyone's interested):  Mary Ann Cotton: The West Auckland Borgia by Martin Connolly  The Complete and Essential Jack the Ripper by Paul Begg and John Bennett A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole (no.2 in the Loyal League) 

In the Spotlight - May 21, 2018

Hello, HPFTers! Welcome to another edition of In the Spotlight, a monthly post in the Prefect Blog that features interviews with the winners of special awards and a review column for the Story of the Month.  This month, in addition to the interviews with the Order of Merlin winners, the prefects are happy to present interviews with the two Head Students winners and the author of May's Story of the Month! (Because this month's post is rather long, definitely feel free to minimize each quote box once you're done reading. ) We hope you enjoy!     Today we're featuring @RoxiMalfoy, the winner of the Order of Merlin last month, and @Ineke, who is this month's winner! Both are extremely well-deserving of their awards, and so hopefully you'll get to know them a little better through these interviews. RoxiMalfoy Ineke   These interviews with the Head Students are a new feature!  We gave the two Head Students, @facingthenorthwind and @Nix, different sets of questions (though there are two questions that are the same in both), and without further ado, here they are! facingthenorthwind Nix Stand Tall
by @Chelts-rhj R E V I E W   C O L U M N Finding a story that features a character with a disability is a rare occurrence for me but I most generally find them to be both insightfully and engagingly rewarding. Stand Tall does not dissatisfy this preconception as we follow the quirky, sassy main character, Alba Williamson, through her journey at Hogwarts as she faces her typical life alongside a daily struggle with Cerebral Palsy. To add to the fantastic work creating the loveable, witty Alba whose sense of humor has consistently knocked me out of my chair [and other on-point characterization as well, because let’s not forget the absolute stunning job Chelts did with characters like James Sirius Potter, Chandra and Ben Honeypucker], the interactions between the characters make them shine so much brighter. Some cleverly crafted dialogue and brassy narrative makes the interplay between the already fascinating characters of this piece especially noteworthy. That’s not to say that this WIP is all fun and games. Beneath the surface of all the hilarity remains the hardships Alba must face, only agitated further by her struggle with her disability. There are downright disheartening moments where the Cerebral Palsy seems to be getting the better of her and, with bated breath, we wait to see how she’ll fight to pull herself up again. Anxiously, we read on, hoping that Alba will pull through as she always has.  To top it off, her disability isn’t the only thing she has to look out for. Being a teenage witch comes with some heavy baggage of its own, especially in the wake of the return of the Triwizard Tournament.  Stand Tall was simple to become swept up in and carried away from one chapter to the next. If you’re looking for a story to instantly fall in love with, this is definitely the story for you. I N T E R V I E W   W I T H   T H E   A U T H O R --- This wraps up the new edition of In the Spotlight! Please comment below and let us know what you think of the new additions, and if there's anything you might like to see from this blog. If you have questions you might like to ask future Order of Merlin, Head Student, or Story of the Month winners, feel free to post them below!  We really hope you enjoyed this issue, and we'll see you in a couple weeks for our special Pride Month post.   - The Prefects interviews compiled by dreamgazer220, forever_dreaming, just.a.willow.tree, Rumpelstiltskin, Slytherinchica08
review column by Rumpelstiltskin
graphics by just.a.willow.tree

Hebrew: The Alef Bet (What did the gimel say to the dalet when he bumped into her? hei!)

So yesterday I was thinking "man maybe if I did a monthly blog post about Hebrew I would stop having the desperate need to talk everyone's ear off about Hebrew when I can get them to stand still long enough", and then @just.a.willow.tree did her blog post on Chinese and here we are.   So Hebrew is a Semitic language and it's written from right to left in the Hebrew alphabet, the uglier cousin of Arabic. I'm not going to teach you the alphabet, because there are heaps of resources for that, but if you are interested in learning I am of course happy to help folks. The important thing to know is that the Hebrew alphabet has two parts: vowels and consonants. Consonants are the things you'd recognise as Hebrew letters, and the ones you'd use when reciting the alphabet (alef bet). Vowels are little dots and lines above and below the consonants, and generally in Modern Hebrew you don't use them. You know how to read them, but you don't write them for two main reasons: Modern Hebrew speakers are deeply committed to being as lazy as possible. It's admirable, even if some truly heinous grammatical errors become standardised because of it. (This is mostly a joke, because of course I also don't use vowels, and it feels like such an unreasonably large chore to write them in. One of them involves putting FIVE DOTS underneath a letter! FIVE! In a really small space! חֱ) There are simultaneously too many and not enough. This has to do with the development of Hebrew from Biblical Hebrew to Modern Hebrew -- when the vowel system was invented, they retained several distinctions that Modern Hebrew has since dropped, meaning that several vowel symbols (called niqud) sound the same. מֶ and מֵ sound the same in Modern, but different in Biblical (which is still preserved when we pray, so sometimes in class I say really old fashioned sounding things and sound silly ). This means you have noooo idea which one to use if you're trying to vowelise a word in Modern Hebrew unless you know the grammar behind it, and who has time for that? At the same time, some vowel markings sound different depending on where they are in the word, which is infuriating. How can you fail in both directions at once, vowel system.  All this means that reading is heavily context-dependent. The word שם could be pronounced shem, sham or sam, and it could mean name, there or put. Sometimes you don't know how to sound out a word until you know what word follows it. This makes reading aloud embarrassing. But there is good news! Hebrew is phonetic. Mostly. Fully vowelised Hebrew is phonetic. Modern Hebrew is...mostly phonetic in the sense that it won't betray you, but you do still have to guess the vowels. When reading a word, you say the consonant first, then the vowel, then the next consonant, then the next vowel, etc. Every consonant except the last one will have a vowel attached to it -- the only catch is that one of the vowels is silent. Also two of the consonants are silent. Sorry. What I mean by phonetic is that every letter in the alef bet always makes the same sound: ט always sounds like a T, ל always sounds like an L. Some letters can take a dagesh, which means there are two pronunciations for the same letter, but which one you use is always indicated in...fully vowelised Hebrew. In Modern Hebrew you have to use a few rules and some guessing. בּ sounds like B, but ב sounds like V. It's always בּ at the beginning of a syllable and ב at the end; same goes for all letters that take a dagesh. There's always a dot (the "hard" sound, e.g. b, p, k) at the beginning of a syllable and no dot (the "soft" sound e.g. v, f, ch) at the end. The bad news is that despite having only 22 letters, Hebrew has managed to double up on some, so two letters can make the same sound: א & ע, ט & ת, כ & ח, ש & ס. This is mostly because in Biblical Hebrew they did sound different, but see the earlier thing about laziness. This means that spelling is..........look, there's definitely room for error. I think in my next post I might talk about transliterating English into Hebrew characters, which will make all that clearer.  "Emma," you say, "I'm unconvinced that this is phonetic. You've just detailed at least seven ways in which Hebrew can and will betray me at every turn." You're not wrong. What I mean is that there will never be anything written down that you're not meant to say, except for the letter י in very specific circumstances. (You can never make blanket statements in Hebrew because Hebrew will always, ALWAYS find a way to break every single rule. Yes, there are blanket statements I have made in this post and yes, there are exceptions to those statements and yes, I make very disappointed faces at my teacher and then she laughs when she tells me about them.) Anyway, I think that is enough to be getting on with for now. Tune in next time for Transliteration: In Which I Only Transliterate The Latin Alphabet Because Yiddish And Arabic Are Cursed Languages I Don't Understand.* *by cursed I mean I don't understand the rules for transliterating them** because they keep doubling letters and using silent letters where they don't belong and يلا is written as יָאללָה in Hebrew and I don't know why!!!!! (note: I never realised it would be so difficult to find out how to spell yallah in Arabic, weh, correct me if I got that wrong.) **I do understand how to transliterate Yiddish, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. +this is CLEARLY some kind of sin. (approximately: di tragishe geshehenishen ein di. maybe. I don't know what it means, I don't speak German.)

some cool aspects of the chinese language

In my (very biased) opinion, Chinese is one of the coolest languages. Today I'm going to go on a very long ramble of different parts of the Chinese written language that I think are very, very interesting. It might appear to be really strange to English speakers, especially since Chinese is, grammatically, very simple. In some ways, this makes it more difficult for me to grasp it fully, because I always try to force English grammar into Chinese phrases, which turns out sounding strange and wonky, and I always forget how more complex sentences are supposed to be structured. A distinction that should be made: "Chinese" can refer to either the people or the written language. If you're trying to talk about the spoken language, then "Mandarin" is the common tongue (and the official language) of China, though there are definitely a large number of dialects as well. Before I get started, I just wanted to share a really interesting historical tidbit about the written language. As you all know, Chinese is made up of characters, with each character representing a word. (Each character is one syllable.) Sometimes, two characters can be joined together to form a different word, which is very common. And though the characters might look really complex at first glance, the history of the language is really cool. Here's a picture of the evolution of Chinese script! The two scripts that are used today are the standard (traditional) script, which is used largely in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan, and the modern simplified script, which is used in mainland China. Modern simplified script has only been around since the beginning of the 20th century, so it's very recent. But what I wanted you guys to see is how the very first column, oracle bone script, is essentially comprised of fairly accurate pictures. (I mean, look at the fish. ) And as you go from column to column, you can see it shifting and shaping into the more structured characters we see today. (Running script and cursive script are essentially less precise versions of the standard script, to save time when writing quickly.) Onto grammar! Let's start with the greeting "hello" that everyone knows: 你好 (nǐ hǎo). The characters directly translate to: "you" + "well/good". Though it's the Chinese equivalent of "hello," it doesn't exactly have that meaning, if it makes sense. You're greeting someone, and in a way the Chinese greeting is a little more respectful (though of course it depends on your tone of voice as well haha) because it's more mindful of the other person. If I were greeting my grandmother (on my mother's side), I would say: 姥姥好 (lǎolao hǎo), replacing the "you" in the original greeting with "grandmother". And so the Chinese greeting shifts depending on who you're talking to. Most noticeably, though, the Chinese greeting vaguely resembles a sentence, despite consisting of two words and despite missing a verb. Most sentences do have verbs, but some sentences are just constructed without verbs (or, more specifically, without the "to be" verb). For instance: 他很棒 (tā hěn bàng). Essentially, this translates to, "He is amazing" (though some of the meaning gets lost in translation), but if I broke it down word by word, it would be: "he" + "very" + "amazing". There's no real verb, but the adverb stands in for one. I don't know why this is, or how it works, but that's just how it is. This type of thing happens especially when describing things or people; saying things like "This is delicious," or "You are beautiful," or "The blanket is warm." Simply put, Chinese just doesn't have the "to be" verb, and the language functions perfectly without it. I also want to talk about tenses. English (and other romance languages) conjugates the verbs according to tense. "It shuddered, it shudders." / "She walked, she walks." / "He crept, he creeps." In Chinese, though, it's most similar to the future tense in English: instead of directly altering the verb, an additional word is tacked on. For every single tense, including present. Here is the plain, unaltered word for "eat" in Chinese: 吃 (chī). I want to quickly take a moment to point out something -- you see that square-shaped bit on the left half of the character? It's the formal Chinese word for "mouth": 口 (kǒu). (There's a much more common word for "mouth" in Chinese, but it's in two syllables. And I'm not quite sure how to explain it, but for a number of body parts, there's a single-syllable, formal way of saying it.) Anyway, a lot of Chinese characters are structured like this, with a thematically-relevant word within a word. Take the word for "path", for example: 路 (lù). The left half of the character is a diminutive version of the formal word for "foot": 足 (zú). Which makes sense, because you use your feet to walk on a path! Anyway, after that long-winded and rather unnecessary detour, back to "eat". Here are the words for "I ate, I eat, I will eat," respectively: 我吃了 (wǒ chī le),我在吃 (wǒ zài chī),我将要吃 (wǒ jiāngyào chī). 我 means "I", and everything else in each phrase is a part of the verb. So you can see that the core verb 吃 remains untouched in each phrase, and it's just that more characters are added around it to create a sense of tense. (Though, if you're saying something like "Tomorrow, I will eat" in Chinese, you shouldn't add the extra characters around 吃, because you've already specified that the action is happening sometime in the future.) I wanted to quickly mention something else! So all the pronunciations written in the Latin alphabet are called 拼音 (pīnyīn), or "pinyin" in English. (As you can see, English pretty much just took the Chinese word haha.) This is an official part of the Chinese written language, and are used to help children learn to read, or to help illiterate adults as well, because learning to speak Chinese is much, much easier than learning to read it. After all, unlike English, there's no real way to "sound out" the characters; it's all memorization. As you might have noticed, "lǎolao" (grandmother) and "jiāngyào" (future tense "will") are technically comprised of two characters in the Chinese script, but the pinyin smushes the two syllables together. This is because the two characters together form a single word with a single meaning! The last thing I wanted to say was to just really hammer in how simple the grammar is while simultaneously being ridiculously complex in every other aspect haha. There's a phrase that essentially means "I haven't seen you in such a long time": 好长没见 (hǎo chǎng méi jiàn), and it directly translates to: "really" + "long" + "no" + "see". The subject and the object are both implied in this sentence, and there's no real verb. Chinese is very cool! And I just got to thinking about it the other day, so I sat down and typed this up haha. I hope you might've learned something reading this, and many apologies for my strange enthusiasm throughout this whole thing; despite not being fluent (at all) in Mandarin, I just find Chinese to be really, really cool haha. LANGUAGE IS AWESOME, GUYS. So let me know what you think, or if you have any questions! I'd also really love to know if there are any interesting parts of your own language that you'd like to share! 

About Moribito Fandom- 1

I’d like to introduce Nahoko Uehashi’s Fantasy, Moribito World. I thought of this introduction after I got reviews from my fellow Gryffindor authors.      Moribito series started with the story where Balsa, who is 30 years old, a bodyguard-for-hire, saved Chagum, who is the second prince of the Imperial Family. Chagum bears the egg of the water spirit making him the 'guardian of the spirit'. His own father, the Emperor, hated the spirit as the filthy thing and ordered his assassination.     Balsa has also dark past. Her father, Kanbal King's physician had discovered that the new King had poisoned his predecessor and was killed by the King. Before he was killed, he asked his best mate, Jiguro to save Balsa.   Jiguro was originally the leader and strongest member of the king of Kanbal's 'Nine Spears’. In consequence of saving Balsa, he betrayed his country and had to kill the other eight Spears who were ordered to pursue them by the King.   With help from the herbalist Tanda (who would be Balsa’s life partner later) and his teacher, Torogai (who has powerful magic and  capability to communicate the things in the spirit realm), Balsa could protect Chagum.   After that, Chagum has to face the crisis under the circumstances, Talsh Kingdom will attack his country. He overcomes various difficulties and grows up to be a new Yogo’s king with help from Balsa, again. She also saves one girl named Asra, who has the disastrous dark power.   These are brief summaries of Moribito Fandom. In my fanfiction, I try to connect Asra’s episode and Chagum’s episode, which Uehashi didn’t write in her twelve books. After her writings, they made animation and drama on TV in my country.   I’ll come back to explain about Moribito more.       If you have interest, please stop by my story, After the Storm (T)




The "Anything but a Love Triangle" Love Triangle Challenge Results

But the results are finally in!    A few months ago, I hosted the "Anything but a Love Triangle" Love Triangle Challenge. Partially fueled by my annoyance with mainstream media's love affair with love triangles, participants were tasked with wiritng a love triangle in a new, fun, and original way! I had four spectacular entries that went above and beyond when creating fantastic love triangles that most certainly did not make me want to roll my eyes.   Entries B-Movie Scream Queen [M] - Rumpelstiltskin Between a Hurricane and the Sea [M] - manno-malfoy Goodbye, Jus - Felpata_Lupin Inconsistent Geometry - ImaRavenclaw   Each entry was graded based on four categories: how well it fit the prompt; the characters; description/dialogue; and the plot. A total of 20 points was possible. All entries will receive a review from me if they have not already.   So without further ado, here are your winners...   Honorable Mention: Inconsistent Geometry by @ImaRavenclaw!   Third Place: Between a Hurricane and the Sea by @manno-malfoy! You have won two additional reviews on a story of your choice!   Second Place: B-Movie Scream Queen by @Rumpelstiltskin! You have won three additional reviews and a favorite story!   First Place: Goodbye, Jus by @Felpata_Lupin You have won four additional reviews, a favorite story, and a picspam based on your entry!   Congratulations to all of the wonderful entries! Winners, please PM me to claim your prizes and remember to credit @just.a.willow.tree for the phenomenal prize graphics! Special thanks goes to @banshee for helping come up with the idea for this challenge!  

Hogwarts A Mystery: Energy Tips and Tricks

So there are a lot of people playing Hogwarts a Mystery right now, and I have learned that not everyone has learned the same tips and tricks as others.  Today I want to talk about everyone's favorite/least favorite issue in the game... ENERGY!   I think we have all had that frustrating experience of running out of energy just after getting caught by the Devil's Snare in year 1.  If you haven't played yet - be warned you will run out of energy mid-activity and it is not fun.   From there it has been an ongoing problem, you start a class and have to wait for a refill.  Well, I'm here to share ways that you can help speed things up without spending those precious pink gems that are hard to come by without opening your wallet.   Energy tip #1:   You can leave in the middle of most any activity   That is right you can step out of that classroom or walk away from searching that mysterious corridor go on an energy run (will explain soon) and come back without losing ANY progress. You just tap the icon in the lower right corner, the door with the arrow.       WARNING - if you leave once it is possible you cannot leave a second time until you have completed a task such as "Nudge" or "Adjust Grip" "Rummage" "Turn page" etc.  Any time the exit button is not present finish a task, and it should return.     Energy tip#2:   Know where the energy grabs are   I have detailed out all the present locations for energy grabs and will try to update as they change as they have done that in the past  I include pictures of before the energy grab and after the energy grab and tried to notate the replenish times as best as I can.  We'll be starting with the top of the list and working down.   WARNING Do NOT tap your energy grabs while at max energy they will not be added on and will be wasted!  Use with caution and look to tip 3 on how to best use these!   East Tower   There are now 2 grabs in the East Tower.   1)  Giggling Girl - this is a blank canvas by charms but when tapped a little girl giggles and then shows up in the frame. Replenish Time: Around 7 hours   BEFORE   AFTER   2) Peeves - Peeves used to be in one of the lower floors and just hung around and was worthless Now he hangs out in the East Tower and will cackle do an added animation and then fly off  (This is a Newer grab) Replenish Time: Around 5 hours   BEFORE   AFTER   West Tower   There is only one grab here but keep your eyes on Sir Nicholas (at the end of the corridor), and he may change like Peeves did!   1) Oranges - this is a painting with a stump and flowers near the Prefect's bathroom a hand reaches down and places three oranges into the picture. Replenish Time: Around 3 hours   BEFORE   AFTER   Lower Floor West   There are two grabs here that are very close together; Peeves used to be down here too until he became an energy grab.   1) The  Torch - the torch to the right of the great hall is out - maybe someone should light it? Replenish Time: Around 8 hours   2) The Statues - These guys look to be a mess with a sword and shield all helter-skelter.  You tap the nights, and they correct things trading sword for shield, so it looks all nice and tidy. Replenish Time: A LONG time I have determined less than 13 but more than 10 hours if I had to wager around 12 hours   BEFORE   AFTER   Dungeons   There is only one grab here.   1) The House Elf - this little guy appears to be eavesdropping, and when you tap him he makes a surprised noise before running off to the kitchens Replenish Time: Around 8 hours   BEFORE   AFTER   Castle Grounds   Again there is only one grab here, but it is by far the cutest EVER!   1)  The Stick - you tap the random stick on the ground, and you will hear barking as puppy Fang comes bounding into few to get the stick before running off to Hagrid's. Replenish Time: Around 6 hours   BEFORE   AFTER   Bonus shot of cute:   Lower Floor East   This location only becomes available once you have reached second year and there is only one grab here.   1) Books - there is a messy pile of books that need to be tidy!  You tap them, and they will fly their way into a nice neat pile. Replenish Time: Around 6 hours   BEFORE   AFTER   Hogsmeade   This only opens in your 3rd year which I have not reached and thus cannot give information on just yet I will update this section as soon as I learn more.   Energy Tip #3   Note your energy level and time requirements before starting any class/task    Getting ready to start a 1-hour class/task?  Are you at full energy? If the answer is No, I advise you wait.  I also advise that you make sure you have your energy grabs on hand to run out and grab after using up your current energy supply    Getting ready for another task that is 3 hours long? Is your energy full? If the answer is no, I still advise you wait.   3-hour classes is another time when an energy grab is good to have on deck.   Also with 3-hour classes when you run out of energy - do not fret you have time to allow a full fill up.  This happens well before the task expires and give you plenty of time to complete the task.  Usually, a 3-hour task does not take more than 2 full fill-ups, occasionally it asks for a smidgen more - that is where your energy fill up's come in if you have them on deck.   Getting ready to start an 8-hour class/task? Are you full of energy? If the answer is no, you may wish to wait, but it is not vital.  I recommend you don't start unless you are at at least half energy.  Like the 3 hour class, you have time for a full fill up twice maybe 3 times (I've not tested as I'm usually done before then due to not wanting to wait a 3rd time and using my energy grabs).   On the whole, you don't want to grab your free energy the second it is available don't grab it unless you plan to use it immediately. It isn't worth saving 4 minutes on a refill cause you'll usually walk away more than 4 min anyway, which brings me to...   Energy Tip #4   Not all free energy is good   Now I know you are probably ready to ask me what I mean and what I mean is when you earn a star in a class you have a choice of rewards, usually coins, and then one of your 3 features, occasionally gems and occasionally energy.  The free energy here is not always worth grabbing.   If you are heading for your last star and you have the energy to reach it in time, don't choose energy as your reward.  It is kind of worthless when you are going to have to wait for the next task.  It is better to get something else than attribute rather than that single energy.  Now if you are about out of energy and not close to completion, the energy might be worthwhile to snag, but this is a debate for another guide.    If it is several energy that might be worth the grab.  I know once in the middle of an 8-hour class I had the choice of nabbing 8 or 9 energy as a reward I tapped it faster than you can say 'energy grab'  That was a WORTHY grab!   Hopefully, this guide will help you, and I'll see about tossing out a few other guides regarding less vital yet important functions of the game such as attributes and house points!   PS. If you do happen to use gems to buy a whole day of energy which I advise you save for that instead of getting the small bit of 10 energy you will get 30 energy so you'll be at the 30/energy cap.  (First years start with 26 energy 2nd years start with 28 energy) Max cap I think based on this fact is 30.

On Haunting Shadows

Hey, guys! 

So if you hop on over to my author's page at any time in the near future, you're going to notice one change.  Haunting Shadows, my story about a girl struggling to get over the death of her best friend, has been deleted from the archives.  It's not with a light heart that I made this decision, and that's why you're hearing from me now, in this post. I do know it's the right move, though, and I just wanted to take a minute and talk to you guys about it.

This story has been through a journey. It started off when I was sixteen and writing fanfiction for the first time. On HPFF, it was under the name Sweetest Goodbye, probably circa 2005-2006, and I really, really hope none of you guys remember because that version of this story was awful.  Somehow, though, I managed to get over 200 reviews, and a lot of people loved it.  But then I went to college, decided I didn't "need to write fanfiction anymore" and deleted everything on my author's page, including Sweetest Goodbye -- which, completed, totaled about 29 chapters. 

Around 2015, I decided to come back to what I considered my flagship story, and fanfiction in general, and began a re-write of the story, now called Haunting Shadows with much better characters, storylines, and overall mystery. And it got a lot of amazing feedback.  And then we all know what happened with HPFF, and when the HPFT archives were born, I immediately transferred it over, not changing a thing and still overwhelmed by the response I got. All positive. Still overwhelmed by the fact that it won awards, won featured stories, and so many people seemed to love it and root for Cate, and leave me with long, amazing, thoughtful reviews (all of which I've saved, of course).

Now it's 2018, and I'm in a different place (obviously) than when I first started -- emotionally, mentally, and creatively. My writing has improved leaps and bounds, largely in part because of you guys. But now, every time I open my Scrivener doc, I get so overwhelmed with what to do with the second half of the story and I get stressed with wanting to re-write the beginning of it to show the changes in my writing.  And frankly, it's just not fun. 

So that's why, after one massive spring cleaning of my author's page, and this other, quieter spring cleaning, I've decided to delete it from the archives -- at least, for now. 

But I'm writing this post because I wanted to take a moment to say thank you. Thank you to all of you who have stuck by this story for so long, who have rooted for Cate, who have wanted to strangle Rob (but didn't) and Tommy alike. I want to especially thank @victoria_anne and @WindingArrow because without them, this story would've never reached 14 chapters in the first place and I would've given up on it a long time ago.

And I don't think I'm giving up wholeheartedly yet. I might decide to re-vamp and re-boot it in the future, but just... better.

Anyway. I'm still going to keep writing, so you don't have to worry about that! I just posted a Bellarke one-shot and I have a James II/OC fic in the works (hopefully). So this definitely isn't the last of me, by a long shot. It's just the end of HS, at least for now.

But seriously. Thank you. And I love you guys.  

Life is crazy...

I'm back at work, the family has been sick for the last month and life is just CRAZY!!! 

I've just started to transfer my reviews from HPFF, but realised I haven't transferred over all my stories yet - or chapters. I just started writing fanfiction again for a SAYS reunion exchange fic...I have NO IDEA where that's heading. And there isn't enough coffee or time to get through all that needs to be done. I haven't baby spammed in a while for my Slytherin's so that will be next. 

If someone could Accio a few more hours into my days,  that would be awesome.

Oh...I've been binge watching some TV shows on Netflix. Anyone else watched The Rain or Salvation?




[Early] Spring IRL

A long, turbulent road to recovery has come with getting back to everyday things I used to do (and possibly even enjoy). So, with Spring finally in the air, I've been trying to get back to those seasonal traditions (and some new ones, too) in an effort to...well, continue being okay and to further promote my personal well-being and the well-being of my family. So, here we go! Rumpel's [Early] Spring -- an IRL Blog Snowfall and the Battle of the Seedlings Until sometime around the mid-April, we had snow-covered lawns and frequent cold snaps in my area. Despite that, seedlings were sown indoors and prepped for the gardens. With four raised beds and four round beds (made from recycled tires), we had PLENTY of room for the seedlings and they were hot on track to be planted. However, Spring took a long time to come this year, with surprise snowfalls to boot.  Luckily, we managed to keep the majority of the seedlings alive (thanks to the help of heating pads and growing lamps and a double-transfer into larger containers), they managed to hang on. From what we planted, we managed to keep alive and transplant outdoors [some kind of] tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, bush beans, green beans, zucchini, butternut squash, cucumbers, radishes, blood beets, sugar beets, turnips, potatoes, carrots, watermelon, broccoli, cauliflower, kale [dwarf blue], spinach, swiss chard, chives, basil, and celery [which will be planted in our aquaponics system since it is a marsh plant and requires a LOT of water].  What we lost was: all our lettuce [iceberg, ruby red, and black seeded simpson], red onions, all our peppers [bell, jalapeno, and banana], pumpkins, cabbage, strawberries, melon, and dill. So, all-in-all, it wasn't a huge loss but we're sowing a late group of seedlings in hopes of getting some of what we lost back (especially my peppers). Now we've just got to keep them alive and pest-free.  On the flower-end of the spectrum, my annuals are coming back (all those tulips and daffodils in all their red and yellow glory). The lilies are making their way back up, we've dug up [most] of the dreaded inch plants, I'm getting some Black-Eyed Susans, and fighting against the silver willow saps that keep trying to dig into the foundation and the gosh-darn fiddleheads in my garden that just won't die.    Weeds Between moving, personal health issues, and moving back, we never planted our crops last year, which was absolutely heart-breaking come this past fall when I had no fresh veggies. The one positive of moving back to a house that I'm not overly fond of is those raised beds we put it and I intended to put them to good use this year.  However, due to lack of care, the beds were COMPLETELY overgrown with weeds. And not just any weeds (well, those too) but I was looking at an epic fight with some sort of invasive, deep-rooting vine and, even worse, stinging nettle. So, on top of those silver saps and fiddleheads, I dug up the beds and cleared out the weeds. Let's not talk about the flower beds, though. I still can't seem to kill the fiddleheads that are COMPLETELY taking over the beds. Someone help me.  Chickens My husband and I always talked about getting chickens [eventually]. My father raised them when I was a child, so I vaguely remember the care and time it took to take care of hens [you know, feeding the hens, sweeping the coop, cleaning the pens, collecting eggs, getting pecked by hens, the god-awful rooster that chased my father and step-brother around the yard for twenty minutes].  Apparently "someday" became this year when my husband and one of his buddies (who's helping) decided that it was time. I wasn't too worried about it, assuming that the pair wouldn't even buy the chicks until the coop was ready but I WAS SO WRONG. Happily, Mr. Rumpel's friend (we'll call him "Buddy" for the sake of this), had everything set up for chicks at his house. However, that doesn't stop the looming reality that now that they have chicks, we will be having some new poultry pets in a few short months.  And, instead of buying a chicken coop, Mr. Rumpel and Buddy decided that they wanted to take on the DIY project of transforming an old [decently-sized] shed into the chicken's housing. I don't know if any of you know what it takes to do something like this, so let me break it down for you if you don't know: weatherproofing -- this old wooden shed needs to be a happy and safe home for the chickens, even in the cold of Vermont in the wintertime and during the really rainy summer nights. raising the shed -- you'll see that, most commonly, the 'housed' part of the chicken coop is raised from the ground...this is done for a number of reasons including air-circulation, flood-prevention, and a deterrent for nesting rodents. It involves physically lifting the 'housed unit' onto "stilts" that have been secured in the ground with cement, to ensure that it's structurally sound.  open-air run -- this is the "outside" area of the chicken pen that's encased in chicken wire (to deter predators). This involves building the structural frame (and driving wood into the ground and digging trenches to bury the chicken wire to protect against digging predators). We're extending this right into the middle of the lilac grove so that the chickens can have plenty of shade. outfitting the interior -- we'll need to hook these sweet hens up with a roosting bar, nest boxes, hanging watering and feeding devices, and lighting (to extend their laying season). adding additional access doors -- at least two more besides the door for egg collection and access to water/feed systems as well as cleaning acess replacing the roof -- the old wooden roof will be replaced with a new, coagulated tin roof to help keep out moisture creating a moveable playpen -- while we don't live directly in town, we still live on a main road, and can't allow chickens to be wandering around which means that they won't be 'free range'; having a moveable playpen is the closest we can get to this idea (and, plus, the neighbors probably wouldn't appreciate chickens wandering onto their property) And that's pretty much the basics. Of course, this also doesn't include the composting ideas as well as the maggot bucket (don't even get me started on the maggot bucket ) to farm fresh grubs for the chickies. So, while all of this has been started, we still have a long way to go (and a lot of work to be done) before the chickens can come to their new home. Around the Town Of course, getting back into helping out around the town with the local charities and drives has come back into the picture since I really needed something to do that gets me and the little one out of the house. There are a couple churches we help out with their collection events [food pantries, clothing drives, foster children programs, etc.] as well as home-cooking meals for my local Dismas House [sort of like a halfway house; essentially it is meant to help people transition from jail/prison back into society while they get back on their feet], and some of the sporting/after-curricular drives/events for the local High School. Essentially, it all sounds very nice, but it's realistically me doing things I don't want to do, spending time with people I don't want to spend time with, all in an effort to "be a good person" and get out of the house.  Work? Because I'm so compelled to get out of the house and do 'adult-y' things, I've still been looking for a small job outside the house that fits into my husband's crazy schedule so that we don't have to worry about daycare. My husband still isn't on board with this but I would really like to eventually have a life that isn't one-hundred percent circulated around my daughter. I've been blessed to have been able to stay home with her but I feel as if I need something 'for me' and, quite frankly, that thing is a job. Pre-child, I was working diligently towards a career (though I've never been sure that that's what I wanted to do) and a career has been set aside ever since becoming a mother. Again, it's a beautiful thing to have not been able to miss a moment but I don't think that 10-15 hours a week out of the house and at some sort of job will hurt anything. Family The warm weather, of course, also means LOTS OF PLAYDATES! My daughter loves playing with the other kids and this winter has been a long one, so she's enjoying playing outside with them even more. It also means that I get to spend some more time with different members of my family while the kids play, which is always nice.  I've been seeing my nephew as much as possible, who is a loving and cuddly baby. My to-be SIL will be going back to work soon, so I'm hoping that means I'll get some extra babysitting time in with the little sweetie. The wedding [my brother and to-be SIL's wedding] is this October and she has been absolutely HOUNDING us bridesmaids about every little detail. There are at least two messages a day in the group chat asking about this, that, or the other. It's great that she's so excited and we're all hanging so that she can have her big day be just the way she wanted. My husband and I are [for the most part] learning to live together again without being complete strangers [even if that means a few concession like him getting a maggot bucket (ick) and me getting out of the house sans child for a few hours a week].      So, it's been a busy [early] Spring. I have NO idea what's to come in the upcoming months but let's just hope it's good. 

Poetry Over Prose - May 7, 2018

"Everyone sees, feels, responds to the poetry of the world every day. In a sunrise over rooftops, a dogwood in bloom, a child's bike leaning against a fence, a pair of tennis shoes hanging by their laces from a telephone wire, a moth's wing spread on the screen door, the sound of a train in the distance, the smell of fresh bread. Everyone falls in love with the world daily and we have no words for what spellbinds us. Poems need to be made to recognize that sense of wordless awe.”
 —Dorianne Laux Welcome, HPFT-ers, to the first installment of the Prefect Blog’s special posts! On the 7th of every month, we’ll select a relevant theme and create a post about it. As April was National Poetry Month, the prefects wanted to take an opportunity to feature our favorite aspects of poetry and share them with you. We hope you enjoy this special issue!   One of the most enlightening aspects about reading poetry is the process of analyzing and understanding the piece, and though your interpretation may differ from someone else’s, that’s the beauty of it all! Our very own @Rumpelstiltskin (with help from @forever_dreaming and @just.a.willow.tree) put together a detailed post about this in the Writing Resources section of the forums here+. In addition, we’ve also written a guide to poetic meter here+ (which is essentially an explanation of the thing that makes Dr. Seuss’s poems so much fun to read aloud ). Check it out if you have time, and perhaps you can apply it when you read poetry from the wonderful authors on our archives!   In these next two sections, we wanted to feature poems by authors on our archive, as well as poems from published anthologies! We’ve divided them up into two categories: poems that use form and poems that use sound. We definitely encourage you to look through the poems that we’ve linked to on the archives and leave them thoughtful reviews, because writing poetry is difficult and our authors do it beautifully.  (All poems are linked; click on them to read the full piece.) This first section highlights a few fascinating poetic forms that you may not have known about! SESTINA Both @forever_dreaming and @just.a.willow.tree happened to write sestinas for their English class, so we thought it appropriate to talk a little more about what sestinas are. (They are very, very cool. You should check them out afterwards! Here+ is a much more in-depth explanation of the form, if you’re curious. ) Essentially, sestinas are a very repetitive type of poem, except oftentimes poets use creativity and ingenuity to work around the repetition. In each stanza (except for the last) there are six lines, and at the end of each line is a designated word. These six “last words” are then reordered throughout the other stanzas, though they will always be the last words of the line. This might sound confusing, but here is a visual representation, with each letter representing a “last word” in a line: 1. ABCDEF
7. (envoi) ECA or ACE It’s easier to understand with an example poem. Take a look at W.H. Auden’s “Paysage Moralisé”: Hearing of harvests rotting in the valleys,
Seeing at end of street the barren mountains,
Round corners coming suddenly on water,
Knowing them shipwrecked who were launched for islands,
We honour founders of these starving cities
Whose honour is the image of our sorrow, Which cannot see its likeness in their sorrow
That brought them desperate to the brink of valleys;
Dreaming of evening walks through learned cities
They reined their violent horses on the mountains,
Those fields like ships to castaways on islands,
Visions of green to them who craved for water. They built by rivers and at night the water
Running past windows comforted their sorrow;
Each in his little bed conceived of islands
Where every day was dancing in the valleys
And all the green trees blossomed on the mountains,
Where love was innocent, being far from cities. But dawn came back and they were still in cities;
No marvellous creature rose up from the water;
There was still gold and silver in the mountains
But hunger was a more immediate sorrow,
Although to moping villagers in valleys
Some waving pilgrims were describing islands… 'The gods,' they promised, 'visit us from islands,
Are stalking, head-up, lovely, through our cities;
Now is the time to leave your wretched valleys
And sail with them across the lime-green water,
Sitting at their white sides, forget your sorrow,
The shadow cast across your lives by mountains.’ So many, doubtful, perished in the mountains,
Climbing up crags to get a view of islands,
So many, fearful, took with them their sorrow
Which stayed them when they reached unhappy cities,
So many, careless, dived and drowned in water,
So many, wretched, would not leave their valleys. It is our sorrow. Shall it melt? Then water
Would gush, flush, green these mountains and these valleys,
And we rebuild our cities, not dream of islands. Notice how the last words of every line are reused over and over again in each stanza, except in a different order every time. Sestinas are beautiful poems this way. In this instance, Auden uses the repetition to paint different images with the same words, and it works beautifully. In “weary”, @just.a.willow.tree uses a similar technique as Auden: embracing the elements of repetition built-into the form of a sestina to emphasize the weariness of the main characters and the tragic perpetuity of the pain and injustice they feel. However, the repetition of the end words can be twisted to enhance the poem in a different way too. For example, in “Passing Time”, @forever_dreaming manipulates the words themselves, altering their spelling or using homophones in order to convey the paradoxical nature of time passing both quickly and at a snail’s speed. If you’re curious about another fascinating sestina, check out Carole Oles’ “The Magician Suspends Her Children”. It is so creative and clever, you will almost definitely have a lot of fun deciphering the meaning of the poem while also paying attention how amazing it is, the way she wields her words. VILLANELLE Another interesting form is a villanelle! This is a 19-line poem, typically composed of five tercets (a three-line stanza) that follow the rhyming pattern aba, with a final quatrain (a four-line stanza) that follow the rhyming pattern abaa. The first and third lines of the initial tercet are alternately repeated as the third lines of the following tercets (and then are presented as the ending couplet of the quatrain). A visual example of the rhyming scheme of a standard six stanza villanelle might be helpful. 1. AbA
2. abA
3. abA
4. abA
5. abA
6. abAA What might be even more helpful is seeing this in an actual poem. Take a look at "Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas, as an example [emphases added]: Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night. Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. There are two beautiful examples of villanelles on our archives, both by the lovely @abhorsen.! In “And when the wind whistles through me, I am free” and “And still there’s the wind to batter and moan”, the perfectly-crafted repeated phrases set the tone of the poem. Yet with each new stanza, these phrases gradually shift and grow in meaning as more of the poem is unveiled. We cannot recommend these two poems enough! HAIKU A haiku is a form of Japanese poetry that consists of 17 syllables that are arranged in three lines of five, seven, and five. A fun aspect of a haiku is that the short pieces are meant to encapsulate a single impression on something, in a particular season. This creates a sense of simplicity and intense expression.  To assist in the visualization, take a look at a haiku from Basho Matsuo, and notice the syllables in each line: An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again. And we have a number of elegant haikus on the archives as well! One example is from M C Crocker (or @scooterbug8515 on the forums), with her collection of season-inspired haikus: “One Love One Year”. Each poem perfectly captures the essence of the season within such a small number of syllables. Definitely go check out this piece if you have time!   One of the main differences between poetry and prose is the manipulation of how words sound. Poets choose words whose sound reflects the meaning they are trying to convey, creating a more immersive experience and enhancing their meaning further; sound makes poetry more vivid and sensory than prose. One of the classic sound devices is onomatopoeia, or, simply, when a word sounds like what it means.  English is a cool language in that lots of words are onomatopoeic to some degree. The obvious examples are words like “crash”, “clang”, “smash”, etc. But other words have a subtler onomatopoeic effect. For example, consider Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach”. We’ve only put an excerpt below, but do check out the entire poem if you have time. (We recommend reading the poem out aloud to yourself, to get the full effect!): The sea is calm tonight. 
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light 
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand, 
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay; 
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air! 
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sun meets the moon-blanched land, 
Listen! You hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling, 
At their return, up the high strand, 
Begin, and cease, and then again begin, 
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.  In the first stanza, Arnold uses heavy sound-focused imagery. The long “ea” sound in “gleams” mimics the word, just as the long “a” in “vast” stretches out the word to further emphasize the image of the vast ocean. Similarly, the quick “imm” sound in “glimmering” mimics the action. Arnold does this purposely; he practically tells us this, with a command for the audience to “Listen!” and other sound-related diction, like “cadence” and “note”. In this first stanza, Arnold is building a sound-based image of the cliffs of Dover, which he then contrasts with a more sight-based image of the cliffs of Dover, to illustrate the difference between expectation and reality—a central theme in the poem.  Alliteration is the repetition of the first letter or consonant. In “Dover Beach”, Arnold alliterates “gl” in “glimmer” and “gleam”, to emphasize these two words; this alliteration brings focus to the inherently contradictory picture Arnold is trying to present, of something that is both ephemeral (that glimmers for a short amount of time) and enduring (that gleams forever). Alliteration helps poets draw attention to specific words and forces the reader to connect the images these words present.  @Alexis Black’s “The Wind Chimes are Calling to Me” is a great example of a poem that is enhanced by manipulations of sound. The use of words that sound like the term they are describing, such as “whisper”, “sigh”, and “murmur”, truly enhances the poem and brings it to life, and it’s this vibrancy that adds a tinge of nostalgia to the piece.   The main purpose of this post was to celebrate National Poetry month while highlighting a few of our talented authors. So here are a few more poems that we would like to recommend to you from the archives: “What is life” - @Felpata_Lupin “When Spring Doesn’t Return” - @Rumpelstiltskin “Poetry Collection” (M) - @MalfoysAngel “Truths and Lies” - @TreacleTart “an absence of sound” - @just.a.willow.tree “Love Is a Whisper In Your Soul” - @abhorsen. “Supernova” - @TreacleTart “The place where planes take off and land” - @Felpata_Lupin “Dreamwalker” - @Alexis Black “Pillars of Smoke” (M) - @abhorsen. "From" - @Stella Blue (not exactly a poem but beautiful nonetheless) --- This has been our special blog post for May! We understand that poetry isn’t something that everyone enjoys, but hopefully after reading this, you’ve taken away a few things. (And, who knows, maybe this’ll help you out in the next reviewing event when you stumble across a poem!) Let us know what you think of the post, if you like/dislike poetry, or if there’s anything you’d like to see in the future! - The Prefects written by forever_dreaming, just.a.willow.tree, and Rumpelstiltskin
graphics by just.a.willow.tree

My first month back after a two year hiatus...

I suppose introductions are in order...     Hi, I'm Nix! I was EnigmaticEyes16 on the HPFF archives and forums, for those who don't know me. Had a love/hate relationship with my username so I finally got to change it once HPFT was created. I've been writing Harry Potter fanfiction for longer than I can remember, and began posting it on HPFF back in 2004. Became a member of the HPFF forums in 2005, but it took me a little longer to get the hang of it and become more active. I'd been around on and off ever since, up until the closing of the forums. I became a member of HPFT as soon as it was created but then shortly after ended up taking a two year hiatus. There was just a lot going on in my life at the time, I guess, and the loss of HPFF and all it's drama took it's toll on me.   But I'm back now! And I'm super excited to be here and participate in the upcoming activities!   A little about me: I work in a used bookstore/movie rental store. So, I'm surrounded by books almost 40 hours a week, and I own way too many that I have yet to actually read, and always have more on hold at work . I'm running out of shelve space, y'all. I'll read a pretty fair amount of variety; humor, biography, horror, YA, paranormal, historical fiction, an occasional mystery or romance. I'm also pretty familiar with new movies as they come out, I just never have time to watch them all. I also prefer TV shows. For some reason, I would rather sit through multiple 20-60 minute episodes than watch a movie, lol. I love cats, I have six of them at the moment because we just took in three kittens back in September (although they're not really kittens anymore now that they're eight months old)  and they are my heart and joy. Also have a two year old cat, and two much older cats.    Anyway...   So, this month I've basically spent reacquainting myself with the forums. I also finally created an account over on the new archives under the same username and have been working to get all my stories up on there. So far I've currently posted seven of my one-shots (and I've got one in the queue) and 25 chapters of the 37 I had originally posted of Sirrah Malfoy on HPFF. Trying to work my way through the chapters as quickly as possible but I'm also making edits to some of the text and timeline. All my other stories will have to wait until I'm done, although I wish I had time to work on them all at once.   This month I've also managed to post 30 reviews in between editing and uploading stories. It was my goal to post two reviews a day for the entire month, but as you can see I only managed to do it for half the month. WIth the HPFF archives shutting down, my attention ended up shifting to making sure everything was saved and backed up. But I'm pretty proud of myself for getting in as many reviews as I did, as I can be a slow reader, especially with the longer chapters and I did read quite a few long ones. Hopefully I'll begin reviewing again soon, I have so many stories I want to read.   With work, animals, friends, the need for sleep, constant ADD, I have a pretty hectic life. Although it doesn't really feel like it. But some days it's really hard to make time to edit/write/post/etc. I'm super excited to be back though! Before I officially returned, I'd been popping in for a couple months now and lurking here and there. I never disabled my email notifications, so I still got those regularly, and I'd been wanting to get back into writing Sirrah and also have been thinking about a super secret Gryffindor/Slytherin friendship story I had started working on right before I went on hiatus, that I hope to continue and flesh out enough to maybe one day share it...  And then @RoxiMalfoy sought me out on snapchat and was telling me all about how the site was doing and all the exciting things coming up, and a couple days later I finally popped my head in the dungeons to say hi. Not long after, I was back for reals...    For May, my goals are to finish editing and posting Sirrah, to actually write something and maybe even post it , keep reading and leaving reviews (might lessen my goal to at least one a day),  to make one of those Writer's Journals (I've been putting it off until most of my stuff is posted), and yeah, to keep sticking around here. I'm super happy to see I'm not the only one who has returned recently, so many familiar names are popping up again!     




April Wrap-up

Hello, friends! As some of you already know, two months ago I moved from Perth to Melbourne to study Creative Writing at university. Because Melbourne’s literary community is bigger than Perth’s, I pledged to become more involved – to read more, write more, to join a book club, attend workshops and events. I wanted to document these experiences, and I’m dragging you along with me  Read: ... yes, the Toothless tail fins are stars   THE DEATH CURE James Dashner (2011) I’m about to break one of the bookdragon commandments but… Ilikedthemoviemorethanthebook. There, I said it. I know I should separate them, but the movie just influenced my read so much. So concludes the Maze Runner trilogy, where there’s a lot of death and not a lot of cure. Thomas has survived the Maze. He survived the Scorch. But the poor kid can’t catch a break as W.I.C.K.E.D. continues to hunt him. The first two were good, I enjoyed reading them. But I wasn’t really satisfied after closing this book. I feel like I need to read the two prequels to grasp at a better understanding of W.I.C.K.E.D., and I will, because my thirst for knowledge is just too strong to ignore  I already knew the deaths, so none of them held much weight when I read them. It had more of an emotional punch seeing it on the big screen, rather than in my own head. Even Thomas’ reactions to the deaths – one in particular – felt repetitive and just didn’t move me. Like, at all. Sorry, guys. You know who you are. That being said, the book had me on the edge of my seat. The way everyone’s actions were manipulated was interesting, but confusing, and like Thomas, I doubted everything anyone said, but I guess that was the point. Anyway, the movies gave us this Thomas   REIGN OF THE FALLEN Sarah Glenn Marsh (2018) Okay, maybe not everybody, but when the protagonist is a necromancer, you have to expect a lot of dead guys. Odessa – also known as Sparrow because of her exceptional ability to navigate the Deadlands – has the charming job of raising the members of the royal Wylding family from the dead so they can continue to exist amongst the living. The catch? The dead must remain shrouded, or they turn into Shades: deadly monsters with an insatiable bloodlust. And someone is creating them on purpose. *le gasp* The story wasn’t as focused on the Shades as I thought, or the high adventure I expected. Really, a lot of it was Odessa’s journey of moving on after the loss of a loved one. It meant a lot of the story was slow moving, but not a drag to read. What I really loved was the story world. The kingdom of Karthia is terrified of change – the reason why dead kings continue to be raised so their reign never ends. And the idea of those with magic being determined by the colour of their eyes is really cool. It reflects the five faces of their god, and I would have loved to learn more about it, especially since it hints at powers unheard of. I think there’s a sequel in the works, so it might be more developed in the next book. There’s an incredibly diverse cast of characters in this book. Odessa is bisexual, there’s a couple of homosexual characters, and a number have dark skin. It also touches on addiction and substance abuse, and it all made for a fantastic young adult fantasy. THE HAZEL WOOD Melissa Albert (2018) A novel about dark fairy-tales and mysterious woods? Unfortunately, it didn't quite meet up to my expectations, but this was still a good read. It follows seventeen year old Alice who is constantly a source of bad luck. When her mother goes missing, Alice travels to the Hazel Wood, where her grandmother wrote the famous Tales from the Hinterland, and discovers her own story along the way. Alice is not a likeable character. I was pleasantly surprised by her at first, though. In a book about fairy-tales, enchanted woods, and a main character named Alice, I had the expectation of her being a sweet, unsuspecting heroine. Yeah,  no. She smokes, she swears, she has a tattoo. But as the story went on, this novelty wore off, and I felt very 'eh' about the audiobook, listening to find out what happens, rather than because I cared for Alice. She's angry (but this issue is important later in the story - and gives a whole new meaning to ice queen - but it didn’t make her any less mean) and I found her to be very self-centred and rude. Ah, but Ellery Finch; the boy who is dragged into Alice's rescue mission. He was so sweet and thank goodness he was in that book. I loved him. The Hinterland – the world where the fairy-tales are set – is amazing, and what really stood out for me. The fairy-tale characters are SCARY. Blood. Guts. No happy endings here. Don't read it to your children. The narration was a five out of five stars performance. There are two songs in the book, and one is a nursery rhyme, and they were so creepy. The dialogue was fantastic, she made it sound so natural and realistic. She had the perfect bratty teenager voice, and I mean that in a good way. The author is publishing the book of Tales from the Hinterland, so I’m excited to add that to my collection! WILD BEAUTY Anna-Marie McLemore (2017) For generations, the Nomeolvides women have tended to gardens of the La Pradera estate. They are gifted with the ability to grow beautiful flowers from their fingertips. They are also cursed. If they love someone too much, that person disappears. I thought I had decided on three stars from very early on. There’s too many female characters and not enough description, so they all kind of blurred into one. I couldn’t remember who was who.  I know I did. But now that I’ve finished, I’m gushing. This book was so good. It took about two-thirds of the book to get there, though. So, if you’re planning to read it, please stick with it. I can say with confidence that this book is amazing and beautiful. It includes multiculturalism and homosexual relationships, too. And the romance was SO sweet, the story SO sad but also so lovely. It's one of the best magical realism novels I've read (buuut nothing is going to knock the Raven Boys from their pedestal ) and I can't wait to read another of the author's novels.  Side note: The main characters’ names follow the alphabet: Azalea, Bay, Calla, Dalia, Estrella, Fel, Gloria. It’s not relevant to the story in any way, I just thought it was cool  FANGIRL Rainbow Rowell (2013) Cath is my spirit animal. Cath and her twin sister, Wren, do everything together until they move to college and Wren doesn’t want to share a room. She wants to experience college life, and all Cath wants to do is write Simon Snow fanfiction. I can relate to Cath SO MUCH. Her shyness used to be me (hard to believe, I know ) I also saw a lot of my relationship with my own sister in Cath and Wren. I’m the one staying home to write fanfiction and my sister is the one who goes to parties. So I felt their relationship was well written and realistic. The budding romance between Cath and The Boy was just so cute and even gave me butterflies at times. All the characters are fantastic. They felt real and flawed and unique. Simon Snow sounds like a cool idea for a story, but if the excerpts of Cath’s fanfiction went on for too long I grew bored and skipped it. I wondered for a while whether to pick up Carry On and eventually decided against it. I loved this book, but I can’t give it higher than three stars. It was a light, fun read. THE ASTONISHING COLOUR OF AFTER Emily X.R. Pan (2018) This was the YA Room Melbourne’s April book. It’s something I probably wouldn’t have picked up, and I am so glad I did. The book meet was on the 29th and it was so good to talk about it, even if it did get a little emotional at times. When Leigh’s mother commits suicide, she turns into a large red bird. Seeking answers, Leigh follows the bird to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents, and she uncovers a whole lotta family secrets along the way. It was a beautiful story told non-linearly, but it works. I loved the glimpses of Taiwanese culture. It was rich with description. Leigh is an artist and thinks in colour (and I learnt a lot of new colour names.) She and her best friend, Axel, communicating their feelings by asking the other, ‘What colour?’ and it was gorgeous. Throughout the flashbacks, Leigh’s dad tries to convince her to study something more ‘worthwhile’ than art, and that’s something I could really relate to. I’m going to leave you with two of my favourite quotes so that they might encourage you to pick up this book: RED QUEEN Victoria Aveyard (2015) Mare Barrow lives in a world separated by blood. Those with silver blood are the royal and elite, boasting supernatural powers. Those with red are forced to serve them, living in poverty and forced to fight in wars. Mare finds work in the Silver Palace where she discovers her red blood also boasts a power. I really enjoyed this audiobook. It was a good fantasy novel, but nothing special. I felt like everything had been done before. There was a lot of focus on Mare’s relationships between the two princes, Cal and Maven, but there was enough action in there to balance it out. The book reminded me of The Hunger Games, especially with the revolution and underground hideouts. The narrator had a nice voice but she didn’t change it for each character, or lower her voice for the males, so I was often confused by who was speaking, and whether Mare was speaking aloud or it was her internal monologue. I’m definitely going to finish the series, but I’m going to get a few novels out the way before I do. Wrote: 2nd - Won first place in the Greenleaf Blossoms Kids & YA Writing Competition for the first chapter of an unpublished children’s or YA novel (Hartwood Academy) 7th - Booked an editor for Hartwood Academy - the first novel in my young adult fantasy trilogy. Magic! Sentient swords! Ghosts! Lost kings! Curses!  8th - Entered the Australian Writers Centre's Furious Fiction. The criteria was: Must be titled The Elephant in the Room, must feature the words emerged, busted, and key, must end with the clock struck four. 15th - Entered the Underdog anthology and entered the Monash University Creative Writing Prize. 26th - Submitted to Beneath Ceaseless Skies 30th - Entered the Bath Novel Award Other: - My grandmother’s clock only struck TWO HUNDRED AND NINETEEN times at eleven o’clock early in the month. Last night, it chimed for nearly fifteen minutes before I Googled how to wind a clock. She seriously needs to fix that thing. - Ate a family-sized packet of Maltesers by myself in 2 minutes 53 seconds - Reached level 9 of Hogwarts Mystery  That's all for now! May your May (heh) be filled with written worlds!   

12 months of positivity - April

Another month has passed (not that I mind, great things waiting ahead ) and you know what that means by now... I'm getting very bad at this, btw, but I still hope you'll enjoy!    APRIL 2018 3 - Jesus is risen, Easter and Easter Monday are gone (maybe a bit too quickly), going back to work is delirious and nothing seems to work, but... Spring has arrived, trips and weddings are getting closer, many projects are in the pipeline and I finally have some time for myself. And tonight I'm writing! 4 - Half day at work, I'm almost done with the teeth aligner, NaNo word count is still at 0 but I have at least answered the old MTA questions. And I got over with the chair thing... 5 - Il cielo di Lombardia, così bello quand'è bello... is it possible that Spring has finally come? And my novel has 300 new words, that I will delete because they are completely far-fetched, but at least I've overcome the block, right? 10 - Pretending to be a tourist, even if only for a few minutes. Walking singing along the street artists. And then crossing someone who's doing the exact same thing (then I'm not totally crazy...) Oh, I almost forgot the best part... Renee is coming to Italy this Summer!!! 12 - Maybe the day didn't go in the smoothest way possible, but... I've finally found inspiration to write! And now that Ophelia has a new scene all for herself I can go to bed satisfied. 14 - That joy of seeing two people you love getting emotional at the altar. Getting together with the Matematti and then dancing until you can't feel your feet anymore. And to close it all, an ice cream at the shore of the lake. A splendid day. 19 - Happy thought of the week, rather than the day, because constance is not my greatest virtue... Spring, meadows white and blue of daises and forget-me-not, the Duomo front lightened by the sun. 20 - When a bit of (healthy) foolishness in the office is justifiable because the week was long and it's finally Friday. Projects of beautiful surprises and fanfiction to keep company. And the weekend awaits. 23 - Reading, writing, dancing, enjoying a moment of quietness and solitude swinging on a swing (okay, that was yesterday...) 28 - Another movie marathon, another wonderful day with the Matematti. To the next time, my friends. Always the greatest pleasure. 30 - Hours spent in cheeriness with old friends and new, a bike ride, an unexpected review, the group of the Summer meetup growing. And maybe an idea for a new story, who knows...   Credits/translations/explainations: The chair thing... I suppose this needs background... I had this chair that was a bit unstable (has been that way for years). One day my aunt was home and my neighbour came to say hello and they decided that said chair needed fixing and asked another neighbour. All this without telling me anything (no, I didn't find it annoying or intrusive, why are you asking?) Anyway, this chair suddenly disappeared and then suddenly reappeared and then my aunts claimed that I should have gone to the neighbour who fixed it to ask him if I owed him any money. And well... first, I hate asking people if I owe them money (or viceversa, reminding people that they owe me money), I just find it extremely awkward. Second, it buggered me that I had to thank for a favour I didn't ever ask for (yes, I know, that's childish...) Anyway, I postponed it as much as I could, and the times I did try my neighbour wasn't home. Eventually I found him and thanked him and he was like, "Ah, don't mention it, let me know if you need anything else..." I didn't ask him if I owed him money, though...  (Long rant, sorry...) Il cielo di Lombardia, così bello quand'è bello (literally, The Lombardia sky, so beautiful when it's beautiful) is a quote from I Promessi Sposi by Alessandro Manzoni. Matematti: I already explained this in some previous post, this is the nickname of my group of uni friends, coming from the merging of the words matematici and matti, so basically it means crazy Mathematicians.   And that's all, folks! Hope you enjoyed, as usual, and I'll see you again in a month!