Literary Inspiration: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I Open at the Close Collage

Look who finally motivated herself enough to finish a book series the rest of the world put to bed over 10 years ago!  Yay, I’m (still not remotely) current!  Really, though, I’m thrilled beyond belief to have finally crossed the final book in the Harry Potter series, the Deathly Hallows, off my to-be-read list in service of the third prompt in my friends’ 2018 reading challenge.

I will please virtually no one with this statement, but like all of the Harry Potter novels, I found the Deathly Hallows to be a deathly slow slog.  If you ARE one of the 86 bajillion people who read the novel over a decade ago when it was first published (or watched the films, as they’re really quite close in terms of both tone and structure) you know that the final book in the series details Harry’s efforts to stop an increasingly desperate Voldemort from forcing his violent nationalist tendencies on a terrified, unwilling populace.  Sound like anyone we know?  Along the way Harry and his friends are tasked with locating, and then destroying, Voldemort’s Horcruxes, physical objects tagged with bits of the Dark Lord’s murderous, fractured soul.  Once they’re disposed of, he’s nothing more than a mortal man, vulnerable and open to attack.

I Open at the Close 2

It’s in the hunt for and subsequent eradication of the Horcruxes that the Deathly Hallows gets terribly bogged down, lingering for 300 some-odd pages on a locket already in Harry’s possession that defies all attempts at destruction.  This passage goes on forever – it is an interminable slog of Apparating and wind-swept moors and Apparating ONTO wind-swept moors.  In a 607-page book with multiple major character deaths (spoiler: arguably THE major character’s (temporary) death) as well as three big battle sequences and a satisfying peek into the future, it’s a puzzling bit of pacing.  We’re in more than 450 pages before Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts to kick off the final, epic showdown between the Dark Lord and the Boy Who Lived.  The long, lackadaisical tease of those first 450 pages followed by just 150 pages of frantic fighting and exposition makes for a jarring contrast.  It’s also why it took me four months to read the Deathly Hallows – because I was deathly unmotivated to continue.

In hindsight, some days removed from finishing the book, I can see that the seemingly endless literary slog had a purpose.  Had Harry, Ron and Hermione’s six-month search played out with seamless ease – say, flashing by in a series of condensed vignettes – we may not have gotten a true sense of just how taxing, frustrating and arduous their journey really was.  As it stands, we were with them for every false start, every near miss, every fake lead, every betrayal and every heartbreak.  I don’t know if there was a better way of conveying the sort of despair that results from a long, protracted fight in which you must carry on despite enjoying no victories, but I do wish it hadn’t taken up quite so much of the book.

I Open at the Close 5

Things I did like?  Voldemort proving once and for all what a toothless wussy he really is.  Voldemort suffers from the same problem in my mind as Darth Vader – both are more legend and reputation than actual threat.  And I positively loved that his ultimate undoing was thinking himself beyond the need to do his research and double check every facet of his plan.  You’d think if you were a hideously malformed megalomaniac making a vicious grab for ultimate power you’d at least take the time to educate yourself, do your research and get your friggin’ ducks in order.  Still sound like anybody we know?

Other things I liked?  A naughty little “It’s not the size of the wand” joke Ron makes towards the beginning of the book.  Ron and Hermione finally acting on their sweet, slow burn of a romance.  The epilogue.  Neville, Defender of the Meek.  Everyone finally realizing just how awesome Luna really is.  A longer explanation – actually, any explanation – of Dumbledore’s tragic past.  Always.

Things I didn’t like: Dobby’s death.  And not because he died – I’m glad he did, I friggin’ hated that shrieky house elf.  I just thought given how touching his death is in the film (I cried, and well…see above) the source material might grant his passing more than a handful of paragraphs, and none of that “dying with his friends” tear-bait business either.  Fred’s death (one-half of the delightful twin duo, Rowling, are you freaking kidding me with this crap?  That’s the suckiest move you pulled in seven books.)  The fact that the Dursleys never got their comeuppance.  Don’t know about you, but I generally like to see child abusers get their virulent (and in this case occasionally levitating) just desserts.

Another thing I don’t particularly like?  This nail art, depicting the hidden message and final puzzle piece inscribed on Harry’s bequeathed Snitch, “I open at the close.”  My cursive writing is not great here.  I was going for elegant and refined, and it came off more big ‘n’ bubbly, my everyday writing style.  Although this manicure does look so pretty glittering almost magically under the midday sun.

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But by gosh am I glad to be done the Deathly Hallows, and indeed the entire Harry Potter series.  I never latched onto the novels, actually found Harry to be a snotty little know-it-all.  I far prefer Daniel Radcliffe’s film version of Harry – he’s a kinder, more thoughtful and reasoned young man than his literary counterpart.  But the world J.K. Rowling created, as reflected in the films and now various exhibits and attractions around the globe, is vivid, detailed and fully realized right from the very first page.  I think her knack for world-building is unparalleled, and I’ve always loved the Dickensian flair she takes in naming her characters.  I enjoyed the books, and particularly the Deathly Hallows, so much in that regard.  Ultimately, they were really enjoyable reads, and I’m glad to have finally finished the series so I can fully join the Harry Potter cultural zeitgeist.  All was well.

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Sudsy Fandom Fun

Fall Fandom Closeup

Or a Hobbit sandwich on Harry Potter bread. 😉

Here’s a cute trio of fandom-minded soaps from Dreaming Tree Soapworks inspired by the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies and books.  I nabbed these luscious, olive oil-infused soaps from The Rhinestone Housewife, who deal in Dreaming Tree Soapworks’ large collection of beautifully made, gorgeously themed soaps.  I picked up quite a few selections from their Halloween release; I’ll share those with you as we get a little closer to the haunting season.  But of the remainder, I just knew I had to try the fabulously foodie trio of LOTR’s Hobbiton Banana Bread paired with Harry Potter’s Butterbeer and Cauldron Cakes.

Of the three, I’ve only had a chance to try Cauldron Cakes.  On its site, The Rhinestone Housewife describes Cauldron Cakes as smelling like “Devils Food chocolate glazed cakes stuffed with buttercream toasted marshmallow filling.”  Which, holy lord, sounds just frickin’ amazing; can I get some right now?!  After using my bar of Cauldron Cakes for about a week or so now, I can’t say whether it smells like all those delicious things – I mainly get a rich, true chocolate scent, which is really quite scrumptious and pleasing; I ain’t gonna kick it out of the bath.

Fall Fandom Soaps

However, Cauldron Cakes – the dark brown bar – contains unrefined cocoa butter.  I’m going to assume that because the ingredient list does not include any sort of dye, the chocolate brown colour and gorgeous, true-to-life chocolate scent are coming from the unrefined cocoa butter.  And so I think because of its natural ingredients, Cauldron Cakes is not colourfast (if a bar of soap could be said to be such a thing.)  As such, its rich brown hue “runs” when wet; it suds up into a pale mocha hue and leaves rusty-looking water droplets all over your soap dish, counters and towels.  And like all bars of soap, it leaves bits of itself behind in the dish in between every use.  Gummy soap build-up is kind of gross; I submit it’s extra gross when your soap sheds oily shards of brown gunge with every pass, even if that gunge smells like sharp, slightly boozy chocolate.  It just looks like a wet log of poo sitting there in my soap dish, for real.  NOW I’m kicking it out of the bath.

I really hope the other two don’t succumb to Cauldron Cakes’ problem of too-much-hue, although neither Hobbiton Banana Bread (a slightly spiced and lightly fruity bakery blend) nor Butterbeer (fizzy cream soda) contain much pigment, so we shall see.  Fingers crossed, because they both smell so lovely, and overall, I just adore the consistency and formula of Dreaming Tree’s soaps; my skin feels so lovely and moisturized, without the need for additional lotion, and they suds up so satisfyingly.  I just wish those suds weren’t the colour of (wait for it, Jessica!) cat poo.

Fall Fandom Pumpkin

Night Blooming Jasmine

Night Blooming Jasmine

All will become clear in a few day’s time when I’ve completed the entire post, but these pretty floral nails featuring the delicate white blossoms of a night blooming jasmine were inspired by this bottle of jasmine-scented cologne I was sent from Demeter to tinker around with and report back on.  Tinker and report, I shall, but for now I just wanted to create some simple nail art showcasing these pretty little night owl flowers.

jasmine bottle

As a related aside, did you know that jasmine is a relative of nightshade?  It’s a whole plant family with dark reputations!  Kind of like the Malfoys and some of the female members of the Black family from Harry Potter if they photosynthesized.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Holos

Holo Potter HandHoly macaroni, these all-holo Harry Potter nails were a pain in the patronus! This manicure inspired by Hogwarts’ house colours just didn’t want to behave for me, whether it was colours that didn’t quite match up (Slytherin’s green is a dark jade hue; makes you wonder if the kids of Slytherin might have had sunnier dispositions had they been surrounded by a cheerier colour like this one) or the bit of nail art on my thumb – lopsided enough in the final analysis – that started out as Hogwarts’ crest and two botched attempts later became that lopsided H you see before you. This is actually the first Harry Potter manicure I’ve ever done, which is amazing given that I’ve been at this blogging and nail arting thing now for nearly two years, as well as the fact that I really quite like the Harry Potter series, books and movies both. So why the hesitation? Maybe my as-yet-undiscovered wizarding skills and senses were telling me that I was going to whiff it big time, so I’d better hold back? Sounds good to me. Another one – blessedly few, thankfully – to add to the Try Again pile.

I used a mess of holographic polishes in this manicure, because I really loved that title and couldn’t leave a perfectly good pun just laying there, and also because I’ve found that holos, so long as they have good opacity, are great for base work and nail art details alike – lots of built-in shadowing that adds a little something extra to your favourite manis. Here I used two Cirque polishes, golden Chyrsopoeia and green Panacea, two Enchanted Polishes, ruby red February 2015 and dark blue May 2015, Orly’s silver Mirrorball and Lilypad Lacquer’s black Rainbows in Space.Holo Potter Fingers

Half Moon Holo

Half Moon Holo BottleThis polish, Lac Attack’s APWBD from the Harry Potter collection, is beyond cool and so well themed to its character inspiration, Albus (Percival Wulfric Brian) Dumbledore. Between the little half moon glittery bits, which evoke the headmaster’s twinkling bifocals, to the almost celestial mix of soft, ethereal colours (I seem to recall Dumbledore swanning around Hogwarts in his favourite lavender robes), to its unexpected glow-in-the-dark finish (Dumbledore is nothing if not a man of surprises), this polish has the Headmaster of Hogwarts’ name allllll over it. Literally!

I’ve tried APWBD over white before with some success, and over a more thematically-appropriate silver and turquoise gradient with even more, but until now, never over black (or very, very dark navy, as the case may be.) Which is a shame, because even with the slightly hazy finish the glow-in-the-dark pigment imparts when layered over darker colours, it really makes the glitter pop, giving this mani a pretty, sparkling night sky kind of look that wouldn’t be the least bit out of place decorating the enchanted ceiling in Hogwarts’ famed Great Hall.Half Moon Holo Hand

Metallic Moon

Metallic Moon

It’s sort of a shame I had to cover up the metallic-on-metallic gradient under this glitter, Lac Attack’s APWBD, because gradients and I typically do not get on so well, and this one is unusually slammin’. I think it’s the doing of the base polish I used here, Essence’s Icy Princess, a wonderful-to-apply silver foil that seems to very nearly repel the polish sponged on top of it so you – and by you I mean me – can’t ruin your gradient by painting a giant globby bit straight into the middle of each nail like you – again, me – nearly ALWAYS do!

But cover it up, I did, with APWBD, a Harry Potter-inspired glitter topper from Lac Attack. It’s a beautiful polish whose sparkling glitters – silver and blue holo moons, purple squares and an assortment of rainbow holo bars and hexes – are set off by its lightly lime-tinted, glow in the dark base. It’s a super fun polish befitting both the Headmaster of Hogwarts (the APWBD stands for Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore) AND my first genuinely awesome gradient!

Glow Get ‘Em

Glow In The Dark

Hey, the 1980s called – it’s looking for its glow in the dark nail polish.  You seen it?  I’ve seen it, of course, because it’s currently all over my nails.  What can I say, I am perpetually drawn to the (glow in the) dark side where all the gimmicky, “I won’t possibly use this more than once” polishes live. 

Except these polishes, far from being flashy gimmicks, are actually really lovely, with super consistencies, beautiful colours, fun glitter and so much glow pigment, your nails will look lit from within for HOURS after a fresh illumination boost (try to remember this when you do your nails right before bed and then wake up, seconds from shrieking terrified nonsense at the tiny glowing oogie boogies that have disturbed your sleep.)

Here I’ve shown two new-to-me polishes, Lac Attack’s Harry Potter-inspired glitter bomb, APWBD (Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore) over top of Serum No. 5’s white cream, Pure Glow Getter.  I’ve been admiring Serum’s glow in the dark creams, shimmers and glitters for some time now, and their recently released spring collection seemed like a good place to begin what’s sure to become an unhealthy materialistic obsession.  In its native state, Pure Glow Getter isn’t really anything too special – a nice, easy to apply white cream that dries to a low sheen satin finish.  But turn off the lights, as Vanilla Ice would “rap,” and IT GLOWS!  My camera/photography skills have proven insufficient in capturing its opalescent glow, but trust me when I say it’s an incongruous combination of eye-searing brightness and subtle, only-visible-in-the-dark “texture” (it’s not textured at all, actually, but when it’s all lit up, it looks almost furry.)Pure Glow Getter LightPure Glow Getter Dark

And over top of Pure Glow Getter, of course, we have the aforementioned APWBD, a glow in the dark glitter topper packed with purple, blue, green and silver holographic glitter (squares, hexes, bars and, evoking the Headmaster of Hogwarts’ spectacles, tiny little holographic half moons.)  Unique, outstanding stuff – just like Mr. Dumbledore himself.APWBD LightAPWBD Dark