As it may be clear from the fewer posts this year, I've struggled with writing lately. But, more recently, I've been reflecting on advice from Andrew Peterson that he so wisely dispensed in his new book, Adorning the Dark (it's amazing). He says to write what you know, write often, and write discerningly (i.e., about not too many things at once). He says many other things too, but those are a few that have stayed with me the past few weeks. In the everyday routine of things, what I probably write most often are prayers. So, thanks to Andrew's advice and a bit of inspiration from the wonderful book Every Moment Holy, and after plucking up some courage, I started writing some slightly more formal prayers that I hope to share here semi-regularly among other posts. This is what's been on my heart lately, and I'm compelled to write it. I hope you'll stay for it :)

A Prayer for Painful Partings from Friends 

Lord Jesus, eternal and faithful Friend, 
The sadness of parting from these I hold dear
Causes me today to reflect on the inherent wrongness
Of leavings, of separation, of severed ties.

As a triune God of constant fellowship within yourself,
You wisely made us human creatures to bear your image
In our need and desire for 
Love,
Friendship, 
Connection,
Understanding,
Affection,
Care,
And lasting fellowship. 

So, it is natural and right that my heart
Feels pain at parting from these I love.
It is expected that my soul would grieve
The physical separation from these dear friends.

You, O Lord, have made us for eternity,
And so this parting feels
Unnatural,
Unsatisfying,
Agonizing,
Disordered,
And viscerally wrong. 

And yet, since you have made us for eternity,
I can also still hope.

I praise you, Lord, for divinely allowing
Our stories here on earth to cross for a time,
I thank you for being glorified to bring me
Into friendship with these dear saints,
And I give you glory for how you will continue
To use them for your purposes as we part from one another.

In this new season, cause them to
Grow in knowledge of your will,
Serve others with gladness, and
Become ever more aware of the better country
For which you are preparing them.

And even as I grieve this parting, good Father,
Help me say goodbye
With the hope of that better country as my anchor,
Entrusting these friends to your care
And clinging to your promises of comfort. 

May I wait with hope for that better country,
Where goodbyes will be no more,
Fellowship will be ever constant and sweet,
And restlessness for home and family
Will at long last be quieted and perfectly fulfilled. 

Amen.

James P. Blaylock wrote, “A writer’s library is more than just a collection of books. It is also a piecemeal biography of that writer’s life.” This quote appeared in his essay “My Life in Books: A Meditation on the Writer’s Library.” If you know me, you know that books have always been important in my life. Reading has long been one of my favorite hobbies, pastimes, escapes, and leisure activities. So, recently, I’ve tried to step back and evaluate the books that influenced the different periods of my life and what they taught me. It was moving and enjoyable to look back and reflect on the books that felt most tied to various life stages, and thusly to what I was learning at the time, even subconsciously.

Age 7-8: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—Faith and Magic
This was one of the first books that captured my imagination. My second-grade teacher read it aloud to our class and the magic of Narnia thrilled me instantly. I was in that snowy wood with Lucy, I trembled before Aslan along with her and Susan and Peter, and I personally experienced the girls’ anguish and then joy as Aslan was sacrificed and miraculously resurrected. It’s the first book in my memory that made me feel a serious emotional connection to its characters, setting, and outcome. And even though I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it at the time, this story instructed my young mind in the gospel and the character of Christ in an accessible way. It was an early building block for my childlike faith and is still a reminder to me of how all good stories point us to the greatest story of all, Christ’s story of redemption.

Age 9-10: The Secret Garden—Suspense and Growing Up
I think my mom read this aloud to my sister and me when I was in third grade. The setting of the windswept Yorkshire moors with a secluded garden hidden somewhere on them captivated me instantly, and I rooted for Mary hard as she matured and became determined to solve the mysteries of Misselthwaite Manor. I think this was the first book that showed me the power of suspense in a story. I remember begging my mom to just read one more chapter, and even after she finished it, I reread it on my own and would sneak chapters under the covers after bedtime. It was also one of those early books that made me feel emotionally connected to characters. Mary and Colin are spoiled brats when the reader first meets them, but they grow up and learn to look outside themselves and to love others as the story progresses. And that growth occurs slowly as they work to make the garden bloom again. I loved it, even though I couldn’t have explained that parallel as a child. I just knew that these children could be better people, that they had to solve the mysteries around them, and that both of those things would benefit them and others in the story. And I was all there for it.

Preteen/Young Teenager: Anne of Green Gables—Imagination, Beauty, and Joy
Anne Shirley was perhaps my first legitimate fictional role model. From the moment I met her in the pages of L.M. Montgomery’s first book of the Anne series, I wanted to be more like Anne and to be frolicking across Prince Edward Island with her. I loved how wholeheartedly Anne loved people and poetry and beautiful things, regardless of how others often thought she was odd for her effusiveness. She was so full of joy and shared it constantly with the people around her. She also valued truly valuable things like family, friends, home, and beauty. Unbeknownst to me, Anne was teaching me to notice beautiful things, however small they might be, and to cherish the right things as she was learning to do the same throughout her story. I learned from Anne to look beyond the boundaries of my limited place in the world—to dream, to cultivate imagination, and to step into other worlds and perspectives often. These things were key to Anne’s growth and her development taught me the value of them.

Teenager: Pride and Prejudice—Love of Literature
Jane Austen took me by storm as a teenager and it all began with Pride and Prejudice. The movie, that is. I know, I know. I’m a book-is-always-better and book-first person too. But for whatever reason, I didn’t know much about Jane Austen when the movie was coming out, so I went to see it without realizing there was a famed novel behind it. And I was spellbound as I sat in the theater watching the drama of Elizabeth and Darcy unfold. The love story melted my tender 13-year-old heart, and those sweeping shots of the English countryside had me undone. I was entirely caught up in my own inner world for hours after that first viewing, and for many weeks following, all I wanted to do was watch the movie again and again. Months later, I read the book and devoured it, and I would go on to read it many more times throughout my teen and college years. Now, I’ve read all of Austen’s novels, have visited her house in England, and still name Pride and Prejudice as a favorite book. I look back on that period of getting to know Austen and Pride and Prejudice with gratitude and usually many smiles. Before, I had always loved reading, but I credit Austen with further honing my love for quality literature. I saw fairly quickly that both Elizabeth and Darcy had to grow and learn hard lessons before their happy ending, and even as a teenager, I appreciated that and understood that the audience could very well be learning similar truths alongside them. Now, I also receive great enjoyment from Austen’s wry humor and wit and love how groundbreaking her work was for her time period. I’m fairly certain that everything I’ve learned from her now plays a role in how I analyze everything I read. Thanks, Jane.
Young Adult: Poldark Series—Beautiful Prose and Complicated Narrative
I found Winston Graham’s Poldark novels through the recent BBC TV series. I was instantly intrigued by the story and quickly picked up the books after the first season aired. Once I started reading, I was amazed that I’d never heard of them before adulthood and have since savored every page. For me, the Poldark books strike a balance between highly emotional suspense and thoughtful beauty that makes me want to linger over every word. There are phenomenal action plots in them, but at their core, the stories are about relationships of every sort, the complexity of relationships, and how relationships change over many years. And Winston Graham’s narrative voice tells it all in truly stunning prose. There have been numerous times in my reading of these books that I’ve had to stop after reading a particular sentence or paragraph just to soak in the meaning and to marvel at how beautifully it was written. The first several books in the 12-volume series were some of the first books I read after college, and they reminded me of what I love about reading—well-written stories, emotionally resonant characters who change and grow, and engaging narrative—while also stretching me and challenging me in how I notice and appreciate word usage, descriptive narration, and even authorial plot choices. I’ve rarely encountered a book series that inspires such lively debate among readers as the Poldark series, and I’ve been challenged to analyze my opinions closely. I also came to this series when my love of British history and culture was firmly ingrained, and the 1780s setting on the wild Cornwall coast in Poldark has provided a truly delightful outlet for that to develop further.

Twenty-Something: Harry Potter Series; Surprised by Oxford—Comfort in Trial and Transition
I can imagine two possible reactions to this heading. One, did I really not read Harry Potter until I was in my twenties?! And two, what could Harry Potter and Surprised by Oxford possibly have in common? Both thoughts are valid :) But yes, I really did read Harry Potter for the first time at 24, and I’m actually glad of that. And to the other possible reaction, Harry Potter and Surprised by Oxford really don’t have much in common, except that both are set in the U.K., and both were used by God to be great comforts and reminders of His goodness and beauty during a difficult period of my life. I read both during a season of many frustrations, low-grade depression, uncertainty about the future, unemployment, and reorienting after one of my best friends had undergone cancer treatments.

All of this was during a period after college. For a while, I felt directionless and sad and stuck. Later, my move to DC was decided for several months out, so that promised a change, but in the interim, I was unemployed and still nervous about what the future held. Meanwhile, my close friend was trying to recover from chemo treatments, and even though she was mercifully cancer-free, I still felt on edge after having watched her battle the disease. It was during all of this that I read Surprised by Oxford and the Harry Potter series. The former is a quietly lyrical and poignant memoir of an English professor who slowly converted to Christianity during her post-graduate studies in Romantic Literature at Oxford. The latter is, of course, J.K. Rowling’s famed fantasy series about a boy wizard with a heavy responsibility.

These books hold deep meaning for me because of how they comforted and strengthened me during a difficult time. I relate strongly to Carolyn Weber, the author of Surprised by Oxford, because she loves literature and England. And what a beautiful story of redemption she tells as she recounts her journey to saving faith. I was reminded through her testimony that the Lord pursues his children persistently and intentionally. Carolyn was hard, cynical, distrusting, and self-reliant when she arrived at Oxford. But God met her where she was, and he came for her through the seemingly ordinary events of her studies and through the intellect that she came to Oxford in hopes of sharpening. He showed up in her conversations, friends, studies, and beloved books time and again, slowly softening her heart and drawing her to himself. I was moved, amused, wrung, challenged, and encouraged as I read of her gradual transformation.

Meanwhile, Rowling’s Harry Potter series struck chords of hope, childlike wonder, curiosity, joy, and love deep inside me. This series is marketed as children’s literature, and I can understand that to an extent, but I think it ultimately does somewhat of a disservice to these books that have just as much for adults as for children. Harry and his friends are children in the beginning, but they are forced to grow up quickly because of the evil that hunts them, and they wrestle with profound questions pertinent to all ages. The pages of this series are soaked in themes of good and evil, life and death, sacrificial love, unwavering friendship, and courage in deep darkness. Despite the fantastical setting, the characters feel as real and normal as your everyday friends, and, just like us, they, too, are trying to finish schoolwork, figure out friendships and romances, and face the bigger issues of their world bravely. This series became an escape and comfort for me during a trying time, but even since that period, the Harry Potter books have continued to affirm to me the power of imagination and good storytelling, and they have become solid, comforting reminders for me of how good ultimately triumphs over evil, of how love conquers death, and of the value of courage amidst great trial.


Books are not only a hobby or a pastime to me, but also memorials to lessons learned and periods of growth throughout different life stages. What have been the most impactful books for you as a child, teenager, or adult? I’d love to hear!
“Hot takes” are popular these days. Everyone feels the need to add their “thoughts” to whatever topic is trending. Personally, I often prefer talking about hot takes that involve fictional characters. Plus, I’ve noticed that fictional characters towards whom I feel very strongly are frequently controversial ones. I’ve shared my hot takes on a few of them here before, namely, Lady Mary Crawley and Elizabeth Poldark. Read and feel free to send me your rebuttals. Always happy to discuss. But now it’s time for what is perhaps my hottest of all literary hot takes, and that is that Severus Snape was a whiny, bitter, sadistic bully whose noble acts did not redeem him.
Photo Credit: Joe.Co.Uk

Yes, after multiple readings of the Harry Potter series, much thought, and heated discussions, I’m still a Snape hater. I’d venture that it’s natural for anyone to dislike him on a first reading of the series, but the revelations about his background in the final chapters shed new light on his decisions as a whole, which then changes many people’s minds about him. Not mine, however. If you love him, I promise you are still welcome here. I will just passionately disagree with you and hope you’ll at least honestly consider this side of the argument.

First, let me establish that I agree with Snape fans on certain points, but these same points are often used (wrongly, I think) as evidence that he was a good person at heart and the hero of the whole story. So, here are a few broad ideas that I often hear in Snape’s defense.

1. He was so courageous in his double agent work and sacrificed everything, eventually his life, to protect Harry and make sure he won.
To which I say: Yes! Absolutely! I freely admit that no one had a harder job than Snape. I have total respect for his work and recognize that he probably did more than anyone to ensure Harry’s safety and ultimate victory. Even in his final moments of life, despite his gruesomely painful manner of death, he did everything he could to make sure Harry had the information that would be crucial to defeating Voldemort. I don’t think anyone who reads the series can deny any of that.

2. He was mistreated when he was young, so his unpleasant personality makes sense. He had been bullied, and that often leads to becoming a bully, which explains a lot of his behavior.
Again, all true. Those facts are indisputable after even a surface-level reading of the books. Snape had a terrible childhood, was an awkward and nerdy kid who never received much compassion, and James and Sirius were horrible to him. I understand and agree that all of that heavily contributed to the sad and conflicted person Snape became.

3. He loved Lily so much that he was willing to protect her son at all costs, even though he’d been bitter enemies with James.
Once again, yes. Snape’s love for Lily Evans Potter was all-consuming and drove him all the way to his sad and terrible end. Her influence and memory caused him to never once waver in his mission, and that was a good thing.

I say all of that to establish that my opinion of Snape starts with much of the same groundwork from which others who love him also begin. There’s no question that he’s the most complex character in the series and the necessary linchpin in Harry’s ultimate triumph over Voldemort. I respect him a lot. However, I will never like him, and I do not think the revelations at the end of Deathly Hallows redeemed his abominable behavior that carried on for the large majority of the books. Said revelations explained quite a lot about Snape and his decisions, but they did not suddenly create a “Reason” for why he had been a truly awful person to Harry and others for the entire series. J.K. Rowling herself has said that Snape was a bully who loved the goodness he saw in Lily, but he never emulated that goodness personally. That’s a good snapshot of why I still take issue with Snape, despite his determined work for the right side in the end. I’ve done my best to flesh out my problems with him under three big headings. Yes, these sections are long, but there’s a lot to discuss, so consider yourself warned.

1. He enjoyed bullying and abusing children and just being mean to people
I’ve noticed that some fans respond to comments on Snape’s abuse of students by pointing out that Harry was no model student, that Harry broke rules, and Harry wasn’t that brave or worthy of admiration. And on and on. My reaction to this is simply, really? Yes, Harry was a rule-breaker and got lucky often (which he’d be the first to admit, by the way). But that’s honestly irrelevant to my view of Snape. How is it fair to discuss Snape by putting him and Harry on an equal plane? Snape was a teacher, in a position of authority, not Harry’s equal. Harry was also an 11-year-old child, so how do you square with Snape humiliating and berating Harry literally from his first day of school? Don’t start with how Snape’s famous first question to Harry was a veiled reference to Lily and his regret over the loss of her. I know, and I don’t care. Harry didn’t know that history, and at this point, Harry was also still trying to get his head around the fact that he was actually a wizard and had all these weird new wizard things to learn. He was just a kid who needed helpful teachers like every other kid there, and Snape was a jerk to embarrass him (and to blame him for Neville’s mistakes in that same first lesson!).
Photo Credit: Wallpaper Cave

But it didn’t stop with that first school day. Snape continued to use his position as a teacher to be cruel to students, and nothing excuses it. It was not an act, a bit of grumpiness, or a few ill effects of his sad childhood that were out of his control. From the very beginning, Snape purposely abused and humiliated his students, and sometimes adults too, and enjoyed it. A few incidents of proof for this include, but are not limited to, the following:

- Constantly taunting and insulting Harry in ways too numerous to count, including attacks on his character, his motivations, his academic ability, and people Harry loved.
- Perpetually insulting James from Prisoner of Azkaban and onward, often in tandem with punishing and/or mocking Harry. Zero excuse for mocking an orphan’s deceased father, dude, no matter who he had been to you.
- Trying to out Lupin’s werewolf identity first by stealth (assigning werewolf homework) and then by actually making it public, thus damaging Lupin’s chances of finding work again. And all when Lupin had been nothing but a respectful and grateful colleague.
- The fight in the Shrieking Shack at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban—Snape is truly the worst here. He raged and screamed at everyone, verbally expressed his desire to hand Sirius to the dementors, and outright refused to listen to Sirius and Lupin’s side of the story. And Sirius and Lupin were more than reasonable in this scene. Sirius may have looked daggers at him, but for a man who’d just spent 12 years in Azkaban, he handled the situation with decency, even saying he would come up to the castle as long as Ron brought his rat. But a vindictive, bitter Snape had no thought but to throw Sirius to the dementors, and he made clear he was above listening to the testimonies of stupid children like Harry, Ron, or Hermione.
-“I see no difference.” You’re a scumbag, Snape. That’s all.
- Reading Rita Skeeter’s bogus article about Harry and Hermione being in love out loud to the whole Potions class, playing it up and enjoying their humiliation.
- Often giving Harry zero marks for no reason or even after he’d seen Draco Malfoy mess up Harry’s work.
- Mocking Sirius when Sirius had to stay hidden in Grimmauld Place, which stoked Sirius’s restlessness and made him feel guilty while Snape was also making himself out to be a great adventurer and hero for the Order.
- He docked points from Harry after his arrival to Hogwarts with Tonks in Half-Blood Prince, gave Harry no chance to clean up even though something bad had clearly happened to him, and ridiculed Tonks’s change of Patronus here too. Then he mocked Sirius’s death as he and Harry walked to the castle. And Harry had been grieving for barely two months at this point.
- At the end of Half-Blood Prince, he gave Harry a detention that required tasks which threw James and Sirius’s deaths in Harry’s face, plus Snape verbally mocked their deaths in the process. Absolutely no excuse for this one, Severus. Harry was still grieving too.
- Couldn’t leave this list without bringing up Neville Longbottom. Neville was awkward and accident-prone, and Snape exploited this to an inhuman degree, making outright fun of Neville at every opportunity. He also attempted to poison Neville’s prized pet and even mocked him in front of other teachers. He bullied Neville relentlessly in Potions classes, making him dread the subject and in the process becoming Neville’s greatest fear. Again, absolutely no excuse for this. No child should ever have to cower in fear of a teacher, but Snape became Neville’s actual boggart.
Photo Credit: Wallpaper Cave

And on this note, I’d also point out that Snape is just a bad teacher in general. His favoritism towards the Slytherins angers most students, not just the Gryffindors, and even if there was a defense for that favoritism, the students he continually favors are not good students, academically or otherwise. Meanwhile, he constantly belittles Hermione for caring about schoolwork, including his own subject. Snape had ample tools and abilities to be an excellent teacher, but he simply chose not to be out of bitterness and spite. And this in turn had the potential to leave students unequipped for the future, which could have been detrimental to the cause he was ultimately fighting for. 

2. His love for Lily was selfish and obsessive 
But unrequited love! But his Patronus matched hers! But he loved her! Yes, I know. I think Snape’s love for Lily resonates with many fans because most of us know what it’s like to carry feelings for someone who doesn’t return them. But I really don’t understand the segment of fans who treat Snape like a pious martyr who lost the love of his life to a rich, arrogant cad. 

Because that is not what happened. The flashback in Order of the Phoenix gives us our first real-time glimpse of the Marauders at Hogwarts, and it reveals that James Potter was an insufferable show-off who viciously bullied an awkward teenage Snape. Lily comes to Snape’s defense, clearly disgusted by James’s behavior, but Snape thanks her by throwing “Mudblood” in her face. A justifiably angered Lily storms away, seeming to write off Snape. But she has some choice words for James before she leaves (i.e., “You make me sick!”). Once this flashback fades, we still only know that Lily and James somehow ended up married, and even Harry wonders how. There’s little given in the books to show us the process of it, but there’s certainly enough to know that James did not stay a jerk and that Lily did not marry him just to spite Snape. Nor did James conspire to steal her away from Snape as a final win over him. Sirius and Lupin tell Harry that James and Lily started dating in their final year at Hogwarts, which would have given James a few years to mature and Lily a few years to notice that. Sirius explains it succinctly when he says, “A lot of people are idiots at fifteen! He grew out of it!” I think we all can relate to that, surely. So, give adult James a break, guys. 

The next big information dump comes at the end of Deathly Hallows, where we learn that Lily and Snape were actually childhood friends and Snape had deep feelings for her almost from the day they met. But friction began arising between them when Snape started dabbling in the Dark Arts a few years into their Hogwarts studies. Lily was highly uncomfortable with this and clearly expressed it to Snape, and she also began realizing the depth of his prejudice against muggle-borns and half-bloods. The day he called her a Mudblood appears to be the final straw and is also the day that Lily tells Snape he’s too far gone for them to remain friends: 

“It’s too late. I’ve made excuses for you for years. None of my friends can understand why I even talk to you. You and your precious little Death Eater friends – you see, you don’t even deny it! You don’t even deny that’s what you’re all aiming to be…I can’t pretend anymore. You’ve chosen your way, I’ve chosen mine.” (Deathly Hallows, p. 676) 

And they do go those separate ways. Lily concentrated on her studies and other friends and eventually married James, and Snape buried himself deeper in the Dark Arts and joined Voldemort. It stands to reason that Lily and Snape had little interaction after that night that Lily broke rank. So for those who stubbornly “ship” them, note that there were a few years between that fateful evening and the first war with Voldemort, and Lily and Snape likely had no real communication during those years. What’s more, Lily never showed any sign of romantic feelings towards Snape before their falling-out, and there’s certainly no indication that Lily would have come to love Snape, even if James had been a non-factor later. She walked away from Snape because she fundamentally disagreed with his life choices, not because of anything to do with James.
Photo Credit: Pottermore

But Snape continued to carry a torch for Lily. I think many fans stop there because at first blush, it does seem terribly romantic and tragic. But I’d argue that it’s not. Given their falling-out, Snape’s continued feelings for Lily were built mainly on childhood memories, watching her from a distance, and long-held bitterness towards James. And more importantly, his feelings did not motivate him to change. I do believe Snape loved Lily. He eventually died to save Harry and the wizarding world because of her. But I also think that in the more everyday ways, his love for her was a selfish obsession, was not founded in reality, and did not prompt him to consider what was best for her while she was still alive. His feelings did not prompt him to try to make amends with her and James, to think twice about his life’s direction, to move on and love someone else later with a better attitude, or to think about what was important to Lily. And most glaringly, his feelings didn’t stop him from becoming a Death Eater and later giving Voldemort the prophecy about Harry, and he only backtracked enough to try to save Lily. He was still totally fine with letting James and Harry die, even though they would have been the people who mattered most to Lily. That’s not love, guys. It’s the opposite, in fact. Real love starts with prioritizing the well-being and happiness of the one you claim to love. And that’s the test that James clearly passed, because he died facing Voldemort in an attempt to protect Lily and Harry. That should be ample proof that he loved Lily deeply and grew into a good and honorable man. As for Snape, his obsession with Lily kept him from going completely over to Voldemort’s side, and thank goodness for that. It’s just too bad that it took her death for him to realize how far he had already gone, and it’s really too bad that he didn’t try to be a generally better person after her death, despite his new commitment to fight for Dumbledore’s side from then on. 

3. He held onto his bitterness and grudges and took it out on innocent parties 
Which brings us to this final point. This is probably what I find most unforgivable about Snape – he’s whiny. He’s eternally angry and heartbroken when it comes to Lily, James, Sirius, and Lupin. To Snape, Lily is forever the one he loved but who married his enemy, and Sirius and Lupin are complicit. And Harry is nothing but the physical reminder of all that to him. My reaction: grow up. Now that I approach the books with Snape’s full backstory in mind whenever I re-read them, I find his behavior not only infuriating and unjust, but incredibly annoying and tiresome. He’s completely eaten up with bitterness and refuses to man up about past disappointment, and I do not find it reminiscent of a longsuffering martyr or a tragic Byronic hero. I find it exasperating and childish.

Because, all things considered, Harry’s arrival at Hogwarts was the ideal opportunity for Snape to do right by Lily and set his past to rest by treating her son with respect. If his love for Lily was so strong, wouldn’t he have wanted to honor her memory by honoring her son? Plus, it would’ve made particular sense for Snape to grasp this since, like Snape, Harry came to Hogwarts from an abusive and neglectful home. But Snape chose to see only young James in Harry, and he purposely used every opportunity to take that old grudge out on Harry. There’s just no excuse for this. Sure, Harry strongly resembled James and had a bit of the same bravado, but Harry was also a child who had no knowledge of his family history, let alone Snape’s history. And if a grown man cannot separate a child from a past quarrel with that child’s father, that strongly suggests a need for a little more maturity and self-examination.
Photo Credit: Nicholas Kaufmann

What’s more, Snape’s refusal to let go of that quarrel with James (and Sirius and Lupin, by association) smacks of selfishness and immaturity on its own, especially since James and Harry came out of the first war with Voldemort far worse than he did. Snape and James may have been schoolboy enemies, but the war killed James and orphaned Harry, so stop moaning, Severus. James made the right choices a lot sooner than you did, and he died while courageously defending his wife and child. It’s pretty terrible form to only remember how James was mean to you all those years ago and then try to make his innocent orphan son pay for it by being even meaner to him, even if you are protecting said son in the background the whole time. In short, you have nothing to whine about. Lily loved Harry too, by the way, which should have been more than enough reason for you to be decent to him, no matter what he looked or acted like.

In sum, is it understandable that Snape feels the way he does? Yes. He made the wrong choices and it cost him dearly. But is it acceptable that he responds to his feelings and mistakes by constantly hurting other people who were no party to his demons? No, it is not. Severus Snape made his bed, and to his credit, he did lie in it in the end because he knew he had to. I respect him for that, but the hurt he caused other people in the process was inexcusable, and that’s why I will never like him.
I recently had the honor of writing a review of the film adaptation of a frequently mentioned favorite book, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, for the online magazine Salt & Iron. I hope you enjoy! 
"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" (2018) (Photo Credit: Vintagemadchen)

“If books do have the power to bring people together, maybe this one will work its magic.” 

This sentiment is at the core of the recent film adaptation of Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’s charming novel, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. In this story, books establish romances, unlikely friendships, and new life directions.

The film’s heroine, London-based author Juliet Ashton, finds comfort in books and her writing career in the wake of World War II. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, a group of friends on the island of Guernsey takes comfort from their weekly book club, which had become their saving grace when Nazis took over their island during the war. The club members have dubbed themselves “the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” in reference to their love of literature and to a pie made from potatoes and potato peels, which they ate at their first meeting. Food scarcity during the war made real desserts scarce, but they found humor in it when they faced it together at their meetings.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society opens in the aftermath of the war and focuses on Juliet Ashton’s unlikely friendship with these book club members on Guernsey. Those relationships, which grow from perseverance during hardship and a common love for books, are the lifeblood of this screen adaptation and do excellent justice to the original novel.

As a devoted fan of the book, I approached the movie with cautious optimism and was pleased overall with the result. Though the film structures the story differently than it is presented in the book, the movie retained the joyful spirit of its source material and stayed true to the book’s themes of friendship, love for reading, and the power of books to enrich the lives of individuals and communities.

Continue reading here.

Happy spring, readers! At least, it’s spring where I am and I’m loving it for as long as it’ll stay. Spring is one of those seasons that reawakens me to the beauty of the world and encourages me to find joy in things that may seem small, but when I take time for them, they add a little more beauty, calm, and happiness to my days.

I’ve also been thinking more about the general concept of beauty in the wake of the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. I’ve never been to Paris and I’m not Catholic, but I still felt weighty sadness as I watched the videos of the cathedral’s spire collapsing. The images of the damage are a bit haunting to me. I feel sad to think of the beauty and art that’s been lost in that fire. And I think that’s a good thing. Notre Dame has stood for more than 850 years and represents faith and resilience to many people. Its walls have witnessed the prayers, baptisms, marriages, and celebrations of millions through the years. Its bells have called people to worship for centuries and have signaled the end of world wars. I believe it is right to recognize that much has been lost in the fire and to grieve for it. In fact, the outpouring of solidarity and sadness has given me some hope – hope that we are still awake and sensitive to truly valuable and beautiful things. My prayer is that more people will realize that beauty in this world is meant to point us to the most beautiful One of all, the Giver of all true beauty. 

Photo Credit: www.historicalwallpapers.blogspot.com

In light of that, I’ve been trying to recognize the beauty around me, big and small. I’m fortunate to live in a city full of historic monuments, and this past week was a reminder not to take them for granted. I also believe in finding beauty in the small things, so I wanted to share a few of them with you.

Walking
Walking clears my head, gets me away from the neverending distractions of working on a computer all day, and gives me time with my current audiobook! I’ll take more reading time in any form. And in spring weather, a walk outside is truly good for the soul. Where I am, flowers are everywhere, and the sun is bright and warming without being oppressive yet. Can it stay?

Candles
I’ve always liked candles, but it’s only recently that I’ve realized how happy they make me when I really use them. Sure, they look pretty when they sit on a shelf, but the glow and scent when they’re burning have become some of my favorite things. I now try to light one every morning as I’m eating breakfast and reading. It’s now a part of my routine that’s truly soothing and helps me relax when I’m tempted to rush or stress. And since I can’t ever have enough literary references, I’ve gone literary even with my candles – thanks to Scent Pop Candles, my house smells amazing and I now have the occasional daydream of quitting everything and inventing scents for every fictional character and quote I’ve ever liked. Anyone with me?

Piano Music
Simple piano tunes have been doing wonders for my peace of mind lately. Whether I’m working, doing my makeup in the morning, or eating breakfast, a calming bit of piano in the background helps me slow down, focus, and be present. It also sets a great mood for leisure activities, like reading or a cup of afternoon tea. Speaking of which…

Tea
“what she says: would you like to have tea?
“what she means: would you like to share a moment of peace and quietude with me? Participate together in a ritual of sanity in a world of disorder? Defy the indignity of the modern world? Also, I have biscuits.”

This was recently tweeted by my favorite online presence at the moment, the inimitable Joy Clarkson. As it turns out, she also did a whole podcast on tea, which I highly encourage you to enjoy here. I agree with every sentiment Joy expresses about a good cup of tea – it’s more than just a nice drink that posh people made popular a few centuries ago. Slowly and surely, tea has become pretty meaningful to me over the years.

Shoutout to my dear friend Jolie for knowing how to lay a tea. I'm catching up slowly.

Unlike many from the deep south, I did not grow up with sweet tea, so my first real exposure to tea was during a trip to Ireland in high school. Thanks to Joy’s podcast, I now know that Ireland outranks every other country for most cups of tea per person in a day. I can easily believe that, because during my trip, it quickly became apparent that I wouldn’t be drinking much of anything while in Ireland if I didn’t drink tea. Soon, I loved the ritual and communal aspect of it. Lingering after an evening meal over a cup of tea and stopping at various times throughout the day to enjoy tea and biscuits (or cookies if you’re American ;)) encourages you to slow down and breathe and take pleasure in your surroundings and current company. I’ve learned to appreciate these aspects of tea even more as an adult and think most people would do well to learn from it. I honestly believe that cultures that value tea are far more patient than others because tea is a ritual that requires time – you have to wait for the water to boil, wait for the tea to steep, take time to add your milk and sugar, and sip slowly so it doesn’t scald your mouth. Enjoy it all, friends!

That said, I’ve learned to enjoy the process of tea preparation and the time it takes to drink tea. My recent travels to England have endeared it to me all the more since the British obviously take it so seriously. I had several pretty grand teatimes between my two trips, and I’ve also been inspired to try more flavors and experiment with loose leaf. All that to say, anyone for tea? I’ve got peach, Royal Blend, Earl Grey, Wedding Breakfast, English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, and there can only ever be more to try.

Have a beauty-filled week, friends. I'd love to hear about what helps you notice the beauty in your days too.