'You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.' ~ Paul Sweeney

Friday, May 29, 2015

The waiting is killing me!

As I await my ARC for The Invasion of the Tearling, I'm trying to find things to read. I have realized that during the very quick move from my little town to the big one, in my haste to get the hell out, I must have tossed some books.

I can hear your gasp of shock and disgust. Go ahead, hate me. I hate myself, if I have to be honest.

Here I had this whole stack of something like 32 books I was all set to read and now I can't find but one! I guess I'll have to read that, or barring any interest in the lone straggler, I'll have to resort to.... *gulp* my Kindle books.

Don't get me wrong, a story is a story, but I really HATE ebooks. I want to feel the pages in my hands. I want to smell them. Kindle feels so...cold. Impersonal. Like it's sex without the love. Not the best when you know what it could potentially be.

Oh well.

Let's hope the ARC arrives soon. I'm dying to find out what happens to Kelsea!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Queen of the Tearling

The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: Paperback edition April 2015

Available in: Paperback, Hardcover, and Kindle

Like any good book, you hear about it via word of mouth. I'd seen blogs, heard people talking about it, and finally I gave in, though I lacked any substantial reading time. We'd reviewed the book for MuggleNet but I'd yet to pull the trigger on a purchase. 

Luckily, a trip to London gave me plenty of the reading time I'd been lacking, so I hunted for the infamously eye-catching red paperback cover at Barnes and Noble in the airport and began reading before the plane had even taken off.

For the Harry Potter fans, you'll know the novel has already been optioned for a film which will star Emma Watson. For the non-Harry Potter fans, this is the medieval fantasy adventure story you've been waiting for!
"With the arrival of her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn is ascending to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling. Surrounded by enemies, including an evil sorceress possessed of dark magic, the young ruler stands little chance of success. But Kelsea possesses fearsome weapons of her own, including the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic. As an epic war draws near, Kelsea's quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny begins - a wonderous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend...if she can survive." - The Queen of the Tearling
There are so many things that I love about this story. The relationships between each character, the seemingly plain-girl self-awareness that Kelsea has when it's so obvious that she is anything but plain, the mystery surrounding the event referred to as the Crossing...it all adds up to a read that answers questions but leaves more questions looming.

And perhaps my favorite thing - this isn't your run-of-the-mill fairytale Disney princess. The strength of this character and her conviction is refreshing. Yet she, and the reader as we take this journey with her, have yet to fully realize the power she holds.

I feel lucky that I waited so long to have jumped on the Tearling bandwagon, as the release of sequel to the first novel in the series is only DAYS away, and hopefully I'll get some answers to my questions! Who is The Fetch? Why is the evil sorceress so evil, yet written almost sympathetically? What is the secret of the two sapphires? Can Kelsea save her people and bring an end to the horrors they've experienced?

Is it June 9th yet?

Check back for my next review of the sequel, The Invasion of the Tearling!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Spies like us: Harry Potter and the Art of Spying

Harry Potter and the Art of Spying
Author: Lynn Boughey and Peter Ernest
Published By: Wise Ink, Inc.
Publication Date: September 15, 2014

Available in: Paperback and Kindle
Art of Spying website and blog

I've had this book on my shelf for more than a year now, having received an ARC well before its publication date. I read it cover to cover a few months before attending LeakyCon in Orlando, Florida last August. At that time, MuggleNet was asked to review the book and give a quote for the publication. I jumped at the chance to get my hands on it and provided a quote to the authors, which you can see below:
Now, I'd meant to write a full review and post on Amazon but with the excitement of LeakyCon as my first real MuggleNet event since joining the team and being promoted to Source Editor, it kind of fell by the wayside. I'm about to rectify that!

My quote absolutely still holds true - what I love most about the Potter fandom is that we can really get our geek on. We re-read the books all the time, we watch the movies over and over, and when we get together as a group to discuss the series, theories and opinions and all the feels start flying around!

I consider myself to be a very intuitive person and think that I see (or in this case, READ) between the lines to what lies deep underneath. However, when it comes to Potter, the pensieve runs deeper. Just when you think you have it all sorted or you've discovered the hidden gems that Jo has laced throughout the series, someone else brings to your attention something you never thought of before.

That's what this book does. It marries the need to understand the Potter series on a deeper level with, as the title indicates, the art of spying.
"Although some Potterphiles consider Order of the Phoenix to be one of the lesser books in the series, we heartily disagree. This book is Harry's true coming-of-age story, alongside his best friends Hermione and Ron. With little to no help from the adults, the famous triad rebels against authority, organizes a subversive organization, and takes matters into its own hands! The fact that the kids must do this in secret allows them to develop important skills not only in magic, but in spy craft as well." - Art of Spying
Before this book, I'd never really thought of what Harry and his friends were doing in the series in quite those terms. What is supremely interesting to those addicted to Harry's journey and the world he inhabits is that there were so many things going on around Harry that affected him but that he just had zero clue about. He was completely new to the wizarding world and didn't understand the rules that governed it. We as readers had access to information he didn't, albeit sprinkled in what appeared to be a random sentence or paragraph that seemingly had no bearing to his journey.  Knowing what we know now, those bits of information were never random and never without purpose.

The authors, Lynn Boughey and Peter Earnest (the director of the International Spy Museum!!!), explore book five in the series - chapter by chapter, moment by moment, breaking down each one by reflecting on the action of the characters. They help us understand the various methods of gaining information, how that information informed the decision-making process, and revealed truths about each character and their motivations that we may not have seen at first glance.

Harry Potter and the Art of Spying is definitely worth the money as an addition to your Potter collection - you'll never look at the series the same way again!

You can check out the blog for the book, which I also happened to write a few guest posts for last December when Pottermore dropped clues and new information as a 12 Days of Christmas gift to fans!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Time to Commit!

It has been FOREVER since I have blogged here - life sometimes gets a little too busy to be able to get my thoughts down. 

However, after talking with some of my blogger and writing friends, I am going to once again try to make a monthly blog post, reviewing books, movies, or just talking about some of my favorite fandom things. First on my list is a review of Erika Johansen's "Queen of the Tearling", which I just finished and which Emma Watson is reportedly attached to for the film adaptation. I also just got offered an ARC of the sequel, which I am STOKED about. I can't wait until it arrives and you can bet I will review this one for you all as well!

Since I last posted in September, my life has changed a lot! I was very unhappy with my job and so therefore, most of my time was spent looking for another. I started a new position at a new-to-me company and have been busy learning the ropes. In addition to the new job, an opportunity to travel to London, England, came up unexpectedly and I had to raise funds for the trip, which took place in April. I won't go into the series of unfortunate travel experiences I had, but I will blog about my trip (once I actually got to London!) and include some pictures soon.

MuggleNet duties have kept me busy for the last two years and I love it! I write a special column for them once a week in the Casting News section, called Role Call. I also post news items for our journalists to write up and occasionally get to write some of them myself! In addition, I've taken on the added duty of our Giveaways (which we do a LOT of!). My role at MuggleNet has afforded me many wonderful experiences and perks, and they will have to pry the things I do out of my cold, dead hands if they ever try to take them from me.

Last, it is my goal to begin to write some fiction again. I've been saying this since August, when I graduated from college with my Bachelors degree, but have yet to really put it into action. I think I will dip my toes back into the Role Play scene over on GALS with my friends Bella and Misty, who have urged me in the last month to get my ass back in. Hopefully, this will lead to finding the joy in writing fiction again.

Wish me well on my journey to find the writer in me again and to bring that part of myself back to life. I look forward to revisiting my favorite characters and creating new ones, revamping old storylines and improving upon them. I hope you all enjoy what is to come.



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Are you brave enough to explore...A Murder Country?

A Murder Country
Author: Brandon Daily
Published by: Knox Robinson Publishing
Publication date: September 9, 2014 

Available in eBook format.

In this novel set in the late 19th century, the reader is taken on multiple journeys through the eyes of three very different men who each have their own agendas. From the zealous and violent Rider to the contemplative William to the innocent Josiah, the future for the three at the center of this tale all rest on one thing: the consequences of their choices, both past and present. 

"What is life but a series of meetins and greetins and farewells and goodbyes strung together by some higher callin unknown from ourselves? It all leads us to some eventual knowin of one another, I imagine. And only then can we really hope to understand ourselves. That’s what I think, at least. I’ve come to see that life is truly one choice after the other. And still I have been appointed the job of decidin what choices are right." 

Daily weaves an interesting and complex read with storylines that cross one another but never really let you see what is around the next corner. At times grim and gruesome, this story is not your typical feel-good read but rather a study in humanity in its many facets through the eyes of Daily’s characters and the world in which they live.

One man seeks to exact God’s justice, one seeks distance from his dark past while moving toward a peaceful future, and another seeks revenge against the one who took his family from him. Along the way, the men find that what they seek may not bring them the satisfaction, peace, or justice they desired.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Interview: Production Designer Michael Curry talks Diagon Alley

In the months leading up to the July 8 opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley, information about what the new area would look and feel like began to circulate. Those attending LeakyCon were already planning on making their way either before or after the convention to the new park and began eagerly searching for any information on what to expect. As a first-time LeakyCon attendee and having never visited Universal Orlando, I also joined the masses in researching the park and the wonders it would behold. In doing so, I came across a single sentence in a small article that caught my attention.

As if the Universal team hadn’t already included everything that should be in Diagon Alley, they were adding more interactive shows like those included in Hogsmeade. Rather than the “Triwizard Rally” or the “Frog Choir” shows currently running, Universal brought us not only Molly Weasley’s favorite songstress Celestina Warbeck but also a story from The Tales of Beedle the Bard: “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” brought to life by award-winning artist and production designer Michael Curry and his team. The reason this tiny tidbit had caught my eye in the first place is that Michael’s studio is located only minutes from my small hometown of St. Helens, Oregon, where he is well known and a bit of a celebrity.

I was lucky enough to see the show in Diagon Alley before speaking via telephone with Michael, who then invited me to tour his studio in Scappoose, Oregon. In this exclusive interview for MuggleNet, I was given an intimate look at how Michael got started as an artist, how he became involved with Diagon Alley, what his staff and family thought of the project, and what he thinks the future of Harry Potter holds for his company.

You can read my full interview and see pictures from Diagon Alley over at my other home, MuggleNet, and don't forget to check out my weekly posts in the Casting News section to find out what all the Harry Potter actors and crew are up to these days!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Movie Review: "After the Dark"

Starring Bonnie Wright and Freddie Stroma
Reviewed for MuggleNet.com

While the film has been marketed as an apocalyptic survival story, the apocalypse in question is really more of a manifestation of a subplot that will move to the forefront of the film towards the ending scenes. I also scanned more than ten reviews of the film to see if my reaction was on target with other viewers, but stunningly, I found myself in the minority. Is it strange that I actually enjoyed the movie? I don’t think so.

One could argue that because I’m a fan of the Harry Potter universe and all that inhabit it, I’m likely to support any project that happens to have employed one of the Potter stars. That’s simply not true – I hated The Haunted Airman with Robert Pattinson and couldn’t get behind that film at all no matter how much I tried.

The fact is that After the Dark is a smart film. The premise is interesting, posing questions of logic and emotion throughout three apocalyptic scenarios which are posited by the teacher of a philosophy class for seniors graduating from an international school in Jakarta. As you and I have never actually been through an apocalypse, we can’t say for sure how we would react, but writer/director John Huddles allows the viewer, along with the characters, to ponder how we might react given specific sets of factors to consider.

Let’s get past the shocking deaths of the poet Toby in two of the three scenarios. This is window dressing, something to distract you from the real plot twist that comes at the end. Graphic – yes. Attention getting – absolutely. They’ve played this portion in the trailers to pull you in. This story doesn’t belong to Toby. It belongs to someone else entirely.

The film starts with the idea that humans are flawed in both their logical and emotional decision-making abilities in life and death situations. What I found more poignant about this film beyond the marketed apocalyptic theme is the subtle undercurrent of the true reason for the given scenarios in the first place. I won’t ruin the movie for you by actually giving a summary that includes the twist – you need to see this film for yourself. What I will say is that Sophie Lowe as Petra and James D’Arcy as Eric give amazing performances in this film, allowing the finer nuances of their characters to fall into place just as they should and not a moment before. I wish there had been more of Bonnie Wright, but her character Georgina took the teacher to task a few times and allowed the Potter fan in me to see more of what this young actress is capable of. Lastly, I have to say, I never could get behind Cormac McLaggen as a character in either of the Potter books and films, and Freddie Stroma’s performance as Cormac made me dislike the character as much as I ever did. His role in After the Dark is completely the opposite of Cormac and shows a side of this actor I wasn’t aware of. Freddie is utterly charming in his role as Jack and provided most of the comic relief the film needed due to the heavier nature of the storyline.

In truth, the film is a bit of a mind-fuck, but one that can be thoroughly enjoyable if you allow yourself to go where the story goes rather than trying to stuff it into a specific categorical box. After the Dark is not what you’re expecting, but it is a film that will make you question everything.