Celebrating Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is already out as a well acclaimed play in London. It’s doing well enough that I kind of wish I hadn’t used my budgeted theater ticket black magic summoning to get Hamilton tickets. I mean, I would technically have to summon both plane tickets to London and a ticket to see the play, and that is really out of my black magic budget. Instead, I’ve been gazing from afar with the internet, looking at every article and collection of photographs I can find. It’s a rather sad and lonely way to celebrate something I love so much.

Luckily for me and everyone else unable to see the play in London, there’s another way to celebrate. Once again, books come to the rescue. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child‘s script will be published and released as what you could technically call the 8th Harry Potter book. I never thought this was a chance I’d get to see again, a chance to celebrate another Harry Potter book. I was pretty young when most of the other books came out, so going to midnight release parties or planning elaborate celebrations was pretty much out of the question. This is a new chance for me.

At the same time, we are celebrating the release of a script here, not a traditional novel, so in some ways, this could make for a different experience when  compared to Potter parties past. With a play script, I thought maybe a dramatic table read, (costumes/wardrobes optional,) would be an interesting twist to the celebrations, but really I know we’d all be too busy balling our eyes out to get through reading the script out loud, based on what reviewers say. We might just need some quiet time to read the script through teary eyes before doing any table read parties.

There’s still plenty of other ways you could celebrate Cursed Child though. You could break out the Butter Beer, Bertie Bott’s beans and other magical sweet treats. I always appreciate an excuse for that. You could try out a number of different Harry Potter crafts you’ve been eyeing on Pinterest or Buzzfeed. I’ve got a few favorites, including a DIY wand craft that gave me a pretty convincing wand with just some hot glue, a chopstick and some paint. There are some pretty cool bookmark designs I’m interested in trying out too.

If you’re too lazy to plan out and organize your own party, that’s okay. There’s more than enough celebrations you can attend. I’m mainly thinking of bookstores here. Many of them are doing midnight release parties. I found myself a list of bookstores celebrating the occasion in the Chicago area. My beloved Anderson’s Books was on the list, of course.

Really, there are just so many ways I could celebrate Harry Potter and the Cursed Child that I don’t think I can fit all of it into just one day. I may just have to let myself have a multi-day Potter festival. Even then, I’ll probably have enough passion left over that I may have to just wait and hope for another Harry Potter book to come out. Sigh. The life of a book nerd is a harrowing one indeed. Still, I’ll definitely be enjoying my Harry Potter festival while it’s here. I hope you get the chance to do the same and celebrate yet another chance to step into Rowling’s wizarding world.

Pokemon Go is These Three Books

Hey everyone. According to some people, I might have a Pokemon Go “problem.” I mean, sure, it’s strange that when it came to thinking of a topic for this week’s post, all I could think of were books that remind me of Pokemon Go. Also, I may have walked ten kilometers the other day to hatch what turned out to be just another stupid Caterpie, but I assure you this game has not effected my mental health at all. My feet have some nasty blisters and I threw my phone across the street the other day because I another freakin’ Pidgey popped up, but I’m fine.

Playing Pokemon Go is just a truly a unique experience. Doubters just don’t understand how immersive it is. There’s not many other games like it, especially not with this level of popularity. A very interesting culture has started to form around the game, one that makes me feel like I’m living more in an intense sci-fi action novel than in real life. The more I think about it, the more I feel like playing Pokemon Go is like living in a mixture of these three specific books, or book series, which some of them are.

Little Brother and Homeland by Cory Doctorow: These books are all about spunky teenagers taking on the whole country with technical savvy and owning it, despite all the overbearing and derisive authoritarian adults. Okay, so technically these protagonists deal with way higher stakes than catching Pokemon and taking over gyms. I call these books Mr. Robot Jr. sometimes, because teenage tech nerds are dealing with heavily political issues, like Patriot Act paranoia and those “We are the 99%” protest days.

So playing Pokemon Go doesn’t exactly seem to be on the same level as being an Anonymous-esque social justice hacker, but the game is definitely a tech-driven sub-culture, and one that feels like the most intense thriller when you get into it. Maybe powering up my Jigglypuff won’t actually help me topple any corrupt government officials, but it sure as heck feels that way.

The Hunger Games: Okay, so I don’t live in an area densely populated enough for there to be some serious warfare over gyms and stuff, but I’ve heard enough rumors that I really feel like Pokemon Go was designed to get younger people to fight to the death in an urban dystopia. Dividing people up with a basically arbitrary team system is the first step. Next thing you’ll find gyms and Pokestops booby trapped with flying spikes and arrows, certain parts of towns and cities get isolated as arena-like areas and there you go we live in the Hunger Games world now. I can see it coming.

Maybe Divergent is the more apt dystopian YA series to compare this with because of it’s emphasis on factions, but I get too much of a “death games” vibe off of this Pokemon Go stuff for me to to say anything but Hunger Games.

Ender’s Game: I could name a great deal of YA books that have a similar premises, Read Player One, For the Win, etc. but this one is their grandfather and has a twist that I fear will soon come to pass in Pokemon Go in some horrific way. I mean, a huge part of the game is making it look like you’re catching pokemon in real life. I’ve “transferred” too many to excess Pidgeys away for candy to not wonder if I’m somehow actually murdering them. That strange guilt is naturally intensifying to the point that I’m actually worried I could be murdering real birds for candy in some  way. As much as I hate them, no bird deserves genocide, not even when they evolve into a bigger bird with Donald Trump hair.

Pokemon Go is truly a unique game that makes me feel like I’m living in several of my favorite sci-fi books, in the best and worst ways possible. I could go on, but my phone’s saying there’s a Eevee nearby. I gotta run!

A Week for Horror

So Ghostbusters is out and it is apparently not brilliant but better than the many angry trolls spamming the trailer’s dislike button on Youtube would have you believe. Also, we have the truly terrifying Lights Out coming out soon as well, on the 22nd. Then there’s The Shallows, which I suppose counts as a horror movie, although from the reports I’ve heard it’s more of a flimsy excuse for people to ogle Blake Lively in a swimsuit for an hour and a half. This just seems like a week for ghosts and horror in movies. You know who does horror even better, though? Books. Books always do it better, of course, but I suppose it bares repeating.

I always loved ghost stories, even when I was younger and absolutely convinced ghosts were real and terrifying. Because of this fixation, I’ve got loads of horror books I can recommend, but out of respect for movie buffs, I’m going to choose a nice chilling read that also has pictures in it, lots of pictures. I’m talking about a graphic novel, of course, and that graphic novel is Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. Technically, this graphic novel is a collection of short stories, a graphic anthology really. Whatever you call it though, the stories are all singularly terrifying.

Emily Carroll is a truly chilling, visionary illustrator, with beautiful work you can check out on her website. Her book,Through the Woods contains several original stories not available on her website, except for fan favorite “His Face All Red.” Looking at her work online is a good way to get a feel for what Carroll excels at. She makes beautiful illustrations and tells stories with ethereal, fairy tale-like elements, but I wouldn’t call this a picture book for the kiddies, unless you’re looking to mess up your children a bit. There’s monsters, mutilated corpses, and murder, the three m’s of “Okay honey let’s read something else before bed” every parent should know.

The whole book is a masterful exercise in pairing words and pictures on the page for the perfect effect. Depending on the point in the story, that can range from subtle eeriness to icy terror. She uses brilliant colors, flowing page layout, and even unique lettering to create a very powerful, cohesive atmosphere. I often find myself just going back and looking at the art, ignoring the story completely, and still getting the chills so fast. That’s not to say Carroll’s story telling skills aren’t brilliant, though.

The language and style of the stories are similar to the sort of folk and fairy tales I was told as a kid, which I felt added a sort of primal feeling to the anxiety and the fear, like it was something familiar from a time I almost couldn’t remember. That’s the power of horror told in a simple, folk tale-like manner. They remind you of a time when you were afraid of the dark, and the new horror whispers you were right all along.

That terrifying childhood connection is what reminds me of Ghostbusters when I read this book. Yeah, I know good old GB is supposed to be a comedy, but every single ghost in that movie terrified me when I was younger, with the possible exception of Slimer, the undead fat comic relief guy. Even then, that was one hungry ghost. He could’ve easily fit a child in his mouth. Can we verify he hasn’t eaten at least on kid? No. No we cannot. He’s just way too smiley. I’ve had a worse time watching movies my dad insisted were “just the coolest” and “totally appropriate for her age honey, I swear,” but there were still some scars from this one, no matter how funny Bill Murray was.

So, if this truly is just the week for horror like the theaters are saying it is, and you feel like checking out a book that’ll scare your pants off instead of a movie, I have to recommend Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods. You’ll be calling your parents to check under your bed after reading it for sure.

A Bookish Road Trip

If you’re reading this, I’m on a family vacation, a road trip through the American south. It’ll be one of those long road trips that can drive you mad with boredom if you don’t prepare plenty of things to do before hand. For me, that’s always taken the form of a hefty stack of books to read. You know I can always make one of those no problem, but I decided to create a more interesting project this year as well.

I’ll be travelling to several places throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. If I’m planning on going there physically, why not travel there in my books as well? I’ve selected three books, one that takes place in each planned destination, and have them all packed up for the road trip. I encourage you to try something similar if you are going somewhere this summer. Actually, even if you aren’t going anywhere, you could try this too. Create your own road trip without going farther than your local library and /or bookstore.

I didn’t want to make to make this endeavor to gimmicky, so I researched quite a bit first, looking to find quality works set in each destination. After quite a bit of deliberation, I picked these three books.

North Carolina- Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. This book takes place during the Civil War. It describes one Confederate soldier’s disillusionment with the war, a general depression that builds up after seeing horror after horror on the battle field and in the hospital. He is injured and then attempts to head back to his home, Cold Mountain.

The copy I got had the movie cover on it, which annoys me, because every time I go to pick it up, I see Nicole Kidman , Renee Zellweger and Jude Law staring at me intensely, with the actual Cold Mountain playing second fiddle to their steely Hollywood drama gazes. Actually, I can’t say I mind young  Jude Law’s steely gaze too much. Maybe I just expected him to be Matthew McConaughey. I guess Matt was to busy making How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days or something, and they thought Jude Law was a Southerner for some reason.

South Carolina- The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. This book describes the life of a slave, Hetty “Handful”, living in 19th century Charleston. It explores her relationships with the wealthy Grimke family, her owners, and especially Sarah, the family’s daughter. This historical fiction novel is based off the life of the real Sarah Grimke, noted early feminist and abolitionist. As  young girls, the characters feel the burden of the very different expectations they hold on each other’s shoulders, and we see how those burdens shape their lives.

As far as I know, they don’t invent wings or airplanes or anything. It’s just a metaphor about female empowerment or something, I think. Maybe  you can tell, I haven’t read any of these books yet, so I can only offer a very limited commentary on these guys. I did enjoy The Secret Life of Bees though, and generally respect Kidd as a writer, so I’m excited to find out what happens to Sarah and Handful even if they don’t end up being World War One flying aces.

Georgia- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. This one’s also been turned into a movie, and strangely enough I think this very film answers the question of why Cold Mountain Cast Jude Law as a Confederate Soldier. The even older movie adaptation of this book and allegedly true story has an incredibly young and skinny Jude Law playing a young, volatile handyman with a confederate flag tattooed on his arm. He gets murdered in the first act of the story and doesn’t get much screen time, but his accent must have been convincing enough that people in Hollywood figured that tattoo didn’t wash off after filming.

The book is a good old fashion murder mystery. Did old fancy rich guy really shoot Jude Law in cold blood? Why? It’s set in Savannah Georgia, so there’s a good helping of voodoo stirred in. This plus a number of other murder mystery archetypes makes this book veer a into cliched territory at times, even with it supposedly true story basis. However, an exploration of the murder suspect, racist Jude Law’s sexuality and a trans character that is depicted much more sensitively and humanely than 1990s values would’ve mandated make it an interesting story.

Those are the three books I’ll be on my literary road trip. I’m hoping I’ll enjoy them, and that I’ll enjoy this little project in general. It’s definitely something I’d like to make a tradition; give myself a road trip every summer, even when I can’t actually travel.

What are some book road trips you’d like to take? Let me know in the comments below.

Books for Your Dragons

Well,  it’s been almost a whole week since the season finale of Game of Thrones. Are you holding up alright? I could be better, I suppose. What are we supposed to do for our dragon fix during all these GOT free months? Lie around moaning in anguish? Sometimes, I feel like that’s my default response to a beloved show’s season ending. Really, though, it’s not a very practical one. This year, I’ve decided to jump off my fainting couch and do something about the sudden lack of dragons in my life. I’m going to find and train some dragons, using the knowledge I’ve gained from the best books I’ve read on the subject. If you guys are looking for a summer project, I recommend following in my footsteps.

Pick up a couple of dragons from, you know, wherever your local dragon breeding grounds are. I don’t need to insult your intelligence by describing how you should go about getting a real dragon, obviously. I’m off to get mine this Sunday during the hour long hole left in my schedule good old GOT.

Before you pick up your dragons though, pick up these books so you have some idea what to expect when you’re expecting to be a mother (or father) of dragons. These are the best I’ve selected from my own life-long research on subject.

The Dragons are Singing Tonight by Jack Prelutsky

This is one of the first texts on dragons I ever read. At first glance, it may appear to be a children’s book of poems about dragons, but you’d be wrong. It’s an amazing book of poems about dragons with beautiful illustrations, one I made my parents read to me again and again when I was younger. It has stories about all different sorts of dragons, from one dragon made out of spare parts by a bored kid to a nasty, nasty dragon that’s only a half inch tall. It is an excellent introductory text for people of all ages.

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

This series of volumes is exemplary for dragon caretakers as it depicts very carefully the life and work of several people that have lived with and trained a dragon from birth. I have mixed feelings about this series, because while I thought it was a pretty good fantasy read, the author supposedly started writing it when he was fourteen or fifteen years old. I was right around that age when I read those books, and had not even come close to getting a publishing deal for a giant fantasy series of my own invention, or writing one either. Still, they’re pretty good books, I guess. Sigh.

The Memoirs of Lady Trent Series by Marie Brennan

This is an interesting series, and a valuable one for future dragon trainers, as it attempts to get into the biology of dragons in a very interesting way. Lady Trent is a Charles Darwin figure of sorts in an alternate fantasy world very similar to our own Victorian era. She feels the current scientific understanding of dragons is woefully lacking and decides to travel the world, going on expeditions and making groundbreaking discoveries about many different species of dragons. It’s a bit different from the typical fantasy book about dragons, but that’s what makes it such a valuable addition to every dragon scholar’s library.

A Song Of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

What, did you really think I could make it through this list without mentioning the very series that’s driving this current ambition? Not a chance! If you’re only interested in dragon training and don’t have time to read the giant books in this series, stick to reading the chapters about Daenerys Targaryen, which provide an excellent case study examining how one new dragon owner can raise three baby dragons from hatchlings, a difficult feat even with experience. You can also learn how to utterly destroy your enemies with dragon fire, if that’s something your interested in.

These are the books that I’ll be referring back to the most when training my dragons, but I know that this list definitely doesn’t cover all the useful dragon books out there. Do you have some dragon-ology books you think I should look at when raising my dragons? Let me know in the comments below.