Tag Archives: fantasy

Eighth ‘Harry Potter’ Book Coming This Summer

harry-potter-cursed-child-posterClearly, I wasn’t kidding when I — just last week! — blogged that J.K. Rowling amazingly continues to find ways to churn out Harry Potter books. 

That amazingness will continue this summer when she releases a new eighth installment of the series, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (!!!). According to CNN, the book is actually a two-part play that picks up where the last novel in the series left off — with Harry now a father to son, Albus.

The play is set to debut in London this summer, and the script book of the play will be released the next day, at midnight on July 31st. It’s the first official Potter story to be performed on stage. The original story comes from Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany.

So why the book version if it’s already being performed on stage? The better question is why not? Little, Brown Book Group CEO David Shelley said in a press release, “J.K. Rowling and her team have received a huge number of appeals from fans who can’t be in London to see the play and who would like to read the play in book format — and so we are absolutely delighted to be able to make it available for them.”

This is a special rehearsal edition. A finalized version will be released later, in case the writers make any changes to the play that would then need to be reflected in the book.

J.K. Rowling, everyone — the Harry Potter gift that keeps on giving!

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RIP Alan Rickman, the Man Who Brought Severus Snape to Life

severus-snape-in-alan-rickman-s-own-words-is-one-of-the-most-heart-felt-tributes-you-will-429332Just four days after the birthday of the character he became famous for playing, British actor Alan Rickman has died of cancer at the age of 69.

Rickman is known for his roles in many movies, including Die Hard, Robin Hood, and Love Actually, but for most millennials, he’s probably best known for playing Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies, which is why for many other 20-somethings and myself, hearing the news of his death this morning came as a complete — and painful — shock.

Rickman’s portrayal of Snape was much more than just a role acted out on screen. It was the personification of a character that is so meaningful to children and literature. Snape was the first character I loved to hate. He teaches children the complexity of adulthood and shows how childhood affects who you become as an adult. Snape represents the idea that people aren’t always who they seem and that there is inherent good and evil in all of us. Rickman excelled at bringing this complexity to the screen and emotion to our hearts.

The entire Harry Potter series is nostalgic for many of us, who have either read the books, seen the movies or both. The death of an actor who is so representative of a beloved character makes it feel like part of my childhood ended today. But there is also some tragic beauty that comes with the thought that Rickman has possibly met Snape in his death.

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling tweeted about Rickman’s death today, but several years ago when the Potter films were completed, Rickman wrote a letter for Empire Magazine, in which he wrote this about Rowling: “It is an ancient need to be told stories. But the story needs a great storyteller.” The same could be said for Rickman — another storyteller in his own right. Thank you, Alan Rickman. And Severus Snape. Always.

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‘Games of Thrones’ Spoilers from Unfinished Book May Appear in New Season

18377268Promises are meant to be broken, right? Well, George R. R. Martin is doing just that. The latest Game of Thrones book he promised to have finished by early this year and published by March isn’t finished yet.

According to Los Angeles Times, he wrote a truly apologetic message to fans on his blog Saturday, explaining “Believe me, it gave me no pleasure to type those words. You’re disappointed, and you’re not alone. My editors and publishers are disappointed, HBO is disappointed, my agents and foreign publishers and translators are disappointed… but no one could possibly be more disappointed than me.”

Asked if the season would include spoilers, he said, “Maybe. Yes and no.” But he also said, “Some of the ‘spoilers’ you may encounter in season six may not be spoilers at all… because the show and the books have diverged, and will continue to do so.”
Not having read the books or seen the show, I can only imagine what fans must be thinking. I think it’s fair at this point to consider the show and book series separate. That said, the concept of Martin revealing some upcoming plot lines of the novel in the new season is pretty thrilling — for both viewers and readers.

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Review: Armada

armada_novel_coverRecap: Zack Lightman is about to graduate from high school, but his ambitions of going to college are slim; he’s more focused on video games. His mother understands. She and Zack’s father were video game junkies themselves when they were his age. But Zack’s father, who had a seemingly insane theory about world and government officials secretly training children for war through video games, died when Zack was just a baby.

Zack’s dreams and worst nightmares come true all at once when the video game he’s been playing for years, Armada, becomes his reality. He has been recruited to join the real Earth Defense Alliance (EDA) and use what he’s learned through the video game to fight in actual combat against an alien invasion the EDA is likely to lose.

As one of the best Armada video game players in the world, Lightman has a respectable title and has been sent to the moon to fight alongside the game’s other top players. But what was already an overwhelming battle becomes even more overwhelming when a secret from Zack’s past comes to haunt his present.

Analysis: Like in his debut novel, best-selling author Ernest Cline (Ready Player Oneincorporates 80’s pop culture references from sci-fi movies and games into a novel about video games. The difference here is that while Ready Player One is multi-layered and consists of both the teen boy and his avatar as two separate characters, Armada makes that teen boy and “avatar” one and the same. And while Armada doesn’t achieve the near-perfection of Cline’s first novel, it’s certainly still enjoyable.

The foreshadowing is overstated, so much of the story reads predictably. The pop culture references are a little overused, but one could argue it’s that aspect of Cline’s writing that made Ready Player One so enjoyable, so of course he used the technique again. And while the concept of being brought into a the life of a video game isn’t wholly original, the adventure along the way is fun, nonetheless. It’s the kind of story fanboys dream of — battling aliens! video games! hot girls who are suddenly attracted to nerdy guys!

In the simplest terms, one could argue that Armada is “a bit much.” But I would argue isn’t any sci-fi novel with adventure and heart exactly that?

MVP: Zack. He’s a bit of a lost soul, but that’s to be expected from a boy who grew up without a father. The intelligence and bravery he displays despite everything make him someone his father could be proud of.

Buy Armada in hardcover for $16.50.

Or get it on your Kindle for $12.99.

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Review: The Ocean At the End of the Lane

ocean_at_the_end_of_the_lane_us_coverRecap: A man has returned to his hometown for a funeral, but somehow something pulls him away from the funeral to an old neighbor’s home. He finds himself there, chatting with the familiar women who live there, but Lettie, the little girl he once knew who used to live there is no longer there. He can’t remember where she is or what ever happened to her. But as he sits by the pond behind her home, it all comes back to him.

The story turns into a long flashback to the man’s childhood. He recalls several captivating nights that are hard to believe he could ever forget. It starts with the memory of a man who killed himself in his father’s car parked at the end of his street. The man had gambled away all his friend’s money. This opens the world of the supernatural to the world of the natural, and suddenly strange things happen to the boy: a coin lodges in his throat; a worm is stuck in his foot; and his family hires a new babysitter. The babysitter turns out to be a personification of all the bad and of the supernatural infiltrating its way into the boy’s life. Her name is Ursula, and the boy is horrified.

He escapes as often as he can to his neighbors’ house, where Lettie lives. Lettie, her mother and grandmother have magical powers that allow them to manage the supernatural making its way into their world. But as his world falls apart thanks to Ursula, the boy isn’t so sure he, his family or Lettie and her family will ever be safe.

Analysis: The magic and fantasy of this novel threw me off initially. At first, I thought the author was writing in metaphors, but somewhere along the way, I realized everything was meant to be taken literally. Fantastical stories like this aren’t typically my favorite, but this one was intriguing. I didn’t know where it was going and I was interested enough to keep reading and find out. The ending turned out to be much sadder than I expected for not only the main character, but also for his magical friend Lettie.

I appreciated the end — however sad it may have been — for its acknowledgement of things coming full circle and the notion that childhood events have a lasting impact on one’s adult life. The book’s final moments are fairly open-ended, but because of the mystery of the story and the inherent enchantment that that mystery brings, it works. Ocean left me feeling wistful for answers and childhood — wistful in a good way.

MVP: Lettie. She’s a young girl with an old soul. Without giving anything away, we later find out why. But she is strong, and just the kind of person to give the story’s main character all the confidence he can muster.

Get The Ocean at the End of the Lane in paperback for $8.51.

Or on your Kindle for $9.99.

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Movie vs. Book: Mockingjay (Part 2)

41k66tfc43l**Spoiler Alert: Considering five years having passed since Mockingjay was published, this is your warning that if you have not read the actual book, you might not want to read the following review. Spoilers are included. 

It was the ending we’d all been waiting for — the final defeat of the Capitol, of President Snow, of all that was wrong with the country of Panem. And Katniss was the one to accomplish it all, a true heroine assisted by her fellow rebels. The movie Mockingjay Part 2 picks up where the first one ended, with Katniss recovering from an attack by Peeta, after he left the Capitol. As Katniss emotionally tries to come to grips with the new Peeta, who isn’t really Peeta anymore at all, she also works to further the rebellion and take down the Capitol.

But Coin, in charge of the rebellion, forces Katniss to remain the face of the rebellion and not one of its foremost warriors. Ultimately Katniss becomes one anyway, working with her team including Gale, Peeta, Bogs, Cressida, Finnick and others to break in to District 2 and the Capitol, so Katniss to fulfill her goal of killing President Snow herself. All that is accomplished and then some, when Katniss ultimately kills Coin as well, realizing after the death of her sister that Coin’s thirst for power was just as, if not more, dangerous and deadly than Snow’s.

The movie does a great job of closely following the book. There are the regular film changes with which fans have become familiar — including new, additional scenes with Snow and his advisors or with Coin and Plutarch, broadening the story and filling in the novel’s gaps that inevitably come from  Katniss’s first-person perspective formatting.

The biggest changes come at the movie’s end. In the novel, Katniss is misunderstood when she kills Coin. Because no one but President Snow really knew Coin’s evil, no one understands why Katniss commits such a heinous crime as murder. She is put on trial and acquitted by reason of insanity. She goes on to seemingly live a life of freedom yet sadness, married to Peeta, without any more of a relationship to Haymitch.

In the movie, however, there is no trial. There is a relationship with Haymitch. Katniss is commended by Plutarch. She is understood, and so are her actions, by the people of Panem. She is not deemed insane; she is a deemed a hero. She and Peeta are portrayed as truly in love and truly happy. The movie’s end is the storybook ending that the storybook never gave us. Of course, it’s different, and it might anger die-hard fans of the books. But after all Katniss has been through — and all we’ve been through three books and four movies later — it’s satisfying to have an ending that’s full and not one that leaves us, well, hungry.

Buy Mockingjay in paperback for $7.39.

Or on your Kindle for $4.99.

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New ‘Harry Potter’ E-Books To Have Animated Illustrations

It’s been eight years since the last Harry Potter novel was released, but now they’re all being released in a completely new way. Harry Potter e-books are now available, and according to The Associated Press, Apple has exclusive animated versions.

Enhanced e-book versions of the novels, exclusively for Apple products, includes more than 200 illustrations, many of which are animated or interactive. Other, non-animated versions of the e-books are available through author J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore web site.

Included in the enhanced e-books are author annotations similar to the ones Rowling’s written and included on her Pottermore web site, but there aren’t as many in the e-books as there are on Pottermore. The enhanced e-books also don’t include audio.

However, the illustrations are in full color, and the interactive illustrations are hidden; readers have to figure out what’s interactive for themselves. One example: during a scene at a meal, you can swipe to see all the food on other parts of the table.

The e-books cost $10 apiece, or $70 for the whole series.

As a kid, I read the paperback versions, but when I read the series to my eventual children, it certainly seems like the e-books are the version my kids will get to know.

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New Tolkien Book Set to be Released in October

Just because The Hobbit movies have all been made doesn’t mean Tolkien’s work is finished.

According to Entertainment Weekly, another book by The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien is being released: The Story of Kullervo, based on a Finnish legend know as the Kalevala.

The book is a fantasy — are we surprised? — and tells the story of a man who is sold into slavery, only to unknowingly seduce his sister and then kill himself. The story is apparently one of Tolkien’s earlier works, which apparently influenced his more recent literature. Tolkien never actually finished the novel, so the second half of it is his outline.

The book was already published last week in the U.K. It’s due to be released in the States October 27.

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Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Recap: When Jacob Portman’s grandfather mysteriously and suddenly dies in some kind of animal attack, it’s Jacob about whom everyone worries. The two were close, and Jacob was at his grandfather’s side shortly after the attack. Jacob claims to have seen the beast, which he can only describe as a monster. No one believes him, so 16-year-old Jacob Portman starts seeing a therapist. Soon after, Jacob and his father take a trip to Wales, where his grandfather spent some time as a child. The hope is that the more he learns about his grandpa, the sooner he’ll be able to let go.

On his journey, he discovers an old house where his grandfather spent time as a child: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. It’s in horrible shape. As it turns out, the home was bombed during WWII, killing all of the children inside. But Jacob insists his grandfather was one of those children and survived. That’s when Jacob discovers a time portal that transports him to the day of the bombing in 1940. Jacob befriends the friends of his grandfather and spends every day for weeks learning about this alternative world of peculiar children with special powers, time travel, and villains who are trying to take over.

When he learns that his own life is in danger, he has to choose: should he continue his life in present day with his parents? Or should he move permanently to the 1940 loop, where he has friends and a purpose?

Analysis: What sets this book apart from other adventure, fantasy novels are its pictures. Author Ransom Riggs wrote the book based upon pictures he collected. The pictures are creepy, and looking at the cover of the novel, I anticipated a thriller or ghost story that I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy. I was pleasantly surprised to learn the book wasn’t scary at all; rather, it was fun, exciting and full of surprising twists. The book moved in directions I didn’t expect and did a good job of incorporating the odd photos, including a levitating girl and another girl holding what appears to be a ball of glowing light.

Upon finishing Miss Peregrine, it was surprising to me to learn that it’s a young adult fiction novel. It doesn’t read like one. Yes, it’s a coming-of-age tale at heart, and it’s about teenagers, but some of the issues Jacob must deal with are adult, and the end of the novel is pretty dark. It was so good and well-written, I was surprised to learn it was meant for teens rather than adults, who might possibly appreciate it even more. It also sets up nicely for the sequel — which I have yet to read, but can’t wait to.

MVP: Jacob. Despite being 16 years old, he has some tough decisions to make, and ultimately he does what’s not only right for me, but what’s wrong for everyone — whether they know it yet or not. He is mature for his age, and as the book continues, his confidence grows. I believe he’s the kind of person most teenagers aspire to be like.

Get Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children in paperback for $5.71.

Or on your Kindle for just $3.99.

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Real-Life Hogwarts On the Way?

There are no more books and no more movies, but now Harry Potter fans have something to look forward to: a real-life Hogwarts may be on the way.

According to Entertainment WeeklyCollege of Wizardry is a four-day wizard school LARP (live action role playing) event that allows people to play wizard dress-up — learning the “magical arts,” meeting creatures and doing it all in a castle in Poland.

Yes, this is a real thing, a very real thing. So real, in fact, that College of Wizardry has a crowd funding site to raise the $50,000 it costs to host three sessions in November. One of these LARP events already played out for real in November 2014, and the sessions for April 2015 are already sold out.

But wait — there’s more! Now the founders are hoping to raise $1 million dollars by the end of their campaign, which is April 29th. If they do it, they plan to use the money to buy a castle.

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