The new Harry Potter books, a fan’s review

It’s been a very Potter year. By now, you’ve probably all heard about the new Harry Potter books, three e-books that collect the new writing on Pottermore into an easy-to-read form. “Pottermore Presents” is a mix of old writing and new, so they aren’t exactly new Harry Potter books. Here’s what I thought of the decision to package the stories like this, and a review of the books themselves!

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My Harry Potter and the Cursed Child review (spoilers!)

I have been counting down feverishly to the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for MONTHS, and on Saturday night at midnight, like so many other die-hard Potter fans around the world, I finally got my hands on it.

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I don’t need to explain what this eighth story means for Potter fans: it’s like coming home, revisiting the magic we fell in love with when we were kids, and feeling like that magic won’t ever end. It meant reading more about the characters and where they ended up, and for me, it meant being immersed in that amazing world again. And even though this story is only in the form of a scriptbook, most of us had little to no doubt that the last story would shine as bright as the other installments. However, after reading the book, a lot of people felt a little disappointed. Here’s what I thought.
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Utterly obsessed with the new, illustrated ‘Harry Potter’

Yesterday, the fully-illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released, and due to timely pre-order, it came in the mail (via owl?) by noon. Once I opened it, I literally couldn’t pry my eyes from the page.

51MIi4p2YyLThere’s something about illustrations that always seem more real to me than actors’ portrayal. I don’t know if this is weird or not, but most characters from books that I see in my head are somewhat cartoonish, like they’ve been drawn or sketched.

To this day, I don’t see Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, or Daniel Radcliffe when I re-read the Harry Potter books; I see Mary Grandpre’s artistic renderings of the characters. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I was so happy to go through the moments in Pottermore (R.I.P.) and why I love the new, fully-illustrated Sorcerer’s Stone so much.

With stunning artwork by Jim Kay, there’s hardly a single square inch of this book that isn’t illustrated—it reminds me of old illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages. It’s full of magic and whimsy.

But more important, I think these illustrations offer more insight into the characters and the story. I think there’s something lacking in the films, some kind of disconnect between text and image. But here, the two are intertwined inseparably. Illustrations are utterly dependent on the text, whereas films take liberties and can reinterpret.

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Also, the art is breathtaking, but the previews released makes that statement redundant. I couldn’t believe my eyes at times when I turned the page to see yet another gorgeous rendering, and the use of color and detail are perfect.

Some of the detail in this book is astounding. Everything looks lifelike, but magical in the way you’d think Harry Potter would be. Little birds are drawn in the corners of books, ink splotches adorn the margins, and the text weaves around the artwork, adding to the entire words-plus-pictures experience. They are entirely harmonious with each other.

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Also, the artwork is unique from any other previous imagining. There is little to no borrowing from Grandpre’s work, the UK art, Pottermore, or even the films. It’s new, offering a fresh perspective that livens up these well-known stories. This may be Potter for an entirely new generation, one that may not have seen the movies yet.

I think it’s even better than the Pottermore art, which I absolutely loved. It’s so rich, and inviting, evocative and immersive.

As an object, it’s a thing of beauty, and perfect to read to your kids. Although I have to admit, my kids will have to have their own set, because these are going on a special, high shelf. This is a must-have collector’s item for any really enthusiastic Potter fan.

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JK Rowling wishes us very good lives, + some thoughts on failure

I don’t know why it took me so long to read JK Rowling’s 2008 commencement address at Harvard. Possibly because a printed, bound version of it was only recently published by Little, Brown in April 2015. I’d read snippets of it before, most notably this quote, “We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already.” But having recently been thinking a lot about failure, I stumbled upon the book on Amazon and decided to splurge $12 on it. It’s a life-changing little book.

23731881The speech was titled by the publisher “Very Good Lives,” after JK Rowling’s parting wish for the students. The entire speech is colored by two themes, which is also the tagline: “The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination.” By now, you probably know the “failure” part of Rowling’s personal saga. But her definition of “imagination” may surprise you. Jo (as she’s known to fans) isn’t referring to a person’s capacity to create Hogwartses, Middle-earths or Death Stars, but rather, imagination is the ability to “empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.” She cites her time with Amnesty International and leaves the students with the wish that they will use their privileges, brainpower and clout to help others.

I adore Jo’s take on imagination, but it’s the rhetoric about failure that truly stuck with me. It’s a common feeling among twenty-somethings, especially in this current economy, to feel like failures for not having what everyone else has, or what everyone else is expected to have. The feeling like I’d failed at life has been plaguing me since graduation, because I feel like I’m not where my peers are. It was the fear of failure that gives me motivation to work and it was the fear of failure that was instrumental in beginning this blog. That fear of failure is both blessing as a motivator and a definite disadvantage—because I’ve come to realize that failure itself has its advantages. Its “fringe benefits.”

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In the words of Jo, who, at twenty-eight, found herself divorced, a single mother, and “as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless,” failure taught her to strip away everything that was nonessential. Failing means you have nothing to be afraid of anymore. Failure means you’ve hit rock bottom, and have nowhere to go but up. Now, Jo truly had nowhere to go but up, but what about smaller failures, everyday roadblocks, and constant, continuously occurring setbacks? What about those?

For me at least, these small roadblocks have taught me that if nothing else, I may take pride in failing, because I have tried. And I’ll keep trying. This is my favorite quote from the speech, save perhaps for the magic one included above:

“Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you have lived so cautiously that you may as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”

Small failures have made me less afraid of life.

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Harry Potter Book Lust | I need these very soon…

I’m the girl who went to the Leavesden Studios Harry Potter Studio Tour, the New York Harry Potter Exhibit, a half dozen midnight premieres and book releases, and the Harry Potter theme park the year it opened. It’s safe to say I’m an enthusiastic Harry Potter fan. These two books are a must-have for me: JK Rowling: A Bibliography and Harry Potter: Film Wizardry.

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JK Rowling: A Bibliography, is an exhaustively detailed chronicle of everything Jo has ever written, from books to pamphlets to her Sunday supermarket lists. Here’s what it says on the back cover:

This is the definitive bibliography of the writings of J. K. Rowling. In addition to complete bibliographic details of each edition of all her books, pamphlets and original contributions to published works, there is detailed information on the publishing history of her work, including fascinating extracts from correspondence, and information on Rowling at auction. This will be the first source on Rowling consulted by textual scholars, book dealers and collectors, auction houses, critics and researchers. The aim of the book is to record fact and dispel rumour on the fascinating publishing history of the Harry Potter series.

And Jo herself said, “As someone who respects comprehensive research, I am in awe of the level of detail and amount of time Philip Errington has dedicated to this slavishly thorough and somewhat mind-boggling bibliography.”

It may not be a gripping read, but just like any avid and slightly insane collector, I have to own it. The down side? It’s freaking $130. Is it my birthday yet?

The second book on my must-must-buy list is the much more fun and interactive Harry Potter: Film Wizardry, a beautiful glossy book which includes details on the props and production, interviews with the cast, and “removable extras,” i.e. things like Harry’s letter from Hogwarts. Need this.

From the Amazon page:

Harry Potter: Film Wizardry Revised and Expanded gives readers a front row seat to the magical journey that brought J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world to the big screen. Step off Platform Nine and Three Quarters and into the hidden world behind the scenes of the Harry Potter film series as Brian Sibley, author of The Lord of the Rings: The Making of the Movie Trilogy, The Land of Narnia, and other bestselling behind-the-screen books, makes the magic more real than ever with stunning art, removable extras, a new Harry Potter photo album, and interviews with director David Yates; actors Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman; and other members of the cast, crew, design and production teams.

Yes, please, all of it. And inside:

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The perfect addition to my already overflowing collection of Harry Potter crap. Love it.

last photo links to source, book covers from Goodreads

Fully Illustrated 'Harry Potter' Books Make Me a Happy (and Poor) Girl

So, the news broke today: all of the seven Harry Potter books will be re-published with full-color illustrations that look unbelievable. The first book will be published October 6, 2015, which gives me just enough time to start saving my pennies. Take a look at some of the illustrations, by Jim Kay:

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photos from Hypable

This announcement gave me flashbacks of being 13 years old again, waiting for the new book to be published and scouring MuggleNet for spoilers and theories and clues, waiting for JK Rowling’s office door to open on her website and reveal chapter titles and cover art. As Hypable pointed out, the new illustrations feature some minuscule details that hint at plot points. They think it may lead to new insights about the series, and I can’t help but agree.

The classic Mary Grandpre illustrations influenced my imagination so much when I was kid, to the point where I see my characters as her illustrations, and never really changed my perceptions of them when the films were released. New illustrations mean new interpretations of the characters, the settings, the themes. It’s incredibly exciting for a Harry Potter nerd and bookworm like me.

I wonder how much JK Rowling collaborated with the new illustrator. I know Pottermore is supposed to be the official interactive Harry Potter experience, and it’s true that I love it as a companion medium, but the new illustrated books seriously have me singing with joy. Bound books are better than a computer screen any day. Now—where is that Harry Potter encyclopedia Jo promised us?

Also, these new illustrated books mean that Potter is still relevant, that an entire new generation of young readers will get to explore Potter in a new way, something that’s uniquely theirs. Potter changed the way the world—and young people—read back when it was first published, and the new announcement means the books are on track to remain in the hearts of children for generations.

A new Potter book will be published each year, which means I will be collecting these until I turn 30. WHOA.

What do you guys think of the new illustrations?

Reflections on Rant Chic

It’s been a couple weeks since I started writing for Rant Chic, and I wanted to share some of my favorite articles on here, and some reflections about my experience. I really like having the freedom to write about whatever I like, and since it’s a website specifically geared toward girls and women, the experience has taught me a lot about what I want to read about, versus topics that are stereotypically “girly.” Strangely enough, I haven’t written a lot about fashion; it’s been a lot of culture and more feminist-themed articles. I would definitely like to express my love for fashion and sense of style on the site, but in the meantime, I’m loving these culture articles! I also like the times when I can write about food and Friends.

Here are my favorite articles so far:

A Feminist’s Love for Lana Del Rey

I love Lana, and I really wanted to explore my feelings toward her as a feminist.

ModCloth Signs Anti-Photoshopping Pledge

I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the news, and think it’s a major coup for those who want more honesty in advertising!

18 Organic and Cheap Beauty Methods to Try Today

I’ve spoke a little about my organic beauty tricks here, and I did a little research to uncover a lot more beauty methods! They’re pretty awesome.

JK Rowling Should Never Stop Writing

I’ve been pretty annoyed lately by articles insisting JK Rowling stop writing for various reasons, and I completely disagree.

Olivia Wilde Breastfeeds In Glamour’s September Issue

I loved Olivia Wilde’s September spread in Glamour, and thought about what it means for the so-called controversy of breastfeeding in public.

Let me know what you guys think!
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Sisterhood of the World Blogging Award

sisterhood-of-the-world-blogger-award2_thumbThis one really means a lot. When I started this blog I just wrote about the books I’d read. It was straightforward reviews and iPhone photos, and that was only ten months ago. Then I started asking my family to take some outfit shots, and started experimenting with fashion blogging. And now, almost a year after I began this blog, I feel like it has morphed into something I could never have imagined. This feels like my home, this little corner of the Internet world. The Sisterhood of the World awards mean a lot to me because I have striven to make this blog accessible to women like me: women who like reading, learning and teaching, who love fashion and beauty, who are struggling with life choices and dating, et cetera. So thank you! Thank you for reading, commenting and following.

I was nominated by Bold Beautiful Belle and The North Star.

Questions from Bold Beautiful Belle:

1. Favorite book series? Always Harry Potter.
2. Favorite restaurant? The Bronx Alehouse!
3. Favorite poem? The Lady of Shalott, Tennyson
4. Favorite flower? Lily of the valley
5. Favorite Disney princess? Ariel or Megara
6. Favorite way to spend Saturday night? Going out to the crappy bars in my area with my friends and cousins.
7. Favorite way to exercise? Aaahhh, I don’t exercise as much as I should but I do like taking long walks.
8. Favorite accessory? Rings.
9. Favorite place in the world? This is so hard. Maybe Italy, maybe a cabin in Alaska, maybe a bookstore in Peekskill. Maybe my own bed 😉
10. Would you rather DIY or buy from a store? Depends on my mood. Sometimes I love to be creative and save money and make something, at others I would rather shell out half my savings to buy something ready made! 

Questions from The North Star:

1. If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Probably the ability to change my appearance at will, like Tonks in Harry Potter. It means I’ll never have to fiddle with a curling iron ever again! Makes life easier.
2. Who is your favourite Disney character and why? It’s a toss-up between Ariel, Megara, and Aladdin.
3. What is your favourite color? Red! I love its boldness.
4. Who is the person who has inspired you the most? JK Rowling and my father.
5. What is your favourite number? (Most people I know have never thought of an answer to this question) 716 is my lucky number.
6. When was the last time you did something really spontaneous? Oooh, that’s a bad one. Probably some drunken escapade. 
7. Do you like roller coasters that go upside down? Naaaah. 
8. What time of year do you like the most and why? Spring. I love the colors of the flowers and the smell of the air.
9. If you could visit any country in the world, where would you go? Italy, to see my family, or India.
10. What is/was your favourite subject at school and has/had this always been your favourite or did you love something new every year? I always loved English/Literature and obviously still do. 

Here are my own nominations for this illustrious award:

Daisy Chains & Dreamers

The Taste Tracker

Books & Cleverness

And my questions:

1. What time period would you go to if you could time travel?
2. Do you watch TV or read at night?
3. What was your favorite book when you were a kid?
4. What is your least favorite social media account?
5. Did your blogging dreams live up to reality?
6. What did you want to be when you were younger?
7. What’s the beauty item you could never live without?
8. Are you iPhone or Android?
9. What are you looking forward to most in the near future?
10. What is your drink of choice?

 

Reflections on Re-Reading Harry Potter

At nine years old my mother said to me, “You love to read so much, why don’t you read those Harry Potter books everyone is talking about?” Ever the stubborn girl, I told her I didn’t need her to recommend books to me, thank you very much (I was sassy). Then she bought me the first four books for Christmas. I devoured them in two weeks, and the rest is history.

I remember not being allowed to go to the midnight party for Order of the Phoenix, then being chaperoned to the release party of The Half-Blood Prince. When Deathly Hallows was released, I was deep in mourning. Like so many of us, Harry Potter had been a huge influence on me. Seven years after the last book, here’s why I still can’t resist re-reading them all the time.

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1. They appeal to my childlike wish for magic.

The world we live in is possibly anything but magical. Descending into the pages of Harry Potter means entering a world full of magic that we can only dream about. Little 11-year-old Harry is plucked from his miserable life with the Dursleys and finds a new world where he can find happiness. Reopening these pages means rediscovering this magic and experiencing hope.

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2. They stress the importance of love and friendship.

Hermione said it best when she said, “There are more important things—friendship, and bravery.” Harry Potter taught me about the strong bonds of friendship and about taking risks to protect the people you love. These books also taught me about the strength of love. Voldemort’s evil stems from his complete and utter lack of love, and Harry’s ability to love deeply and unselfishly is the one power he has that is able to vanquish this indestructible evil.

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3. The strong emphasis they place on courage.

So yeah, Gryffindors can be kind of reckless and short-tempered, but then again, so can we all. Harry Potter taught me the value of bravery and of constantly pushing oneself to take chances and never play it safe. Sometimes it gets you into trouble but often, courage means the difference between disappointment and the fulfillment of all your dreams.

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4. It’s effing hilarious

My family always made fun of me when I was a kid for laughing out loud reading these books, but you know what? Over ten years after I first read them, they can still make me crack up. And my family and friends still make fun 🙂

P.S. I drink a lot of coffee and take pictures of it with books.

Bookstore Hopping // Sherman's Books in Portland, ME

Exploring Portland last week, I remarked to my friends that I hadn’t found a bookstore yet. And then I looked up and saw one. It was kind of insane. The bookstore was called Sherman’s Books & Stationery, and it was lovely. Half of the items inside were of the “nautical souvenir” persuasion, but as a tourist, I appreciated it just the same. But the thing I loved best about this indie were their methods of categorizing their books. Take a look:

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The extensive and well-stocked Fiction stacks are titled with phrases like “Not True,” “Don’t Believe A Word,” and “Still Not True.” A quote from Harry Potter comes to mind: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” 😉

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Excellent idea: book shopping carts! Take it from someone who is tired of stacking heavy books on one arm while balancing a coffee cup in the other during long hours at a bookstore: these are necessary and should be placed in every serious bookstore.

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Described as “Maine’s Oldest Bookstore,” Sherman’s Books & Stationery boasted a whole section of “Maine Fiction,” which I loved. The best thing about visiting and buying from indie bookstores is the local flavor you won’t get from a Barnes & Noble. The only trouble was the new-book prices! I have a preference for buying secondhand, cheap books 🙂

Check out Sherman’s Books & Stationery’s website and Facebook page, and make sure to give them a visit if you’re ever passing through Portland, Maine!