J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World – The Dark Arts: A Movie Scrapbook

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Title: J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World – The Dark Arts: A Movie Scrapbook

Author: Warner Bros

Genre: Fantasy, Children’s Literature

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 10th August, 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 48

Price: $24.99

Synopsis: Celebrate 20 years of Harry Potter magic!

hp20_230A fascinating guide to the Dark Arts of the Harry Potter films and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, these pages cover both Dark wizards and the heroes who rise up to combat them – from Dumbledore’s Army and the Order of the Phoenix to the Hogwarts Defence Against the Dark Arts class and the Aurors of MACUSA. This collectible volume comes filled with removable artefacts, such as ‘wanted’ posters, stickers and other extraordinary items.

Learn all about Voldemort, Death Eaters, Horcruxes, the Obscurus and more in this collectable movie scrapbook – packed with info, inserts and images from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them films.

~*~

The ever-expanding Wizarding World of JK Rowling started in 1997 as a novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the beginning of seven book saga that would spawn companion text books – Quidditch Through the Ages by Kenilworthy Whisp, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander, and Tales of Beedle the Bard, the Wizarding World’s version of fairy tales. From here, eight movies, and a prequel series of movies centred around Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them has been spawned. As a result of these movies, several movie companions have been published, that focus on characters, and methods in the movies, sets and magical creatures.

The most recent of these is The Dark Arts, due out this month, exploring the darker side of Harry Potter. Starting with an introduction to the Dark Arts, the book then moves into profiles of Dark Wizards, such as Voldemort, discussing how they created his look in the movies, and the effects and make used to do this. Moving onto other Dark Wizards, Bellatrix Lestrange and her fate at the hands of Molly Weasley, a member of the Order of the Phoenix is included, and so a section is dedicated to this brave group who fight Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Each section on various aspects of Dark Magic is accompanied by fold out letters, posters and other paraphernalia that had been featured in the movies, which enhances the experience of reading the book and adds to all the fun, rediscovering Sirius Black’s wanted poster, and the list of Dumbledore’s Army, with a few secrets from the films that readers might not know, and will have fun discovering in this book as I did. The final pages of the book are dedicated the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and touch on those characters and Newt Scamander especially, who has a book of his own in the same series. This was a divine surprise from Bloomsbury and a wonderful accompaniment to my Harry Potter library.

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Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in this way adds an extra dimension to the books, films, scripts, play and music already out there in the world. It gives fans a chance to explore the movie beyond what is seen on the screen and interact with images, and articles from wizarding newspapers, such as The New York Ghost. It is a fantastic book, and one that will be treasured for years to come. A wonderful surprise from Bloomsbury that I read in one night, and that I am sure I will explore again, maybe even as I watch the films, or after watching them again.

Enjoy another wonderful book to help celebrate the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter!

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The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

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Title: The Bedlam Stacks

Author: Natasha Pulley

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus

Published: 1st August, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: An astonishing historical novel set in the shadowy, magical forests of South America, which draws on the captivating world of the international bestseller The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

Deep in uncharted Peru, the holy town of Bedlam stands at the edge of a forest. The shrine statues move, and anyone who crosses the border dies. But somewhere inside are cinchona trees, whose bark yields quinine: the only known treatment for malaria.

On the other side of the Pacific, it is 1859 and India is ravaged by the disease. The hunt for a reliable source of quinine is critical and in its desperation, the India Office searches out its last qualified expeditionary. Struggling with a terrible injury from his last mission and the strange occurrences at his family’s ruined estate, Merrick Tremayne finds himself under orders to bring back cinchona cuttings at any cost and dispatched, against his own better judgement, to Bedlam.

There he meets Raphael, a priest around whom the villagers spin unsettlingly familiar stories of impossible disappearances and living stone. Gradually, he realises that Raphael is the key to a legacy left by two generations of Tremayne explorers before him, one which will prove more dangerous and valuable than the India Office could ever have imagined.

~*~

Ex- East India smuggler, Merrick Tremayne is at home in Cornwall, recovering from an injury to his leg that inhibits activity for him when the India Office contacts him about an expedition to Peru to fetch some quinine to help treat malaria outbreaks in India. Tremayne instantly knows it is a bad idea : every able-bodied explorer has been unsuccessful, paying with their life, so he questions how he, a disabled explorer, will cope, survive and succeed. Lumped with orders to go, Tremayne is accompanied by a friend, Clem, and they venture into Bedlam, a holy town in uncharted Peru that holds many secrets of the past, and a sense of magic and history that will slowly unfold throughout the five parts of the novel, and reveal secrets about a Tremayne ancestor that Merrick had been unaware of. Accompanied by a priest, Raphael, whose presence indicates something a little out of the ordinary, lending to a sense of fantastical and magical realism within the novel.

The Bedlam Stacks is steeped in history and colonialist ideas and expectations of “The Other”, typically seen through Tremayne’s companion, Clem, whose ignorance and the sense that he felt his knowledge was superior came through at times, in contrast to Tremayne, who I felt made the efforts to understand and communicate effectively with Raphael and show his appreciation for what Raphael was doing for him. In 1860, when disability and injury might be more likely to inhibit what one is able to do, Tremayne copes, albeit with help when he needs it, and in what felt realistic, he is shown to struggle, but readers also get to see what he is capable of, in all areas of his person. It is a travel story with a difference, where the explorers are faced with the harsh realities of an unknown world that challenges their sense of being and self, and shows them just how human and vulnerable they are. They need rescuing by locals, and at times, they are shown to be imperfect, punctures to their egos that their upbringing might have inflated.

I liked Merrick’s sense of humility, and ability to stand back and let Raphael talk. It was refreshing to see this move towards equal standing of characters of vastly different backgrounds, much of which are extrapolated through flashbacks, cleverly inserted into the text without disrupting the flow of the story, and the vast majority is told in first person, with the exception of one chapter towards the end that gives the reader insight into Raphael and his past. Raphael’s absences of long periods of time are explained as catalepsy – by Merrick, who hears of Raphael’s symptoms and urges him to see a doctor – perhaps a marker of how he sees the world, juxtaposed with Raphael’s acceptance of things being the way they are. In doing so, Pulley has illustrated how two different worlds collide, and through this collision, have attempted to find a way to communicate.

Throughout the novel, odd things happen at different times, marking this as more than just an expedition into history and unexplored, uncharted areas of the world as they would have been in the 1860s. These instances hint at elements of fantasy and magical realism, and this makes it a very intriguing novel, as the layers of each chapter and part are revealed slowly to bring the story to it’s conclusion and the wrapping up of the characters and their lives, but at the same time, leaving some aspects open for interpretation and maybe another novel.

It was a enjoyable novel, and has made me want to read Natasha’s first novel. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. An enjoyable novel, and highly recommended for fans of historical fiction, mysteries and novels with that little bit of a difference that make them stand out.

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The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

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Title: The Pearl Thief

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Genre: Children’s/YA Historical Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 1st July, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 408

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: From the internationally acclaimed bestselling author of Code Name Verity comes a stunning new story of pearls, love and murder – a mystery with all the suspense of an Agatha Christie and the intrigue of Downton Abbey.

Sixteen-year-old Julie Beaufort-Stuart is returning to her family’s ancestral home in Perthshire for one last summer. It is not an idyllic return to childhood. Her grandfather’s death has forced the sale of the house and estate and this will be a summer of goodbyes. Not least to the McEwen family – Highland travellers who have been part of the landscape for as long as anyone can remember – loved by the family, loathed by the authorities. Tensions are already high when a respected London archivist goes missing, presumed murdered. Suspicion quickly falls on the McEwens but Julie knows not one of them would do such a thing and is determined to prove everyone wrong. And then she notices the family’s treasure trove of pearls is missing.

This beautiful and evocative novel is the story of the irrepressible and unforgettable Julie, set in the year before the Second World War and the events of Code Name Verity. It is also a powerful portrayal of a community under pressure and one girl’s determination for justice.

~*~

The Pearl Thief is set in England in 1938, in the year that preceded the incoming storm of World War Two, preceding Hitler’s march across Europe, and it’s characters show no indication that they are aware of the impending threat to their lives. Julie is on her way home from boarding school – a final summer at her family’s ancestral home before it becomes a school On her way hoe, Julie is attacked, and a well known archivist from London goes missing, presumed dead. And it is the McEwen family, a family of Travellers, who become caught up in the mystery after taking care of Julie and getting her to hospital. When Julie notices the family pearls have gone missing, she tries to piece together the night she was attacked, and slowly, a mystery unfolds. Whilst the investigation surges on, even with a lack of evidence, the suspicious eye is cast over the McEwens, despite Julie’s protestations that they could not have done it, questioning the reasoning everyone has. Amidst all this, the treasure trove of Murray pearls has gone missing, and Julie is determined to find it, and together with her brother, Jamie, and the McEwens, she strives to solve the theft – and a murder, with results that are as surprising as the rest of the novel.

For Julie, it is a final childhood summer, where she can relive the good memories and make some new ones, but at the same time, new discoveries about her mother and the McEwens, and her interactions with Ellen and her brother, have Julie questioning what she knows about herself and her feelings, but the world that she has known in comparison to Ellen’s world, and what they learn from each other through their new-found friendship. Like any friends, they had their disagreements on things and it took them a while to see that what something meant to Ellen, meant something different to Julie and vice versa, encapsulating the formation of an unexpected friendship between the two girls.

There are moments when the novel does not dwell on the mystery of the missing pearls and murder of the archivist, but rather, on the formation of the relationships between Julie and the Travellers, and how this begins to affect her and how she sees herself and the world. This character development ensures a solid grounding for the story, and even though the mystery was intriguing, it was nice to see the realistic approach that didn’t involve the obsessive nature and drive to solve the mystery, but rather, a nice balance between getting the characters and plot right to get from beginning to end, and allowing the characters to overcome hurdles and distractions, but ultimately, solving a mystery that had a very unexpected outcome, and an enjoyable journey to get there as a reader.

The Pearl Thief is marketed towards the children’s and Young Adult market, but I still enjoyed it and the setting that seemed to sing from every page – the Scottish landscape, and the speech of the characters cemented the time and place effectively. A great novel for anyone who likes mysteries, adventure and intriguing characters.

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone 20th Anniversary Edition: Ravenclaw

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raven-hb-20Title: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone 20th Anniversary Edition: Ravenclaw

Author: JK Rowling

Genre: Fantasy, Children’s Literature

Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia

Published: June 2017 (20th Anniversary Editions)

Format: Paperback/Hardcover

Pages: 352

Price: Paperback: $16.99, Hardback: $27.99

Synopsis: Celebrate 20 years of Harry Potter magic with four special editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw … Twenty years ago these magical words and many more flowed from a young writer’s pen, an orphan called Harry Potter was freed from the cupboard under the stairs – and a global phenomenon started. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has been read and loved by every new generation since. To mark the 20th anniversary of first publication, Bloomsbury is publishing four House Editions of J.K. Rowling’s modern classic. These stunning editions will each feature the individual house crest on the jacket and line illustrations exclusive to that house, by Kate Greenaway Medal winner Levi Pinfold. Exciting new extra content will include fact files and profiles of favourite characters, and each book will have sprayed edges in the house colours. Available for a limited period only, these highly collectable editions will be a must-have for all Harry Potter fans in 2017.

Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry’s eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man called Rubeus Hagrid bursts in with some astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. An incredible adventure is about to begin!

~*~

raven-20Most of us know the story, we’ve read the series more times than we can count and seen each movie multiple times, and would probably blitz it in a Harry Potter trivia quiz. We know Hogwarts just as well as our own homes, know Harry, Ron, Hermione and the rest of the Weasley clan, as well as the teachers as Hogwarts like old friends, and we know that in the end, all will be well. Today marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter, and to celebrate this occassion, Bloomsbury have re-released the first book in house colours in hard cover and paperback. The hard cover book has a black slip cover, with the house crest in the respective colour – so blue for Ravenclaw, with blue and bronze strip sprayed edges on the pages. The paperback of Ravenclaw is blue with black imagery and bronze text and blue edges. Each is exquisite, and the other houses are done in the same way with their respective liveries and colours.

Before the story starts, we are treated to additional information about the founder of Ravenclaw, Rowena Ravenclaw, information about the livery – a raven, in the centre, and flanked by an owl and another raven, with a swan and a fox atop the livery on either side of a sharp arrow. This, along with other illustrations, have been completed by Levi Pinfold, and give a delightful insight into what the founder of Ravenclaw looks like, which enhances the additional information about her and the house, which includes information on the house ghost, The Grey Lady, and notable students, such as Luna Lovegood, Moaning Myrtle and Gilderoy Lockhart, perhaps the most inept Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher Hogwarts ever had, as well as head of house, Charms Professor, Filius Flitwick.

Each respective house edition has these same features in relation to Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Slytherin.

hp20_230In Harry’s world, we are treated to characters that will stay with us, and that will be well loved and treasured. With each character growing over the series, it will be interesting to see how Bloomsbury tops each subsequent 20th anniversary after this one, whether it will be books or events held across the world.

Between these informative sections, is the original story, still the same, still magical, and still welcoming. The characters haven’t changed, ensuring that readers of all ages, new and old, will come to the series finding the same thing, and being able to share the same story in whatever way they come to enjoy it. The additions of Levi Pinfold’s illustrations and the house information enhance the experience, and make for a delightful and colourful collection if you choose to get each house edition for your collection. It is a story that will live on, and the magic doesn’t die as you read and read it again. I discover something new with each read, and I thoroughly enjoy reading my Ravenclaw edition.

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Choose your house and enjoy, and if you can, head to Harry Potter 20th Anniversary celebrations near you!

It’s almost here…the 20th Anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

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In just one month, on the 26th of June, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone will turn twenty. In June 1997, the world was introduced to a skinny, bespectacled boy with wild black hair and green eyes that reminded everyone of his mother, and an orphan, living with vile relatives –Vernon, Petunia and their spoiled brat of a son, Dudley, when he discovers on his eleventh birthday that he is a wizard, and that his parents died at the hands of one of the most evil wizards around – Voldemort, and that he too should have died that night – but he lived – becoming famous in the wizarding world even before he sets foot on the grounds of Hogwarts.

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The Harry Potter books are often credited with engaging a new generation of children with reading – this is my generation, but the books have gone beyond that – to the next generation and adults, those who raised my generation, and adults now my age, sharing the stories with new readers.

Slide show of the 20th anniversary covers:

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Harry Potter was an idea born on a train journey, and from that tiny seed in JK Rowling’s mind in the 1990s. has become the worldwide phenomenon it is today in 2017. Since publication, the series has sold over 450 million copies worldwide in 79 languages. To mark the twentieth anniversary at the end of June, Bloomsbury is releasing house editions of the first book – in paperback and hardcover.

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Each house will have a specially designed crest on the front – black on red, blue, yellow or green for the paperbacks with coloured edges, and coloured imprints on black hard cover backgrounds with striped sprayed edges. Kate Greenaway Medal Winner, Levi Pinfold, who also illustrated Songs from Somewhere Else, and will compliment the story, and additional house information given in each edition for each individual house, does these illustrations. These illustrations and facts will be exclusive to the house edition you choose – I am hoping to get a Ravenclaw edition, so hopefully, Luna will be included in these additional facts.

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This year also sees the release of the illustrated edition of The Prisoner of Azkaban in October, so it’s going to be a magic filled year for Harry Potter fans. Gather your friends and take part in the fun, read the books again, have a party or play Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit (Yes it exists, I have it and have won) and see who knows their History of Magic as well as Hermione and Professor Binns.

 

 

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

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Title: Letters to the Lost

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Genre: YA

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 6th April 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 400

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

~*~

When Declan Murphy finds a letter on a grave during community service in the graveyard, he is compelled by an invisible force to read it, and respond to the person who wrote the letter.

When Juliet Young finds Delcan’s response to the letter she placed on her mother’s grave, she s incensed that someone has dared to read the words and respond to them as if they know her, as though they had the right to intrude. To Juliet, her privacy has been violated.

And yet, Juliet and Declan find a connection through this anonymous communication. They tell each other things they’ve never told anyone else, and reveal their true selves and feelings throughout the letters and later anonymous emails and messages that they move to. As they grow fond of each other through this method of communication, real life begins to throw them together: at school, at Homecoming, one the dark road with a broken down car, and they begin to form a friendship separate from the letters, not knowing that they are corresponding anonymously online when they face off in person.

Soon, they are thrown together more and more as real life and the letters start to blur together, and a fateful discussion threatens to throw them apart, and secrets are uncovered that Juliet is fearful to share with anyone – except those who helped her find the courage to look at her mother’s cameras, and find out what really happened the day she died.

Letters to the Lost is more than a love story. It is a story of loss, and how everyone deals with it differently, and a story of how the most unlikely friendships can develop in unusual places and come from a similar place and understanding, and slowly, develops into something more. Declan and Juliet have people they can talk to, teachers, friends, but not parents, and those who do try are not always able to understand them the way they understand each other.

I enjoyed Declan and Juliet’s story. It was heartbreaking in many ways, and illustrated the frustrations people feel that come with grief and change, and the shock of truths that lead to what happened, and the burdens that children shouldn’t have to shoulder. They are two people from different walks of life who find a way to understand the world, and the letters and emails interspersed with the prose and the dual perspective – where Declan’s chapters are indicated by him reading Juliet’s letters, and vice versa for Juliet – works well and establishes the characters for the reader, giving them both sides to the story, not just one.

Another interesting read from Bloomsbury for the Young Adult audience.

Booktopia

Royce Rolls by Margaret Stohl

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Title: Royce Rolls
Author: Margaret Stohl
Genre: YA
Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia
Published: 1st May 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 400
Price: $15.99
Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Bentley Royce is the wild-child of a super-glam reality TV dynasty. She has it all – designer clothes, a fancy school and an actual Bentley to drive around in. Her ambitious mom Mercedes has dragged the family from trailer park to Hollywood stardom. But Bentley wants out – she wants to go to college, escape her own storyline, be NORMAL – but Royces don’t do normal (or college).

Rolling with the Royces is running out of ways to keep viewers hooked and suddenly the show is threatened with cancellation. Bentley faces an impossible choice. Without the show, she could live the college dream – but her family will crumble (and is $20million in debt). Bentley Royce has a mission. She must use her brains to save the show; if she saves the show, she can save her family – and she’ll do whatever it takes …

Royce Rolls is a laugh-out-loud funny romp with a twist of mystery – a behind-the-scenes comedy with a brilliant voice, a hilarious and subversive antidote to the Kardashians and TOWIE (which will still work for fans of both!).

~*~

In Royce Rolls, the main character, Bentley Royce, is tired of playing the role of wild child in the reality television show, Rolling with the Royces. She’s tired of having her every waking minute filmed, and tired of being told how to act, and what to wear and humiliated by her sister, Porsche and her mother, Mercedes. After six seasons of the humiliation, Bentley’s only hope for a normal life and college – something that goes against everything Mercedes has instilled in her children and everything the show runners have encouraged for the Bentley character – is for the show to be cancelled. But when the threat of cancellation, her family will be faced with a large debt they’d have no chance of paying off. And so, Bentley must make a choice between family and a life that she has yearned for over many years.

Starting with an incident that shocks the reader, and inevitably, the characters, the novel switches back to the events that led to the tragedy. Each chapter ends or begins with relevant articles that would probably be found on a celebrity gossip site that blow things out of proportion with sensationalist headlines and stories, these do little to reflect the reality Bentley and her family manage to live when the cameras aren’t rolling during hiatus, or those rare hours when they’re studying their characters and Mercedes is probing them to be a person that they aren’t.

Bentley’s only solace is a local library, where she meets fellow library patron, Venice, and for the first time, experiences a real friendship, outside of a scripted “reality” that has been coerced to bring in ratings. She manages to get away at a certain time of day for this time out, and realises through these meetings that there is more than life on the show, and she wants more. Venice is the only person she can be the real Bentley with, not the scripted wild child “Bad Bentley” that everyone expects on the show.

Royce Rolls takes the reality television format and makes a mockery of it, revealing that what viewers see in the shows that populate television screens claiming to be reality television, television of real life, is really scripted and carefully produced and created using real people – acting as characters who are projected as the true selves of those on the screen, as opposed to fictional characters played by actors in television shows that often have much more interesting story lines.

As a rather anti-reality television fan, or at least, a viewer of shows like Masterchef who looks at the way things are edited for story telling purposes, this was an amusing read, and I was pleasantly surprised that I liked it. It shed light on the fallacy of reality television and indicates the power of reality comes from who a person really is, not what the world sees. It establishes the flaws of celebrity as well, and shows that that world is not as perfect as it may seem.

An interesting read for the YA audience, fans of reality television and those who don’t enjoy it. It is an antidote to the saturation of this genre and it uses humour and satire to show what this world is really like in an accessible and fun way.

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