Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 20th Anniversary House Editions by JK Rowling

Azkaban 20 RavenclawTitle: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 20th Anniversary House Editions

Author: J.K. Rowling

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia

Published: 13th June 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 468

Price: Hardback – $27.99 Paperback – $16.99

Synopsis:Let the magic of J.K. Rowling’s classic Harry Potter series take you back to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Issued to mark the 20th anniversary of first publication of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, this irresistible Ravenclaw House Edition celebrates the noble character of the Hogwarts house famed for its wit, learning and wisdom. Harry’s third year at Hogwarts is packed with thrilling Ravenclaw moments, including the appearance of the inimitable Professor Trelawney!

With vibrant sprayed edges in Ravenclaw house livery, the book features beautiful house-themed cover artwork with intricate bronze foiling. With an exciting, bespoke introduction exploring the history of Ravenclaw House, and exclusive insights into the use of the Patronus Charm by favourite Ravenclaw characters, the book also boasts a spectacular image by Kate Greenaway winner Levi Pinfold of Cho Chang conjuring her Patronus. All seven books in the series will be issued in these highly collectable, beautifully crafted House Editions, designed to be treasured and read for years to come.

A must-have for anyone who has ever imagined sitting under the Sorting Hat in the Great Hall at Hogwarts waiting to hear the words, ‘Better be RAVENCLAW!’

Gryffindor: Harry’s third year at Hogwarts sees more great Gryffindor moments and characters – including Harry’s mastery of that most advanced of charms, the Patronus – not to mention four of the most memorable alumni, Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs.

Hufflepuff: Harry’s third year at Hogwarts sees more great Hufflepuff moments and characters, not least their Quidditch team’s triumph over under their captain – and Hufflepuff heart-throb – Cedric Diggory.

Ravenclaw: Harry’s third year sees more great Ravenclaw moments and characters -not least Harry’s first highly perfumed lesson with the inimitable Professor Trelawney, who – true to her house – proves to have exceptional mental powers.

Slytherin: Harry’s third year sees more great Slytherin moments and characters – including Professor Snape’s masterful potion-making, and Draco Malfoy’s typically sneaky attempt to sabotage the Gryffindor Seeker.

~*~

Each year for the past three years, Bloomsbury had released house editions for each of the first three novels in the much-loved Harry Potter series. This year, 2019, marks twenty years since the third, and my favourite novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkabanwas published in 1999. In his third year, Harry returns to Hogwarts after notorious mass murderer, Sirius Black has escaped from the wizard prison, Azkaban. The entire wizarding world has believed that Sirius murdered twelve Muggles and fellow wizard, Peter Pettigrew not long after Voldemort killed James and Lily Potter and failed to kill Harry. But there is more to Sirius’ story than everyone thinks they know.

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Throughout the year, Hogwarts hosts the Dementors from Azkaban – guards you drain the happiness out of everything and can only be expelled with the use of the very advanced Patronus charm. Finally, in this novel, Harry has a decent Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher in Professor Remus Lupin – who knows to distribute chocolate after a Dementor attack and teaches his students more than they have learned with their previous teachers, especially Gilderoy Lockhart. Lupin’s presence and the arrival of Sirius are perhaps why this is my favourite – they provide a link to Harry’s parents and early life in the wizarding world he never thought he had or would ever have.

It is also where the story begins to get darker, and has a sinister feel creeping in, that starts to lead into what is to come in books four to seven to conclude the series. As Harry gets older, each book gets longer and darker – and the rest of the house editions will be released on dates to be announced.Azkaban 20 Hufflepuff

In the house editions for the third book, the house content for the four houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin, revolves around key moments and characters linked to the story, as per the above descriptions, and look at the Patronus’s for four key characters: an otter for Hermione Granger, the wolf for Nymphadora Tonks, a swan for Cho Chang and the doe for Snape. These are attached to an overview of the Patronus Charm. The House Specific content in each book adds to the story and gives more insight into the Wizarding World and the characters who populate it. It makes for a rich reading experience for new and old readers of the series.

Azkaban 290 Slytherin

I am enjoying collecting these house editions, particularly the Ravenclaw ones, and am looking forward to seeing how Ravenclaw house is explored in future books.

Book Bingo Seven: Written by an Australian Woman

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And thus ends March, and my seventh book bingo of the year with Theresa Smith and Amanda Barrett. I’ve just got one book to present this week, and this book fills the square “written by an Australian Woman” – which I intended to write weeks ago, but got caught up in all the other squares, and will hopefully be able to fill some of the tricker ones soon.

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zelda stitch 2So this week, to check off a book by an Australian woman, I’m using Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg. Following on from the first book, Zelda’s mishaps as a witch continue to plague her, but she’s still trying to protect someone on her class, and make sure that more people don’t find out she is a witch. Her snarky cat, Barnaby is back, and causing even more mischief as Zelda tries to navigate her life as a teacher and life as a witch.

A fun book for kids, my full review is here.

Come back next fortnight for Book Bingo Eight, which might just be a double bingo!

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Harry Potter: A History of Magic by JK Rowling, British Library

pb history of magic.jpgTitle: Harry Potter: A History of Magic

Author: JK Rowling, British Library

Genre: Exhibition Catalogue/Non-Fiction/Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 18th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

Price: $34.99

Synopsis:Harry Potter: A History of Magic is the official book of the record-breaking British Library exhibition, a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between Bloomsbury, J.K. Rowling and a team of brilliant curators. As the spectacular show takes up residence at the New York Historical Society from October 2018, this gorgeous book – available in paperback for the first time – takes readers on a fascinating journey through the subjects studied at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, from Astronomy and Potions through to Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures.

Each chapter showcases a treasure trove of artefacts from the British Library and other collections around the world, beside exclusive manuscripts, sketches and illustrations from the Harry Potter archive. There’s also a specially commissioned essay for each subject area by an expert, writer or cultural commentator, inspired by the contents of the exhibition – absorbing, insightful and unexpected contributions from Steve Backshall, the Reverend Richard Coles, Owen Davies, Julia Eccleshare, Roger Highfield, Steve Kloves, Lucy Mangan, Anna Pavord and Tim Peake, who offer a personal perspective on their magical theme.

Readers will be able to pore over ancient spell books, amazing illuminated scrolls that reveal the secret of the Elixir of Life, vials of dragon’s blood, mandrake roots, painted centaurs and a genuine witch’s broomstick, in a book that shows J.K. Rowling’s magical inventions alongside their cultural and historical forebears.

This is the ultimate gift for Harry Potter fans, curious minds, big imaginations, bibliophiles and readers around the world who missed out on the chance to see the exhibition in person.

~*~

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I first reviewed the hardcover edition of this book when it came out in 2017, coinciding with the twentieth anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and now, have read and reviewed the same book in paperback to coincide with the upcoming twentieth anniversary of my favourite book in the series, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban because not only do we get the fantastic Professor R.J Lupin, but Harry gains a godfather – Sirius Black. To help write this review, I have used some parts of my last review, as many of my previous comments and appreciations are the same.

Since 1997, Muggles around the world have been captured by the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, starting with the immortal lines of number four Privet Drive. Since 2017, to celebrate each twentieth anniversary, House Editions for each book, and this year, the House Edition of Harry Potter and the Prisoner pf Azkaban will be released.

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Harry Potter: A History of Magic is an exhibition that ran at the British Library, and this book gives those who have been unable to visit the exhibition a chance to see the artefacts that inspired the magic behind the series. It shows a whole literary and historical world of magic that influences the fictional worlds.

Each subject at Hogwarts is based on a real-world example of magic – Herbology, Charms, Transfiguration, Divination and so forth. Each culture around the world had their own traditions that had similarities and differences, and reading about these was fascinating, especially ancient traditions, such as curse tablets from Ancient Greece. Exploring these aspects of magic in the real world, and exploring what they meant to the cultures they emerged from, is interesting and intriguing from a historical and literary perspective, and these traditions could be used to shape many a magical or fantastical world other than just Harry Potter.

Allowing people who could not physically get to the exhibition to experience it through the book is a good idea, and a good resource to start with if you’re researching historical aspects of magic, and many of the historical aspects were familiar to me as I have done a historical course called the Art of Magic.

This review is shorter than my hardback one, as they have the same content, but my previous review can be read here.

Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes (Bella Donna #1)

Bella Donna 1.jpgTitle: Bella Donna: Coven Road

Author:  Ruth Symes

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Allen and Unwin/Picadilly

Published: 7th January 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 180

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: A witch, a cat and a lot of magic!

A witch, a cat and a lot of magic!

Some girls dream of being a princess, but Bella Donna has always longed to be a witch. The only thing she wants more is to find a family to take her out of the children’s home where she lives. But no one seems quite right until she meets Lilith.

With Lilith’s help, will Bella Donna be able to make both of her secret wishes come true?

Beautifully illustrated throughout by winner of the Egmont Best New Talent award, Marion Lindsay.

~*~

Bella Donna is an orphan, living at the Templeton Children’s Home with her friend Sam – the two are inseparable and keen to find their Forever Families – the ones who will accept them for who they are and what they love. For Bella Donna, she has always wanted to be a witch – and wants a family who will accept her for who she is and what she wants to be. When they’re five, they make a pact that they will both wait for their Forever Families – the ones who will accept them for who they are, and with whom they can be themselves. When Lilith adopts Bella Donna, she feels Lilith is the right person for her, but why? What is it about Lilith that makes Bella Donna think this is her Forever Family? What follows is a series of shenanigans as Bella Donna enters Coven Road, and starts her time there pretending to be something she is not, until Lilith helps her reveal her wishes and find her new identity within Coven Road – and from here, Bella Donna find a way to keep secrets, and when things go wrong, can Bella Donna fix things and save her new family?

This is a new series to Australia, by British author Ruth Symes. Told in first person from Bella’s perspective, the first book in the series is funny, charming and touching – a story of family and friendship, and acceptance set in what I imagine is a small, British village – it has that feel to it and all the charm of British children’s literature throughout the years and decades. Bella Donna is not a perfect female character. At nine years old, she makes mistakes, she isn’t quite perfect but at the same time she just wants to fit in: much like any child growing up.

It is her awkwardness and imperfections that make Bella Donna such a great character as she grapples with friendship at school and keeping her secrets back in Coven Road – secrets, that if she reveals, could mean she has to leave Lilith and Coven Road. Bella Donna also has a charming friendship with Sam from the children’s home that remains strong throughout and though she makes new friends, Sam will always be there for her, and she will always be there for him – it is a celebration of friendship between boys and girls, and a celebration of liking things that might not be seen as acceptable or normal – but somehow Bella Donna makes it all work – school, her new home, her new identity and family – and so begins a series that is charming and amusing, and a rather quick read – but very enjoyable for kids, and anyone who likes a good story about magic and witches.

What Bella Donna does is take the scary image of the witch and turn it on its head. Sure, Bella Donna dresses like you’d imagine a witch might, but the magic that resides in Coven Road draws on all aspects of witches and fantasy, and links them all together in a very creative and uplifting way that is charming and reinforces positive friendships and individualism. I look forward to seeing where Bella Donna goes next.

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Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

have sword, will travel.jpgTitle: Have Sword, Will Travel

Author: Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 29th October 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: From New York Times bestselling authors Garth Nix and Sean Williams, comes this hilarious, action-packed adventure featuring a very unlikely knight, an admirably stubborn girl and a sword with attitude.

When Odo and Eleanor stumble upon an ancient sword in a river outside their village, something very unexpected happens … the sword starts to talk! Much to Odo’s dismay he discovers that he’s awoken a famous enchanted blade called Biter, and thus has instantly become a knight. Eleanor would love to become a knight – but she’s not the one with the sword. Unearthing Biter is only the start of their troubles; soon boy, girl and sword must depart on a noble quest to save their kingdom from threats – in both human and dragon form.

~*~

In a new series that started last year, Garth Nix has teamed up with Sean Williams to create a medieval-esque world, filled with knights and dragons, and dark creatures threatening to take over the kingdom, as well as enchanted swords that talk back to those who wield them. What could be more fun? Well, a world where girls have as much of a chance to become a knight as the boys do! In the beginning, we meet Odo and Eleanor as they are undertaking daily tasks for their family and village, looked after by Sir Halfdan, and often teased by twin brothers, Aaric and Addyson. During these tasks, they discover a sword lying in a pool of water, and pull it out, thinking it belongs to Sir Halfdan. When it begins to talk after Odo’s blood awakens it, and introduces itself (or himself, as it turns out), as  Hildebrand Shining Foebiter, Scourge of Scourger, Daragonslayer, and becomes known as Biter the Dragonslayer, or Biter, for short, by Eleanor and Odo, who are on a quest to supposedly save the people of their country from a devastating dragon known as Quenwolf, who is feared throughout the land. Biter knights Odo before the quest, where they come across a female knight known as Sir Saskia, and another magical sword known as Runnel – Biter’s sister.

But all is not as it seems with the dragon, the quest, or Sir Saskia – and Odo and Eleanor must journey across the lands and meet Quenwolf, to find out what is happening before they can return home.

In the few Garth Nix books I have read, the female hero is front and centre, and breaking the mould of what a princess or female fantasy character is expected to do. She is daring, and eager, yet not perfect. She longs for adventure and becoming a knight, whereas Odo, knighted by Biter, would rather stay home in safety, and is a rather reluctant knight, but with Biter and Eleanor’s help – which he doesn’t always want – will become braver, but still desires to return home.

In this story, we have everything: a gutsy girl, a reluctant hero, a kingdom under attack, spies, dragons, magic, dark creatures, and of course, magical, talking swords that don’t shy away from being snarky or sarcastic when it is called for. It is a world that is in many ways, familiar – a low-tech world with magic, dragons and knights, yet with a newness that carries the story in leaps and bounds as Odo and Eleanor travel across the country, to keep out of harm’s way, and save their village and the kingdom from the dark forces that threaten to take over and who start seeking to hunt them down as the story settles into a flow that will continue into the next book, Let Sleeping Dragons Lie, which will hopefully be reviewed during the week, as I am, at the time of writing this post, nearly finished it.

I’ve got a few Garth Nix books to read in my many stacks of books and will eventually be getting to them to see what other spectacular characters he has written for all readers to enjoy and relate to. A great start to a new series for younger readers – well, readers of all ages if I am being honest. I’m now looking forward to what, if anything, follows Let Sleeping Dragons Lie.

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The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars by Jaclyn Moriarty (Kingdoms and Empires #2)

whispering wars.jpgTitle: The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars

Author: Jaclyn Moriarty

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th October 2018

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 528

Price: $22.99

Synopsis:An enchanting and whimsical spell-filled fantasy novel from Jaclyn Moriarty, the highly-acclaimed author of The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone and the award-winning author of Feeling Sorry for Celia and A Corner of White, suitable for readers who loved A Most Magical Girl

I was taken by Whisperers at 2pm, so I never pulled the lever for the laundry chute.
That’s what bothered me most. 
This is way ahead in the story, though. A lot happened before that.

The town of Spindrift is frequented by pirates, Shadow Mages and charlatans. It’s also home to the Orphanage School, where Finlay lives with Glim, Taya and Eli. Just outside town is the painfully posh Brathelthwaite Boarding School, home to Honey Bee, Hamish and Victor, Duke of Ainsley. When the two schools compete at the Spindrift Tournament, stakes are high, tensions are higher, and some people are out to win at any cost. Before long, the orphans and the boarding school are in an all-out war.

And then Whispering Wars break out, and Spindrift is thrust onto the front lines. Children are being stolen, Witches, Sirens and a deadly magical flu invade the town, and all attempts to fight back are met with defeat.

Finlay, Honey Bee and their friends must join forces to outwit the encroaching forces of darkness, rescue the stolen children, and turn the tide of the war. But how can one bickering troupe outwit the insidious power of the Whisperers? And who are the two mysterious figures watching them from the shadows?

From the award-winning Jaclyn Moriarty comes a spellbinding tale of unlikely friendship, unexpected magic and competitive athletics.

~*~

The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars is the next in the Kingdoms and Empires series, that began with Bronte Mettlestone and her rather inconvenient adventures to visit aunts and hand out gifts to them, where she meets up with Alejandro and other friends – that is her story, and in the second book, we have two delightful and enthusiastic narrators – Finlay, from the Orphanage School, and Honey Bee, from the Brathelwaite Boarding School, a rather painfully posh school on the edge of town, and when the book opens, Finlay and Honey Bee are at each other’s throats, and their schools are neck and neck in a local sports competition – a competition that the Brathelwaite students desperately have to win if they do not want to incur the wrath of their headmaster – who is rather questionable and I sincerely didn’t trust him from the get-go. As time goes on though, both Finlay and Honey Bee – who alternate chapters and actually get to know each other – relate to the reader the rivalry between their schools, and the strange goings on in spindrift – children are disappearing, and each school thinks two mysterious children who keep popping in and out of Spindrift are from the respective schools, spying on the opposing school – but is this the case, or are they another entity entirely?

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Eventually, Finlay and Honey Bee realise that they must work together 0 and their friends must work with them and each other to uncover the truth about what has been happening with the help of two mysterious visitors who know more than they are letting on – visitors that readers of the previous book will recognise and enjoy seeing again. The Whisperers are back, as are the tales of Spellbinders and Witches and faery magic – and a set of twins – intelligent, smart and cheeky – to rival Fred and George Weasley – the latter of which would probably take Eli and Taya under their wing should the worlds meet, and the mischief caused would be wonderfully catastrophic, as well as dragons – my favourite final chapter line is “And that’s when the first dragon landed.” What a way to end a chapter! Alone, all these elements are effective – but together, they create an atmosphere of humour and mystery that is delightful and exquisite in its execution, and is an exciting plot, driven by magic of all kinds that weaves its way around the words and spellbinds the reader. As I read in, the surprises kept coming, and I was cheering for Finlay and Honey Bee, glad that they finally managed to get along, though their arguing made the story extremely amusing and brought a lovely sense of humour to the book, as did the way they broke the fourth wall, and spoke directly to the reader, and admonished each other for misleading or not telling the reader something – an excellent addition!

This series is shaping up to be spectacular one, and is yet another example of the fine, well-honed talent we have coming out of Australia, especially with our women writers, whose stories are often diverse, and cross a myriad of experiences and genres in both fiction and non-fiction, and this is only growing each year as we have more and more enthusiastic and wonderful talent entering the scene. A wonderful follow up, and hopefully, with many more to come.

The Cat with the Coloured Tail by Gillian Mears, Illustrated by Dinalie Dabarera

the cat with the coloured tail.jpgTitle: The Cat with the Coloured Tail

Author: Gillian Mears, Illustrated by Dinalie Dabarera

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Walker Books

Published: 1st September 2015

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 80

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Mr Hooper and The Cat with the Coloured Tail travel through the countryside in their ice-cream van. They enjoy looking for heart shapes (their favourite game) and making people happy with their delicious moon-creams. But a dark feeling is following the cat. Something is wrong. When the ice-cream van enters the forest, Mr Hooper and the cat realise the heart of the world is in danger. Will they be able to save it? A lyrical fable about love and healing.

  • “Gillian Mears’ distinctive voice is undimmed, and her yearning fable is a sweet and gentle reminder of the two great forces that lie dormant within us – kindness and hope. Her work hasn’t just described life; it’s enhanced it. And we owe her thanks.” Tim Winton
  • Gillian Mears is an acclaimed award-winning author of adult fiction. This is her first book for children and is inspired by personal experience.
  • A tender fable-like tale about love and healing that works on many levels. The story is rich in symbolism and with a subtle yet powerful environmental message but is still able to be enjoyed as a magical story.

~*~

In this charming tale, Mr Hunter travels the countryside with his beloved cat, whose tail changes colour, and who can see hearts in the world. The Cat also knows what kind of moon-cream people need to make them feel better when they are sad. And right now, the whole world is sad. Mr Hunter has stopped seeing hearts, and doesn’t know why – and his beautiful cat, The Cat with the Coloured Tail. is frustrated with him and can feel the sickness seeping into the world. Darkness, and sadness and cruelty – the light seems to be dimming everywhere they go as they approach their holiday. The sick, blackened heart of the world needs to be healed, but can Mr Hooper and his cat do it – and how will they do it?

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Told in a fairy-tale, or fable like manner, Gillian Mears’ heart-warming story can be read by any age group, and touches on the goodness of humanity, and the little things people can do to help those having a bad time, or in need of a bit of fun and a smile. Alongside this, is a message about the world and its destruction, and the healing power of selfless sacrifice to help heal the wounds that have been inflicted upon the world by cruelty.

In this story, it is up to Mr Hooper and The Cat with the Coloured Tail to find out why the heart of the world is sick, and how to fix it, by following the trail of sadness that the cat’s tail can sense. What they find is distressing, yet the find and what follows are so beautifully and magically told, that there is a sense of calm even as the worst begins to happen.

The heart-warming end will bring a smile to your face, and is a perfect read for all readers – to be read to them, or individually, and can be enjoyed by all ages. The Cat with the Coloured Tail is a lovely read, with a message about caring and healing for all.

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