Thursday, 25 August 2016

Warner Bros. Studio Tour - HP Haul

To all who are reading this,

Today's post is almost a continuation of the one previously. Today I'm reliving and sharing with you the goodies that I brought home with me from the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. I had such a wonderful day out, and if you haven't seen the post, with lots of photos from the day, you can check it out here!

The gift shop can be accessed from the moment you walk into the tour, so there are plenty of children that wander around in House robes, waving wands. It's really cute, apart from when one nearly has a wand in the eye or nose accident. Then it's tears, tantrums and looks of embarrassment from the parents as they try and tell everyone sorry... Luckily, we saw none of that on our trip!

As I explained in the last post, we visited the gift shop, prior to entering the tour, but there was so much that it was too much to take in. We thought that if we went in first we would know what we wanted coming out of the tour, which would make things easier. It didn't. Anyway, these are the lovely things I brought home with me, even though some prices are steep!

Now, if you've been around this blog, you know I've been sorted into Hufflepuff and I really wanted to show my pride for my House. Most people still think it's a bit of a joke, but I'm proud. Reading into what makes a person a Hufflepuff really opened my eyes to my personality and what kind of person I really am. It helped that when I went around the tour, I was wearing my Hufflepuff shirt, that I got from New Look about two years ago. When I found this adult t-shirt in the store, I was pleasantly surprised. It shows the symbol for the house (badger), with the character attribute "Loyal" on the front. It also shows the house name, if you're unfamiliar with it, and keeps to the colour of the house - yellow. A cotton t-shirt, there are a wide variety of sizes, and is incredibly comfortable. I really like the design of this, and will be proud to show my House off! This was £19.95.

Next is another piece of Hufflepuff memorabilia, and it's a mug! I already have a standard mug from my last trip to London (bought from the Kings Cross shop), but this is a different design. I love the fact that it's also an attribute mug and matches the t-shirt, down to colouring and design. The trait and logo are on the front, and the House name around the back of the handle. All this design work is sculpted and slightly raised, which is a nice touch. It's quite a heavy mug, so I think this will be on my shelf - I don't want to risk breaking it when washing up! It's almost like an old fashioned stein mug, and because of that, it has a real Harry Potter set vibe. This was £12.95.

 
This was bought as something to share with my partner. That's right, we bought a Chocolate Frog! I haven't had a Chocolate Frog since the first film was released, and they sold small versions of these guys in newsagents and sweet aisles of shops. What I love about this, is that the box is exactly as it is in the films - the packaging has a slight cardboard feel to it, but it keeps the solid chocolate treat safe and secure. It's classed as authentic film packaging - how posh! What's also a great thing, is that you get a collectable card in the bottom of the box. Our card is one of the great founders of Hogwarts - Godric Gryffindor! This was £8.95.

 
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (2016) has caused some controversy over Time Turners - especially when Rowling herself admitted faults with them - you can check the article out on Hypable here. Either way though, I couldn't leave one behind, and decided that this time, I would get my keyring. The Time Turner is not that heavy and is gold plated to appear like the one which Hermione uses in the film adaptation of Prisoner of Azkaban (2004). The outer frame stays still, whilst the next moves vertically. The inner piece of the Time Turner moves with it, so it looks like it moves both horizontally and vertically, although in reality, it is just horizontal. Grains of sand sift in an egg timer, although it doesn't run for a full hour like the films would have us believe! This was £8.95.

The penultimate item is a wand. I already have a replica of Hermione's that was brought from America, but this one has come from the tour! This wand is slightly different to my usual style, especially as it belonged to a Death Eater. This is the wand of Antonin Dolohov, the man who participated in murdering Fabian and Gideon Prewitt, escaped Azkaban during the Second War, and injured Hermione with purple like flames during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries. After the death of Dumbledore when Death Eaters were once again at the height of their powers, he and Rowle also assaulted Harry, Ron and Hermione in London, but were unsuccessful in the attempts. He is the Death Eater who killed Remus Lupin, but was defeated by Professor Flitwick. Yes, okay, Dolohov is not a nice person, but I really liked him, although he is a supporting character and not much is known about him. Also, having Hermione's wand, and his is a great contrast, considering their history in her fifth year! The wand is made of a sturdy material, and I love the design work of the skull handle. It looks realistic, as if it's made from real wood, and is not too heavy, despite the skull head. It is a collectable ornament, not a toy, and does come with a cushioned display box. This was £26.95.


And lastly, is this reusable shopper bag, featuring an owl carrying Harry's all important Hogwarts letter. Its a light bag, with a sturdy handle. The bag can be folded down, and comes with a small pocket inside. The pocket carries the same design as the front and back of the bag, which is a nice touch. It's perfect to carry all your treats out with, and it will be great to take all my university books to uni with in September. I love collecting reusable bags, and totes, so this is great to add to the collection, showing my love of the fandom! This was £2.95, as we spent over £30 in the store.

What would you buy at the tour? There's so much to choose from!

Yours, with eternal ink,

Zoe

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Currently reading: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

Monday, 22 August 2016

Warner Bros. Studio Tour

To all who are reading this,

It's no secret on this blog that I am a huge Potter fan, so when my nanna booked tickets for my partner and I to go down to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour at Leavesden Studios, London, I was more than excited. I had been counting down the days until I could go back, and marvel at the magical worlds creation, and see the Hogwarts Express, the latest addition. The trip would be even more special as the studio was celebrating the 15th Anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone (2001)!

The journey down to the studios was by coach, and admittedly, I did have a nap or two (my sleep pattern is already ruined). The coach pulled up into the lot, which spans over two stages - J and K. Outside, there are huge images depicting scenes from the films as well as some of the chess pieces which Harry, Ron and Hermione had to play against during Philosophers Stone.

Our tour admittance wasn't until 2:30pm, and we had arrived at 1:00pm. It gave us plenty of time to take in the new display of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (due for release in November), as well as a model of the flying keys seen in Philosophers Stone, which Harry has to fly around and through. It also gave ample time to eat our packed lunch in the onsite cafĂ©, and browse the gift shop beforehand - problem was I saw so much that I wanted to buy, so watch out for my haul post!


The entrance to the tour shows the cupboard under the stairs, which is where Harry slept for a long period of time. The queue takes you into a small holding room, where you watch a video about the progression from book to screen. You're then escorted into a large cinema with plush leather seats. I grabbed seats in the front row to watch another video where Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron) and Emma Watson (Hermione) take us on a personalised journey of what it was like working on the films, being with the people behind the scenes, and what they did - from prop design to costume creation, to sets and creature effects.

And then the screen rolls up - and there's the Great Hall doors! The tour operator invites you to come forward and if there are people with birthdays they get the chance to open the doors. There were no birthdays so the operator asked for volunteers - you won't be surprised to hear I had my hand straight in the air. So, I got to open the doors to the Great Hall!

It's completely bedecked like the films, with benches, tables, cutlery, goblets and such. Of course, there's the added costumes which make the whole thing all the more special, with music from the films playing gently in the background.

Afterwards, you are moved through, and what you see is up to you. There is so much to see and do, such as visiting Dumbledore's office and the Gryffindor dormitory, to Hagrid's Hut and the Potions classroom (RIP Alan Rickman). There are areas dedicated to the flying mechanics, Quidditch and the Dark Arts... These are just a few snippets of what's there!



On with the tour! You come to the platform, where the Hogwarts Express is situated. It's just awe inspiring and I admit, I welled up with tears. You can go inside, but the queue was so massive that I knew I wouldn't get a proper chance to look through. That being said, there is a section at the end, displaying Harry and Ron's first meeting, which is very special.



Continuing, there are some fantastic outdoor sets including the Knight Bus, Privet Drive (which has been opened up to the public), Godric's Hollow, Tom Riddle's grave and more. It's exciting to move around and actually be in the places where the actors have stood. Plenty of photo ops here!


 
 
Then comes the creature and special effects area, where the stages of creating goblins, Dobby, werewolves, dragons and more are found. It's fascinating, and although it does take away the magic slightly, it's still very special. Especially, when the Devil's Snare from Philosophers Stone starts moving behind you!

 
 
Going straight from creature effects, you get the chance to walk Diagon Alley, which is an amazing experience. The amount of work that has gone into creating the store fronts , costumes and products is amazing - it truly is like seeing it all for the first time!


You are moved into the art department where schematics are found for the design of sets and artist illustrations. They're completely amazing and you could lose yourself in those works - there was images on the walls I would have loved to have taken home.


 And then, you are at Hogwarts. I cried, I'm not ashamed to admit it! It's just a fabulous experience as you walk around it, taking in all the details, before entering the final area - Ollivander's wand department, where you can find the wands of cast members and staff who worked on the films.



I honestly would go and do the tour for a third time - it is just that fascinating, and new visits bring different things to the experience.

I'd highly recommend this for other fans - it's something you won't forget. After all, J.K. Rowling herself once said, "Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home." It sure is, guys, it sure is.

Yours, with eternal ink,

Zoe

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Currently reading: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

Friday, 19 August 2016

Batman: The Killing Joke - A Review

To all who are reading this,

I enjoy superhero films as much as the next person, but if I'm being completely honest, I think I'm more of a DC Comics person than Marvel. Only just though, like a tiny amount! When the news broke out that Mark Hamill, celebrated actor and voice actor, was prepared to come back to the role of the Joker for the animated Batman film, The Killing Joke, I was ecstatic!

The Killing Joke is one of my favourite graphic novels, originally published in 1988. Essentially, it tells an origin tale of the Joker - how he became the way he is, as he tries to evade capture by Batman and at the same time, turn Commissioner Gordon insane. Not only do we see a new perspective on the Clown Prince of Crime, but it also paves the way for the character, Oracle, to enter the picture.

There was the rumour of the film adaptation being shown in cinemas, but it was thought that only the big cities would get the showing. Never in a million years did I imagine that the little seaside town would get to host the film in a one night only preview. With friends, I booked tickets and we decided to make a night of it on 2 August. After a nice pub meal and a stop off to Tesco for snacks (because cinema prices are daylight robbery), we were let through to the screen. Imagine our shock when we realised we had been let into the end credits of the animated film, The Secret Life of Pets (2016)! The film finished, and we eagerly took seats near the front. The cinema staff cleaned around us, we refused to be moved. We were the first people into the screening and that was so exciting. Gradually, the screen started to fill, but there were still plenty of seats.

And then the trailers started. The Killing Joke was underway.

Length: 1h 16min

Release date: 25 July 2016

Synopsis: As Batman hunts for the escaped Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime attacks the Gordon family to prove a diabolical point mirroring his own fall into madness.

Genre: Animation / Action / Crime

Studio: Warner Bros. Animation / DC Entertainment

Director: Sam Liu

Writer: Bob Cane / Bill Finger / Alan Moore / Brian Bolland

Starring: Kevin Conroy / Mark Hamill / Tara Strong

MPA-Rating: 15

The animated adaption follows the plot of the graphic novel very closely, albeit a new prologue which establishes the relationship between Batman (Bruce Wayne) and Batgirl (Barbara Gordon). During this, Batgirl is trying to prove a point that she is as good as him, and engages in a battle with criminal Paris Franz, an upcoming mob boss type, who has an obsession with the female caped crusader. During the confrontation, Batgirl realises how close she has come to being a killer, and retires from her crime fighting days.

The adaption begins where Batman learns that the Joker has escaped Arkham, and no one has any idea of where he is, or what he has planned. And sadly, the Gordon family has no idea of what he has in store for them either. During a family evening at Barbara's, the Joker enters and shoots her in the stomach, paralysing her. Commissioner Gordon is kidnapped, where he is then stripped naked, and taken around a derelict amusement park where he will be the main attraction. He is also shown horrific photographs of his daughter, in pain, bloodied, and in various stages of undress. In the Joker's world, this one bad day, is enough to turn anyone insane. Just like what happened to him.

The origin tale of the Joker is brought to life on screen and translates well from the graphic novel. It shows how he was once a young man, Jack, with a wife and a baby on the way. Although he is trying hard for his family, his comedy gigs aren't cutting it, and he agrees to help a gang break through the old chemical plant where he used to work. During the negotiations, he learns that a home accident has caused the death of his wife and unborn baby. Even though there is no one waiting for him at home now, he is cajoled into the crime spree, and dons a Red Hood disguise. During the break in, security guards open fire at the same time that Batman arrives. Jack is set up by the gang, and he is so frightened of the caped hero that he falls over a railing and into a vat of acid.

When Jack emerges, his skin is stained white. His hair is green. His mouth is stretched and red. After all his failed comedy attempts, he now resembles a clown. He succumbs to insanity, becoming the Joker.


As the film reaches its climax, Batman enters to save the day. Commissioner Gordon has not been broken, despite the attempts, and insists that Batman goes after the Joker, and brings him in by the book. A fight breaks out, with the realisation that the Joker's madness is his, and his alone. He then proceeds to tell a joke about two patients escaping an insane asylum. As he delivers the punch line, he and Batman share a laugh together, as the film draws to a close.

The epilogue reveals what has happened to Barbara. She now uses a wheelchair and also appears quite sane, considering the ordeal she has suffered. Undeterred, she is still helping Batman, becoming Oracle, the computer and intel genius.

It's a well done adaptation, with dialogue close to the original source material.

The colouring keeps in line with the darkness of the tale, although does allow brighter moments as relief, such as the colouring in Joker's funhouse. Joker's tale is also coloured in sepia tones, keeping us rooted in the past, until that emergence from the acid where everything has changed.

The action is fast, and as usual the fight scenes between Batman and Joker are everything DC fans have come to expect.

The joy though comes through in the voice acting. Conroy as Batman works well for the role - and he better be considering that he has been playing him since the animated television series! He has since then gone on to play the hero in many other animated adapations as well as the Arkham video game series (2009-ongoing).

Strong as Batgirl is a joy - she keeps peppy and sassy, whilst still showing how young Barbara really is as she enjoys her role at the library, being with her family, especially the evenings with her father. Strong is a veteran voice actress, known for many many characters that I couldn't possibly name all of them here!

The real treat of course for fans is Hamill, reprising his role as the Joker. Also from the animated series, Hamill joined Conroy for other animated films, as well as the Arkham video games. In The Killing Joke, he is perfectly creepy to send tingles up your spin and makes the hair rise on your arms. His monologues are delivered with passion, and he becomes the character. The moment he started a deep throated laugh, my stomach turned and I giggled like a lunatic. And I wasn't the only one.

Mark Hamill - Joker (left) / Kevin Conroy - Batman (right)
If you like your Batman tales dark, then this is definitely the film for you! It's not necessary to read the graphic novel beforehand, so you can go in without prior knowledge. Whilst it was a one night only event, The Killing Joke is now available to buy in stores (DVD/Blu-Ray) and online. The Blu-Ray limited edition even comes with a tiny Joker figurine!

I'd see this again in a heartbeat.

Yours, with eternal ink,

Zoe

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Currently reading: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Monday, 15 August 2016

Collecting Tsum Tsum's

To all who are reading this,

You might have seen these cute, squashy, almost square little Disney critters in the shops, you might not have. I've been hooked on these guys, and although my collection is pitiful compared to some hardcore fans, I still love them nonetheless! Some of you may be wondering what they are. Well, I'll tell you.

These are Disney Tsum Tsum - a range of collectable toys based on popular Disney characters. They started out in Japan, with tsumu meaning "to stack". The toys are designed to be stacked, forming squares, pyramids and other little patterns. Tsum Tsum characters were originally released in Japan in 2013, as a tie in to the video game for Apple and Android devices, as well as arcade machines. The aim of the game is to create chains of three (or more) characters to earn points. I'm hoping to do a post on the game soon - it's something I really enjoy playing. I first found out about the game on YouTube on Noodlerella's channel about a year or so ago - check it out here!

Now Tsum Tsum's have gotten incredibly popular so that places like Clinton Cards, The Entertainer, Smyths Toy Stores, Toys "R" Us, and even B&M Retail are starting to sell the toys and other merchandising. I think the appeal is that they are so freaking cute - they're squidgy, tiny and just make me smile. As our Japanese friends would say, they're totally kawaii! The games even produce variants of characters such as having Valentine, or Christmas editions of Standard characters, with the chance to win others at certain times of the year. When Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens was released, you could enter Star Wars themed events on the game to win Tsums like Darth Vader, R2-D2 and Leia. And of course, that means you can buy Star Wars Tsums in the shops - yes, you can have your own squishy, small Kylo Ren! As well as standard Disney Tsum's, you can also get Marvel Tsum's like Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers! Tsum's come in small (£3.50), medium (£10.00) and large sizes (£20.00), and these are the usual retail prices.

So this post is a celebration of my collection!

I love Zootopia (2016). It's one of my favourite films of the year, starring the first police officer rabbit, Judy Hopps as she adapts to life in the big city, changes her opinions and takes on one of the largest cases the city has ever seen. I love the film so much, I wrote a post about it here! So naturally, I had to get these Tsum's, even though there is a few missing from my collection. These guys sit on the top shelf of my central bookcase in the study. Top left is Nick Wilde, fox and central character. Top right is Finnick, fennec fox and Nick's partner in the criminal underworld. Bottom right, is Clawhauser, cheetah and police dispatch officer. And finally, bottom left is Judy Hopps, rabbit, police officer, and all around amazing bunny!

Next up is a full collection which I was lucky enough to get for my birthday! I loved The Lion King (1994) as a child, and in fact, I still love it now. The music makes you sing along, I love the character Scar, and of course, we will always remember Mufasa... These Tsum's sit on both sides of the middle shelf of my central bookcase, and they look really cute! Do these guys really need an introduction?


The next group of Tsum Tsum's sit on the left hand side of my desk. They guard the Post It  notes, and more often than not, get caught on cables and topple off to land on stacks of paper. I love the colour scheme I've got going here and when I'm working, they're cute companions! On the bottom left is kitten Marie from The Aristocats (1970), and her right sided white counterpart is the healthcare companion Baymax from Big Hero 6 (2014). Going up a level on the right we have T-I-double G-R, and that spells Tigger from The Many Adventure's of Winnie the Pooh (1977), and on the left is the silly old bear, Pooh, himself! In the centre of the sticky notes is one of my favourite Disney characters, ever - the mysterious Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland (1951). And last, but certainly not least we go back to the Hundred Acre Woods for Winnie the Pooh's best friend, the pink Piglet!


With the rest of my Christmas money, I bought a Medium sized Minnie Mouse Tsum, because after all, she is a classic in her own right. She's my first medium, and she sits on the ottoman beside my bed. She looked awful lonely though, and as a reward for doing really well in a horrible video assignment for university, I decided to get her a friend. I decided upon my favourite Disney bunny - Judy Hopps!


My Tsum Tsum addiction is getting a little out of control. It's bad enough I will text my mum to remind her to send me a Heart on the game, or I'll run around the display in my local Clintons doing impressions of the characters. Oh no! I've also got these little beauties too! The first item is this fleecy pink blanket that was on sale in The Entertainer, and is perfect for lounging about on the sofa with. It's clearly made for a child's single bed, but since I'm really small, it covers me perfectly. It can even be wrapped like a toga! This blanket is adorned with Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck, Eeyore, and Marie, on both sides. Originally priced at £10.00, I got it for £5.00 - a real bargain! It's been the perfect addition to keeping toasty, and it makes me feel all cute, especially when I'm curled up on the sofa!

Keeping with The Entertainer, I also got this aluminium children's drinks bottle! It's perfect for taking along to placement - all the kids love looking at the Disney characters and it makes for interesting conversations. It holds 500ml of water, and the top is quite secure, even though it doesn't look it from this picture. You just have to make sure that the inside of the bottle is firmly down, otherwise it might spill if knocked - the hazards of working with children! Originally priced at £5.00, I got it for £2.50 - another half price bargain. I love the patterning and colouring and it was definitely a good choice. The best thing is that at placement none of the members of staff judge you for having weird interests, so this bottle can be a real conversation opener. 

This next collection was all a Christmas present, and I'm loathe to use any of it because it's all so freaking cute! I love stationery - it's my Achilles heel. These bits and pieces came from Wilkinson's.
In the centre is an A5 exercise notebook with hundreds of characters all over it, priced at £3.00, now on sale. Inside, it's lined on the edges with the characters. The only complaint, is that the plastic covering scratches really easily. On the top of the notebook, is a slim barrel plastic coated pencil case, priced at £4.00, now on sale. It's perfect for keeping all your cute stationery in. It comes with the same design as the notebook, and is really squashy.
On the left is a pad of sticky notes with Buzz Lightyear, Snow White, Daisy Duck, Stitch, Pluto the Dog, and Tigger designs, priced at £1.75, now on sale. As well as being cute, they're great reminders of where you are in your notes/reading.
Next is a totem pencil, priced at £2.00, now on sale. The design is the same as the exercise book and this comes with three detachable totem erasers in Dumbo, Mike and Chip. Alongside this is the Stitch novelty pen, priced at £1.50, now on sale. It writes in blue and black ink, and this is changed when you press the ears down!
Scattered at the bottom is a set of mini erasers, priced at £2.25, now on sale. The designs are Minnie Mouse, Dumbo, Daisy Duck and Marie.
Going up on the right is a sticker sheet, because everyone loves stickers. Priced at £1.50, these are now on sale, and feature many loveable characters that slowly increase in size.
And finally, the memo block, priced at £2.25, now on sale. Each coloured memo section is adorned with different characters that correspond to the colours, and they're headlined by Daisy Duck, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Goofy.


And finally, this little treat that I received in the post from my best friend. He knows I like heroes, he knows I like Tsum's (I got him into playing the game!), so he sent me this rather cute, but bizarre comic book. I haven't read it yet, but I'm quite excited to see where these cute Marvel Tsum's will take us, and what adventures they will have. This was a variant edition of the cover, and price unknown.

Who's your favourite Tsum Tsum? Do you have any?

Yours, with eternal ink,

Zoe

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Currently reading: Let The Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Friday, 12 August 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - A Review

To all who are reading this,

As mentioned in the Coffee Book Tag I posted a few days ago, there is a new book in the spellbinding series by J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two is based upon a new story by Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. The book is actually in script format, created by Thorne for the two part stage production in the West End, London. Published 31 July 2016, many bookstores across the globe released the book at midnight, with avid readers and fans waiting eagerly for the chance to revisit the magical world. I got my copy a few days later, and whilst I was excited, part of me was scared. Why? I guess you need to read on...

There may be spoilers.

Blurb
The eighth story. Nineteen years later...
It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn't much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

I've been a Potter fan since the beginning. I would re-enact scenes from the books with friends in the playground, always miffed when I wasn't allowed to be Hermione (I invented a Gryffindor sister for Draco, at this stage). I've got well thumbed copies of the books, seen all the films, been sorted into my Hogwarts House (Hufflepuff), and my Ilvermorny House (Thunderbird) on Pottermore. I've visited the Studio Tour once previously with university a few years back, and I'm going back this month. I've been to Platform Nine and Three Quarters at Kings Cross in London. I have merchandising coming out of my ears. I was one of those kids who wrote fanfiction like there was no tomorrow. 

And yet, when it came to the hype surrounding Cursed Child, I was wary. It's all very good having an epilogue where all is well, but knowing that we were going to re-enter that world... I was nervous, but hadn't been overly excited like some people were. I'd like to see the show eventually, but I know that will never happen. I have no virtually no enthusiasm for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (due for release this year).

I'm rambling, aren't I? I don't sound like much of a fan...

The cover for Cursed Child takes its inspiration from the stage play, where inside a woven, bird-like nest of a Golden Snitch, sits a forlorn looking boy with messy hair. Is this a young Harry or one of his children? Is this the eldest, James Sirius? Is it, the only daughter, Lily Luna? Or this is, the middle child, Albus Severus? Reading the blurb, it becomes clear fast who this is - this is the child named for two powerful wizards, Headmasters of Hogwarts, both of whom shaped and changed Harry's life. 

As previously stated, the book is in script format, which makes for interesting read. It's sectioned into Part One, and Part Two, with the varying acts that take place. There is little description, only there seemingly for the actors, but we don't need it. You already know the existing world, and the creative world building that has taken place through the books and the film adaptions.

The story splits between Harry, who married Ginny. Both of them are older and more frazzled than ever. The other half of the story belongs to his young son, Albus. Albus is worried about which House he will be sorted into, and although he is friends with Rose Granger-Weasley (the child of Hermione and Ron), he instantly makes friends with Scorpius Malfoy (the child of Draco and Astoria). And as soon as they arrive at Hogwarts, things start to change. Albus is placed into Slytherin with Scorpius, he struggles with his lessons and is becoming estranged from his father. He starts to see himself as a disappointment, and not only that, Harry wants him to stop being friends with Scorpius, because of a rumour. A rumour that Scorpius is actually the child of Voldemort. Both boys plunge into chaos and time travel when they decide to steal a Time Turner and change the past - they are going to save Triwizard Champion, Quidditch player and Hufflepuff, Cedric Diggory.

Let's refresh our memories with something Hermione told us in the film of Prisoner of Azkaban (2004):


Naturally, our young heroes do not get the message, and a whole host a dangerous world shifting occurs. Every time they enter the past, things are starting to move out of balance, and create dark unlikeable moments. The second half of the script takes up in the midst of these dark times, and with the aid of characters long since gone, things start to fix themselves up. Hereupon lies, the mystery of the Cursed Child, and it all relates to a prophecy...

I was really disappointed with this. I tried my hardest to like it, I really did, but there was something about it I didn't enjoy. I felt like it was trying too hard, melding elements of the books together. With that in mind, sometimes the writing seemed like fanfiction, especially in relation to the truth about the prophecy. At times, it made for uncomfortable reading.

The characters didn't seem right, and although it is nineteen years on, I felt like it was a dramatic shift from epilogue and opening of the play to maybe several Acts in. One of those is notable in Act One, Scene Seven, the exchanges between Harry and Albus at the Potter home. I didn't much care for the children either - I know that growing up is rough, but I started not caring for Albus at all. Scorpius however, was an interesting addition, and although he sometimes seemed a little bit like Ron, I found him to be a redeeming feature. Like Albus, Scorpius has a tough time of it at school and at home, but he has a "can do" attitude that is refreshing through the doom and gloom.

Having said that, the stage play could be completely different. Actually having others portraying the characters and creating the love and tension from the script on a stage, taking Polyjuice Potion (I wonder how that's going to happen on stage)... I think it would make for interesting viewing. I'm hoping that there is going to be an official live recording of it on sale on DVD or Blu-Ray soon, for those who are unable to get tickets, like it sometimes happens with concerts of special theatre events.

Granger-Weasley family (left), Potter family (centre), Malfoy family (right)

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is available in eBook format, as well as hardback edition from most retailers.

More information on the play can be found: Cursed Child, London.

Yours with eternal ink,

Zoe

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Currently reading: Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Coffee Book Tag

To all who are reading this,
 
It's August - it's the summer holidays for many, unless you work over the summer... I finished uni and placement, until September, where it starts all over again. The early morning lectures, the desire for more tea than I could possible consume, smudging notes, people begging for a pen, and so much more! It's also been eight years since I left school and had my prom, and I suddenly feel really old...

So here's a cheeky little book tag, all themed on coffee and hot drinks! I found this tag on YouTube - check out the video here from jessethereader! And isn't his Baymax mug just the cutest?

1. Black: Name a series that's tough to get into but has hardcore fans.
The full series of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin (1991-ongoing), can be incredibly tough to get into. Even if you're a fan of the HBO show (titled A Game of Thrones, after the first novel), the books are thick, and heavy, with long chapters. Whilst they do give a lot of background to the events, for some, this is not what they are after, making it a tough read. The fans though, are incredibly hardcore (and that's for the television show too), arguing plot points, figuring out who Jon Snow's parents are, and supporting their House of choice in the quest for the Iron Throne.  

2. Peppermint mocha: Name a book that gets more popular during the winter or a festive time of year.I'm all for the autumn/winter months, but I'm going with Halloween - that's definitely festive for me! Walking into Waterstones during this time means that horror books are usually popular, and are on special offers. And whose books are on those sales? The one and only, Stephen King! One that always gets more popular is The Shining (1977), which follows the Torrance family, as they become off-season caretakers for the Overlook Hotel. Young boy Danny possesses 'the shining', which is a psychic ability to see the hotel's past events unfurl. It's only when the winter arrives and Jack (Danny's father) falls foul of the supernatural entities, causing his sanity and his families lives to be put on the line.
3. Hot chocolate: What is your favourite children's book?
I absolutely adore Matilda by Roald Dahl (1988)! I really identified with the titular character, Matilda, with her love of books, and the fact that she is on a constant pursuit of knowledge. She is also quite sassy for a small child, especially when she makes quips all relating to her incidents, such as bleaching her father's hair, or gluing a hat to his head, to even shoving the parrot up a chimney so that their house is haunted. I have really fond memories of childhood with this book, so it's a firm favourite for me. It also helps that I love the film adaptation in 1996 - the characters were spot on to me, especially the Trunchbull played by the wonderful Pam Ferris! 

4. Double shot of espresso: Name a book that kept you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (2016) was one of those books that I could not put down, and I have a huge desire to reread it all over again. I had to keep reading as soon as I opened the package from Amazon. There was so much that kept me hooked, and nearly sliding off the sofa. I hated stopping reading it to have my dinner and tidy up, I was that hooked! Whether it as the romance or the mystery or the action - hell, it could have been a combination of the whole thing! All I know was that the book kept me going, and I was not happy when it came to the end. I wanted to read more of the world and the characters. I'll wait patiently for the next in the series, I guess.

5. Starbucks: Name a book you see everywhere.
As much as I freaking love the series and am a huge fan (as in, I've got a Pottermore account and been sorted into Hogwarts as a Hufflepuff, and into Ilvermorny as a Thunderbird), you cannot go anywhere nowadays without seeing any of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (1997-2007). Since the covers have been redesigned, and a new illustrated version is available in shops, there's no escaping the series that made up my childhood. At least a new generation will be enjoying the books and joining the fandom! Also, there's been the publication of the eighth book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (2016), the script collection of the stage play, with a review coming soon. 

6. That hipster coffee shop: Give a book by an indie author a shoutout.
That shoutout on this tag goes to Trina M. Lee, who is the author of the Alexa O'Brien Huntress series (2011-ongoing), as well as the Rebel Heart series (2015-ongoing). Trina is a fantastic author, who always has the time to talk to fans on social media, as well as write fast paced, sexy, drama laden novels that keep the reader wanting more, more, more.
The Alexa series follows werewolf Alexa O'Brien as she faces an uncertain future with the darkness surrounding her - tangling with vampires and the supernatural community has never been more dangerous. There are 11 books in the series, as well as four smaller novellas that fit between the main books, and one prequel short. There is also been more planned.
The Rebel Heart series is a spin off of the Alexa series, but this time, the reader is welcomed to the world of Spike, a rocker and nephilim (half-angel, half human). Spike must fight her destiny - choosing between the lightness and the darkness has gotten difficult. There are two full length novels in the series so far, and Trina has more planned.

7. Oops! I accidentally got decaf! Name a book you were expecting more from.
It wasn't the book per se, but more the ending for me. That book was Waiting for Wednesday by Nicci French, the third book in the Freida Klein series (2014). The novel follows psychotherapist Freida Klein as she struggles to get back to being herself after being seriously injured on a case. She gets entangled with a new ongoing murder case, but things are never that simple. At the same time, Freida is also being discredited by newspapers for her attitudes to practice. Something about that triggers her mind, sending her on a new path of discovery... As exciting as the book was originally, it became just procedures, interviews, and it jumped around too much. I felt like I was losing Freida as a character to her whims and her troubled family. It seemed that anyone could have committed the murder and when it was finally revealed, it was overshadowed by the personal quest that Freida is undertaking. That ending felt lacking, and I didn't really enjoy it as much as I thought I would.
 
8. The perfect blend: Name a book or series that was both bitter and sweet, but ultimately satisfying.
I've really enjoyed reading the Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard (2015-ongoing), but it was the second book in the series Glass Sword (2016), that was bitter, sweet and satisfying. There was so much action unfurling that left characters and the world so damaged, and villainous rulers making chaos for anyone daring to go before them. That was what was so satisfying - that clash between heroine Mare and King Maven made me want to read more. Neither will stop their ways - Mare, striving for equality and to take back control for people like here, compared to King Maven's obsession and need to be better than others in his family. It made for a compelling read, and that ending? I was left gobsmacked!

So what books fit these categories for you? I'd love to hear!

Yours, with eternal ink,

Zoe

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Currently reading: Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Prom Queen of Disaster - A Review

To all who are reading this,

Today I introduce you to an indie read that I had the pleasure to ARC read before release, in exchange for an honest review. That book is Prom Queen of Disaster by Joseph James Hunt. Published in July 2016, the novel blends drama, romance and quirky teenage lives in this novel described by others as 'the Hunger Games of prom'.

There may be spoilers.

Blurb
WELCOME TO THE CITY OF SAN RAFAEL
Nobody does drama like cheerleaders do. They'll do anything to win, and ruin your life doing it.
AT MARIN COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL
Every girl wants the crown at prom, their picture in the yearbook to prove they were popular. But most importantly, a reminder they have no problem taking you down.
You're not worth anything until someone thinks you're a threat. From toddlers in tiaras to pubescent prom queens, everyone is competition when there's a crown involved.
Zoey will never know how deep she's in until it's too late, and now there's no going back because good girls always go bad.

Huge thanks to Joseph Hunt for sending me this copy - it's not a type of book I normally read, so this was a nice change of pace for me!

The cover is great - a pouting young girl, tanned and sleek with large sunglasses on her face. Although the reflection in her sunglasses is not the landscape around her or anything like that. No, it's a glittering prom queen crown - something that she wants.

The novel follows Zoey Jensen, a cheerleader in her final year of study at Marin County High School. Zoey gets good grades, she majors in Art classes, has a close circle of girl friends, has a basketball playing boyfriend... She has everything she could possibly want, until someone mentions prom. This is something that she now wants - wouldn't it be better than winning the cheer competition, or sneaking into dive bars? She will stand queen with her boyfriend, and cement their relationship by losing her virginity to him. The only problem is that everyone and anyone is vying for the crown. It doesn't help either that her Christian parents have invited a damaged young boy to stay with them either...

Marin County High School sounds and reads like every high school in America - it's nothing out of place, but at the same time, this cements the book in our reality. We know from television shows, films and books who we are likely to encounter here. So naturally, there is the popular cheerleader clique, whom Zoey is part of. There are her friends, these are who she is going to take on in the run up to prom.

Zoey is written well - she is experiencing those pangs of being a teenager, and entering into adulthood, although there are at times, I personally didn't like her. That being said though, I did identify with her - she is an outsider amongst the circle of friends, she has been hurt, she studies hard. It isn't until through the novel that Zoey changes, and she sees that maybe her little sister shouldn't be in a hurry to grow up so fast, and that she can and will run for being a queen. She will do anything it takes in the run up campaigns, anything to be on the ballot paper.

That being said, prom in the UK is not a huge deal. Yes, you get to party with friends, in a gorgeous dress, arrive in fancy cars and see someone be crowned, but as Cady Heron once said...

 
That being said, the book is a good read - lots of drama, with pop culture references galore, as well as a sweet romance. A standalone read, it has no cliffhanger ending. It was something different for me, and that made it all the more enjoyable!

It's available in eBook format and in paperbacks too:

US: http://amzn.to/28SrO24
UK: http://amzn.to/28Sb5R3
FREE on Kindle Unlimited (KU)

Yours, with eternal ink,
Zoe

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Currently reading: Sword Art Online: Phantom Bullet by Reki Kawahara