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Monday, April 24, 2017

Muggle Monday: Fantastic Beasts Audiobook Review

It's time for Muggle Monday, in which I highlight a significant piece of news from the Harry Potter franchise. This is somewhat inspired by the Mundane Monday posts by The Mundie Moms.

But let's be real as to why I made up this feature: I just want the opportunity to post something about Harry Potter.

This week, my thoughts on the updated Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them audiobook:

Publisher: Pottermore
Published: March 14, 2017
Pages: 128

A set textbook at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry since publication, Newt Scamander's masterpiece has entertained wizarding families through the generations.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an indispensable introduction to the magical beasts of the wizarding world. Scamander's years of travel and research have created a tome of unparalleled importance. Some of the beasts will be familiar to readers of the Harry Potter books - the Hippogriff, the Basilisk, the Hungarian Horntail ... Others will surprise even the most ardent amateur magizoologist. Dip in to discover the curious habits of magical beasts across five continents …

When it was announced that Newt Scamander actor Eddie Redmayne was going to record the audiobook of the updated Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them novella, I knew that was something I needed to experience. I absolutely loved Eddie as Newt in the Fantastic Beasts movie and so he has very much become the voice of Newt for me. It was fun to have him narrate this while in character - every mumbling, beast-passionate bit of him. Extra sound effects are added into this audio (beast noises and the like), which, while unnecessary, are nevertheless fun.

In this updated version of the classic Wizarding World novella, an intro from Newt himself has been
added (providing some curious tidbits about his backstory), as well as a handful of new creature descriptions not included in the original book (primarily the Ilvermorny House Beasts). Sadly, gone are the original scribblings by the Trio throughout the novella (the original book was presented as though it was Harry's actual textbook), which were brilliantly in character and SO fun.

A sample of the Trio's scribblings from the original Fantastic Beasts novella (2001)

If you already own the original book that was released in 2001, then I can't say it's entirely worth it to buy this new edition as it is almost entirely the same (and also, I suspect that this won't be the absolute final edition of this novella... Newt himself reveals that there may be more beasts to be revealed later), but I would still recommend checking it out from the library to read the new bits. And if you do wish to purchase this edition, then at least you'll be supporting Jo's human rights charity Lumos as 15% of the proceeds will go to the foundation.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Summer 2017 Catalog

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which upcoming, eagerly anticipated releases are highlighted on the blog.

This week, I've chosen to feature a few picks from the HarperCollins Summer 2017 Catalog:

Wicked Like A Wildfire by Lana Popovic
Date: August 15, 2017
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All the women in Iris and Malina’s family have the unique magical ability or “gleam” to manipulate beauty. Iris sees flowers as fractals and turns her kaleidoscope visions into glasswork, while Malina interprets moods as music. But their mother has strict rules to keep their gifts a secret, even in their secluded sea-side town. Iris and Malina are not allowed to share their magic with anyone, and above all, they are forbidden from falling in love.
But when their mother is mysteriously attacked, the sisters will have to unearth the truth behind the quiet lives their mother has built for them. They will discover a wicked curse that haunts their family line—but will they find that the very magic that bonds them together is destined to tear them apart forever?

Would you LOOK at that insanely gorgeous cover?! I know I can't stop looking at it anyways. The one time I was able to draw my attention away from the cover to read the synopsis for Wicked Like A Wildfire revealed a pretty intriguing premise too!

All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis
Date: August 29, 2017
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Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks ("Sorry" is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt), for every nod ($0.99/sec), for every scream ($0.99/sec) and even every gesture of affection. She's been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can't begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she's unable to afford.
But when Speth's friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family's crippling debt, she can't express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Backed into a corner, Speth finds a loophole: rather than read her speech, rather than say anything at all, she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again. Speth's unexpected defiance of tradition sparks a media frenzy, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, and threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.

All Rights Reserved takes place in a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted and costs money (and where people have first names like "Speth"). Sounds bizarre and nonsensical - but colour me curious nonetheless!

Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett
Date: September 5, 2017
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Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the emperor’s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. She knows she could be the best in the world, if only someone would give her a chance.
But everything changes when the mysterious and eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer every known, arrives in her village and demands to hire Kamzin—not her older sister, Lusha, as everyone had expected—for his next expedition. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself—even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means cimbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then, Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer, and Kamzin must decide what’s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit.
The challenges of climbing Raksha are unlike anything Kamzin expected—or prepared for—with avalanches, ice chasms, ghosts, and other dangers at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth about their mission and her companions—while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced.

This one is set in a fictional Himalayan kingdom - a setting I can honestly say I've never come anywhere close to reading about. I've also been interested in the area since my dad climbed Mount Everest a few years back. So I can't help but be intrigued by Even the Darkest Stars!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these HarperCollins Summer 2017 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the HarperCollins Summer 2017 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published: March 28, 2017
Pages: 544
Source: For Review from Hachette Book Group Canada
Rating: 4.5 Stars

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around— and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he's been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.
What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?
The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo's dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? and if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

In short: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor is a feast for the imagination.
In some ways Strange the Dreamer is similar to Laini Taylor's previous trilogy, Daughter of Smoke and Bone: there's an epic and bloody war between two races, with star-crossed lovers at its centre. But that's where the similarities end. Strange the Dreamer is as original as it gets in the world of high fantasy fiction. Of course, we could expect no less from the Queen of Imagination, Laini Taylor. Strange the Dreamer is indescribably, beautifully BIZARRE, in the best way possible.

The set-up of the premise of Strange the Dreamer is complex and slow going, and less persistent readers may lose interest. But the payoff of patience is worth it as the story gets truly underway. And once underway the story is, in short, unexpected. Just when you think you know exactly where the story is going, a turning point hits and you're sent spinning off in another direction, again and again, right up until the novel's very unexpected cliffhanger ending.

At the story's heart is affable librarian, Lazlo Strange. He is not the usual hero type, more like the friendly bookish wallflower type (and all the more likeable for it). The old tale of the orphan underdog who dreams and wants more out of life is given new legs by Laini Taylor's adept prose and development. A story with a premise so indescribably strange can really only be done justice by an author whose writing is as lyrical and dream-like as Laini Taylor's. And I eagerly await what she comes up with next in the sequel, The Muse of Nightmares!

Author Links:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Waiting On Wednesday: Penguin Spring 2017 Catalog

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which upcoming, eagerly anticipated releases are highlighted on the blog.

This week, I've chosen to feature a few picks from the Penguin Spring 2017 Catalog:

Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis
Date: April 11, 2017
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Khosa is Given to the Sea, a girl born to be fed to the water, her flesh preventing a wave like the one that destroyed the Kingdom of Stille in days of old. But before she’s allowed to dance – an uncontrollable twitching of the limbs that will carry her to the shore in a frenzy – she must produce an heir. Yet the thought of human touch sends shudders down her spine that not even the sound of the tide can match.
Vincent is third in line to inherit his throne, royalty in a kingdom where the old linger and the young inherit only boredom. When Khosa arrives without an heir he knows his father will ensure she fulfills her duty, at whatever cost. Torn between protecting the throne he will someday fill, and the girl whose fate is tied to its very existence, Vincent’s loyalty is at odds with his heart.
Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, a native race whose dwindling magic grows weaker as the island country fades. Animals cease to bear young, creatures of the sea take to the land, and the Pietra – fierce fighters who destroyed the Indiri a generation before – are now marching from their stony shores for the twin’s adopted homeland, Stille.
Witt leads the Pietra, their army the only family he has ever known. The stone shores harbor a secret, a growing threat that will envelop the entire land – and he will conquer every speck of soil to ensure the survival of his people.
The tides are turning in Stille, where royals scheme, Pietrans march, and the rising sea calls for its Given.

I kind of don't know what to make of the premise of Given to the Sea... but I am undeniably intrigued by Khosa's strange affliction. I'll have to keep an eye out for early reviews to see how Given to the Sea is being received!

Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz
Date: April 11, 2017
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1777. Albany, New York.
As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball.
Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

Sadly, I have not yet had the fortune of witnessing the wildly popular musical Hamilton. However, I can't help but be curious about the upcoming Alex & Eliza, which is hoping no doubt to capitalize on Hamilton's popularity. Again, I'll be on the lookout for early reviews!

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Date: May 16, 2017
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The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.
Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

Beautiful cover + inspired by Mulan = GIMME!! And it helps that I've heard good things about Renee Ahdieh's prior series, The Wrath and the Dawn. So surely Flame in the Mist is bound to be amazing, right?!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these Penguin Spring 2017 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the Penguin Spring 2017 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Muggle Monday: Prisoner of Azkaban Illustrated Edition

It's time for Muggle Monday, in which I highlight a significant piece of news from the Harry Potter franchise. This is somewhat inspired by the Mundane Monday posts by The Mundie Moms.

But let's be real as to why I made up this feature: I just want the opportunity to post something about Harry Potter.

This past week, the artwork for the cover of the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was revealed:
And it is yet another gorgeous cover to add to the previous illustrated edition releases from artist Jim Kay (see: Philosopher's Stone Illustrated Edition and Chamber of Secrets Illustrated Edition). Each book has been coming out roughly one year apart (the latest will be out October 3, 2017), but I wonder if they can keep that trend going with the lengthier books in the latter half of the series. It would be a shame if they had to keep the illustrations to a minimum despite the longer lengths.

Here's a taste of the artwork we have to look forward to in the upcoming illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (click to embiggen):

The Knight Bus
Portrait of Snape (with a Niffler stuffed into a jar?!)

Sadly, I have yet to have the full experience when it comes to these illustrated editions. The prices for each book are steep! And it's hard to justify shelling out the cash willy-nilly when I already own the series. But positive acclaim from fans has convinced me that I must own and experience these for myself someday - just need to save up for them or wait until my birthday comes around.

For those who have read the illustrated editions of Philosopher's Stone/Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets, what did you think? Is the rest of the artwork as gorgeous as the little teases that Bloomsbury/Scholastic releases?