Sunday, October 26, 2014

Jamie's Favorite Wizarding World Things

Wizarding World of Harry Potter was an experience of a lifetime for me! Hogwarts Castle, Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, King's Cross, Platform 9 3/4, the Knight Bus, Ollivander's... and that's just the tip of the Sorting Hat when it comes to what I experienced at Universal Orlando. Of course, the park's not perfect, but there’s so much to explore and discover, especially now that there are two parts—Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. I spent two days at Universal, and went back and forth between the parks four times (three of which were on the Hogwarts Express)! Here are my seven favorite things from my Wizarding World experience:

7. Sweets
There's so much candy that I'm getting a sugar high just thinking about it! I dived into the selection at Honeydukes in Hogsmeade and Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley. And yeah, I'm bringing home an assortment of sweets, including chocolate frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, jelly slugs, Fainting Fancies, and a Honeydukes container with fruit balls. (That's right, fruit balls.)


6. Photo Ops
There were just so many! It felt like I was handing my camera to my boyfriend every other minute and begging him to take my picture in front of this or next to that. Here are some of the best ones!

The Knight Bus

Muggle entrance to the Ministry of Magic

12 Grimmauld Place

The Vanishing Cabinet in Borgin and Burkes

5. Performances & Character Actors
Photo ops went from good to great when there was someone to pose with, like the Stan Shunpike look-a-like and the Hogwarts conductor below! Also, I was awed by the performances! I managed to catch the Hogwarts Choir in Hogsmeade and Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees in Diagon Alley. (Also, check out the Ravenclaw student who's pointing right at me!)

Knight Bus conductor

Hogwarts Express conductor

Hogwarts Choir

Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees

4. Hogwarts Castle
It’s just so pretty!

3. Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes
When I walked into Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, I was wowed. (That's a lot of w's.) It's how I pictured it, except that I imagined it about five times bigger. Being able to walk inside and explore was amazing! The intricacies, including the tightrope Umbridge and the fireworks on the ceiling, made me love it even more! 


2. Hogwarts Express
Riding on the Hogwarts Express is awesome! It could’ve been a longer trip (though I understand why it wasn’t) and they could’ve gotten an actress to voice Hermione that sounded more like her, but the stations, the train, the cabins, and the view out the window are great!


1. Butterbeer!

No explanation needed.

Have you been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? If so, what did you enjoy about the experience? If not, are you planning on going? If you are, what are you most excited about experiencing?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

If We Were Having Coffee

A couple weeks ago, I read this post on the Perpetual Page-Turner and absolutely loved it! It’s a virtual coffee date, and reading it made me feel connected to Jamie, the Perpetual Page-Turner. (Yes, we have the same name!) It got me thinking… connections are important. Sharing our thoughts, celebrating our triumphs and admitting our worries and fears are important. Sometimes as a writer (and a person) I feel disconnected from the outside, socializing, beer-drinking, bar-going world. Sometimes I even feel disconnected from the writerly, readerly, bloggerly community (as I mentioned last week) and writing/talking/sharing can help overcome that feeling. So…


If We Were Having Coffee… I’d tell you that I just read A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray and loved it so much I finished it in one day! Which is saying something because I worked for six hours and spent time with my boyfriend that same day. The main character, Marguerite, is strong and adventurous. She doesn’t freak out or back down, even when her journey chasing her father’s killer takes her to alternate universes in London, St. Petersburg and in a city under the ocean. Plus, Paul and Theo?! YUM! I loved this book so much that it’s my next Six Star Review, which I’ll be posting two weeks from today. A Thousand Pieces of You comes out November 4th and I definitely recommend it!
What are you reading right now? What’s the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?

If We Were Having Coffee… I’d tell you that I set aside the WIP that I’ve been working on for four years, and I’m a bit heartbroken about it. I set Loyalties Lie aside because I want to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, but I’m not ready to write the sequel. Plus, I was struggling with editing, so I decided take a three month break from the draft to work on a new idea during NaNoWriMo. I plan on returning to edits in January.
Have you ever set aside an important project? Did you return to it?

If We Were Having Coffee… I’d tell you that I’m nervous for NaNoWriMo this year. For the first time, I’m diving in with a brand new idea that I’ve only been developing for a month. It’s not fleshed out, and I haven’t decided yet if that’s a good thing or a very, very bad thing. Just because it’s my third time participating in NaNo doesn’t mean that this year will be a success. Actually, I feel like this year it’s more likely that I won’t win. And that thought frightens me.
What frightens you right now, if anything? How are you dealing with it?

If We Were Having Coffee… I’d tell you that my coffee isn’t actually coffee. I’m drinking a Salted Carmel Hot Chocolate because I gave up the real stuff in February. At first it was excruciating, but now I know it was for the best. I still get tired, but I never hit the lows of pure exhaustion that a few days or even hours without espresso would bring on before. So I’m back to just being dependent on chapstick.
What did you order? Something with espresso? (If so, can I smell it? Mmm thanks.)

Feel free to answer the questions I posed above in the comments below (if you’re comfortable sharing, of course)! I promise I’ll respond, however it might not be right away. I’m on the road today, and tomorrow I’ll be exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Pictures next week! 
I’d love to hear from you!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Books by the Banks 2014

This was my second year attending Books by the Banks in Cincinnati. It's an amazing event, and it’s free! There are authors galore, panels on books and writing, a bunch of fun things for kids and even a handful of events for teens. Here’s what I experienced at BBTB this year:

Panels on Books & Writing
In the absence of a YA panel, I only sat in on one panel: Pitching your Book. Here's some tips I picked up from the panelists, including the most helpful Chuck Sambuchino:

·        Be specific in your query letter. No “the character experiences highs and lows” or “they go on a series of adventures.”

·        Pitch 6-10 sentences that introduce your characters, the conflict but leave it without giving the ending away. (Similar to a blurb on the back of a DVD.)

·        The quality of the pitch is what’s important, not necessarily how you set it up.

·        But when you’re setting it up, make sure you follow the agent’s directions!

Connecting with Fellow Readers/Writers/Bloggers/Librarians/Booksellers
Going to an event like this reminds me that I’m not alone. Writing can be a lonely habit, with just you and your words (and maybe food and drink and music). But it doesn’t involve a lot of human interaction. At BBTB, I was surrounded by writers, readers and book lovers. It reminded me how deep and extensive the community is. As an introvert, I didn’t do a lot of introducing myself to strangers or jumping into conversations, but I still felt a connection to the community, especially when I joined the Speed Dating with Teen Authors event. Katherine Howe, Gwenda Bond, Laura Bickle, Jennifer McGowan, Mindee Arnett and Kristen Simmons moved around the tables, chatting about books and writing. I don’t have any quotes or photos because it was an intimate group and I was focused on participating, but this program was easily the highlight of the event for me!

Author Sightings/Signings
Some of the big names included Emily Giffin, Marc Brown and Jasper Fforde. YA authors included Melissa Landers, Mindy McGinnis, Emery Lord, Ellen Schreiber, Alex Mallory, Elizabeth Kiem, Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon, not to mention those listed above who participated in the Speed Dating program!

Emily Giffin

Marc Brown

Destined for Doon signed by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon!

Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy signed by Elizabeth Kiem!

Open Road Summer signed by Emery Lord!

General Merriment
There were costumed characters (Elsa, Carol from Where the Wild Things Are, Spot and Llama of Llama, Llama), fun interactive events with authors (YA ones included Pictionary and Live-Action Battleship), storytimes, booths, and enough books to drown in.

Teen tables early in the day

Author Pavilion in the afternoon

Looking forward to BBTB 2015!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

An American reading the British editions: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

(SPOILER ALERT: I’m sharing details of the Harry Potter series in this post, just so you know!)

If you’re unfamiliar with what’s going on here, click here for the first post in this series. Then click here to see all the posts (just note that they’re in reverse order)!

Now that I’ve finished reading the Harry Potter British editions, an odd feeling has settled over me. It’s been over ten years since I read through the series in order, yet I couldn’t finish then because the last book didn’t arrive until 2007. The feeling of reading them all, within the span of seven months, is hard to explain. It’s one of accomplishment, yet, now that I’ve finished, one of loss. The feeling both fills my heart and makes it ache.

Below, I dive into the darkest and the deadliest book in the Harry Potter series, where Harry faces a choice between Hallows and horcurxes, where Harry lets Voldemort grasp one so he can beat him to the other, and where Harry walks to his death, ready but not alone…

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

First Line: “The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.”

British vs. American English: I’ve been overseas so there are some things I read in these versions and don’t even recognize as different. Like garbage vs. bin or fight vs. row. But here are a few differences that popped out to me. 

(British edition word/phrase = interpretation/definition)

y-fronts = boxer briefs
trussed-up = tied up
television aerial = TV antenna
cudgel  = beat, wrack
hangdog = downcast
done a bunk = to escape, flee

Laugh-Worthy Moment: They were few and far between in this tome, but there was the occasional chuckle. Nothing specific, but I appreciated that even with Voldemort bearing down, even in their darkest hour, there was lightness (momentarily) when Harry reunited with McGonagall and when the DA and Order members started flooding through Hog’s Head into the Room of Requirement. It wasn’t depressing or dreary as it could have been, but optimistic at being reunited and ready to fight.

Cry-Worthy Moment: How can I pick?!? This book is drenched in my tears (figuratively), and I teared up at least a half dozen times in the last 200 pages. But what really tugged on my heartstrings was when Harry used the Resurrection Stone to summon his mom, dad, Sirius and Lupin to accompany him on his walk to Voldemort, and to his death.

Notable Quote: “Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love.” –Albus Dumbledore, page 578

Last Line:  “All was well.”

I had an overwhelming feeling as I read through the second half of the book that the pages left couldn't possibly hold the rest of the story. There simply wasn’t enough room, especially when I reached the last 50 pages, then the last 30, then the last 15. It ended so quickly for me—too quickly, in fact. Actually, I’d rather it hadn’t ended at all.

Deathly Hallows stands alone as the only book in which Harry spent most of his time away from Hogwarts. He didn’t attend school (not that he could’ve since he had a price on his head), but instead went on the run from Voldemort, the Death Eaters and the Ministry. Ron and Hermione joined him without question. Harry takes on the mission that Dumbledore passed to him upon his death. It's not an easy mission, but the hunt itself proves not to be the only obstacle. Upon Dumbledore’s death, Rita Skeeter wrote a tell-all book, and after Harry reads snippets, his faith in Dumbledore is in question. Why didn’t Dumbledore tell him about his brother and sister? About his father’s imprisonment and his mother’s tragic death? With Dumbledore's troubled history coming to light, it felt like Harry hadn't known Dumbledore at all. However, I prefer to think that Dumbledore didn't want to trudge up his own painful past and instead focused on the task at hand when he was with Harry. 

No matter that Harry's faith in Dumbedore is shaken, he continues on the hunt for horcruxes, assisted by his best friends. At the start of the book, two horcruxes have already been destroyed (the diary and the ring) and three remain (the locket, the cup and as it’s eventually discovered, the diadem) before the trio can go after Nagini and Voldemort. Their hunt leads them to the three hardest places to infiltrate in the Wizarding World: the Ministry of Magic, Gringotts, and finally Hogwarts. Even though they planned for weeks before attempting the first two break-ins, neither one went according to plan (which I appreciated) and both showed the trio’s youth and relative innocence. As Deathly Hallows drove on, the speed at which the horcruxes were found and destroyed increased so that the pace was feverish near the end.

Even though the horcruxes were important, the title of this book reflects another collection of magical objects: the Hallows. While Dumbledore told Harry about the horcruxes, he didn’t mention anything about the Hallows. He did leave Hermione a clue in the form of a children’s book, the Tales of Beedle the Bard, which includes the Tale of the Three Brothers. These brothers bested Death and asked for three gifts in return: an unbeatable wand, a stone to resurrect the dead, and a clock of invisibility. Most wizards consider this tale a legend, but some know it to be true, and Harry instantly recognizes that the cloak is the one that’s been in his possession since his first year. Even though Harry obsesses over the Hallows initially, as together they make the owner the master of death, he doesn’t seek the wand when Voldemort goes after it. Instead, Harry returns his focus to the horcruxes, as he understands that’s the mission Dumbledore wanted him to focus on.

The trio’s friendship has never been perfect. There have been fights and misunderstandings, but there’s never been something like what happens in Deathly Hallows. Harry, Ron and Hermione are in a tough situation (which is an understatement) and after they lose access to Grimmauld Place, they’re camping in the forest with little to no food. And after they retrieve the horcruxed locket, they’re wearing it in shifts, which deeply affects their mood. Ron takes it the hardest and after an ugly, cringe-worthy row, he leaves in a fit of anger. Harry and Hermione struggle on, visiting Godric’s Hollow and barely talking. Fortunately, Ron’s return timing couldn’t have been better, as he saves Harry from being drowned and strangled by the locket horcrux, which Ron then destroys with the sword of Gryffindor. Harry destroyed the diary, Ron destroyed the locket and Neville destroyed Nagini but when Hermione destroyed the cup horcrux, it happened off-screen (as they say, as technically it's off-page). However, I would have liked to read that scene and experienced what destroying a horcrux was like for Hermione. I always related to her the most (bushy-haired with my nose in a book), so it would have been nice to see her destroy the cup in the midst of the Battle of Hogwarts.

One thing that happened way too often in this book was death. Of course, the book is called Deathly Hallows (emphasis on deathly) and the wizarding world is in the midst of an all-out war, but still, dying sucks. We lose Hedwig, Mad-Eye, Dobby, Fred, Lupin, Tonks, Snape and so many others. Dobby and Fred were especially tough for me to read. Dobby because of his faithfulness to and friendship with Harry. Fred because the twins were always comic relief and tearing them in two is like taking a hammer to the heart. In the real world, war doesn’t leave anyone untouched, and I am grateful that Rowling showed that in her writing.

In the end, I wanted more. I wanted more closure for Harry, Ron and Hermione. We know now the details of their lives—that Harry married Ginny and Ron married Hermione. We know how many children they had and their names, but I wanted more in the book. I wanted more than a group hug and a joyous dinner and a quick chat with Ron and Hermione before the story jumped forward to Platform 9 ¾ nineteen years later. Truthfully, I wanted more than was necessary. I wanted to see the trio not only rid the world of evil, but help put the world back together again. It’s selfish of me, I know.

In the end, simply knowing that “all was well” should be enough. Because I can imagine the rest myself.


Thanks for sticking around for seven months (and one week, with last week’s delay) of me reading the Harry Potter British editions! I enjoyed this journey back into the heart of Hogwarts, back into the pull of the horcruxes and the Hallows, back into the lives of my favorite trio: Harry, Hermione and Ron. I enjoyed this journey with the Boy Who Lived, and I hope you did as well.