Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Hogwarts is My Home

Hello, all!

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of Harry Potter, and seeing as how today also happens to be Harry's birthday, I figured what better way to celebrate than by telling you all just what the Harry Potter series means to me. In short, everything. I know, I know, it sounds so cliche, but honestly, no book series (or anything, really) has affected me the way this series has.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone came out in September 1998 (in America, at least) which was two months before my 10th birthday, and for that birthday I remember my Grandma sending me a copy of it which came with a pair of cardboard glasses. I remember thinking how awesome it was that a character had the same kind of glasses as me (kids in wire rimmed glasses were never the coolest) and so I felt an instant connection with this shaggy black haired kid, and couldn't wait to dive into his story. Needless to say, I was hooked from the very first page.

Growing up, I was always into fantasy, so a story about witches and wizards was right up my alley. This story in particular came out at the perfect time in my life; a time where I sort of needed to be immersed in a world that was completely different than mine. A world that would let a little 10 year old know that magic is real. Rowling's writing style was what first drew me in. Her imagery and the way she painted the scenes was fascinating to me, it really made you feel as if you were in the story running around Hogwarts. I could picture myself sitting in potions class or lounging in my house's common room. The fact that it was also a really great story was just a bonus.

Aside from the plot, the characters are my favorite thing about these books. The friendships amongst not just Harry, Ron and Hermione, but Neville, Luna, Ginny, Dean, Seamus, all of them just feel so genuine and real. I felt like these were my friends. And I think everyone's family goals are the Weasley's. Molly Weasley is just like the most perfect book mom, and the way she takes Harry under her wing and embraces him into their family is so wonderful and makes me so happy. Besides the characters, I also think these books have really great morals to them that are totally relatable. They teach you it's ok to be afraid, while also showing you how to confront those things that make you afraid. They teach you that even though you may value and love your friends, sometimes you have silly arguments, but you'll always make it work in the end. And my favorite, that even if people may make fun of you for being different, that's what makes you special.

As I got older, I became an even bigger HP fanatic. I went to every midnight release, whether it was for the books or movies. I bought so much HP merch and even got a huge golden snitch tattoo. I would talk anyone's ear off about the tiniest little details. I went to every HP exhibit that came around, from movie props to watching the first film with a live philharmonic orchestra playing the score. Oh, and Pottermore! I had always wonder what my house would be, and now I was finally able to actually be sorted (I'm a proud member of Hufflepuff), and even find out what my Patronus would be (a Tonkinese cat). This world quickly became my world.

My peak HP moment was about 4 years ago, my Mom actually took me to Harry Potter World in Florida and it was so amazing being surrounded by these places I had spent most of my life reading about. These were places I'd only pictured in my head, and now they were right in front of me. I ate at The Three Broomsticks and drank Butterbeer. I played with all the prank pieces at Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes. I stocked up on candy at Honeyduke's. I picked up a wand at Ollivander's. I even rode the Hogwarts Express. I also got to walk through Hogwarts and I held up the entire line because I was just holding on to the wall and crying. I was literally standing in the one place I had always hoped to visit, and it wasn't a dream-- it was all real. It turned out to be a Harry Potter celebration while we were there, and I even got to participate in a wand demonstration hosted by Luna Lovegood herself, Evanna Lynch. I was dying the entire time because Luna is my absolute favorite character. It was such a great trip and everything I could've hoped for.

For 20 years, these stories have been with me. They've been my constant comfort whether I'm sick, happy, sad or what have you. Whether I'm cracking open one of the books, or turning on one of the movies, I'm instantly cozy. Every year, I re-read the books and each time I pick up on something that I didn't previously, and that's such a testament to how great the writing is. I truly believe that Harry Potter has something for everyone, and just like J.K. Rowling said, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home. Until the very end and always.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

OwlCrate July Review

Hello, all!

I eagerly await my OwlCrate box every month, but this month I was counting down the days till it arrived. The theme was Strange & Unusual, and I was beyond excited to see what goodies would be in it. Lemme just say before getting into the items how impressed I was with just how much stuff they sent out. Literally, the box was so jam packed that I even had a hard time opening it and it was just such a great selection. So, without any further ado, let's get into it!

First up was this pennant banner designed by Risa Rodil. It's inspired by Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, and while I read the first book, I didn't continue with the series because it didn't fully catch my interest, but I do like the flag. I've always been a fan of letting your freak flag fly, and now I literally can do just that.

 I was super pumped when OwlCrate announced they'd be including a Stranger Things item in this months box because I'm just obsessed with that show. I love everything about it and I'm so glad that out of the Eleven or Dustin option they sent out, that I got Eleven. No offense to Dustin cause I do actually really love him (especially in Season 2), but Eleven's my girl. She's such a badass and I wish I could be her when I grow up.

I love when subscription boxes send you items that are practical. If that item also happens to be stationery related, then I am the happiest gal in the world. These skull push pins created by Team OwlCrate are so adorable and the perfect additions to my cork board.

One of my all time favorite characters is Luna Lovegood. I love so much about her and the way she views the world and how she isn't afraid of walking to the beat of her own drum. Needless to say, this sticker designed by TJ Lubrano was my favorite thing in the whole box.

How cool is this mint tin designed by Boston America Corp? I used to love Ouija boards when I was younger, I found them so fascinating but also terrifying. I vividly remember playing with one right before my friends mom took me and him to see The Craft in theaters (side note: we were definitely too young to see it), and when we came out, it was all windy and stormy and I ran inside my house and launched myself under my covers cause I was sure it was ghosts. Also, I really hope these are spirit-mint flavored. Get it? Spearmint, spirit-mint? I'll be here all week, folks.

I love how they included a nice mix of quirky things in this box. One of the lesser spooky items was this lovely whimsical print designed by Aun-Juli Riddle. I love how there's all these stacks of books and tea cups and kettles on the back of this whale. It also really gives me Doctor Who vibes to when Amy saved the star whale, and that makes my little Whovian heart happy.

The last item was this wallet designed by Reverie and Ink inspired by The Raven King. I've never read the Raven Boys series, but I've heard such great things and it is on my TBR. This is such a pretty quote and I love how this is an item I've never seen OwlCrate, or really any other subscription box, do before. It also came with a little wrist clip on to make it a clutch which I thought was a nice touch as well.

The book this month is My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows. This is the second book in the Lady Janies series (however, you don't need to have read the first book to enjoy this one), and loosely follows the story of Jane Eyre with some supernatural Victorian Ghostbust-ing thrown in. My Plain Jane takes a classic novel that so many people either know or have heard of and completely flips it on its head. It's adventurous and spooky and not to mention witty as anything. There's ghosts and the occult and fun characters, what more could you want?

I was so hoping this would be the book of the month, and I'm in love with the purple and lime green combo of the OwlCrate exclusive cover. I had actually recently read the first book, My Lady Jane (which I loved-- it was a retelling of Lady Jane Grey, England's 9 day queen, with some animal shape-shifting thrown in), so that way I could be familiar with the series. Usually, I'm a bit wary of a book if it has quite a few authors writing it, but Hand, Ashton and Meadows' styles flow seamlessly and they bring together a perfect blend of historical fiction and fantasy. I also just recently read a manga version of Jane Eyre (review here), so I can't wait to dive into this retelling.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Let's Talk: Manga Classics

Hello, all!

You all know how massive of a Sailor Moon fan I am, and about 5 or so years ago I started getting into the manga and from there, I've been slowly inching my way through different series. As I was browsing through Netgalley, two covers immediately caught my eye-- one was The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe and the other was Jane Eyre, both done in manga form.

I immediately requested the two and to my delight both were approved the very next day. This was also my first approval on Netgalley so I was even more excited, so thank you to them for the e-copies. After spending far too long trying to figure out how to download/read the copies (told you, I'm a technology doof), I eagerly jumped into the Edgar Allan Poe one.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this version of Poe's work. This collection has 5 of Poe's famous stories, from the ever popular "The Raven" (which was my favorite of the bunch) and "The Tell-Tale Heart" to "The Fall of the House of Usher." There's something so chilling about seeing the words come to life in the artwork, each story took on a whole new level of creepiness, which I loved. And let's talk about the artwork for a moment-- every story is depicted so wonderfully and with such detail. Everyone knows these stories, but reading them in this form brings a whole new perspective in such a cool different way. Besides the stories themselves, there's also some facts about Poe and tidbits about his work in here as well. I would've loved to have seen "Annabel Lee" done, but overall I thought this was great. I read the whole thing in one sitting. This is definitely one to pick up if you're a fan of Poe or horror in general.

Now, I'll admit, I've never actually read Jane Eyre before. I have a copy of it and I'm familiar with the premise, and I've always said I'd get around to it eventually, but anytime I pulled it off my shelf it's just seemed daunting. So for those like me, this was such a nice intro to the classic tale because it didn't feel so cumbersome. The story itself came across very clear and easy to understand and from what I gather, it represented the original quite nicely. Obviously, not every little detail is included in this version, but even with the omissions the story is still pretty easy to follow. Everyone always has a picture in their heads of how they think characters should look, and I feel like this was done really well, and they did a lovely job of capturing the atmosphere of Thornfield Hall also. Overall, I thought it was pretty good.

I liked these because it was like breathing a new life into these classic tales and it was so refreshing. I feel like a lot of people, young kids/teenagers especially, aren't drawn to classic stories because they feel as if they won't connect to the characters or whatnot, but I think these are great ways to ease kids into them. There are a bunch of other stories they've adapted into mangas, such as The Scarlet Letter and Sense and Sensibility, so I may check those out as well. If you're a fan of the classics, definitely check these out!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Current Favorites

Hello, all!

I've been loving a lot of things lately, so I figured I'd share them with you all. I've been having a really solid run with Netflix lately (we'd been on the outs for a while), so most of these are things I've been binging non-stop. So let's get into it.

1. Peaky Blinders: This show is set in the 1920s in Birmingham, England and it revolves around a crime family and how they'll stop at nothing to get what they want, no matter the consequences. Usually, I'm not super into crime dramas, but it caught my eye and I ended up binging the first 3 seasons in a weekend. Currently, there's 4 seasons on Netflix and each are only 6 episodes, so it's really not bad. Plus, Cillian Murphy who plays Tommy Shelby, the head of the clan, is such a babe in it. He gives me such Kaz Brekker vibes from Six of Crows and I love it.

2. John Mulaney Kid Gorgeous Stand Up: My roommates and I are obsessed with John Mulaney, so once we heard about his newest stand up on Netflix, we dropped everything to watch it. Lemme tell you, we had to watch it twice cause we were laughing so hard at some bits that we couldn't even focus on others. Also, it was just really good and we haven't stopped quoting it back and forth since. My favorite part was his skit about his elementary assemblies with former homicide detective J.J. Bittenbinder teaching them "STREET SMARTS". Just watch it, you won't regret it.

3. Set it Up: Now, you know I love me a good ol' rom-com and Netflix did not disappoint with this one. I can't even express how much I loved this movie. I've already watched it about 4 times and keep harassing other people to watch it as well. Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell are so adorable together and the entire story just reminded me of a 90s rom-com with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks (my fave rom-com couple). Zoey's character, Harper, reminded me so much of myself at points and Glen's Charlie was just so cute. And Lucy Liu is still such a badass, I love her.

4. Avatar: The Last Airbender The Complete Series Blu-Ray: I love this cartoon. The characters are so fun and the storyline is great. Once the pre-sale for the blu-rays came out, I knew I had to snag it and I'm so happy with them and now I can revisit Aang and the gangs adventures whenever I want.

5. Overdrive Live-brary App: No big surprise that I'm a massive reader, so I'm a little ashamed to say how long it took me to learn about this app. Basically, it allows you to borrow ebooks from your local library and it's pretty much the best thing ever. I've been noticing a lot lately that my local library won't physically carry a book I want to read, but it's usually always available on the app instead, so it's super convenient and allows me to always have something to read. It's also really easy to borrow/download the books since it goes through my Amazon account on my Kindle, and I'm all for ease when it comes to technology because I'm such a doof when it comes to that stuff. If you have a Kindle, I'd definitely recommend checking this app out!

So that's just a few of the stuff I've been loving lately. Lemme know what some of yours are!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Truly, Devious Review

Hello, all!

Ever since I was young, I've loved mysteries. Didn't matter whether it was Nancy Drew or Scooby Doo or even Unsolved Mysteries, I loved it all. My second grade teacher had us keep a daily journal and in it she would sometimes give us a writing prompt, but more often she'd let us write whatever we wanted, so I would write short stories. I even had different pictures I would draw in the corner to correspond with what kind of story it was: a ghost for a horror story, a heart for romance, a wizard's hat for fantasy and a magnifying glass with footprints for a mystery. Those were the majority of my journal entries. Something about twists and pulling the rug out from under people appealed to my 7 year old self. And it still is something I enjoy, which is why I loved Truly, Devious by Maureen Johnson so much.

The story takes place at Ellingham Academy, a famous private school in Vermont which caters to only the brightest thinkers, builders, and creators. The academy was founded in the 1930s by the famous tycoon Albert Ellingham, who wanted to make a grand place full of riddles, twisted pathways and gardens. He wanted a place for kids to learn and play; he wanted to build a place "where learning is a game." Not too long after the school opened, Albert's wife and daughter were kidnapped and a young student was killed. The only clue left behind was a poem listing different ways for murder that was made out of cut out magazine letters signed with the pseudonym Truly, Devious. The Ellingham case became one of the greatest unsolved crimes of American history.

Now, in present day, true-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is about to start her first year at Ellingham Academy and the biggest thing on her checklist is solving this long cold case. But first she has to figure out how to navigate her rigorous class schedule and house mates. When tragedy strikes and death returns to Ellingham, Stevie has to rely on her deductive instincts before Truly Devious gets away with murder again.

I really enjoyed this book. It was fast paced and really drew you in. The characters are well rounded and you feel as if you're part of this murder mystery. I found myself picking out clues throughout and trying to be like Stevie and ferreting out who could've been responsible. Johnson ties the original Elligham case and the present case neatly together so that way the different points of view between the two never felt disjointed or misplaced. The whole thing just flowed together. Be aware that the book does end on a cliffhanger and what a cliffhanger it is! I can't wait to see how the story plays out. If you're a fan of mysteries or just need a fast paced action filled story, I'd definitely recommend checking this one out.