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Tag: Harry Potter

#AA2018: Amazing Audiobooks, Volume 3

The latest round of Amazing Audiobooks nominees feature fantastic characters and a dash of magical realism!

A Million JunesA Million Junes by Emily Henry, narrated by Julia Whelan
Audio published by: Listening Library
Publication date: May 16, 2017
ISBN: 9781524756123

Eighteen-year-old Jack “June” O’Donnell comes from a long line of Jacks. As a child, her father raised her on the tall tales of her Jack ancestors, beginning with Jack I and his quest to plant his cherry trees in the perfect spot–her current home of Five Fingers, Michigan, right in the middle of the magically mysterious “thin place” where her home is located. But the land, the legacy, and the cherries have always been tangled up with the neighboring Angert family, resulting in a hatred that goes beyond a typical petty feud. When fate tragically strikes one family, the other is soon to follow. Despite the bad blood and bad luck, June didn’t begin to take the feud seriously until her father’s death. And now the family’s’ complicated relationship is at the forefront when the youngest Angert, Saul, returns home from a prestigious college writing program to care for his ailing father. For the first time, June and Saul’s paths continue to cross, and not always by accident. As a reluctant friendship turns into something more, a strange occurrence causes June and Saul to begin reliving scenes from the past. These memories make it clear that something sinister is behind the feud, and June and Saul must uncover long buried family secrets before tragic fate strikes again.

A Millions Junes, Emily Henry’s sophomore work, is my favorite kind of book. It’s magical realism at its best, complete with family curses, love, ghosts, grief, and a blurred line between fantasy and reality. June is a fantastic character–snarky and charming and flawed–and she misses her father with an ache that’s palpable from the page. Her best friend, Hannah, is equally as memorable. She’s more loveable than prickly June, but it’s their friendship and love for each other that stands out the most: when Henry writes the dialogue “You’re my first great love,” it’s Hannah and June having the conversation. And then there’s Saul, the sweetly alluring college boy with his own tragic past. He’s an atypical YA hero, yet just as swoony, and readers fall for him right along with June. The strange and slightly creepy magical elements of A Million Junes are never really explained, and readers have to suspend their belief and go along for the ride, something Emily Henry’s vivid writing makes it easy to do.

Just like all great audiobook performances, Julia Whelan’s narration of A Million Junes brings the story to a whole new level. Her voice is perfectly suited to the character of June, which may be the reason I liked this main character so much. Whelan pays special attention to pacing and characterization, highlighting Henry’s witty dialogue, complicated characters, and emotional story arc. This is definitely an audiobook I will be listening to again, and I highly recommend it for fans of Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series and Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap.

5 Books to Read Based on Your Ilvermorny House

It’s Harry Potter season!  Everyone knows about the Hogwarts houses and most people have taken the sorting quiz but what’s the new American wizarding school all about and how do you pronounce it?  Ilvermorny (ill-ver-mor-ney) is where American witches and wizards go to study their craft.  If you’d like to learn more about the history, you may visit the Pottermore website.  You can get sorted into an Ilvermorny house on Pottermore while learning the character traits associated with each house.  After you get sorted, check out the following books that you may enjoy based on your new American wizard house.

Thunderbird House- Thunderbirds have soul and they attract adventurers.

thunderbird-house

Harper is a ballerina. She works hard but she can’t seem to be as great as her best friend.  When she comes up short on her dream, Harper decides to find her meaning of life on an Antarctican expedition.

Leila is on a road trip to see the Northern Lights and she meets four teens on her travels.  Although their time together is brief, Leila makes a deep impression.

Minn is stuck with her father and new stepmother in Mississippi.  When Minn overhears that her mother is ill back in her hometown of Ohio, she steals her stepmother’s money and hops on a bus.  On her way, Minn meets an attractive photographer, a homeless teen with Down’s Syndrome, and other nefarious people.

Zen likes trains especially the rails in his alternate universe in space.  When a mysterious man named The Raven pays Zen to steal a box from the train of the emperorer, Zen isn’t sure if The Raven is evil or if it’s the government that’s evil.

Blue Riley’s mother has died and her sister has run away. Desparate to find her only family, her sister, Blue makes a deal with the devil.  On a cross country trip to locate her sister, Blue encounters new friends, loves, and enemies.

Is This Just Fantasy? : The Chosen One

If you read even a moderate amount of fantasy, you are likely familiar with one of its most common tropes: the chosen one, also known as the fated savior or destined heroine.  While there are many different types of fantasy being written and read today, certain patterns repeat frequently and the ‘chosen one’ trope is no exception.  This trope usually involves the inclusion of a character (usually the protagonist) who has in some way been marked as especially gifted or otherwise uniquely equipped to complete a special mission.   Whether they’ve been chosen by a deity, a prophecy, or circumstances of birth, chosen ones in fantasy tales must often complete quests, battle evil forces, and make difficult, pivotal choices in order to achieve their destinies.  This particular trope is far from limited to fantasy literature–it shows up in all kinds of science fiction and fantasy media and the template is often connected to mythologist Joseph Campbell’s concept of the monomyth or hero’s journey.
fantasy series chosen one

 

As a longtime fantasy fan, I find the ‘chosen one’ trope can be a double-edged sword for the genre.  On one hand, any popular pattern becomes stale after a while and stories that depend heavily on the ‘chosen one’ narrative can easily fall into traps of lazy plotting or derivative content.  ‘Chosen one’ stories can include protagonists who are unbelievably talented or inhumanly heroic.  These characters often react in their ‘chosen’ status in predictable ways, usually resisting or attempting to escape or avoid their destinies.  However, this trope has remained prevalent for a reason, especially in fantasy for and about teenage characters.  After all, it’s a narrative that investigates the difficult process of coming to understand one’s role in the larger world and battling with the frightening concept of a future–struggles common to adolescents even without magical prophecies hanging over their heads.

Celebrating National Library Card Sign Up Month With Fabulous Fictional Libraries

Happy National Library Card Sign Up Month! 

So, first things first, how many of you have a card for your local library?

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I hope all of our trusty Hub readers raised their hands with enthusiasm! After all, having a library card is cooler than being cool, as the 2015 honorary chair Snoopy himself tells us.  Besides, a library is a gateway to a host of free and fabulous resources! If you haven’t had the chance to saunter on down to your local public library and receive your very own library card, take advantage of this celebration’s last couple weeks to investigate the process.

PEANUTS_WEB_PSA_336x280But if you need a reminder of just why libraries are in fact so cool, check out these examples of excellent and awe-inspiring fictional libraries.

The Hogwarts Library from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

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What library fan could resist the cavernous and mysterious space full of magical texts detailing everything from how to take care of baby dragons to the secrets behind the creation of dangerous potions?  The Hogwarts Library is located on the fourth floor of Hogwarts castle and contains thousands upon thousands of books.  The space is divided into many specific sections, including the Restricted Section–a roped off area which requires a signed note from a professor to access.  As far as we know, the librarian is the stern Madam Irma Pince.  Additionally, the library is the site of quite a lot of significant moments and discoveries for Harry, Ron, and Hermione during their time at Hogwarts; it’s clearly a cool place to hang out–or at least a good place to conduct research on dark secrets and even darker magic.  After all, as Ron so wisely states in his description of Hermione’s particular approach to problems, “When in doubt, go to the library.”

Spock’s Legacy: Teens, YA, and (not) Belonging

Image courtesy of Sonny Abesamis
Image courtesy of Sonny Abesamis

I’ve never been much of a fangirl. Or a teenybopper. Or shipped my name with a fictional character. My celebrity crushes have been few and far between and fleeting at best. But there is one notable exception, my lifelong (well, since I was ten) adoration of Spock and the man that brought him to life, Leonard Nimoy. Clearly I am not alone in this, as evidenced by the recent outpouring of love and acclaim in response to Nimoy’s death earlier this year.

For some, it’s Spock’s cool composure and his unerring devotion to logic that’s so compelling. For others, his unspoken depths coupled with his pointy ears that inspire. For myself, though, it is his inherent contradictions, his very Otherness that caused my ten-year-old soul to soar with recognition and my heart to flutter with tweenly adulation. Spock was the first character I’d encountered who, like myself, was mixed race. He embodied similar struggles and desires and his Otherness, like mine, was physically visible in the world–a constant source of commentary, curiosity, and derision. And though Nimoy himself was not mixed race, he clearly understood the tensions of that identity as he so movingly illustrates in his 1968 letter to a biracial teen fan.

Arguably, Spock’s half Vulcan/half human heritage is what makes his character so enduring and endearing to millions of fans. In this regard, Spock can be seen as the predecessor and inspiration for a number of contemporary YA sci-fi/fantasy characters whose otherness is based in their mixed race (or mixed species as the case may be) identity. From the Half-blood Prince to Percy Jackson to Seraphina, YA abounds with sensitive souls alternately emboldened and embittered by their uncommon parentage. Considering the popularity of these books, the appeal of these characters extends far beyond the mixed race readers who can relate to them. So, what is so universally appealing about these “hybrid” characters?

Why I Love Harry Potter

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October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Jacqueline Cano from Virginia.

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When I am asked what my favorite book is, I am met with a challenge. How can I choose just one? There are thousands of books that have been written; there are thousands more to be written yet. How can I be expected to pick one?  I’ve read hundreds of books. I couldn’t name them all if you paid me. But certain stories stick. And the series that sticks out most to me is Harry Potter.

And it isn’t just me. Mention Harry Potter and nearly everyone knows what you’re talking about. Some people will be enthused. Others will recognize it with apathy. There are also the ones who are fervently against it, but we mustn’t let those Muggles get us down.  That’s one of the things I love about Harry Potter– the recognizable quality it holds.  Harry Potter, which has been translated into 77 different languages, brings people of different ages and cultures together. It’s not some cool underground thing. It’s a unifying literary power.

But why?

Why do so many people care so much about a boy who grew up in the cupboard under the stairs? Why do so many people appreciate this made up story? What magic could it possibly hold? I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you what I think.

Get Creative with YA Lit

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image by flickr user Lorraine Santana

Do you know the feeling that comes sometimes when you finish reading a really great book, the one in which you don’t want the story to end? You can always hope for a sequel or a companion novel. If there is a film adaptation, you can experience the world, again, there. Or you can keep the world alive by creating something yourself.

I recently attended the DML2014 conference in Boston and found myself surrounded by people passionately talking about ways to interact with digital media. As a blogger for The Hub, I immediately focused on the ways that people were using these programs and communities to create content based on YA books. This also tied in well with last week’s Teen Tech Week  theme of DIY @ your library. Below, I have listed a handful of ways that youth and adults are taking their favorite stories and making something new.

Create a Program

One of the tools that was frequently mentioned at DML2014 is Scratch, a web-based programming tool that allows users to create and share games, videos, and stories. I searched Scratch for projects related to popular YA titles and found a wide variety of program types including interactive quizzes and games, slideshows, and still image fanart. A few examples include a Divergent Aptitude Test Simulation, Snape’s Potion Game (Harry Potter), and The Mortal Instruments: Downworld Attack game. These users have found a way to continue interacting with books that they enjoyed while also learning how to code computer programs. Scratch is only one of a number of options available in this area, too.

YA Worlds and Rides

hogsmeade wizarding world harry potterAfter recently returning from a trip to Florida where I stepped through the gates of Universal Orlando, dragged my children as quickly as possible to the back of the park, and … experienced an EPIC GEEK MOMENT! When we rounded onto the first view of Hogsmeade in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (even with its inconsistencies), our entire family gaped and our inner geeks screamed, “I am home.” It was excellent! My only complaint is that there needs to be more: the common rooms, the prefects’ bathroom, Diagon Alley, Gringotts — more! Yes, some of this is in the works, but it could never be enough for the die-hards. As a side note, the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride may just be the best ride ever created.

This experience got me thinking, and asking, what other books that teens love would make good amusement parks or rides? What if there were a Lord of the Rings world? Visitors could fight off orcs in a simulation of Helm’s Deep, or walk through the Shire complete with a stop in Bag End, or ride in a boat down the River Anduin and over the Falls of Rauros or in a roller coaster through the Mines of Moria. I asked some teens for ideas, and many responded with great concepts. Most of them came from very well-known and popular books. Of course, everyone wanted a Hunger Games ride or park. Ideas included “a Capitol aircraft that flies you through the thirteen districts” or “a paint ball arena” or a “simulated arena where you fight it out with the other tributes.” Frankly, that last one scares me a bit. The Maze Runner, The Mortal Instruments, and The Forest of Hands and Teeth also merited ideas, including letting “the zombies out of the fence to chase the visitors out at closing.”

When Books Come to Life

For many families, the holiday season means presents, parties, and lots of food. In my family, it means a detailed movie schedule and days spent at the movie theater. This means that on Thanksgiving, I found myself at the movie theater. As I watched preview after preview, I noticed how many movies would be coming out this year that were based on books. The next day, I saw The Life of Pi, which is based on the novel by Yann Martel. In the same week, I also saw Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2, the final installment of the movies based on the book series by Stephenie Meyer. This trend of movie adaptations of books is not something new, and I have seen many movies that were based on a book that I have read.

Whenever I first hear about one of my favorite books being made into a movie, I always greet the news with excitement. I am eager to see my favorite characters and plot lines come to life in such a huge way. Additionally, it is pleasing to know that other people who may have never picked up a novel that I love will be introduced to something amazing. However, this excitement is also accompanied with apprehension. After all, I have my own ideas and interpretations about the characters and stories that I read about, so it can be upsetting to see someone interpret things completely differently and ruin the story for me. Because of my emotional attachment to the books that I read, it is very easy for me to be disappointed with the film adaptations.

Recently, I saw the film The Perks of Being a Wallflower, starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson. I read the novel written by Stephen Chbosky this past summer and instantly loved it. At the time that I started reading the book, the movie had already been announced, and I was looking forward to it; finishing The Perks of Being a Wallflower increased this anticipation. The film did not disappoint. While some parts of the book did not make it into the film, the movie mostly stayed true to the novel. The actors’ depictions of the characters were, in my opinion, almost spot on. What I think really made the movie such a good adaptation of the book was the fact that the author wrote the screenplay and directed and produced the theatrical version.