It’s totally OK to burn these books

Game of Thrones candle book

When burned, these books give off a charming smell.

Like pumpkin souffle, clean cotton, and ocean breeze.

These are the smells of Hagrid’s Pumpkin Patch, Dobby’s Socks, and Gatsby’s Shoreline — all candles, and all great holiday gift ideas.

You can also find lip balms and wax tarts in the Etsy seller’s shop, From the Page.

Why J.K. Rowling’s adult, totally not for children books are OK by me

Rowling

Jo has come a long way from the days of Harry Potter. It’s weird to think that one of the biggest children’s writers of our time is now catering to adults, but it’s happening, and it’s probably not going to stop.

When I read 2013’s suburbia novel The Casual Vacancy, which J.K. Rowling wrote several years after children’s book The Tales of Beedle the Bard (a spin-off from the Potter line), I was surprised at how literally the author seemed to construe the term “adult readership.” The book is good, and it mellows out a bit, but I felt like Rowling was trying to cram as much mature content into the opening as she possibly could. Name a dirty topic, and she was making it a character trait.

Now I’m in the middle of reading A Cuckoo’s Calling* (which, hey, is getting a sequel in June), a crime-detective mystery that she published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. After how much flack she got for the rather brash Casual Vacancy, it makes sense that the poor woman would choose to bury the Rowling name with the Harry Potter series and start anew.

Last year in July, Rowling went on record saying, “I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience. It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

Can you blame her? Maybe it’s because of critics’ quotes like this one from Bloomberg: “Imagine Harry Potter with nothing but Muggles — mean, graceless people without a trace of magic. It would be a dull book indeed.”

The Casual Vacancy is not a perfect book. I think it’s terribly flawed in the beginning, like Rowling was trying too hard to leave Harry behind and rewrite everyone’s notion of her as this charming British lady who writes about wizards and magic and young adulthood. Remember, this is the same woman who killed off — OK wait, spoiler alert from 2007 — Hedwig for no reason other than to teach children that our friends die (seriously, read the quote at the front of the book). I thought the rest of Casual Vacancy was quite wonderful. It’s just not something you’d read to your kids.

It’s wrong of us to expect Rowling to keep writing children’s fiction just because of her earlier success. If she needs to ditch her name and adopt a pseudonym to get us to drop the incessant comparisons to Harry Potter and why The Casual Vacancy and A Cuckoo’s Calling aren’t Harry Potter, then more power to her.

She’s a writer. Let her write. If you don’t like it, go reread Sorcerer’s Stone — and shush.

*More on Cuckoo’s Calling from me soon.

Awesome book cover Friday: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Scholastic is dolling up all seven of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books with new, 15th-anniversary covers.

The first is coming for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in September. The redesigns were done by Kazu Kibuishi, a graphic novelist known for his Amulet series.

The publisher has revealed the cover for Sorcerer’s Stone. What do you think? I love the sleeker, more color-rich, more emotionally encapsulating take over the original.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - Scholastic

John Green on creating characters for novels and written stories

John Green

John Green talked today about how to create characters in novels and other text-based forms of storytelling … while playing Fifa Soccer 11, which probably doesn’t have very deep characters.

But his reasons for playing make sense. Fifa is a video game, which is largely a visual medium. The author of The Fault in Our Stars said that what’s often forgotten about character creation is that characters in stories are made out of text, not images. “When I first read Harry Potter, I didn’t think of the physicality of Harry Potter. That wasn’t as central to his character as his interior life and my own feelings and connection to his interior life.”

He added, “First-time readers of Harry Potter are able to read that story without thinking of Daniel Radcliffe or even picturing anyone specific.”

Continue reading John Green on creating characters for novels and written stories

Reading and writing with all 5 senses

The Five Senses by Herve TulletReading is a very sensory experience. If you pick up a book, you immediately touch the pages, see the words (a greatly underrated experience in itself) — and probably smell the book, too, regardless of whether you have a new or old copy.

Sometimes this is a bad experience — like my recent purchase of Life of Pi (soon to be a movie), a used edition that smells a lot like ketchup, much to my displeasure. Seriously. Gross.

Those who read aloud in their heads might “hear” the words (also a beneficial practice), but chances are you’re not tasting. That’s where words exhibit their power through story. The sights, smells, and sounds … a good author knows how to grab the reader with vivid, sensory-appealing imagery.

Smell might be the strongest tie to memory, but for me, nothing lures me in like a good description of a delicious meal. Every time. As soon as roast chicken, strawberry tarts, or some sort of savory dish involved, I’m hungry and wishing I lived in medieval times. Or at Hogwarts (here’s a cool breakdown of all the food and drink served at the wizard school.)

What about you? Do any of the five senses really get to you when you read? And go ahead — count the so-called sixth sense, too. Maybe ghosts really freak you out. :)

From J. K. Rowling’s imagination comes Wonderbook: Book of Spells

Whew.

I. Am. Exhausted.

I’m all typed out.

I’ve been so busy helping to cover E3 (that’s the Electronic Entertainment Expo going on this week) for GameZone that I haven’t had time for much else. But I wanted to share some sort of update.

One of the announcements made at the show was for Wonderbook: Book of Spells — a new video game/interactive book coming for PlayStation 3 that incorporates augmented reality technology, PlayStation Move products, and most interestingly, the stories of J. K. Rowling.

The Book of Spells referred to in the title is written by fictional character Miranda Goshawk of the Harry Potter novels.

Wonderbook: Book of Spells is the closest a Muggle can come to a real spellbook,” said Rowling. “I’ve loved working with Sony’s creative team to bring my spells, and some of the history behind them, to life. This is an extraordinary device that offers a reading experience like no other.”

It looks perfect for kids, and that’s obviously the market they’re targeting with the ad/trailer. But it’s also certain to intrigue any fan of the author.

What do you think? Is this something you’d check out, even if you don’t normally venture into video game territory? Wonderbook will cost $40 and come packaged with the aforementioned book and game disc.

Rowling is currently penning her next full-length work, The Casual Vacancy, marketed for adults and projected to release this fall, as early as September.

Harry Potter e-books are out today!

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is finally available for digital download. The first three e-books cost $7.99, while the last four will run you $9.99 each. I imagine the price difference lends extra incentive to buying the The Complete Harry Potter Collection version (if each e-book sold for only $7.99, all seven books would be $55.93, just a couple dollars shy of the actual cost of $57.54). As the math works out, you’ll save about 10%.

The books are DRM-free but sport special digital watermarks “that relate to the book, to the purchaser and the purchase time. This allows us to track and respond to possible copyright misuse.” French, Italian, German, and Spanish editions are on the way. You can find the books on Pottermore, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, and they can also be sent to Sony Reader and Google Play accounts via Pottermore. Learn more here. A full list of compatible devices is also available.

What do you think? I already own all the Harry Potter books in print, but it sure would be nice not to have to stack my shelves with such a honking collection.

J.K. Rowling trades stories about children in wizards’ hats for a more adult read

As one chapter closes, another begins.

That’s currently the reality for J.K. Rowling, only she has seven full-length novels and three supplemental books to her name—and many, many chapters.

With Harry Potter put to bed (and Pottermore open for its loyal fans)*, the forty-six-year-old British author is now concentrating on fresh material. Whatever it is, it’s not for kids. Rowling recently finalized a deal with Little, Brown to publish an adult book, confirming her departure from Bloomsbury in the UK and Scholastic in the U.S.

“Although I’ve enjoyed writing it every bit as much, my next book will be very different to the Harry Potter series … The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry’s success has brought me, and with that new territory it seemed a logical progression to have a new publisher. I am delighted to have a second publishing home in Little, Brown, and a publishing team that will be a great partner in this new phase of my writing life.”

According to GalleyCat, David Shelley of Little, Brown Book Group will edit and publish for UK readers, while Little, Brown and Company executive vice president Michael Pietsch will handle publication in the United States.

With Rowling’s proven success with series books, we could be looking at another expanded story, much like the seven-part Harry Potter, which spanned ten years. By now, many of her massive following of readers have entered adulthood. She’ll be writing for them as much as she will a new audience. Rowling hinted on Twitter that the book could release as early as this year.

Do you think the change in publisher is a smart move? Would adults be interested in a multiple-book series from Rowling, or should the author focus on solo novels?

*If you’re wondering, Pottermore will start selling Harry Potter e-books through its website sometime this year, delayed from last fall.

PS: For those of you who like HP and cool bookmarks …

… check out these awesome creations by bethydesigns, PaintedByRenee, and Bogies.

Happy 200th birthday, Charles Dickens!

Google and the book world are celebrating Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday today. Why not honor the literary great by reading one of his classics? He’s written fiction, non-fiction, short stories, and even a play (No Thoroughfare, a collaboration with detective novelist Wilkie Collins). And hey, many of them are free for Kindle (and priced low for Nook)!

English Victorian author Charles John Huffman Dickens lived from 1812–1870 and was born on February 7 in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England (now the Dickens Birthplace Museum). Often considered a spokesman for the poor, Dickens is famously remembered for his characters and his contemporary depictions of social classes, mores, and values. Critic and author Gilbert Keith Chesterton, who wrote several introductions for the author, described him as “the voice in England of this humane intoxication and expansion, this encouraging of anybody to be anything.”

His first book, a collection of stories, was titled Sketches by Boz (“Boz” was his pseudonym) and published in 1836. He and his wife Catherine Hogarth welcomed ten children to the family—that’s ten little Dickens running around. Charles was busy at the desk and in the bedroom.

He later left Catherine for actress Ellen Ternan, whom he met while performing in Collins’ The Frozen Deep. “The good, the gentle, high-gifted, ever-friendly, noble Dickens—every inch of him an honest man,” the Scottish historian and author Thomas Carlyle called him upon hearing of Dickens’ passing—but not so much for the marriage bonds.

For a full bibliography of Dickens’ works and a biography of the author, visit The Literature Network.

Cassie at the blog Books and Bowel Movements shared a link to an article about how college students who grew up reading Harry Potter are more prepared for classic literature, especially works by Dickens.

Blogger Caorthine wished Dickens a happy birthday today, too. And Literary Wonderland sent him a birthday letter.

Love Dickens? Feel free to drop a link to your happy birthday post or share a memory of reading his books in the comments.