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. :)