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Fantastic Beasts … Where DO You Find Them?

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By now you will have heard plenty of news about J.K. Rowling’s latest project – a movie version of her book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The book itself, written by the fictional Newt Scamander, features more than 80 fantastical beasts and beings. Some of them, such as the pixie, the kelpie, the unicorn, the mer-people and the dragon, are well-known to even the most half-hearted fantasy fans. But there are quite a few exceptions. Here are a few fun ones.

 

  1. Puffskein: A sphere of soft ur that is fond of eating leftovers and even the occasional spider. It emits a humming sound when it isfantastic beasts5 contented. Fred and George Weasley modified the Puffskein to make the Pygmy Puff.
  2. Jobberknoll: A speckled blue bird that never utters a peep until the moment before its death. And in that moment, it utters a long scream which consists of every sound it has ever heard – backward. Its feathers are used in Memory Charms and Truth Serums.
  3. Ashwinder: A thin, gray wisp with glowing red eyes that rises from embers to lay its eggs in a dark corner before it dies. It only lives about an hour.
  4. Bowtruckle: A twig-like creature, about the size of a person’s hand, which serves as the guardian for its home tree (which it looks very similar to!). A peaceful being, but can become violent when its tree is threatened.
  5. Chizpurfle: A crab-like, parasitic creature that is attracted to magic. It often attacks magical objects such as wands and cauldrons. When it can find no magic, it will resort to attacking Muggles’ electrical devices and wires.
  6. Glumbumble: This furry flying insect produces a treacle that induces melancholy, which can be used as an antidote to treat hysteria. It nests in dark places and feeds on nettles.
  7. Streeler: A giant snail which changes colors hourly. Streeler venom is one of the few things that can kill a Horklump.
  8. Diricawl: Muggles think of this plump, flightless bird as the extinct dodo bird. But the wizarding world knows it is not extinct – rather, it can disappear and reappear when needed as an escape method. Thus Muggles have not seen it for many years.

Many of the creatures in Rowling’s book (and upcoming movie) are ones she invented herself, although the classic fairytale beasts emerge here and there as well.  If you could create a magical beast, what would it be?

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Book Review: Dragon’s Keep (by Janet Lee Carey)

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First of all, just let me say … I loved this book.  That’s really all I need to say, although I’m betting you are going to want a few more details before you’re willing to take my word for it.

I’ll start by giving you what I call the “jacket flap” description.  If you happen to have already read the actual jacket flap or back of the book, then just skip the next three paragraphs.

Rosalind is a princess, but she has a terrible, un-princess-like secret.  (I’m struggling here to know whether I should let you in on the secret or not.  As you’ll find out anyway by looking at the book cover art or even just by reading the first few paragraphs of the book, I guess I’ll tell you.  If you’d rather not know, just skip to the next paragraph!).  Rosalind was born beautiful in all but one respect – she has a dragon’s claw as her left ring finger, and has been forced by her mother to hide it, wearing gloves, all her life.

Rosalind also happens to be a part of a famous prophecy made by Merlin 600 years before her birth – a prophecy that promises to restore the throne to her banished royal family.  Dragons plague her home, Wilde Island, and though she feels a fear and loathing of the beasts and their hunger for human flesh, Rosalind can’t deny that she also sees their beauty, and feels a strange link to them.

When a dragon comes and carries Rosalind off to its keep, she believes she is as good as dead.  And though many hardships lie in wait for her and the ones she loves, she comes to view what she has always thought of as a curse in a different light – and it just may change the fate of her whole kingdom.

Ok, then – now that THAT part is over … why do I like this book so much?  Isn’t it just another dragon book, just like the plethora of other dragon books on the market right now?  Yes, sort of.  But then again, not really.  To me, anyway, there seemed to be two main differences that caught my attention and drew me in.  Number one:  The writing and character development.  (Is that two reasons in one??  Maybe.  Who cares.)  The plot of this book flowed so wonderfully, and the writing style of the author was so originally her own, that – when coupled with the excitement of the story itself – I couldn’t seem to put the book down.  I have a pretty late bedtime … and believe me, I stayed up with this book way past it.

So, yeah, the plot – awesome.  The writing style – beautiful.  The character development – completely believable.  I have a peeve in young adult books, and it’s superficial characters.  I’m always amazed at the books that make top seller lists.  People can throw in a couple of quirky characteristics and suddenly their hero or heroine is supposed to have depth.  Doesn’t work for me.  Dragon’s Keep, however, had a main character (and indeed, all of its central characters) who had a wealth of traits, fears and qualities that made her unique and realistic.  There was background – there was history – there were reasons she was the person she was.

Number two:  The dragons.  They are mean, and bitter, and hard-headed, and man-eating, and deadly, and tragic, and deep, and feeling, and passionate.  Need I say more?  I could.  In short, they are what dragons are supposed to be.  Not that I have anything against friendly, emotional, human-helping dragons.  But I’ve seen too many of them.  I loved that these dragons were different – that they were hard-core (does anyone use that phrase anymore?  Well, I do).

Some books are exhausting to read.  They feel like homework.  And I’m one of those people who feel the need to finish something I’ve begun, even if it’s torture.  It’s rare I stop a book that I’ve started.  So you’ll believe me when I say I was hoping for a really good read – something that I wouldn’t have to work at, and that would grab me and draw me in whether I wanted it or not.  That is exactly what Dragon’s Keep did.

Book Review: Dragon Slippers (by Jessica Day George)

Dragon SlippersWhat a neat beginning to a series of young adult fantasies that I am looking forward to reading.

SHORT SYNOPSIS:  Ok, so I won’t tell you the end or any of the really important bits, since the joy of that is in reading it yourself.  But I’ll fill you in enough to make you want to go check out this adorable book at your local library … how about that?

Creel is our main character.  She’s an orphan who lives with her aunt and uncle … and she feels she’s a bit of a burden to them.  Her aunt comes up with the not-so-bright idea of sacrificing her to the local dragon rumored to live in the hills outside of their village.  Why?  So a handsome knight will come rescue Creel, who will then be one less mouth to feed – of course!  Creel just happens to be a fast talker, though, and has no need of a knight or a rescue.  She ends up negotiating her freedom with the dragon, and also gets some lovely slippers in with the bargain … but the slippers are much more than they seem.  Exactly what the slippers are – and what they do – is information that seems to always lie just beyond Creel’s reach as she journeys to another village with hopes of beginning her own dressmaking shop.

Making friends with another dragon along the way, not to mention a prince, and making a couple of enemies besides, Creel ends up having quite the adventure.  Things begin to unravel until at last the very kingdom’s safety is in jeopardy, hanging on the edge of war with a neighboring country … and only Creel can save the day.

WHY I LIKED THIS BOOK, AND WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT:  Well, if the synopsis didn’t convince you to read Dragon Slippers, then I’ll try to give you another reason or two.  Number one: the writing.  It’s fresh, it’s easy-flowing, and it felt so relaxing to read a book that moved along at a pace that kept things interesting but not overly complex.  Number two:  the characters.  They are funny and witty, but each has enough of the light and dark to make them realistic.  Excepting for Princess Amalia, who is perhaps a bit stereotypically nasty, playing the part of the selfish princess a little too well.  In my opinion, every villain should have his or her good points.  But to each her own!  Finally, number three: there is nothing over-the-top for the juvenile audience the book is intended for – and by that, I mean violence, sexuality or anything too graphic.  I’m pretty conservative, and I have a peeve about finding books marketed for juvenile or even young adult, when they are clearly written with an adult audience in mind.

Altogether a great read, and if you are a fan of juvenile and young adult fantasy (basically a 100% chance as you are reading this blog!) – then I think you’ll find Dragon Slippers as adorable as did I.  I’ve got the next one of the series, Dragon Flight, on my list!

Dragons For Young People

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