Monday, 26 January 2015

GoodRead - Harry Potter: The Creature Vault

Of course, I was going to have this book, my dear blog readers. I am a huge Harry Potter fan and I asked for it for Christmas (thank you bro-in-law!).

The Creature Vault looks into the creatures that featured into the Harry Potter movies and shows concept art, behind the scene photos and film stills as well as an in depth description of the creature and how the creature came to be...

I said this before in my review of The Art of Disney's Frozen, I love these types of books. They are a rare treat for me and when I got Harry Potter: Page to Screen, it took me around six months to read as I wanted to take my time over it. I wanted to adsorb it.

But with this, I sped through within the course of one evening. I devoured it and loved every second. Like I said, I like these types of books when I read them.

There is a tiny section in Harry Potter: Page to Screen that touches on this (The Creature Shop Compendium) and images are used in both books, but I feel that the information has been expanded on a lot more and there's a lot more art and photos in this. It was just interesting to see how little concept art was revealed in both Harry Potter: Page to Screen and Harry Potter: The Creature Vault. I could very easily have had this book just filled with art and I wouldn't have cared!

My only real nitpick of a problem is that, within the book, it used the America title of the first movie - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, not Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (which is what it is known world-wide). I wonder why this wasn't amended for territories outside the United States...

I think this is a really good book to give insight to how the creatures were created in the Harry Potter movies, and I love it (Hello? Harry Potter fan speaking!). I think I will show you some art within this book and try and hide you from that hideous Grindylow drawing...

 



Ok, I lied. If I had a mini start when I saw it, then so are you!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

GoodRead - The Collectors

Late last year, Audible.co.uk announced that they were going to release an short audiobook to all their members for free as an early Christmas treat. As I wasn't a monthly member (I just buy audiobooks as and when I want an audiobook), I sadly didn't get this. However, after Christmas, the audiobook was released to everyone to buy for a small price of £1.99 and, only I discovered this, I got it and decided to blitz it one afternoon.

In the world of His Dark Materials (but not set in Lyra's world) and set around 50 odd years prior to the events of the His Dark Materials, it follows Horley and Grinstead who, in the Senior Common Room in an Oxford college one dark winter night. They talk about two pieces of art, both of which seem to be connected in mysterious ways.

Now, this is my first listen so this is my instant reaction. But I get the feeling that this might multiply listens.

But, if I am honest with you, I felt like I had read this before. It has the feel of The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill (my review for that book is here), and while it touches briefly on the worlds of His Dark Materials, it isn't important to have read the series.

I think I am a tad let down because I thought this would give us a greater insight over Mrs Coulter but it was only brushed upon.

While it was a nice story (I love Bill Nighty narrating the story), but I do feel like I have read it before with The Man In The Picture.

But like I said, this will need a few relistens. I shall come back to you on this one, I think...

Saturday, 24 January 2015

GoodRead - The Dagger in the Desk

So, on my way home from the Fire Sermon blogger event, rather than read the book the event was about, I wanted to read something quick and addictive. I had a short train journey and the London Underground today was busy and I didn't want to use my newly signed copy as a weapon. So, to stop this from happening, I read my kindle and I read the eShort of Lockwood and Co. The Dagger In The Desk.

And yes, I haven't read the first book in the series. I KNOW! The great Jim from YA Yeah Yeah gave me a copy and it's sitting on my TBR shelf, waiting. And, as it's about ghosts, I'm trying not to give it eye contact. Otherwise, I am doomed. 

In Dagger In The Desk, London's (ok, not our London but another London) most talented psychic detective agency (and ghost hunters) are called on to investigate a ghost in St Simeon's Academy for Talented Youngsters. A ghost that lurks in the shadows, is angry and carries a very sharp and very real dagger. Will they survive the night...? 

I sped through this and I wished I have read the first book in the series, The Screaming Staircase. This was fun, fast-paced and funny. I can imagine The Screaming Staircase having very scary moments (one of the reasons am quite fearful to read ghost stories - am a bit of a wuss). 

But I flew through this and am very excited to read this series. Fans of the first book, I feel, will love this. It will tie you guys over till book 3 comes out later this year. 

For those of you curious over this series and wondering if this would be good starting point to see if you like the writing, I would say yes. You get a feel for the world (though I think Screaming Staircase will do a better, more in depth job) and with this, you get a tiny galley of the ghosts and an sneak peek of Screaming Staircase so if you like it and want to read more, you can read that and see if you like it.

I chose not to read the sneak peek as I want to be surprised when I read Screaming Staircase, but I had such fun reading Dagger in the Desk that I hope to enter this world again very soon... 

The Fire Sermon Event

Earlier today, I was at HarperCollins for a blogger event of The Fire Sermon, a first book in a new trilogy by Francesca Haig. And most of the people who were invited had read or was at least halfway through the book and loving it.

I haven't read it. So I was panicking a little. I feared I would have to lie through my teeth and say things like "Beautiful use of language", "That twist! Did you see it coming?"and "Such a strong lead!". Basically, this video in a nutshell from BookTuber Stevie from SableCaught (who I met again today! So cool to see you and all the other bloggers again. I MISSED TALKING TO YOU ALL FACE TO FACE!!!)

But once I got to the event, I discovered (to my delight!) that there were a small number of us who hadn't read the book (HOORAY!!!) so we were going into this new series blind.

The group of us bloggers were taken into a cafe area of HarperCollins's new building and we just stared at the view! They have an amazing view of London! And they have a wall made of books (or, a wall covered in book spines!). I think all us book bloggers and vloggers all wanted to take it home (I did, but I had my eye of the huge lamp of The Tiger Who Came to Tea...).

Once we all had a tiny catch up, we all sat down and listen to the Publishing Director, Jane Johnson, chat about how Harper Voyager was going to be 20 this year and showed a short video where I discovered that I have more books from this publisher in my TBR pile (ok, on my kindle) than I thought...

Then, Francesca Haig chatted about The Fire Sermon. This book is getting hype/buzz. It;s sold in 26 territories and Dreamworks is going to adapt it into a movie - they phone her every now and then to check details! She read two small extracts (she found out some of us didn't have a copy so she kept them as spoiler-free as possible) and answered questions on the book and writing in general.

The book, she revealed, started life as a question - "What if when one twin dies, so did the other?" - from then, it took form (though she is a published poet and a professor of Creative Writing [sorry, my notes are a bit mixed up so apologies if I make a mistake). She also talked about the word cleave - a word she uses often in this story. A word that means to separate or to divide but, in another context, to bring together or to bind.

After this tiny chat (it's a blur and my note taking is awful), the bloggers, the book peeps (who's jobs might be threatened by me as they have the coolest jobs) and the author chatted about books, writing and food, Francesca very kindly signed copies of her book to everyone who attented.

Including me. I GOT A COPY OF THIS BOOK!!!

And it sounds messed up. My kind of messed up so am thrilled to read it soon.

In The Fire Sermon, the world is a dark place. Years ago, the terrible event happened and now, twins are being born. The Alpha twin are strong and "perfect" whereas the Omega twin have mutations. They are cast aside, forgotten while the Alphas live a life of luxury. Expect, not really. Because there is one thing that binds them together: when one twin dies, so does the other...

But Cass and Zach are perfect. On the outside. Cass knows she's the Omega and is hiding a secret. A secret that her twin, Zach, will stop at nothing to expose...

It's sounds good, right?

Oh, as we left, was given a tiny goody-bag. It contain an author I never heard of, another I think I know but never read and Game of Thrones. It's a sign from the Book Gods that I need to read that monster of a book soon (but I MUSTN'T love the characters as George RR Martin will kill them off! And he enjoys it!)

But, before I run away, I want to thank Harper Voyager for a great day. I had such fun! So, thank you for inviting me and thank you Francesca for chatting to me, even though I bet I looked like a hyper rabbit in the headlights (having your first coffee of the day at the event wasn't my smartest move... will remember that in future...)

Night School Saturday - Jack Jewers Talks About the Making of Night School: Web Series

Hello again! Yes, another Saturday so another Night School Saturday. You thought because the web series was over, these would stop. Oh no!

Today, I am very lucky to talk to Jack Jewers, the director of Night School: The Web Series and the man who has helped with these Night School Saturdays. I owe a lot to him (He's the one who got everyone answering my questions over "What was that like?", "How did you film that?" and other kinda geeky questions I asked and bit my tongue over [if you know me, you know I like to know more about what happened behind the camera...).And I am thrilled that when I asked Jack if he fancied answering some questions, he said yes.

Now, before I go any further and give you the usual "You can follow him on Twitter at" info, I want to say something real quick. I asked Jack these questions around the time when episode 2 "The Other One" was aired so if the answers feel out of date, that was because I decided that I wanted this to be one of the last things to air on my Night School Saturdays!

Ok, the Twitter jam. If you want to follow Jack on Twitter, you can do so at @JackJewers or you can follow TrailerMade Films at @trailer_made. Right over to Jack to answer some questions. And me not bouncing in my chair over one of the last few questions...

Jack, thank you so much for having time to answer a few questions about Night School: The Web Series. I (as many fans) would love to know where did the idea of turning Night School into a web series come from? Did the author, CJ Daugherty, come to you with this idea? Did you go to her or did you both come to the same conclusion together?
The idea sort of evolved over time. The Night School book trailers had grown a bit of a cult following alongside the books since we started making them in 2012. When we shot the trailer for book 4, Resistance, in May 2014, we ended up with enough extra material to form a couple of teasers in addition to the main trailer. These were quite fun and went down well, so we had the idea to come back over the summer and build on that by doing some extra ones. Not full episodes, just snippets of action featuring different characters, of between 30 seconds and a minute in length. (We actually completed one of them featuring Nathaniel, which will never be released now, although much of the footage was re-used in Power).

Then one day we were having a long discussion about all this, and it suddenly dawned on us that there was this huge opportunity just staring us in the face – why not turn it into a web series instead?

So the TL;DR on that is that we were out walking the dog and had a brainwave!

You directed the book trailers for all the Night School books. How big a change was it to go from filming a book trailer that lasted only a few minutes to film a series of six episodes, each under 10 minutes long?
Actually it was less of a change than you might think. For a start, scripted drama is my comfort zone. It’s definitely more challenging a medium for a director – a whole other level, really – but I absolutely relished taking that step. It felt a little like ‘great, now we can get some real work done.’

However, in practical terms, they weren’t all that different to make. We always pushed the envelope as much as possible in terms of production values with the book trailers. The web series was shot with largely the same crews, so we were used to working with each other. And they were also made on similar schedules. It took 2 days to shoot the book trailers for Fracture and Resistance, which is actually more time than we had for some of the web series episodes!

That said the web series was certainly a bigger production by far.

CJ wrote the scripts for this series. Was there any time you read the script and thought "How are we going to film this?" or were you excited for the challenge?
I constantly wondered that while reading the scripts! But CJ and I have a very symbiotic way of working, which really helps.

The episodes are also very different, with different sets of challenges. Sometimes all I had to go on was the dialogue – that was the case on the three ‘character’ episodes, The Other One, The Gilmore Girl and Bang. I then had to build a visual story to go alongside her words, and I had pretty free reign with that.

The more action-focussed episodes were closer to conventional drama scripts, with basic action outlined too – in which case my job was to interpret them visually. That means hundreds of little decisions – everything from where to put the camera, to using a particular lens, and of course working with the actors and all that entails. Every single one of those can end up having a huge impact on the end result.

Now, what was the process you went through to find the right actors for the roles? Were they any surprise castings that surprised CJ and you?
We always knew that we wanted the main actors from the book trailers – Jess Sargent, Campbell Challis, Louis Clarke-Clare and Danny Carmel – to reprise their roles in the web series. For the other parts I put out castings through professional industry channels and then auditioned a shortlist.

As to whether there were any surprises – yes! The casting for Jo threw us some real curve balls. Jodie Hirst was the first person we saw of about six actresses who read for that part. She impressed us hugely – not only with her performance but also by looking so uncannily like Jo is described in the books that I think CJ felt a little spooked by the experience!

It all felt like a done deal until the final person to audition walked in, who happened to be Grace Parry. She was absolutely brilliant, and while we still went with Jodie for that part, we ended up offering Grace the role of Katie without ever seeing anyone else for it. I just knew she’d make an amazing Katie.

The way Grace tells the story ends with ‘and given that Katie’s such a bitch I’m not sure that’s a compliment’ but I can assure you it is!
  
With each episode having a different leads (Allie was the series main lead, but we had an episode told from Carter's point of view, another from Katie) and each with their own unique feels (in Power, we have Nathaniel being questioned in a Newsnight-style and in All the Pretty Killers, we are in a dream where we see Allie's friendship of Jo after the terrible events of Legacy). Was this a decision you made very early on when CJ was writing the scripts or was it something organic that happened when you saw the scripts?
Definitely the latter. Our concept for the series evolved as we went along. At one stage the idea was to do most episodes from the point of view of a different character. Initially it was only going to be Power and All the Pretty Killers that were done as full action episodes. But they were such strong scripts that we felt it was better to do the episodes half and half in terms of style – and besides, we wanted a really awesome opener that a casual viewer could see and instantly get what Night School was about, with no prior knowledge. So Flashback happened!

Now, with web series and podcasts becoming popular (for example, The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, Emma Approved, Welcome to Night Vale, Serial, etc), why do you think this is the case? 
I think in some ways it’s the inevitable result of the explosion of web content. I read recently that more than 50% of everything is now watched on YouTube. But also it’s because they offer a huge freedom to writers and directors – with good scripts and a good team you can shoot, edit and distribute your own work relatively cheaply, and retain creative control. There’s no middleman. It’s a very democratising thing.

Once the series was filmed and edited, the news was unveiled to the fans. Were you surprised on how positive the reactions were to the news with people tweeting the news, blogging/vlogging and news article being released in The Bookseller and CJ being interviewed on London Live?
It’s been phenomenal. I couldn’t have dreamed that episode one would make the cover of the Guardian. We were completely thrilled. Being the first web series based on a YA novel outside the USA helped us get attention, but most of it is down to the fact that we just had such a talented crew and cast, making something genuinely innovative and new. We’re all very proud of it.

What was your reactions when you released the trailer and the first episode and both got views of over 12,000 within a short period of time? Did it take you by surprise?
Yes! The Night School YouTube channel has gained over 100,000 views in just a few months. We’re creeping slowly towards half a million now, and that’s mostly organic – the trailers and webisodes have had almost nothing in the way of paid promotion. People are discovering it for themselves.

With Night School: The Web Series having such a positive reaction with fans and critics, would you consider filming an original web series if you thought of an idea that would grip viewers?
Of course! I’d love to. In fact I have a few ideas...  *narrows eyes; rubs hands*

Last question: speaking of future web series, will there be a second series on Night School?

A second series has certainly been talked about but no decisions have been made yet. It partly depends on how well the rest of series one goes down – if people want a series two it would really help if we were to get as many views as possible! But we’ve got some awesome ideas about what we could do with a series two. We’ll decide either way by about early February. Promise! 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

SMILE - The Friends Edition

SURPRISE!!! I thought a surprise SMILE post was in order! I thank the randomness of YouTube and Vine! You guys rock!!!




It's the Vine that gets me. EVERY TIME!!! It;s that evil glint in the eye...

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

If I Made The Movie Soundtrack of... BROKEN

So, my second trial blogpost in this idea over making a movie soundtrack for a book I like. Today, it's Broken by AE Rought. My first was Night School by CJ Daugherty (not read/listen to that blogpost? Here you go and I hope you're enjoy the music).

Anyway, Broken. When I beta-read Tainted (the sequel to Broken) and a few other odds and ends, I would always send music back with my edits (mainly Delta Goodrem). So, when I thought of this idea (I blame Patrick Ness!), this book was a very natural choice for me.

Unlike Night School, where I struggled till I realised to go for the characters and what would be on their iPods, I knew the theme I wanted for Broken. The theme of forboding, grief and heartbreak. Of course, I want nice, hopeful songs (and they can be new exclusive songs), but I wanted something much darker with Broken. And once I got going on this list, the music style changed but I still went for songs which had a dark undertone.

Now, I chatted to AE Rought on Twitter and Pinterest and we have exchanged music (we have very similar tastes) so I won't go too in depth and give you a LONG list so am only going to show a few songs. If I showed you the long list the author and I created, you would be VERY AFRAID!

So, yes... here we go! I hope you like these songs choices...


"SECRET SMILE" by Semisonic
When I read this book, this was the song that stuck in my head (and my old iPod) and I still think this song is very important to this book. You can't escape a classic. But I do think the tone of this song fits very neatly with the themes and tones of the story...


"JUST BE" by Paloma Faith
An odd choice - it's a love song. So why have it here? Well, I think this would be perfect for two reasons. First, it could be Emma and Daniel's song - every couple has a "song". And second, after the events with what happened with Daniel, this love song takes a heartbreaking turn. I could easily see a scene when Emma listen to this song and lost it emotionally.


"ONLY LOVE CAN HURT LIKE THIS" by Paloma Faith
I think the title said it all, really. No really, it does. Plus, I think in this song, Paloma Faith nails heartbreak perfectly...


"IMMORTAL" by Marina and the Diamonds
I love Marina and the Diamonds. I'm not going to bother hiding it as I think you guys know that. But I think this song is perfect for Broken. It's that foreboding that I love so much!


"FEEL ME" by Mecca Kalani
Ok, this is a curveball! Really, it is! I randomly pinned on Pinterest this song to AE Rought, thinking she'll like it. But I got such a strong reaction from her, I felt I had to pop this on the list. It has my main rule of foreboding, but there is a sexy edge to it as well. Plus, this singer has a wonderful voice, doesn't she?


"YOURS" by Ella Henderson
I wanted something really emotional. Something that, when placed in the movie, could make people cry but, placed again in another scene, is romantic. And after hearing/seeing this on radio/TV (Hollyoaks?), I found this song and I think it'll fit perfectly with both the story and Emma's emotional story...


"FOR YOU" by Angus and Julia Stone
I love my weird emotional songs. And with this song, I sense the first verse and the instrumental (this starts around three and a half minute mark) could be really powerful to reflect the emotion that Emma feels throughout the course of the story.

So, yes. I have weird music choice for this soundtrack if this book was made into a movie. But what do you think? Do you agree with the song choices? Or do you think you have a perfect song that I need to listen to (I love discovering new - well, new to me - music!).

The next (and final blogpost in this trial) will be A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness...

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Night School Saturday - Q&A With Campbell Challis

So, have we all recovered from Night School: The Web Series airing its finale episode on Friday? And have we recovered over Jessica's interview yesterday? Can we talk about it? ... what do you mean "No, I haven't see it yet...". You know the drill - go to youtube.com/NightSchoolBook and watch it. And if you haven't watched Jessica chatting all things Allie, you can check out yesterday's blog post or hope over to youTube and watch her there...

Anyway, you can stay as this post as I want to take you back. Back in time! Well, till a few weeks ago (ok, last year!) when the second episode in the series, The Other One, was aired. Not seen it? Let me leave it here for you to watch (or swoon - either is good with us...)



Watched it? Have you recovered from Carter's half-nakedness? Well, the lovely director of Night School: The Web Series, Jack Jewers, emailed me and asked if I wanted to be involved to showing off the series. No brainer, like I said last week (and the week before. And the week before that. And before that...). So when Jack asked if there was anyone I fancied doing a small Q&A with, Campbell Challis was one of my first choices. And Jack was awesome enough to get Campbell to answer some question.

So, my huge thank you goes to Jack for getting Campbell to answer these questions (you're cool) and a super thank you to Campbell who took time out from his backpacking trip in the exotic location of Thailand (BACKPACKING IN THAILAND! THAILAND!!! And he answered my little questions!!!). But thank you Campbell!

Now, before I throw this over to Campbell, I want to share the love so, if you want to follow Campbell, Jack or CJ Daughtery on Twitter, you can go and follow them at @OrignalWayfarer, @JackJewers (or @trailer_made) & @CJ_Daugherty. Now, let's get some answers from Campbell, shall we...?

Campbell, thank you for answering a few questions on my blog. Before we go any further, let's get this one out of the way first: Had you read the Night School series before starring in the web series? If you have, what's your reaction to the series and, dare I ask, what's your favourite book?
Hello, it's my pleasure to answer your questions.

The answer is no, I hadn't read any night school books before becoming carter..., In fact I hadn't even heard of night school until I was sat in a coffee Shop with CJ and Jack! It was on that fateful day CJ handed me a copy of Legacy... So I suppose that remains my personal favourite. And I have only great things to say about the series... I suppose for me it's helps me to gain a better understanding of Carter and his relationships with the other characters on a much deeper level.

Tell us how you got the part of Carter for Night School: The Web Series?
My acting agent emailed me basically saying that I had to go and meet a couple of strangers for a coffee in Surrey. I thought... "Hmmm sounds interesting", so I went along to Cafe Nero in Farnham and there I met Jack and CJ. We had a bit of a chat and talked a bit about Night School, then Jack asked me to give my most smouldering stare, he then said "If you shave your beard off, you can be Carter!". So that was that. And aside from making book trailers and web series's, we've become good friends!

Now, eagle eyed viewers will know that you play Carter in all Night School's book trailers. What was it like going from filming book trailers to filming a web series?
It was a really great transition, because we already knew the characters, so all we had to do was throw in a bit of dialogue and we were off the ground! Aside from that it was fantastic news because it meant more days filming with everyone which is always a blast!

Carter was only in one episode of this series - The Other One. How did feel about having one episode to make the viewer understand Carter, who is quite a complex character in the book series?
I'm so pleased that Carter could have the opportunity to explain things a bit, and that's exactly what the episode "The Other One" did; it gave Carter the time to let the audience know exactly who he was and where he was at in terms of everything. As you mentioned, Carter is a very complex character and I think that really comes across in the speech during the episode. It was also the first time Carter says any dialogue in terms of book trailers and web series's, so it gave me the opportunity to really get into his shoes.

With the fandom have very strong feelings over whether Allie should be with Carter or love rival Sylvain, did you feel pressure to make Carter win over the viewers? Especially with the "We had something once. But I blew it" line?
I wouldn't say I felt pressure, but there is always a bit of healthy rivalry between Sylvain and Cater. But other than that, the rest is up to CJ. The "I blow it", line almost makes cater more desirable for the viewers.

Now, I don't think anyone noticed but you were shirtless in The Other One. Were you ok with this or did you find filming those scenes quite challenging?
Haha...! I thoroughly enjoyed filming those topless scenes... Aside from feeling liberated, it was a warm October, and running around in a hoodie all day got pretty hot. So when it was suggested that I took some clothes off, I was very happy!

Speaking of scenes, were they any scenes that you enjoyed filming?
I really enjoyed shooting all the scenes but if I had to pick out one scene it would have to be all the running shots. I'm an avid runner in my spare time so it was really cool being filmed sprinting around the Surrey countryside. The other crazy thing is that Tom Blount... The camera man, (who also plays Gabe) had to run with me.... But with a very heavy, very expensive Camera!

What was it like working with CJ Daughtery and Jack Jewers?
Honestly working with Jack and CJ is so so much fun, we always have a great laugh and get some great material at the end of the day. From an actors perspective, Jack is a great director to work with as he makes you feel comfortable with everything, you don't feel pressured into fitting into a box ... You are just free to give your perspective on the character. The really cool thing is also that CJ gives her author's input which is pretty essential considering she made Night School! And the best part is that they are married! It's literally a match made in heaven!

If CJ Daughtery and Jack Jewers decided to do a second series of Night School, what would you like them to do with Allie? Is there any stories or scenes that you would like to tackle? 
I think I would like to see a bit more Bad Allie!, like what we saw in "Flashback". I want to see more of Allie's dark side come out, also maybe a bit more of .... Dare I say it... Sylvian and Allie just to shake it up a bit! But who knows what might come next..., It's all up to CJ I suppose