Monthly Archives: August 2011

Pottermore.

That’s got to be on the mind of every Harry Potter fan these days, right? If you are one of the million people who registered during The Magic Quill challenge, you should either be:

(1) Anxiously awaiting your email informing you your account is ready to use

or

(2) Envying me, because I got mine today.

It’s not that great, though. I’m going camping tomorrow and won’t be back until Wednesday, so I won’t have a chance to explore the site as thoroughly as I would have liked. Nevertheless, I’ve spent a few hours on there already, so here are some initial, raw thoughts on the website.

First of all, I have to say it’s a bit different from what I had in mind. Thinking about it now, it does seem a bit silly, but I imagined one would read the books online and at certain parts a message would pop up informing asking if they want to read new information concerning the characters/setting/whatever.

The way it actually works is that you get to explore a few moments from each chapter, ‘unlock’ exclusive content, collect stuff (from chipped cups to Chocolate Frog Cards) and play mini-games (such as brewing potions). I’m only at the seventh chapter (out of seventeen), but I’m already impressed with the site.

 

The good.

 

The graphics are amazing. Some pages take a little more time to load, either because of that or my computer. The potion brewing game (which is the only one I have played so far) is quite entertaining, but a bit difficult: I’m having trouble with the first, easiest potion.

I really liked the new material as well. Among other things, we get The Dursley’s and Prof. McGonagall’s backstories. While I never cared much for the ordinary couple, their story was saddening only because it emphasized their insane, inexplicable desire for normality. The Transfiguration teacher has always been a favorite of mine and reading about her past has only made me love her more. And of course, prove how much of a bad-ass she is.

Best House? I think so.

What I’ve enjoyed the most so far, without a doubt, were the wand selecting process and Sorting Ceremony. They’re very similar in concept -you only have to answer a few questions-, but they’re two of the most important rites of passage in a young wizard’s life. They were done beautifully and most importantly – I’m so very pleased with my results.

My wand: I got a 14 1/2 inches Cedar wood wand with a Unicorn core, which is ‘surprisingly swishy‘. After reading what that means, I would trade it for no other wand.

My house: I was sorted into Ravenclaw, which is only the same house one of the most awesome witches ever – Luna Lovegood– belonged to. Knowing that J.K.Rowling’s Sorting Test put me in Ravenclaw has made my life complete. Pretty much.

 

The bad.

 

There are some things that I don’t like about Pottermore, I must say.

To begin with, there is no sound whatsoever. To have all these awesome animations and no sound to accompany them is sort of disappointing. Even ‘Hedwig’s theme’ playing in the background at all times would have really enhanced the experience. We all know the music of Harry Potter is as magical as the books/films themselves, so I was really surprised they opted not to use any of it.

Also, I have not been able to find a way to contact another member. You can send friend requests, you can send gifts, but no messages. Private or otherwise. I really don’t understand why; wouldn’t you find it awkward if someone gave you a gift of a postcard out of the blue? I was the person who did that, without knowing there’s no way to send a note as well. Apart from the common room (where you’re limited to a few sentences), there’s no other place to chat with people. At least not to my knowledge.

 

Has anyone else gained access into Pottermore yet? What do you think of it? Also, if you’d like to add me as a friend there, my username (which I adore) is HallowMirror119. Leave a comment here first, so I know how you’ve found me. I look forward to dueling each and every one of you.

 

‘Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.’

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Dragons & Ghosts

I’ve set a goal for myself to read 100 books in 2011. Despite a promising January and a 24 hours Readathon in April, I’m behind schedule. Like, behind behind. Thirty nine pages into the sixteenth book behind. It’s depressing. Why this happened is still unclear to me, since I enjoyed most of what I’ve read so far.

Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus, right?

For example, I finished His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik a few weeks ago and loved it. Obviously enough, it’s with and about dragons – not my favorite mythological creatures, but cool enough. They are used in so many stories that it’s impossible for any lover of fantasy literature not to have come across them a few times. There only are so many things you can write about them so despite the reassuring blurb on the back cover, I was a bit hesitant about picking the book up.

I’m glad I did though, because the blurb was right: it was an interesting read, with a new take on the winged creatures. First in a series of six novels (as of yet), the book is set during an alternate history version of the Napoleonic Wars in which dragons are used in aerial combat. You are taken through the journey of Will Laurence, an extremely well mannered former captain on a British warship. After coming into possession of a dragon egg which hatches, he is forced to become its handler.

What I found really odd about this book was the dragons being more likable than the humans. Sure enough, after a while you start to care for Laurence to the point his way of speaking actually becomes appealing. But you go ‘awww’ as soon as Temeraire (Laurence’s dragon) speaks for the first time. It is so adorable you can’t help but wish you had a pet dragon. And he’s not the only one.

In fact, I liked those creatures so much that I actually cringed even when the enemy’s dragons got injured in a fight. However, I will say that the ending felt a bit abrupt. For the most part, you are being introduced to the different species of dragons, the training techniques and relationships between dragons and humans. Still, the right amount of plot twists and interesting information transmitted to the reader ensure it’s not a boring read.

Casper time…sort of.

The other book I recently read and enjoyed, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman didn’t wow me because of its plot either. It consists of several episodes set a few years apart from each other and is written in the same format as The Jungle Book.

The premise of a boy growing up among ghosts in a closed down cemetery was much more appealing to me than that of a one growing up in a jungle. Even so, the plot was a bit predictable at parts. I mean, come on – who couldn’t figure out Mr. Frost’s character? Who couldn’t anticipate what would happen with Scarlet? It wasn’t all bad, though. There were plenty of funny scenes as well as an emotional ending which almost made me cry. Considering Gaiman’s characters are not the most well developed I’ve ever come across, I’d say that’s a pretty big accomplishment.

So, the plot wasn’t previously unheard of, yet enjoyable. The characters were sort of two-dimensional, yet likable. But I loved this book mainly because of the names and atmosphere they induced. The main character is named Nobody (Bod) Owens – that is just awesome. His neither alive nor dead guardian is called Silas, which I think is a great name to describe his character: slithery, spooky, intimidating. Or take the character or Miss Lupescu, who is a werewolf. I’m sorry, I mean a Hound of God. That is such a powerful, original name and it evokes a wonderful mental image of a wolf on a cliff, with the full moon in the background. Aaa-wooo!

Now I’m reading Black, by Ted Dekker. This is a book quite a few people I know have liked and recommended. But the writing already drives me nuts, despite reading only short of forty pages. More on that book when I finish it.

TAR Australia Finale: ‘You’re good at spending money!’

Well, we have our first ever TAR Australia winners. Congratulations Tyler & Nathan!!! Just like I had predicted so many weeks ago, the surfers were able to beat models Sam & Renae and father and son Jeff & Luke to the Finish Line. Out of the final three teams, they’ve been the most consistent throughout the season. They deserved to win and I’m happy for them. Now, since we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the actual episode.

 

‘Don’t be scared, you’re not going to die!’

 

Firstly, teams flew to Singapore, where they had to open up Durian fruits until they found one with a colored inside. Although Sam & Renae arrived first, it was the surfers who found the colored fruit first, thus taking an early lead. The final Detour of the Race was a choice between Dare and Stair. The first required teams to traverse two towers by doing a tightrope walk. For Stair, teams had to climb to the 54th and 56th level of the two towers, respectively. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which one is faster.

Still, both Tyler & Nathan and Jeff & Luke initially opted for Stair. What? Why would you do that? Climbing 110 levels worth of stairs is tiring even for the young and fit. Besides, you are just starting the final leg, why pointlessly exhaust yourself?

After analyzing the situation, the surfers woke up and realized Dare is the right choice. That proved to be a wise decision; they quickly finished the task and got their next clue. As Jeff nearly died, Sam & Renae came from behind, also went for Dare despite Renae’s fear of heights and surged ahead of the father and son.

 

You have…the Grim!

 

Did you get the Harry Potter reference? If not, ten points from your house! Okay, so I’ve been wanting to throw one in for a while, but the opportunity never presented itself until now. After the Detour, teams had a Chinese fortune teller read their future in their palms. Here is what he said to each contestant:

 

Tyler: You’re good at spending money.

Nathan: You will be very wealthy in the future. (Okay, spoiler much? Not that you couldn’t tell they won based on their happy-but-trying-to-hide-it moods in the post leg interviews, but still…)

Sam: A guy likes you. (I’m pretty sure there’s more than one guy that likes her.)

Renae: You could be a professor in the future. (…what?)

Jeff: You’re very patient.

Luke: You’re a ladies’ man.

 

Hard luck

 

After a little more running around, teams were directed to the world’s tallest Ferris Wheel. There, they had to enter a gondola and sit through a 21 minute rotation. Each gondola contained a Race envelope, though only three envelopes had actual clues. I was quite disappointed to see this challenge, because whether or not you would get the clue was entirely based on luck rather than skill. The time for challenges involving luck has long gone.

In fact, the outcome of this challenge may have affected the final placements. Nathan & Tyler and Jeff & Luke were the first two teams to find the clues – as a result they got on the first flight back to Australia. So going into the last segment of the last leg, Sam & Renae were already 30 minutes behind because of this challenge. Not cool.

 

Flags & more flags!

 

Once in Perth, Australia, teams ran around some more before arriving at the Fremantle Prison, where they were given a set of 12 keys. Using them, they had to search through over a hundred prison cells for one of only three that contained their next clue. Okay, a second luck challenge? Are you kidding me? Despite their 30 minute delay, the models were able to catch up with Jeff & Luke (who had problems opening the doors) and even surpass them.

The final Roadblock (and challenge) of the season was almost identical to the final Roadblock in the 9th season of the American version. One team member had to arrange the flags of the countries they’ve visited in chronological order.

Tyler & Nathan win TAR: Australia!

At first, Nathan had about six flags in the wrong places, Sam a few more and Luke got all but the two Australian ones wrong. I’m really curious how he finished the task. And when. But in all honesty, everyone struggled. Jeff meditated. Oh, how suspenseful! All the meditation in the world couldn’t help Luke. It became pretty clear Sam stood no chance as well. So Nathan finished first, Sam was second and somehow, at some point Luke finished as well. They all arrived at the Finish Line, where everybody cheered on them and all was well.

Did you get the second Harry Potter reference? I sure hope so. As I’ve already said, I’m pretty satisfied with the result. Now that the first season has officially ended, we can say that overall, it was great. Here’s to a second one that’s even better!

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