Short Stories from Hogwarts – A Review

Short Stories from HogwartsWith both Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts firmly on every wannaebe wizard’s horizon now is the perfect time to re-immerse ourselves within the world of Harry Potter and there is no better way, at least in my humble muggle opinion, to start with J.K Rowling’s recently released short stories of the Harry Potter Universe, Short Stories from Hogwarts.

The release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007 was certainly a double edged sword for many Potter fanatics. Whilst we finally gained closure on perhaps the one of the most influential and absorbing book franchises of a generation, alongside the overwhelming relief that the Dark Lord was finally vanquished I distinctly remember feeling an odd aura of confusion. No longer was I able to mark out my life alongside each new instalment of the Harry Potter franchise, instead I was left in an odd chasm of an apparently Potterless existence. A terrifying prospect no?

To J.K. Rowling’s credit however she has not left us entirely wanting, and through a varying array of Pottermore essays, cryptic tweets and multimillion dollar film and play franchises the world of Potter not only still lives on but is well and truly thriving. But with these examples of grand projects and ideas, I had of late been eager for smaller more detailed snip-bits of the Rowling’s wizarding world. Thankfully with her latest instalment into the franchise we find ourselves with a collection of short stories which seem to do just the trick.

Part of a trio of short novels, ‘Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies’ gives us seven tales focused on the themes of heroism against great menaces, hardship and heartbreak in challenging lives, as well as the wonderful spontaneity of pursuing dangerous hobbies in the wizarding world. Whilst perhaps the die hard among us will find little new info within the pages of ‘Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies’, for the majority the chance to revisit the lives of the major characters of Minerva McGonagall and Remus Lupin (never forget) will be most welcome. Meanwhile the added knowledge of Professor Trelawney and Silvanus Kettleburn (if you remember who he is feel free to give yourself a deserved pat on the back) will be very much welcomed for those who thrive on the more consuming the more niche aspects and knowledge of Harry Potter.

Content wise, out of all of the stories here McGonagall’s and Lupin’s are, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most engaging, enlightening and heart wrenching. For the sake of spoilers I won’t indulge you too much with the details, just come prepared with a tissue and a chocolate frog for good measure. There’s some heavy stuff in there…

On the other hand Kettleburn’s and Trelawney’s chapters are in contrast lighter hearted. In the case of Kettleburn, who was of course was the Care of Magical Creatures Professor prior to Hagrid because everyone definitely remembers that…, his chapter is very much a more tongue in cheek appraisal of this very minor character in the Harry Potter World and provides a good hearty chuckle or two along the way to boot.

Out of the four I found Trelawney’s to be the least enjoyable, but still informative. If I’m honest I mostly put my dislike, if that’s even the right word for it, down to how well Emma Thompson’s excellent portrayal of Trelawney developed a great dislike of the character in my head. The writing was still as engaging as McGonagall’s, Lupin’s and Kettleburn’s chapter’s so if you are eager to learn more about Divination you’ll enjoy her segment to. I just seemingly have not yet removed her shrill shrieks of ‘The Grim!’ from my subconscious yet…

Out of everything on offer in ‘Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies’ however my favourite additions are the incredibly informing essays of Rowling’s own thoughts which are scattered throughout the book. These essays which grant the reader compelling insight into Rowling’s own interpretations of her characters and the world they inhabit are an invaluably rare resource for a writer of such a widely popular franchise, and provide a chance for the reader to see characters they have known all their lives in entirely new light.

For critique some sections do feel a little too short, even for a short story, whilst most of these chapters are also available on Pottermore. However the way these stories have been edited and connected together really do make for a marvellous and charming read, and at such a low price (£1.99, $2.99, €2.99) I cannot recommend Short Stories from Hogwarts enough to anyone eager to learn more about the wizarding world of Harry Potter.


Jack Hunsley is a keen reader in his early twenties from the north of England. His aim is to read anything and everything he can get my hands on, but fantasy novels seem to be his forte as of late, and he still prefers a good old fashioned hardback book to anything else.

Reading Pillows for Geeks

snorlax body pillow for geeksAs geeks, it’s so surprise that we love reading. From Harry Potter to those crappy yet awesome Star Trek novels to anime and comics, reading is a classic geek past-time. Nothing beats snuggling up and hiding from the world with a good story, and nothing can make reading better than snuggling up with huge comfy reading pillows for geeks!

Check out these awesome reading pillows for geeks that are cute, funny, and sometimes even sexy…

Creeper body pillow for geeksCreeper Body Pillow

If you’ve played Minecraft (and if you haven’t, GTFO) you are familiar with the Creeper. They are the villain we love to hate, an overall nuisance in the game. So if you can’t beat them, join them! Stop running away from these exploding pains in the ass and befriend one! As a pillow, they’re harmless, totally cuddly and (probably) won’t explode! This one is 50” by 20”, made of 100% cotton and guaranteed not to explode the castle you just built a week building.

You can find it on ThinkGeek.


snorlax body pillow for geeks Snorlax Oversized

This custom made Pokemon pillow is in the likeness of the sleepiest of the Pokemon – Snorlax. It’s big cushy body is perfect for cuddling up with a good book. Hopefully he won’t use Yawn, Snore, or Rest on you and send you straight to sleep. From this supplier you can get custom made pillows of any Pokemon you pick! Although a Snorlax is probably a much more comfortable reading buddy than a Geodude or any of the fire types.

Find it on Etsy.


Dr Who Reading Pillows for GeeksDoctor Who Throw Pillow

We all wish the Doctor would someday appear in our backyard in the TARDIS and whisk us away to travel through time and space. Probably won’t happen, but this amazing TARDIS pillow can go with you on all your reading and napping adventures. It even has a lantern on top that lights up and makes the signature TARDIS whooshing when you press on the keyhole! It’s perfectly cozy for reading and makes the perfect geeky addition to your home.

Find it here on Amazon.


Anime Reading Pillows for GeeksAnime Body Pillows

Anime is probably one of the most beloved and most sexualized fandoms in the world. Both the male and female characters are hyper-attractive and often displayed with clothing practically flying off. What better way to fulfill your anime desires than cuddle up with a good book and a half naked anime boy? No judgement, some people are totally into it! **This site is for grown ups.**

Find it at HelloCosplay.


fandom body pillows for geeksRealistic Multi-Fandom Body Pillows

Ever wish you could get Tom Hiddleston or Benedict Cumberbatch to snuggle up in bed with you with a good book? Now you can… in a sense. If you already have a body pillow, you’re one step closer to your favorite nerd character laying next to you in bed. YOu just have to get one of these sexy pillowcase covers that features, well, everyone! From Deadpool to Bilbo Baggins.

You can find these pillows at GeeksCrate.

Do you have a favorite reading pillow for geeks? Share in the comments below.

Rosemary and Rue – A Review

rosemary and rueI came across Rosemary and Rue via my cousin, who gave me as copy when I went off to study abroad in merry old England. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down.

The story follows October “Toby” Daye, a changeling knight (half human, half Faerie) and private investigator (is there anything she can’t do) living in a self- imposed exile from the world of Faerie after a traumatic incident cost her fourteen years of her mortal life. She is drawn back into the land of the so-called “Fair Folk” when a close acquaintance of hers is murdered and she is cursed with an ultimatum: solve the mystery of the murder within three days, or die. With a setup like this, the stakes are immediately heightened and readers can’t help but be drawn into the drama of Toby’s situation.

One of McGuire’s greatest strengths as a writer is in her world building. She manages to create vivid pictures of two different worlds. One is the “normal world” of San Francisco, where the Fair Folk lurk in the shadows. Pixies haunt the produce section of the grocery store, trolls have jobs as taxi drivers, and people disappear into dark alleys at sunrise to hide the evidence of their immortality. The other world McGuire paints is the magical realm of Faerie: a world where elegant gowns replace jeans and tee shirts as the new casual wear, illusions are cast simply by reciting lines of Shakespeare (a bonus for you drama nerds) and life can be either beautiful and carefree or cruel and brutal, depending on the balance of your blood (Faerie or human) and where you fall in Fae society. But it’s not just the worlds that are vividly drawn: McGuire takes great care to give attention to each diverse race of Faerie (and for those who have trouble pronouncing the names of the many different races, Ms. McGuire has been kind enough to provide a pronunciation guide). Such races include the Daoine Sidhe, humanoid purebloods skilled in illusion; Cait Sidhe, feline Fae with the ability to transform from cat to human then back again; and the Selkie, who look human until they don the sealskin they wear around their waists like hoodies. Each race is exquisitely drawn and rarely is there confusion as to which character belongs to which race.

Of course, a story is only as good as its protagonist, and I can safely say that Toby Daye is one of my favorite heroes in all of literature. She’s sarcastic, world-weary, and cannot survive without coffee flowing through her system (somewhat like moi). But best of all, unlike certain other fantasy heroines (coughbellaswancough), while hunky men surround her, none of them define who she is nor does she spend the whole book obsessing over them. My only complaint about her would be that she does spend a good portion of this book in a bit of a funk, but that’s understandable since she’s experiencing PTSD from spending the last fourteen years of her life as a fish (yes, you heard that right). The supporting cast around her is equally rich, with standouts including Quentin, a snooty pureblood teenager whose life view is altered when he meets Toby; Tybalt, the snarky King of Cats who looks oh so sexy in leather pants (swoon); and my personal favorite, the Luidaeg, the sea witch and Firstborn of all Faerie who happens to live in a trashy area by the docks and who is plagued with the worst curse of all: acne scars.

If I had to sum up Rosemary and Rue, it would be Marvel’s Jessica Jones meets Once Upon A Time, but featuring fairies instead of superheroes and Disney’s greatest hits (which, let’s face it, is what OUAT is doing these days). It’s an absolute must-read for fans of the fantasy genre and for those who enjoy books led by strong female protagonists.



Lizzy Andretta is an actress and blogger originally from New Jersey. You can follow her writing at and her acting work at

What is Latin for Dragon

What is Latin for DragonI do not care what comes after; I have seen the dragons on the wind of morning.
~ Ursula Le Guin, The Farthest Shore

To some cultures, dragons might just be folklore or myths, presented to the modern world in the form of fairy tales, cartoons or animated series. But to other cultures dragons used to exist, and they might exist still, somewhere humans have no reach. Certainly in the minds of the creators of worlds such as Pern and Seraphina, as well as in the minds of lovers of fantasy, dragons have a place of great honor. Or of great terror.

Dragons are known with different names in different languages and cultures around the world. As an example, what is Latin for dragon? Most of us know the answer to that question is ‘Draco’. But what about the Imoogi from Korea, the Balaur from Romania, or the Ejderha from Turkey?

If the sky could dream, it would dream of dragons.
~ Ilona Andrews, Fate’s Edge

Some believe that the ancient peoples might have found fossils of large dinosaurs, thus giving birth to stories of dragons. Others believe these stories of dragons were merely creative embellishments of large reptiles and snakes commonly (or perhaps not so commonly seen) at the time. Their origins may be shaded in the depths of history, but one thing is certain. Stories of dragons run through most cultures, both modern and ancient.

The History:

Throughout history stories of radiant and powerful creatures, called dragons, have come from every continent except Antartica. Almost every culture has stories of dragons, some good and benevolent, others evil and vile.  The stories go back to around 6000 years ago and include some well known (to us in the USA) stories such as St. George and the Dragon (a story also painted by the artist Raphael, currently hanging in the Louvre museum in Paris), or Perseus and the Dragon of Poseidon.

What Do Dragons Look Like?

The appearance of dragons varies as widely as the cultures they come from. In the US we most often think of the ferocious looking, fire breathing, winged giants of Game of Thrones. But this is not consistent from culture to culture. In Turkey, the Ejderha breathe fire from their tails instead of their mouths, and have no legs. Others are multi headed, or leave fire in their wake as they fly rather than breathing it. Some command the skies, others command the seas. Their diversity is breathtaking.

The Bottom Line:

Was there ever a beast which used to walk or fly the face of the earth that can account for such stories and myths? Were the stories inspired by the remains of dinosaurs or simply by human imagination? We might never know what triggered ancient peoples to come up with these myths, but for lovers of the fantastical – we certainly are happy they did.

I desired dragons with a profound desire. Of course, I in my timid body did not wish to have them in the neighborhood. But the world that contained even the imagination of Fáfnir was richer and more beautiful, at whatever the cost of peril.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien


Book Giveaway – October!

Book GiveawayGreetings fellow readers! I’m doing another book give away this month, and I have to say, these are probably my favorite blog posts. There are few things I love more than sharing books I love with other readers who I think will love them as much as I do.

I’ve got another  four (FOUR!) books to give away this month. The books are (Drumroll, please): Read more

Writing Life Comic #8 – Word Count

Some days it’s easy to get your word count in. The story come so easily it almost feels like it’s coming from somewhere or something else. It feels like you are just a conduit, fingers flying to keep up with the words streaming in your head. These are the best of days.

Other days it’s not so easy to get your word count in. No matter where you go, how hard you try, the words just are not there. Everything is a distraction, the world is just throwing obstacles your way left and right. These are not good days.

Getting your word count done comic

Writing Life Comic #7 – You Should Be Writing!

For me, summer is a tough time to write. It’s my favorite season, and I love being out in the warm weather, hiking, mountain biking, camping, gardening. It’s the time of year we tend to do most of our house projects too. All of that means that sometimes my writing gets pushed to the back burner.

The voices in my head don’t like that very much.

You Should Be Writing!

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

a darker shade of magic coverA Darker Shade of Magic is the first book I’ve read by V.E. Schwab. I can tell you right now, it absolutely will not be the last. I absolutely LOVED this book!

A Darker Shade of Magic is about Kell, one of the few remaining travelers, magicians with the rare ability to travel between four unique versions of London, each a parallel universe. Grey London, much like our own version, has no magic. In Red London magic is revered and life sizzles with it. White London is a place where magic is rare, it’s residents locked in an eternal battle for control over what little remains of it. And Black London, a place closed off from the others, isolated. As the back copy of the books says of Black London “…no one speaks of that now”.

Kell is a compelling protagonist, part messenger boy for the king of Red London and part smuggler, he’s a fascinating mix. And Delilah Bard, co-protagonist, is well on her way to becoming one of my all time favorite characters ever!

Creating a world like this, with four unique versions of what is otherwise the same place can be challenging, but Schwab handles it masterfully. Each version of London has a unique character, both in terms of it’s architecture, the ‘flavor’ of it’s magic, and it’s residents. Each London almost becomes a character in its own right, they are each so well formed and three dimensional on the page. They each exist in a parallel universe, all but a single pub, which is in the same place in each of the three versions of London we visit, and, presumably, the fourth? I loved this little detail, enchanting!


I won’t say much about the antagonist of the story, but… breathtaking. I love how she handled the villain in this first book.

Needless to say, I absolutely cannot wait to read the next books in the series. All three are out, A Darker Shade of Magic is the first, the second is called A Gathering of Shadows, and the third is A Conjuring of light. I will be doing a giveaway of the series next month, so if you’re interested in getting a hard cover copy of all three books, stay tuned!

Otherwise, to out and get these books TODAY. And make sure you set aside plenty of time, because you won’t stop reading once you start, guarantee it!

Happy Reading,


Five Reading Lights to Geek By

Books are hands down my favorite thing. I like looking at them, touching them, smelling them, and of course, most importantly, reading them. I do a good bit of my reading before I go to bed at night, so reading lights are essential. Of course, it must be fantastical, or what’s the point, really?

Here are a few of my favorite fantastical reading lights. Though, reading may be tough without a little extra lighting for some of these. But hey, form over function, right?

raven claw reading lights
I love this Ravenclaw reading light from StorybookCraftGroup on Etsy. Ravenclaw is my alma mater, so I was quite please to find this out in Etsy-Land. This one is their medium sized lantern, but they also have a large version.

You can get the other houses, but… why would you?


totoro reading lights
I sprayed geek love all over this Totoro light from LightGuild, also on Etsy. I’m a huge Miyazaki fan (I mean, who isn’t?), and while Princess Mononoke is hands down my fave, I love love love Totoro. This would go quite nicely in my fantasy reading nook.


tower of fantasy books reading lightsI love the idea of creating a lamp out of a stack of old books. I also simultaneously cringe about it. This one here is from HGTV, but of course I’d want it to be made from all seven Harry Potter books, or maybe Lord of the Rings with a bit of The Hobbit on top. But I have to admit it’s a bit hard for me to consider defacing such beautiful objects – even if they are mass produced paperbacks! Still, this has to be on my list for book nook lighting.


super mario brothers reading lightsNo list of geeky lighting options would be complete without a bit of Super Mario Bros. This one is by 8BitLit on Etsy. It’s not book related, but you can’t deny the compelling nature of the story itself. Yes, it was cliche (save Princess Peach!), but it was also the best video game of its day. Maybe it still is the best, for what it is. Regardless, I love it hard. The fact you have to ‘punch’ this to light it up makes my day.


paper mache mushroom reading lights
I absolutely adore this paper mache mushroom light from BostonePaperMache on Easy. It’s got a sophisticated feel to it, and the soft frayed paper edges give it a beautiful finish. It looks downright magical in these images. My finger is itching on that buy now button.


What are your favorite fantastical reading (or somewhat readable by) lights? I’d love to see your links below.

Happy reading,


When I’m Brave, Even Now, It’s Because of Puff the Magic Dragon

puff the magic dragonStories may consist of a mix of words and ink and paper, but they hold a powerful magic. They have the ability to change us, shape us, maybe even to save us, even long after they first touch us. I was struck by a poignant example of this today. I realized that when I’m brave, even now, it’s because Puff the Magic Dragon showed me how.

The looming release of Pete’s Dragon had me waxing nostalgic for some of the dragon tales of my youth and I’ve been walking around humming Puff the Magic Dragon for days. So today I thought I’d see if it was available on YouTube for a watch. It was, of course, because, literally everything is on YouTube.

The film does show it’s age in many ways. The 1978 animation and storyline are much different from the sorts of films we see today. But the message was surprisingly on point even now. I’m not ashamed to admit it choked me up a bit. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if this tale of a young boy coming to terms with fear and the bewildering array of ‘shit’ in the world doesn’t choke you up at least a little, you’re just not human.

What really caught me off guard was just how much this little film influenced me. If you’d have asked me last week to list films or stories that had shaped my life Puff the Magic Dragon would not have made the list. But today, after a re-watch, I realize just how much it really did.

We all experience fear, after all. When we’re young it’s often from our own imaginations,  the terrifying  monsters we imagine living in the darkness beneath our beds or in our closets. We’re no more immune to fear as adults either, though the source of that fear shifts. We fear other people laughing at us, hating our books (me!), we fear failing at something, or even trying something and looking foolish in our clumsiness. Adults still fear the unknown too – our monsters under the bed become rapists, serial killers, immigrants, or the people who live on the other side of the border.

In Puff the Magic Dragon, little Peter Draper has become so afraid and so filled with self doubt he can no longer speak. But then Puff comes along and takes Peter on the adventure of a lifetime. Three little lessons forever changed Peter Draper, helping him realize things are not so scary as they seem.

Lesson One: See things as they really are. Not everything that seems scary is actually scary at all. And while it’s easy to imagine all the terrible things that can happen, how about imagining all the wondrous things that can happen too?

Lesson Two: Believe in yourself and have the courage to try. You may still fail, but at least you tried. The reality is that failure is rarely as scary as it seems (see lesson one).

Lesson Three: With the help of friends and family, we can do anything. No one is successful alone. We all need help from time to time, and there is real strength in those ties that bind us.

After watching this not-quite 30 minute cartoon I realized that I use these three little lessons almost every day. This is what allowed me to write and finish my first book, to write and publish more books, to start a business, and to write and publish this blog post. Even things such as how I think about politics, my attitudes on economics… all of these things are influenced by these three little lessons.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that Puff get’s all the credit here. We all have millions of influences in our lives that help shape who we are. But, stories… stories are one of the great influencers. And they are mighty. I think that’s why I have such a love affair with books. Who can resist that sort of magic?