O’ Children – The Orphans of Harry Potter

The influence of a song on a scene in Harry Potter

I was laying in the tub today trying to grasp a slippery thought. I have most of my semi-deep, to semi-ridiculous ideas while neck deep in the suds. Goes back to my deep and unabiding love of bath bombs from Lush. The problem was that I had had a song on repeat in my head for two days. It was maddening. Especially when it is only a few bars of it. It was as if the thought was made of eel and Vasoline in equal parts, and every time I got just enough of it to push the song into coalescence it slipped through my mental fingers. By the time I had become sufficiently pruned, and the last of our sad little hot water heater was sputtering its last blessed drops, I had figured it out. I had the epiphanic moment.

The song was “O’Children” by Nick Cave, and the Bad Seeds and the scene was the dance scene from Harry Potter 8.

The connection that had been maddeningly bouncing around my neurons for two days was it’s connection to Harry Potter. Weird right. But I

Hey little train! Wait for me!
I was held in chains but now I’m free
I’m hanging in there, don’t you see
In this process of elimination

have funny thoughts pass through my brain a lot while nackt in der Badewanne (naked in the bath – practicing my German). There is a scene in Harry Potter 8 that is both lovely and mellow; until this point, I wouldn’t have described it as brilliant.  But it is utterly brilliant, and wonderfully written. When Harry and Hermione are waiting together in their tent. Ron had just left their expedition in a fit of madness and rage. Both Ron and Hermione are feeling down in different ways. It is an exceptionally well-acted scene, showcasing the talents of Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliff. They are listening to the radio, waiting for news, for death, for anything, when Nick Cave comes on. His voice is melodious but dark and deep and slow.  This is definitely not music you would usually dance to.

Do you remember where you were when you saw this scene? Did you hate it? Love it? In the Harry Potter film universe, it is one of the most divisive scenes ever written. On first watching, you could assume that it is hinting at a possible romantic connection between the lead characters. But, not everything has to be about romantic love. Harry and Hermione are completely worn down like butter scraped over to much bread. The body language of the scene suggests this. Hermione is almost fetal while Harry is at the far edge of the scene. The lighting of the scene suggests a somber dark and shadowy environment. Harry walks over to Hermione and takes her hand and begins to dance in a goofy way. For one blissful moment, they escape their lives

O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice

and dance together in the joy of friendship. A way that two friends would do to cheer themselves up. To bring a moment of levity into their world that is falling apart. The music is, for me, one of the best selections in a cinematic scene ever done. Bold words.

Here me out, and take a look at the lyrics.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – O’ Children

[Verse 1]
Pass me that lovely little gun
My dear, my darling one
The cleaners are coming, one by one
You don’t even want to let them start

They are knocking now upon your door
They measure the room, they know the score
They’re mopping up the butcher’s floor
Of your broken little hearts

O children
Forgive us now for what we’ve done
It started out as a bit of fun

Here, take these before we run away
The keys to the gulag

[Chorus]
O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice

Come on, come on, come on, come on

[Verse 2]
Here comes Frank and poor old Jim
They’re gathering round with all my friends

We’re older now, the light is dim

And you are only just beginning

O children

We have the answer to all your fears
It’s short, it’s simple, it’s crystal clear
It’s round about and it’s somewhere here
Lost amongst our winnings

[Chorus]
O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice

[Verse 3]
The cleaners have done their job on you
They’re hip to it, man, they’re in the groove

They’ve hosed you down, you’re good as new
And they’re lining up to inspect you

O children
Poor old Jim’s white as a ghost
He’s found the answer that we lost

We’re all weeping now, weeping because
There ain’t nothing we can do to protect you

[Chorus]
O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice
[Outro]
Hey little train! We are all jumping on
The train that goes to the Kingdom
We’re happy, Ma, we’re having fun
And the train ain’t even left the station

Hey, little train! Wait for me!
I once was blind but now I see
Have you left a seat for me?
Is that such a stretch of the imagination?

Hey little train! Wait for me!
I was held in chains but now I’m free
I’m hanging in there, don’t you see
In this process of elimination

Hey little train! We are all jumping on
The train that goes to the Kingdom
We’re happy, Ma, we’re having fun
It’s beyond my wildest expectation

Hey little train! We are all jumping on
The train that goes to the Kingdom
We’re happy, Ma, we’re having fun
And the train ain’t even left the station

The lyrics talk of a world being destroyed by the adults of the system, and it is up to the children to sort it out. It is hopeful. The bombs may be dropping, the world might be ending, but lift your voice children for there is always hope. Rejoice in that.

This is what the Harry Potter story is. I think it is even more powerful when you think of Harry and Hermione as lone orphans. Harry against his will, and Hermione to protect her parents. Both children, fighting a battle and losing. Alone in the world, and now abandoned by their third. Lift your voice children and dance.  Rejoice.

It is a really damn powerful scene, and I have so much more appreciation for it now that I can look at it through the lens of time.

Clashing Perspectives – The Beach by Alex Garland

Why paradise is impossible to maintain.

607639

You ever look back at something you read 15 or 20 years ago and have that “A-Ha” moment.

Not the ridiculously good band from the eighties A-Ha (see above), but the mind-altering epiphanic moment when you realize that a plot point that was salient to the whole freaking novel zoomed right the hell over your head. Yup, I had one of those.

I read this book when I was right out of high school and entirely in love with the idea of a wild wonderland. A paradise filled with gorgeous people and no responsibility. I wanted to see, do, and experience that life. I still do now. However, those ideas are now tempered with age, trust,  and hopefully, some integrity.  I think in the end, the soundtrack sealed it for me. Does anyone still like the group VAST? They are one of my favorites still to this day because of that movie. From that moment on I set out to read the book “It will change my life,” I thought. Maybe I could eternalize a little of this wild abandon that I so desperately yearned for.

The problem was that when I read the novel, I was left unsettled and feeling dirty. It felt like someone had taken my brain and used it to scour pans for an afternoon. The book was like a beautiful Honey Crisp apple sitting on a shelf, but when you cut into it,

“Trust me, it’s paradise. This is where the hungry come to feed. For mine is the generation that travels the globe and searches for something we haven’t tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite & never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience— And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.”
― Alex Garland, The Beach

the apple had a rotten core filled with maggots. It had not lived up to my fantasies. I felt cheated and weak.  What was actually weak, was my perspective and understanding of life beyond my hometown at the time.  “The Beach” has nothing to do with paradise, but the outlook on what actually constitutes a paradise, the darkness in people, and the lengths of which one would go to protect it.  It is a smart book, and subtle in its narration.  Its overall gravitas was not something I could appreciate at the time, but it is something that I can look back on now and understand.

After discovering a seemingly Edenic paradise on an island in a Thai national park, Richard soon finds that since civilized behavior tends to dissolve without external restraints, the utopia is hard to maintain.

Plot summary – goodreads.com

One of the key things that garland does it keep the undercurrents flowing within the language of the everyday life of the travelers. He describes the day to day tasks that they need to accomplish; Fishing, farming, and partying. While subtly hinting at the darker parts of the characters psyches. Reminds me of a much less ham-fisted and more eloquent “lord of the Flies,” but for a much older audience.  In the end, the characters are scarred both mentally and physically.

“The first I heard of the beach was in Bangkok, on the Ko Sanh Road.” ― Alex Garland, The Beach

If you are looking for a book that tears you up inside a bit, look no further. It is worth the second read, especially if you have some life experiences behind you.

Weird Beauty Products, and why you should just give up and Use Lush

Lush is so, so good.

Don’t you feel a little confused about all of the beauty products out there? From a seaweed bath soak that comes complete with dead crustaceans attached, to an eyebrow product that literally stamps your eyebrows on, it is hard to know what you can use that makes you feel good and is not made of crap. Sometimes literally.

For me personally, that means drastic simplification. I enjoy wearing makeup and usually when I wear makeup I don’t look like a clown. Except when I attempt winged liner.

You are bathing in suds and glory.

That is a whole bunch of next level crap I haven’t mastered. My life just doesn’t seem to allow me much time to do a full face of makeup except on date night. Even then.  Sorry hubby, get used to it.  I do however search out for products that smell good and make me feel right about my very limited beauty routine. Specifically, they are bath bombs and the Whoosh shower gel from Lush.

07021
Yaaaas queen. Let me huff you. (Image courtesy of lush.com)

The bath bombs need no explaining. They are a bomb of awesome that is plunked with anticipation into your bathwater. They fizzle, glitter, and smell amazing. Cleaning your tub sucks. But who the hell cares! You are bathing in suds and glory.

00157
The aptly named sex bomb. Jasmine lusciousness. (Image courtesy of lush.com)

The shower gel is for me the most perfect smell and this is coming from someone who has a pretty extensive perfume collection. I sometimes sit in the restroom and just huff it. There is something about the herbal/citrus smell that gets to me. I have searched pretty hard for something that smells like an equivalent, and have yet to find anything.

The third beauty product I am going to mention here is perfume. I like to smell like a french whore. Yes, I love myself. Yes, I know that that is not something that is generally aimed for. Yes, I am ok with this.

I think I have pretty good taste in perfumes, but what the hell do I know. Fun fact about me: I am slightly anosmic. Which means that I have very little to no sense of smell. It is not entirely gone, I can smell some things. But generally, they have to be very strong or very specific. This carries into they way perfumes smell for me. Belk.jpegMy very favorite fragrance that does not wholly annoy my ultra sensitive nose of a husband (aren’t we a pair) is by MAC cosmetics. It smells like I have slathered honey and sexiness all over my body. It is called Velvet Teddy. See see, french whore.

Sometimes I sit in the bathroom and huff it

Close second concerning smell is all class, Coco Chanel. I feel so fancy wearing it. Two very different price points. Depending on the day and if I want to feel a little low-class slutty, I wear the Velvet Teddy. High-class “Pretty Woman” slutty, it’s all Coco Chanel. If I want to keep it all to myself, just the shower gel after a shower.

The Importance of To-do lists

Eating the Frog

Hannah Brencher on productivity and to-do lists: “Locate the task that is the most important but also the one you’re most likely to procrastinate on. That’s your frog. Your frog is the thing that NEEDS to get done . . . I try to ‘eat the frog’ every week, early in the week.”

Via Mapping My Weeks — Discover


I live and die by my to-do lists. I came across this great and straightforward way of tracking your ideas and what needs to get done via a notebook on my feed this morning and had to share. It is much easier getting things down on paper, and yes paper, electronic stuff does not work for me when it comes to lists. I can’t keep something in my brain and juggle a hundred things at once. Try it out. It has made a world of difference to me. For me eating the frog is phone calls to places like the utility company, oy.

I built a Pagoda on the Cheap

Or as I call it, an Insta-goda.

God who doesn’t love Pinterest? Heathens that’s who! I get so many great ideas off of there that I have neither time nor money to do. But every now and then I see a pin and it sparks an idea that I could whip up and get a little spark of self-accomplishment from. This happens to be one of them. Originally it was an instructables.com link (another fantastic site for no time or money ideas) called “Easy Garden Pagoda.”  I am in amidst the slow process of transforming my former overgrown cesspool of a backyard into an Asian inspired zen garden.

Stacked the parts till I got a semblance of a pagoda, stole some large rocks from my mother-in-law’s house to give it that added panache, and voila. Insta-goda.

I have a lot of appreciation for Asian landscape architecture, specifically the Japanese gardening style. It is calm amidst chaos for me. One of the features used in Japanese gardens is pagoda-like statues. They all vary in cost, size, materials used etc. But generally, they are out of my budget. What is important is the shape. The stacked tiers are a mainstay in Japanese landscape architecture. I wanted one and could not afford it. That is when I came across this brilliant how-to.

pagoda 1.jpg
This is a rather fancy one, for around 400 bucks.

I am not going to rehash the step by step process of me making it. I did essentially what the above link did. Found the parts at Walmart and used what I had laying around the backyard. Stacked the parts till I got a semblance of a pagoda, stole some large rocks from my mother-in-law’s house to give it that added panache, and voila. Insta-goda.

F41R2UGHWH2JG8F.LARGE
Here is the one from the instructable. I don’t trust wood legs in my climate, so I opted out of them.

The most important part of her instructable is the level surface you build something like this on. I used an actual bubble level on the first paving brick to make sure that it was perfect, otherwise, you will have the leaning tower of a pagoda. That is not a good look and could crush a small child or raccoon or something if it falls. Screw raccoons.

df23942758366d2d20ee446d25bdf982.jpg
Just FYI

Stupid old-timey trash bandits.

It might even be a good idea to use a construction adhesive when you have the design you like. Also, this Mother-f@#$% is heavy. Like brute strength on PCP heavy to move it. Figure out where you want to put it, and think of it like you built a house. A small house made of lead that is not going anywhere unless you smash it with the wrecking ball.

Here is the finished product. Please ignore the gorgeous fluorescent tag I left on it.  At the time I was thinking: “color, color, color!” (I forgot to remove the tag.)  Now I just think, “god so last season.” (Tag is still there and probably will be forever.)

unnamed
Damn, I am pretty.  Oh, and “hello pollen you mother-#$%^&.”

Eventually, my pretty pagoda will be surrounded by the lovely shape of river rock and sedum Angelina adding color to the base. But we are not freaking made of money, so that will happen when I decide that eating is less important than doing my garden. I am almost there, it is a sickness really. Anyone want to start a gofundme for my plant buying sickness? I think I need about twenty bucks in plants to go around the base. (I kid, I kid. Don’t get your panties in a twist.) Next garden ornament is a Foo dog as an homage to Mouse from Dresden Files. My geekiness seems to leak out into every part of my life.

Angelina-Sedum
Here is a picture of sedum Angelina for the lazy.

Top Urban Fantasy Series To Get You Hooked on the Genre

You know you want to get into it! Think of me like your dealer.

According to Wikipedia, “Urban fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy in which the narrative has an urban setting. Works of urban fantasy are set primarily in the real world and contain aspects of fantasy, such as the discovery of earthbound mythological creatures, coexistence or conflict between humans and paranormal beings, and other changes to city life. A contemporary setting is not strictly necessary for a work of urban fantasy: works of the genre may also take place in futuristic and historical settings, real or imagined. 

Basically, it is taking something fantastical, and shoving it into a real-life scenario. This can lead to quite a lot of interpretation, and as the genre develops, many subgenres are evolving out of it. The quite famous paranormal romance being the main one. Some people might take Umbridge with me calling paranormal romance a subgenre, but mostly paranormal romance focuses on a romantic relationship or in the case of Sookie Stackhouse, relationships. It still is urban fantasy. Something fantastical taking place in an urban setting. Book geeks can argue over semantics for days. That is why it is important to note that I am always right. (I am sadly not always right, ahem.)

Jim Butcher – Dresden File Series

This is the grand-master of Urban Fiction. When people talk about stuff in this genre, they usually suffer by comparison to him.

“Holy shit,” I breathed. “Hellhounds.”
“Harry,” Michael said sternly. “You know I hate it when you swear.”
“You’re right. Sorry. Holy shit,” I breathed, “heckhounds.”
― Jim Butcher, Grave Peril

Although there are plenty of other favorite series out there in this genre, this is the most beloved. It even had a meh TV show created a few years ago that was hideously miscast. The first book is a bit weak-sauce. Butcher doesn’t really find his steam until the second book, and it just gets better from there.

47212
Image courtesy of Goodreads

Ilona Andrews – Kate Daniels Series 

Excellent series from a writing team under the pseudonym Ilona Andrews.

“You know anything about investigative work?”
“Sure. Annoy the people involved until the guilt party tries to make you go away.”
― Ilona Andrews, Magic Bites

Romance element, but a solid foundation of plot outside of that. Utterly fabulous and binge-worthy reads. 

38619.jpg
Image courtesy of Goodreads

Patricia Briggs –  Mercy Thompson

I adore strong female leads where the woman doesn’t need saving. You would not believe how rare a thing that actually is. Mercy is a shifter/car mechanic who basically just wants to go about her life but keeps getting interrupted. There is a romantic element, but again it is not the end all be all of the novels. Her relationships, both platonic and romantic are more of a foundation in her life that allows her to be who she is.

71811
Image courtesy of Goodreads

Mike Carey – Felix Castor Series 

This series is set in modern-day London with an exorcist for hire. Kinda like Constantine. It is gritty, dark, and he takes no shit.

663098
Image courtesy of Goodreads

Seanan Macguire – October Daye

Oh geez. Seanan Macguire or Mira Grant depending on what series you are reading by her is becoming a heavy hitter in the urban fantasy realm. For a good reason. Her books are without fail damn good. I rarely reread series, there are too many fantastic books out there to check out, and I have read the October Daye 10 book series three times save for the second book of the series, I usually skip that one on a reread. But they are fantastic.

“She laughed like she’d just invented laughter.​”
― Seanan McGuire, Rosemary and Rue

They are exciting and edgy. Excellent character development, and a particularly snarky but smart heroine I love. There is a romantic element, but again it is more foundational then anything else. She is a knight who solves problems for her court. How cool is that?!

6294549
Image courtesy of Goodreads

Mira Grant – Newsflesh Series

Again this is Seanan Macguire writing under her nom de plume. Here is the blurb from goodreads.com, “The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop.
The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. Now, twenty years after the Rising, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the most significant story of their lives—the dark conspiracy behind the infected.
The truth will get out, even if it kills them.” This about sums it up. New reporters writing in an era of a global pandemic. 
 Trying to tell the truth to the masses.

7094569
Image courtesy of Goodreads

Kevin Hearne – Iron Druid Chronicles

I include the blurb from his first novel to better explain. “Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.” This is a cool series. The lead character is a magic-wielding badass, who has a snarky dog he speaks to telepathically. It sounds so trite and silly, but damn is this a fun romp.

9533378
Image courtesy of Goodreads

Ben Aaronovitch – Rivers of London Series

This is a cool series where the protagonist is not fantastical in any way, just a regular Britsh bloke. From Goodreads, “Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.”

I hope this has sparked some interest in reading some new series. Is this all of the good ones out there, heck no! There are so many fantastic things out there, it is hard to know where to start.  If you start some of these or are looking for some ideas on books, leave me a comment. I am always down to discuss books.

Continue reading “Top Urban Fantasy Series To Get You Hooked on the Genre”

Review of Justice Calling (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress #1)

Review of Justice Calling of the Twenty Sided Sorcery series. Written by Anne Billet

 

22926105.jpg
Image Courtesy of Goodreads.com

Bellet, Annie. Justice Calling. CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2014.

 

Content advisory: scattered F-bombs, some violence, and innuendo. (if you are a long time reader of this blog, you should be used to that.)

“Justice Calling,”  is an absolute treat for lovers of Urban Fantasy with strong female characters. A la Mercy Thompson, Kitty Norville, and my favorite Rachel Morgan. Holla at “The Hallows!”  It is an exciting, albeit too short romp through a new world created by Anne Billet. The protagonist is fun, saucy, and not at all annoying. Something that I have missed in the last few Urban Fantasy novels I have read as of late

 

The summary is as follows:

Gamer. Nerd. Sorceress.

Jade Crow lives a quiet life running her comic book and game store in Wylde, Idaho. After twenty-five years fleeing from a powerful sorcerer who wants to eat her heart and take her powers, quiet suits her just fine. Surrounded by friends who are even less human than she is, Jade figures she’s finally safe.

As long as she doesn’t use her magic.

When dark powers threaten her friends’ lives, a sexy shape-shifter enforcer shows up. He’s the shifter world’s judge, jury, and executioner rolled into one, and he thinks Jade is to blame. To clear her name, save her friends, and stop the villain, she’ll have to use her wits… and her sorceress powers.

Except Jade knows that as soon as she does, a far deadlier nemesis awaits.

Justice Calling is the first book in The Twenty-Sided Sorceress urban fantasy series. Readers who enjoyed The Dresden Files or The Iron Druid Chronicles will likely enjoy this series.

Jade Crow, Sorcerous, shop owner, and gamer finds herself in a pickle of a situation. Does she stay or does she run? Does she out herself, and possibly bring ruin upon her future? Can she do all that she needs to do, and not use magic? I think if you are a fan of the Mercy Thompson Series or the world of Kate Daniels this might be a good series for you. Although definitely not as well developed as those worlds, is has the bones of a great series. Good plot points, fun characters, and I have to admit I absolutely love the gamer bent. Me being a gigantic geek myself, I can relate to her quite a bit. I hope that in her later books the author can flesh out the characters a lot more and give us more to read but, great start! Also, Jade has a very cool superpower. She knows every language. That is a superpower for a total geek. I love it!

Things that I don’t dig. Why is it that every Urban Fantasy with a female character needs to have some sort of love angle? No really. C’mon. Not all ladies need to have a love interest. Nor do those ladies need to be saved by the said love interest. Although, props to Anne Billet for letting this lady do the saving. Don’t get me wrong though, I enjoy a good romance now and again, but this particular possible love interest seemed a bit shoehorned. Yes, he is hot, yes he has rippling muscles, yes he turns into a (sexy?) white tiger? Blah blah blah. I think it would have been much more of a compelling character if he was a just a plain normal looking guy. A guy with a particular skill set that led him to the job he is now in (I don’t want to give away to much).  He doesn’t need to speak like a combination of Dolph Lundgren and Daniel Craig to be compelling. At least that’s how I picture him. It makes him much more relatable. How many guys like Daniel Craig have you met in your life? Also, to some extent, there isn’t much of a story. This is more like an introduction to the characters. Which I really like and a very quick problem that they need to overcome. That is fine for me for a start of a series.

Do yourself a favor, read the novella. It is good light fun. Not a barn burner or anything. I don’t think anyone will be getting a Jade Crow tattoos like Twilight and Dresden. But its fun and saucy and thankfully not sugar-coated crap. Read up.