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Review: The Shadow Cabinet

I am pleased to find myself reviewing a book by one of my favorite, if not much-read authors, Maureen Johnson. I read her Suite Scarlett when it first came out and found myself picking it up even when I only had a few moments to spare to read a quarter of a page; it was really that good. And The Shadow Cabinet, book three of The Shades of London series, follows in the same wonderful way.

The Shadow Cabinet opens with a scene that sets the tone for rest of the story. Everything that our heroes have faced thus far has been daunting, but now it’s gotten serious — so serious that even one of our main villains is having a few second thoughts. By mid-book I found myself reading double-quick trying to scoop in and process all the information that pours forth onto our characters. By the end I was audibly groaning quietly with the stain of claustrophobia and foreboding that final battles often bring.

One thing that roped me into The Shadow Cabinet was Johnson’s gorgeous attention to detail, the ability to make interesting the mundane. Hair dye never seemed so harrowing, yogurt never seemed so frantic. If you’ve ever been in shock after a life-altering event you might remember how lights are more glaring and everything is poignant yet distant. Johnson magically captures these sublime emotions and draws you into the room where the strain is absolutely palpable.

The_Shadow_Cabinet_Cover

What I think I like best about Rory, Johnson’s lead heroine and newly-made terminus, is that her life is just one damned thing after another with some occult thrown in to make it extra spicy. Yes, in a book called The Shadow Cabinet, the occult is a major theme. But Johnson doesn’t forget that her main character is a young woman who is experiencing love, loss, and adventure. And for all the excitement magic can bring, the stress of just getting through a day in the life of a teenager can be challenging enough! Rory is very real to me, with all her awkwardness and worries, as she musters strength from the dregs of her reserves.

In the end I just want to sit down with Rory and give her a cup of tea and a biscuit and put the poor kid to bed. I think that’s one of the issues I have with YA fiction: everyone is living a life that is improbably too interesting for their age group. But then again, that’s the fun of it, to imagine ruby chalices and silver knives, to drive off in speeding cars to avoid the villain, and to face down evil and survive.

The Shadow Cabinet is good adventure, laced with ghosts and magic, and trimmed with cloaks and daggers. Although the series is rated for ages 12 and over, the “and over” crowd will definitely find it a fun read as well.

The Shadow Cabinet
by Maureen Johnson
Penguin Young Readers
Hardcover: $17.99

Available at Amazon.

MJB_01-about-photoMaureen Johnson is the New York Times bestselling author of more than ten young-adult novels, including 13 Little Blue Envelopes, The Last Little Blue Envelope, Devilish, The Bermudez Triangle, Let It Snow, and Suite Scarlett. Her work is published in twenty-one languages. Maureen spends a great deal of time online, earning her some dubious and some not-as-dubious commendations, such as being named one of Time Magazine’s top 140 people to follow on Twitter. Outside of YA, she worked with Electronic Arts as the screenwriter for the handheld versions of the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince video game. She holds an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and divides her time between her home in New York City and a mysterious dwelling outside of London. You can find her online at www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com or on Twitter as @maureenjohnson.

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Harper Lee Proves You’re Are Never Too Old To Publish A Second Great American Novel

Publisher HarperCollins announced that Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Harper Lee, will be publishing her long awaited follow-up to her 1960 perennial novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”. The forthcoming title “Go Set A Watchman,” was actually completed sometime in the 1950s, prior to the publishing of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” however, it is the story of an adult Scout, making it essentially a sequel.

In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called ‘Go Set a Watchman’. It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman, and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, persuaded me to write a novel (what became ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’) from the point of view of the young Scout.

– Harper Lee via HarperCollins Publishers

The 304-page book is Lee’s first new novel in more than 50 years, and HarperCollins has set the first printing at 2 million copies for its July 14, 2015 street date.

I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn’t realized it (the original book) had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.

– Harper Lee via HarperCollins Publishers

“Go Set A Watchman” takes place 20 years after the events in “To Kill A Mockingbird” in the same familiar backdrop of Maycomb, Alabama.

Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father, Atticus,” the publisher’s announcement reads. “She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.

– HarperCollins Press Release

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is one of the definitive great American novels of all time with sales worldwide totaling over 40 million copies. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize when it was published in 1960, and turned into a major motion picture in 1962. Gregory Peck, in the lead role of Atticus Finch, went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal.

Harper_Lee_Medal

At 88 years old, Harper Lee provides a shining example that you are never too old to make a sequel. The book is reportedly being published just as it was first written with no revisions, so maybe this just means that your never too old to see the hardwork that you have cherished for so long finally published. As a first-time writer just wanting to get her work out there, Harper Lee accomplished a feat that few ever achieve by making an indelible mark in the literary world. This new book is certain to further extend her legacy as not only a great female writer, but a GREAT WRITER.

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Charlie Hunnam Is Grey No More

charlie-hunnamIn the latest turn of events for the worldwide sensation Fifty Shades of Grey and it’s impending movie, star Charlie Hunnam has decided to drop out of the production due to scheduling conflicts. Just last month Hunnam was cast as the enigmatic title character, Christian Grey, for the movie adaptation of the popular book, which is slated for an August of 2014 release. Now with this latest revelation, Universal Pictures and Focus Features may be scrambling to save their release date.

E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey tweeted this out in response to the announcement:

 

No word on who is in the running for it now but fans are already putting there list of favorites back up for contention.

 

Still there are others who are sadden by the news of Hunnam dropping out of the movie:

So what do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Source: Entertainment Weekly

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Rowling Announces New Film

J.K. Rowling recently announced that she’s bringing back the magical world of goblins, witches, trolls, and spells in her screenwriting debut with “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”.

The film will be produced by Warner Bros., the company responsible for all eight Harry Potter films, and will tell the story of Newt Scamander: author of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and famed magizoologist (a zoologist specializing in magical creatures).

And Potter fans: If the title of the film sounds familiar to you, it should! “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” was on Harry’s required reading list as a first year student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

But don’t expect to see the boy who lived in the upcoming saga.

“Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world,” said Rowling in her official statement on her website. “Newt’s story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry’s gets underway.”

Daniel Radcliffe confirmed his iconic character’s absence in the film during a press event for the new Sky Arts series “A Young Doctor’s Notebook & Other Stories”, stating “I, needless to say, won’t be involved. I don’t know if any of us [the original cast] will be. I know nothing about it.”

A release date for the film has yet to be officially announced.

How do you feel about this rekindling of magic? Let us know in the comments below!

 
Image credit: examiner.com
 
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Interview: Joanne Arnett, Creator Of Secret Admirer Handmade Cards

47dce2b4896924dc6cdc5bbf8c20867e_largeJoanne Arnett is an artist on a mission to spread love this Valentine’s Day. Her Kickstarter project, Secret Admirer, has already received a huge response with over 500 backers supporting her efforts to bring a little joy from Loveland, OH to their loved ones and secret crushes. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Joanne about art and romance in general.

Ari: When did you first start crafting and making art?

Joanne: I’m one of those kids who always wanted to be an artist. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t making something

Ari: Do you think handmade papercrafting is becoming a dying art?

Joanne: I visited the SOFA expo in Chicago this fall and there were some great paper/craft based pieces exhibited. Artists are working with the paper in books and maps and making something completely new. The Hansel & Gretel: a shadow theater note book project  currently running on Kickstarter is a beautiful example of contemporary paper craft. I think craft in general is experiencing resurgence and paper is certainly a part of that. So no, I don’t think it’s dying.

Ari: Where do you normally get inspiration from for your art or crafting ideas?

Joanne: I take a lot of inspiration from photography. The process of developing an image is sort of magic, and that experience of seeing an image appear is important to my work. I’m drawn toward awkward and imperfect images, bad yearbook portraits, mug shots, folk and outsider art.

Ari: What advice do you have for others, particularly women, who are interested in art and crafting as more than just a hobby?

Joanne: Get your work out there! You can make the best quilts, sketches, letterpress cards, whatever. But if you don’t get your work out there no one will know and others can’t enjoy it.

Ari: Did you ever expect such a huge response to your Kickstarter idea?

Joanne: Nope. I hoped there would be fifty people who wanted a $5 postcard so the project would be funded, and if things went really crazy well I might be 200% funded. Surprise! The response has been wonderful. I’ve started writing messages and each one makes me smile.  I feel so lucky to be sending out so many lovely notes.

Ari: What do you love most about Valentine’s Day?

Joanne: We should probably all tell those we love that we care about them more often than we do, so I think it’s nice that there is one day of year designated as a time to do just that.

RogueGalleryDetail
Rogue Gallery Detail

Ari: What would be your idea of the most romantic Valentine’s Day surprise?

Joanne: A bottle of champagne and a handmade card.

Ari: Are you inspired by any romantic movies and what are your favorites?

Joanne: I don’t know if this is really considered a romantic movie, but that moment when Johnny Depp swings past Mary Stewart Masterson’s window in Benny & Joon is just perfect. And I think Lost in Translation is a beautiful love story, although it’s about a different kind of love.

SelfPortrait
Self Portrait

Ari: What are some other art pieces you are working on?

Joanne: I am currently creating thesis work for a master of fine arts degree at Kent State University. I break apart the materials used in traditional photography, paper becomes cotton yarn and the metals used in light sensitive emulsions become silver wire, and I build portraits by weaving the new materials together. The image is visible when light bounces off the shiny wire, and it disappears as the viewer’s perspective changes. It’s exciting to create art in a way I’ve never seen before.

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Oprah Relaunches Her Book Club

Boot_jkt-330Oprah Winfrey just announced the relaunch of her popular book club with Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. The first book selection will be Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Wild is a non-fiction memoir of Strayed’s time as a long distance hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail. The new revamped book club will have tie ins to OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network), with special e-book downloads available through the OWN website that include Oprah’s personal notations and comments, as well as special interviews with the authors on the OWN cable channel.

Strayed is scheduled to appear on the July 22 airing of “Super Soul Sunday” on OWN, with an appearance on Oprah Radio to follow. Get ready to see that popular “Oprah’s Book Club” logo sticker on select books at booksellers near you!

Official Book Club 2.0 Website

Oprah’s Book Club 2.0® on Facebook

Oprah’s Book Club 2.0® on Twitter
Official hashtag:
#OprahsBookClub

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Review: CLiNT Magazine Issue 2.1

Clint2.1_CoverThe new retooled volume of CLiNT magazine hit comic stores last week. The comics magazine is edited by none other than the creator of popular graphic novels Kick-Ass and Wanted, Mark Millar, and features four new comic series as well as exclusive creator content you wont find anywhere else.

Two of the series are created by Millar himself. On “Supercrooks”, Millar is paired with artist Leinil Yu, while on “The Secret Service” he teams up with legendary artist Dave Gibbons (Watchmen) and director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class). Let me just say, that Supercrooks had me at the first panel. Any series that starts off in my home town of Las Vegas, has me as a personal fan. Of course the action begins very quickly and you are invested in what is going to happen next.

Millar also shares exclusive details on the upcoming movies he is working on with Millarworld, namely Kick-Ass 2, Supercrooks (being done in conjunction with the comic in collaboration with Matthew Vaughn), and American Jesus.

Secret Service 2“Everything that I’ve done, movie-wise, I’ve gotten a little more involved. On Wanted, I was just involved at a tangent, I’d just come in for meetings and watch footage. With Kick-Ass, I was very involved from the beginning, from the two month when the screenplay was being put together, though costume designs and all of that. And from that, to Supercrooks, American Jesus and Kick-Ass 2, which will feel incredibly hands-on.” -Mark Millar

CLiNT, however, is not just Mark Millar’s vehicle. The series “Death Sentence” provides a gritty sensationalistic take on the Hollywood culture without the glamor. Writer Monty Nero and artist Mike Dowling present a sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll scene that will make even the most hardened partier shudder. Then we have Frank Boyle’s “Rex Roid”, which is a very twisted introduction to a superhero with some all too familiar and human issues. Mike Dowling’s artwork brings Frank Boyle’s suburban/reality TV transposed story about the daily life of superheros, and their villianous foes to the pages with exceptional clarity and the same intesity he uses on “Death Sentence”.

As expected, CLiNT is a breed onto itself. It is not your average comic periodical, and probably is the only one of it’s kind out there. The series in this revamped new first edition of the latest volume are unflinching on some very hardcore subject matters. But it’s no less than what you would expect from Millar who has been pushing the conventional boundaries of comics since the 1990’s. Death Sentence 1

If you love hard core stories, with stellar top notch artwork, and indepth behind the scenes exclusives with the creators, then you should pick up CLiNT. Right now, you can take advantage of an exclusive subscription offer. Get 9 issues of CLiNT at a savings 20%, plus a FREE signed Dave Gibbons “The Secret Service” Art Card! Hurry, only 200 signed Dave Gibbons Art Cards available!

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Interview: Malcolm Harris, creator of Witch Girls Adventures

witchgirlsWitch Girls Adventures is a table top role playing or “drama diaries” game created by Malcolm Harris of Channel M Publishing. The game is the first of its kind, being marketed towards young girls in the 11-16 age group. Malcolm’s unique and interesting vision behind the Witch Girls Adventures has made the series successful. He’s recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help produce the second edition to the Witch Girls Adventures game called Witch Girls: Book of Shadows. I was able to have the chance to talk to Malcolm about the culture of table top role playing games, and how his game relates to young girls in general.

Ari:
When did you become interested in “geek culture” and how has it defined you as an adult?

Malcolm: I was an early reader and I loved to read. In fact, my parents would give me all sorts of books. At age three, they gave me an old middle school science book, and that sparked my interest in science. At age five, my dad brought me an issue of “Superboy and the legion of Superheroes”, and that made me a comic fan.

As I always say, everything I needed to know in life I learned from reading comics. The villainous are often a cowardly lot, stand up for truth and justice, the different despite being helpful are often feared and hated. Never stop learning and always surround yourself with “super friends”

Ari: What are some of the stereotypes that you see surrounding the table top role playing game genre?

Malcolm: Where do I start. Being a black male you get the “Black people don’t play table top RPGs”, yet I’ve played in RPG groups that are all black. “Girls don’t play table top RPG’s”, yet I’ve played in groups were I’m the only guy (did that a lot in college). And my favorite “all Table top gamers are socially awkward shut-ins/ virgins.” That one is so not true. I’ve dated the same awesome young lady for a while, Most of my gamer friends are gamers married to gamers or dating gamers.

Ari: What was the inspiration for the characters in Witch Girls Adventures?

Malcolm: Most of the character types and signature characters I placed in the game comes from research as a writer, I know a lot of female table top gamers so I asked them, what kind of character would you like to have played as an eleven year old. I also observed modern character trends, talked to my niece and the daughters of friends and people I know in the comic and animation business.

My friends in animation told me something that has served me well. Young people like characters that are like them or are what they wish they could be. So my signature characters became just a little of both and I give Players (we call them Stars) a chance to build characters they wish they could be .

Ari: What types of lessons can young girls learn from your role playing game?

Malcolm: Problem solving, self-reliance, The coolness of mathematics, communication and the biggest one…it’s okay to be you. Girls (and boys but more so with girls) are bombarded with the message “You must be this way or else…” instead of “Its okay to be different.” I think role playing games, fantasy and science fiction, comics and general geekery lets a girl know its ok to let her “freak” flag fly.

Ari: What are some of the challenges and pressures you feel that young girls face today? Especially if they have an interest in things such as comics, role playing, and things that are typically “geek culture”

Malcolm: As I stated. There seems to be a conscious (by society and the media) effort to brainwash girls. This includes the early sexualization of girls and the forcing of girls into set gender roles by the media. Sadly this tends to work on a lot of people and males and females expect girls to be “x”, if they are not “x” they are shunned, made fun of or worse.

Being into geek culture means in most cases girls are painting a bulls-eye for ridicule on their head in regular society. It also means in most cases they are not afraid of that ridicule and have made a conscious effort to be who they wish to be.

Ari: Do you find it hard for table top role playing to compete with online or computer based role playing games?

Malcolm: It’s not a competition. If you see yourself as competing against computer games…you’ve lost that war.

Table top role playing games are different. They are games with no limitation on time, money and length. They are exercises in social interaction and storytelling, and if you think they have taken a beating, do your research.

Teens and tweens have filled forums and chat rooms with free form fandom and original role playing, fan fiction, and fanart. Every table top RPG publisher should be saying “Those kids should be playing our games” and figuring out how to make that happen. Some of those kids play computer games, but I’m sure if they had a chance to experience table top role playing, and at least knew it existed they would love it.

Ari: What do you think are the key characteristics that set table top role playing games a part from online or computer based role playing games?

Malcolm: Aside from being cheaper than computer games (Something publishers should tell parents), its literally limitless in scope, story and length.

Ari: What other projects are you working on?

Malcolm: Witch Girls Book of Shadows: The second edition of Witch Girls Adventures our modern magic RPG (We call them Drama Diaries games) aimed at girls 11-16. Nemesis: Modern Mythology, second edition of my very first published game, Nemesis: A perfect world. Nemesis: Modern Mythology is a super hero RPG with a twist. DDF , Drama Dice (Our game system name) Fantasy RPG with a muti-ethnic, non-eurocentric bent.

On the comic front, A Princess Lucinda graphic novel and A comic seres based around the Nemesis superhero world.

Ari: How do you envision the future of comics in the technological age?

Malcolm: We can’t stop the digital comic age. It’s going to happen. I’m not saying print comics are going to die but they will become something of a specialty item. So for publishers I say adapt or get out of the way.

Ari: What advice do you have for young girls who want to break into the comics industry?

Malcolm: Practice your craft, be it art or writing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be afraid to show off your work. The only way you will get better is if you know what you need to work on. Also, don’t be your own worse critic. A lot of kids are so down on their work they never try. You have to get out there and take the bruises and jeers if your every going to succeed at anything.

You can find out more about the Witch Girls by visiting them on Facebook, and don’t forget to contribute to their Kickstarter campaign to help them make their stretch goals!

Witch Girls on Facebook
Witch Girls on Kickstarter
Channel M Publishing

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Interview: Keith Knight, Award Winning Artist and Author

keith_019Keith Knight is an award winning syndicated American cartoonist and author. His comic strips have been syndicated in Mad Magazine, Salon.com, and the San Francisco Examiner. Always outspoken, his weekly strips The KChronicles, (Th)ink, and The Knightlife showcase his humor and perspective on the social and political issues that face all of us in America. With a career that spans nearly 20 years in comics, Keith has decided to take a look back at his early formidable teenage years with his first graphic novel I Was A Teenage Michael Jackson Impersonator. The project was successfully funded on Kickstarter last month, and I got the change to chat with Keith a little about his work and Michael Jackson.

Ari: Your style of comic strip has been compared to Calvin and Hobbes, was Bill Watterson a big influence on you?

Keith: Watterson was a huge influence on me. I changed the way I drew cartoons after taking in his work. My style became simpler and more expressive, which is very important when working with such a tiny amount of space.

Ari: You’ve received many accolades during your career, did you ever see yourself being this successful?

Keith: Yes. Dream big, I always say.

Ari: Like most syndicated comic strips, do you get a lot of your inspiration from daily life?

Keith: I’d say I take more from my daily life than most, considering my strip is autobiographical.

Ari: What is the most important and key part of your creative process?

Keith: Taking that sketchbook out every day and putting pen to paper. Sometimes it’ll come easy and sometimes it’ll come hard, but you should always do it. Being open and receptive to ideas coming in from everywhere.

Ari: You have given commentary on race in America, how do you feel that relates to “geek culture” and particularly women of color?

Keith: Geeks have been goofed on and mistreated for years until the age of the internet. Now the geeks are getting their revenge. I think the same thing is gonna happen for women of color. That’s why all these old white dudes are trying to restrict voting and women’s reproduction rights…They see the writing on the wall, and they’re totally over-reacting.

Ari: Do you believe that America still has a problem with race, and if so, what is the biggest obstacle in overcoming that?

Keith: Oh yeah..Though younger people have a better attitude about it. But as long as people refuse to have frank discussions about race in the U.S., things will never significantly change.

Ari: You’ve been active during the transition of more newspapers going on line, and more established newspapers going out of print, is print media becoming obsolete?

Keith: No–print is just going through a transition. The same transition that radio went through when television came in to being. Print media will be a smaller piece of the pie, but it’ll never go away.

Ari: What was your reaction when Michael Jackson died?mjlook1

Keith: I felt terrible. A piece of my childhood went away. Same with Adam Yauch of the Beasties.

Ari: What is your favorite Michael Jackson album and/or song, and can you still do your Michael Jackson routine or the dance moves?

Keith: “Off the Wall” is my favorite MJ album. Though I’m also partial to the Jackson 5’s “ABC”. “Workin’ Day and Night” is a favorite. There are many, though.

I’ve ruptured my achilles tendon and haven’t been able to walk, must less dance, but I caught my 3-year old lip-syncing to the Jackson 5, so the torch is passed!

Ari: What advice do you have for artists and/or writers, particularly women of color, who want to get into the comics industry?

Keith: Practice. Patience. Persistence. Embrace a D.I.Y. philosophy. Be prepared to dance with the industry when they come seeking your expertise, but don’t completely rely on them to fulfill your every dream!

Visit Keith at his websites below, and you can still pledge to help fund his graphic novel directly on his website.

KChronicles.com
Knightlifecomic.com

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