Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Eighth Epic Story: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Happy birthday Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling! The day has finally come and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is out! For those who cannot attend the live show, they can read the play script about what happens 19 years after the Battle of Hogwarts. This is an extension of the epilogue found in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I cannot wait to dive into this book. I scheduled this post to go up at midnight on July 31st. If you are reading this around midnight on July 31st, I am in line to get my book at Harvard Book Store.

Harvard Square located in Cambridge turned into Hogwarts Square for the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Starbucks sold Butterbeer Frappucinos and Grendel's Den sold wizard drinks such as Polyjuice Potion. A recap of my adventures will be posted sometime next weekend as part of the Marauders feature.


For those who don't know about the eighth book, check out more information below.

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Author: J.K Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (US), Little Brown UK
Publication date: July 31, 2016
Pages: 320

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a new play by Jack Thorne, is the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. It will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on 30th July 2016

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes darkness comes from unexpected places.


Are you excited about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? Did you attend a midnight release party? How did you celebrate Harry's and Rowling's birthday? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Title: Labyrinth Lost
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication date: September 6, 2016
Pages: 336
Source/format: e-ARC from publisher

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

"Enchanting and complex. Every page is filled with magic."-Danielle Paige, New York Times best-selling author of Dorothy Must Die

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation...and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can't trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland...

Praise for Labyrinth Lost:

"Zoraida Cordova's prose enchants from start to finish. Labyrinth Lost is pure magic." -Melissa Grey, author of The Girl at Midnight

"Magical and empowering, Labyrinth Lost is an incredible heroine's journey filled with mythos come to life; but at its heart, honors the importance of love and family." -Cindy Pon, author of Serpentine and Silver Phoenix

"A brilliant brown-girl-in-Brooklyn update on Alice in Wonderland and Dante's Inferno. Very creepy, very magical, very necessary." -Daniel Jose Older, author of Shadowshaper

"Labyrinth Lost is a magical story of love, family, and finding yourself. Enchanting from start to finish." -Amy Tintera, author of Ruined.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Alejandra Mortiz (Alex) lives with her mother and her sisters Lula and Rose in Brooklyn, New York. Alex always wanted to have a normal life without magic. Alex is approaching her Deathday and her powers have not waken yet. Deathday, a bruja's coming-of-age ceremony, is similar to a quinceañera.

After wakening her powers, Alex unfortunately find out that she is one of the most powerful brujas of her generation, an Encantrix. When she casts a canto to rid of her magic, something goes wrong. Instead of her magic gone, her family ends up being trapped in another dimension. With the help of Nova, a brujo, Alex enters Los Lagos to save her loved ones.

The family dynamics are strong between the females in the family. I also like the connection between living and the dead. The first person perspective works well in Labyrinth Lost. Zoraida Córdova creates a world with magic and diversity. Córdova enlightens her readers with Latin American culture and folklore. There aren't many paranormal books rich with culture and diversity in terms of ethnicity and bisexuality.

Labyrinth Lost is an bewitching coming-of-age journey exploding with magic, love and family values. Labyrinth Lost sets a new bar for paranormal fantasy!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Pages to Tea (6)

P A G E S  to  T E A

I'm not sure if you know but I am a big tea fanatic. I have so many bags and tins of tea I probably can create a great wall of tea. I love how different teas have different properties. Some teas can be energizing and some teas can be calming. My favorite time to enjoy a cuppa is when I am reading a book. Hence why I am showing you some awesome book and tea pairings.


Since it's July and I have been talking about Harry Potter constantly, I figured why not have a Pages to Tea post featuring some Harry Potter character tea pairings.



Remus Lupin, aka Moony, is one of my favorite Harry Potter characters. Tantalizing Tea's Moonlight Sonata is a delicious combination of dark chocolate pieces, vanilla, mint and rooibos, with a trace amount of dairy & sugar. This is perfect for the Defense Against the Dark Arts (DADA) teacher who actually knows what he is doing, unlike some of the other DADA teachers. The tea tastes like a peppermint patty without the caffeine and is perfect for the night.



Dumbledore is very fond of the Muggle treat called the Sherbet Lemon. This black tea is an organic blend of Chinese black tea with a burst of lemon sunshine. It's a modern take of the classic black tea with a twist of lemon. The sweet citrus notes of grapefruit lemongrass, orange and bergamot blends well together and the hearty Chinese Yunnan leaves rounds out the tea. This tea is good hot or iced. 



Qu Hao Silk is silky smooth and a rounded rare black tea. Qu Hao Silk has a low tannin count and a natural note of chocolate, earning it the nickname “Black Silk”. The aroma is full-bodied but has a delicate sweetness. The beautiful dark red liquor is just as tasty as it sounds. Just like Qu Hao Silk, the Potions Master is one of a kind and has a silky voice. Snape also has a nickname that is very important to him. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Pokémon Go Book Tag



I found the Pokémon Go Book Tag on Aentee's blog, Read at Midnight. Pokémon Go is the latest sensation and many people are addicted! All graphics in this post are created by Aentee. For abbreviations in this post, Pokémon Go will be known as PoGo.

Remember, in terms of books, you do not need to catch them all. Do not force yourself to read a book if it's not for you. It's okay to DNF a book or to not pick up a book because it's not for you. Everyone has different tastes. Don't feel bad if everyone likes a book you do not or vice versa.
I can't recall my first few books that got me into reading but I know as a child I loved reading the 
Berenstain Bears books and anything written by Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl. My favorite starter Pokémon is Bulbasaur.
I will always love the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Although not originally a classic, the series is becoming a new classic. I will re-read the series multiple times and will never get sick of it. I am fortunate enough to have caught two Pikachus and I hatched one so far.


Don't get me wrong, I love Rick Riordan books but it's getting to the point that the spin-offs aren't grabbing my attention like the Percy Jackson series. Also, Zubats are a pain to catch.

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey reminds me of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare but I love both. The bantering and the friendships are very similar between the two. I have not encountered Ditto yet in PoGo yet.


Les Misérables by Victor Hugo is over 1,400 pages and it's one ridiculously long book. However, I am very intrigued to read it. I have seen the movie and read a retelling of the original story and I want to read this wonderful classic someday. I have not encountered Snorlax yet in PoGo.
The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics has kept me up during the night. Maybe because it didn't help that I read the horror/thriller novel at night but this book is addicting! If you are looking for a quick horror read, definitely pick up this book the fall. I have not evolved my Gastlys into Gengars yet.
My bookish OTP is definitely Sydney and Adrian from the Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead. They are perfect for one another. Remember, "the center will hold." I have not evolved my Nidorans into the Kings and Queens but I did catch a Nidorino the other day.

Some of my fast paced reads include Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbuam and When We Collided by Emery Lord. Both are cute contemporaries that will capture your heart. You won't want to put the books down. I love Ponyta and Rapidash by the way.

I will never get sick of spin-off by Cassandra Clare. Although The Mortal Instruments series isn't my favorite by Cassandra Clare, I love the Shadowhunter world. I love The Infernal Devices series which is a spin off of The Mortal Instruments series. It's one of my favorite series of all time. 

Also, I will never get sick of anything Harry Potter related so any spin-off book that is released, I will pre-order or buy right away. Eevees are so adorable and I love all three evolutions! I am currently away on business and I am catching Eevees like crazy!
The Lonely Ones by Kelsey Sutton is a book that wasn't on my radar until someone asked me to join a blog tour for the book. It's well written in prose and I highly suggest people to read it. Also, I plan to catch a bunch of Magikarps so I can evolve one into Gyarados.


The Covenant series by Jennifer Armentrout has been on my TBR list for the longest time. Everyone raves about it and I want to see why everyone loves the series so much. Also, I am Team Mystic for those who don't know. 


I want to own all the Harry Potter collector's editions known to man. Harry Potter is one of the series that means the most to me and I would love to own multiple editions of the books. So I found out a MewTwo was in Las Vegas when I was visiting the area and of course I didn't download PoGo until I was waiting for my departure flight to Boston.
There are many upcoming debut novels and frankly I don't know too much about what is coming up. However, I am interested in Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović. It sounds very intriguing. Two sisters must trace their ancestry to break an ancient curse when their mother is threatened. I love Poké Eggs. It's awesome how you can hatch more eggs the more you walk.


My auto-buy authors include Cassandra Clare, Stephanie Perkins and Emery Lord. I can't limit myself to one author because there are so many awesome authors out there. I have never activated a Lure Module but I have seen plenty of them around. They are only useful when you actually have enough Pokéballs.


The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett is a book I have been dying to get my hands on. Her debut novel, Blood & Salt, is fantastic and I cannot wait to read more novels by Liggett. Also, she is such a sweetheart! That anticipation to play PoGo drives me nuts sometimes but it's worth the wait when the server is up and there is a Pokémon that I have been dying to catch.


I am tagging the following people to do the Pokémon Go Book Tag

Ellie
Marci from The Plot Bunny
Elizabeth from Book YAbber
Kim from Book Munchies
Molly from Cherry Blossoms & Maple Syrup
and any Pokémon Go player

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Harry Potter Beyond the Books and Movies: A Focus on Fandom


Thank you to Aentee from Read at Midnight for hosting the Potterhead July Blog Festival! I am very grateful for being able to participate in such a wonderful feature. Also, thank you Aentee for the fantastic header template. Harry Potter is my number one fandom and I am excited that a lot of bloggers share the same love and are participating in the festival. For the Potterhead July Blog Festival schedule, please check it out here.

Most of you know about Harry Potter. But did you know that Harry Potter is beyond the books and movies? The Harry Potter fandom is huge! It's been about 19 years since the first book was first published and people of all ages are devouring everything to do with the wizarding world. And I don't blame them.

Marauders map dress and time turner
Not only is Harry Potter magical but Harry Potter means so much to people. The growing love for Harry Potter now expands to fan fiction, fan art, meet ups, cosplay, amusement parks, exhibitions, midnight parties, Wrock shows, Quidditch, conventions and etc.

I was fortunate enough to dive into many forms of fandom since the first day I picked up Harry Potter. I have been a Harry Potter fan for around 15 years. The Harry Potter fandom community is amazing. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. The community is very open to everyone. They are not judgmental and they treat you like family. After all, my Harry Potter friends are my second family. I feel like I am going to a reunion every time I attend a Harry Potter convention.

I was fortunate enough to attend Leviosa which is a Harry Potter and YA Lit convention in Las Vegas. You can read about my recaps here: Days 1 and 2 & Days 3 and 4. Leviosa is a fairly small convention with only 700 or so attendees. It provided the perfect atmosphere for quality bonding time without it feeling too empty or overwhelming. I have met countless of people at Leviosa and I feel like I've know them for years. That is what makes a Harry Potter convention unforgettable. Every Harry Potter fan should experience a Harry Potter convention at least once in their lifetime. This experience is completely different from visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or attending a midnight release party. Not only are you meeting new friends and reuniting with old ones but everyone is there for one thing and that is everything Harry Potter. You will find YOUR people at a Harry Potter convention!

Harry Potter conventions are comprised of many different tracks and also include many special events. For an example, Leviosa had six tracks which included the following: Academic, Fandom, Creativity, Slash & Queer Lit, YA Lit Track and the Writing Track. Leviosa also had a lot of special events such as a Karaoke with Chris Rankin, a Magical Ball and Keynotes.

Leviosa is my fifth Harry Potter convention I have attended. Although Leviosa is over for the year, I heard rumors of it coming back next year or in 2018 in Las Vegas once again. Can't make it out to the West Coast? Check out MISTI-Con which will occur May 18, 2017 - May 22, 2017 in Laconia, NH. I have been to MISTI-Con twice and it's definitely my favorite convention to attend. The Margate Resort is reserved only for the attendees of MISTI-Con which means no Muggles! Next year's theme is "Coming Home" to celebrate 20 years of Harry Potter fandom. You can check out my MISTI-Con 2015 recaps here: Day 1 and Day 2Day 3Day 4 and 5.

My sister and I at MISTI-Con 2015
As I said in a previous post, the love for Harry Potter is strong. The fandom of Harry Potter will never die. Can't make it to a Harry Potter convention anytime soon? Check out other ways to immerse yourself into the fandom below.

How be a Harry Potter fan beyond the books and movies?

Check out Pottermore
Watch Potter Pupper Pals or Severus Snape and the Marauders
Keep updated with Mugglenet and The Leaky Cauldron
Listen to the following Harry Potter podcasts: MuggleCast, Alohomora,  Mugglenet Academia and SpeakBeasty
Read Harry Potter fan fiction
Rock out at a Wrock (wizard rock) show or listen to Wrock music. One of my favorite bands is Ministry of Magic.
Play Quidditch
Visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter or The Harry Potter Studio Tour
Go see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London
Cosplay as a Harry Potter character
Attend a Harry Potter midnight release party


How do your celebrate Harry Potter fandom? Do you go beyond the books and movies? Have you been to a Harry Potter convention before? Comment below.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Leviosa Recap: Day 3 and Day 4



I recently came back from Las Vegas and I am sharing my experience at Leviosa. For those who don't know what Leviosa is, Leviosa is Harry Potter and YA Lit convention that took place earlier this month. I shared my recap for Day 1 and Day 2  a couple of days ago. Check out the second half of my journey below.

Day 3

The second day of full programming was chock full of fun activities. I ended up skipping my first panel of the day because I wanted to sleep in for a little bit. My first panel of the day was Teaching Harry Potter in the College Classrom. Gareth, who is a good friend of David and Alyse, led the panel and he delved into his curriculum for his course, "Fantasy and Social Values," which he taught to undergraduate honor students this past semester. Not only was the panel fascinating but I loved how Gareth gave each attendee a copy of his curriculum. He has some good pointers about how to incorporate Harry Potter and other fantasy stories into a class curriculum.

I spent a couple few hours wandering the Vendor Room, catching up with friends in the Common Room, eating lunch and also playing some Harry Potter games such as Harry Potter Guess Who. I stayed for part of the MISTI-Con meet up before wandering back to the room to rest for a bit. I also donated about eight books to those who are in need within the Nevada area.

MISTI-Con postcard
At 4:00 I attended Has the Sorting Hat Been Wrong which was a very interesting panel. The presenters discuses multiple characters and whether they should have been sorted into another house. This panel was open to the audience to discuss what they thought about the sorting and whether certain characters were properly sorted. It was a very in depth discussion about whether the hat really chooses the best house for the witch or wizard or does it pick the house the person sees themselves in. I plan to recap this event at a later time in more detail.

Afterwards, I attended Snape and Sirius in Canon which is a reading by Lorrie Kim. I also was able to get by Snape: A Definitive Reading by Lorrie Kim signed! She's pretty amazing and I love her personalizations. I see Lorrie all the time at Harry Potter conventions and it was lovely to see her every day at Leviosa. Her insightful discussions about Snape is something I look forward to at every convention.



I visited the the Craft Faire which is small but there were a lot of amazing artists. Kaci sold bracelets and bookmarks. I eventually bought a bookmark from her on Sunday. Davina of Popsiclesticks sold handmade cards and wonderfully smelling candles. I ended up buying a few candles in the following scents: Dumbledore, Knight Bus and Voldemort. Davina's special touches with the twine and charms are perfect.



Harry Potter Book Cake
I went back to the East Tower to meet up with Kristina for dinner. We ended up meeting up with Kaci and Danielle for a bit and then got ready for the ball. The Magical Ball had a cash bar with some Harry Potter specialty drinks. I got a Ravenclaw Tower but unfortunately, mine was made too strong and I couldn't finish the rest of it. However, the ball was a great event to see wonderful outfits and to meet new people. The decorative Harry Potter book cake was a must see as well!

Day 4

Sunday was a half day for most people. Programming and events ended around 2:00 p.m. and most people were spending the rest of the vacation with old and new friends before they depart for the Muggle world. Unfortunately, this was my last day in Vegas before going home.

My first panel of the day was at 9:00. I have attended many panels by David Martin in the past. This year, he had a panel called Material Culture in the Wizarding World. He opened up the panel with observing objects in the Muggle world to make sure we feel comfortable. He then brought up why the Wizarding World is very old fashioned. Objects play a big part of the setting for Harry Potter. I might recap the panel at a later date as well. I found the subject fascinating.

Inspired by Potter was a must go to panel with Natalie Simpson, Victoria Aveyard, Alexandra Bracken, Lindsay Cummings, Stephanie Diaz and Tobie Easton. It's always fun to hear about how authors are influenced by another author's book. Not only did I find out about all the authors' houses but I got to hear what they thought about Harry Potter. They discussed what they learned from Harry Potter and how Harry Potter helped shape their writing. I love how the authors who attended Leviosa are huge Potterheads. This panel will definitely be recapped at a later date.

I ended up skipping two panels that I was planning to attend on the Sunday but I ended up catching up with Sidney from the House of Wormwood. Not only was I able to purchase amazing soappes from her but it was interesting to learn the millinery process and also about her lines of soappes and how she decided to expand her Harry Potter soappe collection. Since I already missed a couple of panels, I decided to purchase a few gifts for friends.

I had a lot of time before my flight departed so I took advantage of relaxing in the framed rectangle lounges. Kristina and I agreed that they were so comfy. Look how amazing these lounges are! They are perfect to kick back and relax. Grab a drink or a book and soak up the view while staying cool in the shade!



After relaxing near the pool, I ended up back in my room to pack my bags for my red eye flight. Since my flight got delayed, I ended up hanging out with Leviosa staff and we went to Primarily Prime Rib for some of the best prime rib that I have ever tasted. It was so juicy and the flavor was fantastic! They also served sourdough bread with butter when we got there. I had a delicious spinach salad with peaches, dried cranberries and candied pecans in a fruity vinaigrette. My sour cream & chive potato was the perfect side to my prime rib. I was fortunate to be able to join such a lovely group of people for dinner before departing to the airport. Of course, my flight was delayed again but got home safely!

Even though Leviosa is over, I cannot wait until my next venture to a Harry Potter convention. I am not sure when I will be able to visit Las Vegas but I had an amazing unforgettable time and I am glad I made memories that will last a life time.

I know a lot of people have read Harry Potter books and watched the films but attending a Harry Potter convention is a different experience that you do not want to miss. You will find your people at a Harry Potter convention. Unite with all the Potterheads! 

If you are planning to attend a Harry Potter convention in the future, I highly suggest attending Leviosa or MISTI-Con

Thank you for reading about my adventures with Harry Potter and YA literature. You can also check some of the Instagram photos and tweets under the hashtag #NicoleAtLeviosa.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Leviosa Recap: Day 1 and Day 2



I took a late flight on Wednesday, July 6th to fly out from Boston to Las Vegas for Leviosa, which is a Harry Potter and a YA lit convention like no other. Despite the late arrival to the Green Valley Ranch Resort at 1:00 am PST on Thursday morning, I was so happy to be in Nevada. Green Valley Ranch Resort is located on the outskirts of Las Vegas in Henderson. The rooms are huge and the bathroom is very spacious as well. I pretty much dragged my bags from the front desk across the pool area to the East Tower. A shower was in need and I went to bed to wake up early for my first day in Vegas!

The view of East Tower at 1:00 am at Green Valley Ranch Resort

Day 1

Las Vegas is blazing hot. Coming from Boston, I have only experienced mild and humid summers. Never have I felt the wrath of the dry heat. The first day was very low key. I had nothing planned besides browsing the vendor hall at 4:00 and attending the Welcome Feast at 7:00. Because I was rooming with two con staff members and a first time Harry Potter convention goer, I was roped into volunteering with putting together badges and manning the hall that leads to the vendor hall area. I seriously felt like I was manning the third-floor corridor. I even got a Harry Potter security sash.

Selfie time during security duty
Krissie did a very good job with the vendor hall booth selection and of course, Alexandra did a fabulous job running registration. There was never an instance of chaos or line con. The con was a success in every way! Also, I love my other roommate, Kristina. I couldn't ask for better roommates. I felt like I've known them for years even though I've seen one a couple of cons before and I met two of them for the first time at Leviosa.

I spent a good hour or so browsing the vendor booths for gift ideas for people. From wands to pins to soaps to teas to Butterbeer concentrate, there is something for everyone. Check this list for vendors who've attended Leviosa.

The Welcome Feast  had an amazing array of wonderful appetizers, main dishes and desserts. I was stuffed after the feast. Of course, I sat at the Ravenclaw table and I was able to reconnect with my friends David and Alyse. Gareth was there, Krista and my roommate Kristina. I also met someone named Davina who is a local.

Day 2 

The first full day of the convention was crazy. It was my busiest day and I even had to skip some of the programming because I was so tired. A rule of thumb is the 5-2-1 rule at any convention or conference. I highly suggest people have at least 5 hours of sleep, 2 full meals and at least 1 shower per day. Of course you can sleep more, have more meals and take more showers but 5-2-1 is a must!

My first panel of the day was a YA lit one. Pantsing vs. Plotting: How To Novel was a fantastic panel. Alexa Donne moderated and the following authors joined the discussion: Kamilla Benko, Roshani Chokski, Susan Dennard, Lindsay Riber, Robyn Schneider and Michelle Schusterman. I will go more into detail about the panel at a later date in July or August with a full panel recap.


Pantsing vs. Plotting Panel
The next panel I attended is a Harry Potter one. "Hallows, not Horcruxes”: Notes on “The Tale of the Three Brothers” and the Presence of Fairy Tales in the Harry Potter series was a very interesting panel that was a nice segway to the next panel that occurred in the same room.  

Sorcerer's Stone: 7 Obstacles for 7 Books was lead by Irvin and whoa was this one of my favorite panels during Leviosa. Not only did Irvin bring props to show us but he created a wonderful table for his attendees to fill out with notes. Thanks Irvin for thinking about the Ravenclaws! 

His mind blowing analysis about the books and how certain objects from the Sorcerer's Stone mirrors certain books or scenes in the books is fantastic. He shows how J.K. Rowling foreshadows everything from book one all the way to book seven. Symbolism is very important. I might have to use these notes for my next re-read of the series. I plan to do a recap of this panel in the near future as well.


Message board

I decided to take a break for lunch and also skipped a panel I wanted to go to because I was reuniting with some of my Harry Potter friends in the Common Room. Can I say that the message board there is hilarious!


After lunch I attended Same Story, Different Skin - Remixing Retellings in Multicultural Fantasy with Roshani Chokshi and Thao Le. It was fascinating to hear them talk about their favorite fairytales and what retellings they would like to see in the near future. I liked how they spoke about how to make a retelling your own and not just a mere imitation. This panel also had a lot of the audience involved which was fantastic!


I was so pumped to attend Psychology of the Marauders which Janina Scarlet, the director of Serverus Snape and the Marauders and part of the cast of Severus Snape and the Marauders (Kevin Allen, Mick Ignis, Dani Jae, Paul Stanko and Justin Zagri). I loved how we got to talk about each Marauder and a bit about the fan film. I am a huge fan of the Marauders so there was no question that I was definitely attending this panel.

Roshani and I


After the panel, I attended an author signing with Lindsay Riber, Michelle Schusterman, Susan Dennard, Roshani Chokshi and Alexandra Bracken. I was so excited to chat with all the authors about the Pantsing vs. Plotting panel and I chatted with Susan about being a Ravenclaw and about Pottermore. I finally got to meet Roshani and she is amazing! I loved all the outfits she wore during the convention and I was able to get a photo with her! I can't wait to see her again at the Boston Teen Author Festival. Alexandra is super sweet and I was able to get a couple of my books signed. 


After the book signing, which literally only took 20 minutes for me from lining up to meeting everyone and getting things signed, I headed back to my hotel room to change since the robe and the sweater was getting quite hot. I changed into a Marauders dress for the rest of the evening.


Kristina and I went to get dinner before we attended to VIP cocktail hour which of course had to be outside. Thank goodness I changed my outfit since it was blazing outside at 7:00. It was probably still in the 90s during that time. It was nice to chat with the attendees and the special guests. For most of the time I was in Vegas, it was about 106 degrees. The cocktail hour wasn't that bad at all but I wish it was inside since it was super dry and hot outside.


Green Valley Ranch Resort's palm trees

However, I was able to capture a picture of Peeves with three drinks and the view was immaculate! Palm trees in the sunset is postcard perfect! 


Peeves and three drinks

Chris Rankin opening up karaoke
Kristina and I decided to venture to the room before heading toward Karaoke hosted by Chris Rankin, aka Percy Weasley. Not only did we have a good time but Chris was awesome. He is super nice and he loves attending Harry Potter conventions as a fan. He is down to earth and loves the fandom so much. In fact he even wrote his thesis on fandom. I have met Chris a couple times at Ascendio and at MISTI-Con but at more of an academic keynote or panel environment. It's nice to see him in a more casual element. 

I ended the night attending a pajama party at the Common Room totally by accident. I love wandering the halls at night and found some friends to hang out with past midnight. The first couple of days were fantastic and I couldn't believe how I almost decided to not attend Leviosa. Check out Tuesday for a recap for the last two days of my Leviosa adventures.




I will be discussing more about the Harry Potter and YA Lit panels I attended during the last couple of days. You can also check some of the Instagram photos and tweets under the hashtag #NicoleAtLeviosa.



Monday, July 11, 2016

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

Title: How to Hang a Witch
Author: Adriana Mather
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date: July 26, 2016
Pages: 368
Source/format: ARC from publisher

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren't enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials.

Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with the Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it's Salem. But history is about to repeat itself.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Samantha (Sam) Mather relocates to Salem from New York to visit her father's hometown a few months after her father falls into a coma. After starting her sophomore year at Salem High School, she learns that a group of teens called The Descendants despise her just because Sam is related to Cotton Mather, a key player in the Salem Witch Trials. The Descendants consistently shun Sam and is making her life miserable. However, with a twist of fate, Sam and the Descendants must work together to save the families involved in the Salem Witch Trials.

I am a huge fan of anything Salem related. Because I live nearby to Salem, MA, I can vividly picture many of the locations Adriana Mather mentions in How to Hang a Witch. The plot of the novel is compelling and the character development is well paced. Mather's research for the novel is on point. The novel starts out as a historical fiction contemporary hybrid but then soon morphs into a thriller during the second half.

The plot being a modern day "Salem Witch Trials" is part of a curse that is more than 300 years old. Sam has no idea what she is in for when she moves to Salem. The beginning of the novel starts at a slow pace but quickly picks up in pace with many clues scattered throughout the book.

How to Hang a Witch will capture those who love everything Salem. The novel is one part Mean Girls, one part Sleepy Hollow (the film) and one part Hocus Pocus. The eerieness, the mystery and the ambience makes How to Hang a Witch the perfect autumnal read. Once you read this book, you'll want to plan your trip to Salem ASAP.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Gemini by Sonya Mukherjee

Title: Gemini
Author:  Sonya Mukherjee
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: July 26, 2016
Pages: 336
Source/format: e-ARC from publisher on Netgalley

Rating: ☆☆☆ 

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

In a powerful and daring debut novel, Sonya Mukherjee shares the story of sisters Clara and Hailey, conjoined twins who are learning what it means to be truly extraordinary.

Seventeen-year-old conjoined twins Clara and Hailey have lived in the same small town their entire lives—no one stares at them anymore. But there are cracks in their quiet existence, and they’re slowly becoming more apparent. Clara and Hailey are at a crossroads. Clara wants to stay close to home, avoid all attention, and study the night sky. Hailey wants to travel the world, learn from great artists, and dance with mysterious boys. As high school graduation approaches, each twin must untangle her dreams from her sister’s, and figure out what it means to be her own person.

Told in alternating perspectives, this unconventional coming-of-age tale shows how dreams can break your heart—but the love between sisters can mend it.

M Y  T H O U G H T S 

Clara and Hailey are conjoined twins and are trying to figure out what they want in life. Clara loves science and she is the level headed twin while Hailey is the artistic, free spirited pink-haired twin. A new guy, Max, is starting at the twins' small high school in Bear Pass, California and all the girls are after him.

Sonya Mukherjee's debut novel is wonderful. The alternating POVs of the twins lets the reader understand what is going through the minds of each twin. I have never read a novel about conjoined twins and I am glad I had the chance to read Gemini. Although the twins have to face challenges that most people don't face, they are your average teenage girls. They are high school seniors trying to maintain good grades, crushing over guys and getting ready for college.

Although their parents want them to go to Sutter College after high school, Clara and Hailey want something more. Clara loves astronomy and would love to study at another level in space. Hailey wants to travel to as many places as she can. Mukherjee provides a platform for readers to join Clara and Hailey on an emotional journey.

Mukherjee's writing is addicting. Gemini is an irresistible novel for readers. It's a heartfelt novel like no other.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Looking Ahead: Labyrinth Lost

I am fortunate enough to be on the #RWFSquad street team for Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova. Go team Star Circle! I have read several of Córdova's books before and I was super excited to pick up Labyrinth Lost. I am currently reading it and I am falling with love with the characters and the world building. If you're interested in paranormal fantasy and witches, definitely check out Labyrinth Lost, which is the first book in the Brooklyn Brujas series.


Title: Labyrinth Lost
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Pages: 336

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Enchanting and complex. Every page is filled with magic."-Danielle Paige, New York Times best-selling author of Dorothy Must Die

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation...and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can't trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland...


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Top Ten Books with Under 2000 Goodreads Ratings

 

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers share their top ten books they enjoyed that have under 2000 ratings on Goodreads. One of my favorite things to do is finding hidden gems. Just because the book isn't hyped up as much as others, it doesn't mean the book isn't good. The following books are in no particular order.


1. The Lonely Ones by Kelsey Sutton is a MG novel written in verse. Reality and fantasy fuse together and helps Fain figure out who she is.


2. All the Feels by Danika Stone is a fangirl's dream book. If you like fandoms, you will love this book!


3. Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch is the perfect contemporary romance in Italy. You will be transported to one of the most beautiful places in the world.


4. Lost in Thought by Cara Bertrand is one of my favorite boarding school books. Learn more about the Sententia, the hidden society of the psychically gifted.


5. Dearest by Alethea Kontis is a blend of Six Swans and The Goose Girl. Kontis created a unique fairy tale that will captivate your heart. This is the fourth book in the Books of Arilland series.

 

6. The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden is paranormal fantasy set in New Orleans. The world building is enthralling and entrancing at the same time. Those who like The Originals and The Vampire Diaries, will enjoy this novel.


7.  Daughter Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics will creep you out big time. Although the beginning is slow, the ending has a huge twist and it's bone chilling!


8. Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett is a haunting and chilling horror romance. From the first page to the last, I enjoyed the beautifully written atmospheric novel.


9. The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds is a genuine story with a real MC who tells it how it is. It's raw and there is no sugarcoating.


10. Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly is a whimsical MG novel that has a Frankenstein like girl who becomes a hero to save children from an evil wizard.



Have you read any of the books above? What underrated books do you recommend?