Music Monday! Harry Potter in Concert – Hollywood Bowl

Hello all!
Today’s Music Monday is going to be a quick recap of Harry Potter in Concert at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
HB occasionally puts on these Special Concerts where they show a movie & have a orchestra play the score live. Previously, they showed “The Little Mermaid” & I’m sad to have missed that because they had celebrities come out & sing the songs. The score for Harry Potter is all instrumental, so I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but I was still excited for another amazing Harry Potter themed adventure! Click the video below for a super quick vlog of the Event & keep reading for my thoughts overall…

The Venue –
I’d only been to the Hollywood Bowl once before for a “Behind the Scenes Tour” when I did the Disney College Program. I remembered there was a LOT of walking & I’d heard Event parking is a complete train wreck. They “stack” the cars so you end up boxed in on all sides, which is insanely inconvenient if you’re ready to leave but no one around you has left yet. On the advice of a friend we purchased off site parking, but couldn’t find the lot. We ended up just driving to the Event & paying again for on site parking. While I was deeply unhappy from a financial standpoint, because we had arrived late the only parking was right in front, not boxed in, & the chances of people arriving later than us seemed pretty slim – woo hoo! We strolled right into the venue but finding our seats was another story…we should have called ahead to find out the options for those with disabilities. We had nosebleed seats & even with the escalators, it was quite a struggle. The venue is extremely dark, which obviously makes sense because they want people to see the movie, but made walking/climbing stairs with no railings quite precarious. When we finally found our seats, we discovered we were in the middle of the narrow row & no one would get up to let us by! While this was rude, the bigger issue was that there was no space for us anyway! We let an attendant know, they conferred with their supervisor, & next thing you know we’re sitting in box seats way down in front! Amazing! Big thanks to the staff that made that happen, it definitely made our experience better! Next time, we will be purchasing more expensive but closer seats – it’s way worth it! Also, arriving late for parking worked in our favor as no one arrived after us, so we weren’t boxed in.  We were on the freeway in about 15 minutes!

The People –
I was disappointed by the negative response from the people in the row we were supposed to sit in. However, I guess I should be thanking them because they helped us get better seats! As I mentioned, super happy with the staff of HB! I wish we had thought to get the names of the staff that helped us because I would have written a “thank you letter” to compliment them personally. Beyond that initial negative experience, the crowd was…unified. That’s the only way I can explain it. Whenever something special happens for Harry Potter, there’s always this feeling of, dare I say, magic in the air. I think that’s because a majority of the crowd are real true fans. They’re willing to wait for hours to buy a new book, see a movie, spend the day in a theme park, etc, these types of Events aren’t for casual fans. They bring out the die hards, people in cosplay or themed outfits (I was wearing a Hufflepuff shirt!), people that know all the words to the movies & cheer when Harry catches his first Snitch or boo when Wormtail appears because they know what role he’ll play later. It’s truly, again, magical, to sit in a crowd of people & know that you’re all part of something. In a world that sometimes feels like it’s falling apart, it’s nice to know you can turn to your fandom.

The Performance –
I had no idea what to expect from a Harry Potter Concert! I had read a few articles leading up to the Event & mostly they talked about how difficult the performance was going to be in regards to pulling the soundtrack from the film but keeping all the audio. I did find the music overwhelmed the audio at certain times, but I realized I had to restructure the way I was thinking about the Event. Somehow, I wanted the music to just quietly frame the movie, but be really awesome & powerful! There’s no way to accomplish that. The point of this Event was to focus on the beauty of the music & how it added to the film. Once I kind of let the film take a back seat & focused on the music, it WAS really awesome & powerful. I noticed certain nuances I’d never noticed before when I’d watched the film & focused only on the dialogue. This is definitely an Event for music lovers. You must love the sound, the feeling, the epic-ness! of live orchestral music. Obviously these musicians are extremely talented & I was thrilled to see the Conductor wearing a Hufflepuff tie & pin!

The Final Verdict –
People always say to arrive early for parking, but we found that arriving later worked WAY better & will most likely do so again. As I said, there may be other options that we were unaware of, but based on what I saw, this Venue is not very “disabled friendly”. I will need to investigate other options for the future & definitely feel it’s worth it to pay for more expensive seats closer to the front. Overall, an extremely enjoyable & unique experience that brought together a lot of people & helped strengthen their love of Harry Potter. What could be better?! I hope Hollywood Bowl continues to put on these Special Events, especially if they continue with the rest of the Harry Potter series & Disney films.

Have you ever been to this Venue or seen a Movie/Concert like this? Please let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading 🙂

Try This! Mainland Ink

Hey everyone!
Try This! is going to be a little bit…unique today! Usually Try This! will be more of a Haul/Product Review piece, but today I’m going to be reviewing my experience getting a tattoo at Mainland Ink with my best friend Katie.

Disclaimer: Getting a tattoo is a HIGHLY!!!!! personal choice that requires thought & planning. I am in NO WAY saying that you should run out & get a tattoo at Mainland Ink or anywhere else. I am simply sharing my experience & the thought process behind our piece. If you have any questions/comments/concerns, please feel free to leave them in the comments below! Also below, check out a quick video of Katie & me in the tattoo process!


I’ve known Katie since high school where we caused much mayhem & mischief together as cheerleaders. Being on the same team, we obviously knew each other & were close, but my Junior year we were co-Captains of our team & the rest is Best Friend/Soul Sister history!

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The tattoo is, from left to right, the Alchemical symbol for Air (Gemini is an Air sign), the Gemini symbol, & the Deathly Hallows from Harry Potter. Another best friend, Marcela, pointed out an alternative interpretation that Katie & I are equally happy with – it could be all Harry Potter related with the symbols standing for the Sorting Hat, the Time Turner, & the Deathly Hallows.

Katie has a few tattoos already, whereas I’m a novice to the game. I have one other tattoo which I’ve kept under wraps because it’s not finished yet. We had been talking for a bit about getting something matching but never seriously pursued the idea because I didn’t have any tattoos yet. However, after I got my first tattoo the idea of doing something together became way more real so we started planning. We’ve always bonded over the fact that we’re both Gemini, her birthday is June 1st & mine is the 7th. We also are both huge Harry Potter nerds. The piece is special because it appeals to us individually yet also references interests we share.
I’ve wanted a Gemini tattoo since I was in high school because I’ve always felt it was so spot on in describing my personality. Also, my dad had his sign tattooed on him, & in a weird turn of events, the tattoo artist was named David (my dad’s name) & we got the tattoo on the anniversary of my dad’s passing so it all felt very…spiritual & a way for me to connect with him.

We decided to place the tattoo on our foot for practical & “meaning” reasons.
Practical – We’re aware that tattoos in the workplace are still not totally welcome so we wanted to make sure it was something we could semi-easily hide. My other tattoo is on my side, so I couldn’t watch it being completed. Being able to watch was quite a different experience! The pain is about the same, at worst it’s like a sharp pinch. One weird thing that happened was when the needle hit a certain…nerve/muscle/tendon…? my foot would twitch. I was holding my leg down because I was afraid the motion would ruin the lines, but it turned out basically perfect. There are a couple minuscule wiggles but they are SO hard to notice, you literally have to be nose to foot. David asked if I wanted him to go over the lines again, but I said no because its hardly noticeable & we were both concerned that more touch ups would run the risk of more twitching & henceforth more wiggles.
“Meaning” – Being a Gemini, our connection to HP, & our connection to each other are what makes us who we are, it’s our roots. Placing the piece on our foot symbolized that roots/ground idea.

About Mainland Ink
Positives: The shop was clean, comfortable, has a great rating on Yelp, & they were able to work us into the schedule, even staying late two nights in a row. Everyone we talked to (Ozzy, David, & another guy but I didn’t get his name – sorry!) was really nice & willing to work on the design & placement with no attitude. They treated us with equal amounts of respect even though I’m a newbie & Katie has more tattoo experience. This is important to me because my first tattoo artist seemed annoyed by my questions or when I wanted to adjust the placement/stencil. I felt like she wanted me to just do what she wanted because I didn’t have any tattoos & she did. I’m still allowed to have an opinion about what goes on my body! This was not the case at MI & it was greatly appreciated. The shop minimum was on par with what I expected.
Negatives: Communication was a little weird. I emailed our design & inquired about pricing/availability. No answer. Later that night I called & we ended up stopping by. We were told Ozzy would call the next day to set up a firm appointment time, but by late afternoon we hadn’t heard anything. I called the shop & Ozzy said he was planning on calling when he had a bigger chunk of time between clients. I understand he’s busy but we were starting to stress & wonder if they even wanted our business. At the shop we’re eventually told David will be doing our tattoos – what?! Who?! He didn’t have any examples of his work to show which made me extremely nervous. Thankfully we had a pretty simple design because if we had been doing anything more complicated I wouldn’t have let him tattoo me.

Should YOU Try This!? – In regards to a tattoo in general – Maybe
In regards to Mainland Ink – If you’re looking for a Tattoo Parlor, yeah!
Like I said, tattoos are not for everyone & should be very carefully considered. I shouldn’t have to say this but THEY. ARE. FOREVER.  I don’t advise getting a matching tattoo with anyone unless your relationship has stood the test of time & the piece means something to you individually as well as in regards to your friendship. Katie & I have been friends for over 10 years & had a really honest talk about the idea of doing a matching piece. Coincidentally, or maybe not too much of a coincidence considering we’re best friends & think alike, we both want another Harry Potter tattoo using the same quote & a mermaid themed tattoo, so someday we’ll have a couple similar pieces anyway. We figured we’d get the ball rolling with one that was an exact match 🙂
Mainland Ink was great! Other than the communication issues, everything was awesome & I would recommend this shop. I’m beyond obsessed with my tattoo, I can’t stop looking at it, & am so excited to show it off!

Do you have any tattoos? If so, tell me about them or send me a pic in the comments below! If you don’t have any tattoos, do you plan on getting one someday? I’ve wanted a tattoo since I was 15 & didn’t get one until I was 25. If you need a shoulder to cry on about your waiting struggle or someone to talk to about future plans – I’m all ears because I’ve been there too & I love hearing what people have planned! Remember to hit that FOLLOW button to stay updated on all the posts here. Thanks for reading & watching 🙂

Book Review! Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Click on the book to go to Amazon and order your copy now!

OH MY GOSH! I’m FREAKING OUT over this book. It’s seriously THAT GOOD! I’m so stinking excited to talk to you today about “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”. The inspiration for this book is really unique. Ransom Riggs, the author, started collecting vintage pictures from thrift stores & flea markets. He felt such an intense curiosity to know the story behind these anonymous pictures that, rather than settle for never knowing, he created his own fantastical stories to explain what was going on in the photos. There are several odd photos placed in the book that you would think are Photoshopped, but are real pictures he found while writing. According to Riggs’ website, this series – there are 3 Miss Peregrine novels, the last one slated to be released September of this year – is being made into a film by Tim Burton. OF COURSE IT IS. I’m not a huge Burton enthusiast, but he’s a perfect choice in this case. Okay, onto the review. I’ll try my best to limit the spoilers because I really do want you all to read this book. Really, like right now, click on the picture of the book above & buy it from Amazon. However, if you insist on reading my full review before buying it, it’s fine, I guess. Here we go!

Plot: Jacob grows up idolizing his tall tale telling grandfather, Grandpa Portman. He grows disillusioned as a teenager when he realizes that Grandpa Portman’s stories about being shipped to an orphanage in Wales, a magical place where no one ever got sick or died & was protected by a woman who could turn into a bird, could not possibly be true. Tragedy strikes & through a series of insane events Jacob is forced to admit that Grandpa Portman’s stories were much more real than he previously believed. He embarks on a whirlwind adventure full of magic, danger, romance, and self discovery.

Initial Thoughts: I had no expectations going into this novel. I wasn’t even really sure what genre it was, fantasy, sci fi, children’s literature, zombies, all of the above? Right off the bat, Grandpa Portman tells stories of monsters in Poland circa WWII & I was thinking, “Hmm, real monsters or is this a veiled reference to the Nazi Party? What are we dealing with here?” The answer is, to a certain degree, both! After finishing the first two pages, I wrote a note, “I’m so excited to read this book, will I have nightmares?! Am I ready to welcome another series into my life?! I’m already in a very committed, long term relationship with Harry Potter..”. Riggs’ writing already had me hooked.
I was reminded of the movie “Big Fish”. If you’ve never seen it, you’re living life all wrong. “Big Fish” is easily one of my top 10 favorite movies.Everyone loves it, Yellowcard even wrote a song about it called “How I Go” which makes me weep every time I hear it. The bottom line is it’s an amazing film directed by Tim Burton (a pattern is emerging) about a man with a strained relationship with his father. The father always tells amazing, wild stories of his youth which the son stopped believing a long time ago. Through flashbacks you’re swept up in the father’s magical stories & in the end the film is really about how we stay in the hearts of those we love, even when we’re not around anymore. That’s all I’ll say, seriously, you should watch it. Back to the review…

Characters: Jacob is a wonderful character, well developed, & different from other characters in YA Fiction, which is technically the book’s genre. Usually I’m annoyed by teenage characters, but not Jacob. He admits to being odd, scared, & not macho, but continues on his adventure because he’s inspired by the life of someone he loved. I love that he cries! It’s rare to find young male characters so in touch with their emotions.
A character that helps my “Big Fish” tie in, is Emma Bloom. The main character in “Big Fish” is named Edward Bloom. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence but it made me happy to continue the connection between the two stories.

Quotes – SPOILERS HERE!!!:
– Not necessarily a quote, but on page 48 there’s a passage describing how Jacob’s family deals with the aftermath of Grandpa Portman passing away. If you’ve ever had to go through someone’s belongings after they’ve passed away – you will totally identify with this scene. Riggs writes the most accurate description of that process that I’ve ever read.
– pg 108, Jacob talks about how WWII has changed his family history. It’s kind of a long passage but I thought it was really powerful. “I thought about how my great-grandparents had starved to death…their wasted bodies being fed to incinerators because people they didn’t know hated them. I thought about how the children who had lived in this house had been burned up & blown apart because a pilot who didn’t care pushed a button. I thought about how my grandfather’s family had been taken from him, and how because of that my dad grew up feeling like he didn’t have a dad…[a]ll because of a 70 year old hurt that had somehow been passed down to me like some poisonous heirloom & monsters I couldn’t fight because they were all dead, beyond killing or punishing or any kind of reckoning. At least my grandfather had been able to join the army & go fight them. What could I do?”

Overall: I’m sure you can tell I loved this book with a serious passion. My one hiccup was the romance between Emma & Jacob. No Spoilers, but given her past, the romance between them was slightly uncomfortable for me. The twist near the end threw me for a loop! Again, to avoid spoilers, that’s all I’m going to say. My note literally reads, “Holy effin shit! Holy effin shit! I knew he was suspect but never expected THIS! The nightmares are gonna be so real tonight”. I have referenced nightmares a few times, but please don’t be afraid, I’m mostly being dramatic. While the story was intense, it tied into many other works of fiction that I have a soft spot for. As previously mentioned, “Big Fish”, but also “Peter Pan” because of the whole children on an island that never grow old aspect, “Harry Potter” because of the magic, plus Jacob & Harry seem like kindred spirits, they never know the important details until it’s too late & they’re left to fight on in the memory of those who inspired them, & “Supernatural”, because Grandpa Portman was a hunter, an absent father out fighting darkness, & Jacob continues on the family business. So if you like any of those things – you should enjoy this story.

Rating: A+! Obviously!! After all that raving could I really have given this book any other rating?! “Miss Peregrine’s…” was highly entertaining and engaging. I literally couldn’t put it down & finished reading it in about 3 or 4 hours. I realize a second more thorough reading may reveal plot holes or annoyances in the character’s personalities I didn’t notice before, but this first reading was pure joy. This novel was everything I look for in a “A+” work, well written characters & an engaging, relatable story that was able to suck me in, take me away, & make me care about everything it had to offer. I am definitely looking forward to reading the second installment in the series, “Hollow City”. I would also be interested in prequel books featuring Grandpa Portman’s adventures during WWII – maybe I should write a letter to Riggs suggesting that, haha!

Have you read “Miss Peregrine’s…” or the second novel “Hollow City”? Are you enjoying this series as much as I am?! If you haven’t heard of this series before, what do you think, will you give it a try? Please let me know what you thought of this review in the comments below! Send your book recommendations my way & I’ll add them to my list of Books to Read! Please click the FOLLOW button on the top right of this page to be notified by email when I post my next Book Review. Thanks for reading, until we meet again!

New York, Broadway Review! Honeymoon in Vegas, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, Kinky Boots, Matilda, & It’s Only a Play

Hello all!
I recently took a trip to New York – check my Instagram: @MissAl_Leigh for pics! We got caught up in the “blizzard”, plus, the main event I went for (a job fair) was canceled, but we did manage to see 5 Broadway shows that I will recap for you below! Keep reading to see what I thought of “Honeymoon in Vegas”, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”, “Kinky Boots”, “Matilda”, & “It’s Only a Play”!

I have always had a passion for the performing arts. I have been a performer in one way or another since I was 2, starting with dance classes. I saw my first Broadway play, Beauty and the Beast, when I was 8. I fell even more in love with performing and for the next several years took part in local children’s theatre. While I enjoy all types of theatre, I prefer musicals. I have seen a fair number, my favorites being, “Wicked”, “Avenue Q”, “Hairspray”, “Beauty and the Beast” (of course), and “Phantom of the Opera”, to name a few. Obviously none of this information makes me a professional critic or performer, but based on my experiences, I feel like I know what I’m talking about to some extent.

“Honeymoon in Vegas”
Plot:
 This story was originally a non-musical film released in 1992 starring Nicholas Cage, Sarah Jessica Parker, and James Caan. I’m not sure how closely the musical follows the movie. Jack and Betsy have problems due to Jack’s commitment issues stemming from a “curse” his mother placed on him. They decide to get married in Vegas and wild adventures ensue.
Notable Cast: Tony Danza played Tommy Korman – James Caan’s role.
Thoughts: This show did not seem like Broadway caliber to me. For example, there were a few instances of microphone wires falling off the actors. It was very noticeable, and even more noticeable when other actors would try to remove the wires from their co-stars, or pick them up off the ground. Another issue was when Betsy had a quick costume change. The actress missed her cue to come back on stage and there was an awkward silence before someone tried to cover. She arrived a moment later with her dress almost completely unzipped in the back, being held up by just a belt, which later popped off. Another actress tried to zip up the dress as the scene continued, but was only halfway successful. There were several actors visibly laughing, which made the whole show seem very unprofessional. I was disappointed with Tony Danza’s performance. I’m almost certain he was sick. He was very quiet, had no energy, & looked ashen. I listened to his performance on Spotify & he sounded excellent, although I suppose that could’ve been AutoTuned. 
Best Songs: “Anywhere but Here”, “Honeymoon in Vegas – Finale” 

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”
Plot: “Gentleman’s Guide…” is the story of Monty Navarro, a poor young man who, after his mother’s death, finds out he is part of an illustrious local family – The D’Ysquith Family. This makes him 9th in line to be Lord D’Ysquith. Hoping to impress his spoiled love interest, Sibella, Monty informs her of this amazing news. He’s sure the family will welcome him in but of course, the wealthy family has no interest in acknowledging another heir. Upon hearing of his rejection, Sibella marries a more wealthy suitor. Determined to prove to Sibella and anyone else who might doubt him, Monty sets out on a nefarious mission to quickly shorten his line to the top. Does he get away with murder(s) & win Sibella back or does the law catch up with him?!
Notable Cast: I didn’t recognize any of the cast but I’d like to especially applaud Jefferson Mays. He played the entire D’Ysquith Family – men & women. It was a great casting choice.
Thoughts: While I thought the Cast was extremely talented and the plot was creative and well written – I didn’t connect with this show. It was hard to find the characters sympathetic or relatable because they were murderers, liars, cheaters, and the like. In a strange twist, I would highly recommend this show, but I wouldn’t want to see it again unless I was taking someone that had never seen it before.
Best Songs: None. I didn’t download any of the songs, like I said, I didn’t connect with this show.

“Kinky Boots”
Plot: Kinky Boots is another musical based on a film – based on the true story – of a young man named Charlie who takes over his father’s shoe making company and has to find a way to modernize the company or lose everything. With the help of a sassy drag queen named Lola, Charlie figures out his niche market and grows up along the way.
Thoughts: I really wanted to love “Kinky Boots” because I like the message of finding yourself amidst chaos and learning tolerance. Sadly, the level of professionalism just didn’t live up to Broadway caliber for me. Maybe my standards are too high, but I believe for as much as it costs to see a show on Broadway & as rigorous as the audition/rehearsal process is, the cast should blow me away. I was cringing at parts of this performance. The dancing was sloppy, the singing was pitchy, & I’ve seen more convincing drag queens on episodes of Law & Order. I realize they didn’t hire actual drag queens for the show, but think of all the time they spent rehearsing! They should’ve been able to do anything in those heels! Cyndi Lauper wrote the music/lyrics & you can definitely tell. If you’re a fan, you’ll enjoy the music at least. I can only pick out Notable Cast for bad reasons so I’m not going to name names because I don’t think that’s fair, they may have been having a bad day. Talent will win out, if they truly are not a great performer, they won’t be cast as often in the future.
Best Songs: “Take What You Got”, “The History of Wrong Guys”, “Step One”, “Raise You Up/Just Be”, “Land of Lola”

“Matilda”
Plot: “Matilda” is a musical based off a movie – based off a book by Roald Dahl. Matilda is a super smart girl born into a family of losers who just don’t understand her. As she grows up she learns just how very special she is & how she can take control of her destiny & help those she loves.
Notable Cast: The entire cast was truly amazing from the smallest child to the few adult actors. Think about the attention span you had at age 7, could you have been the lead in a Broadway musical?!
Thoughts: I’m sure I read the book but I don’t remember. “Matilda” was one of my favorite movies growing up so I had REALLY high expectations for this show…& they were beyond met! It was so epically amazing. They perfectly combined the magic of a well executed stage performance with Dahl’s story and classic scenes from the film. The dancing and singing was on point from every member of the cast. One issue I had was the pitch of the children’s voices. Sometimes their little voices were so high pitched you couldn’t really decipher what they were saying. In a hilarious twist of fate, one of the scenes in “It’s Only a Play”, pokes fun at that. I wasn’t completely in love with the music, but the script/lyrics were clever and the story was relatable to audiences of all ages. The staging/use of props was incredible. Some of the tricks they used to create the wild adventures Matilda goes through were so amazing. My words can’t even do it justice here. I laughed & cried. If you’ve ever been a weird misunderstood kid, or heck, adult – you have to see “Matilda”.
Best Songs: “Miracle”, “When I Grow Up”, “Naughty”

“It’s Only a Play”
Plot: “It’s Only a Play” is the story of a group of friends and random associates that work (or want to work) in various facets of the entertainment industry. They’re celebrating the opening night of a new play. Hilarity ensues as reviews come in, tensions rise, and egos explode.
Notable Cast: OH MY GOSH!!! I was literally 50 feet from Martin Short, Matthew Broderick, Stockard Channing (Rizzo from Grease), & F. Murray Abraham (Salieri from Amadeus)! The cast had some rotating parts, Martin Short had just taken over his role from Nathan Lane – but he’ll return (which they make fun of in the play) & I JUST missed seeing Rupert Grint (RON FROM HARRY POTTER!!!!).
Thoughts: While this play had a lot of big names I recognize and respect, I didn’t really care about seeing it because it’s only a play (pun intended) & as I mentioned earlier, I generally prefer musicals. However, I’m so happy I saw this! The script was originally written in the 1980’s but had been rewritten for today’s audience and it was truly hilarious. They referenced pop culture, everything from snarky remarks about other Broadway shows all the way to the Kardashians. It was awesome to see actors of this quality perform, play off each other, & interact with the audience. I highly recommend this show, especially if you’re at all familiar with the entertainment industry & pop culture.

Official Ranking – in order of what you SHOULD see to what you could check out if you have time…
1. Matilda
2. It’s Only a Play
– Based on talent and level of professionalism, I would move “Gentleman’s Guide” to spot 3 and “Honeymoon” & “Kinky Boots” would tie. However, I decided to base this ranking on fun, how much I enjoyed the music, and how much the show resonated with me, so the ratings stand as thus. While they had their good moments, I doubt I will see these last 3 shows again in the future. I only rated “Honeymoon…” & “KB” above “Gentleman’s Guide…” because I see a ton of room for improvement. I could possibly be persuaded to see them again with the hopes that they were better the next time. “Gentleman’s Guide…” however, was already a very talented performance, I just didn’t connect with it.
3. Honeymoon in Vegas
4. Kinky Boots
5. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

Have you seen any of these performances? Will you now? What are your favorite musicals or plays? Let’s chat below in the comments! I’d love to hear any recommendations you might have for me. Please FOLLOW me here to get email notifications when I post. Thanks!

Harry Potter Gift Guide!

It’s here! My latest post on tnt-tauna.com!
I’ve put together a little Harry Potter Gift Guide to help my fellow Potterheads find the perfect gift this holiday. Or, more likely, this gift guide will help the struggling Muggle to find the perfect gift for the Potterhead in their life. Let me know what you think either here or on the Gift Guide post itself!

As always, please follow me on…
tnt-tauna.com
this blog you’re currently reading
& on Twitter/Instagram @missal_leigh

Thanks!

Book Review! The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Courtesy of goodreads.com

Courtesy of goodreads.com

As a huge Harry Potter fan, I was nervous yet excited to read other J.K. Rowling novels. I was a bit disappointed that this was so far down on my reading list, but fate stepped in & a family friend gave it to me to borrow, so that immediately bumped it to next on the list! I had somewhat high expectations but I didn’t know exactly what I was expecting, after all, this couldn’t be another Harry Potter, but I figured the writing would still be excellent, despite hearing from my mom, the person that lent me the book, and another family friend, that this novel was complete and utter rubbish. Without further ado…

Plot: No spoilers here. To spoil this book would take a post that would undo the fabric of the internet because it would be so long. There are about 8 million characters in this book, and they can be hard to keep track of. I ended the book only mixing up two couples still, which I think is pretty good, as I had everyone else, their looks and their backstory, pretty much nailed down.
At its core, the book revolves around a small town, the people that inhabit it, and what happens to them when a major member of their community suddenly passes away. This book deals with sex, drugs, death, professional malpractice, and all sorts of other sordid, depressing topics and only ends semi-happily. The stories revolve around teenagers, their parents, and their grandparents, but there are no real main characters. Each character bounces from page to page, sometimes Rowling wouldn’t full on reveal that the characters were interacting, she’d be telling the story of one character & say, for example, “A small boy watched from the corner of the room, frowning”, then in another chapter she’d say, “Robbie stood in corner, frowing” & it was up to you to realize, “Ooohh hey! He’s the small boy from that other chapter!” Not all of these references mattered, but it just solidified that they were from the same town and in each others lives, even if THEY didn’t realize it.

Thoughts: The idea that the people in the town didn’t really realize they were all connected brings me right into what I thought about the story. I think that’s really the message Rowling was trying to tell, that we’re all connected and everything we do touches the people in our community. One action or non action creates a string of events that can help or hurt someone further down the line. These people were mostly busy trying to tear each other down, they didn’t see how they were hurting their children, so the kids acted out, and didn’t realize how their actions would change the course of the futures around them. I think most of the characters thought they were doing the right thing. No one was particularly despicable to me or particularly likeable, they all just seemed like really real people. Stupid teens, gossipy old ladies, victims of unhappy lives. There were a few characters to root for, but you knew it was either going to end sadly, or way too bubble gum happy, neither a very satisfying ending, but for me, I’d choose realism any day.

One important topic I’d like to touch on was brought up by someone that read the book before me and referred to it as “pornographic” and thought the Rowling was trying WAY too hard to make the book adult, to the point that the material was disgusting & the reader could barely get through the book. Hmm…I’m not sure what other books this person is reading, but I have to disagree wholeheartedly! Yes, there’s sex, but it’s barely graphic! At most it’s like, “He got on top of her and the bed began creaking”, there’s no description of the acts or anything!
This book kept me thoroughly entertained, I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up most of a night trying to figure out what madness would happen next and what would happen to these characters. They characters themselves don’t really touch a place in my heart that made me care for them, but I guess I was looking at it from more of a writer’s perspective, like, where would Rowling take these stories next!? Yes, this is much different from Harry Potter, there is no magic here, only the cruel real world, but there is light at the end of this tunnel too. Despite the death and destruction caused by these characters, Rowling manages to show that there is good in everyone, we just have to look for it, and sometimes, help bring it out.
One other thing, the way this book is written is very visual to me, I could definitely see this as a movie & with Rowling’s history, that’s a very big possibility. It was funny though because I kept imagining certain characters as the Dursleys or students of Hogwarts, as portrayed in the Harry Potter films. Guess my imagination wasn’t working too hard on this one :/

Overall rating: B.