‘Casual Vacancy’ TV finale airs in U.K. to mixed reviews

Still from Episode 3 of 'The Casual Vacancy'

Still from Episode 3 of ‘The Casual Vacancy’

The finale for the three-part adaption of J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy aired Sunday night on BBC One in the U.K.

According to the Guardian, the final episode drew in 4.6 million viewers, down from 4.8m with the previous episode and the series peak of 6.6m viewers for the premiere.

In terms of response, the episode (and series as a whole) received mixed reviews from critics, most of whom praised the actors but criticized the series’ story and plot development. A lot of fans of the book were disappointed with the show’s ending, which departed from the novel’s ending. However, fans were warned of this difference, as screenwriter Sarah Phelps expressed her aversion of the book’s “grim” ending before the show even premiered.

Spoiler Alert – Excerpts from the Independent‘s review of the episode:

While the cast were superb and the cinematography luscious, the show floundered without ever really working out what it was and you couldn’t help but feel that Rowling’s novel had been rather shoehorned into the three hours.

Sadly it was just all too predictable. Krystal’s junkie mother cleaned up her act before going back to the drugs, Howard had an affair then a heart attack, and almost every character was lumbered with a minor personal revelation in the last 15 minutes.

Finally, after the show, The Casual Vacancy author J.K. Rowling tweeted this message to the series screenwriter and director:

The Casual Vacancy will premiere in the U.S. on HBO on April 29.

‘J.K. Rowling: A Bibliography’ offers new insight into the Harry Potter books

The cover of J.K. Rowling: A Bibliography (1997-2013) by Phillip W. Errington.

The cover of J.K. Rowling: A Bibliography (1997-2013) by Phillip W. Errington.

Last week, Bloomsbury Publishing’s Academic imprint published Phillip W. Errington’s J.K. Rowling: A Bibliography (1997-2013), offering fascinating insight into the publishing of Harry Potter.

Chronicling the literary history of J.K. Rowling’s works, the book features every edition of Rowling’s books, from the first edition of Philosopher’s Stone to The Cuckoo’s Calling. Along with descriptions of the individual editions, the bibliography includes edits and corrections made by Rowling and her editors, as well as extensive quotes from Nigel Newton, founder and chief executive officer of Bloomsbury Publishing.

The author of the bibliography, Phillip Errington, spent five years gathering the information that fills the 544-page volume. He spent time in Bloomsbury archives, speaking with anyone involved in the series from the early days until today.

Bloomsbury’s website advertises the book with the following synopsis:

This is the definitive bibliography of the writings of J. K. Rowling. In addition to complete bibliographic details of each edition of all her books, pamphlets and original contributions to published works, there is detailed information on the publishing history of her work, including fascinating extracts from correspondence, and information on Rowling at auction. This will be the first source on Rowling consulted by textual scholars, book dealers and collectors, auction houses, critics and researchers. The aim of the book is to record fact and dispel rumour on the fascinating publishing history of the Harry Potter series.

J.K. Rowling herself praised the book, saying, “As someone who respects comprehensive research, I am in awe of the level of detail and amount of time Philip Errington has dedicated to this slavishly thorough and somewhat mind-boggling bibliography.

The Guardian offered highlights of the book in their review, including J.K. Rowling’s revelation of alternative titles for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Harry Potter and the Death Eaters, Harry Potter and the Fire Goblet and Harry Potter and the Three Champions. In addition, Errington shares many notable stories in the book, like the handing over of the manuscript for Order of the Phoenix. 

[Christopher] Little [J.K. Rowling’s agent, 1997-2011] summoned [Nigel] Newton [C.E.O. of Bloomsbury] to The Pelican pub in Fulham for a drink, he told Errington – Newton knew the meeting could be significant, as the location was where Little had delivered the previous book to Bloomsbury. “So I drove to The Pelican, a pub off the Fulham Road not far from Stamford Bridge, in a state of high alert. And I went in and there was a massive Sainsbury’s plastic carrier bag at this feet … he said nothing about that and I said nothing and he just said ‘Drink?’ and I said, ‘a pint, please’. So we stood at the bar and drank our pints and said nothing about Harry Potter. But when we left I walked out with the carrier bag. It was a classic dead letter drop,” said Newton.

For likewise stories, purchase J.K. Rowling: A Bibliography (1997-2013) from Bloomsbury Publishing today, £67.50. The book will be available from April 23 in the United States, $128. If you are interested, pre-order the book here.

Don’t forget! Next month, Little, Brown will publish Very Good Lives, the text of J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard Commencement Address in book form.

Pottermore adds new Beautification Potion and Bertie Botts Badge

This week, Pottermore added a new potion and achievement badge to the site for users to enjoy.

On Thursday, Pottermore published its Guide to Potions Class to the Insider, which gives helpful hints to aspiring Potion Masters. Along with this guide, once again Pottermore shortened the length of time it takes to brew a potion, and they changed the number of house points a potion is worth.

Most significantly, they added Zygmunt Budge’s Beautification Potion, straight out of the Book of Potions. It is a two-part potion that takes at least an hour and a half to brew, depending on your cauldron. Ingredients for the potion cost a total of 24 galleons and include the “Perfect Rose” and “Morning Dew”. It is worth 40 house points, so its well worth the time and effort!

In honor of Ron Weasley’s birthday, Pottermore made a new “Bertie Bott’s Collectors Badge” available to users to earn.

beansFrom the Insider:

From the disgusting (fish, phlegm, troll bogies and tripe) to the delicious (chocolate, cherry, marshmallow and marmalade), every mouthful is a risk when it comes to Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans. In celebration of Ron’s birthday today, we’ve a present he would certainly relish: you can now earn our new Bertie Bott’s Collectors Badge by finding 35 Every-Flavour Beans on pottermore.com. If you’ve a sweet-tooth you may already have discovered 30, but we’ve just hidden five new flavours in Moments across the site – can you sniff them all out?

For help, Pottermore offered a hint to finding one of the new beans: “it’s delicious (although not quite Drooble’s) and its flavour is Moste Potente…” and encourages users to keep an eye on their Moment progress bar to look out for Moments that are not complete now because of the beans.

Visit Pottermore.com to enjoy these new updates, along with never-before released from J.K. Rowling about the world of Harry Potter.

‘Casual Vacancy’ premiere receives 6.6 million viewers, praised by critics

Michael Gambon as Howard Mollison in the television adaption of J.K. Rowling's novel, The Causal Vacancy.

Michael Gambon as Howard Mollison in the television adaption of J.K. Rowling’s novel, The Causal Vacancy. Courtesy of BBC.

The television adaption of The Casual Vacancy premiered yesterday on BBC One to an average of 6.6 million viewers, the highest-rated program in the time slot.

Peaking at a total viewership of 7.3 million, The Casual Vacancy came out on top for its time slot with higher ratings than ITV’s Mr. Selfridge (3.2 million viewers) and Channel 4’s Indian Summers (2.5 million), a colonial drama starring Julie Walters, who starred in the Harry Potter films as Molly Weasley.

In addition to the high ratings, the program received primarily favorable reviews from critics, who praised it as a fine adaption of a not-so-stellar book. The Telegraph writes in their review, “…The performances are uniformly good, the direction is inventive, and there’s an undeniable topicality and panache to this adaptation that convinces you that just around the corner something will pull it all together and make it succeed.

The Causal Vacancy returns next Sunday, February 22 at 9pm.

Did you tune into The Casual Vacancy? What did you think? Comment below!

Partner: An Interview with Bryony Evens – The Woman Who Discovered Harry Potter

Our friends at Always J.K. Rowling recently interviewed Bryony Evens, “the woman who discovered Harry Potter.” Bryony worked as a reader of “unsolicited manuscripts” at Christopher Little Literary Agency, who represented J.K. Rowling through the publication of the Harry Potter novels until 2011. On the job, Bryony came across J.K. Rowling’s submission and pushed for the agency to sign the new author, even though they did not represent new children’s book authors. That was 18 years ago, and we now have Bryony Evens to thank for the Harry Potter phenomenon.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

What stood out about J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” manuscript?

Two things – the book arrived in a folder, which had a clamp binding, which I’d never seen before. This caught my eye and made me look at the synopsis and standard three chapters which had been sent in. I started reading the manuscript and loved the tone of voice. When I got to the line about how Mrs Dursley had called to tell Mr Dursley that Dudley had learned a new word (“Shan’t!”) I giggled and realised I was on to something good! It took me back to a time when I was a kid, reading Diana Wynne Jones’ Charmed Life ‘illegally’ under the bedclothes with a torch, long after lights-out time, and giggling at the scene in the church when all the stained-glass windows and stone statues come to life! Once I’d read the whole thing, it ticked all the boxes for the sort of books I enjoy: detective story, school story, magical excitement, the fairy tale discovery that someone’s family background is not what they thought it was – and of course there was a train in it too!

How has Harry Potter & J. K. Rowling personally affected you?

Thinking about it, it’s probably getting on for 20 years now since that first envelope arrived on my desk (20 years? Blimey! Where has THAT time gone?!) I’m immensely proud of my small part in the story of J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter, as it proves I know a good thing when I see it! Over the years since then, I’ve met Jo 4 times, and have had lots of lovely opportunities to do exciting things which would never have happened without me playing my part in the story…

To read the full interview with Bryony Evens, visit Always J.K. Rowling. You can also watch Bryony present her story here.


J.K. Rowling on Twitter: Patronus test coming soon to Pottermore

Back in September, J.K. Rowling hinted on Twitter at the possibility for a function on Pottermore that would allow users to find out their Patronus. Today, the Harry Potter author confirmed that a Patronus test is in the works and will make its way on the site soon.

A fan tweeted at J.K. Rowling, asking, “Is a Patronus quiz for Pottermore ever going to be created?” The author’s response:

So, the long-awaited test will soon be a reality! Since Pottermore’s launch in 2011, lots of fans have asked for the option to choose their Patronus. This is the first substantial news reporting that the option is coming, besides the tweet in September.

Screenshot 2015-02-12 at 06.35.23 PMWhen Pottermore released Moments from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in October, fans were disappointed that the site did not include the opportunity to choose a Patronus, as the fifth book is when Dumbledore’s Army is taught how to perform the Patronus Charm. However, in the moment from chapter 27, in the margin of the illustration, there is a text box and artwork titled, “Expecto Patronum,” saying, “It’s forming…”, hinting at something to come.

Along with this Patronus tweet, this past week J.K. Rowling answered a few fans’ Harry Potter-related questions on Twitter. The author shared the fate of Hagrid’s dog, Fluffy, and this 140-character history of 12 Grimmauld Place. She answered a question about Horcruxes and the Resurrection Stone, too. But, she didn’t stop there, commenting on the television special, Magic Beyond Words, a 2010 biographical film on her own life (1, 2). And she also replied with this amazing response to a question about writer’s block. Lesson learned, keep an eye out on her Twitter — you never know what’s she’s going to say.

What are you looking forward to with the Patronus test? How do you think the test will be set-up? Tell us in the comments below!

Pottermore announces winner of Proudest House Contest

proud1Last month Pottermore News reported on Pottermore’s Proudest House Contest, in which Pottermore fans posted their displays of Hogwarts House Pride on social media over the weekend; the winner was determined by whichever House delivered the highest amount of mentions.

This week, Pottermore announced the winner of the contest and the substantial prize of 1 million house points — Slytherin! Between the four houses, each representing a Hogwarts house on Pottermore, Slytherin sent in 37% of the messages on social networks including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. Gryffindor and Ravenclaw each accounted for 23% of the messages, while Hufflepuff contributed 17%.

In a fair action, Pottermore rewarded both Gryffindor and Ravenclaw with 230,000 points and Hufflepuff with 170,000. However, only members of Salazar’s house received this special message:

Pottermore fans participated in the Proudest House Contest over a Celebration of Harry Potter weekend at Universal Resort in Orlando, Florida, the location of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park. The celebration brought together fans and official Potter people alike, including cast and crew from the films and representatives from Pottermore and the Harry Potter Studio Tour.

Echoing our favorite author, we say, “Congratulations, serpents!” The seventh Pottermore House Cup competition is well underway; it will be a few more months until Pottermore announces the winner. So, get brewing and dueling!

Link: Read the official announcement on the Pottermore Insider.

Trailer released for ‘The Casual Vacancy’ television miniseries

This week, BBC One released the trailer for the upcoming television adaption of J.K. Rowling’s novel The Casual Vacancy, which premieres on the channel February 15 at 9 p.m.

Below, in the trailer, we catch a glimpse of what’s coming to the seemingly idyll town of Pagford.

BBC also released the first preview for the show, which is focused on the news of Barry Fairbrother’s death spreading throughout the town.  Harry Potter film actor Michael Gambon is featured in the clip as Howard Mollison, owner of the town deli and father of Miles, whom Howard is persuading to run for the vacant Parish council seat left by Barry Fairbrother.

The Casual Vacancy premieres a week from this Sunday, on February 15 at 9:00 p.m. GMT.

Harry Potter ebooks now available on Oyster with Pottermore partnership

J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore has partnered with ebook service Oyster to make all Harry Potter- related books by J.K. Rowling available to subscribers.

For the first time, electronic editions of the seven Harry Potter books and the three selections in the Hogwarts Library collection are accessible through a service other than the Pottermore Shop. With an Oyster subscription of $9.95 a month, customers can read the Harry Potter titles along with thousands of others in the Oyster library. Oyster is only purchasable in the United States.

Subscribers can access the books with the latest version of the Oyster app, version 1.9 and ¾ – available in the App Store and Google Play. To go along with the Harry Potter theme, Oyster released new reader themes for the four Hogwarts houses. Users can choose their house theme, either Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, or tap the Sorting Hat icon to have one selected at random.

"House Themes", inspired by the Hogwarts houses, as seen on Oyster.

“House Themes”, inspired by the Hogwarts houses, as seen on Oyster.

In addition to all this, Oyster is dedicating this week’s edition of their review publication to Harry Potter. In a preview article released today, young adult novelist Lauren Oliver writes about her experience with the Potter books.

While the whole collection is offered at a reasonable monthly price under $10, ebook editions and digital audiobooks of the series are still available to purchase at the Pottermore Shop. Once purchased, the file can be transferred onto a maximum of eight devices. The series is priced at $57.54 from the Shop.

Do you have Oyster? Will you be subscribing to read the books? Tell us in the comments below.

Pottermore announces Proudest House contest

Via Pottermore Insider

Via Pottermore Insider

Last week, Pottermore announced their Proudest House Contest, in which the four Hogwarts Houses represented on pottermore.com have the chance to win 1 million House points.

During ‘A Celebration of Harry Potter’ at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida, Pottermore wants everyone to show their house pride in any way you can on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. Make sure to hashtag the posts with your house, whether it be #HufflepuffPride, #Gryffindor Pride, #RavenclawPride, or #SlytherinPride. If you don’t, the submission won’t count.

From the Insider:

The house with the most displays of pride across these social channels during the #HPCelebration weekend will win one million house points – it could be a real game-changer for the next House Cup Championship! There may even be extra house points awarded for particularly imaginative and creative contributions.

As we can’t wave our wands to count up the weekend’s results, we’ll evaluate your TAGGED house pride submissions and announce the victorious house on Thursday, February 5.

The official terms are available here. The Pottermore Proudest House Contest will take place between 12am EST (5am GMT) January 30 to 11.59pm EST February 1 (4am GMT February 2). Again, the winning house will be announced February 5.

Pottermore is also advertising the chance to “step inside” your Hogwarts Common Room at the Pottermore booth at ‘A Celebration of Harry Potter’. Fans will be able to create their own moving photograph, like those featured in the world of Harry Potter, and then upload it to social media to count in the competition.

So, get ready to show your House Pride! The contest commences on January 30…


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