Well, it's mid-November which means Thanksgiving (Yay!), Black Friday (Boo!), and of course the newest addition to the Hunger Games film series and, this time around, it will be the last. There will be tons of terrible withdrawal from fans, I assure you. Unlike the Potter series where the author decided to write a trilogy of prequel movies to keep their world alive, Hunger Games looks like it's going the direction of The Hobbit/Tolkien franchise where we'll be giving the series and those that created it a wet and blubbering goodbye.
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* sniff * The pain is real.
My own introduction to the dystopian series started before the films came out and the book series itself was coming to its peak of popularity. It was a pleasant surprise to read a Young Adult book that kept the typical easy-to-read format, yet didn't dumb itself down or not take its audience seriously. It didn't focus on the primary focus of the series, being that a boy and girl from each 'district' must kill each other until one remains, but looked more at why a dystopia had come to this point. The popularity it had garnered with the teenaged audience who had only years before fawned over the somehow famous Twilight series was encouraging without a doubt. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that The Hunger Games is one of the best Young Adult series of the past decade.

The strongest point of the entire series rests on the shoulders of its relatable, strong female protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. She immediately proves, when we meet her in both the books and the movies, that she is not your typical teenaged heroine. She is a responsible individual, both out of necessity and love for her family. We learn that her father died in a coal mining accident which sent her mother into a deep depression, leaving Katniss to provide for her mother and younger sister at a young age. Even when her mother recovered, she hunted to make sure they (including other less fortunate families) got fed. When her little sister, Prim, is chosen in the lottery that decides who participates in the 'games', Katniss takes her place knowing her sister has little chance of surviving. Her self-reliance gives her an excellent advantage in the games, but her willingness to reach out for help from those she trusts when it's needed most also helps her to survive. That balance mixed with her determination to fight for what's right gets her back home.
Before I go on, I'll address something that I know many of my fellow geeks are itching to comment about. The Hunger Games is almost exactly like Battle Royale. I'll concede that. The plot of the first book is nearly identical with a few elements changed around. But there are things that are not addressed or explored in Battle Royale that Hunger Games delves into, not just giving it a different enough voice but making the audience more uncomfortable. Battle Royale is certainly violent and unflinching when it comes to showing what's basically kids killing each other but Hunger Games makes those running the games and being entertained so unnervingly similar to its own audience, they are ignorant and materialistic in ways that we can't help but think of ourselves. Hunger Games makes a strong statement about the attitude and habits of our society by exploring real-world problems that need to be addressed, especially with our younger generations. Where Battle Royale stopped, Hunger Games digs deeper.

If I had a nickel for every time Hunger Games has been put under a microscope for the themes it explores, I would be on my own personal island making the cast of the Firefly act out more episodes for my amusement. The series takes a jab at some rather unsavory things about our media-centered nation as well as global issues that are being discussed amongst the worlds greatest minds.

It's not hard at all to see that Hunger Games is unhappy with our media culture, from the gaudy talk show with an over exuberant host to the reactions of an audience who have the audacity to feel anything for the people they are going to send, essentially, to their deaths. This same audience gets fed coverage of the 'games' and surrounding districts that is heavily biased and only feeds their own selfish desires. Sound familiar?

Many political implications could be taken as well. The audience of the games that I was talking about all live in 'The Capital' where they live off of the resources that come from surrounding districts who often live in poverty and under a police state. They are a perfect example of the higher class looking down on the lower class and doing nothing. While horrific things happen to the people who are responsible for getting them food, clothing, and pretty much everything they require in their worry-free lives, they watch a game where these very people die one after the other for entertainment.

In real life, we certainly don't allow people to be killed in such a manner, but we watch people get killed everyday all over the world for multiple reasons on our TV screens. All while passing unfair judgements, criticizing, or feeling empathetic shortly before forgetting them altogether.
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Geez, I'm depressing myself. Here have a pic of Katniss and Peeta's couple name.
I'm actually going to end my ranting here because this is all starting to feel too heavy for a typical blog post, but let me end with one last thing. The books took me on an emotional and thought provoking roller coaster that millions of other teens have now ridden. The movies presented visuals that are scarily close to what we see on the news everyday. My hope is that in a country where many of our younger generation are, generally, seen as being self-centered morons who only care about who becomes the next winner of 'The Voice', the Hunger Games series (both book and film) will be a well-made and gripping slap to their faces. The problems they see on the page or on the silver screen are not just fictional and there most definitely needs to be a revolution. Guess who lead the one in Hunger Games? A young woman who followed her conscience and wouldn't stand by while the world watched itself burn.

What are your thoughts on the Hunger Games? Did you catch any messages or themes that I didn't mention? Tell me about it in the comments. Also, are you excited to see the last addition to the series?
 
 
The last couple of weeks have been nothing short of magical for Potterheads! About four years ago, we all had that moment of realization that our beloved fandom had 'ended'. There were no more books or movies to be released and the end to the Potter Saga was just beautiful and perfect enough to give us all that much needed feeling of completion while at the same time leaving a small hole in all of our hearts. That's what happens when a writer doesn't just create excellent characters but entire worlds that their readers would desperately want to visit and play around in.

It would appear that Rowling isn't done playing with us.

Last week, the news of a stage play that will premiere July 30th, 2016 caught everyone by surprise. It's called 'Harry Potter and The Cursed Child' and will still follow our beloved protagonist but now he's all grown up with a job and a family. It would also appear that some focus will be given to his son, Albus, who goes to Hogwarts while struggling with the weight of his father's legacy.
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Bird-child?
My initial thought was how in the heck will they portray magic on stage? It's set to play at West End so I have no doubt that a nice budget will be given to them and it's not that hard for the Potter franchise to rake in the dollar bills, but there are still limits for what can be shown on stage. Will magic even be a strong component of the story in the play? It is set in the wizarding world so of course magic will be involved, but from what I've read in the plot descriptions we might be getting a more character-driven story that focuses on the relationship between Harry and his son.

My other thought was that this could be quite a depressing play for fans who've followed the franchise since childhood. I can already see myself watching a grown up Harry Potter go about a normal adult life (normal for a wizard, anyway) all while realizing how much I myself have grown up and become boring. And to see that while our hero saved the world, there were personal repercussions that effect not just him but his child who didn't even exist when everything with Voldemort went down is a downer for sure. Harry and his family should get the peace they deserve, dammit!

All the same, I'm too curious not to look into this play more and one day watch it for myself. Especially to see how magic is portrayed! The writers who worked with Rowling, the director and everyone involved in its production have excellent resumes. It's very possible that they've got a good thing going here, but we won't know until next summer.

In other news...
Everyone is going nuts over Entertainment Weekly releasing pictures from the upcoming film written by J.K. Rowling herself, depicting the adventures of Newt Scamander. When I heard about this film being written, I was ecstatic! As long as Rowling was writing it, I was happy. When I learned that most of it was going to take place in America I nearly passed out in excitement.

You have no idea how badly I've wanted to know more about what the wizarding world is like in the States. Ever since I read Goblet of Fire and got a glimpse at the Salem Witches' Institute my curiosity was piqued. As much as I loved the vast look at the world of wizards in the UK, I had to know more about the American side of wizard life. I had so many questions without any way to get an answer. Now I can get those answers!
JK Rowling
Direct me to where the American Wizarding school is, please! I'm past due for a much needed education.
Rowling has so far indicated that there is a sort of Hogwarts equivalent in America but that the Salem Institute is not it. She said its linked to Native Americans which leads me to believe that it is somewhere in the Midwest or Upper Southwest as there was once countless native tribes residing in those areas. My guess also comes from the fact that a wizarding school needs to be kept secret so what better place to have it than in the middle of nowhere. How crazy would it be if the schools were somewhere in North Dakota or Iowa?

But back to the movie -- the pictures don't reveal much that we didn't know already or about the plot itself. We know that Eddie Redmayne is playing Newt and we also know that the movie will take place in the 1920's in New York. The pictures reflect this fact with what looks like some beautiful set design and costuming! The 1920s provides some excellent visuals and I'm so happy that they're going all the way when it comes to looks and details.

One thing I did notice in the captions and the featured picture of the story is that America has a 'Magical Congress of the United States of America'. How freaking cool is that?! And it looks beautiful with the golden phoenixes behind Newt. I'd bet you anything that Phoenixes are American wizard versions of bald eagles.
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Admit it, you want this to be our national bird now.
Guys, there are no words to describe how excited I am for this film! We're not just returning to the wizarding world, but we're going to see a part of it that I've ALWAYS wanted to explore! There's absolutely no doubt as to where I'll be November 17th in 2016. In line at the theater, waiting for the stroke of midnight!

For more on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them check out its IMDB page HERE.


And to see all the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them pictures from Entertainment Weekly, check them out HERE.

 
 
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Recently, one of my favorite shows, Hannibal, got canceled. It ran for three seasons on NBC and was, IMO, the edgiest show on network TV. At first, I didn't panic. This being 2015, it seems like every canceled show gets picked up by either a digital outlet like Yahoo, Hulu, Amazon or an analog cable network like USA or SyFy. But when the show finally released the actors from their contracts, I knew it was over.

Mindy Project Crap
How is this crap is worth saving, Hulu?!?
I like closure. I need it in my entertainment! Even if it's just, "And then they all walked into the sunset." Is that asking too much? Now, Hannibal will just be added to the list of shows, books, and TV shows that I've invested time into without a satisfying ending (except the movies).
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The visual representation of media without closure in my heart and mind.
The only silver lining to this is that Hannibal show creator, Bryan Fuller, is now involved in bringing Neil Gaiman's celebrated novel, American Gods, to the small screen in the form of a TV series. I personally love American Gods, and honestly most everything else Neil Gaiman writes. Although, the adaptations of his work can be hit and miss (see Mirrormask, actually, don't).
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That's how I felt watching Mirrormask...
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If you aren't familiar with American Gods, then stop reading now (well, after you're done with this post) and download it to your e-reader with haste! It's a great, sometimes trippy, road trip tale in which all of its characters are different gods from throughout world history that inhabit the bodies of normal humans whom are struggling to survive in modern day America. It's a touching, sad, and well-paced story that is up there with some of the best modern fiction written in the last 15 years.

If you don't know anything about Bryan Fuller, then let me school you a bit. Bryan Fuller got his start writing on Star Trek shows Voyager and DS9. While not the best stuff in Star Trek canon, it's a great place to start and gets one some major geek points.

He went on to create some of TV's most inventive, create and visually vibrant shows: Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me, and Pushing Daisies. All three of those shows, like Hannibal, got canceled in their primes. This guy can't seem to get past a third season... even though, I believe he is one of the most original voices in TV today. 
Now, if you've read American Gods and seen any of Bryan Fuller's shows, you'll realize like I have that this pairing is a match made in heaven. So expect to see some mind-bending montages, insane visual sequences and hear some thought provoking dialogue. While it's true, American Gods is only one book; I think this is a good thing. It leaves room for a writer like Bryan Fuller to expand on the original material and may provide him a limited number of seasons to create a full satisfying series, which his fans, like me have yearned for since we started our fandom for him.
Expect to see a review of the pilot when it hits the air on Starz next year.
 
 
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I've made it pretty clear here that I'm a pretty big sci-fi fan, so I was excited this week to see the trailer for "The Martian" directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon.
This movie looks pretty darn good and hopefully is a return to form for Scott who pretty much invented the space thriller genre. In researching the movie, I found out it was based on a book with the same title by author Andy Weir.

I was surprised to learn, much like 50 Shades of Grey, this book first had its start online. It turns out that after putting in years of research, and getting rejected from every publisher he submitted to, Weir decided to put chapters of The Martian online for free in a serialized fashion. This method helped create a rabid fanbase for the material, and said fanbase convinced him to self publish his book and sell it on Amazon for 99 cents. Once it became a hit on Amazon, the big publishers began to take notice.

It's always inspiring to hear stories like this. It seems like Weir isn't too savvy with marketing and just made a good product that got noticed. It's also nice to see that good stuff can get noticed in a sea of sub-par fiction (50 Shades....).  I was quite inspired when researching the book as I saw it as a great example of perseverance in the face overwhelming rejection. Being that I am going into the creative field with my comics work, a story like Weir's is just the kind of story I need to surround myself with as I prepare to put my work 'out there.'

I just started reading The Martian and I must say, it is quite engaging and packed with science that isn't too hard to grasp. This will be my book club suggestion next month for sure.

Although reading the book will spoil the movie, in this case I don't mind, as I think Ridley Scott will have some surprises up his sleeve to make another edge of your seat classic. Plus add in a long list of talented actors in the cast and this will be the must see film of the fall movie season. You can read the book too by buying it on Amazon.
You can find out more about the book on Amazon. Use either link.
 
 
So I hosted a game night with the usual suspects the other day and like most of our events, we ended up abandoning what we originally planned to do in exchange for talking endlessly and way too seriously about topics concerning fandom.

Sorry, "Settlers of Catan," but we really needed to get into a heated debate about which hairstyle suited Sikozu from "Farscape" best.

Eventually, the conversation turned to our hopeless crushes on fictional characters. This type of discussion is nothing new, mind you, until someone (who will remain nameless) mentioned that they've had a crush on Abe Sapien for years. You can imagine our confused/slightly grossed out reaction to this piece of information. Especially when this person showed us that they were not alone by producing fan-fiction from a slew of different writers all over the Internet.

There are some things... you shouldn't make someone picture.
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Ewww. Just ew.
Then it was confession time. We became our own psychiatrists and went down a deep, dark rabbit hole of misplaced affection that we normally try to repress or ignore altogether. Turns out that we'd all experienced some kind of attraction to characters that most of us would consider less than savory if they actually existed, usually in more ways than one. So without further ado, here are but a few of the crushes we revealed to each other, and don't worry girls, the crushees will remain nameless.

10) Victor Von Doom from: "Fantastic Four" (2005) portrayed by Julian McMahon

PictureI bet you'll blink first.
I tried to be as open minded with everyone's taste in fictional men, but even after accepting Abe Sapien as a possible babe magnet, Doom was hard to swallow. Yes, he's not bad on the eyes, good bone structure and all that. But he's a villain in a pretty hard to watch superhero movie. And not the intriguing or complex kind of villain, but the mustache twirling, cat stroking, pun spewing, "I expect you to die, Mr. Bond" type of villain. The only way a crush on him would make any sense to me is in the over the top way in which McMahon played him. Like everything else in those movies, it was covered in cheese (usually not the good kind) and even I have to admit that Doom's intense glare felt less threatening and more like an eye "you-know-what-ing." The more evil Doom became the more vaguely sexual all of his growled lines seemed to become. To me, this made him unintentionally hilarious, but some women might have felt differently.

9) Sephiroth from: "Final Fantasy VII" & "Advent Children"

PictureMy hair is so 80s. Jel?
This one I can understand a bit. He's got a nearly perfect face with a classic Anime aesthetic to it, simply glorious hair, and a theme song that you can find in the dictionary under 'epic'. Personally, I've always found him a little too creepy and a thing or 'force' rather than a person, which makes sense in the grand scheme of the story (No I won't say this is a spoiler, the game came out almost 20 years ago for Christ's sake!). Even after he gets some development in Crisis Core, I couldn't get on board the Sephiroth Train. I do have to say that I admire the tenacity of anyone who can still say they like a character who is responsible for one of the most heinous murders in video gaming history, though. Oh, and there's the whole taking over the Planet thing too (Over a decade old, people. Get over it).

8) Jack Skellington from: "The Nightmare Before Christmas"

PictureWhat's this?
This is perhaps the most confusing. The normal physical attractions don't really apply here, except for him having good bone structure. See what I did there? If you're into tall, skinny guys than he may do something for you. He's also a good singer, and hey, all men look good in a suit. Personally, I think this one can be attributed to his love interest, Sally. If you're not familiar with the film, Sally has a thing for Jack, but he is oblivious to her feelings for him as he plans his takeover of Christmas. Every girl can relate to this, especially the teenaged Tim Burton lovers. Perhaps they relate so much with Sally that they develop a crush on Jack through association.

7) Sylar from: "Heroes" portrayed by Zachary Quinto

PictureCan you hear me now?
Now here's a psychotic killer who could give you one hell of a smolder. Sylar has a few things going for him: he's conventionally attractive, has an intensity that can absolutely be sexual, and is essentially trying to find his place in the world (something everyone can empathize with). Plus, dem eyebrows, *swooon*... Of course, none of this makes up for the fact that he cuts open peoples heads to absorb their powers. He also has major mommy issues, a red flag for lots of women, this one included. It's a real shame that the series didn't continue, because the creators were shaping up Sylar to be a sort of anti-hero who might possibly try to make up for the mistakes of his past (even though you can't really make up for being a serial killer who cuts people's heads open).

6) Ayoto from: "Diabolik Lovers"

PictureStay thirsty my friends.
Let me start off by saying that many different anime or manga characters could have ended up on this list. A good quarter of our conversation was spent discussing all of the horrible characters we've fallen for in that medium, but Ayoto was not only a crush we all shared, he was one we all seemed to want to admit the least. He's certainly good looking and he's a vampire, which has somehow become a Kryptonite for women these days. He's sure of himself and really seems to care for the protagonist, Yui, but these things come with some big “buts." He cares about Yui, but is extremely possessive of her and jealous of most interactions she has with others. He is sure himself to such an extreme that he calls himself the Japanese equivalent of "Yours Truly." He can also be flat out mean calling Yui 'Pancake' (in Japanese, it means: breastless) throughout the series. And did I mention the first thing he did when meeting her was sexually assault her? Yes, he has some backstory that makes his behavior more tragic than anything, but that's no excuse for loads of women to daydream of being a toy for him to play around with.

5) Draco Malfoy from: "Harry Potter" portrayed by Tom Felton

PictureBoo.
This is a crush that I'm against mostly out of principle rather than anything else. I can see that he's attractive, he's rich, and as the series progressed he became a character women probably thought they could 'fix.' This is all fine except for the fact that he's a giant d-bag. He's a spoiled brat who whines and complains when things don't go his way. He brags about how rich he is and how many people his father knows. Let's not forget that he makes fun of people for being poor, their bloodline status, and for having dead parents. Who does that? He does finally show some empathy by feeling bad about killing Dumbledore (Oh yeah, spoilers and stuff) but slinks away afterwards, deciding to not take action against Voldemort even though it's clear that he wants to. How I can still find OC fan-fiction of him after all these years is beyond my understanding.

4) Jamie Lannister from: "Game of Thrones" portrayed by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

PictureHold my sword?
I can't fault most of Jaime's fans for this one. He's introduced in the show as being witty, charming, and having a slight bad boy streak. He's a freaking knight in shining armor, for pete's sake! He may have killed the last king, but he sounded like an a-hole so who cares. Then BOOM! Incest. And shortly afterwards, BOOM! Attempted Child Murder. But we had already accepted him as our newest obsession! You can't just do that, "Game of Thrones!" He has sort of redeemed himself as the series has progressed, but then he keeps backsliding by sleeping with his sister, Cersei. This is especially frustrating as she becomes more and more psychotic and evil with each episode. Why do guys always go for the crazy ones? Especially when it's your crazy sister.

3) Khan from: "Star Trek: Into Darkness" portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch

PicturePopin' my collar.
Here's a simple truth: If you are a heterosexual female geek/nerd then you are obligated to crush on EVERY character Benedict portrays without question. Sorry, I don't make the rules. Besides the strangely inherent likeability that BC seems to bring to most of his roles, Khan has a lot going for him on his own. He's extremely intelligent, a natural leader, and if you're in his crew he will do everything in his power to keep you safe. But all of this means wreaking vengeance on Starfleet, most of whom are innocent people trying to make the universe a better place. Don't forget that getting what he wants for his crew apparently means, breaking helpless women's legs and crushing a man's skull with his bare hands. We also can't forget that he's responsible for the death of Spo-- I mean Kirk, albeit only for a short time.

2) Loki from: Marvel's "The Avengers" & "Thor" portrayed by Tom Hiddleston

PictureI'm reading fan-fiction about YOU!
Where should I start with this one? If you're privy to the events that occurred at San Diego Comic Con 2013, then you have an inkling of just how popular this guy is with the ladies. Personally, I do see the physical attractiveness here and having an affinity for leather outfits can subconsciously say a lot. He's a character that you can see becoming good again, but he never makes the decision to be. He'll ride the line forever and string you along for each and every moment of it. Despite all of the times that we've seen his sensitive side, we can't forget that he's done some messed up stuff. He almost got Thor killed many times and nearly destroyed New York City, probably killing hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the process. He's the God Of Mischief, if that's any indication that he's not trustworthy then I don't know what is.

1) Hannibal Lecter from: "Silence of the Lambs," "Hannibal Rising" & "Hannibal" portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, Gaspard Ulliel, & Mads Mikkelsen

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Bad at every age.
You'll want a thorough explanation, I'm sure. Hannibal is one of the most intriguing and disturbing characters of popular culture. He's a cannibalistic serial killer that shows absolutely no remorse for his actions. He plays and toys with people well beyond the point of too far for his own gain and sometimes amusement. Even the most recent actor to play him (Mikkelsen) , said that he plays him as a 'satanic figure.' Yet, despite all of this, we can't help but like him. He's sophisticated, refined in his interests, and he's stuck it to many people we definitely think deserved it (the original Dexter). If we were to meet him in person we would want him to like us, want him to think we're worthy of his time and attention. He's somehow both repulsive and alluring at the same time, definitely reminiscent of the Devil. Yeah, saying you have a thing for a character that is basically Satan makes him Number One on this list.
Well, can you guys top Hannibal freaking Lecter? What are some of the crushes you know you shouldn't have? Leave your comments below.
 
 
This past weekend, my friend Lisa was super excited to tell me about a sci-fi book she just read.  It was about a group of astronauts sent on a spaceship to destroy an asteroid on course to destroy earth.  In typical fandom-snob fashion, I scoffed as I usually do at little Lisa's 'discoveries.'

Because she's new to fandom, she never tells me about anything I haven't heard of before.  So as I began to tell her that the book was probably a rip off of the 1998 Michael Bay film "Armageddon," she smiled with glee, as she knew she finally one up'd me.
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In 1998, they left the woman on earth.
She told me the book was called "The Moon-Maker" and was written in 1916. Curious, I promptly downloaded it to my Kindle and began a voracious reading session.
PictureProfessor Gibbs
As I read, I was surprised to find an engaging sci-fi tale with a strong female lead named Professor Rhoda Gibbs. After much research, I realized that Professor Gibbs was probably the first sci-fi heroine.  So for that, I offer kudos to the co-authors Arthur Train and Robert Williams Wood. They were way ahead of their time.

For as good as this book was and so obviously trailblazing for it's time, I'm surprised that the book is not better known.  I think it's time to fix this. I highly recommend "The Moon-Maker" to everyone and if you like it, please tell others.  It offers a smart and strong female lead that pulls her own weight and contributes heavily to the mission. I think Professor Gibbs is a strong role model for any young woman that has any interest in science or math and is a more realistic role model than say, gun-toting Ripley from the "Alien" franchise.

One of my favorite bits in the book is when Professor Gibbs is introduced to the 'hero' of the book, Professor Benjamin Hooker. While they are sitting on a bench, Professor Gibbs, in a sneaky manner, solves a complicated math problem for Professor Hooker with ease and grace.

Now, "The Moon-Maker" is a sequel to another book called " The Man Who Rocked the Earth" that stars Professor Hooker, but it can be enjoyed without reading the first part.  If you'd like to "The Man Who Rocked the Earth," Amazon offers the annotated edition of "The Moon Maker" on Kindle, which includes both books. You can find a link below.   

You can find out more about the book on Amazon. Use either link.