Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling/ Jack Thorne /John Tiffany

I’d been so very torn about reading Cursed Child. When I heard that it came out, it was on my To-Buy list immediately, but then I started to hesitate when I saw the reviews. I didn’t want to spoil the magical world that I grew up with, so I put it off. Mentioning this to a friend (shout out to Amber!), she said she had a copy that I could borrow if I decided I wanted to give it a chance.

I’ll say within the first 30 pages, I knew I didn’t like it. Part of the reason was because I don’t prefer to read scripts- I don’t think I have a strong enough imagination to fully create the scenes described with only dialogue provided- so I struggled in that aspect. The other part was the way the plot was pushed along. It felt very fast (almost too fast) and emotionally charged, to where I felt as a reader that I wasn’t getting depth in the characters. JK Rowling put so much complexity into her characters and her writing, but we’re following the children of these characters she created, and we get very little depth on their character development. I could only superficially understand the “cursed child” syndrome, and in script form, Albus comes off full of angst and dramatics- circa Harry fifth year- so it made me dislike him almost immediately, whereas I’d rather like the main character.

Despite all that I will say overall, the script got more exciting the further I read on and the story overall is an interesting concept. A brief summary for those who haven’t read: Harry’s middle-child son, Albus Severus, dislikes being the famous Harry Potter’s Syltherin son. Albus overhears Cedric Diggory’s father asking Harry to use a time turner to go back to the Triwizard Tournament and prevent Cedric from dying at Voldemort’s hands- a request Harry denies. Albus decided to fulfill the request instead, and with his best friend Scorpius Malfoy  and Amos Diggory’s niece Delphini, they set out to change the course of history, each for their own personal gain.

To me, it felt like I was reading published fan fiction. It was entertaining, but I can’t quite accept it as canon (and as I’ve seen in other reviews, I’m not alone on this), and I really dislike that it’s considered the eight book in the Harry Potter series. It’s not a book, it’s a playscript, and there are so many little bits of information that do not correlate with the structures set by the preceding books.

So, answer the big question: to read or not to read? I say read, and take in the story with a grain of salt, as if you were reading any other fan fiction. It’s not going to ruin the world we know and love- it’s just going to give another alternative view.

 

 

 

 

 

The Life and Times by Jewels5

I’m going a little off track with this review today. As you all know, I’m a big Harry Potter fan, and I stumbled across this fan fiction about Lily and James Potter during their sixth year at Hogwarts.

So, you guys, real talk. It’s been 10 years since the last movie came out, and 20 years since the first book. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is wonderful, but has so far answered no questions about Harry’s parents or the Marauders, and Pottermore only gets you so far. So, like so many others, I’m left to reading fan fiction. While I usually only find short stories or a few pages worth entertaining, Jewels5 has practically written a novel for her followers. Therefore, I have yet to have time to crack another book in the past week- sidetracked, you could say, by the wizarding world again. Then again, with over ten thousand reviews, I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Now, with that being said, I do have some general critiques for Jewels5. The biggest thing that I have to say about The Life and Times is that the writing style is inconsistent and young. Reading this, I clearly felt older than what I imagine the average reader to be, based on the word choices and excess of dramatics. The writing starts out in a nice mix of narration and dialogue, but then quickly is overpowered by dialogue- much of which is like following bickering children (though I realize at times, this is the case with sixteen-year-old characters). It becomes tiresome, and much of it seems unnecessary to the root of the story, and this can also extend to include banter about dieting, who likes who, and other melodramatics. Jewels5 could have easily pared down her 50+ page chapters by deleting redundant dialogue.

The other thing that rather bothered me- and this may just be me- but the choices for chapter / title breaks in the action don’t relate much to the consecutive text. At first, I loved how she tried to connect the muggle music of the time period into the prose, but it seemed a stretch in any relation otherwise. As a huge classic rock fan, I first thought it would be neat combining the two… but by the fifth chapter, I was wishing it would stop.

Relating to that point, I also noted a lot of diction that wasn’t appropriate either for location, time period, or just for a general audience. The excessive use of the words “drama”, “angst”, “tart”, “F*ck”, “b*tch”, come to mind. I also disliked the overuse of certain words, such as “Agrippa” or “sodding”. The thing that I admire most about JK Rowling is that her writing always comes of as clever, not inappropriate, and on top of that, her word choice is extremely expansive, only repetitive when it counts. I’m not saying that the language offended me, but I’d rather read a witty innuendo instead, if you know what I mean.

I also disliked the amount of focus on the romantic relationships outside of the Lily and James relationship. I came here to read about Lily and the Marauders, not about the rando roommates and their conflicts. I understand the need for action and different types of characters to progress the story, but in all honesty, Jewels5 needs to prioritize her attention on the main characters and not the stock/ foil characters. The content of these superficial “highschool” type relationships is not something I want to spend hours reading about. Again, this is more likely her writing style and target audience, but when you are working within the magical world created by JK Rowling, one of which has a diverse following in different age ranges, this is going to stand out in a negative way.

Now on to the positive notes. There are so many moments that I really feel transported back to Hogwarts, and even a few are JKR reminiscent. Some of the James/Sirius banter is so clever that I can’t help but laugh out loud, and the canonical secondary character plots are pleasantly (although not exactly as I imagined or maybe not acceptably such) woven together. In Jewels5’s version of things, Neville Longbottoms’ parents are incorporated, as well at the Cattermole and McKinnon couples.

I also want to note that Jewels5’s writing gets better as she goes along, and the nice mix of dialogue and narration comes back together. Jewels5 has obviously done a lot of canon research and tried to hold true to JK Rowling’s work, and has stitched these points nicely into her narration. About half way through the chapter series (around chapter 18-19), things really start coming together for the plot lines and grab the reader’s attention, and the action that takes place is gripping.

Overall, I would say I’m rather on the fence about The Life and Times, and would suggest reading it only if you have time on your hands or are desperate for a little Marauders/ Lily & James/ new Harry Potter material.

If you are interested, here is the link: https://m.fanfiction.net/s/5200789/1/

If you have (already) read this, what are your thoughts?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saratoga Payback by Stephen Dobyns

When I checked this out of the library, I thought there was something familiar about it. Turns out, I’ve read another of Dobyns’ books, called Saratoga Backtalk. Both are ‘Charlie Bradshaw’ mysteries, where we follow private investigator Charlie as he tries to solve crimes in the horse industry. I know that the horse connection had a lot to do with picking them both out, but in all honesty, while reading these novels, you don’t care much about the horses. The reader is too wrapped up in the suspense of the mystery!

In Saratoga Payback, Charlie is officially a retired PI (something tells me there is more to that story but it isn’t discussed in depth in this novel), yet he can’t help getting involved in the murder mystery that actually drops on his doorstep. Mickey Martin is found dead on Charlie’s sidewalk outside his home with his throat slashed and his tongue cut out. Charlie can’t quite figure out why, but he has a hunch that someone wanted Mickey to stop running his mouth, and wanted Charlie to know it too. So, trying his hardest to not meddle in police business, being that he no longer has his PI license and could go to jail for investigating, he takes on the “concerned citizen” role and tries to figure out why Mickey was brutally murdered.

It’s a quick paced novel, and very funny despite the scary situation, what with all the vicious slashing going on. As I was reading Payback, it made me recall why I liked Backtalk. Dobyns’ character driven plots make it easy to follow along but leave enough mystery to keep you turning the page. Charlie’s easy going personality and witty banter with his clients, friends, family, and informants make these novels an enjoyable read.

 

Burn Town by Jennifer McMahon

“There is no someday. We spend so much of our lives waiting for someday, don’t we? There is only right now. This is our someday.”

Burn Town just made one of my top favorite books of the year so far. When I read ‘Winter People’, I remember liking it but not enthralled, but I’m glad I decided to try again with McMahon, because WOW.

Burn Town had me hooked in the first 10 pages. HOOKED. By page 35, I had a running list of questions, and by page 50, I couldn’t take my eyes off the page. There are very few books that I’ve read in one day, yet here I am, adding this suspense thriller to the list. I could not put it down.

The whole story starts with the murder of Elizabeth Sandeski, the grandmother of the main character, Necco (Eva). Necco’s father, Miles, witnesses the murderer take his mother’s life, and years down the road attempts revenge. Thanks to a machine that links the living with the dead, Elizabeth reveals who killed her, and Miles takes matters into his own hands- or so he thinks. Years after that, Necco’s mother has a sort of premonition that the family is in danger again, and Necco learns that she’s in danger just before things get foggy and her memories fade to black.

Now, Necco is on the run again with the help of a high school drug dealer, a circus-crazed cafeteria lady, and a part-time private investigator, trying to figure out who is after her and what happened to her family after “the Great Flood”. Everything Necco though she knew is nothing compared to the truth she uncovers.

Absolutely recommend the read, as long as you can handle the thrill of it!

 

Root, Petal, Thorn by Ella Joy Olsen

“I was the model of efficiency…by taking advantage of the greatest invention since bacon…audio-books.”

First off, this quote was my favorite part of the whole book. How spot on is that statement?!

Anyways, lets jump right in.

Ivy Baygreen is a recently widowed woman with two teens and a century old house. Prior to his sudden death, her late husband Adam had made plans to renovate and refurbish the old home to bring back it’s old charm and character. Now surrounded by the half-finished projects and memories of Adam, Ivy knows she needs something to pull her out of her grief. Her brother, Stephen, suggests making a list and sticking to it, so Ivy creates six steps, including finishing the house projects Adam started. As Ivy starts tackling these projects, she ends up finding “easter eggs” from the house’s past owners. Curious to learn about her beloved home’s past, Ivy finds that her heart wasn’t the first broken in the home.

Going back through the years, the reader is introduced to the home’s first owners, the Lansings. Sisters Emmeline and Cora are new to the Sugar House, UT area. Bringing along few posessions, including a rose bush, the sisters learn to love their new home and a few local young men. From there, we meet Bitsy, Cora’s daughter, who watches her father stuggle to keep the house as the Great Depression hits. After some time, Eris Gianopolous and her Greek family come to owning the home. We watch Eris and her husband update the home as well, Eris’s own form of therapy while she awaits her son’s return from Japan during World War II. Then during the 1960’s, we meet Lainey Harper, the most recent occupant of the Downington Avenue home. Struggling manic-depressive disorder, Lainey is desperate to be a good mother to her daughter Sylvie.

As all the ghost’s of the house come to surface, Ivy learns that “there is a little sad in every story”.

Personally, I liked the idea of this book more that the book itself. I liked the concept of the common plot line where the main character discovers something historical in the attic and connects it with the present, so the reader gets a historical flashback. However, while reading, the entries from the past are rather scattered, in my opinion. I think that would’ve made the climaxes to each storyline have a stronger impact if they had been in a more consistent order. Also, the same goes for the “chapters” being separated by character- I like that style, but there wasn’t a real order to the characters as their stories intertwined. Overall though, once you have all the storylines figured out at the end of the book, the parallels of love and strife come together nicely between all the characters.

All in all, it’s not a ‘keeper’ for the bookshelves, but it wasn’t a bad read. As someone who has recently bought a house, I can definitely relate to the ‘home renovation as therapy’ theme.

 

ATTENTION BOOK REVIEW BLOGGERS!

Hi Everyone!

So I’m relatively new to the blogging game, and this is my first blog that I’ve been disciplined enough to maintain. I’m really enjoying it, and it’s really heightened my reading experience now that I’m looking for good things to note in the next blog post. But as far as gaining an audience, I’m feeling pretty stuck.

I need some help. I’ve been sharing my blog on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, but I’m not getting many followers that way. And I’m not being follower-hungry, but I would like more interaction with my posts- you know, recommendations, discussions, that kind of thing. I have a few ideas about what I could try, but I was wondering what you all suggest?

Here are some of the things I’ve thought of trying:

  • Instagram- new account specifically for book covers with link to blog
  • Twitter- (I don’t do Twitter very well but) new account, tweet when new blog post available
  • Upgrading WordPress to a Personal or Premium plan

What do you think?

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Another recommendation from my friend from the stacks at the local public library.

The Nightingale took me a little time to get hooked on the story- it starts off rather slow (in my opinion). We are introduced to an unnamed elderly (but not old, as she would put it) lady who is reflecting on her life, and she eventually winds her way up to the attic and pulls out a memory box. Within the box, she finds documents dating back to World War II- specifically, identification papers of a Juliette Gervaise.

Trapped in the memory, the reader is taken back to France, 1939. We are introduced to Vianne Mauriac, a school teacher, mother, wife. On a perfectly normal day, she learns that her husband, Antoine, is being drafted to fight for France against the Germans. She is upset but permissive, believing that the talk of war is exaggerated and that he would be returning home soon. Imagining life without Antoine by her side was too much to think about for Vianne- after all, he had been there for as long as she could remember, certainly longer than her father had. Dealing with her own abandonment issues was Vianne’s younger sister, Isabelle Rossignol. Rebelling against the traditional French-woman behavior, Isabelle ran away to home far too often, causing her to be expelled from many boarding schools. After the death of her mother, her father had abandoned them by dumping them at a boarding school. Where Vianne found Antoine and befriended a girl named Rachel, Isabelle was left behind, the forgotten little sister. Now as a rebellious young adult, Isabelle is running for another reason- to survive the storm of Germans coming to occupy Paris.

As the start of the war happens, Vianne and Isabelle can’t let go of the hurt from their past. With varying views on the German occupation, Isabelle decides to join the war effort by secretly aiding the Allies, and Vianne takes a more passive route, complying with billeting soldiers in her home and abiding the German command. As the war wages on, the two seem to lead separate lives. Vianne attempts to stay her ground, doing her best to protect her daughter Sophie from the damages of war, and her neighbors when she can, all the while trying to maintain hope that the war will end soon. Meanwhile, Isabelle is running risky operations to save downed Ally airmen, a crime punishable by death, under the noses of commanding German officers. It is only when their two worlds collide again that the sisters begin to realize that they must put aside their past and hope to have a chance at a future.

Hannah took about 100 pages to get me hooked, but when she did, the hook went straight to my heart. As you all know, I have a weakness for historical fiction, and in particular those surrounding WWII. My great-grandfather was a volunteer of the Red Cross and helped liberate concentration camps in Germany in 1944-1945. We found photos that he took during that time after he passed away… and they will haunt me forever. So when I read these fictional stories, I know there is a very similar non-fictional story out there. A biography, even. And it makes me incredibly hurt and amazed that mankind would do such horrible things to each other, and yet people survived, had a will to survive….

I  also wanted to note that while somewhere in the middle of this book, I kept thinking about another novel, Tatiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key, about WWII from the French perspective. I kept mentally comparing the two, and for about 100 pages, I kept thinking that de Rosnay’s was a more gripping read… and then Hannah’s hook got into me. What I found most interesting was that de Rosnay actually worked with Hannah on this novel, a few years after her own came out. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do so, and if you haven’t read The Nightingale, the same goes for it. Just be ready to grab a box of tissues.