Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

29056083by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling
YA Fantasy
3 of 5 stars

This was both a hard book to read and a hard book to review. I avoided most of the hype about the play because pfff, I couldn’t afford to go to London, tickets are impossible to get anyway – and then this bound version of the script was announced. And I still avoided the hype because…it’s not canon, right? Not really? But then it came out and I bought it on release day because dammit I couldn’t resist the magic of nostalgia! Did it live up to my mostly-resisted hype?

…eh.

I guess if I can’t shriek “yes” the answer is “no” – but again, I am just so conflicted! There’s nothing wrong with the story. There’s nothing wrong with the writing. It’s just…did I imagine Harry working for the government? Being kind of an ass? Did I imagine such a…realistic future for the beloved characters? Of course not! After all the drama and trauma and horror of the series, the whole point was imagining a happily ever after for the ones left alive! (Or you know…a somewhat somber version of that). But this play puts a wrecking ball through that idea.

This story centers around Harry’s tense relationship with his Slytherin-sorted middle child, Albus (the cute one from the HP7 epilogue). Albus doesn’t like being famous Harry Potter’s very average son. Harry doesn’t like that Albus is pretty much a puzzle to him (he doesn’t share all Harry’s own likes and prejudices). Enter time-travel, for reasons to bring back the old crew in bizarre ways.

Sure, the play centers on coming of age and parenting and finding yourself, but a few platitudes aside, it’s basically some of the stranger fan-fiction theories thrown together. Certain events that hold weight in the previous 7 books seem cheapened in this play. Most of the characters wouldn’t be recognizable from their actions alone. We’re told how we should really feel about side characters from the original series. Everything seemed disjointed and I’m not sure if seeing it on stage would help this or not.

A few moments tugged at my heart, but for the most part I just couldn’t figure out what I was reading. The mood and the messages were all over the place to me. I’m hoping this is something I can revisit later to enjoy it more, because I was underwhelmed this time. Again, the writers didn’t make the choices I would have made, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad–and I couldn’t really tell you what I was expecting! It just wasn’t this. I think I’ve waffled on this enough now!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – The play strongly reminded me of this story! (A fanfiction story from a novel–pretty meta). Simon and Baz are roommates who have hated each other for 6 years. But now it’s finally time for Simon to face the Insidious Humdrum and fulfill his Chosen One destiny. Baz is pretending he doesn’t care about anything–the Humdrum, finishing school, or the fact that he’s been in love with Simon for years and may want to do something about that. See my review here.
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Cath and her twin sister Wren write Simon Snow fan-fiction (see Carry On) but now they are off to college and Wren declares they aren’t rooming together, and she isn’t writing anymore. Cath isn’t sure how to cope–so she writes some more, and tries to ignore the cute boy trying to ask her out. This is an adorable story!
  • Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar – I love this story! Carolina’s family spends a summer on her estranged grandfather’s sheep farm as they prep it for sale. Her grandfather, Serge, has dementia, and is going to move into an assisted-living home. Serge tells Carolina that “the bees will bring back the rain” and at first she thinks he’s confused and telling random stories about a magical tree in the desert. But then bees begin following her around too, and she wonders if Serge has been telling the truth all along. See my review here.
  • Passenger by Alexandra Bracken – If you want more time-travel, look no further! This lovingly researched book will take you from New York City all over the world from the 1700s to the 1900s as Etta searches for an astrolabe so her grandfather will give her mother back. See my review here.
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What to read again:

Ever since Harry Potter I’ve enjoyed re-reading the previous books in a series before the next one comes out. You get to soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—it just makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

Snow Like Ashes series by Sara Raasch

This is a unique trilogy about a girl’s hidden destiny and the political savvy required to rule a kingdom coming back from the brink of destruction. The economics and alliances feel very true to life and I’m excited to see how Meira’s decisions steer the kingdom of Winter! (See my reviews here and here). Although the second book surprised me and wasn’t entirely what I hoped for in the sequel, I’m still impatiently waiting to see what happens next! I don’t want to spoil anything, so just pick up these gorgeous books before the last one comes out next month!

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Hour of the Bees

22453777by Lindsay Eagar
YA Contemporary / Children’s Lit
5 of 5 stars
Debut novel: March 8, 2016

I loved this story! When I wasn’t reading it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Where to even begin…

Things that I loved? Magical realism! So well done, so beautiful. The descriptions of the desert – lovely. The food – you will be so hungry! The family dynamic–Carolina’s relationship with her grandfather, her older sister, her parents. She’s 12, that in-between age of growing up but knowing you’ll never be a kid again. Also, because she’s 12, this book is sitting comfortably between YA and MG which as you know from my previous posts, I find interesting. This book is quite long for MG and tackles some heavier themes as well, but the writing is simplistic and Carolina is too young to be a typical YA protagonist. Enjoy sorting this!

Carolina’s family is traveling to her grandfather’s remote sheep ranch to pack up the house and move her grandfather to an assisted living home because of his dementia. A 100-year drought has left the land cracked and worthless. Carolina has never met her grandfather, Serge, because her father has refused to see him for 12 years. Serge doesn’t understand why his family rejects their heritage and roots. Moments between her parents and her grandfather are tense. Her older sister, Alta, just wants to escape the ranch with her boyfriend whenever possible. Serge doesn’t want to leave his home, and insists that Carolina watch for bees, because “the bees will bring back the rain.” Carolina is in the middle of it all, forced to confront how she really feels about her roots, her family, and her future.

Carolina wants the truth of of her family’s past, but she ends up hearing a fantastical tale about a magical tree, bees, and a village of people who never grew old. She isn’t sure whether Serge believes the story he’s telling her, but when bees begin following her around the ranch, she wants to believe it.

This story is beautifully told – I highly recommend checking this out if you want something with complicated families and an unforgettable atmosphere. The theme of what makes a truly full life will have you thinking about this book long after you finish it.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Hour of the Bees is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord – Another lovely book about finding your identity amidst tragic circumstances. Paige’s first boyfriend died in a freak drowning accident, and now she faces junior year as The Girl Whose Boyfriend Drowned. Amazing female friendships and a touching relationship between Paige and her aging grandmother. See my review here.
  • Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – Another story about learning not to spit on your roots–Gabi is Mexican-American and it seems like she is always becoming either too Mexican or too American for those around her. This book explores her senior year through her diary as she opens up to writing and dealing with the complex highs and lows of high school. See my review here.
  • Mosquitoland by David Arnold – Mim is not thrilled with her father’s stepfamily, and when she learns her mother is sick, she takes an impromptu road trip to go see her. See my review here.
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – Junior decides to save his own future by leaving the reservation to attend the white school, where the only other Indian is the mascot. An emotional story of what it means to find yourself while staying true to your family.
  • Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma – I love this magical realism story about a small town with a reservoir and two sisters–Ruby, who is everything, and Chloe, who looks up to her older sister. Ruby will do anything to keep her sister safe with her–even if it means bending the reality of their town and everyone in it. See my review here.
  • Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt & Alison McGhee – Another touching story of sisters in Vermont coping with their mother’s death. When Sylvi disappears, Jules is left alone to navigate her new world. Nearby, a tiny fox is doing the same thing. Beautiful magical realism! See my review here.
  • Bone Gap by Laura Ruby – Finn is horrified when Roza goes missing, just like the rest of Bone Gap, Illinois. He alone wants to keep searching for her several months later, despite his disgrace. He was the only who saw the man that took Roza–but he can’t remember his face. This story is filled with magical realism and heartbreaking truths about people. See my review here.

What to read again:

Ever since Harry Potter I’ve enjoyed re-reading the previous books in a series before the next one comes out. You get to soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—it just makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

six of crows

This was my favorite read from last year! Bardugo expanded her Grisha universe and wrote a heist story about six criminals uniting for a common prize. Of course, they have different ideas about what to do with with that prize! The characters, the plot, the betrayals, the cliff-hanger ending, the incredible writing – it’s almost impossible to overhype this story! (See my review here). It doesn’t hurt that it’s gorgeous, too. (Black-stained pages?! And the sequel has red-stained pages!) You have a month to read this before the next book comes out! Don’t miss it!

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Deep Blue

18601430by Jennifer Donnelly
YA Fantasy
3 of 5 stars

I feel I need to start by saying I am so conflicted about this book! There is nothing inherently “wrong” with it…but it didn’t grab me until almost 75% in, and there were a few reasons for that. But I feel conflicted about my reasons! It’s not often a book leaves me just scratching my head, unsure what to say (especially since we aren’t talking about philosophical or physics theories here)!

For the most part, the issue I had was the pacing. The first quarter of this book is an info-dump about the world, the characters, side characters that play no role in the story, mythology, and magic. So many names—so many factoids—my head was spinning. From there, we move on to a plot that stutters and stops between crazy action sequences, leaving little room for character development or time to process events. There’s a lot of telling vs. showing. The dialogue is dramatic. Finally, the 10-page glossary in the back is to help you understand more sea-puns and made-up vocabulary than I could handle, but that is entirely a matter of taste! I will say that this more than anything made it seem like a middle-grade story instead of YA, with the exception of a few violent scenes.

Why did I finish this book then? Because there are many things I actually liked!

The mythology is addictive. There are six (SIX!) female heroines teaming up and becoming friends and working together. The central relationship of this book is not a romantic one—despite dealing with a betrothal, and several princesses— it’s the best friendship between Serafina and Neela. By the way, each of the six mermaids hails from a different country—female teens handling alliances, politics, different cultures, and finding common ground as they represent entire nations! The wise figures in this story providing prophecy and wisdom are all older mermaids. There’s also a light exploration of how humans are affecting the sea’s population and ecology and I’m betting this will continue to play a role in the series. Yes, the themes throughout the book are presented in a slightly cheesy, very Disney manner (which makes sense since Disney is the publisher), but these are good themes all the same.

The last quarter of this story is the best by far. I’m disappointed that most of the book felt like set-up for the remaining story, but I would not be surprised if the rest of the saga is much better. Be warned, major cliffhanger ending!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Deep Blue is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Emerge by Tobie Easton – A California mermaid stuck on land due to a curse affecting all the mer is just trying to blend in—until another girl sets her eyes on Lia’s crush, Clay. This girl is dangerous, and Lia must save Clay, despite her parents’ disapproval and the dangers of getting involved. I haven’t read this yet but Tobie is an amazing person and I’m sure this will be great!
  • Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale by Carolyn Turgeon – A retelling of the fairy tale with both a mermaid and a princess in love with the prince. Lenia is a mermaid who saves a prince’s life. Margrethe is a princess who see a mermaid pull a man to shore, and realizes he is the son of her father’s greatest rival. Margrethe nurses him back to health, hoping for an alliance and true love. Lenia makes a deal with a witch to sacrifice everything for the chance to meet and win over the prince she loves. An interesting take on the traditional fairy tale.
  • Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli – Sirena is a siren whose voice lures sailors to their deaths during the Trojan war. But after one shipwreck, she defies Hera and nurses the only survivor back to health. They fall in love, but does he truly love Sirena, or just her voice? And defying the gods brings its own price. I read this a long time ago and I’d probably appreciate it more now!
  • Tides by Betsy Cornwell – Not mermaids, but selkies, seals that can take on the form of humans but must hide their sealskin in order to change back. Whoever holds their skin controls them. Siblings Noah and Lo spend the summer at their grandmother’s lighthouse, and begin to suspect that a girl Noah rescues from the sea might be a selkie. An atmospheric mystery with excellent writing! See my review here.

Focused Fallow Period

rice-fields-204139_960_720Fallow: farmland plowed and harrowed but left unsown for a period in order to restore its fertility as part of a crop rotation or to avoid surplus production

“I think many of us fear idleness, as if not producing is evil, a poison. But in my opinion, what’s truly toxic to our work — the work of creating art, of finding and sharing beauty and truth and experience — is to push too far. To focus on output rather than input. To view rest as an enemy, rather than as another tool in our toolbox.” –Kristin Hoffman

A few weeks ago my lovely CP Katy shared this post about creativity; specifically, about how to keep it flourishing. Basically, nonstop creative output is impossible, and everyone needs a break to recharge. I’m sure we’ve all been there–where the blank document or blank notebook pages are staring at you and you feel there’s nothing left to give.  You’ve been on deadline (or missed a deadline) or it’s time for the next big idea and you feel like you are scraping nothing but dry earth from the bottom of a well. This post was such a good reminder that creativity comes from life! A healthy, balanced life. <–That thing Americans don’t do well

About a month ago I had the lucky opportunity to spend a few days with my CPs in Vegas for Leviosa Con, and we ended up discussing creative breaks. (Actually, my reward for meeting my Leviosa deadline was a planned break, thanks to that post!) As always when you get a group of writers together, it’s interesting to share different processes and observations. For instance, we noted that becoming a hermit—as comfortable and natural as it may seem to introverts—can stagnant your creativity. Ideas come from meeting people, going to events, being outdoors, seeing new things. If you are to “write what you know” – the most common way people seem to approach writing – you need to know more than the four walls of your house and the mannerisms of your pet!

This is different from reading or watching movies or TV or listening to music, although those things are all inspirational in their own ways. Those are all examples of another artist’s polished work and vision. That’s what they made from their own experiences. If you only consume other pieces of art, yours can become a copy of a copy and you can lose that spark of passion that gives other people the chance to connect with your story.

Personally, I love the idea of a focused fallow period. I have time for fun and spontaneous discovery, but I also have a list of things to read/see for researching my next project. It’s a way for me to absorb new information and ideas without feeling pressured.

Obviously, being a turtle of a human myself, it’s easy to say “Go live life!” but much harder for me to do. For me, making small talk with a retail checker is a big deal. Cancelled plans nearly always mean a sigh of relief and the immediate thought “I get to read/write tonight instead!”  But I’m officially in a fallow period now (I’m technically not drafting again until October) and while I’m basking in the glow of permission to blaze through my TBR and watchlist, part of this time is about going out to live some life. Which is terrifying, but that probably means it’s the right thing to do!

To all my fellow writers / hermits, I encourage you to get out there! Think of it as research. It seems scary at first, but every time I have done this I end up with buckets of ideas and better yet, stories and memories that happened outside of my home. Best of luck!

Baby_turtle

The Start of Me and You

25663744by Emery Lord
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars

As previously mentioned on my blog, I had the absolute delight of meeting Emery Lord a few months ago and I’m finally reading her books (I loved When We Collided, you can see my review for that here)! I’m also a huge Twitter fan of hers and if you enjoy jokes and food and dogs and feminism, I highly suggest following her. (End of fangirl plug).

I’m not sure why my BFF left out the fact that this was one of her favorite reads the year it came out, and that it’s one of her favorite depictions of female friendships of all time, but since I FINALLY got around to following up on her quiet recommendation from a year ago all I can think is: where was this my whole life?!

Such a fun summer read, such an accurate depiction of high school (without shaming that part of your life), and yes, full of all the female friendships you could desire! They fight, they make up, they are there for each other, they don’t always make the right choices, but they are allowed to make those mistakes and learn from them. All of it comes across so naturally, truly masterful.

Paige gets to have all the anxiety and exuberance and anger of being in high school. Sometimes she says just the right thing. Sometimes she lashes out and has to deal with the consequences. I loved following her junior year!

What else did I love? Paige’s grandmother. Having a main character close to a grandparent is so refreshing and it was beautifully done. What else did I love? The romance, and crush vs. friends-to-love-interest. And? The English teacher (the fact that she isn’t the Voice of God in the narrative, constantly butting in to guide Paige). AND? Laugh out loud humor and emotional vibrancy that had me tearing up (in the span of 25 pages).

Pick this up and devour it in 2 days just like I did!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Start of Me and You is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell  – For a healthy dose of nerd love, look no further than anxious introvert fanfiction writer Cath as she tries to handle her first semester of college, separation from her twin sister, and the cute guy who keeps coming by to flirt with her. This is a seriously adorable story!
  • Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes – Maguire is convinced her bad luck hurts everyone around her, so she’s been a hermit for years. Her therapist suggests some challenges to get her back out in the world, but it’s a love of tennis and a helpful instructor also in therapy that might let her reclaim her life. See my review here.
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – Simon isn’t exactly “out” and the only person he can truly be himself around is Blue – the boy he’s been emailing that he’s crushing on so hard. As he and Blue try to figure out each other’s true identities, Simon has to be brave, especially since another guy at school is threatening to expose his secret. See my review here.
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han – Lara Jean and Peter are going out for real, and it turns out that’s even harder than pretending to have a relationship. I loved this one more than the first book—more sisters, more friendships, more adorable moments. See my review here.
  • Made You Up by Francesca Zappia – One of the cutest books I’ve read in a long time! Alex is used to questioning her reality—having paranoid schizophrenia means things are rarely what they seem. But she has to wonder if the cute guy who seems to like her back is a figment of her mind or actually someone she could be with. (Not the most scientific approach to schizophrenia but a fun story). See my review here.
  • Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar – Carolina’s family is moving her grandfather off his southwestern ranch and into an assisted living home. A drought has ruined the land, but he tells Carolina that “the bees will bring back the rain.” Carolina thinks he’s confused by his dementia, until bees begin following her around the ranch. See my review here.

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