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children’s literature

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne

Brief synopsis (Goodreads): Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Rating🏡  Left behind

Long story short (no spoilers): Although the Harry Potter series will forever hold a special place in my heart, this story was utter garbage.

  1. The tone and syntax don’t sound like Harry Potter. The narrative reads nothing like books 1-7. I realize that JK Rowling didn’t write the script herself, and therein lies part of the problem. The story reads like really, really, shitty fan fiction. Sentences are short and too simple, and only a handful of dialogues are more than 50 words. In several places quotes are lifted directly from books 1-7 and they still don’t sound right.
  2. The characters are badly written caricatures of themselves. Imagine you’re reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry, Ron, and Hermione decide to dress up as their parents for Halloween. That’s what they sound like in Cursed Child: not 40-year-olds, but 12-year-olds playing 40-year-olds.

    RON (hesitating in the face of her unwavering gaze): Fine. I, um, I think you’ve got really nice hair.
    HERMIONE: Thank you, husband.
    And that’s just the tippity-tip of the iceberg. The story is largely character-driven (as opposed to being magic-driven like in books 1-7), yet there is almost zero character development. We’re supposed to care about several new characters but we never get to know who they are, how they think, or what motivates them. Unlike books 1-7 Cursed Child isn’t in first person, and we aren’t privy to what takes place in the protagonist’s head (something that can be done in plays in the form of interior monologues). Without that as an anchor it’s easy to feel disconnected from his actions, and many times I wondered, Why is he doing that??

  3. The plot is kind of boring. It’s too much “been there, done that” for my liking. You see the same items, the same spells, the same people, the same problem…it’s not enough. There were one or two twists that I enjoyed, however I was too distracted by the fact that they came close to breaking universe rules (and opened up a whole can of worms).
  4. The book bends (and in one case breaks) universe rules. No, not like our Universe, the Harry Potter fictional universe. Every fictional universe has its own rules, and it’s the author’s responsibility to maintain consistency and explain any deviations from those rules. The reason they’re important is because they give the story structure and credence. In Cursed Child there are several instances when information is presented that challenges the Harry Potter canon, and the explanation for those anomalies comes down to creating more rules for the sake of moving the plot along.
  5. What was done well. Despite it being mostly terrible, there were small glimpses of that OG Harry Potter magic. Some of the dry humor is there; and one, maybe two, characters stay true to their book 1-7 selves.

The stage play has gotten good reviews, which makes me wonder if they’re even using the same script. It’s a two-part play that clocks in at a little over five hours; it took me about two to finish reading Cursed Child, so there’s clearly a lot missing in the transcript version. My guess is that the good acting is covering up the terrible, terrible story.

Anyways, have you read it? What did you think? Comment below! Keep reading if you’re interested in a spoiler review!

Continue reading “Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne”


Review: The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

Brief synopsis (back cover): When the four Penderwick sisters find themselves staying on a beautiful estate called Arundel for their summer holidays, they can’t wait to explore the wonderful, sprawling grounds. And even more wonderful is Jeffrey, son of Arundel’s owner—the perfect companion for their summer adventures. But Jeffrey’s mother is less than thrilled with the Penderwick sisters and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will. Won’t they?

Rating🌴  Island collection

Long story short: This book made me feel ALL THE FEELS. It reminded me of the summer vacations I took as a child, of days where I had no other responsibility than to have fun. It’s a short book and I don’t want to ruin anything, so I’m going to go for the bullet points:

  • There were more than ten characters and each one had a distinct voice and personality. By the time I finished it felt like I had known Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty my whole life.
  • The Penderwick sisters had wonderful chemistry. They laughed, cried, fought, and problem-solved together, and it was so fun to see them in action. I also loved their father and thought he was an awesome parental figure.
  • The book addressed mature themes (death, love, parenting) in a non-patronizing way.

The best children’s books are ones you can enjoy as an adult. The Penderwicks definitely falls in that category and I look forward to reading the rest of the series. Have you read anything by Jeanne Birdsall? What did you think?

Tagged: The Bedtime Book Tag

This is my first time participating in a book tag and I’m excited! Big thanks to A Reading Writer for the nudge.

Okay, so here we go*:

📚 A Book That Kept You Up All Night Reading

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling—I think this can apply to any book in that series, but #4 was sort of the turning point where things got very dark very quickly, and it was impossible to put down.

📚 A Book That Made You Scared To Sleep

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket—It’s apparent why kids think Olaf is a creep, but reading this book as a teen and then young adult you realize that the scary part is not that he’s creepy, but that people like him actually exist. I wouldn’t say that this book kept me awake at night, but the idea that there’s somebody like Olaf running around in this world is a pretty scary thought.

📚 A Book That Made You Go To Sleep

Taming the Infinite: The story of mathematics from the first numbers to chaos theory by Ian Stewart—Math is terribly exciting, but not the best thing to read after a long, tiring day because it will put me to sleep.

📚 A Book That Left You Tossing and Turning All Night in Anticipation of its Release

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling—Surprise, surprise. I was actually in Spain when this book was released. I remember coordinating with my brother who was back in California, to make sure we read it at approximately the same time (this was very important to us).

📚 A Book That Has Your Dream Boyfriend

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen—Ughhhh Darcy gives me all the feels.

📚 A Book That Would Be Your Worst Nightmare to Live In

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood—As far as dystopian novels go, this is the creepiest I’ve read. If I remember correctly I watched Legally Blonde twice in a row afterwards to get rid of the heebie-jeebies.

📚 A Book That Reminds You of Nighttime

Coraline by Neil Gaiman—Although most of the story doesn’t take place at nighttime, the eeriness always reminds me of the dark.

📚 A Book That Had a Nightmarish Cliffhanger

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens—Opiates, a love triangle, and murder…this book is ghoulish. Bonus: Dickens died before completing the novel, so nobody knows how it ends…can’t get any more cliffhangy than that!

📚 A Book That You Actually Dreamed About

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory—In high school I was a huge fan of historical fiction, and ravenously devoured anything written by Gregory. No surprise then that I often dreamed about living in a Tudor court.

📚 A Book Monster that You Would Not Want to Find Under Your Bed

Zombies from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith—Zombies eat brains. I like my brains. ‘Nuff said.

To continue this chain I’m tagging:

Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts/comments below. Happy reading!

*I prefer to take pictures of the books myself instead of grabbing them from Google Images, so they’ll be up in a bit.

Review: The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Brief synopsis: April Hall doesn’t make new friends easily, until she moves in with her grandmother and meets Melanie Ross. She soon learns that Melanie and her four-year-old brother Marshall both share her fascination with Egypt. Together their wild imaginations lead to the creation of a role playing game in an abandoned storage yard behind an old antique shop. The children spend afternoons as pharaohs, servants, and priestesses. They invent their own ceremonies, erect statues of Nefertiti and Thoth, and even design a secret hieroglyphic language. But Egypt’s spell is soon broken: certain events—including the murder of a little girl in their neighborhood—reveal that the children may be being watched…

Rating✈  Travel companion

Long story short: This has become one of my favorite children’s books. It has everything I love (even as an adult!): fantasy, intrigue, a murder mystery, and a healthy dose of life lessons tucked in here and there. While at times I knew exactly where the story was going, there are scenes and dialogues that totally threw me off, and I like that sort of unpredictability. The writing itself is simple, yet not patronizing; and it’s well-paced, with action and downtime balanced appropriately. Each character’s distinct voice and personality really come through, which always helps me become a part of the story. Would definitely read it again.

Continue reading for a more in-depth review (note: spoilers below).

Continue reading “Review: The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder”

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