The wonderful thing about having your boyfriend in town is that every day becomes a “treat yo’ self” kind of day, or in my case, a “treat yo’ shelf” kind of day.
Two cities, three days, four bookstores, and thirteen books later, I present to you: my recent loot.
Powell’s City of Books (Portland, OR)
On Sunday I spent a good chunk of time exploring the many lovely floors of Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon (I would be lying if I said the distance to Powell’s didn’t factor in my decision to attend school in Washington).
This bookstore is fantastic in more ways than one, but I especially appreciated how they tagged books written by Writers of Color (WOC) throughout the store. Given my reading goals this year, it made it easier to head for the content I was really interested in.
Making my way through book #2
Rating: Island collection
This blog has primarily been for my book reading adventures, however for the past few months I’ve been considering publishing the occasional movie, TV show, or video game review. The reason is simple: it’s fun to apply literary analysis skills to different media. Since I’m an avid movie- and TV-watcher, and gamer, it’s right up my alley.
My first non-book review is going to be on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I haven’t quite decided how to format these yet, but I’m going to start with a non-spoiler review and publish a spoiler review in a week to give people time to watch the movie.
I wasn’t around when the original Star Wars trilogy was released, but that didn’t stop me from becoming a massive fan of the saga. As you can imagine, it was an incredible treat to be able to see The Force Awakens (TFA) in theaters last year and Rogue One (RO) a few days ago. I experienced, for the first time in my life, the magic of seeing Star Wars in theaters (prequel movies don’t count because they were garbage and had 0 Star Wars magic). It’s a little hard to convey in words what it was like, but imagine being able to relive the moments that made childhood so special: the excitement, curiosity, imagination and hope.
Before we talk about the details, let’s start with a quick recap. Rogue One takes place between Revenge of the Sith (Episode III—the prequel trilogy) and A New Hope (Episode IV—the original trilogy). The Death Star has been built by the Empire and a group of Rebels is tasked with retrieving the plans that will lead to its destruction.
Rogue One is a fantastic addition to the Star Wars universe. It’s not without its faults, but what it does right more than makes up for the things it doesn’t (which aren’t even that many).
First, we get to meet some wonderful new characters, each with their own emotional baggage and unique quirks. The leads—Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna)—have great chemistry and are given a chance to grow throughout the film. Unlike Phantom Menace, where Qui-Gon Jinn, Padmé, Jar Jar Binks, and Anakin come together because the script calls for it, the group in Rogue One comes together organically, out of actual need, making their mission compelling. There are relationships I would have liked to see more and less of, and at times the first half especially feels overwhelming, but overall I enjoyed getting to know new people.
Second, the story is coherent and even fills in some Episode IV plot holes. The pacing in the first half is a bit fast and jarring since you’re introduced to new faces and new places fairly quickly, however, the first half of the movie does a good job preparing you for the second half, which is where most of the tension and action are. That being said, there are several scenes I’d have cut out because they take up precious time and don’t really add anything to the story (I’ll get to these in my spoiler review). Rogue One is also a much darker and grittier tale than we’re used to, even toeing the line between PG-13 and R in some places, which is refreshing and exactly the type of tone this story needs. This goes hand-in-hand with a bit more world-building, where we really get to see, for the first time, the Empire’s reach throughout the galaxy and the scale of their forces (something the original trilogy doesn’t do as well).
Third, I thought there was a good balance between the new and the familiar. A huge criticism of The Force Awakens was that it played it too safe by rehashing parts of the original trilogy and littering the film with way too many homages and throwback references. If that bothered you, know that Rogue One does do that too, but on a much more subtle level. There are a few easter eggs and hints of the events to come (Episodes IV-VI), but it doesn’t beat you over the head with them.
And finally, perhaps the most impressive feat Rogue One achieves is how seamlessly it sets up Episode IV; it makes the good movies better. There are a few surprises here that I won’t spoil, but I’m pretty sure you’ll feel like driving home from the theater only to watch the original trilogy (I did).
For those of you on the fence about seeing Rogue One, I hope I’ve convinced you to go for it. My next review will have full spoilers and will get into some critique-debunking. Hope you enjoyed following along, and may the force be with you!
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.
- 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.
- 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??
- 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).
- 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.
- 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!
Brief synopsis (from Goodreads): Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.
As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.
The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.
Rating: Island collection
Long story short: It took a very long time for me to read A Game of Thrones because I’m not accustomed to jumping on the popular culture bandwagon for media that have been around for ages. I don’t care if others do that, or if the media becomes popular after I’ve read/seen it, but I personally take comfort in being part of a smaller fan community (it’s like being a member of a super secret club and I love it).
I feel like kicking myself in the pants for not picking up A Game of Thrones sooner. It’s everything I enjoy in books (well, minus the misogyny): action, adventure, mystery, and drama. Many characters, even those without their own narratives, had incredible depth. The writing was straightforward and I was easily immersed. There were several places in the novel where the suspense was wonderfully set up, and I loved the way Martin worked with dramatic tension.
I also love stories that are unpredictable, which is an understatement for A Game of Thrones; I was on my toes the entire time and it felt great (albeit a little exhausting…court drama is not for the fainthearted, as Ned found out…).
I’m not sure if/when I’ll watch the television series…maybe after I’ve read all the published books? What did you think of A Song of Ice and Fire? Comment below, let me know!
I’m currently in Saigon, Vietnam waiting for the monsoon-like downpour to end before heading back out to practice my narrowly-missing-scooters skills. The hostel where I’m staying has a computer so I thought I’d use this opportunity to give you some updates about my reading challenge progress!
I’ve been using long plane and bus rides to my advantage, and I’m happy to announce that in the past two weeks I’ve read two books (two more than I thought I’d finish)! The most exciting one was Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. I know I’m tardy to the party…but at least I made it!
The other novel I finished was Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde, book two in the Thursday Next series.
If the rain doesn’t let up, book reviews will be posted sooner rather than later…If you’re curious about my travels, you can check out my travel blog here. Hope you all are having a lovely summer!
Brief synopsis: As a child Jacob was fascinated by the stories his grandfather Abe told him about growing up on a remote island off the coast of Wales. Orphaned during World War II, Abe was taken in by a foster family where he made some unusual friends—a girl who could levitate, a small boy who could lift large boulders, and an invisible child to name a few. As Jacob grew older he saw the stories for what they were: a coping mechanism his grandfather used to forget about the horrors he witnessed during the war. But when Jacob starts to see strange things in his neighborhood, he begins to wonder what if…
Rating: Travel companion
Long story short: Overall I enjoyed this book, but I’m probably not going to read the sequel. It started off well, I liked the premise and the pace (it’s another story that gets off the ground pretty quickly, which is something I like); but there wasn’t enough depth to the characters or the action, which deflated my enthusiasm for the rest of the series.
The things I enjoyed:
- Ransom Riggs does this cool thing where he juxtaposes real photographs he and others have collected with the narrative, which totally enhances the creepy factor of the novel (big brownie points there)
- The descriptions were so vivid that I felt like I was actually there, something I don’t get from a lot of books
The things I didn’t enjoy:
- The first half of the book was about a mystery that Jacob was trying to solve. Instead of working out the clues on his own, things just happened to work out for him. Sometimes he figured out what the clue meant after he stumbled on it, other times he was just in the right place at the right time. As a reader who likes to figure out things alongside the protagonist, I didn’t get to do a lot of deducing, which ruined the mystery part for me.
- In the beginning Miss Peregrine’s had a great creepy vibe going. However, towards the end it turned into one of those Scooby Doo chase scenes that left me disappointed.
It was entertaining, but unless somebody hands me the sequel, I don’t see myself reading it. Have you read the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series? What did you think?