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August 2019 book haul

I’m trying to diversify the types of posts I, er, post on here, and thought folks might be interested to know what kinds of books I’ve bought lately. Introducing: my monthly book haul blog!

For my reading challenge, I’m going through books I already own (i.e., didn’t buy in 2019) and haven’t read. It’s definitely helped curb the amount of books I buy, though not as much as my mom hoped it would.

In any case, this August I made five purchases:

  • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (kindle)
  • Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (kindle)
  • Bolivar: The Liberator of Latin America by Robert Harvey (kindle)
  • Color Theory edited by Maya Gomez and Vreni Michelini-Castillo (paperback)
  • Triangulation by Masande Ntshanga (paperback)

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

One of my favorite finds this year has been BookBub, a free service that sends reading recommendations and deals on books and e-books. A few times a week I get emails about new releases from my favorite authors, and deals on Kindle books. I’ve discovered a number of exciting finds this way, and it’s one of my go-to places to purchase (mostly digital) books.

That’s how I found The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, a science-fiction novel about a revolution–on the moon! Written by a Hugo-winning American novelist, it follows the rebellion of a former penal colony and explores the relationship between them and the controlling authority on Earth.

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Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

The book in two sentences: Harry is excited to start his second year at Hogwarts, but a mysterious, half-forgotten monster begins to terrorize the school. Harry, Ron, and Hermione attempt to stop it before Hogwarts is shut down for good.

Rating:  Island collection

Long story long: I realized after publishing my Sorcerer’s Stone review that that was less of a review and more of me just feeling good about re-entering the magical world (which is totally valid and I don’t feel bad about it at all). I could have talked about more literary things (like all the foreshadowing, character development, etc) but it felt nice to “turn off” the part of my brain that likes to analyze everything (everything) and let myself get swept up in the magic.

Chamber of Secrets, on the other hand, is a great place to start thinking more critically about the story: we’ve had a solid introduction to the wizarding world, gotten to know some of its characters, and we can now focus on the actual storytelling.

My amateur artistic rendering of Harry (who admittedly looks a lot older than 12 here)

Similar to Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets is inward-facing, having more to do with Hogwarts than the rest of the wizarding world. Like all books in the series, it gives Harry more insight into Voldemort’s identity and ethos. If the first book serves as an introduction to Voldemort, the second is where we start to see the real implications of his return. A memory of him is powerful enough to manipulate a student into petrifying her classmates…just imagine what Voldemort at the height of his powers could do.

Continue reading “Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling”

Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

The book in two sentences: Harry Potter discovers that he’s no ordinary boy as he begins his training at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In his first year he will form deep friendships, make several enemies, and begin to find his place in the larger wizarding world.

Rating:  Island collection

Long story short: I’ve been wanting to reread this series for a while now, and since I won’t be starting school this September, I thought this would be a fitting time to imagine myself at Hogwarts instead.

I first read The Sorcerer’s Stone in fourth grade– I bought a copy through the Scholastic Book Fair because I liked the drawing of the boy on a broomstick– and it wasn’t long before I was entirely consumed by the wizarding world. I’m sure this story sounds familiar to many.

It took about a page and half of The Sorcerer’s Stone to transport me back to Harry’s world. I was clutching Archimedes (my Kindle) and sitting wide-eyed with my heart beating faster and faster. I actually got goosebumps. It was incredible, really, how quickly the same feelings I had the first time around– excitement, apprehension, wonder– came flooding back.

Continue reading “Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling”

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”

The (fictional) home is where my heart is

castles
Excerpt from my book journal. I realize I have zero sense of perspective, but I enjoyed doodling this anyway 🙂

Places can be just as worthy of love as your favorite characters. The following is a short list of fictional settings that I like to call “home”, inspired by an article on fictional homes by Helen Maslin:

  • Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  • Pemberley from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • San Francisco* in the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin and in the Fremont Jones series by Dianne Day
  • Buckshaw manor from the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley
  • Elinor’s home in Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

*Not fictional (thank goodness!), but the home-y places in the stories don’t all actually exist in the real S.F.

What are some of your favorite fictional places? Comment below!

Boarding schools, holidays, and children detectives (Nota Bene #1)

In the spirit of my new Nota Bene section, I’m jumping right in with the first prompt: What is your favorite book series?

My favorite series is one I read often as a child: The Five Find-Outers and Dog by Enid Blyton. The stories follow five children detectives around their small town as they solve mysteries and annoy the local policeman. Fatty, Larry, Daisy, Pip, and Bets made me wish I was growing up in England, the place where kids were sent off to boarding school, were free to run around by themselves in adorable villages, and called their breaks “holidays” instead of “vacations” (these were important things for the 8-year-old me).

Continue reading “Boarding schools, holidays, and children detectives (Nota Bene #1)”

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