Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts


Book Style + Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter And The Cursed Child
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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, inspired by an original story by J. K. Rowling is the subject of today's Book Style. I'm going to talk about the book below in more detail, since it's a bit spoiler heavy, so let's jump right into the Book Style.

A pair of black Harry's jeans and a vibrant "Ginny" tank form the base. On top I've added a "Stockholm Syndrome" cardigan for an extra witchy vibe and because I have some feels about how Delphi was raised. A pair of magical "Scorpius" sneakers and a "Magic Touch" hat will keep the tip and the toes covered. For jewelry I added a "Rubber & Magic" ring, a serpent arm band, an Augurey-inspired feather necklace, and a pair of skull earrings. For accessories I chose a "Witch Craft" clutch, a black magic phone case, and a pair of "B'witched" sunglasses to hide that evil gleam in your eyes. The final touch is a bit of sparkly "Dirty Baby" nail lacquer.

Okay, onto my thoughts about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Careful, SPOILERS ahead!

I won't be the first person to proclaim that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child gave me a lot of mixed feelings. Unlike some people, I'm okay with the story continuing. I'm even okay with the play as a whole - even if I wish it wasn't ONLY a play. Losing Jo's voice, as integral to the world of Harry Potter as the Boy Who Lived, himself, is a bit of a blow to the emotional depth of the story. And reading a play always means experiencing less character insight than a novel allows. We are suddenly stripped of the inner monologues, the nuanced emotions, the narrative point of view. If I saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child live in London, I believe that I wouldn't be mourning this lack of intimacy. I like to think I'm blessed with a fairly creative imagination and Jack Thorne's stage direction allowed me to get a sense of what being in the theater would actually be like, but reading it on paper is cold. I would recommend really looking at the cast and performance photos ahead of time to help envision the characters better. I will admit that picturing them as the overdone "aged" versions from the final film never worked well for me. With the lack of physical descriptions in the script, I found it easier to see them that way.

What I do love about the direction that Jo guided Thorne and John Tiffany in is that the play addresses a few of the qualms I had with her original ending. They are able to add a bit more depth to Dumbledore and Snape by acknowledging that while admirable in their sacrifices, they were deeply flawed humans. I'm still not sure how I feel about Voldemort and Bellatrix getting it on. I know Bellatrix would've been all about it, but Voldemort always struck me as being incredibly asexual. I can't picture him getting off on anything but power and cruelty. Maybe the were into BDSM. Or maybe they used some sort of magical in vitro to produce an heir of the Heir of Slytherin. So, that's weird. I hate that Delphi misses out on an opportunity at being a more three dimensional character by being introduced in a play and losing out on us seeing her better. Not thrilled that there's an air of being desperate for daddy's approval, either. I feel like making her evil in her own right would have been a better move. Voldemort's heir would surely want power for herself in her father's absence, not to bring him back to power. Maybe if they'd elaborated on her background more and her upbringing and how much indoctrination she had actually been subjected to. Ah, if wishes were horses... All in all, I am glad I read it and I enjoyed dipping my toes back into the magical world of Harry, Ron and Hermione.

If you're on the fence about this one, I would recommend it with a couple of caveats: Remember it's a play. Remember that it isn't a story about Harry, it's a story about Albus and Scorpius.


Book Review: Let's Catch Up, Shall We

I've been super delinquent about posting any actual book review on here for the past couple of months. Part of it is due to the fact that I've been reading so much, on average two books a week; you may have noticed that I had to up my book goal for the year since I already surpassed 52 titles. I've also been reading a lot of publisher galleys for titles that won't be available for several months and I don't want to rub it in your faces. But, I figured it's time to play catch up and give you a brief rundown of some of the best things I've read since early August.

I'm a little late to the Miéville game, largely due to his rather vocal Tolkien bashing. I was convinced that anyone who hated the fantasy epics of my childhood would not appeal to me as an author. But, when my coworker, Casey, told me that Kraken was like American Gods but better, I called him a blasphemer and then started reading to prove him wrong. Only one problem with my plan, he wasn't wrong. I don't know that it's *better* than American Gods, but it's definitely on par. I love the language and how authentically British it all feels. Now I'm faced with the problem of catching up on the rest of his books. This is the book for you if you like anything Neil Gaiman has ever written but want something just a little different.

Jussi Adler-Olsen is my new favorite Scandinavian mystery author. His detective, Carl Morck is the best curmudgeonly, Wallander-esque detective out there. I also love, now that I'm getting into the second book in this series, that he doesn't have a formula to his books, making them each unique and delightful. In The Keeper of Lost Causes, Carl is recovering (but not if you ask him, if you ask him, he's just fine) from the all too recent ambush he an his team encountered. One partner is dead and the other is paralyzed and begging Carl to help him end it. In the midst of his personal turmoil he is "promoted" to the head of a brand new cold case division nicknamed Department Q. Carl comes out from under his personal rain cloud when he realizes that one of the cold cases may not be so cold after all. 

The phrase "Roald Dahl meets Harry Potter" has been used to describe John Connolly's Samuel Johnson series and I think it's a perfect synopsis of these delightfully dark tales. If you haven't read The Gates, you really should first, or else you won't get some of the great character development that happens in The Infernals. The third in this comedy-of-errors apocalypse series is due out this month and I can't wait to see what's next for middle schooler Samuel Johnson and his intrepid dachshund Boswell.

It's been a while since I braved the world of YA vampires, but I have to hand it to Holly Black, The Coldest Girl In Coldtown is a lot better than most. I wasn't sold on the appeal of the mysterious vampire that Tana falls for, especially after it turns out that he lies to her throughout almost the entire book. And I'm also a bit torn on the ending; without spoiling too much, let me say that I don't get why Tana makes the decision she does. If you like supernatural thriller/romance, this is a nice read, although I might wait for the paperback to learn all about how Tana survives the massacre at a sundown party that killed off several of her classmates and left her saddled with a turning ex-boyfriend and a mysterious and dangerous vampire on her hands. Also, someone explain the title to me, it doesn't *really* make sense.

Once upon a time I danced ballet, and I still retain a great fascination with the whole world of dance, so this title isn't as far out in left field for me as you might think. It's a fictionalized account of the life of prima ballerina Tanaquil "Tanny" Le Clercq with her husband, the (in)famous New York City Ballet director, George Balanchine. The novel covers their courtship (she was his fourth or fifth wife depending on how you do the math) through her polio, rehab, and ultimately their divorce. It's a fascinating read, just bear in mind that it is a novelization and not a biography.

Remember Cinder? Well this is the next in the Lunar Chronicles, Scarlet. It's just as amazing. This one follows Scarlet, who you probably guessed is Little Red Riding Hood, as she and a suspicious street fighter names Wolf track down her kidnapped grandmother. Along the way their story becomes entangled with Cinders who is now an escaped convict. I just finished the third in the series, Cress, and am now impatiently awaiting the fourth... But since the third isn't even officially published yet, I've got a lot of waiting to do. This series is my new obsession. I love finding all the parallels to the fairy tales and the scifi setting is perfection. 

Neil Gaiman never fails to disappoint and The Ocean at the End of the Lane is no exception. It's perfectly magical and equally creepy. My friend/coworker Justus told me not to read it before bedtime unless I wanted some disturbing dreams, and she was absolutely right. This tale follows a young boy who befriends an odd family of women (daughter, mother, and grandmother) after he finds the dead body of his family's lodger in their stolen car. His adventures with his new friend quickly lead to his entanglement with a malevolent force that is bent on destroying the world. It's a quick read, but it's magical.

Kelly Williams Brown is my new hero. Seriously. This book immediately went on the list for my holiday pick, it's that good. This book is hysterically funny while being dead helpful. Kelly offers real, practical advice with a side of wit that (sort of) softens the blow when you realize what an idiotic, sheltered yuppy you are. If you are in your twenties or you know someone who is, this is the book you/they need. (Fair warning, she has a potty mouth, just like me.)

Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez has the most deliciously grandiose title. I've seen this book compared to Paper Towns by John Green and the similarities are there. This is a much more goth version. It also deals beautifully with how horribly un-normal grief can be. Frenchie is coping, well not really, with the suicide of her long-time crush Andy by alienating herself from her friends and spending time in the neighborhood cemetery talking to her imaginary friend, Emily Dickinson. One night, with the help of a new acquaintance, she decides to relive the one (and only) night she had with Andy, the night before he died, in an effort to move past it all.

Jenni Fagan's The Panopticon is another amazing look at the horribly raw and unflinching emotions teenagers face. Anais Hendricks has been part of the system since birth. First she was an orphan bouncing around to different foster homes. Then, after an all too brief sojourn, she was thrust back into the world as a drug-addled juvenile delinquent following the murder of her beloved adopted mom. Now the police suspect her of bludgeoning an officer nearly to death, an accusation that Anais cannot deny nor confirm, and have shipped her off to the Panopticon pending trial. Anais is brutally honest in everything from sex to drugs to her love of vintage fashion. Combined with Ms. Fagan's habit of writing in Scottish brogue, Anais ended up sounding like a sexed-up version of Brave's Merida in my head. I was rooting for her in the end.

Ashley Cardiff is pee-your-pants funny. She reminds me a lot of Sloane Crosley. Maybe I just dig young, female wits. Night Terrors is a collection of true anecdotes that all, loosely, revolve around sex and relationships. I found myself relating to so many of her stories, especially when she acknowledged how much her upper-middle class whiteness colors her world. If you need a good laugh, I definitely recommend this one.

So the Italians are weird. I've decided. I've also realized that as much as I loathed If on a Winter's Night a Traveler back in January, I need to amend that because it's been growing on me ever since. Niccolò Ammaniti's Let the Games Begin started out with me feeling like this book was going to be way more academic and intellectual for me to enjoy. Then the sad, little Satanic cult popped up and I was intrigued. Next everyone ended up at this house party hosted by a megalomaniac who is attempting to buy his way into the hearts of the upper echelons of Italian society. He's planned a lavish weekend party that the floundering Satanic cult leader is hoping to sabotage to stake his claim in the annals of the infamous. If this doesn't sound weird enough yet, just wait until the mutated, Soviet defectors pop up. It's a brilliant farce and a mad-capped comedy of errors. Enjoy.

Somehow I never read anything by Catherynne Valente before, which is such a shame since I now know how wonderful she is. This is a collection of her short stories and poems; the perfect introduction to her work. You can get a real feel for her love and understanding of Japanese folklore here. Also, she is a genius with words; just try reading her description of a sunset in the titular poem without being awed. Thank you Catherynne for getting me excited about poetry for the first time ever.

Laurie R. King does historical mystery better than anyone else I know. She never fails to make the 1920s come alive for me while I'm engrossed in one of her page turners. This is technically the second book featuring Harris & Bennett, but I never read Touchstone, so I don't think you need to. This is also the only non-Mary Russell book of Ms. King's that I've ever read. I need to remedy that shortly. This thriller is set in Montparnasse in the '20s and is appropriately gruesome for a book featuring the Grand Guignol theater.

I have two problems with this book: (1) I dislike the final cover. You can't give me neon coral on the publishers galley and then expect me to be okay without it. Although, admittedly, this cover makes more sense for the story of the Hursts and their complete and total dysfunction. And (2) This book was incredibly anxiety-inducing. I had to force myself through a few chapters to get to a point where I couldn't stop reading. Ignoring those two personal issues, it's an amazing psychological thriller. A bit Mommy Dearest meets Girl, Interrupted. Please read it so we can discuss how disturbingly creepy Will and Josephine's relationship is. Please.

I really thought this was going to be a twist on Pinochio and Anne Ursu does a sneaky job of playing into that idea for the first half of The Real Boy. But it's not. And the true delight comes once you get past that mental hurdle and engross yourself in an original tale for the middle school set about magic, friendship, and loyalt

This is one of the best, quirky titles I've read in years. It makes you think, right after it frustrates the hell out of you. This book is new to the states and I'm so thrilled to have Keith Ridgway's Hawthorn & Child here now. The titular detectives are charged with piecing together obscure clues for some seemingly unrelated crimes. This book is about examining unfinished business. If you're a person who needs closure, don't even think about reading this, although I'm still going to recommend it to you. Over and over and over again.


Book Review: Homeward Bound

I came to this book in an odd frame of mind. See my friend Amanda had started to read it, was incensed by it, and promptly put it down and called it horrible. So when it crossed the counter at my former bookshop in Richmond I felt oddly compelled to read it, expecting to also hate it and then have something interesting to rant about on here. But Homeward Bound by Emily Matchar was a very compelling read, and, sorry Amanda, I found myself agreeing with a lot of her points.

I'll be honest, I think approaching this book as a childless woman, who works outside the home probably led to a different reaction to a lot of the points than approaching it as a mother or someone who is self-employed. So just keep that in mind for yourself. Basically this is a breakdown of the back-to-our-roots mentality that so many in my generation are embracing. Emily covers everything from the crafting resurgence (Hello Etsy!) to the homesteading phenomenon. If you want to better understand attachment parenting, homeschooling, self-sustainability or anything else even hovering on the fringe of this cultural subset I strongly suggest giving this a read. I also think a lot of our parents, mine are Boomers, would better understand the twenty-somethings desire to earn less and be more satisfied if they picked up this book and paged through. I'm going to recommend this book, even if you only read it to find out why it's been so controversial, I think you'll be better for it.


Book Review: Unnatural Creatures

Unnatural Creatures is a collection of short stories compiled by, and contributed to, by Neil Gaiman and Maria Dahvana Headley. I love everything Neil Gaiman touches, so of course I loved this, but with good reason, not just because I'm a hopeless fangirl. 

The stories are all, perhaps loosely, based around the premise that there is such a place as an Unnatural History Museum that mirrors the great Natural History Museum in London. You'll get a sampling of several potential exhibits including everything from sentient wasps to griffins and werewolves to death personified. My favorite, no shocker here, was Sunbird by Neil; I have a lifelong love affair with anything phoenix-y. I think my second favorite tale would have to be Gabriel-Ernest by Saki. But, honestly, they are all truly fantastic tales.

I would highly recommend getting yourself a copy of the hardcover to own and cherish for years to come. This is a true heirloom collection, in my opinion. And as a nice bonus, all the sales benefit 826DC, "a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students in their creative and expository writing, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write".


Book Review: The Resurrectionist

I rarely hate a book. I mean, as much as I loathe trudging through some of the classics *cough*Dickens*cough*, I still recognize their literary merit and I appreciate having read them. I also, almost never, don't finish a book; even a bad book I choose to see through to the end. That being said, The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black by E.B. Hudspeth came pretty close to earning my hatred.

I think a lot of my ire comes from expecting so much. Look at that cover and tell me you don't expect great, twisted fantasy to spew forth from the pages. Hudspeth has a great premise: An alternative history where the prominent scientist Spencer Black derails a prominent career surgically repairing genetic deformities in order to chase down and recreate mythological creatures. Dr. Black believes that the creatures are not actually fictitious but are the cultural memory of are genetically superior ancestors.

See? This should have been awseomeness squared. But it wasn't. It wasn't long enough. It felt rushed at the end. It felt like the illustrations were more important than the plot. It left me incredibly unsatisfied. All in all, I would not recommend this book to anyone. Sorry. Better luck next time.


Book Review: Fireblood

Fireblood by Jeff Wheeler is a nice new fantasy find for me.

It's the first in a series, and is clearly written as such. This book does not stand alone, so if you're someone who needs instant gratification, I would wait until the rest are available before you pick this one up. Mr. Wheeler does an excellent job of continuing the tradition of Tolkien and his like by crafting a well fleshed out world and telling an epic tale without taking any shortcuts or rushing through a plot. The thoroughness may feel too slow for some; here's a hint: If Lord of the Rings was too slow of a read for you, don't attempt this one.

This book focuses on the formation of an elite expedition by Tyrus of Kenatos. Tyrus intends to defy the Arch Ryke and venture into the Scourgelands to find the source of the recurring plagues that have been a constant source of agony and death over multiple generations. Two of his "recruits" are his alleged niece and nephew who were separated at birth and who have no idea of the other's existence until the events in the book begin taking place.

I'm excited to see where the next installment takes them.


Book Review: The Stud Book

The Stud Book by Monica Drake was a book that I honestly picked up because the ARC came to us pimped out in a care package from Chuck Palahniuk (Ha! Finally I spelled it right on the first go!). I figured that anything one of my all time faves endorsed would be worth at least checking out. 

Mr. Palahniuk was right. This is a really great book that touches on a pretty big nerve in my life and the lives of a lot of young, and not so young, women: Motherhood. 

The story centers around the lives of four long-time friends. One is married to a textbook example of metrosexuality and is desperate for a child of her own; despite multiple miscarriages she refuses to consider adoption. Another is a single mother with two daughters; one in college and the other a bored and slightly troubled teenager. The third is a married, freshly-minted mother of an infant girl who is struggling with her identity as she makes the shift from competent, academic she-warrior to sleep-deprived, fumbling mommy-hood. The final character is a bisexual photographer who refuses to tie herself down with marriage or labels.

Monica Drake's style is wonderfully, painfully honest and slightly cynical. She takes a page from her friend Chuck and makes the reader really think by showing the extremes that life can take. I came away from this book with the message that life is what you make it. Family is defined by you, not society; and sometimes we all strive a bit too hard for what we think we should be and forget to just enjoy what we are and who we're with. 


Book Review: The Taken & The Lost

We're going to discuss the first two books in Vicki Pettersson's newest undertaking, the Celestial Blues series, together since I read them back to back and I canNOT wait for the third to come out.

Griffin Shaw is the male protagonist of this series. He and his beloved wife Evie were murdered in Las Vegas in 1960. Apparently Grif didn't take being ripped from this mortal coil all too well because he was not successfully incubated in the Everlast (what we like to call the afterlife) and is still too emotionally damaged? burdened? to enter Heaven. As a result he's been assigned to the role of a centurion, or an angel responsible for escorting newly departed souls safely to the other side. On his most recent mission he broke one of the cardinal rules of being a good angel and interfered. As punishment he's tossed back to Earth and locked into his flesh. Griffin Shaw is alive again: half angel, half man, half a century displaced. Then he goes and interferes again and saves Kit Craig from fated death.

Kit is a modern day girl in love with the past. She's a bonafide rockabilly chick. And believe me, Vicki's description of the rockabilly lifestyle and clothing will have you wishing to join up. Kit is also a reporter who, perhaps naively, believes that truth will always win. Despite Grif's protests that she is putting herself in danger by pursuing the criminal kingpins (and queens) of modern day Vegas, Kit manages to drag him right along in all of her journalistic pursuits. She also teaches him the importance of a good manicure and getting your hair done along the way.

The two make an engaging team and a unique romantic pairing. The thrilling plots of the individual books will leave you a bit shocked at the depths of depravity that human beings are capable of reaching. These are definite page turners. They also have a nice dose of fantasy with the whole angel dynamic. Vicki has concocted a very unique view of the afterlife and I'm enjoying the novelty of it all. I'm also in love with the vivid fashion descriptions that having a 'billy heroine allows. And like I said, I cannot wait for the third installment in this trilogy so I can finally watch Kit and Grif figure out the answer to "Who killed Griffin Shaw?"


Book Review: YA Extravaganza

Let's review some of the best YA I've read recently: Adamant by Kieran Wisser, Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza, and Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger.


This book is the first in a series that has a definite Percy Jackson quality mixed with some serious fangirl tendencies. I love anything that even fleetingly mentions Greek mythology so I was in love with the premise of this book when I first heard about it on Kieran's Tumblr. I will go ahead and warn you that this book definitely reflects the Tumblr fangirl mind (which I can definitely relate to, even at the ripe old age of 28!) and therefor may not appeal to everyone, but I would encourage everybody to give it a try. Kieran is such a great storyteller and despite some editing issues (it is her first book after all, and it is self published) I was captivated and I can honestly say that I cannot wait to read the next one. So go show some love to a writer just starting out. 


This is also the first book in a series. Mila is your average high school student, albeit one suffering from the traumatic loss of her father and the resulting amnesia blocking her past. At least that's what she thinks. If you can survive the beginning quarter of the book that is filled with a bit too much teen angst and references to the hot new boys amazing hair and skater shoes, then you will be rewarded with the teenage girl version of Jason Bourne. Yes, the angst is still there, although it morphs from why did my dad have to die and why are other girls so mean, to why am I an android and not a real girl angst. I did find Mila to be a bit whiny and and a little under-enthused about her super cool android powers. I also would have liked a bit less time spent on the discovery phase at the beginning and a lot more time focused on her action scenes. I'm interested to see how the next book pans out. I will say I am recommending this book like crazy at work because it's a very clean YA option. No cursing (there's one "day-yum") and no sex or sexual overtones (the poor little thing malfunctions every time anyone even gets close to kissing her). So if you are a voracious reader like me or are looking for something parent-friendly to give to a teen girl, then go ahead and pick this up. It's not the greatest, but it kept me entertained. 


Yet again, this is the first in the series. Unless you've devoured the entire Parasol Protectorate series like I have, then this is the first prequel (sort of). The book is set in the same steampunk universe as Parasol Protectorate, but 30 years in the past in the 1850s. The book ties in several well-known favorites, albeit in their much younger versions, very nicely and as a fan I squeeed with delight every time that happened. This particular series is YA, where Parasol was more adult fantasy in nature, and follows 14 year old Sophronia as she is shipped off to finishing school after her mother simply cannot deal with her  inappropriate antics any longer. I mean, what kind of lady reads books, takes apart the mechanicals, and climbs up the dumbwaiter? The finishing school turns out to be more than it seems, however. Sophronia will be expected to rapidly improve her curtsy while learning how to kill Vampires and werewolves and avoiding death threats from the Picklemen as well. I am honestly so excited about this series it combines so many great elements: Steampunk? Check. Fantasy? Check. No-nonsense heroines who are too smart for their own good? Check. Humor? Check. Definitely pick this one up. And if you've never picked up any of Gail's other books you should do that as well. Well worth the read.


Book Review: The Fate Of Mercy Alban

I haven't picked up a thriller/horror novel this good in ages. The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb was a quick and enjoyable read that I would equate to a really good Gothic horror movie, e.g. The Woman in Black. It even has the same, creepy, the-horror-isn't-really-dead ending...

This isn't groundbreaking work or a literary masterpiece, this is good scary entertainment. This is the kind of book that gets your pulse racing as you frantically flip to the next chapter to find our what happens. This is definitely the kind of book I don't recommend reading when you're all alone in an empty house late at night.

The action is set in a town on Lake Superior at the ancestral home of Grace Alban. Grace and her teenage daughter, Amity, have returned for her mother's funeral. This marks the first time Grace has been back home in twenty years (she's been spending the interim on Whidbey Island!!!*) and the book begins by covering her struggles at dealing with her families tragic history and her mother's sudden death. As she grieves, she begins to uncover inconsistencies in her family history and is on the path to uncovering them as she bonds with the new reverend in town. But when an unexpected guest shows up at the funeral reception, the story heads straight into creepy territory. 

I would have liked a bit more time spent addressing the back story  I mean, another hundred pages wouldn't have hurt anyone right? But if you are looking for something to get your adrenaline pumping or even something with a touch of mystery and dark magic, I think this book is definitely for you.

*If you find this as amazingly awesome as I do, then we may be soul mates.