& Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K Rowling

Hey all! There has been quite a bit of Harry Potter hubbub of late, and I have some things to say about it all, so I am officially dubbing this HARRY POTTER WEEK! HOORAY! BUTTERBEER FOR EVERYONE! There will be quizzes and reviews and a post about a fun way I’ve injected Harry Potter into my everyday life on Friday. BUT FIRST, the review you’ve all been waiting for (or maybe not, because you all have lives and jobs and families and whatnot): HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John TIffany, and Jack Thorne. Published: Arthur A. Levine Books July 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John TIffany, and Jack Thorne. Published: Arthur A. Levine Books July 2016

The Book Itself: Different than the Potter books we’ve come to love. The play poster was not designed by the same artist as the other books, which may have a factor in why I don’t like it as much. There’s a lot of empty space around this flying nest thing. It feels like it’s missing a lot of scenery, a lot of context.

My Review: 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. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

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.

How does one even begin this review? People have come up to me these past couple of weeks with guarded expressions. “Sooooo,” they begin, “what did you think?” They know I’m a Harry Potter fan. A big one. And so when they see the book in a store, or the topic comes up in conversation, it’s like they’re wincing away from my going on a tirade about how awful it was or something. Or they’re hoping I loved it and will tell them it’s just like the rest of the series.

Well, it’s not. Like the rest of the series, I mean. I personally loved it for what it was. But it is NOT another Harry Potter book. It’s not a novel – it is literally a copy of the script that is being performed in London. A working script at that. So there are no descriptive scenes. No loving portrayal of Hogwarts or the Great Hall or the Whomping Willow. It is pure dialogue. And as such, you read it a bit differently. You have to fill in the scene more in your mind. For certain Harry Potter fans, this is not a problem: the world of witchcraft and wizardry is alive and well in your mind’s eye. All you need to do is read the words “Ron,” and “Hogwarts,” and you can immediately picture it.

Reading a script is also interesting because I don’t really think it helps with character development. I think getting a character’s actions as well as their words helps make them seem more rounded in a scene or story. Dialogue is a huge piece of how a character grows, but it’s hard when you aren’t seeing them do something. A lot of my friends who have read this had that gripe: that the character development was lacking. New and old characters acted differently than they expected or remembered. But it’s just their words. I feel like the whole piece would be much more powerful seen acted out than read.

So. Much. Happens. No wonder they had to break this thing up into multiple plays! Not only do we go through several years of Hogwarts schooling (remember when we had a book for each one of those?!), but Harry’s son Albus Severus (yep, I still hate the name after reading the whole script) goes on this grand adventure. The kind of adventure the movie studios would split into two. You know, because money. It’s a lot of plot points, and again because it’s only dialogue, the book whips right along so quickly that you feel like it’s a bit rushed.

There is also a BUNCH of stuff that I have no idea how they will translate to physical stage work. How will they change one actor into another via Polyjuice Potion? How will the centaur appear? How will they do magic duels, enchanted objects, time travel? I think the stage crew could be as impressive, if not more impressive, than the actors cast as the characters in this play.

I will say that some things that returning characters did or said seemed out of left field. And a lot of it is a little too nicey-nice. A heart-warming scene with Severus Snape take place I think because so many people loved Snape right as he died in the other books, and they didn’t get to see him be nice very often. Ron is relegated to almost pure comic relief, because people liked his one-liners. It is emphasized how important Neville’s character is, again, I think because he became such a fan favorite. In a way, this play was created for the fans, with a lot of wish fulfillment. There are actions and scenes included that Rowling perhaps thought fans wanted, that didn’t necessarily jive with what other fans loved or wanted, and that didn’t lend itself to a cohesive story about the years after the battle at Hogwarts.

Does it sound like I have a lot of criticism for it? Maybe. But I also LOVED it. I read this play just as fast as I did the other Potter books. I loved seeing old characters saying things that reminded me of their younger selves in the previous series. I loved being introduced to their children, to their new friends, and I loved seeing some old standbys: the Time Turner, Polyjuice Potion, sneaking into places you shouldn’t, etc. etc. etc. I was transported to reading the Harry Potter books under the edge of my desk at school, trying not to get caught. Or listening to the books on tape during family roadtrips. Or going to the midnight premier of the last book, and all five of us silently reading in the car as we drove home together.

Basically Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is one big ‘ole ball of nostalgia. Which is both a good and bad thing: I absolutely loved reading about being in that world again. But some of the character choices seemed to pander to fan favorites a little bit too much.

I am also very happy to announce that I will be attending Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two in London, this coming April 2017!!! Excited doesn’t begin to cover what I am feeling about that. I will be seeing both plays in the same day, staying in London for the week, and visiting as many Harry Potter things as possible while I am there. I will, of course, blog all about it.

Let me know what you thought about Cursed Child, and stay tuned for Harry Potter all week long!!

My Grade: B+

& Fridays: On Reading a Series #4: When It’s All Over

I am getting sad just THINKING about writing this post, you guys. Because eventually, all good things must come to an end…including…beloved series.

*Goes in a corner to sob*

What do you do when a favorite series comes to an end? What happens when the somewhat-pleasant book hangover ends, and you are left with the empty knowledge that there will be no more books in that series. It’s over. Done. Sure, the author might (and probably will) write another book, maybe even another series. You might even like or love the new series, but does it ever feel the same?

I’m going to hazard a guess and say no, it doesn’t. Whatever you do, you have to come to terms with The End. In hindsight, I should have saved “The Five Stages of Sequel Grief” from last week’s series post for this post, but oh well. Them’s the breaks. Regardless, here are some tips for dealing with Post-Excellent-Series Depression:
Read something else.
Yep, it will be time to Move On. Read something you know you love, whether for you that’s the entire series of Harry Potter, Sorcerer’s Stone to Deathly Hallows, or your favorite trashy romance novel: return to something you know you love, perhaps just as equally as the series you just finished. OR read something awful. Whether for you that’s going through the kitchen oven manual page by page, or reading a Twilight or Fifty Shades of Gray installment. It’s a palate cleanser, if you will. So that the next book you attempt won’t pale so much in comparison to all the good stuff you’ve been reading.

– But stay in the book’s world a little while.
Go back and read your favorite scenes, peruse the online community of your choice for other fans to talk with, compile a list of actors and actresses who you’d be okay with playing your new favorite characters in a movie adaptation of the series. Draw, color, spray paint, write fanfiction, go online and buy oodles of action figures or other merchandise having to do with the books. Be proud of being a fan. Nerd out. You do you.

– Recommend that book until people want to punch you in the face.
Or maybe not, because punches in the face are no fun. But if you love something, set it free….into other people’s libraries. I hesitate sometimes to read something people or publications gush on and on about, for fear that I won’t love it as much (and then I almost always cave, because I’m a sucker like that). But at this point, if my best friend tells me to read something, I freakin’ read it. Because that girl has got good taste, meaning that it is very like my own (she said so humbly). And I know that if she LOVED something, I will most likely LOVE it as well. So blog about it, tweet, Facebook, and tell people in person that you just read a really good book, and it deserves to be read. In my opinion, a well-read world is a good world.

– Keep your copies
I understand if you don’t have the bookshelf space. I’m running out of it myself. But I like to keep copies of series I know I love. It’s nice seeing them there on the shelf, and if I’ve gone through a bad run of books lately, I know I have a shelf of good ones that I can always return to to remind me that the world is good again. You can keep your well-worn paperback or replace them with nice hardcover copies while you lend your paperback copy out to people.

– Pay attention to recommendations
There are plenty of websites or social media outlets that can help you find books of a similar nature to the one you just finished and loved. This can, of course, backfire, and you could hate the comparison, disagreeing entirely with whoever dared to say the two books had anything in common, but I have found some great new reads this way. Goodreads has a nice tool for this – once you add a book to a shelf, it can sort through users who have read the same thing, and find books of a similar theme. There is also literally a website called http://www.whatshouldireadnext.com/ So there’s that…

What do YOU do to get over a terrific series? What’s the last amazing set of books you read? I am always looking for recommendations! Happy Friday!

Wizarding Wednesdays: It’s Time for a Harry Potter Quiz

Hey, all! Happy Wednesday! I found this Harry Potter Questionnaire here, and decided to tweak it a bit, adding some of my own questions and subtracting some others. Enjoy, and feel free to fill it out and post it as well!

 1. If you went to Hogwarts, which house would you be sorted into?

If there were a house that combined Slytherin and Ravenclaw, that’d be me! (Slytherclaw? Ravenin?) But Pottermore has sorted me into Slytherin, which I sort of get.

2. What would your Animagus be? Your Patronus?

Well, an Animagus is an animal you can voluntarily turn into, so…probably something that could fly. A hawk, or an eagle. As for a Patronus, you don’t have control over that, but that might be a cougar (so a giant, fiercer cat) or a horse (because I loved horses when I was a kid).

3. What would your career be like after graduating from Hogwarts?

I would have loved to be a Madame Pomfrey type – healing the sick and injured. But I don’t even have the stomach to watch hospital shows on TV…so I would get into wand-making. I think it would be awesome to help new witches and wizards get the most important tool they need to start their journey.   

4. Have you ever been to a HP midnight release?

I’ve only been to one, but I wish I had gone to more! I attended the last book’s midnight release. I still remember the fun events at the bookstore I picked it up at, and the experience of my friends and I all in the car at 1 AM, reading to ourselves 🙂

5. How many times have you re-read the books?

I have listened to the audiobooks 2-3 times each. My family listened to them on roadtrips. The books, actually probably only 3 times each, tops! It’s my goal to re-read the series again, soon.

6. Whose death was the saddest? 

There were a lot. I read the final book on a family vacation and had to take a reading break after every death…I took a lot of reading breaks. Fred’s death was pretty terrible. Lupin AND Tonks was such a shock. But I think Dumbledore’s had one of the biggest impacts. The rest of the series would have played out much differently had he lived it.

7. If you went to Hogwarts would you rather have a cat, an owl, or a rat?

Okay, so the only useful animal is an owl. Did the kids who didn’t have an owl just borrow the school’s owls? Did they have to rent them? Did they have to take care of their own owls, come to think of it? SUDDENLY SO MANY OWL QUESTIONS! I am a cat person, so I would have loved to have a cat.

8. What do you think of the Deathly Hallows being split in two?

I thought it worked very well, with how much ground they had to cover! Unfortunately EVERY franchise after HP had to split the last installment in two, and none of them did it as effectively.

9. Have you read the Tales of Beedle the Bard?

I have, but only once! Perhaps I’ll re-read that one as well when I re-read the book series.

10. When did you first become a Potter fan? 

I believe I joined the series as the third book was coming out. I was instantly hooked. I made my family listen to them on audiobook, and got them hooked as well.

Favorites:

Book? I remember loving Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when I first read them. That might change on the re-read, though!

Movie? Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The Knight Bus, Hogsmeade, the Shrieking Shack, Buckbeak the Hippogriff, everything!

Female character? Hermione Granger, through and through.

Male character? Dumbledore. So many great quotes came from him. Although in hindsight he made a lot of questionable decisions regarding Harry. These comics make me laugh every time.

Professor? Minerva McGonagall

Magical creature? I always found Thestrals fascinating: a creature you could only see if you witnessed death.

Spell? I am constantly losing things (like car keys…) so Accio would be useful. Also Wingardium Leviosa, to move heavier things – imagine how easy it would be to rearrange the furniture!

Potion? Who wouldn’t want some Felix Felicis – liquid luck?!

Magical Subject? I don’t think I could choose! Transfiguration…or Care of Magical Creatures…or Charms (Charms seems significantly underrated. Most useful objects wizards use, like Hermione’s bag in Deathly Hallows or the tents at the Quidditch World Cup in Goblet of Fire are mentioned to be charmed – I could charm SO MANY THINGS!)

Quote? “Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have.” – Hermione Granger

Hogwarts House? Ravenclaw

Place? Too many! Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, the tents at the Quidditch World Cup, HOGWARTS IN GENERAL, etc. etc. etc.

Weasley? Molly Weasley. Let’s be real.

Couple? Ron and Hermione

This or That

Butterbeer or Firewhiskey? Butterbeer, because I’ve tasted it before at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida! And whiskey isn’t my favorite liquor.

Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade? Tough one. Probably Diagon Alley.

Books or Movies? Is this even a question? Books all the way. Although I am very glad the movies were made as well as they were.

Half Blood Prince or Deathly Hallows? Deathly Hallows. I have more memories of reading that one. And the two movies were better.

Philosopher’s Stone or Chamber of Secrets? Chamber of Secrets

Snape or Slughorn: Both have their flaws. I don’t think the reveal of Snape’s past redeemed him fully for how he treated not only Harry, but the majority of the other students at Hogwarts. And Slughorn played unfair favorites. But Snape had the better character arc (and I still posit that he was a vampire. Just sayin’).

Lupin or Sirius? Lupin, although he could be entirely too serious sometimes (HA! SIRIUS/SERIOUS!)

Harry/Ginny or Harry/Hermione? I think Ron & Hermione are far more dynamic than a Harry & Hermione relationship would have been. I wish Ginny had been more of a rounded character in both the books and the movies, but I still rooted for her and Harry to get together.

Kreacher or Dobby? Dobby. Although I do like how much of a curmudgeon Kreacher was.

Dan or Rupert? Confession time: I had such a crush on Daniel Radcliffe when the first movies came out. My poor 10-year-old heart couldn’t take it.

Bellatrix or Narcissa? Bellatrix. Mostly for the greatest scene ever, in which she dies and Molly Weasley is a badass.

Hedwig or Crookshanks? Crookshanks’ attitude is my favorite. Although Hedwig makes me cry to think about :’-(

& Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen by Rpshani Chokshi. Publisher: St Martin's Griffin April 2016

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin April 2016

The Book Itself: I love the jewel-toned colors and mysterious landscape. The scroll work around the edges is great too. It seems appropriately moody and dramatic for the story itself. Almost mythological as well.

The Review: Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

I heard of The Star-Touched Queen through one of my book subscription services, where a pretty quote poster got me hooked. I looked it up, the synopsis made me salivate (mythology of all kinds! Mystery! Intrigue! Romance!), and I entered the Goodreads Giveaway for a copy.

And I won it. As luck would have it, my lovely, shiny copy came in the mail just as I was finishing up a book. I dove in straight away.

I loved the beginning, my attention wavered for a bit as the central mystery (just who is her husband, really?) dragged on, and I loved the reveal of who he was/where he had taken her….and then it all fell apart for me.

Here’s what I think the central problem is: it focuses on the beauty of certain words together, of overly descriptive, flowery, over-the-top language, and of sweeping declarations of love/obsession, that the plot itself falls apart. There are certainly some pretty sentences here, but I would rather have the occasional beautiful phrase that makes me pause AND a well fleshed-out story and characters, rather than just the effusive, incredible language.

The central mystery of who Maya married and where he has taken her builds up for what feels like quite a while. It has the annoying Beauty and the Beast quality to it: here is a beautiful castle. You can explore it, but DON’T GO IN THIS ONE SPECIFIC PLACE. I MEAN IT! And then of course the dumb protagonist goes and explores the one place she can’t because her dumb captor/love interest was stupid enough to make something forbidden and thus more desirable. A lot of eye-rolling ensued as Amar insisted again and again that she not go into these locked doors, that he of course will tell her who he is and where she is eventually. That she just has to wait, and trust him, even though, hello, she hasn’t exactly met anyone trustworthy in her entire life, and you essentially kidnapped her and brought her to a barren castle as your quasi-prisoner.

*Deep breath* okay. There’s a whole stupid, Stockholm Syndrome, flowery-characters-making-stupid-decisions thing here that I can’t get over. But I’ll digress for now.

Because the reveal of where she is and who Amar is is actually written spectacularly. I was able to keep myself spoiler-free of this reveal – if you read Goodreads reviews, or I’m sure other reviews elsewhere, you know what tale this story is re-telling, and can read between the lines to figure out what’s going on. But I really didn’t have a clue. So the reveal was surprising to me. The moment of Maya’s realization was heart-pounding, sorrowful, horrifying, and suspenseful, all at once. I got so pumped for the story to fall into place, for things to pick up and for me to absolutely love the ending of this book.

And then things fell apart. All of the plot twists were predictable from here on out. Both Maya and Amar made dumb, blind decisions that even I knew were stupid (even the quote from Disney’s Hercules (woah, a lot of Disney references in this review…): “People do crazy things when they’re in love” isn’t enough to justify the tropes here).

And then Maya meets a crazy talking horse, who sometimes sounds creepy and ominous, and at other times ridiculous and insane. I’m uncertain if everyone can hear this animal talk, or if just Maya can. And overall I just think it’s a weird character to include. Is it a mythical story I am not familiar with? Are cannibalistic talking horses all the rage now? And sadly enough, our friend Mr. Ed (or Ms. Ed, as I believe it was a female horse) is the most interesting character in the book’s last half. Which is saying something, because I don’t understand why she’s there.

Monsters are mentioned, but not described. I suppose I could Google Image search a couple of them, and I am sure they have place in real world myth, but all of it felt tacked on too late. They crop up in a final scene that is supposed to be tense and suspenseful, and instead plays out and ends exactly as I would expect it to, with magic, bad guys meeting their downfall, and a happily ever after.

Overall, it just ain’t my thing. It is certainly pretty to look at on the surface, but the plot and characters left so much to be desired.

The Grade: D

& Fridays: On Reading a Series #3: When You Don’t Like the Sequel

You’ve been waiting for this for months. You have it set up as a notification on your phone, in your planner, on your wall calendar ever since you found out the date. It’s the sequel to the Best Book Ever, or The Best Book You Read Last Year. The wait has been torturous. Your parents/friends/dog are sick of hearing how excited you are for this book to come out. You get giddy thinking about re-immersing yourself back into that book world, re-acclimating yourself with the characters. If you’re like me, you have read the first book again in anticipation of this one: you want everything fresh in your mind, you want a seamless transition between the events of the first book into the events of the second.

You reserve your copy online. You are first in line at the bookstore or your mailbox to get that brand new copy in your hot little hands. You open up the book and take a deep whiff of its pages (no? Just me? Okay…). You speed race home, nearly maiming yourself by taking the stairs too quickly. You stay up until the wee hours of the morning to finish the book. Or you just sneak in pages whenever you can – your lunch break, before and/or after dinner, even bathroom breaks. Only a few days after you got THE BOOK, you finish it, close the back cover….and you feel underwhelmed.

Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Sequels are tricky things. I have read my fair share of excellent book series that have just…lackluster second or even third installments. Sometimes it feels like a betrayal: how DARE the author kill off my beloved character. HOW DARE they keep these two apart. HOW DARE THEY NOT WRITE IT LIKE I WANTED THEM TO?! You run a full gamut of emotions. In fact, let’s call it “The Five Stages of Sequel Grief

1.Despair: It is a horrible feeling to dislike a book whose first story you absolutely loved. What happened? You feel like lamenting. Is it me? Is it you? You stare at the book cover, smattered with your tears…

2.  Rationalizing: It probably isn’t as bad as you’re making it out to be. You’re looking at things through the lens of rose colored first-in-a-series-glasses. You loved that first book. This one is great too, in its own way. If you looked up reviews on Goodreads or on your favorite book blogs, you’ll see that you’re just being too quick to judge…

3. Anger: You look up the reviews. And one of two things happens:

  1. Everyone loves the book, and you begin to feel crazy for not liking it and WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU/THIS BOOK?! You get angry.
  2. Everyone hates the book, and their comments fuel your hate-fire so that as you read, you begin to yell at the computer screen: “EXACTLY!”, “THAT’S WHAT I WAS SAYING!”, and “WHY WOULD THE AUTHOR DO THIS TO US?!” You get angry. And people stare at you for yelling at your computer screen.

4. The Break Up: You put your copy of that sequel far, far away. On the shelf furthest back in your bookcase. In the guest bedroom where you don’t have to see it every day. Pitched into the backyard so the worms can have it (on second thought, don’t do that. Respect the books). You and this series need a Time Out. You just need some time to process things, to grow as a person, to really figure out what it is you want in life.

5. Acceptance/Forgiveness: Sometimes books and people – good books, good people – just don’t mesh. Even though you loved the first book, the second book just didn’t go the way you expected. And that’s okay. Chances are that someone – maybe many someones – out there liked it. And good for them. Maybe you’ll read the next book in the series, you know, to see if it picks up again. You’ll just go into the next one with lower expectations. And you’ll be fine with it if it’s not that great too. But by god, if that one sucks too….

See, lots of feels involved with series reading. On the flipside, what if you love the sequel, and were just “meh” about the first book? I’m struggling with writing reviews for that situation right now. What happens when you and your book reading friends disagree on a series installment? TELL ME YOUR THOUGHTS!

And happy weekend J

 

& Fridays: Uppercase Box June

I got my Uppercase Box this month a few days after Owl Crate. And as soon as I eagerly yanked the book from the Uppercase drawstring bag, my heart sank. If you read my Owl Crate post last week, you can guess why.

juneIt’s the same book! My Lady Jane, written by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. The silly-sounding one about vaguely-historical characters and a man that turns into a horse during the day.

If anything, this proves that the publicist or agent or whoever is in charge of getting word of the book out there in the world is doing a good job. He or she convinced two book subscription companies to include this book in their boxes in the same month. And I don’t exactly expect Uppercase Box and Owl Crate to be in communication together, making sure they do not send out the same thing, but it feels disappointing nonetheless. I wouldn’t buy the same book twice unless I knew I loved it and I wanted to get a copy for a friend, etc.

june3I might hand off one of these copies to a fellow YA fan. There’s no room on my bookshelf or reason to keep two copies.

Moving on! The goodies this month are a spectacular woodgrain Deathly Hallows magnet that immediately got put in a place of honor on my fridge, and a light canvas bag with a fun illustration, crying out “I read, therefore I fangirl.” I believe it’s the same artist who created the YA-quote calendar I got in January, actually…

When it comes down to it, I would not normally spend the amount of money an Uppercase Box or Owl Crate costs on the goodies that came in this month’s subscriptions. Yes, it is disappointing that both companies chose the same book, but that’s what I get for loving books so much that I subscribed to more than one book box!

Owl Crate June

I have a bit of a bone to pick with this month’s book subscription boxes…but you’ll have to wait until my post for June’s Uppercase Box gets posted to find out what it is! 🙂

royalty

This month’s Owl Crate theme is “Royalty,” and we’ve got some princess-y goods to go with it! This month’s book is My Lady Jane written by not one, not two, but three authors. The description:

“The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help. At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.”

The book flap mentions that Mary’s husband-to-be also turns into a horse during the day. So overall…this sounds like a silly book. That is not a bad thing. It seems as if it will be lighthearted, historical-ish (only in that it has the names and vague details of some historical figures), and goofy. I am currently not in the goofy-reading mood, so I might not pick up this one for a while. When I need something easy and fun (perhaps after reading a bunch of convoluted fantasy epics), I could see myself reaching for this story.

royalty4The three authors baffle me. Did they each write one of the perspectives? I always thought co-writing with one person sounded like it might be messy!

We’ve got cute little royal-inspired bookmarks from a popular Etsy shop, a beautiful bracelet with the quote “Even in the future, the story begins with once upon a time” inscribed on it, and a Funko Mystery Mini Disney Princesses box, from which I unearthed Miss Elsa from Frozen. There is also a paper crown, but I don’t really see myself donning that for any particular reason.

royalty3Also included is a poster from the popular Red Queen series, and a scanned letter from the authors of the book.

I am leery of the book, and know that I will definitely have to be in the right mindset to delve into it, but I love the cute, royal extras in this box. With this month, my free Owl Crate subscription, paid for by some lovely friends for my birthday, is at an end 😦 😦 😦 I have enjoyed each one immensely. Next month’s theme is “Good vs. Evil,” and they’ve gone and piqued my interest by saying there will be some Harry Potter inspired items included…so maybe you’ll be seeing Owl Crate around these parts again…

& Review: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. Publisher: Disney-Hyperion June 2005

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. Publisher: Disney-Hyperion June 2005

The Lightning Thief new cover, released in 2014

The Lightning Thief new cover, released in 2014

The Book Itself: To the left is the original paperback release of the first installment in the Percy Jackson series. To the right is the re-released cover, which I like better. It’s more action-packed, more dynamic. And the font is better. And the art is cool. So there.

My Review: Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school… again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’ master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus’ stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

I know, I know. Why am I so late to jump on the Percy Jackson bandwagon? The entire series has been out for years. The spinoff series has been wrapped up. THERE HAVE BEEN MOVIES.

Well, as per my series of posts on writing a series (or as I like to call it, my Series Series), since I have such a horrible memory for pervious installments, it is a good thing I waiting as long as I have to started the Percy Jackson series. It would have sucked to have read five books, six books, only to find out that the seventh is still a year away from release.

And then I feared I was too old for it.  It’s a “Young Readers” or “Middle Grade” book, versus the “Young Adult” fare that I am used to reading lately. So I knew the themes and way the story would be structured would be different. Then again, Harry Potter is considered “Young Readers”….

But I digress. The Lightning Thief is certainly paced for younger readers in that something big happens every. Single. Chapter. The Lightning Thief introduces Percy to so many gods and goddesses and mythical creatures, that I am almost left wondering wait, who else does he have left to meet? Didn’t he just meet all the most important people? Of course I know that there are hundreds of gods and beasties in the pantheon we have yet to meet, and I am sure that most of the major players in this first installment will return in future books, but it feels like A LOT happens, and some character and plot development suffers because of it.

I cannot deny that it is a great book for a younger audience. It takes outcasts and makes them feel important, makes them feel special and that there is more to them than a diagnosis (Percy is dyslexic, but words only swim in front of his eyes because he’s actually suited more to reading Ancient Greek than English). It has wish fulfillment in the world’s most awesome summer camp. It has monsters and a pen that turns into a sword and loyal friends. I would have EATEN THIS SERIES UP 10-ish years ago. But I have read a lot of books since I was 10 years old, and I have read books geared toward a younger audience with better descriptions and characters arcs.

BUT. I’m going to keep going with it. The stories look like they might age as Percy ages – the character’s reactions and decisions might grow with them, and I’m interested to see where Riordan takes the mythology next. They are certainly quick reads, and I never felt as though I should put it down because it was unsatisfying. It’s just…a quick, superficial kind of satisfying. I hope the next books really take off for me.

My Grade: C

& Review: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. Publisher: Random House April 2016

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. Publisher: Random House April 2016

The Book Itself: A pretty, delicate script, a simple graphic of a diamond ring – it’s not the most stand-out cover on the shelf, but it has its appeal.

My Review: This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.

Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.

Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . .

And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.

**Warning: I will be semi-spoiling some plot points in this book, but only because it is based on that overly-taught classic, Pride & Prejudice. If you do not wish to have the original spoiled for you, perhaps skip this one.

This book has gotten a lot of press. Probably more than any book I’ve seen or read in recent years. It is everywhere. I can’t open a women’s magazine or website with a book category on it without seeing this graphic, red cover. Instagram is awash in Eligible sightings (yes…even mine). People are raving about it.

To me, Eligible is akin to watching a poorer version of the Kardashians enact plot arcs from Austen’s classic.

See, now this will make some people perk up, and it will make some of you recoil. Eligible is trying to cash in on the former. And apparently it’s succeeding big time.

The names remain mostly the same. We have Chip Bingley, rather than Charles Bingley. We have a Jasper Wickham versus George Wickham. Our sisters are the same: Mary, Jane, Elizabeth, Lydia, and Kitty.

And all of them are terrible, judgmental, rude, stuck-up snobs. Except Jane. But Jane is frustrating in her own right for never speaking her mind and never putting her awful family members in their places.  Mary is gruff, rude for no particular reason, and barely written about throughout the entire book. Elizabeth, our POV character, is nosy, holier-than-thou, and obnoxious. Lydia and Kitty are perhaps the worst: lazy and freeloading, snarling at their sisters at every turn, whether it be for asking what they are doing, accusing Mary of being a lesbian, or whining about their otherwise charmed life. None of them are really redeemed by the novel’s end.

But none of them really compare to Mrs. Bennet. In the original Pride & Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet is rather fixated with marriage (of course, this was the 1700s-1800s, when marriage was considered the focal point on which a woman’s life pivoted). Mrs. Bennet in this contemporary adaptation is the rudest, most homophobic, racist, insufferable woman I have possibly ever read in contemporary literature. Not one word leaves her lips that is not insulting to someone inside or outside of the family. She’s awful. And what makes her more awful is that no one ever tells her that what she is saying is in any way wrong/rude/ungrateful. They merely roll their eyes, they sigh at their impossible mother. I would have maybe liked Mrs. Bennet, or even one of the sisters more if someone had flat-out yelled at the matriarch for being solely focused on her pretty white daughters marrying handsome white rich men. I would have respected both sides more for it, no matter the reactions after the blowout. As it was, Mrs. Bennet came off entirely one dimensional, and completely, entirely awful. I have no doubt that people like her exist in the world, but it didn’t make me want to root for her or any of the characters around her.

The book also tries to tie in “contemporary issues”. It does so rather poorly. There is a LGBTQ character, as well as a non-white character. The LGBTQ character is shamed for their identity, made to apologize for it, and only used for their scandal factor in their involvement in the Bennet’s lives (how dare someone not be straight, white, beautiful, and rich?! And how dare they hang around the Bennet sisters?!) The non-white character speaks maybe five sentences, and is again only used as shock factor, with very little characterization or personality. This isn’t confronting today’s racial and gender issues. It’s insulting them.

Am I taking all of this a little too seriously? Maybe so. This modern re-telling certainly heightens all of the characters and their less than stellar characteristics to the absurd on purpose. And it’s akin to when a Keeping Up with the Kardashians marathon comes on TV; it’s rather hard to look away. It’s a little fun to see awful people do awful things (even if it all ends in marriages, because good things happen to terrible people all the time). But isn’t it a little sad that society is currently obsessed with “reality” TV like that, with people like that, and with books like this?

That’s how this book played out to me. I hated the sisters (except poor, meek Jane. But come on, Jane! Be a hero and slap your mother across the face for us!), and I loathed Mrs. Bennet. So if you don’t mind your mindless fun every now and then, and if you don’t think you’d mind spending some time with absurd, insufferable people for some 500 pages, give this a go. But if reality TV and a certain famous family make you want to grind your teeth into dust…give it a pass.

My Grade: C-