August 4, 2016

Book Review | Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eight chapter in the Harry Potter series, given to us in the form of a screenplay. This story is NOT written solely by (Queen) J.K. Rowling, but is actually co-written by Jack Thorne, who has written for the television shows Skins and Shameless. I’m assuming most people already have read this or at least know the story, but if not: this play picks up at the end of the original series, with the Trio at King’s Cross dropping their kids off for school. The play follows both Harry’s middle child, Albus Severus, who is nervous about being sorted into Slytherin house and living up to the legend that is his father, and Harry himself as he is navigating adulthood and parenthood in the Wizarding World.

I didn’t hate this story, but I didn’t love it either. I think after 9 years without a new Harry Potter story, we all overhyped this story that has defined our generation to the point where we were setting ourselves up for disappointment – similar to the criticism from the latest Star Wars movie. When you are building on something that is already a huge phenomenon, it is going to be difficult to meet everyone’s expectations.

I liked seeing some of our favorite characters again, but they did not always live up to their personality. Harry was the real wild card. Even 15-year-old Harry Potter, who was dealing with hormones, being discredited by the entire Wizarding community and being sort-of possessed by Voldemort in his dreams, was not this bad. He said things completely out of character, especially toward his child and Professor McGonagall, who was essentially a mother figure toward him throughout his youth.

The play did feel a little like fan fiction at times, which isn’t always a bad thing. Just look at those totally awesome Potter musicals that StarKid released. But some of the plot points that Jack Thorne used did not make complete sense, such as how time travel worked in the Wizarding World. There was also a very stupid “plot twist” that came completely out of left field and can not possibly be canon because it makes no sense in the context of the previous books. I’m sure you will know what that is if you have already read the play. I don’t want to spoil in case anyone still would like to read it.

I feel I should add that this is the rehearsal script, not the final script. I am assuming that before this hits the West End rewrites and edits will have been made. I would like to see this play at some point if it ever comes across the pond to America. Some of the set descriptions sounded very interesting and I’m sure the final product will be a truly magical experience.

Overall, it was great to go back to Hogwarts, but next time I’ll just travel over to YouTube for the musicals.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars.

What were your thoughts on Cursed Child? Did you have a favorite character? And have you seen any of the Harry Potter musicals? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

April 5, 2016

Book Review | The Siren

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Hey everyone! Today I wanted to talk to you about The Siren by Kiera Cass.

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The Siren is Kiera Cass’s first novel that she previously self-published and was given the opportunity to re-draft and re-release this year.

The Siren is told from the point of view of Kahlen, a girl who nearly drowned during a cruise with her family, only to be saved by a group of sirens. She agrees to serve the Ocean for the next one hundred years in exchange for her life. We then flash-forward to present day, showing Kahlen while she still has a few decades left of her sentence. Although her siren sisters want to live as much of their life as possible, Kahlen prefers to hide in her room and make scrapbooks of all the victims of the drownings she helped cause as a way to ease her concencious. On one of the rare days she leaves she meets a boy named Akinli, who seems to like Kahlen for more than just the beauty that all the sirens have. He also manages to understand her without a voice (since if she ever spoke it would lead him to the Ocean and he would die). The story mainly focuses on Kahlen and how she isn’t sure if she wants to be a siren anymore, especially after meeting Akinli.

Normally I love Kiera Cass’s writing. With The Selection series I was hooked right away, and even though the main character America Singer was frustrating to read sometimes it still captured my attention and left me wanting more. Unfortunately this story didn’t hold my attention the same way The Selection books did. I just felt like the story lagged in some parts, but maybe that was just because I was busy when I was reading this.

I liked the scenes with Kahlen and Akinli. When they first met at the library. When they baked a cake together. But there was also too much of an Insta-Love vibe for me, especially considering Kahlen left right after their first date and obsessed quietly about him for a couple of months instead of trying to talk to him or whatever.

The relationships between Kahlen and the Ocean and Kahlen and her sisters were interesting. I especially liked how the Ocean was sort of her own person. She could communicate with the sirens as long as they were close to Her, and she was sort of a mother figure to Kahlen, which was sweet.

The last few chapters with the exception of the Epilogue were a little over the top. I’m not going to go too much into it because I want to avoid spoilers, but apparently Insta-love is the cure to any ailment.

I think the prose was great, but the execution just missed the mark for me. I do greatly enjoy Kiera’s work and will continue to support her writing, but unfortunately this one wasn’t totally for me.

3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads.

March 15, 2016

Book Review | The Chaos of Stars

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The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White follows Isadora, who is the daughter of Egyptian gods, Isis and Osiris. When she was very young Isadora believed that she would become a god just like her parents, only to learn that eventually she would die and her parents would bury her in a tomb in the family home with her brothers and sisters who have already existed. After that day Isadora’s relationship with her parents is strained. The story then shifts to present day, where Isadora is a teenager still living with her parents in their hidden palace in Egypt. The gods learn there is a dark force at play and send Isadora away to live with her brother in California where she will be safe. Isadora spends her time in California working at a museum where relics of her family members are on display. She makes a few friends, as well as meets a cute boy named Ry, and she tries to help figure out what is going on with this darkness that is taking over her dreams and forced her away from home.

First of all, this cover = GORGEOUS! The navy and the gold are just so so so so so beautiful together!

And as for the inside of the book I enjoyed it a lot (3.5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads). So many books are focused on Greek mythology (which I do find very interesting), and it was very refreshing to have an introduction to another type of mythology that up until this point I knew nothing about, apart from the names of Isis, Osiris, and Anubis.

As for characters, I liked Tyler, Isadora’s friend from the museum. She was feisty and funny, and was always there for Isadora.

Speaking of our main character, Isadora was sort of annoying at times. She was not as frustrating a main character as some others I could think of (America Singer in The Selection immediately comes to mind), but she was very closed off and bitter and seemed to have that #FirstWorldProblems mentality when she didn’t get her way from her parents. However, for the most part I liked her. I felt like I understood her behavior toward her parents because she did love them and wanted to be with them forever, but was “cheated” out of that option.

The writing was fast-paced and I managed to read this book in one sitting. I felt like there were a few things that were revealed towards the end of the story that should have been discussed earlier in the book regarding the love interest’s family (or even adding a few more pages to the end to discuss it), but overall I enjoyed the read. If you have any interest in mythology and enjoy books that have similiarities to the Percy Jackson series (or really anything Rick Riordian has written) then I would suggest checking this one out.

March 10, 2016

Book Review | A Little in Love

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Ever since I read The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet I’ve been looking for more famous literary stories told from the point of view of the secondary characters. It gives you the chance to see the story from a different angle. So when I was strolling through Books-a-Million and saw an adaptation of Les Miserables told from Eponine’s P.O.V., I automatically picked it up.

Anyone who has seen or read Les Mis knows who Eponine is. She is the daughter of thieves, a girl who is in love with a boy named Marius who is in love with another girl, a girl who Eponine herself grew up with.

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A Little in Love starts when Eponine was young. She talks about living with her parents in Montfermeil, the birth of her sister, and the life of thieving that she is forced into. Unlike her family, Eponine tries to be good. She never wants to steal or to kill. She only wants to do good, and it’s hard to do good when your family insists you do bad. She is teased by her family and scolded for not being as committed to their “family business” as her sister is. Eponine becomes friends with Cosette, a little girl who is brought to Montfermeil to stay until her mother can earn enough money to support the two of them. However, Cosette’s mother never returns, and she becomes the Cinderella of Eponine’s family until Jean Valjean adopts her. Later on we see Eponine meet Marius, whom she falls in love with, as well as see her reconcile with Cosette when they meet again in Paris.

I’ve never read the actual Victor Hugo novel. I, like I’m sure most of the general public, have only seen the movie that came out in 2012. It was my first introduction to the story. One of my favorite songs was “On My Own,” both because Samantha Banks has an amazing voice and because she put so much emotion into her performance. And it was her that popped into my head when I was reading this story.

From what I have heard about the actual Victor Hugo book, Eponine is not that big of a character. She’s just sort of there, but A Little in Love was her chance to shine.

I liked the way Eponine interacted with Cosette and Marius. Even though she knew Marius loved Cosette and not her, she was never spiteful. In fact she was the one who brought them together (don’t think that’s really a spoiler because they showed in the movie that Eponine knew where Cosette and Valjean were staying in Paris). She risked her life to bring Marius a note from Cosette in the barricades, and in my mind, that made her fearless. She didn’t care about the war, she cared about Marius and Cosette and their happiness. She put them before herself.

Overall I greatly enjoyed this. I would recommend this to fans of Les Mis, and really anyone that wants to see a classic story from a different perspective. Even if you know the whole story, you can still find something new from these types of re-imaginings.

Have any of you read this book before? If so, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

 

March 6, 2016

Book Review | Finding Audrey

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Hello everyone!

I’ve been reading some more Sophie Kinsella books lately, and decided to do a review on the first book of hers I read a few months ago: Finding Audrey.

Finding+Audrey+Cover+Jpeg Finding Audrey is Kinsella’s first Young Adult novel, which follows a girl named, you guessed it, Audrey. Prior to the beginning of the book Audrey suffers through an incident that causes her to now have social anxiety, for which she has to go to therapy for. Audrey is too afraid to make eye contact with anyone, including the members of her family, all except for her youngest brother Felix. Because Audrey can’t make eye contact she hides behind a pair of sunglasses, even when indoors. She mostly keeps to herself and watches her mother and her little brother Frank argue about Frank’s obsession with video games. Frank plays with a team for one particular game, and invites his friend Linus over to play with him. Audrey initially freaks out when she sees Linus because he is a new person for her to be around, but she soon develops a crush on him. The two start a romance and Linus pushes Audrey to step out of her little bubble of anxiety by doing little tasks, such as ordering a drink at Starbucks, or going up to a stranger and asking a random question.

Overall this book was cute. Light, quick, fast paced. That said, it was irritating.

What the title should have been was Audrey’s Mother Has Some Major Issues (With Video Games). Because 70% of this story was just reading how Audrey’s mother is “concerned” about her brother constantly playing Land of Conquerors (which in my head was some sort of Call of Duty game). The issues with the mother and Frank take up pretty much the entire book, with little pieces here and there of our actual main character doing some stuff with Linus, or figuring stuff out in her head.

Audrey’s anxiety was confusing to me. Maybe it’s because we never learn what actually happened to her. I don’t know. I think if Finding Audrey had been even thirty pages longer, and it included what happened to Audrey, I might have liked it a bit better. But it’s nice to read about a book addressing social anxiety.

The best character in the book to me was Felix, who is four and adorably clueless about what is going on around him. There’s one scene in the story where Linus has Felix deliver a note to Audrey and when Audrey gives her response to Felix to take it back to Linus, Felix sticks the note in his pocket, saying he wants to keep it as his “pocket paper.”

Like I said before, this book was cute. If you are a big fan of Sophie Kinsella, or are just looking for a quick read for the beach, I recommend you checking this out.

 

*Rating on Goodreads: 3 stars out of 5

 

March 2, 2016

Book Review | Hook’s Daughter

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Hook’s Daughter by Heidi Schulz is a middle grade novel that talks about, as the title suggests, Captain Hook’s daughter, Jocelyn. Jocelyn is an adventurer in a society where girls are expected to be prim and proper. Due to her wild antics, Jocelyn is sent to a finishing school, but after receiving a letter from her now deceased father, she runs away to avenge his death by the hand (or mouth, as the case may be) of the Neverland Crocodile. Along with Mr. Smee, Jocelyn gathers a crew and set sail on her ship, Hook’s Revenge, to find and kill the Crocodile.

I don’t read middle grade books very often, but this one was too good to pass up. I mean, t’s a Peter Pan retelling. I love Peter Pan so of course I wanted to read about the dear Captain’s daughter.

I thought the writing in this was great. It reminded me of Lemony Snicket’s writing style. The narrator of the story (possibly the deceased Captain Hook) will say very sarcastic things every now and again that remind me of passages from A Series of Unfortunate Events. Here’s an example from page 41:

“I have faced down some horrors in my day – ferocious animals, fangs gleaming and hungry for human flesh; fierce men with murder in their eyes; my own dear mother on wash day.”

This is the type of stuff you will find when reading this book.

As far as the characters go, Jocelyn is a great main character. Even though she is a little kid, she isn’t portrayed as being painfully immature. She is intelligent, caring, and has the makings of a phenomenal pirate captain. The secondary characters are also wonderful, especially Jocelyn’s crew on Hook’s Revenge. The crew is made up of these low-tier pirates who have fake injuries and battle stories, but she puts up with it/plays along with it.

If you look at the tagline on the cover it says that “Peter Pan has met his match.” However, Peter isn’t in the novel very much. He appears maybe twice, although his name does pop up a lot. However, other familiar characters appear in Neverland, such as the Lost Boys and Mr. Smee.

I believe this is the first in a series of middle grade books. I don’t know if I will be continuing this series right now as I have other TBR books that are more of a priority, but maybe a little ways down the line, I will continue with it as I did enjoy the characters.

If you like Peter Pan as much as I do, action and adventure, and/or writing styles similar to Lemony Snicket, I highly recommend you check this out.

Thanks for reading!

March 2, 2016

Book Review | Carry On

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IMG_7442Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is a fan fiction story about Simon Snow, a character introduced in Rowell’s previous book, Fangirl. The main character in Fangirl, Cath, is an avid fan of the Simon Snow book series which follows a boy wizard in the UK (sound familiar?), and she is writing her own fan fiction called ‘Carry On’ as she waits for the final book in the series to be released. Rainbow Rowell herself said she wanted to write a Simon Snow story as she enjoyed coming up with the world for Fangirl. However, this version of ‘Carry On’ is not the same one Cath is writing in the book. So this book is a fan fiction of a fan fiction of a fictional character of a fictional series in another Rowell book that heavily references another fictional series. IT IS ALL TOO META TO HANDLE. Which is probably why it took me way longer to read this than I expected.

I honestly had to listen to the audiobook while reading this. The multiple perspectives kept throwing me off too much to actually hold my focus without the audio. One thing I noticed is that the narrator was reading a proof or an early draft because some of the words and sentences were not the same in the book as they were in the audio.

Once I started to get a little more into the book I started to enjoy it. The story focuses primarily on Simon, the Chosen One who kind of stinks at being the Chosen One, and his roommate, Baz. Simon is convinced that his roommate and nemesis is a vampire and obsesses over it the entire time. Baz, on the other hand, is wrestling with the knowledge that he doesn’t actually hate Simon. There is also a story surrounding a point of time when spirits can return to the mortal world to visit with their loved ones and a secret power that could potentially save or destroy the magical community.

I did enjoy the story for the most part. I found all of the characters, with the exception of Simon himself (he could be kind of annoying), to be very interesting, especially Baz and Agatha. There were a lot of references to previous years at Watford that sounded a bit more interesting than some of the scenes we did get, but as this is supposed to be a fan fiction to an existing series in the Fangirl universe, I suppose we will just have to imagine those other adventures on our own. The only thing to me that was a little wishy-washy was the romance. The Simon-Baz story had some cute moments, but most of the time it came across as obsessive infatuation (specifically on Simon’s end). I might read this again, or at least listen to the audiobook during a commute to work, but if you are interested in giving this a try, check out from your local library first.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars.

What did you think of Carry On? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

January 28, 2016

Book Review | Second Star

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**Review also posted on GoodReads

Second Star is a reimagining of Peter Pan set in California. We experience the story as Wendy Darling, who has just graduated from high school and is looking to start at Stanford University in the fall. However Wendy’s mind is more focused on the disappearance of her younger brothers, twins John and Michael, who reportedly passed away during a surfing accident nine months prior to the start of the novel. Wendy doesn’t believe they are dead, however, and vows to spend her summer finding them. At her school’s graduation bonfire on the beach she meets a surfer named Pete. She later finds him again on a beach called Kensington, where he lives with a gang of homeless teenage surfers, including his ex-girlfriend Belle. There is another group on Kensington led by a drug dealer named Jas. Wendy spends pretty much the entire novel talking to Jas, Pete, and Belle trying to find out if they know her brothers, and learning how to surf in order to feel closer to her brothers.

Overall I really liked this book. It was an interesting take on one of my favorite stories. I loved the author’s descriptions of the beach and the waves. It made me wish it was summer.

There were only two things I didn’t really like.

First, the love triangle thing. I didn’t buy it for a second. I never get fully invested in that trope, and it didn’t seem really necessary for this particular story.

Second, the ending was…I don’t know. I didn’t like it. It wasn’t bad, but for the last 20 or 30 pages I was in a constant state of confusion.

Again, I really enjoyed this. Will it be the first book I reach for when recommending things to friends? Probably not, unless they are big Peter Pan fans themselves, but I definitely think this is a book people should check out.

December 15, 2015

Skipping Christmas

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Merry almost Christmas everyone!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and one of my favorite times of the year, but if I’m honest, I’m not one hundred percent in a festive mood. I suppose it’s because I spent the first two weeks of the month worrying about finals and presentations for my second to last semester of college, which doesn’t leave much room for festivities. Then I can home and started watching Christmas movies, listening to music, staring at our family’s Christmas tree…and I still didn’t feel the way Christmas used to feel. I felt like Cindy Lou Who in the live action Grinch movie, wondering where the feeling of Christmas had gone.

That is until I picked up Skipping Christmas by John Grisham.


I’ve read Skipping Christmas every year since the fifth grade, so about eleven years now. It’s only 177 pages long, but the story is so captivating and told so well that it doesn’t really seem that short. I also adore the movie, Christmas with Kranks, which was based off of the book.

If you don’t already know, the story is about a married couple who decide to go on a cruise instead of dealing with the stress that Christmas tends to bring while their daughter is off in Peu with the Peace Corps. The book centers around them avoiding all the hullabaloo that comes with the commercialized expectations of Christmas.

The story itself is hilarious and that’s a big part of why I read it, but I think what I love most about this book is how many memories I have of the past Christmases where I read this, and through the pages of this I was able to relive all those moments.

If you have never read this novel, I highly recommend it. It’s just the thing to get you in the holiday spirit if you, like me, have been feeling less than festive.

November 10, 2015

Book Review | A Whole New World

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Aladdin has always been one of my favorite Disney movies. There is even an old home movie of me at age 2 or 3 standing in front of the TV singing the entirety of “A Whole New World” (and nailing almost all the words). Something about the land of Agrabah has held a special place in my heart of the years, so I was beyond excited when I learned about this book.

A Whole New World by Liz Braswell is the first book in the Twisted Tale trilogy, stories which are inspired by classic Disney movies. This particular novel poses the question: What would happen if Jafar got the lamp?

The novel starts off pretty close to how the animated film starts. The dialogue is pretty much all lifted from the film, but we get to learn a bit more about Agrabah  and what it is like for Aladdin to be growing up in this environment. We then meet Jasmine, Aladdin is arrested and “rescued” by Jafar who takes him to the Cave of Wonders. And this is where the Twisted Tale kicks off. As Aladdin tries to escape the collapsing Cave of Wonders he asks Jafar for help getting out. Jafar asks for him to give him the lamp, which Aladdin does, before Jafar kicks Aladdin and he falls and is trapped in the cave. We all know that in the movie Abu the monkey stole the lamp back from Jafar, but in this version, Jafar is victorious in getting his hands on it and is quick to take over the kingdom.

I thought this would kind of like that Twisted musical that Starkid has on YouTube (which is hilarious and I recommend checking it out, unless you don’t like swearing or things that might ruin your childhood, in which case you might not like it).  Unfortunately a lot of the humor and characters were flat.

The Genie is not funny. I know a huge part of his humor comes from his character being voiced by Robin Williams, but you would have thought that the author would have carried over some of his humor, especially in this darker situation with Jafar being in charge. That seems more in character for him. Sadly, he was just a sad blue guy who popped into Jasmine’s parts of the story on occasion.

Aladdin and Jasmine were relatively the same as their iconic movie counterparts, although it felt like they needed a little extra something. There were just a few scenes where they felt flat, but for the most part they were good.

One thing I will say about this book is that it offered a look into Aladdin’s life as a “street rat.” I found the different layers of the poor people in Agrabah to be interesting. There was like a whole class system of thieves, with Aladdin at the top of the system (stealing only what was necessary to get by) and those who kill and steal for sport/as a career at the very bottom. We have a lot moments where this system is explored and how Jasmine discovers this later on when they are trying to defeat Jafar.

Overall, I would give this book about a 2.5 out of 5 stars. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, it was just okay. There are two more books in this series for Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast, two of my other favorite Disney movies so I am holding out hope that those are good.

Have any of you read this book or the others in the Twisted Tale series? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!