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Fantasy

30065028Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Author: J. K. Rowling
Pages: 294
Year: 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown Books (Hachette)
Time taken to read: 3 days
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads synopsis: When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt’s fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone… Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, author of the beloved and internationally bestselling Harry Potter books. Featuring a cast of remarkable characters, this is epic, adventure-packed storytelling at its very best.

Fun fact about me: I love Harry Potter more than anyone else in the entire world. Anyway. Last year I gave a brief review of The Cursed Child, although I didn’t rate it, and now that I’m rating this one, I must face the fact that I didn’t rate The Cursed Child because I didn’t want to admit that I…didn’t…like it. Whoops. Anyway. We’re not gonna talk about that. We’re gonna talk about the fact that Fantastic Beasts was AWESOME. (Note: I’m only speaking about the book–I have yet to see the movie.) Characters: awesome. Creatures: awesome. Story: full of emotions. And Newt is so funny, especially in his scenes with Jacob–I cannot wait to see that translated on screen. Newt’s friendship with Jacob is really touching, and I like that that seems to take precedence over any romantic relationships. There is some romance, but it’s subtle, just hinted at really. And the kids…I think that’ll hit me harder in the movie, but they were powerful. It’s interesting–with the Harry Potter series, I connect deeply with the books and the movies equally, but perhaps because of the script format, while I did really enjoy this, I think that deep connection was missing. Still, I really felt J.K. Rowling in this one (unlike our last script/book). Oh, I was also a little bit confused about some of the more minor-ish characters, like Graves for instance–I didn’t really understand what he was trying to achieve. I’m hoping the movie will clear that up. The script format is just not my thing.

Anyway, most Goodreads reviewers are suggesting to watch the movie first, but I kind of like that I did it the other way around because now I get to see how closely my imagination and interpretation will match up with what the Fantastic Beasts movie team created. Perhaps I’ll watch it this weekend? And on Monday there are auditions for The Cursed Child on Broadway and I’ve been in like one high school play so I’m not exactly “qualified”, but like, have y’all seen my hair? It’s the perfect combo of Ron and Hermione’s, sooo Rose Granger-Weasley auditions–here I come! (I might be serious. We’ll find out.)

 

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29069989Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Author: J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne
Pages: 328
Year: 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown UK
Time taken to read: 4 days
Rating: N/A

Goodreads synopsis: 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.

For those of you who don’t know, this book chronicles the events of Harry Potter and his son Albus, nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts. It’s the script of the play that premiered in London on July 30th, which has confused a lot of people, but yes, it is not a normal book. I don’t particularly like reading scripts, but I think it worked very well here, and it was very easy to visualize what would be happening on a stage. I had the pleasure of working at my lovely Barnes & Noble in Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, on the night of the release. I got to spend several exhausting hours at a table with a Sorting Hat, sorting people into their Houses. I couldn’t buy the book for myself, but I did spend a couple days sitting on the third floor reading a copy and then placing it back on the shelf for someone else to buy.

I don’t feel up to giving this a star review because it’s a script and it’s Harry Potter and I just don’t know how to judge it. I sort of feel like I don’t want to accept it as the truth of what happens in Harry’s future. It’s one possible path, sure, but I don’t know that it’s what happens in my version of his life after Hogwarts. You could argue that I don’t get to have my own version because they’re not my characters, but I don’t think I’m hurting anyone by saying that this isn’t necessarily what I think happens to a bunch of people who aren’t even real.

In any case, if we’re just going with what happens in The Cursed Child like normal people who read books, I thought there were a lot of things about it that were too…”of course.” I can’t think of the word I want, but it’s like how of course Albus is in Slytherin and of course he becomes best friends with Malfoy’s kid. Stuff that’s so ironic that of course they were going to do that. So opposite of the obvious that it’s obvious. I think Rose should have been in Ravenclaw, and Delphi and how she came to be in the world is weird as hell. And I know that this is just because it’s a script and a play can’t really be longer than a couple hours, but everything got wrapped up so fast and so easily, which was a little frustrating. Also, didn’t we tell J. K. Rowling that the whole Time Turner thing didn’t really make sense? So why did she make this all about Time Turners? Yet, with all my complaints, I think it’s really cool that this exists. I don’t feel like it’s necessary for me to own it or read it more than like twice in my lifetime, but I will probably read it again.

9361589Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Pages: 387
Year: 2011
Publisher: Doubleday (Penguin)
Time taken to read: 12 days
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsis: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. […] Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves. Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way–a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a “game” to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. […] But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.

I bumped this up on my to-read list because one of my managers at Barnes & Noble told me that she loved it and that she was interested in my opinion on it because it seems like people either love it or hate it. I definitely didn’t hate it. I have a handful of criticisms, but I really liked it a lot. I really liked the third person omniscient narration and the way the book wasn’t exactly written from beginning to end but jumped around on the timeline of the circus. It made everything more fantastical, like everyone was time-traveling as well as doing magic. You know, it was actually less like time-traveling and more like time just not being linear, if that makes any sense. It probably doesn’t. Anyway, I know this was a good book because I was really feeling things, especially near the end. Like, I almost teared up. I liked Herr Thiessen a lot, but I can’t really figure out why. He just seemed really cool. I liked Bailey’s character because he wasn’t exactly the chosen one, but he was important. It was like his role in the circus was an accident and meant to be at the same time. And Poppet was my other favorite, which I think was because of a combination of her curly red hair and her ability to read the stars. That’s also why I liked Isobel–she could see things about people but didn’t always share how much she knew. And her heartbreak nearly destroyed the circus, and I almost wish it had because she was used. Marco said it himself–he never loved her but he just never got around to telling her because he didn’t really care what happened to her. He treated her like garbage, which is a big part of why I’m not giving this five stars. I think after all of Celia’s years of abuse in her childhood, she deserved someone less flaky and dismissive.

As for my other criticisms, I thought the ending was dragged out a lot longer than it needed to be. Once I was about forty pages from the end, I was like, oh my god, just tell me what happens already. A lot of the descriptions fell flat for me. Like, when the cloud maze was being described, I had no idea what I was supposed to be looking at. I couldn’t picture it at all with what was given to me. Other than those things, it was a very unique story. It definitely swept me away and made me forget that I am a person with a real life that is not fiction (as far as I know), so I would definitely recommend giving it a go.

25526296Title: Every Heart a Doorway
Author: Seanan McGuire
Pages: 169
Year: 2016
Publisher: Tor.com
Time taken to read: 1 week
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsisEleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. No Solicitations. No Visitors. No Quests. Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world. But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter. No matter the cost.

Okay, so, I thought the characters in this book were going to actually be Alice and Dorothy and stuff, but I was incorrect about that, so that was disappointing. The title and the cover are really cool, so I think I had really high expectations and was rather let down. This book kind of seemed like a Miss Peregrine wanna-be, and I didn’t really like that book either, so that just felt cheap and bad. And the writing in this book is weird. It’s like everything is too straight-forward yet too lyrical at the same time. Like the way Nancy talks about the Lord of the Dead and their dancing and their pomegranates. It sounds scripted and stupid. It doesn’t flow at all, and at some points it was painful to read.

Also, I was irritated by the ending. And by “the ending,” I mean literally the last page. This book was published like a month ago, so I won’t spoil it, but for those of you who have read it, I think you’ll understand what I mean when I say that I wish the exact opposite had happened. I could explain why, but I don’t want to give it away.

Despite all that, I liked the who-dunnit element to the story. I had it figured out right after the whole skeleton thing, but that was decently far into it, so it’s not like it was obvious from the start. At least not for me. I did like Nancy. Whatever was going on with her and the Lord of the Dead was probably really inappropriate and one-sided, but she seemed cool and not extremely annoying, I guess. I thought it was neat how she’s asexual and Kade is trans. I felt like the way it was talked about was a little stiff and unnatural, but, points for trying.

However, I feel as though I’ve been left with a lot of unanswered questions about the different worlds and stuff. Like, what does the “high” in high Logic and high Nonsense mean? Is there a low Logic and a low Nonsense? What does it even mean if a world is Nonsense or Logic? Like, does everyone just do math all day in Logic worlds? And everyone walks on the ceilings in Nonsense worlds? Also, can you, for example, find a door in a Logic world and end up in a Nonsense world? Like, are those other worlds connected in any way, or are they just connected to, like, reality? And why isn’t Nancy actually asking any questions? She keeps saying there’s too much to ask, but I would have to start somewhere, as I have done here.

Mostly while I was reading this, all I could think about was the parents and how no one gives a heck about them. I mean, their children went missing. That’s horrifying. Well, Kade’s parents suck, obviously, but Nancy keeps saying her parents love her but they don’t understand her, and I’m like, listen kid, loving parents, whether they “understand you” or not, can be pretty hard to come by. No need to act like they’re total assholes just because they don’t believe you went to the f*cking Underworld.

Anyway, this book is pretty short, so I think it is worth the read, but just don’t get too excited.

25817389Title: The Everything Box
Author: Richard Kadrey
Pages: 352
Year: 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins
Time taken to read: 1 week, 2 days
Rating: 1/5

Goodreads synopsis2000 B.C. A beautiful, ambitious angel stands on a mountaintop, surveying the world and its little inhabitants below. He smiles because soon, the last of humanity who survived the great flood will meet its end, too. And he should know. He’s going to play a big part in it. Our angel usually doesn’t get to do field work, and if he does well, he’s certain he’ll be get a big promotion. And now it’s time . . . The angel reaches into his pocket for the instrument of humanity’s doom. Must be in the other pocket. Then he frantically begins to pat himself down. Dejected, he realizes he has lost the object. Looking over the Earth at all that could have been, the majestic angel utters a single word. “Crap.” 2015. A thief named Coop-a specialist in purloining magic objects-steals and delivers a small box to the mysterious client who engaged his services. Coop doesn’t know that his latest job could be the end of him-and the rest of the world. Suddenly he finds himself in the company of the Department of Peculiar Science, a fearsome enforcement agency that polices the odd and strange. The box isn’t just a supernatural heirloom with quaint powers, they tell him. It’s a doomsday device. They think. . . And suddenly, everyone is out to get it.

Most of the time that I was reading this book, I thought it was the author’s first book. It was only like three-fourths of the way through that it’s like his tenth book or something, and I was like, Oh my God, ten books later and he still sucks. I have an ARC, so the comma placement might be better in the actual copies, but in this copy at least, I was adding commas everywhere. Literally adding commas, with my red pen. As for the story…I still don’t even really know what happened, to be honest. There were so many characters that I didn’t really care for any of them because I didn’t know who was who. In the notes I took, I wrote that I “liked the angels, I guess,” but I finished this book a month ago and at this point I can’t remember who the angels were, so obviously they didn’t stick out in my mind enough to last even a month.

I feel like the dry, sarcastic, creative humor was supposed to be the best part of the book, but honestly it was so irritating. There were so many long ass similes and metaphors that no one would ever be able to come up with in casual, unscripted conversation. I felt like I was watching a sitcom with extremely bad actors. A lot of the little side conversations that are supposed to be humorous are funny in theory, but they go on far too long and appear far too often. Honestly, this book is a waste of time–just watch Supernatural instead. And seriously, I don’t give one-star reviews often, but here we are.

136251Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author: J. K. Rowling
Pages: 759
Year: 2007
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic, Inc.)
Time taken to read: Forever and always
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads synopsisHarry is waiting in Privet Drive. The Order of the Phoenix is coming to escort him safely away without Voldemort and his supporters knowing – if they can. But what will Harry do then? How can he fulfill the momentous and seemingly impossible task that Professor Dumbledore has left him?

I remember reading this book as soon as it came out when I was in seventh grade. I think I tore through it in two days, and since then I have read it six times. The fourth time I read it, I was in line at the theater in Universal Studios in Florida to see part 2 of the movie at midnight on the night it came out. I was sobbing, and people were taking pictures of me. After the movie was over, we were let into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where I laid down on the ground and stared at Hogwarts, clutching my book, my tear ducts completely empty, until a security guard made me get up. I f*cking love Harry Potter.

The seventh book is probably my favorite, and if I could only read one book for the rest of my life, it would most likely be this one. There is no other book in the world that makes me feel so much, although, after six times, I don’t really cry when I read it anymore. Dobby’s death still hits me the hardest, though. He’s always been my favorite. The enormous amount of bravery and loyalty that comes from such a tiny body is really inspiring to me. He really means a lot to me because of the way he just cares so much and the way he’ll do anything to protect Harry, even if his methods aren’t always the most well thought out. I really like Kreacher as well, and in the Battle of Hogwarts when the House Elves come pouring out to fight with Kreacher leading them, I get really emotional. Just the way that everything ties together in the end, the way that every little detail means something so big, makes this series something incredibly special.

When I studied abroad in London last year, I wrote a research paper on the Harry Potter series that was basically a defense of children’s literature as a respectable and important genre, with Harry Potter as the example. I enjoyed looking at the books from a more academic standpoint, but mostly Harry Potter just makes me feel at home, makes me feel safe. I read the books to escape, to comfort myself, to relax, to remind myself who I am and what’s important to me. Every time I get to the end of the series, I think back to Harry as a boy, Harry in his most innocent form, and then I think of myself at that age and how sometimes I wish I could go back to a time when I had fewer responsibilities and less awareness of the difficulties of life. But the idea of being a Gryffindor, being brave and doing the right thing, is what keeps me moving forward. Thank you J. K. Rowling for this life-changing story.

Side note: I have officially been writing book reviews for one year, as of December 6th, 2015! It has been a wonderful year of reading, and I am excited to see what books I will discover in the upcoming year. My reading has slowed down this month because I finished my Goodreads challenge and because I’m working more often now, but it should pick up again soon. Thanks for reading my reviews, everyone!

12959658Title: Calling Invisible Women
Author: Jeanne Ray
Pages: 246
Year: 2012
Publisher: Crown (Random House)
Time taken to read: 23 hours
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsis:  A mom in her early fifties, Clover knows she no longer turns heads the way she used to, and she’s only really missed when dinner isn’t on the table on time. Then Clover wakes up one morning to discover she’s invisible–truly invisible. She panics, but when her husband and son sit down to dinner, nothing is amiss. Even though she’s been with her husband, Arthur, since college, her condition goes unnoticed. Her friend Gilda immediately observes that Clover is invisible, which relieves Clover immensely–she’s not losing her mind after all!–but she is crushed by the realization that neither her husband nor her children ever truly look at her.  She was invisible even before she knew she was invisible. Clover discovers that there are other women like her, women of a certain age who seem to have disappeared.  As she uses her invisibility to get to know her family and her town better, Clover leads the way in helping invisible women become recognized and appreciated no matter what their role.

I picked this up at the library yesterday and, like yesterday’s book Thirteen Reasons Why, I finished it in a day. Does anyone else ever feel like they’re sick of their to-read list? Like you’ve seen the same titles over and over and even though you haven’t actually read them yet, you’re sick of them. Well, I kind of felt that way yesterday, so while I was picking up a book I’ve been wanting to read for years, I decided to get something I’d never heard of before. I even went to a different section than usual–the adult fiction section.

The beginning of this book reminded me of why I hate adult books–I hate adults. I am not interested in people who want to whine about how texting is ruining the world. (The main character even specifically said that English majors hate texting. Well, I was an English major. I probably spend half my life texting, and internet humor centered around chatspeak is kind of my specialty.) And she had to bring up how tattoos are evil and whatever, but I will agree that her son’s tattoo idea was awful.

That being said, Clover Hobart is a great main character, and by page 40, I really, really cared about her. It feels weird being able to relate to someone in their fifties, but I did. I do. Yikes. Anyway, the whole point of this book is that these women are literally invisible, and I spent the whole book wondering, is this a metaphor for something or is this supposed to be a fantasy? I guess in the end I decided that it’s both. It’s a fantastical metaphor, and it’s a fantastic metaphor. It reminded me of the current issues with Planned Parenthood. Women just want the rights to their own bodies. How difficult of a concept is that? And yet, rich white men will continue to push their oppressive agenda. Once this book got into the activism part, I was really into this. I wanted to see them win so badly. All the women in this book made me really feel something. I was so glad that they had their invisible sisterhood when nothing else in their lives was going right. I felt like any of the women from that group would make incredible role models, and it was inspiring for me to read about women demanding respect and making themselves powerful.

This book also made me wonder about the power of appearance. I’m not stunning like Clover’s daughter Evie, but I’m decent enough with some makeup. But if I was invisible, would I ever bother to put makeup on? (I probably wouldn’t be able to anyway, since I couldn’t see myself in the mirror.) Clover says that women would never wear heels if no one could see them. So why do we wear them? Do we want people to think we look nice, or do we want to look nice for ourselves? I’m by no means anti-dressing up. I believe that women should be able to spend hours on their hair and makeup in the morning without being called shallow or superficial. At the heart of it, we don’t do that for anyone but ourselves. Looking nice makes (many) girls happy. It’s just something to think about.

Most of the criticism that I’ve seen comes from the idea that it’s really stupid that no one noticed that she was invisible, but I think those people are missing the metaphorical aspect. Her husband and children were seeing what they always saw–which wasn’t her. And I thought that the balance of reactions was done well. Clover’s husband felt terrible while Ariana’s husband blamed her. I think we definitely needed to see both sides of that. My only real criticism is that I found Clover to be annoying in the beginning and that the point of the novel confused me for maybe the first half, but I grew to love Clover and her cause.

Maybe this book has changed my mind about adult fiction, or at least some of it. Adults are really annoying, but regardless of age, I stand in solidarity with all women.