February 2017 Wrap Up

February was a bit of a crazy month in the beginning, but I have to say, it was an interesting month in terms of reading. I read a mix of really bad books and really good books, which I believe is as much as a success as reading all five-star books. Some of these books I discovered by chances, others were on my TBR for a year that I finally read. And I read a total of seven books, two books more than last month. Let’s hope this continues as the year goes on.

 

City of Skies by Farah Cook (digital book for review)

1 star

img_0145

This is the first book I have given a one-star rating to in a long, long time. And I feel terrible about it.

The author sent me a digital copy of her book in exchange for an honest review. In my honest opinion, I was not a fan of this book. The world building was shaky, the characters were one-dimensional, and there were so many tropes my head was spinning.

The plot was interesting enough: a teenaged girl joins a group of warriors called the Raiders, whose mission is to search for evidence of Vikings. Then, it went downhill from there for me. However, the author is still new, so I think she has potential to get better the harder she works at it.

I am posting my full, spoiler-free review of City of Skies on Amazon and Goodreads (maybe my blog but I’m not sure) the day of its release, March 3rd.

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling and Jack Thorne (library book)

2.5 stars

img_0144

Now that the hype has died down, I felt it was safe to finally check out Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I had been going back and forth for months about spending the money to buy it in the wake of so many negative reviews. In the end, my library came to my rescue.

In my personal opinion, the whole franchise could have done without Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. From the first page, I felt as if I could hear J.K. Rowling say: “Here’s your fucking eighth book. Now leave me alone.” It was a way con more money out of Harry Potter fans and milk the Boy Who Lived for all his worth.

I’m not saying Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was terrible. There were parts of it that I enjoyed, such as Scorpios Malfoy (who didn’t love him?). Being in play format, it was a quick read and it saved me from a possible reading slump after that review book I previously mentioned. I’m glad I can say I finally read it, but I am also glad I never spent the money on it.

If you want to know all my spoiler thoughts on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, go read my review.

 

The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins (library book)

4 stars

img_0164

My first Ellen Hopkins book and I was not disappointed. The You I’ve Never Known follows two girls named Ariel and Maya. Ariel is a seventeen-year-old girl coming into her sexuality liking a boy and a girl, which proves to be a problem where her homophobic father is concerned. As for Maya, also seventeen, she flees her abusive

mother by marrying an older man and becoming pregnant with his child. The girls’ lives mirror one another, eventually crossing paths.

The primary focus of The You I’ve Never Known is self-discovery. Ariel is trying to build a life of her own away from her controlling father, thus uncovering a few secrets as a result. I liked her as a protagonist, especially appreciating her honesty with her two love interests and her subtle ways of manipulation when dealing with her father, making him think he was in control while she had him wrapped around her finger.

As for the writing, I enjoyed it; the free verse poetry made a 600-page book fly by. Maya’s sections in prose were few and far in between, but they were still written well. My main qualm with this whole book, though, is it could have been at least 100 pages shorter, because the last half of the book dragged on.

If you are interested in my full spoiler-free thoughts on The You I’ve Never Known, go read my review.

 

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

5 stars

img_0185

I finally, FINALLY read A Torch Against the Night, the sequel to An Ember in the Ashes and one of my favorite books of 2016. But now I’m sad, because I have to wait until 2018 for the third book.

Dare I say it, but in regards to storytelling, Sabaa Tahir gives Sarah J. Maas a run for her money. Her world building is spot-on, adding on to the mythology and danger of the Empire and the lands surrounding it filled with rebellions, war, and political intrigue. Elias and Laia are my two new all-time favorite characters. He’s a strong, brave, and good-natured warrior who pulls at my heartstrings. She’s a quiet but fierce fighter that I see a lot of myself in.

As for Helene, I didn’t think I would like her, though I warmed up to her by the end of A Torch Against the Night. The love square was annoying, but I think the end of the book finally resolved it, and I really hope Helene ends up with the person I think she’s going to be with.

Seriously, though…I need the third book ASAP.

 

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist (library book)

4.75 stars

img_0184

My pick for a Valentine’s Day read this year, Love and First Sight is centered on Will Porter, a high school boy that was born blind. At the beginning of the novel, he decides to leave the school for the blind to attend a public high school. There, he meets three new friends and Cecily, a girl he eventually falls for. Then, he gets unbelievable news: a new experimental surgery that could give him eyesight. The surgery works, but when Will sets eyes on Cecily, he discovers she is not as beautiful as his friends described. Only does that really matter?

I flew through this book in three days. The writing was witty and the banter reminded me a lot of the dialogue on The Big Bang Theory TV show. Will is a great protagonist: thoughtful, funny, and easygoing, but he has his flaws, too. Cecily is someone I think some people can relate to in that she’s a good person, but sometimes overlooked because of her appearance. There’s one scene in particular, before Will has the surgery, where his parents meet Cecily and there is literally a 30-second pause. It made me think: “Is this poor kid truly so unattractive that two grown-ass adults would stare at her like that?”

What I liked most about Love and First Sight is the social commentary on how sighted people view blind people, or how “normal” people view others with disabilities in general. Will says people have good intentions, but they really have no idea of what the disabled person is going through and, sometimes, such as the case in Will’s mother, they are hurting more than helping. There was also commentary on the traditional beauty standards of society and how everyone’s perception of beauty is different.

If you love young adult contemporary novels and/or are looking for an own voices novel about disability, I highly recommend Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist.

 

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

3.5 stars

img_0187

Another book I have a full, spoiler-free review on, The Woman in Cabin 10 is an adult mystery novel about a travel journalist who witnesses a murder onboard a luxury cruise ship. But when she reports the crime to the ship authorities, all passengers and staff are accounted for. So, she sets out to prove she did not imagine what she heard that night, putting herself in danger of being the killer’s next target.

While it was a fun, fast-paced read, The Woman in Cabin 10 is not one of the best mystery novels I’ve read. The main character, Lo, was my favorite aspect of the story and the writing was good, but the plot was far-fetched and I found it hard to believe at times. I would definitely like to see this adapted into a film, though.

For my full thoughts, go read my review.

 

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

4.5 stars

img_0198

Like A Torch Against the Night, Passenger was another priority TBR book I read this month. As I expected, I enjoyed it very much, probably more than I did Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds trilogy.

Violin prodigy Etta Spencer is kidnapped by power-hungry time travelers on the night of her debut performance and discovers she is a time-traveler herself. Aided by handsome 18th century pirate Nicholas Carter, she travels from country to country, century to century, to locate a lost item for the Ironwoods, a powerful time-traveling family, in exchange for her mother’s freedom. Only there is more to what is happening than Etta and Nicholas are aware of.

Alexandra Bracken’s writing has improved since her completion of The Darkest Minds trilogy. Though told in third-person perspective of both Etta and Nicholas, I felt more attached to them than I did to Ruby, the protagonist of The Darkest Minds, who told the story in first-person. The different settings were also described accurately and beautifully. Plus, I got hit with the feels—I thought Etta and Nicholas’s insta-love would annoy me, yet somehow the angst of their relationship pulled me under.

As for the characters, I liked both Etta and Nicholas. Etta is strong in her own way and stubborn, driving Nicholas up the wall. He’s moral and loyal, torn between what he thinks he deserves and what he actually wants. They are the reason I’m anxious to get my hands on Wayfarer, the second and final book in the Passenger duology.

 

What was your favorite book you read in February?

Review of The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (Spoiler Free)

After reading so much epic fantasy and 600-page books, I needed a break; specifically, a 300-page, fast-paced campy book to read, such as The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware.

The Woman in Cabin 10 is a mystery novel about travel journalist Lo Blacklock, who gets the opportunity of a lifetime to board the Aurora, a brand-new luxury cruise line. Only on her first night on the ship, a woman screaming and a loud splash wake her in the middle of the night. But when she reports to the cruise authorities the next day, all 20 passengers and the entire ship’s staff are accounted for. Lo knows what she saw and sets out to prove that there is a killer among them.

While the beginning was a little slow, the plot picked up as soon as Lo boarded the Aurora. Ruth Ware’s writing style made the book fly by for me, and encouraged me to keep reading. She writes descriptions well; I often felt like I was on the boat with Lo and how claustrophobically close everyone was. However, the ending dragged on. I felt at least 20 pages could have been cut off and the story would have wrapped up nicely.

As for Lo herself, I liked her a lot as a protagonist. While she did drink too much and was on antidepressants, she tried hard to cope with her demons. I liked how self-sufficient she was, wanting to maintain her independence while her boyfriend tried to push her to live with him. (Why did she have to move into his flat anyway?) Lo was determined to get to the bottom of the mystery herself and, in her mind, no one was free from suspicion. Lo is what made the book for me.

Most people tend to not like protagonists who are messed up and seemingly unlikeable people. But if these characters, like Lo, are written well, you can overlook those flaws and see the good intentions lurking underneath.

As for the plot, I have mixed feelings. For the first half of the book, I wanted to give it four stars. I compared it to The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. However, once I reached the halfway point, I was still confused on who the killer was. Then, the “twist” was revealed and it had me saying: “Really?”

While it was certainly interesting, I had a hard time believing it. I would have picked two other characters before the one who turned out to be behind it, yet maybe there was something I missed. The ending dragged on, leaving off with an open-ended question that I did not think was necessary for this type of book.

Overall, I gave The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware 3.5 stars. I would definitely like to see it translated into film.

Valentine’s Day Book Tag <3

I wanted to do something Valentine’s Day related for my blog. I was going to do a Book Boyfriends post, but it was impossible to narrow down my favorites (although I do plan on writing such a post in the future). Then, I saw this tag on Books Amino.

Here we go: the Valentine’s Day Book Tag!

 

Stand alone book you love.

img_0171

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough. Whenever I talk about this book, I describe it like this: The Book Thief and The Night Circus mixed together with a dash of Eleanor and Park. Henry and Flora’s romance is super sweet, slow burning, and beautiful. He is head over heels while she is doing everything possible not to fall for him, and failing at it. There is also, I think, a slight romantic tension between Love and Death personified, except he believes in love while she despises it.

The book is filled with all kinds of angst, but you can read it fully on Valentine’s Day if you really tried. You might have a hard time putting it down anyway.

 

Dystopian book you love.

img_0172

            The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. There is no Peeta Mellark or Tobias Easton in this book. In fact, there is basically no romance at all. The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a futuristic America, where a religious government has taken over and infertility has infected the population. The few remaining fertile women, like the main character, are treated as surrogates for the high-ranking members of society and have the rights of a sex slave. While not the ideal book to read on Valentine’s Day, it is still a relevant book nonetheless.

 

A book that you love but no one else talks about.

img_0173

            The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes. It was my number-one book in my “Top 10 Books I Hope to Reread in 2017” blog post. Sixteen-year-old Minnow Bly grew up in a fanatically religious cult, which took away her hands after an act of rebellion against its leader. When she ends up in juvenile detention, she must face the secrets of her past and open up to a prison psychiatrist determined to prove her innocence after the cult leader is murdered.

I found out about The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly from a BookTuber I watch frequently, but I haven’t seen it anywhere else since. Considering it is about cults, the topic might be uncomfortable for some people. There is also the fact it was marketed as a loose retelling of a lesser-known Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale, The Girl without Hands. I was familiar with that particular story because I had read it, and loved it, in my Grimm Brothers Literature class my sophomore year of college.

 

Favorite Book Couple

img_0174

My number one favorite couple, no matter how many books I read in the future, will always be Theseus Cassio “Cas” Lowood and Anna Korlov from Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. He’s a ghost hunter and she’s a ghost he was set out to kill until the most angsty, beautiful love in young adult literature took them over. As if that isn’t enough, it is the most bittersweet ending in the history of young adult romances.

I haven’t read Anna Dressed in Blood or its sequel, Girl of Nightmares, in years. But I hope to pick this duology up again in the upcoming year.

 

Book that other people love but you haven’t gotten around reading yet.

img_0175

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. This book was all the range when it came out March 2016. The reason I haven’t picked this book up yet is because I have not finished The Mortal Instruments series. I finished City of Fallen Angels this summer, but never picked up City of Lost Souls. And since Lady Midnight begins supposedly after City of Heavenly Fire left off, I obviously need to finish The Mortal Instruments before I can even think about moving on to The Dark Artifices trilogy.

 

A book with red on the cover.

img_0176

            Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

 

A book with pink on the cover.

img_0177

            Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

 

You were given a box of chocolates by your valentine, who would it be?

img_0178

            After reading A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir, Elias Veturius from the An Ember in the Ashes series. I have a weakness for the strong but sensitive warrior types in young adult literature. Elias is haunted by all the things he’s done. He is trying to prove he’s not as cold-hearted and merciless as his mother, the Commandant. What I love most about him, aside from his strength, loyalty, and self-sacrificing streak, is his honesty. So many guys in his position would have lied to the girl he loved about what he’s done or what he’s planning. But Elias never lies to Laia and he goes down fighting protecting those that matter to him.

 

You are single on Valentine’s Day, what book would you read, what movie and TV show would you watch?

img_0179

            As it happens, I am single on Valentine’s Day.

The book I plan on reading this Valentine’s Day, and hopefully finish by the end of the week, is Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist. It is a super cute and funny contemporary novel about a blind boy that gets his sight back after an experimental surgery and realizes his girlfriend is not the beauty he envisioned her to be. I also plan on starting A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, maybe, hopefully, this week, too. I am finally ready for the emotional onslaught that I always expect from a Sarah J. Maas book. As for movie or TV show, I’m not sure.

 

You are in a bookstore and you suddenly get shot by Cupid’s arrow. What new release would you fall in love with?

img_0180

            Caraval by Stephanie Garber. I knew it was beautiful, from what I saw online. I happened to be in Target a few nights ago and I saw it. The cover was as beautiful in person as it was on the computer screen. I almost bought it then, but I resisted. Do I regret it? Just a little bit.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day my fellow booknerds!

Review of The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins (Spoiler Free)

I knew about Ellen Hopkins for years, but I had no idea where to begin with her books. Then, I saw The You I’ve Never Known, her most recent release, in videos by some of my favorite BookTubers. The subject intrigued me so much I had to check it out of my local library.

The You I’ve Never Known follows two girls, Ariel and Maya, both young women in complicated situations. Ariel is seventeen, living with her unstable, homophobic father, who has raised her by himself since her mother ran away with a female lover years ago, in a small California town. Which proves to be a serious problem as she has developed feelings for both a girl and a boy.

As for Maya, she is also seventeen and lives with her abusive mother. She escapes by marrying an older man and falling pregnant with his child. But the dream of a happily ever after with a loving husband and beautiful baby is shattered. Maya and Ariel’s lives later intertwine.

Jesse from Jesse the Reader and Kat from Katytastic said the best way to go into The You I’ve Never Known is blind. That is true. Ariel and Maya don’t actually meet until almost the end of the book, but clues about their connection are hinted throughout the story.

The primary focus of the plot is self-discovery. Ariel struggles with her sexuality and what to “label” herself, especially after living with her mother’s abandonment and her father’s homophobia. She also builds her own identity away from her controlling father, trying not to fall victim to his manipulation. This proves to be easier said than done. As for Maya, we don’t get much of her and her story goes stagnant towards the middle of the novel.

The writing was the most fascinating aspect of The You I’ve Never Known. Ellen Hopkins is well-known for writing her books in free verse. I can’t recall ever reading a book where dialogue was written into poetry prior to this one. Ariel’s sections were written entirely in free verse, while Maya’s were in prose. The free verse made the first half of the 608-page book fly by, as well as kept me engrossed while reading.

Aside from the free verse poetry, Ariel’s storyline proved to be more interesting than Maya’s. Ariel herself is a great character. What I like most about her is her honesty. In so many young adult contemporary novels these days, you see the main character tell a lie to avoid a messy situation, only to find themselves in an even messier one later. Ariel is not like that at all. She’s straightforward with both her love interests, Gabe and Monica, telling them she likes them both equally and is having trouble defining her own sexuality.

How many love triangles in so many YA novels could have been solved with this kind of honesty?

Ariel also proves to be a strong person. She refuses to allow her father to control her and uses her own subtle manipulation to get what she wants right under his nose. She tries very hard not to let his verbal abuse get the better of her or allow him to bully her because he’s the only parent she’s ever had. Her reaction to the reveal also proved to be realistic. Although, there was one detail at the end I felt she was a little too accepting of.

An issue I have with the characters is that we don’t get nearly as much of Maya as we do of Ariel. While I didn’t connect with her as much as I did Ariel, I chalked that up to her not getting enough page time. Maya herself had some issues with her sexuality, although that was not as thought-out as Ariel’s. In fact, it clashed with Ariel’s, in my opinion. Her situation was complicated enough as it was; you didn’t need to throw sexuality in the mix.

Regarding the love triangle, I liked both Gabe and Monica as individuals, although it seemed fairly obvious to me whom Ariel was leaning towards. She had great chemistry with both of them, in my opinion. Monica was a great friend when Ariel needed it. Gabe was a good guy and a good friend, too. I was not entirely pleased with whom she chose, particularly since I felt underlying implications with the big reveal.

My main qualm with The You I’ve Never Known is the pacing. It dragged significantly towards the end, as well as in Maya’s sections. The book could have shredded at least 100 pages and it would not have affected the story at all. Admittedly, I sped-read the last few pages of the book because I was just so ready to be done with it.

Overall, I give The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins 4 stars. I really enjoyed this book and I will likely pick up more of her books in the coming months.

 

Top 10 Books I Hope to Reread in 2017

If you have not already heard the great news, Goodreads has finally added a “reread” feature, which means members can include the books they already marked as “read” to their yearly Reading Challenges. Though I’m not doing a Reading Challenge for 2017, this new addition to Goodreads gives me even more of an incentive to reread books I have wanted to revisit for so long.

 

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

img_0148

I read this book in 2015 and it was in my top five favorite books of that year. It follows a teenaged girl, Minnow Bly, who was raised in a fanatically religious cult and had her hands cut off. Thrown in juvenile detention, she slowly reveals her secrets to a psychiatrist determined to help her after the cult leader is murdered.

I flew through this book, read it in two sittings. It was absolutely powerful. Minnow is an underrated female protagonist. Her resilience in her situation is amazing. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly also sheds light on the cult lifestyle and why/how people are lured into such a controlling environment to begin with.

 

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

img_0149

A professor I worked with gave me this book and I loved it. Code Name Verity is a World War II novel set in Europe following two women, best friends and pilots. I read it I think two summers ago. I wanted to pick it up again ever since, as well as the companion novel, Rose Under Fire. This is the kind of book that should be read more than once: amazing story, beautiful writing, and an inspiring friendship.

 

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

img_0150

A fantasy, historical fiction young adult romance novel about a wealthy but shy white boy falling in love with an African-American jazz singer in 1930s Seattle who are pawns in a game played by Love and Death personified. Henry and Flora’s romance is super sweet and slow burning. Aside from the racist mindset of the era, there are elements of class and gender as well.

Flora dreams of becoming a pilot and her attraction to Henry distracts her from her goal. While Love is doing everything he can to bring them together, Death is doing everything she can to tear them apart. Both want to win; yet both think they have Flora and Henry’s best interests at heart. It’s an interesting dynamic.

I am shocked hardly anyone is talking about The Game of Love and Death. It’s so much like popular books such as The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. Needless to say, I love this book.

 

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

img_0151

A young adult contemporary novel, the story focuses on a sad, lonely sixteen-year-old girl named Aysel who goes on the Internet in search of a suicide partner. She finds one in Roman, a boy her age tormented by grief and guilt. As they spend time together planning their death, she begins to have second thoughts.

My Heart and Other Black Holes was so powerful and really hit me with all the feels. The message it sends is one similar to Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Plus, it’s a quick read, short enough to be read in one or two sittings. Definitely a book I want to pick up again.

 

The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff

img_0152

One of my all-time favorite books, The Space Between is about Daphne, the daughter of Lucifer and Lilith, falling in love with a deeply troubled human boy while on Earth searching for her missing brother. I would classify it under urban fantasy, something maybe fans of the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare might like. The world is unique: the story goes back and forth between Earth and Hell. Demons are equally as powerful as angels, who actually turn out to be more evil than the former.

The Space Between is one of the books that had some of the greatest impact on my own writing. It’s been years since I read this book.

 

Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley

img_0153

There are not enough words to describe how much I love Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley. A girl goes missing and three years later, returns home with no memory of her captivity. That’s because her alternate personalities have spent all these years protecting her from the horror she experienced at the hands of her captor. As she pieces together her broken memories, she uncovers a few more secrets in her past.

I will not stop talking about this book until the end of time. I will look for any chance I get to recommend it to other people. Honestly, I might pick up Pretty Girl-13 up again soon.

 

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

img_0154

The story of Cruel Beauty is what introduced me to fairy tale retellings. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, the novel follows Nyx, who was promised as a bride to the Demon Lord and charged to kill him. Naturally, her mission becomes unexpectedly complicated when she falls in love with him.

I read Cruel Beauty at least three years ago. I know people either love it or hate it. I want to see if my feelings are still the same once I read it again, this time with other books to compare it to.

 

Teardrop by Lauren Kate

img_0155

I read Teardrop about three or four years ago, right when I really started getting involved on Goodreads. All I remember is that it’s about a girl who cannot cry or she will drown the world. I can’t recall if I liked it when I first read it or if I even finished it. I know there is a sequel out there, too. What I have heard about Lauren Kate is mostly criticism about her other series, Fallen. That does not give me much hope for Teardrop.

 

Entwined by Heather Dixon

img_0156

Another young adult retelling I read around the same time as Cruel Beauty. It is a reimagining of the fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I remember really enjoying it when I originally read it. It got a little buzz when it first came out, when retellings were just starting to become a thing in young adult literature. The story itself was so cute and more about sisterhood than romance. Something you don’t see often in young adult novels these days.

 

Catch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson

img_0157

Similar situation to Teardrop, I read Catch a Falling Star so long ago I can’t remember if I actually liked it. I won this book in a giveaway from Scholastic. It’s about a regular teenaged girl who is hired to pretend to be a movie star’s girlfriend to improve his public image. She initially treats it as a job, earning money for her family’s struggling café. Except, she never counted on falling for the boy.

Catch a Falling Star sounds like a super adorable book. I might not have been crazy about it when I first read it because I wasn’t into contemporary novels back then. Of course, things change.

 

Who else is taking advantage of the new feature on Goodreads and rereading old favorites? What is the number one book you want to reread in 2017?

Review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling & Jack Thorne (May Contain Spoilers)

Maybe it’s because I watched reviews of this book online when it came out this summer. Maybe it is because I already had mixed feelings about the book’s publication to begin with. Either way, I think Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is J.K. Rowling’s way of telling Harry Potter fans: “Here’s your fucking eighth book. Now leave me alone.”

Instead of giving the next generation their own story, their own adventure, the writers recycled ideas from the original story, and then flipped them upside down. The time-travel element turned out to be really annoying. It was not done well.

On the flip side to that, there was something about the time-travel I surprisingly liked. At the end of Part One, Scorpios Malfoy is transported into an alternate timeline where Voldemort won the Battle of Hogwarts. It was a world where Dolores Umbridge was Headmistress of Hogwarts; Harry Potter was dead; Muggle-borns are tortured for sport; Hermione Granger is a wanted rebel; and Snape is still alive. It was easily my favorite section of the whole play. The situation put things into perspective: what would the world look like if Voldemort had won?

My main issue with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as a whole is likely the same as most people: the assassination of characters. Not to mention the lack of Neville Longbottom, who is frequently mentioned but never seen.

Even as a brooding teenager, Harry Potter never had such a short temper like he did as an adult. I know his father died when he was a baby, but he was not without examples of what I good father was. Arthur Weasley, for example, was an excellent father figure. He was unbelievably kind to his children and to Harry. Arthur and Molly treated Harry like he was their own son. There was also Hagrid, who showed Harry an abundance of love and support all seven of the previous books. I could not believe, or approve, of some of the things Harry said and did regarding his middle son, Albus.

As for Ron Weasley, he was a goof in the original series, but he was not a bumbling idiot like he was in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. That scene he was distracted by food in an emergency, for example, did not sit well with me. It was also like the writers were trying too hard to make Ron more like Fred and George. But Ron is not Fred and George. You can’t replace Fred and George.

Hermione Granger as the Minister of Magic did not surprise me at all. Of the Golden Trio, she was the only one who stayed the same as she did in the original story. Although, I don’t recall her being such a snob like her daughter, Rose…. It was seeing a whole new side of Draco Malfoy that I loved about these changes in the original main characters. He was a loving dad and a devoted husband—something totally different from his own father.

Then, we have Albus Severus Potter. I could sympathize with him, but I didn’t like him much. I understand the pressure he feels to live up to his father’s legacy. Not just Harry’s either, but also that of his namesakes, Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape. That’s too much expectations put upon a child. So, a lot of Albus’s actions throughout the play made sense, like travelling back through time to save Cedric Diggory, “the spare.” He was trying to prove he was a hero like his father, despite being in Slytherin.

But, of course, let’s talk about virtually everyone’s favorite thing about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Scorpios Malfoy!

He was a wonderful, loyal friend to Albus. I totally adored their bromance. He was witty and sarcastic. He went along for the ride, even if sometimes he had no idea what they were getting themselves into. He was a voice of reason when Albus needed it most. Scorpios is an amazing character, proof not everyone in the Slytherin House is a Death Eater or a dark wizard or a downright nasty person.

Moving on with the next generation, I still have no idea how I feel about Delphi as a character. She was not a complex villain. She used a naïve teenaged boy to get what she wanted—typical. It was her being the daughter of Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange that I could not get on board with. Am I the only one who thought it was impossible to imagine the Dark Lord liking sex? That he was too obsessed with power to even think about reproducing?

I have no idea where Rowling or Thorne was heading with this storyline. It was just did not work.

One thing is certain: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is meant to be performed on a stage, not read in a book. I have no idea how time travel or magic will be portrayed inside a theater. I guess they made it work somehow—they play supposedly did well in the box office.

Overall, I give Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling and Jack Thorne 2.5 stars. I did not love it, did not hate it. The book did not add or take away from the original books. My expectations were kept low and I’m glad I did not let myself get too hyped up with excitement. To me, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was an unnecessary addition to the Harry Potter series. I don’t regret reading it, per say; I just think Rowling needs to stop writing HP stories. Harry Potter needs to retire.

Feel free to disagree with me.

 

Have you read Cursed Child or seen the play? What did you think of it?

Contemporary Novels I Want to Read

As you can imagine, like any reader, my TBR pile is huge. I made a list at the beginning of 2017 of all the unread books I own…and there’s a lot. My recent birthday added to the pile, too.

Anyway, I already made a list of historical fiction and classic novels on my TBR pile. Contemporary is a genre I have started getting more into this past year or two. I have found some hidden gems I otherwise never would have read if I only stuck to fantasy and horror, like I did before I went to college. Plus, most of these are ones you don’t see BookTubers constantly featuring in their videos.

 

All We Have Left by Wendy Mills

img_0114

This is the one book on my list that I am amazed you don’t see anywhere on the bookish Internet. All We Have Left is told in dual points of view; one in the present through a girl named Jesse and the second in 2001, through a girl named Alia. Jesse’s older brother was killed in the 9/11 attacks and has spent the past decade influenced by her father’s xenophobic speech. When she does something very bad, she is forced to confront the secrets behind her brother’s death.

In 2001, Alia is a proud Muslim girl. On September 11th, she goes to speak to her father about a stupid mistake she made, only to become trapped inside the Twin Towers. Then, a boy she doesn’t know saves her life and she must rely on him to make it out alive.

Aside from titles such as Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, there is not a lot of fiction surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I got this book out of the library months ago after Goodreads recommended it to me. I had every intention of reading it but that never happened. I was so happy when I got it for Christmas. All We Have Left is a book I plan to pick up soon.

 

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

img_0115

I mentioned Exit, Pursued by a Bear in my “Underrated Books” blog a few weeks ago. It’s one of the books I am most excited for on this list.

In case you are unaware, Exit, Pursued by a Bear tells the story of Hermione Winters, a popular cheerleader that is raped at a party and becomes pregnant as a result. Suddenly, she goes from being the queen bee to a rape survivor to pariah. Only she refuses to allow a label to define her.

This novel promises to be a powerful journey of healing and friendship. If I were still a teaching assistant, I would use it with my students. I’m trying to keep my expectations low, out of fear of being disappointed. Although, I admit, my hopes remain high for Exit, Pursued by a Bear.

 

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

img_0125

I got this book in my August Owlcrate box, “Fast Times at YA High.” I remember not being overly excited about the theme when I first heard it. At that point, I was just starting to get into the lighter, fluffier young adult contemporary novels. The ridiculously cute cover of P.S. I Like You is what got me, I think. Along with the plot, of course.

P.S. I Like You is a high school version of the movie You’ve Got Mail. Protagonist Lily spaces out in chemistry class by writing song lyrics on her desk and comes into class the next day to see someone finished the song for her. Before she knows it, she’s exchanging letters with an anonymous pen pal. In between dealing with family and friendship drama, she sets out to uncover the letter writer’s identity. Only it’s not who she thinks it is.

           P.S. I Like You is another book on this list that has a high ranking on my TBR. A few years ago, I never would have touched something like this. Now, I can’t wait to get my hands on it and devour what I hope will be cuteness.

 

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

img_0117

If you watch a lot of BookTube, you might have seen A List of Cages floating around recently. It was Emma over at emmmabooks singing its praises that brought it to my attention. Adam and Julian are former foster brothers who are reunited in high school after being separated for five years. Only Adam, the older of the two, realizes that Julian is hiding something terrible. When he finds out what that is, he has to make a decision that could mean the end for both boys.

I would have checked A List of Cages out of the library if so many reviewers I trust had not loved it. Aside from that, it checks off my top boxes: a serious contemporary and more about family than romance.

 

The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

img_0126

Of all the books Jennifer L. Armentrout has published, including under her non de plume J. Lynn, The Problem with Forever is the book that caught my attention. It follows Mallory Dodge, who was mute for years following the unexplained trauma she experienced growing up in foster care.

After being adopted and homeschooled until she’s a senior in high school, Mallory is reunited with Rider, her former foster brother. As the two reconnect, she witnesses his life begins to fall apart and realizes she must reveal hidden truths to save him, as well as herself.

Given that the story revolves around the horrors of the foster care system, I can only imagine how dark The Problem with Forever is going to get. I had friends that grew up in the system and I know from them how messed up it is. Though I expect the relationship between Mallory and Rider to turn romantic, I also like the idea of the plot is heavy with the effects of trauma and learning how to live after painful events.

 

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

img_0127

Some of my favorite contemporaries, such as The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter and A World Without You by Beth Revis, revolve around mental illness. Made You Up falls into this category: Alex, a teenaged girl who suffers from schizophrenia.

In her senior year of high school, she meets a boy she thought she made up. As the two pursue a relationship, she comes to realize that being normal is a lot harder than being crazy.

To be honest, the subject of living with mental illness fascinates me in a way, and I want to learn more about it. Made You Up sounds like that kind of read.

 

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

img_0128

Another Owlcrate book, The Serpent King is a coming-of-age story about Dill, the son of a Pentecostal minister whose fall from grace has marked him as a target for bullies at his school. When he begins his senior year of high school with his best friends Travis and Lydia, Dill is worried what his future will hold for him in his rural Tennessee town at the heart of the Bible Belt.

I graduated high school five years ago and then I moved straight on to college. It was when I graduated college that I understood what Dill is experiencing in The Serpent King. Also, I grew up in a liberal “blue” state: my high school provided resources to teenaged mothers rather than kick them out of school, no one blinked if two boys were holding hands, or if they saw a black person kissing a white person, and I knew kids that identified as both Christian and Jewish. Life in the south, particularly in the Bible Belt, is a topic of great interest for me because of this.

 

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

img_0129

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend follows Sara, a Swedish tourist who comes to Broken Wheel, Iowa to meet her pen pal, Amy. Except Amy has just passed away, leaving behind a full library and a bored, dusty town that appears to be beyond repair. But Sara is determined to bring the happiness of books to Broken Wheel, changing everyone’s lives for the better and revealing a surprising story hidden with Broken Wheel.

           My aunt sent me this book last year as a surprise gift. After reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, I’ve become more interested in books about books. The tagline on the back of the book is what got me: “Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen.” Plus, it’s been a while since I’ve read a lighthearted chick-lit contemporary like The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend.

 

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

img_0130

The sequel to The Rosie Project, one of my favorite contemporary novels of 2015, The Rosie Effect follows Don and his wife Rosie, who have moved from Australia to New York City and, after 10 months of marriage, discover Rosie is pregnant. In a very Sheldon Cooper-like manner, a misunderstanding leads Don getting into serious trouble. As he juggles the consequences of his actions with impending fatherhood, he faces an even more terrifying possibility: losing Rosie.

The Rosie Effect is one of those sequels I’m amazed I have not read yet. Like I said, I read The Rosie Project two years ago and loved it. If the sequel is anything like its predecessor, I expect a fun and lighthearted read that can cure any signs of a reading slump.

 

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

img_0131

The last book on this list is another dark, sad young adult contemporary about family and loss. Matthew’s older brother dies while on vacation with their family after the boys sneak out one night. The book takes place 10 years later; Matthew is still reeling from the events of that day and is determined to find a way to bring his brother back to life. But in doing so forces him to look at the truth about his brother’s death and what it led to in the decade after.

The Shock of the Fall was a slight impulse buy at Target last Valentine’s Day. I didn’t come to regret it too much after hearing Regan of Peruse Project on YouTube go on about how much she loved this book and it was one of her favorite contemporary novels. It also reminds me a lot of my own favorite, Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira, which is about sisters in a similar situation to the brothers in The Shock of the Fall. This is a book I have no idea when I will get to it; hoping for this year, but who knows?

 

What contemporary novel(s) are you hoping to read this year?

 

Happy reading!