Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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Note: this review does contain spoilers. 

Since reading the very last Harry Potter book, I was happy with the way the series came to a close, but I was also a little disappointed that we would never get the next chapter. In this script, that is exactly what we get. The play opens with the very last scene that is in the seventh novel and goes on from there. Time is played with from the very beginning and it’s no wonder that the story revolves around an illicit time turner. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is very much a story in the tradition of the series–full of adventure, friendship, the strength of love battling against the strength of evil. However, the familiar characters that we know (Ron, Hermione, and Harry) are much more nuanced as adults. I like that the central conflict stems from the fact that Harry is just struggling (and failing) to be a good father. I don’t want to give too much away, but I have to say I really loved one of our main protagonists: Scorpius Malfoy. What can I say? He made my nerdy heart sing. In any case, I will just have to say that I enjoyed the story and the script very much. I wish it was not impossible for me to see the play, but I am glad that they did at least release the script!

 

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The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

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My love for Holly Black’s books began when I was in high school and read Tithe for the very first time. Tithe is a dark, gritty, and grim fairy tale set in modern day New Jersey. It is a compulsively readable book that I could just not put down (even when I wanted to).
Over the years, I’ve read Black’s other books (White Cat, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Valiant, etc.) and loved them all. In this book, she returns to fairies. The Darkest Part of the Forest is in some way a dark, fairy tale epic. It’s about a brother and sister living in a secluded, small town that is surrounded by fairies and the fairy world. Oh sure, it’s a little bit dangerous (fairies are tricksters and have a different sense of morality than human beings), but nothing has really harmed the townspeople (just a couple of tourists each year go missing or are found not alive)…until now. Can Hazel step up to the plate and be the champion, the knight that she’s always dreamed of being? Can Ben, with all his magical musical ability, face the truth about his feelings and save both his sister and the person he has loved the longest?

In the Darkest Part of the Forest, Ben and Hazel will no longer find the Horned Boy in the glass coffin–tourist attraction and main character in all of their favorite stories. In the darkest part of the forest, our heroes will find adventure, their heart’s desire (though it always comes at a price), sorrow, pain, and the truth about their world and the harsh realities of their peculiar childhood.

I particularly enjoyed the way Black weaves many different fairy tales into the world of this novel.

I recommend to anyone who is a fan of Holly Black or is looking for a good YA fantasy novel.

You might also be interested to see my review of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.

 

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The Oxford Inheritance by Ann A. McDonald

Oxford“Too soon, the next set of visitors arrived. These weren’t quite so temporary. They came bearing crisp new textbooks and fat induction packets, shined shoes and wide eyes, weighed down as much by their own hopeful expectations as the brand-new possessions they pulled behind them in overstuffed cases. Summer was over and it was time for a new generation of students to take their place in the hallowed roll call of Oxford’s great academic legacy.” ~p. 4

The Oxford Inheritance by A.A. McDonald is your quintessential summer murder mystery/academia/dark magic read. Everyone has those, right? Well I certainly do. This book met all of my own personal requirements for a great novel.

The following, by the way, are my criteria for a great contemporary novel:

  • Set in England: check.
  • Professors in tweed: check.
  •  Tough-as-nails yet brilliant heroine with a shady past: check.
  • Complicated love triangle: check.
  • A supernatural twist: check.

I wouldn’t say The Oxford Inheritance is going to turn your world upside down. The writing is decent: fast-paced and intriguing (as a supernatural mystery/thriller should be). There were definitely a couple of weak spots. Cassie’s cop friend Charlie being one of them–I felt that he accepted Cassie’s story way too quickly. Unless he already believed in the supernatural or had had an experience with it before (which was never explored), I just found his acceptance to be a bit too quick and easy.

I did like that the ending wasn’t quite neat and tidy. Cassie gets what she wants, but there’s a price and no doubt about it. However, since the tagline of the novel is “Privilege has a dark price” it didn’t come as too much of a shock.

I would recommend this for anyone looking for a good, intriguing mystery with a bit of supernatural thrown in. I certainly enjoyed that the setting is Oxford and you as a reader get to slip into the Oxford world (the author is an alumna).

All in all, I’m glad to have added this to my bookshelf!

 

 

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The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

therook Myfanwy Thomas (pronounced “Miffany” to rhyme with Tiffany, instead of the traditional Welsh pronunciation) wakes up surrounded by dead people wearing gloves with no idea who she is or what has happened. Her only clues are the letters her predecessor, the Myfanwy Thomas who inhabited her body before the complete amnesia, has left her. Pre-amnesia Myfanwy has also left her a high ranking position in Britain’s most top secret government agencies: The Checquy. The Checquy deals with supernatural threats and also acquires supernaturally gifted individuals for their various positions. They are given titles that correspond to chess pieces. Post-amnesia Myfanwy now has to pretend like nothing has happened and resume her post as a Rook with only the knowledge Myfanwy has left her in the letters, all the while continuing the investigation into which other high-level operative betrayed her and took her memory and her personality.

Personally, this book is 110% my cup of tea. It meets all of my requirements for an excellent fantasy novel. Intriguing main character? Check. Magical powers? Check. Girl power? Double check. Set in London? Check. Secret organizations that deal with magical threats? Check. Vampires? Check.

Besides being insanely fun to read and fast-paced in action, I really came to admire what O’Malley was doing in interspersing old Myfanwy’s letters into new Myfanwy’s story. It provided a break with the traditional, linear story of new Myfanwy and also some first person, epistolary narrative to break up the close third person. It also really made me like pre-amnesia Myfanwy just as much as the present heroine, post-amnesia Myfanwy. Come to think of it, it is actually quite brilliant that O’Malley managed to have two different heroines in one body–the perfect opposition for one of the bad guys, who is one consciousness in several bodies!

There are many cases of this quiet brilliance throughout the novel. I say quiet because I didn’t notice all the of the awesome things he is doing plot-wise and with the narration and dialogue and structure because I just had so much fun reading it! There are, of course, tons of jokes and references to other fantasy and supernatural series that complete nerds like me will totally enjoy. Perhaps the only flaw I found was that sometimes the dialogue is clever at the price of being realistic. But for me, that was just part of the charm of O’Malley’s style.

Anyway: the case is closed. I thought this book was brilliant and I recommend it to anyone who likes a little supernatural mystery to go with their afternoon tea.

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Persuasion by Jane Austen

persuasion “Who can be in doubt of what followed? When any two young people take it into their heads to marry, they are pretty sure by perseverance to carry their point, be they every so poor, or ever so imprudent, or ever so little likely to be necessary to each other’s ultimate comfort. This may be bad morality to conclude with, but I believe it to be truth…” p. 175

I’m not sure I’ll ever meet with a piece of writing by Jane Austen that I do not like, whether or not I agree with what she is saying. I am so glad that I decided to read Persuasion at this very moment in my life, rather than when I was younger and would have missed being able to empathize, at least just a little bit, with Anne Elliot. This is a shout out to all the single ladies my age, who are in their late twenties. It may be the twenty-first century, but I’m not so sure the attitude toward single women nearing their thirties has really altered outlandishly from Britain in the nineteenth century. Not saying it’s exactly the same, but I do think there’s some similarity in being told to hurry up, your eggs are dying as we speak and Anne being considered the “old maid” because she’d rather read than party it up in Bath. She is also not quite as pretty or social as her sister Elizabeth, who seems to have decidedly better chances at marrying even though she is older.

I know that both Anne Elliot and Fanny Price have a bad rap (or little rapport, since we’re talking Jane Austen here) with critics because they are so self-sacrificing and seem to be in cahoots with the infamous Angel in the House–a later, Victorian literary stereotype of women that caused a lot of issues. But just like for Fanny, I will stick up for Anne. Anne is not as vivacious or witty or winning as Elizabeth Bennet. Perhaps she is not as easy to love because she seems to cower in the shadow of her vain and silly older sister (cue Ashlee Simpson song “Shadow”). I hated that she took the advice of Lady Russell, but at the same time…how could she not? Lady Russell was basically the only person with any sort of common sense that Anne knew. But you know what, we’ve all made mistakes, am I right? And who wouldn’t like a second chance to remedy those mistakes or those rash decisions we made 7-10 years ago? And that is what we, as readers of Jane Austen’s glorious novel, get to experience in Persuasion. Thankfully, Captain Wentworth is the one that got away that also comes back (Hello, Sailor!–for all my peeps who watched Gilmore Girls). I did enjoy the chapter where Anne and Captain Harville basically have a fight over who is more generally faithful/loving in relationships, men or women, and all the while Captain Returns-A-Lot is writing Anne a passionate letter about how he never forgot her and how he still has the same feelings for her as he did when they were formerly engaged!

I think Persuasion is very much so a masterful novel and I am excited to next (at some point) re-read Emma, which I haven’t read since I was in high school.

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The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

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The Raven King is the fourth (and final?) book in the Raven Cycle. I believe it is the last book and it certainly does tie up the loose ends of the major conflicts of the first three books.

I will be honest–it had been so long since I read the third book, Blue Lily, Lily Blue that I actually needed a recap on the plot before delving into The Raven King.

Strengths: The strength of Stiefvater’s writing in this book is much the same as in many of her other novels. Her strengths are the fascinating details she gives to her unique set of characters, the little revelations about them she offers up that help build their voice and their realness, and also, I think, the lyricism found in her particular style of writing. I personally loved the repetition of certain words or phrases and parallel structuring throughout the book–it lends a feeling of orality/storytelling to the novel, which I thought was only fitting since Welsh mythology has a lot to do with this novel. The Raven King, more than the other books, almost felt more poetry than prose. Or perhaps poetry in prose. In any case–I greatly enjoyed the actual structure of the writing. I know it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I thought it worked very well.

 

Weaknesses: I have had some trouble with the feasibility of the main characters (as amazing/unique as they are)–especially Gansey. My favorite character is Ronan and I think that is just because I love the way he is described–so fierce and so fragile. Certainly an interesting view of masculinity and adolescence combined. As much as I am super happy that Ronan got to experience some romance in this novel (finally!), I’m not sure if I truly believe Adam’s feelings for him. Everything between them in this novel seemed to happen so fast. That is another one of my critiques–pacing. I thought that the pacing of Blue Lily, Lily Blue was a bit sluggish and in this novel it seemed to go at warp speed. Ronan and Adam kiss. Henry Cheng and Gansey become instant best buds. Blue discovers her true identity and what her father really is. All of these things were important. All of these things made for wonderful reading–but everything happened SO FAST that it was a little difficult to really get into the story.

I will have to say that overall I was happy with the ending to this series. I loved Ronan’s graduation gift to Blue. Adam’s confrontation with his parents in the end felt like closure in real life–ultimately somewhat disappointing, but ever so important.

I would definitely recommend The Raven Cycle series to anyone looking for unique YA fantasy. However, I think my favorite Stiefvater book will remain The Scorpio Races.

 

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Why You Are Still Single: A Facetious Article that Lists Everything You Are Doing Wrong and What You Can Do to Remedy the Situation According to Science

 

Ladies everywhere!

Want to know why you, fabulous you with all your charms, are still single?

This article has all the solutions to problems you weren’t even aware  that you have. For instance, did you know that women who liked math more than any other subject in school have a statistically higher chance of finding Mr. Right by their mid twenties? (This is all according to a study done at The University You Couldn’t Possibly Afford, so it must be Absolute Truth).

But you can’t be TOO mathematical, as other studies confirm that women who preferred majors in the humanities have happier marriages in the end.

But I’m not interesting in ensnaring a boyfriend, you might say. Read on! This article is for you, too, whether you want advice on snatching a significant other or not.

The next reason you are still single is because you are wearing too much makeup. Take off your makeup—men like the natural look.

But I’m not wearing any makeup, and I’m still single, you might say…

Well put on some makeup! Clearly you are not putting enough effort into your look.

But you can’t go crazy—no super bright eye shadows or super dark eyeliners. Not too much mascara. In other words, only wear makeup that makes you look like you’re not wearing any makeup. You need to blend in to the crowd a bit more.

But you actually need to stand out from the crowd a bit more. Science (from only God Knows Where) shows that women who are willing to wear ultra bright colors display that they are more confident than other women. The reason you are clearly single is because you are not confident enough. God forbid you are even just a bit shy around new people or slightly reserved—you might as well give up right now and go adopt yourself a bunch of cats.

Actually pet adoption boosts your chances of finding a great relationship, because altruism is the ultimate attractive quality, studies from various Scandinavian countries show. And you know you can trust all studies from Scandinavian countries.

You are also still single because of your food choices. A recent study from The University You Couldn’t Possibly Afford showed pictures of young women eating various types of meals to young men and had them rate the pictures for God Knows What Reason (and what Tenured Ass Hats are being paid to conduct such a study, anyway?). The participants of the study consistently gave higher ratings to women who were eating hot wings rather than the women eating salads. Therefore you need to eat more meat, because an unknown number of men gave higher ratings for reasons that aren’t even spelled out here to pictures of women eating hot wings in a study that isn’t even properly cited in this ridiculously, scientifically accurate article.

Actually, you need to eat more fruits and vegetables—because scurvy is NOT attractive. And everyone knows because of that study done in Germany several years ago that Vegetarians statistically have happier relationships.

Your being single has nothing to do with you being at a certain stage of your life or because it is by your own choice. Oh no—you are still single because you are too mysterious. Men do not like mystery. You must clearly spell out everything you are thinking or feeling at every moment to your prospective significant other—otherwise they will think you are playing hard to get and they’ll lose interest immediately. For instance, when you walk into a new room you must announce, “This room makes me feel happy,” or “This room makes me feel sleepy,” or “This room makes me want to go for ice cream, but not have to pay for the ice cream.” This is certain to captivate them.

But you can’t give too much away. Ladies, save all the excessive emotions for your diaries or solo viewings of The Notebook. Guys don’t like it when girls get too emotional—you have to appear to be human without actually being human. That’s the trick.

If you don’t find Mr. Right with all these marvelous tips, then you must not be trying hard enough. Or trying too hard—stop putting in so much effort! You have to put in effort without actually appearing to put in effort.

 

Let it be known that Molly Miller, the author of this facetious web article, put no effort into researching for this article, loathes the movie The Notebook, loves her adopted dog, wears too much makeup, and is still single.

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