Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II Review

Hi friends! Guess who read the new Harry Potter book? This guy!

I got my preordered copy of Harry Potter and Cursed Child on Monday the first, I believe. I halted the book I was reading (Cress by Marissa Meyer) and went straight into this book. If you can show me a person that says they can sit through a book they’re already reading when they have a new HP book sitting on their shelf, I will show you a liar. Harry Potter waits for no one.

For those who don’t know, I am a HUGE Harry Potter nerd. I love it, I have a tattoo for it, I have a painting for it, my life is basically all HP, and my blog is named for one of my favorite lines in the entire series, “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things – friendship and bravery” … I’ll admit, I omitted the latter half because I mean, really, what’s more important than books?

So I sat down a week ago and read the book. Admittedly it took me three days to do so, but I finished it! And oh my god…

This was completely different than the usual HP books, which was both good and bad:

First of all, it’s written like a play is written. For good reason: it’s the book based off of the play that just took stage in London. It’s supposed to be the same story that they’re doing on stage, only they turned it into a book for everyone to read instead of just the lucky few who get to see it on stage.

I am a huge fan of the fact that they released this book. I remember how bummed out I was when they said there was going to be a play but it was in London. I actually considered just going to London to see that play, so having the play in my hands and only paying twenty bucks instead of probably over 2,000 bucks was an amazing feeling.

The story itself is fantastic. I was hesitant at first because I thought, ,”okay, am I really going to sit down and try to feel okay about Harry being a forty-year-old father?” But I thought they did a great job.harry-potter-and-the-cursed-child-poster-461923

This book picks up exactly where we left off at the end of HP and the Deathly Hallows which I thought was a really great way to start the book. Just from the first few pages in King’s Cross Station I could already start to get a feel of the characters and their differences and similarities to the original books.

The plot was fun. It’s about Harry’s son, Albus Severus, who is trying to find his own identity at Hogwarts while everyone thinks he should be just as great as his dad (or the two wizards he’s named after…. Side note: I always thought it was fucked up that he named his kid Albus Severus because it seemed like a pretty heavy burden to put on someone. They’d constantly be trying to live up to the name. But in the book Harry actually asks a portrait of Dumbledore how he feels about having someone named after him and Dumbledore, being the smarty pants he is, says that it seems like a big weight to put on a kid! Ha! I was right.)

Albus Severus then goes on an adventure with his best friend Scorpius (Malfoy’s son) to try to change the past. Adventure ensues. I won’t give it away because I think it would make it much less exciting if you knew the whole story.

Now, while I enjoyed the books I did have a few dislikes:

As much as I love plays (I’m a Shakespeare girl through and through) I really do wish this were in novel format. Not because it wasn’t an amazing story the way it was, it really was an amazing story, but rather because I feel like there could have been so much more detail. I thought there were times where everything felt like it got cut off – because it was.

Because it’s in a play format, you don’t necessarily have all the imagery that you’re used to with Harry Potter books. There were several times that a scene ended and I was like, “no, there has to be more… Right?”

The problem with play format is that its broken down into what the character is saying, a small descriptive action, and then back to what a character is saying (obviously not always in that order). But because it’s broken up that way you almost don’t get as many of the descriptive emotions going on – you just have to identify it for yourself. Part of me is fine with that, but the other part of me wishes there was more meat to these bones.

The other thing I wasn’t crazy about was the portrayal of Ron. I know this is going to sound nit-picky, and it really is. But one of my favorite characters is Ron because he’s so cheeky, sarcastic, and just kind of reckless. Whereas in this book I didn’t get the same feeling from Ron. I got the same feeling from Hermione, from Harry, Ginny and Malfoy, but there was a disconnect for me with Ron.

Ron in this book felt more staged, almost like they wanted to have him say something funny but it just didn’t work. I wish they had more fluidity with his character.

Now, do I think that that’s a deal breaker? No. Do I think that makes the book any less great? No. I just really wish that there had been more “Ron” in Ron’s character in the book.

Other than that, I really did think this was a great book. It was so exciting to finally read a new HP story with new characters and a whole new generation.

I thought the idea was fantastic, the writing was impeccable (You can always count on Jo), and mostly the feeling of being back in the Wizarding World made me feel as free and welcomed as it always has.

Once again, JK Rowling has done it. She’s made me fall in love with Harry Potter all over again.

Now who’s ready for Fantastic Beasts????

Until next time,

Rachel

P.S. If you have any opinions on the book, have seen the play, or just want to talk to me about everything (because I want to talk to you about everything) leave a message in the comments or shoot me an e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

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Angels & Demons – Dan Brown Review

Hi friends! I’ve been meaning to write this post for the last week, so I’m really excited that I get to write it now. “Rachel, why are you so excited to write this blog?” Because, friends, I have finished the very first book in my quest to read all of the Robert Langdon series by Dan Brown. angelsanddemons

I know, I know. I’m super late to this party. Here’s how it happened:

On New Years Day I watched The DaVinci Code on Netflix. My boyfriend and I hadn’t watched this movie since it came out in theatres (2006, holy shit!), so I was really excited to watch it. I’m a huge fan of history, a huge fan of secret societies (hay, Masons, haaaay!) and a huge fan of adventure movies, particularly when there’s a mystery involved.

What I remembered about the movie was minimal, so I really had an open mind going in… I was enthralled the entire time. My boyfriend not so much, but I loved it. So I immediately decided I needed to read the series and we took a late night trip to Barnes & Noble and picked up Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown.

I think I’ve mentioned that recently – maybe in the last year or so – I’ve been reading at a much slower pace than usual. Well, when I started reading Angels & Demons on New Years Day night, I read 75 pages which is basically a full 50 more pages than I’ve been reading per night (A fact that I’m incredibly ashamed about – I’m sorry! I just get sleepy!)

To say that I was excited about these first 75 pages is an understatement. I wasn’t just excited, I was involved. I was in Rome with Robert Langdon and I was seeing a dead scientists on the floor with a brand on his chest. In fact, I was so involved that for the next four weeks I read A&D almost every night and finished the more than 700 page book and was so incredibly proud of myself. Again, I hadn’t been reading more than TWENTY-FIVE PAGES PER NIGHT. I don’t know if you know how long it takes to finish a book by reading twenty pages per night, but the answer is: a long time. A lot longer than I want. It really is almost a shameful amount because I had been reading 100 pages per night easily for a very, very long time.

Anyway, finishing the book was awesome and sad. It was an amazing book and I got to start the next one in the series, but it was also a great book that I didn’t want to end.

So let’s get into the review. 5 stars. 100%. A+. Seventeen thumbs ups.

Seriously, I have not read a book that I have enjoyed this much since The Martian back in July 2015. That’s a long ass time, man.

This book, for starters IS the first book in the series. Why The DaVinci Code movie came out first, I have no idea. My only guess is that it was more popular than the first book and could easily be an independent story, separated from the rest. But nonetheless, it is, in fact, the first book of the series. It goes:

  1. Angels & Demons
  2. The DaVinci Code
  3. The Lost Symbol
  4. Inferno

Now, A&D was incredible. Again, I know I’m way too late jumping on the bandwagon, but honestly I’m really glad that’s happened because now I know that there’s a solid movie series to go along with the books when I’ve completed them.

I remember when the movie Angels and Demons came out and I remember loving it. But I don’t remember anything else. There were little snippets of memory that I thought might be from the movies but I wasn’t sure (like some guy being branded by a fire) but I didn’t remember who was good and who was bad. That made reading this book even better.

I know that I’ve discussed this, but I actually don’t mind seeing the movie version before the book version because then I get an idea of how someone looks, I can really imagine their features and facial expressions. I’m not saying it’s great for every movie, but I’m never really upset that I saw the movie first. That’s only happened a handful of times.

That’s why when I was reading A&D I had so much fun following around Robert Langdon. Not only is the character strong, funny, intelligent and fun to follow, he also looks exactly like Tom Hanks in my brain and I’m A-OK with that. Who doesn’t want to think about Tom Hanks before bed? He has such a soothing presence.

This book was witty, funny, sad, emotional, thrilling, and every other adjective under the stars. It was an absolute joy to read and it made me really look into the historical side of the societies Brown brings up. He’s a phenomenal writer and a brilliant man when it comes to intertwining historical and factual references into completely fictional situations. Not to be confused with historical fiction. He is not a historical fiction writer. He is simply wonderful at using facts about history to support his own crazy fictional adventure.

I would liken this book to something a little more for young adults: the movie National Treasure with Nicolas Cage. I don’t care what anyone says, I really like Nic Cage. Rage Cage is awesome, and he might not be the best actor but he sure is fun to watch. My boyfriend and I have been saying we’re going to watch Pay The Ghost for a while now, and maybe we just will this weekend! (Note: my boyfriend and I are people who really enjoy B movies and not great movies/movies with maybe not so great actors. We also like to be entertained. If you are like my sister and her husband, this movie, or anything with Rage Cage in it may not be suitable for you. You’ve been warned.)

Anywho, I really highly recommend this book to people who love history and who love to be challenged when reading a book. This book will keep you on your toes the entire time and I guarantee that if you don’t mind a reading a huge fucking book (700+ pages) with a lot of plot twists before you get the truth, you will LOVE this book. Go get it!

I’ve also just begun The DaVinci Code and I can’t wait to finish it. It’s about 500 pages, and I’m about a third of the way through, but it’s already amazing. I even remember the plot from the movie and it’s still good. I’ll keep you all posted on my thoughts of that book and the next books.

I’m instituting The DaVinci Code as the February book for the Books and Cleverness book club, but you can read whatever you want. Just get those books under your belt!

Well, that was a long one.

Until next time!

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Fool Moon Review – The Dresden Files

Hello friends! After a long couple of weeks, I’m back in the writing game. I know it’s been quite sporadic, but you’ll have to bear with me. I’m trying!

I’ve been reading rather slow lately. While a couple months ago I could read 150 pages in one night of reading, recently I’ve been reading maybe 30 pages every night of whatever book I’m reading (no matter how awesome it is). I’m just an old person now and when I read more than ten pages I just get so tired. So my actual book reviews seem to be pretty far apart nowadays.

Nonetheless, I’m still reading! And my most recent finished book is the second book in a series I started called The Dresden Files. The series is about a wizard private investigator named Harry Dresden who is often used by the police in the Special Investigation unit. They bring him in if there is a case that seems, well, different. It’s really well written and there are currently 15 books in the series.

The second book by Jim Butcher, the one I just finished, is called Fool Moon and chronicles Harry Dresden’s next case after the first book’s case has been solved. This time: werewolves.

I think I may have mentioned this in the previous Dresden File blog, but I didn’t actually find this book on my own (sadly). I was looking for new genres to read because I kept reading the same types of fantasy stories. I was getting a little tired of the genre, not because I don’t love it, but because I really felt like I had exhausted myself with mystical beings and creatures and lives, and needed a break.

So of course, the next books I started reading were of the fantasy genre. I JUST CAN’T QUIT SOMEBODY HELP ME! HALP!

I read two of the Maze Runner books and ended up frustrated with the writing and never read the third (even though I bought it. side note: I have a serious problem. Does anyone else start reading a book and love it so much you just go out and buy all of the books in the series? Because I do that, and then sometimes I end up hating the series and wasting money on a book. Again, HALP!). But then I did venture out of my comfort zone a little and read Gone Girl. Holy crap, Gone Girl. Easily one of the most suspenseful, intricate, well-written, exciting, and fucked up books I’ve ever read.

But then I was at a loss. I had books that I’d bought and stockpiled, but nothing that I was in the mood for. That was when my boyfriend’s friend suggested The Dresden Files (and just about everything else Jim Butcher has written). I thought it sounded interesting, and definitely different from what I’d been reading: instead of young adult fantasy books, I had graduated to adult fantasy books. BOOYA!

I read the first book, Storm Front, and loved it. I loved the writing style, I loved the story, I loved the creativity, I just loved it. But I didn’t run out and buy the other books of the series (oddly), instead I read other types of books. The Fault in Our Stars, The Legend of Drizzt, etc. But then I couldn’t take it anymore. I bought Fool Moon and the third book, Grave Peril. (HALP ME!)  The good news about me buying Grave Peril is that I absolutely loved the second book. So I’ll definitely be reading the third book.

So yes, I loved the book. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys dark, well-placed humor, a good action-y book, and super creative story lines. My only concern is that it’s 15 books. I’m a little worried I’ll get sick of it, although I can guarantee that my boyfriend’s friend will tell me “ABSOLUTELY NOT. YOU’LL LOVE EVERY SECOND OF IT” We’ll see.

5 stars, Jim Butcher, 5 stars.

Until next time, friends.

Rachel

P.S. I’m always open to suggestions if you ever think there’s a book I should review!

email: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness Review

I’ve done it! I’ve finished Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches! After more than a month of reading one single novel, I’ve finished it. And it was good.

Some background in case you’re new here: All last month I was extremely busy with three jobs and moving house. So just based on that alone, I didn’t really have much time to sit down for five minutes, let alone read. But also, the book is almost 600 pages long. I’m generally a mid-to-fast reader, but 600 pages takes a while even in the best of circumstances.

So I started reading this book (which is the first book of a trilogy) after months of having it in my possession. It kept being on the top of my reading list – number one priority – but for whatever reason, when I’d finish a book I’d immediately choose a different book on my reading list. Last month I had read The Fault in Our Stars and had bawled my eyes out so much over that book that I needed to read something more lighthearted and adventurous. I picked the perfect book.

I have to admit that the first couple of chapters I was really confused. I had no idea what was going on, and the author switched up the point of view for a chapter about three chapters into the book, which was kind of weird. But once you get past the initial shock of what you’re reading and get used to learning all the new words and terms, like “daemons,” it gets much more fun. Like I said, she switches up the point of view from first person to third person three or four times throughout the novel, for a single chapter each. It was really weird, but those chapters were so informative because the narrator of those chapters gives you the information the main character, Diana, doesn’t know.

The book is centered around a woman named Diana Bishop, who comes from a long line of very powerful witches. She happens to come across an enchanted book in a library that will tell the secret of all the three creatures we know about: witches, daemons, and vampires. It also says how they can be killed. Diana does not open the book, though. She puts it back with the librarians. That’s when the creatures come out of the woodwork. They all want to unlock the secret of life. A vampire named Matthew Clairmont takes an interest in the book, but also an interest in DIana. And thus the book spirals out of control.

When I started the book I wasn’t sure I liked it. As I said, I was having a hard time understanding it, and the main character kept irritating me because she was so naive at first. But soon you begin to understand her naivety and really start to root for her. So if you do read this book, which I really recommend you do if you like supernatural stories, don’t give up on it the first few chapters in. It gets so so good. And holy crap, the ending! The ending!!!! My interest level was at an all time high after I finished the book. It was very good.

Which brings me to the second novel of the trilogy, Shadow of Night. I finished the first book two days ago but didn’t have time to write about it. In those two days I began reading an entirely different book because I didn’t own the second of the series. That book is called The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. I made it through I’d say 20 pages before I just got bored. I’m sure if I really sat down and read a hundred pages of it I’d get hooked. But really I just couldn’t do it. I kept falling asleep and I find that to be a bad sign when you first start reading a book.

So instead I drove to Barnes and Noble today and picked up the second book. I can’t even tell you what it’s about just yet because I don’t want to give anything away on the first book. But I will say this: time travel!! It’s also about the same length as the first novel, so it might take me a little bit to read it, but I think I’ll go through much more quickly than the last.

With that said, I’m going to leave and read because I can’t stand waiting any longer! If you have any suggestions for my next book or just want to say hi, leave a message in the comments or shoot me an e-mail at rachel@booksandcleverness.com.

Until next time! Happy reading!

Rachel

Fairy Tale Fail – Snow White

Hi everyone! Quick note before I begin: I’m still reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness but I have less than one hundred pages left! I’m sorry for the delay in the reviewing process. Nevertheless, here’s another Fairy Tale Fail!!

I don’t know about you guys but I’ve never been a huge fan of the much older Disney movies – not that I don’t like them, because I do. Disney movies are beyond magical! But movies like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White are way too damsel-in-distress-like for me. They don’t really have anything that might make them unique or likable. Their stories are mostly about how a man saved them from near-death. I, personally, like my Disney Princesses to have charisma and charm – and their own opinions.

That said, I’ve done some more research and I’m kind of pissed at my findings. The Brother’s Grimm’s fairy tale Snow White was actually much darker than I thought it was originally (yes!), but still kinda weird. And I find Snow White to be even more of an idiot in the movie.

Much of the beginning of the story remains in both the Grimm’s version and the Disney version: a beautiful Queen is sewing one day and pricks her finger. Upon seeing the blood she wishes for a daughter who is as fair as snow, with lips red as blood, and hair black as night (ebony, in the Grimm’s version). When the Queen gets her wish, she names her daughter Snow White. But shortly after she dies of birthing complications. The King marries a new woman who happens to be a witch, both literally and metaphorically.

The Queen has a magic mirror that she talks to and asks “who is the fairest in the land?” with the answer always being “you are the fairest in the land!” But this time, the mirror tells her that she is not the fairest, that Snow White is a thousand times more beautiful than she. The Queen gets pissed and sends a huntsmen to kill Snow White, rip out her heart, and bring it back as proof that she’s dead. The huntsmen doesn’t have the heart to do it (see what I did there? heh!) and tells Snow White to run as far away as she can.

This is when the similarities between the two nearly come to a halt. Because as far I know, little woodland creatures don’t usually take to one particular human, befriend that human, and lead that human to a safe-house. No, the Grimm’s version is much more realistic. So we’re gonna do a bit of a compare and contrast at this part because there are very slight but important details that I want to point out.

In the movie, she obviously is led to the dwarves house by friendly animals – isn’t that how everyone finds their home? Who uses Zillow? She then enters the house with a whole bunch of chairs and beds in it, and notices how messy it is. So she tidy’s up their home, and by the end of her cleaning she’s just pooped! Too exhausted to worry if maybe seven tiny, crazy axe-murderers live there, she plops down on three little beds and sleeps. When the dwarves come home from working in the mine, they’re taken aback, but then agree she can live there provided she clean the house, sew, knit, and cook (that last provision is also in the Grimm’s version).

Now the Grimm’s version. First, I’d just like to say that this particular story was published around 1812. This is a time when slavery still exists, when the age of consent for marriage is 10-13 years old, and when the freaken United States is only a 36 year old. THIRTY-SIX! And yet, in the Grimm’s version, Snow has more common sense and resolve than the much newer Disney version. When Snow White runs away from the huntsmen, she finds a tiny house far away from nothing and no one is home. Snow white is hungry, and tired, and sees an opportunity to steal their food, wine, and sleep in their beds before anyone comes home. A regular squatter. She completely messes up their entire home and everything is out of place. When the dwarves come back they’re pissed. But Snow White tells them all about the evil Queen and the huntsmen and they take pity on her, again as long as she can take care of the house (although, I get the feeling that in this version they’re also kind of just mad she messed up their house in the first place, and just want her to clean it up).

So here’s what I learned from that: the 1939 version (postbellum, the age of consent is 16 – as it is today, and the U.S. is 239 years old – women can vote, also) is more sexist than the original that is more than 200 years old! Snow White is the perfect woman in the 1939 version, walking in to a home and seeing a mess and thinking “by golly! I have to clean this up before anyone sees! I know I’m running for my life, but please, let me do the dishes first.” In Grimm’s version Snow is more about being unclean, a slob, and pretty much a hobo stealing their stuff. Not very ladylike, but I like it a damn sight more than the Disney version!

Anyway, the Queen learns she’s alive and in the movie she stops by as an old hag and has Snow White eat part of a poisoned apple that will put her to sleep unless “true love’s kiss” wakens her. The dwarves find out via woodland creatures that the Queen killed her and they chase after the Queen, trapping her, and she eventually falls to her death. The dwarves don’t want to bury her in the ground so instead they put her in a glass coffin above ground (because apparently they didn’t think about decomposition). After a while a prince shows up and falls in love with her, kisses her out of sadness that she’s dead, and she wakes and they live happily ever after.

In the story, it’s a bit different, though still weird that a prince loves a dead person he never met when she was alive, I’ll admit. When the Queen learns of Snow White whole still-alive-thing she comes by the dwarves house and first gives her a bodice that she laces up so tightly that Snow White can’t breathe and faints. The dwarves come home and find her just in time to unlace the bodice. The Queen then comes back with a brush, brushes Snow’s hair and Snow faints again, but the dwarves save the day (again). Lastly, the Queen shows up with a poisoned apple which Snow eats (stupid girl, you’d think she’d have learned her lesson) and chokes on a piece of apple. The Queen goes home and the mirror finally tells her she’s the fairest in the land.

The dwarves can’t figure out what happened to her, so they put her in a glass coffin. Again, after some time, a prince walks by and is enchanted by the dead girl. He convinces the dwarves to let him take the coffin and the girl with him. As his servants take the coffin, they trip over a branch and the apple is dislodged from her throat. The Prince proposes to her and she accepts.

They invite everyone to their wedding, including the Queen. The Queen wasn’t going to go until looking into her mirror, the voice back said that the new Princess is the fairest in the land. So the Queen goes to see this new woman, but Snow know’s it was the Queen all along and punishes her. She is forced to put on straight out of the fire hot iron shoes and dance in the burning shoes until she dies. The end.

So basically, what I’ve learned from all of this is that the men who wrote this back in 1812, were more in favor of women being actual humans with feelings better things to do than clean, than the men in 1939 who orchestrated the movie. I’ve also learned that I wouldn’t want to live in either time, because apparently they’re both filled with evil witches who want to rip peoples hearts out.

That’s all for now. If you want to say hi, or have a fairy tale you want me to talk about let me know in the comments or shoot me an e-mail at rachel@booksandcleverness.com. Until next time!

Rachel