Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter #8) by J.K Rowling

Harry Potter 8Nineteen years have passed since the defeat of the Dark Lord. Harry finds himself still struggling with his past, one that affects his youngest son Albus. With each choice Albus makes, Harry can feel the distance growing between them. When Albus decides to take up an adventure to fix a loss in his father’s past, certain things become clear: darkness still exists in the wizarding world.

Personal Take: Part of me picked this up out of loyalty, and still loved this out of loyalty. However, I’ll come out and say that while this book had my favourite characters in between its pages, along with an enchanting world, I can’t count it as part of the original Harry Potter series.

First, as everyone knows, the format is in script form because it’s a play. That means it takes into account a lot of the stage production elements– the pacing, the beat, the character motivations, etc. In my opinion (and from what I’ve observed) plays explore certain depth of themes a different way, but it has to move the scene along until the end.

And that’s what I felt when reading this book. At times, I could see my favorite characters, references to glorious moments from the books, but other things felt more for stage purposes, like characterization and dialogue. It almost felt like an alternate universe of my favorite series. And I did enjoy it (heck, there were times I wanted to cry!). But I wouldn’t come close to counting it as the 8th book, or story arc.

So my recommendation is: if you want to read this, don’t think too much into it, and just enjoy the ride.

Audience: Always, fans of the series (but maybe not the hardcore fans..)

Rating:

threestars

 

Other recommendations: I haven’t read anything by J.K Rowling other than her most popular series, Harry Potter and The Tales of Beedle the Bard. She’s also written an adult novel, The Casual Vacancy.

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

 

At the turn of the century, a mysterious circus arrives at cities and towns without warning to put on the most magical and astounding shows on earth. Beyond the illusions of magic, a secret competition is underway between two magicians, Celia and Marco. But as the two play a strategic game of endurance, their bond, and their attraction to each other, grows stronger, and it is left to their instructors to intervene– with dire consequences.

Personal Take: This was a book after my own heart. I’ll admit it right now that it’s not for everyone. It’s not fast paced, it’s so very whimsical, and there is probably little character growth (which is unlike me), but I loved it. Mostly, I loved the language in the book. It’s so lyrical, and the descriptions are so beautiful and foreboding all at once. Part of me wished there was a circus like Le Cirque des Reves for it to carry me away like it did.

Having said that, I wasn’t completely blind to some annoyances in The Night Circus. At times the descriptions did get repetitive, and there was the issue of insta-love (it was still cute, but I hoped it would build up). And then the vagueness of some characters’ fates towards the end. It wrapped up a few loose threads, but something tangible would have been nice! I still enjoyed the mystery of it though.

Overall, if you want a real escapism book, this is THE one!

Audience: Adult readers, for minor sexual scenes and language.

Rating: 

4stars

Other recommendations: As far as I know, this is the only Morgenstern book, but if you want historical fantasy, I recommend Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

Review: Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann

When a girl goes missing in small town of Cryer’s Cross, the small community is shaken. By the time school starts again, the town is almost back to normal, and for Kendall Fletcher, senior year marks her near-freedom from the town. Until another teen disappears, this time someone close to Kendall. The incident sets her OCD on edge, and when she finds messages on an old classroom desk, she can’t help but wonder if she’s really losing it, of if it’s really related to the missing teens.

Personal Take: I LOVE Lisa McMann. I loved her Wake trilogy (though I still didn’t make peace with how it ended), and I loved this book. Her writing style is so simple but profound and almost lyrical. It’s also suspenseful and it conveys so many emotions, and she does that in short chapters, and in a short book. It’s refreshing to read something that doesn’t take you through 400 pages and wastes your time.
Kendall is an interesting character. I’ve never read anyone with OCD, but it’s so believable. She lives a normal life and functions despite it. And then there’s the small, tiny, but heart throbbing romance. My heart melts every time there’s a scene. It may be short, but again, it’s special.
The mystery part of it was also good. I honestly did not expect it, but it’s definitely chilling. Needless to say, I am a fan of anything McMann writes.
Audience: Older teens, for small f-bombs. But they’re very minimal.
Rating:
5stars
Other recommendations: I highly recommend McMann’s Dream Catchers Trilogy: I’ve already reviewed Wake, Fade and Gone. There’s also the on-going series Visions (which I can’t wait to read!), and the Unwanted.

Review: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

In town, Chloe’s sister Ruby is the the girl everyone wants to be and wants to be with, and for Chloe being just under her shadow gives her enough status around town too. Except one night party at the reservoir goes horribly wrong when Chloe finds a dead girl in a boat. Two years after the incident, Chloe is living a boring life– until Ruby shows up to take her back home. And everything is as it should be; Ruby the queen of town, and Chloe the little sister basking in her brilliance. But Chloe can tell something is off. Something dangerous that Ruby is hiding, and could unravel their sisterly bonds in a way Chloe could never imagine.

Personal Take: I knew this was a contemporary read, but I didn’t think it would be so dark. Imaginary Girls was written so beautifully and so vividly. It took its time, weaving things into existence, and showing us how Chloe saw things. Half way through it though, I was torn between being at enchanted by it or simply annoyed.
Imaginary Girls could easily be a classic that could be analyzed over and over for the messages it holds, or the literary techniques Suma used. It’s that well written. But I couldn’t connect to Chloe, the narrator. She was so clinical in her narrative, with not so much as a spark of emotion to make me feel what she’s going through why she reached that particular thought when she did. Maybe Suma wanted it that way, but as a reader, it bothered me.
It also bothered me that Chloe didn’t change at all throughout the book because of it. With all the evidence weighed in, she was so stubborn about her own convictions, and I was put off by her (there were other reasons too).
There was also the issue of vagueness throughout the whole book. Events and plots were hinted at, but not directly spoken out, and that just frustrated me.
I would still recommend people to read it, because the idea of it is so dark, twisted and fascinating. It’s sad that I was so close to loving it, but couldn’t.
Audience: Older teens. It was so dark, I was a little freaked out myself.
Rating:
threestars
Other recommendations: Now, just because I didn’t connect with this book doesn’t mean I’ll stop reading Suma’s beautiful writing! Suma wrote a middle-grade level book called Dani Noir. Her next YA book is 17 & Gone, which I’ll definitely pick up.

Review: Wood Angel by Erin Bow

 

After her father passes away, and the home she’s always known is taken away from her, Plain Kate finds a niche on the streets of her small town, surviving on money she gets selling her carved wooden pieces. When the town crops start failing, the people accuse Kate of being a witch. Deciding to leave town and survive on her own, Plain Kate strikes a deal with a dangerous stranger- her shadow in exchange for the thing she wishes most in her heart.

Personal Take: I was pretty excited about reading this book, although I don’t remember why. The writing was fantastic, and initially, I liked how Kate was introduced. By the end of it though, I didn’t feel anything.

I wasn’t attached to Kate. I wasn’t attached to the secondary characters. I wasn’t particularly excited to find out what happened next, because most of the time not much happens. For a short book, it could have been reduced even more. And while I appreciate details in writing, the amount of it in this book bogged down the pacing so much, it was exhausting to get through.

Another thing I found a little disappointing is the lack of explanation for Plain Kate’s world. Different groups of people are introduced to us, and cities, but nothing on what the city is known for or anything. I wasn’t attached to anything in particular, which makes me feel…sad.

On the other hand, as I said, the writing style was nice, sometimes even beautiful. But it didn’t help the story much.

Audience: Possibly older teens- for a book that is slow, it had a lot of bloody scenes in it.

Rating:

threestars

Other recommendations: A book that’s coming out by Bow next year is called Sorrow’s Knot, which has a similar feel to Plain Kate, I think.

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (original idea by Siobhan Dowd)

Thirteen year old Connor is having a bit of a rough time. First of all, his mom is really, really sick. Then there’s his dad, who’s too busy with his other family, but Connor is pretty used to that right now. Then there’s his grandmother, and they both don’t get along at all. Finally, there’s a monster that visits him at midnight. The monster strikes a deal with Connor– he’ll tell him 3 true stories, and the forth story must be Connor’s. As easy as it sounds, Connor isn’t sure he’s ready to face what he’s hidden so deep within himself for so long.

Personal Take: This book was…just wow. It was perfection in every sense. The words were beautiful. Connor and the other characters were fantastic. And the events just tear at you. The book isn’t that big, but it used each word, each sentence so perfectly, I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful story to read.
Connor is so multifaceted for a 13 year old– I don’t think I was that deep! But I loved his complexity so much, and I loved the other characters. It was so natural, how each of them acted, and there wasn’t any explanation other than they’re human.
And then there’s the monster. I can’t say anymore or I’ll gush from excitement.
What I loved most about the book was that it had a great balance between humor and the other darker emotions. Not such a stark difference, but one you recognize as part of life, and it’s just so natural.
I recommend this to anyone who wants to be wowed in one sitting. I can’t wait to read more of Patrick Ness’ work.
Audience: Everyone. I mean it. It’s clean. It’s wonderful. Pick it up. Like, right now.
Rating: 
5stars
Other recommendations: What’s amazing about this book is that the idea was from another author, but Ness made it his own somehow. So I’ll mention both Siobhan Dowd and Ness. Ness’ trilogy that I’ve seen everyone raving about is Walking Chaos. He also wrote The Crash of Hennington and The Crane Wife, which I think are for older readers. I haven’t read any of Siobhan Dowd’s books yet, but still check them out!

Review: Ballad (Books of Faerie #2) by Maggie Stiefvater

 

Following the events during the summer, James and Dee are accepted at Thorn-King Ash, a school for the musically talented, but James knows there’s something more to this school. Struggling with his feelings for Dee, James goes chasing after faeries at night, and he comes across Naula, a solitary fey who won’t think twice about killing him for his gift. As James and Naula play a dangerous game, the Fearies have their own plans of freedom, one that could endanger the whole school.

Personal Take: If I’d thought the first book was all fast and insta-love, but still wow, THIS one blew my mind with it perfection! I LOVED James’ point of view. He was solid, witty, crisp. I’m at awe at how Stiefvater captured his eccentric mind and his personality. I think she’s the only female writer that captured a guy’s POV and friendship.

And Naula! I think I mentioned this before, but I’m usually hesitant towards alternating POVs, but again Stiefvater gave Naula such a different voice, and she complemented James so well. Their relationship was a weird one, but the way it worked, and how it grew was just beautiful to read about.

I also loved all the secondary characters- they added so much to the weird environment that is Thorn-King Ash.

I have to say though, the only person that didn’t quite mesh well with me was Dee. She didn’t have a huge role in this book, but she still managed to rub me the wrong way, and I realized its been the case since book 1.

Other than that though, Ballad was simply amazing- that writing style was stellar, the poetry in it breathtaking, and the ending full of promise.

I just found that there’s a third book, and I’m dying to know what’s next!

Audience: Fans of faerie mythology, lyrical writing styles, and eccentric guys.

Rating: 

4stars

 

Other recommendations: I’ve read and reviewed the prequel Lament. I’m also planning to read her other books- The Wolves of Mercy Falls, The Scorpio Races and The Raven Boys.

Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

 

Richard Mayhew is a well meaning man. Though he doesn’t stand out much, and is very much as ordinary as any human being, he tries to do what is right. So when he ditches his plans with his fiancee to help a complete stranger, his act of kindess takes him deeper than he’d ever imagined- into a competely different London, with rat-speakers, a floating market, and a couple of assassins who mean to kill him and his new and peculiar friends. In this dangerous underside of London, Richard has to come to terms with who he is, and what he needs to do to survive.

Personal Take: I love, love Gaiman’s writing style. If anyone could pull of such a creative idea, it’s him. The characters are wonderful and quirky. Even though the whole premise of Richard is being an ordinary guy, he was fun to read about, and so were all the other characters. The world of London Below was amazing too. Such a tricky, intricate story, and Gaiman managed to give us enough for a great adventure.

In his intro note, Gaiman wrote that he might write another book about the Neverwhere world, and I hope he does it some day, because this has made it onto my top favorite reads.

Audience: Adults who enjoy a weird urban fantasy and British humor.

Rating: 

5stars

 

Other recommendations: I’ve read and reviewed Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter. I’ve already read and loved American Gods and Anansi Boys.

Review: The Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia McKillip

On a winter night, just before the army of Kardeth moved in to invade Pelucir, a monstrous being created of dark things and magic swept through, killing many from both sides. Twenty years later, the Prince of Pelucir, Talis, finds a book of magic written by one of the greatest mages alive, Atrix Wolfe. When the Queen of the Wood finds Talis, she is convinced that finding Atrix would bring back her lost daughter. Meanwhile, in the castle of Pelucir, a plain, pot scrubbing girl is slowly pulled into strong magic…

Personal Take: I’ve always admired McKillip’s writing ability and style. It’s poetic and lyrical, and most of the times deals with magical elements, yet there are so many underlying messages and constant themes that either takes your breath away, or makes you go “aha!”.

I loved how easily she brought characters different situations together. The story had predictable patches, but it was still a lovely read. Expect a dreamy narration.
Audience: Fantasy fans, definitely!
Rating: 
4stars
Other recommendations: McKillip’s writing is very similar to Robin McKinley. Some of the books I really enjoyed (but didn’t review it here) was Winter Rose and Ombria in Shadow.

Review: Violet and Claire by Francesca Lia Block

If there’s one thing Violet wants, it’s to write her own movie and catch L.A Hollywood scene by surprise, and she’s going to do it with her new friend-slash-actress, Claire. The two girls are nothing alike, but together, they compliment each other; Claire, light and poetic, and Violet, dark and powerful. But their ambition to make it big could be the thing that breaks them apart.

Personal Take: This is the second book I read by Block, and I realized something- she gets away with things I normally can’t stand in books. To start off, it’s a tiny book, so there wasn’t that much depth. The characters were nicely done though. It was enough to carry them throughout the book. The writing style was dark at times, and captivating at others. Again, there were some small repetitive sentences, but it wasn’t overly obvious.

What was supposed to bother me, but didn’t that much, was the spiral of chaos the characters fell into so fast- drugs and crazy parties. It came out of no where, and I wouldn’t say it “worked” either. When drugs or booze come into the picture, I immediately think “cliche!”. And the way it was portrayed, it really was a cliche. But, as I said, I didn’t exactly have an emotional connection with the book. It wasn’t great, but it was good enough.

Audience: Older readers. There are swear words in there.

Rating: 

threestars

 

Other recommendations: Check out my review of The Rose and the Beast by Block, as well as her other books.