Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Discovery of a BookCrossing Book/Sweet Rein Vol. 3 by Sakura Tsukuba

  Alright, I freely admit that this was my first crack at reading Manga.
  For some reason, when my friends discovered Manga and started delving into the interesting world of Japanese Animation, the fascination skipped over me. (As did High School Musical--sorry.) I went right from Goosebumps and American Girl books to Twilight and the Mortal Instruments. I don't say this insinuating that getting into Manga was a rite of passage that I missed, but in a way, it was, since I seemed to be the only young adult who didn't understand the fascination.
  That being said, years later, an opportunity presented itself (literally) for me to finally try my first copy of Manga.
  There is a wonderful little bookworm program called BookCrossing. Readers will find a book they love (or a book they want to read, a book they don't like so much, etc.) put a BookCrossing tag in it (with a code), and cast it off at a random public spot for someone to find, read, and drop off again so someone else may find it. As each person logs in that they found said book, readers come together and discuss (online) how they liked or disliked the book they found. It is incredibly neat. Ever since I discovered BookCrossing (around five or so years ago), I have been dying to find one myself. Finding one while I was living in Florida had slim chances, since the state is so big, and not many people (at the time) were casting out books. My one chance of finding one was to make a trip to Disney, and I really only ventured into Orlando for one thing--the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  I have a point to this blog post, I promise.
  Once I moved to New England, the chances of finding a BookCrossing book had become much higher, but I honestly had given up on finding one once I found out how difficult it would be to find one in Florida. I could have cast one out myself, but that took an effort, and I can be extremely lazy. (Yes, I admit it!)
  Fast-forward to living in New England. About a week ago, as I was doing a photo shoot for my business HerShelves Elves, I was wrapped in as many sweaters and jackets as possible, scouring a park, placing my elves in front of giant Christmas decorations for my Facebook page. As I walked to the center of the solid, icy, packed snow, I placed my elves on a bench covered in bows and wreaths. But something else was in my shot, wrapped in a plastic zipper bag.
  My very first BookCrossing book.
  With a fleeting glance, I noticed it was Manga, but I didn't care. I finally found one! I quickly took my pictures, and shivered as I ran back to my car. I knew I had to read it. I found this book for a reason. It had to be the book gods' way of telling me to expand my literary palate even more.
  So, with excited and giddy shaking hands (and a tad bit of trepidation), I started Sakura Tsukuba's Sweet Rein Vol. 3.
  I honestly didn't realize it was the last volume of the saga until I started reading about Kurumi (the Santa) and Kaito (her reindeer), and realized they were already well-acquainted with their readers. Nevertheless, I delved in anyway (against my inner OCD's shrieking will in the back of my head).
  It was difficult adjusting to the word bubbles and phraseology of the characters' dialogues, but surprisingly the order in which you read the word bubbles was extremely easy to understand. Right to left with the comic windows, just like reading Hebrew, but left to right because it's English. (It's much easier than it sounds.)
  Of course, with my mind being a tad more closed than I'd care to admit, I thought the way Kurumi, Kaito, and Sakura Tsukuba's reoccurring characters communicated with each other was a bit childish and silly, but, I admit, I gradually became amused with them.
  The book is told in four parts, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Some seasons I liked more than others (Summer and Winter), and I actually found myself picking a favorite character out of the bunch. In addition to those pleasant surprises, I was also shocked to find myself disappointed when the book ended suddenly. (The last few chapters, which I THOUGHT was another installment of Spring, was in fact a preview of another Tsukuba story.) I was so disappointed. Disappointed enough to casually look up Sakura Tsukuba on the internet...and, you know, just see how many Kurumi and Kaito books there were...and, you know, just check it out, just in case the story continued...
  Okay, FINE. I admit it. I became hooked. Horribly hooked. I want more of their story, I want the first few installments of the Sweet Rein books (because Vol. 3 is the LAST, apparently), and I want to casually stroll through the Manga sections of the bookstore (which I would never normally venture into unless it was attached to the YA section).
  I hate to sound a tad hippy dippy, but this fateful find of a BookCrossing book opened my eyes to a new universe of literature. Now that I've finished the book, I plan on dropping it off at a different park in the vicinity, and logging on to BookCrossing to thank the originator of the book for introducing me to Manga.

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

An Other Place by Darren Dash

  I was contacted by Darren Dash about a week ago to read his upcoming novel, An Other Place. Being such a huge fan of his, it was a surprise and an honor to receive an email from him, let alone hear that he wants me to review a book of his, before it's even released.
  Once the shock subsided, I was ready to sink my fangs- er- teeth into his new story.
  Newman Riplan is not who you would call a saint. He is successful at his work as a troubleshooter, well on his way to making his first million, but he is certainly not everyone's cup of tea. Easily hypnotized by the crook of sex, alcohol, and drugs' spindly finger, Newman is entirely out of it when his two friends send him on a plane to a mystery vacation.
  Little does Newman know, that on his way to his destination, he gets lost in An Other Place. Everything is wrong with this Other world. The currency is teeth, no glass is to be found anywhere in the city, and strange beasts run free with every corner you turn. No one there seems to know of anything relating to the world Newman has left, and he quickly realizes that he can never leave.
  I have never been so happy to be an outsider (looking in) so much in my life. Although I didn't care for Newman (at least at the beginning), I took comfort in the fact that I was not facing this nightmare of a journey on my own. I have been successfully terrified by Darren Dash's YA books (written in his alias, Darren Shan), but never to this extent. Darren Dash has opened a new artery of terror in An Other Place, and has let the adrenaline-laced blood flow into his readers.
  Several times this book made me shout, "What? WHAT?" I couldn't dig my heels into the ground far enough to slow this ride. I am not entirely sure if I can even categorize this book as a book I loved, as I have with his other books. Though, in all honesty, I know for a fact that this story will stick with me. As soon as I finished the last page, I felt as if I had been sucker-punched in the gut.
  "I liked it" or "I loved it" doesn't come close to summarizing the feelings I have for An Other World. I hated it, I wanted to leave Newman's head, I wanted to explore, I wanted to take a handful of Cheryl's sleeping pills, I wanted to tell Newman everything was going to be alright, I wanted to scream at him to run, I wanted to talk to the Alchemist, I wanted to stay, I wanted to flee, but most of all, I wanted to know more. I had to know how this city was born, and what Newman has to do to beat it.
  One thing you can say for Darren Dash's writing; he has you always wanting more.
  All in all, An Other Place is unlike any book I have ever read. It had hints of The Twilight Zone, Pines, and Station Eleven, but not quite. An Other Place was an entity of its own.
  So, Darren, I have one question for you: Where do you think you are? 

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Secrets of Worry Dolls by Amy Impellizzeri

  From the author of Lemongrass Hope, Secrets of Worry Dolls takes us on a journey to the fertile orchid fields of Guatemala, through the devastating trials of a mourning family post 9/11, and into the past of a woman whose secrets can only be trusted in the hands of her tiny worry dolls.
  In Amy Impellizzeri's latest inspiring novel, we meet Lu, and are transported through time as she tells her story, and the story of her mother, and why her life has made her mother the way she is; distant and haunted.
  Secrets of Worry Dolls spins a sad tale, lights a spark of hope, and mends our broken hearts with the meaning of family, love, and courage. Together, Lu and her mother Mari will make it through this life, and in the process, inspire us all.
  Since I was so hopelessly in love with Ms Impellizzeri's debut novel Lemongrass Hope (full review here), I was a bit hesitant to jump to conclusions with Secrets of Worry Dolls. I was scared I wouldn't love it as much, and I would be comparing the two throughout the entire read-through. Cautiously going into the story, I slowly warmed to Lu and Mari's narrative, but still, I held off solidifying an opinion of the book until I was finished. I didn't particularly adore Lu or Mari, and although I tried not to compare the two in my mind, and although I loved Lemongrass Hope right off the bat, Secrets of Worry Dolls was not hooking me as quickly as I expected.
  I came to the end of the book, and the story, and the twists, the emotions--everything hit me so hard and so fast, I immediately rated the book five stars. I may not have had a love affair throughout the story as I did with Lemongrass Hope, but as for endings, Amy Impellizzeri's latest book takes the cake. As I said, I wasn't in love with Lu, but her character progression was impeccable. I wasn't too in love with Mari either, but her story...her story. Ms Impellizzeri did a remarkable job of painting a literary portrait of Mari, and why she is the way she is.
  I could honestly talk about this book for hours. I am just stunned at what a 180 degree turn this book took for me, and although I was lukewarm throughout, this story's end was well worth the wait.

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

An Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Darren Dash

An Interview with Darren Dash

I have been a fan of Darren's for quite a while. He was extremely influential in my love of reading as a young adult. So, when he approached me and asked if I would help spread the word about his new adult novel, An Other Place, how could I say no?

So, without further ado...

The Literary Connoisseur: Hello, Darren! Thank you for joining my readers and me here at The Literary Connoisseur! I know we’re all very excited to find out more about your new book, An Other Place, and to hear what you’ve been up to lately! If you’re ready, let’s begin. For readers who have yet to become fans of yours, why don’t you tell us all a little about yourself. 

Darren Dash: I’m best known for my YA books, written under the name of Darren Shan, but I’ve always written for adults too – in fact the first book I ever published, Procession of the Dead, was for adults. I live in Ireland, though I spend a good chunk of time in London too, and I travel frequently.

The Literary Connoisseur: Please tell us about your new novel, An Other Place. 

Darren Dash: A young go-getter chokes on a peanut on a flight to a mystery destination, and when he recovers he finds himself at the start of a journey to… an other place. That’s really the most I want to say about it, as I think this is a book that’s best enjoyed with the minimum of knowledge. All I’ll add is that it’s very dark and twisted, a book which will hopefully unsettle readers and leave them asking questions for a very long time.

The Literary Connoisseur: I’m sure you have plenty of possible plots rattling around your head at all times! What inspired you to write this particular story? Has it been brewing in your head for some time, or has it been recently discovered? 

Darren Dash: I actually wrote the first draft back in 1998, but let it lie fallow for many years while building my Darren Shan career. I have mild OCD, but back in 1998 I was ceding more and more ground to it, letting routines dominate my life to an unhealthy degree. I was in the middle of a frenetic creative streak, knocking out novels one after the other, ideas coming fast and furious. But socially I was in a much darker place, worried that I might end up like Howard Hughes. I wrote An Other Place to try and make more sense of my world and to examine the creative process.

The Literary Connoisseur: How would you say An Other Place is unlike your other Darren Dash novels? 

Darren Dash: It’s very different. I think it’s different to most other types of novels too. It’s a very personal book, but also one that I think will connect with a lot of readers, because it addresses questions that plague and intrigue us all – Where do we come from? How do we make sense of the world? Are there other realms to be explored? But it doesn’t come at these questions in a straightforward way. Instead it sneaks up on them in a way that Franz Kafka or Rod Serling might have approached them.

The Literary Connoisseur: Is there a possibility for more Other Place books in the future? Perhaps one following future Alchemists? 

Darren Dash: I very much doubt it. An Other Place was born out of a very strange, very specific period of my life, and I hopefully won’t ever find myself back in that sort of head space again. Bad news for the variety of my stories, I know, but good news for my own mental health!

The Literary Connoisseur: Newman undergoes some serious trauma, changes, and alterations to the comfortable life he had before his journey to An Other Place. Without spoiling anything for your readers, would you say he grows as a character and as a human being (as I believe)?

Darren Dash: Absolutely. Newman is very self-centred and egocentric when we first meet him. In fact he’s something of an unlikeable character, even though I think many readers will share far more in common with him than they might wish to admit. We don’t really warm to him that much over the course of the novel – he’s not someone who becomes a nicer guy, because the plot of this book doesn’t require niceness – but I think we come to empathise with him, because nobody deserves to endure what he was to go through, and also because I think most of us can’t say for certain that we would behave any differently than he does.

The Literary Connoisseur: What would you like to say to readers who are considering picking up An Other Place? 

Darren Dash: If you want to go on a disturbing, mind-bending horror trip, this is hopefully the novel for you. If you prefer simpler, plot-driven horror novels, this might not float your boat.

The Literary Connoisseur: An Other Place is somewhat of a different book for you. How do you feel, sending this new story on into the world? Nervous? Excited? 

Darren Dash: Very nervous! I genuinely had no idea what the response to this one would be. It covers so much ground, and is so different to anything else out there, that I was afraid that readers would give up on it halfway through in their droves. A general reaction has yet to be determined, but the first couple of reviews have been excellent, so hopefully they’re an indicator of good things to come. Or else those two reviewers are just as warped and rare as myself!

The Literary Connoisseur: Do you find it difficult to switch back and forth from Darren Shan to Darren Dash, considering you write both YA (young adult) and adult fiction? Or is it second nature now that you’re a pro at this? 

Darren Dash: I’ve always found it natural to flip between the two. It helps that my YA books are extremely dark and adult in many ways, but even if I was to write more innocent books for my younger readers, I think it would just seem normal to me to move between worlds. I’m interested in different types of stories, horror, sci-fi, literary, thrillers… and in stories for the young as well as the old. I read both YA and adult books for pleasure, I believe at writers should write the sorts of books they enjoy reading, hence the straddling of the two realms.

The Literary Connoisseur: Again, without spoiling anything for your readers, what symbolism or “point” would you like readers of An Other Place to take from their reading experience? 

Darren Dash: There are lots of different questions I hope they go away asking themselves, but one of the impressions I most hope they take from it is that they should value their family and friends, as they can be far more important to us than we realize, and we never know when we might be cut adrift from them.

The Literary Connoisseur: Are you currently working on any new projects? 

Darren Dash: Yes, I’m working on a new Darren Shan series which is still probably quite a way off being released, and the next Darren Dash book, a light-hearted sexual comedy inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which might well see print in the summer of 2017 if all goes according to plan.

The Literary Connoisseur: Last, but definitely not least, what is your response to, “Where am I?” 

Darren Dash: 
I should say, “Where do you think I am?” But that would only make sense to people who’ve read the book! I’m in a good place, at least in this world, and fighting to cling on in there, despite the call of Alchemists and my OCD.

The Literary Connoisseur: Darren, thank you again SO much for stopping by The Literary Connoisseur! I am beyond honored to say that I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing you. I cannot wait to hear what other projects you have in store for your beloved fans and new fans alike! Happy writing!

About the Author

Darren Dash was born in England in 1972, but has spent most of his life in Ireland, where he lives with his wife and son. In his day job, under a different name, he has sold over 25 million books worldwide, mainly in the YA market. But he feels much more at home in the nights of his adult worlds...

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes: Book Before Movie

  When Louisa Clark's father loses his job, Louisa becomes the sole bread-winner of her entire family (which includes her grandfather, sister, and her sister's son). When Louisa herself loses her job at a local cafe, a new opportunity presents itself.
  Will Traynor is a former thrill-seeker/adventurer, now a quadriplegic. After Will is hit by a motorcyclist in a tragic street accident, he is wheelchair-bound, and not at all amused by his new caretaker--Louisa.
  Together, she will bring out the newly-found hope in him, and he will bring out the adventurer in her.
  When I started Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, I was warned over and over again that I would be devastated by the end. My fellow readers were right, and no matter how much I prepared myself, I would not be fully aware of the emotional impact of Will and Louisa's story. That being said, in all honesty, I was not as crazy about the book as many of my friends. I enjoyed it thoroughly, cried quite a bit, and it left an incredible impression on me, but it wasn't one of the best books I had ever read.
  Fast-forward a few years later--now. The movie has come out, with Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin, and I was anxious to see it. Perhaps not anxious. Nervous. Okay, I was extremely terrified of seeing the movie, in fear of the emotional spectacle I would make of myself. (Hence, why I chose to wait until the DVD came out to see it, instead of going out in public--with people.)
  As I said before, I loved the book, but I wasn't obsessed with it, as I am with, say, The Fault in Our Stars or Charles Sheehan-Miles' The Last Hour. But I was interested and curious enough to look forward to this movie.
  Boy, was it a pleasant surprise.
  I was expecting a movie like The Secret Life of Bees, that was beautiful and charming, but Me Before You was...incredible. Hilarious, sweet, emotional (VERY emotional), well-acted, beautiful, and enough to be a movie I would watch and rewatch over and over again. In a way, I enjoyed it more than the Fault in Our Stars movie, because Me Before You was not so overwhelmingly sad to the point that I couldn't watch it again. (I have yet to watch The Fault in Our Stars for a second time after seeing it initially, two and a half years ago...)
  When I went into the Me Before You movie, I expected to be blown away by Sam Claflin since I am already just so in love with him (thanks to The Hunger Games movies and Pirates of the Caribbean), and not so much with Emilia Clarke. Not because she isn't talented, but because I had never seen her in a role before. (I am going to read the Game of Thrones books before I watch the show.) But Emilia Clarke was the star of Me Before You. She was the most perfect Louisa, more perfect than I could have ever pictured Louisa. She WAS Louisa. Of course, I am always impressed with Sam Claflin, but Emilia Clarke stole the show.
  All in all, the book to movie adaptation of Me Before You only enhanced my opinion of the book, as did other remarkable adaptations like The Help, Gone Girl, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Amazing book with an even better movie, and that's quite an accomplishment.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

The Ruby Ring by Diane Haeger

  There are different categories of "amazing books" in my head.
  There are series that I love, like Twilight, Outlander, The Hunger Games, and Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. There are also books that I enjoy, but don't see myself reading more than once in my lifetime. Then there are books which hold such undeniable beauty and mysterious magical abilities, I feel as if my hands are glued to the book's pages, and won't separate themselves until I am finished. These books touch my soul so, that I fear their end before I'm even halfway through. These are novels that stay with me forever. Novels I would reread in a heartbeat, and read and reread until my old, arthritic hands cannot hold their binding anymore.
  The Ruby Ring is one of these books.
  The only books I remember being as captivating (at least for me) as Diane Haeger's story of Raphael and his very own Madonna, are Susanna Kearsley's time-slip novels. I had the same reaction to The Ruby Ring as I did with Ms Kearsley's The Rose Garden. Every time I would put down the book, my mind would still be in my characters' time. With each time I would pick up the book, I would almost be in tears in fear of the story actually (God forbid) ending.
  With Diane Haeger's The Ruby Ring, I actually slowed my reading pace, JUST so I could be with Raphael and Margherita that much longer. Which I never ever do. Ever.
  To sum up the plot, I will say that this book takes place in 16th century Rome, and follows the life of the painter, Raphael Sanzio, as he searches for the perfect woman to be the model for his masterful painting of Madonna. Instead he finds Margherita, a baker's daughter, who not only is the perfect model for his Madonna, but is also the love Raphael has been searching for his entire life.
  Promises to the Vatican, and financial status (among many other things) try to keep these two apart, but when a flame of passion and romance is lit, especially between the painter Raphael and his love, Margherita, it's impossible to extinguish it.
  This book is just so beautiful. I wish I could carry it with me everywhere, just to read and reread in my spare time.
  I wish now that I could wipe its story from my memory, just to be able to read it again for the first time.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany

  Yes, it's time for this review.
  If you have not read the much anticipated Harry Potter and the Cursed Child yet and are interested to hear my viewpoint before you go into it, have no fear, because my reviews are spoiler-free.
  It's 1997. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has just been released. An author, rejected by so many publishers, has no idea what lies in store for her and her story. A boy, with a lightning bolt-shaped scar, has just been born by paper and ink, and his world is about to change forever.
  It's 2007. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has just come out at midnight, and I am an out-of-breath eager (almost) twelve year-old, with a fresh, new hardcover in my hands.
  The Battle at Hogwarts had not happened. No one had yet perished at the hands of the Dark Lord (besides those who died in previous books). I had no idea that all would be well. All I knew was that this was the last book, and I had it in my hands. The final chapter of Harry's story. The book that completed the series, and the book that would tell all.
  I, like many others, thought that it was over.
  Fast-forward to 2011, I am an emotional fifteen year-old, who is wearing entirely too much makeup in hopes that my crush would finally ask me out. I am sitting in a dark theater, surrounded by fans both young and old, head to toe in Wizarding garb. Robes, scarves, glasses (taped in the middle), and lightning scars galore, I am in my element.
  This was the end. The last time I would hear Hedwig's Theme playing as the Warner Brothers sign edged closer and closer to the camera (which I later found out was in fact replaced by Lily's Theme, much to my surprise and tearful delight). This was the last time I would see a Harry Potter movie for the FIRST time. This was the end.
  I, like many others, thought that it was over.
  It is now 2016, and I am twenty-one. I am sitting on the stage in the children's section of Barnes and Noble, making wands with hundreds of children and adults (five or so at a time). Once again, robes, lightning scars, and wizard hats galore, and I am overly thrilled to be surrounded by my people.
  But this time, I'm noticing something that wasn't there five years ago. Babies, toddlers, and young children, children who weren't even alive when book seven came out, are possibly more excited than me. They're waving wands, casting spells, dueling, and answering trivia that even gave me a pause.
  The Harry Potter Generation has grown up, and has raised a new generation of nerds.
  I am standing in line for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and I am flanked by a woman in her mid-twenties, and two very young children who beg to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando every year for summer vacation.
  I am hit with nostalgia. Like a blast of cold wind in mid-February, my breath is taken away, and it hits me how many lives depend on the Wizarding World to turn on the light when the world seems the most dark.
  Nine years after book seven, five years after movie eight, and nineteen years later for Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, and Ginny, we have our story.

  There is a common misconception that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is book eight (which is basically the fault of whoever decided to call it the eighth book as a tagline). Yes, it is the eighth story (nineteen years later), but no. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is not the eighth book.
  A Harry Potter book is written by J.K. Rowling, the Queen herself. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a script from the play currently in London, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which was written by two playwrights, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany.
  ANY reader who goes into this book expecting it to be like its seven predecessors will be severely disappointed. This is not the eighth book, it is a script, from a play, based off of J.K. Rowling's nineteen years later.
  In addition to that note, the book is laid out like a play. There are characters entering and exiting stage right and left, and it leaves a lot to the imagination because, as you may have guessed, THIS IS A PLAY. Not a book that gives you a clear visual of what's going on in the author's mind, it is a script, from a play, which is acted out on stage. I say there is a lot left to the imagination because John Tiffany and Jack Thorne have given us a visual as to what's happening, but we, as eager readers, have to resort to this Shakespearean form of technology called "using our imaginations" to grasp an idea of how the story is played (literally) out.
  What bugs me the most about the "Cursed Child" hype is that everyone is disappointed. This isn't what they thought/wanted/expected/yearned for for nine years. I say that we can't be picky with what J.K. Rowling herself releases to us, because when book seven came out, she said she was done. Done, done. And now we have Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Ilvermorny, new books, new movies, new Pottermore stories-
  (Takes a moment to take a sip of coffee and calm down.)
  I understand that many fans were disappointed with the eighth story. I don't relate, but I hear their outcries. I don't agree, but I listen.
  For an eighth "book" based off a play in London (that everyone was complaining they couldn't afford to see, and yet they're complaining about having the script now), written by two playwrights who are not J.K. Rowling, based off of J.K. Rowling's beloved characters, and continuing a story so dear to my heart, my life would be incomplete without it, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was everything I wanted and more.
  Completely, honestly, totally, swear to the book Gods, J.K. Rowling, and all that is holy, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was what I needed in my life.
  It adds such a new depth to the story, I literally cannot think back to it without crying. (More than I did before.) I cannot read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban without crying. I cannot watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire without thinking "what could have been" and, yes, crying. I cannot think about that night at Godric's Hollow without wanting to find Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, grabbing them by their dress robes (everyone dresses like wizards in my mind) and sobbing, "WHY?"
  This eighth story sinks into your heart like the giant squid sinking into the Black Lake.
  There is one aspect of the book that throws me off, as it has with many others. (Again, no spoilers.) When I first finished the book, it unsettled me, because it gave me the gut-wrenching feeling of thinking perhaps this book would end up being a desperately-awaited disappointment. But after time, and the more I let the story settle in my brain, the more I realized that this is the Wizarding World. Not everything in the original seven books made sense when I first read them. Heck, I was a child. Of course they didn't make sense with the first read-through!
  That's why, after I finish rereading the first seven books for my third annual reread, I will reread Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and I will sob like Moaning Myrtle.
  So yes, this book can come off as being disappointing to some. For me personally, I feel sorry for those who didn't take out of it what I took out of it. I am sorry that it wasn't what many fans were expecting, and they went into it with preconceived notions.
  For me, a fan of Harry Potter, the Wizarding World, and J.K. Rowling ever since my mom first read them to me when I was five (after she picked up book one at a Scholastic book fair), I am in love with the eighth story.
  If you haven't read the book yet, please keep my warnings above in mind as your start it. Please don't go into it prepared to read it like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Please enjoy it for what it is, and for what the Queen has bestowed upon her loyal servants- er, fans.
  If you have, and you didn't like it, I am sorry. Please consider rereading it after some time, and see if you can come to terms with Jo, John, and Jack's story for Harry as an adult. As someone who accepted it right off the bat, I promise it isn't that bad. After some time to digest Harry and Albus Severus' fate, it's quite a satisfying beginning to the next (hopefully) more peaceful generation at Hogwarts.
  If you have, and you loved it, I only have one thing to say to you; For Voldemort and Valor.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

  Before The Color of Magic, I had never read a book by Terry Pratchett. But thanks to a friend who suggested it as part of my Recommended Reads of 2016, I dove headfirst in to Mr Pratchett's work.
  Now, if you read the synopsis of The Color of Magic, it is very easy to become overwhelmed (especially if fantasy is not your forte). In short, there are four elephants on a giant turtle's back in space, and on this bizarre planetoid are many cities, provinces, and villages. This is the Discworld.
  As we start The Color of Magic, we (theoretically) zoom in on one of these villages, where we meet Rincewind the wizard, who was kicked out of the university of magic (long story), who has just met Twoflower, a tourist. I know, the plot is all over the place. But it is for a reason.
  A wonderful reason.
  This book, these books (because as I write this, I have already finished The Light Fantastic, book two in the Discworld series), are HILARIOUS. Rincewind and Twoflower become the most unlikely of friends, and travel far and wide across the Discworld. They come across many people, some dangerous, some kind, all funny in their own way, and all are trying to kill them.
  Packed full of adventures and witty British situations and one-liners, The Color of Magic makes excellent company for fantasy-lovers and non-lovers alike.
  I love this series so much. The friend who recommended this book to me may or may not read this post, but I'll risk some judgement in saying that I fully went into this book expecting to hate it. Not that I don't trust his taste in books, but as soon as I read the plot, I was incredibly skeptical and confused. (Which is not difficult to achieve.)
  I was wrong. I was so wrong, and now have 39 books on my "to buy" list. (The rest of the Discworld series.)

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

End of Watch by Stephen King

  End of Watch, Stephen King's latest and last installment of the Bill Hodges/Mr. Mercedes trilogy, is the perfect ending to such an exciting and intense story.
  With Mr. Mercedes going one direction, and Finders Keepers (book two) going another, End of Watch ties the two together, and serves a perfect ending for our two main characters.
  I will be honest in saying that I feel as if End of Watch is missing the gripping action of the previous two books, which isn't a bad thing. This factor just distinguishes End of Watch from its two predecessors. This book has more narrative than dialogue, and more thinking than action, which has its reasons, for in End of Watch we learn more about Brady's previous, and unfortunately, current plans to wreak havoc.
  When I talk about my favorite Stephen King books to friends, I of course, mention the obvious. Doctor Sleep, 11/22/63, and Duma Key to name a few. I also say Mr. Mercedes, without hesitation. When I first fell in love with Bill Hodges, I was worried that his later books wouldn't satisfy as well as book one, but now that the series is over, I'm relieved to say that the entire trilogy has made it to my top favorite pieces of work by Mr. King. 

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Finders Keepers by Stephen King

  The sequel to Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes is just as intense, just as remarkable, and just as unforgettable as its predecessor.
  Although it follows two very different stories from Bill Hodges' and Brady Hartsfield's, Finders Keepers opens our eyes to a world beyond what happened on that terrible day outside of the City Center, and intertwines two new factors to our story.
  When I say Stephen King is getting better with his work, I mean he is really getting better. These new(er) stories of Mr. King's will stick with you until the day you die.
  I catch myself referring back to the Bill Hodges (now) trilogy, and I think, "Oh that was a good book/series...that was a REALLY good book/series!" Stephen King is the master at horrifying his readers; if not by ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties, by the twisted labyrinth of the human mind. What makes a serial killer tick. What makes a sick, twisted soul rub his (or her) hands together as he (or she) plots the perfect plan.
  He is a genius. A mad genius, and it shows in Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers.
  Finders Keepers may be my favorite of the trilogy, but it's hard to say, because it's hard to beat Bill and Brady's first book.
  It's odd. Mr. King is most famous for his older work, and after reading The Stand, I get it, but this trilogy is just undeniably addicting. Sickening, disturbing, horrible, and everything else awful that makes the Master of Horror himself, a New York Times Bestselling Author.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

  The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay uncovers the secret world of South Africa during the frantic tyranny of Hitler's reign, through a child's eyes. Suffering from the political and social strain of World War II, Peekay learns to grow up in a violent and terrifying world with no parental guidance, and no friends to lean on.
  But the stars begin to align for Peekay when he leaves the private school in which he was mercilessly bullied, to begin a new chapter of his life, and create the most unusual of friendships. From a young boxer, to a German doctor, to a beautiful school teacher, to an amateur banker, Peekay will live the lives of a thousand men, and learn the ways of the world as only a young pre-welterweight champion of the world can.
  I savored this book. I took my time with Peekay's story, and enjoyed every minute of it.
  The Power of One can be compared to eating beet greens. (It always comes back to food now, doesn't it?) At first they may look daunting, and even as you delve into them, you're unsure of whether you like them, or if you're just eating them because they're good for you, but in the end, they were satisfying, tasty, and you know you'll want them again. (If this analogy does not suit your taste, then either come over to my house and I'll make you good beet greens, or equate my analogy to something that's equal to beet greens.)
  Basically, this book was large, serious, and drier than your average fictional read, but boy was it good. You will come out of your reading experience of The Power of One more knowledgeable and more informed about what growing up was like on that side of the world during such dire times.
  Because I had my friends recommend books for me to read this year, I find myself learning more and more about parts of history I had never considered before. I've learned about communist China, and now South Africa in the 1930s to the 1950s. Call me naive, but until now, I had never given thought to what the world was like in South Africa during those times. I, like many others, have mostly learned the history of Germany, America, and a bit of England.
  The Power of One has opened my eyes, not only to a new part of the world, but to life lessons and powerful statements brought to me by Bryce Courtenay's colorful characters.


Friday, July 15, 2016

The Human by Stephanie Erickson

  Splitting the narrative into two, The Human by Stephanie Erickson has the best factors of the previous two Children of Wisdom books; Penn and Michaela. (But I have to say, I am partial to Michaela.)
  Michaela is missing after her run-in with our villain, Penn is desperate to save the love of his life, and all hell is very close to breaking loose. Literally.
  It all comes to an end in Stephanie Erickson's latest installment of the Children of Wisdom trilogy, and it's quite possible that not everyone will make it out alive.
  Ms Erickson knows that when I read her first two Children of Wisdom books, The Fate and The Reaper, I highly and vocally favored the latter. I was worried that The Reaper would continue to stick in my head as "the best," and a part of me still feels as if it was the best of the series, but I have to say, The Human was VERY satisfying. I wouldn't change a thing about it.
  There were many things that worried me about the possible outcomes of this book, but without spoiling anything, none of them came true. I was very, very, very happy with the way this book ended, and now that I think back to it, I remember more and more things I loved about it.
  The Human was a fantastic way to end a beloved Stephanie Erickson series. In fact, this ending may even bypass my favorite series of Ms Erickson's, the Unseen trilogy.
  But who knows, perhaps I'll have to reread them one day to make a final decision.

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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Kill Me Again by Rachel Abbott

  Rachel Abbott's Kill Me Again is the most recent DCI Tom Douglas book to be released, and I have to say, I think it is my favorite.
  Maggie Taylor is an average woman, with an average house, and an average family that she loves dearly. Everything seems quaint and normal as usual, until Maggie comes home to find her husband missing, her children alone, and her husband's necessities gone.
  Is he in trouble? Does he have a secret life he's hiding from her? Was he kidnapped? Maggie has no idea, and no inkling as to what happened...until she starts to receive threatening phone calls, and the news channels start to show pictures of women who have been murdered.
  Together, Tom Douglas' and her stories will intertwine, and solve a mystery that will hopefully put a stop to the frequent deaths in her little town.
  This book had me constantly guessing. As soon as I thought I was sure of how the book would end, Ms Abbott would throw another curve into the story, and I would have to reevaluate my assessments. In addition to that, Kill Me Again is one of the first books recently to actually have me jumping in my seat. There were certain parts of this book that had me so on edge, I had to keep looking over my shoulder to make sure no one was creeping up behind me.
  This book is good. Very, very good.
  And without saying too much, I will have to say that the ending of this particular novel had me bumping my rating of it from a four to a five. Yeah, it's that good.

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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Nowhere Child by Rachel Abbott

  When I started Nowhere Child, the short novel following Stranger Child, it had been months since I had read a Rachel Abbott book. The last book I had read by Ms Abbott was Stranger Child (book four in the DCI Tom Douglas series), and I was worried that the amount time absent from Tasha's story would blur my memory, and would make it harder to remember what had happened.
  But going back to Tasha's story was easier than breathing. Although breathing was something I was short of during my read of Nowhere Child. If anything, it was more intense than Stranger Child.
  Nowhere Child picks up where Stranger Child left off, and involves the same few main characters; Tasha, Emma, Ollie, Tom Douglas, and DI Becky Robinson (who is quickly becoming a favorite of mine).
  This is Rachel Abbott's first follow up novel to a DCI Tom Douglas story, and she did a brilliant job.
  Nowhere Child is a fantastic book.
  I love it just as much as Rachel Abbott's others, and possibly even more so than Stranger Child. I stand by my previous statement in saying Ms Abott's writing and stories are getting even better.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott

  DCI Tom Douglas is on the hunt again in Rachel Abbott's fourth crime drama, Stranger Child.
  When Emma Joseph finds a strange, dirty-looking girl in her kitchen. she panics, thinking that the perfect life she's built with her perfect husband will crumble in just one home invasion.
  But what she doesn't know is that this girl is a flash from her seemingly "perfect" husband's past. The girl has a lot more secrets than she lets on...and they may just destroy Emma, her husband, and their baby's lives.
  Since this is the fourth book in the DCI Tom Douglas series, it is not my first read of Rachel Abbott's. I read her books in order, and fell in love from the very first story.
  But there's something about Stranger Child that was...mesmerizing. All of Rachel Abbott's books are exceptional (I didn't put her on my Favorite Reads of 2015 list for nothing), but Stranger Child took the cake. (At least, until I read Kill Me Again recently.)
  This just proves that although her books are all wonderful and nail-bitingly intense, her writing has gotten even better as time goes by.
  This makes me positively thrilled for what Ms Abbott has in store for us as readers, and DCI Tom Douglas (who happens to be one of my favorite fictional characters ever written).
  Stranger Child is positively addicting. It can be read by a new reader of Ms Abbott's at any time, but if you're interested in starting a binge of this series, I highly recommend starting with the first DCI Tom Douglas book, Only the Innocent.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

  A.J. Fikry is the cynical, cranky, and no-nonsense owner of an independent bookstore. He is very specific about the books he reads, the books he sells, and the people who enter his life. But what if he has no control over fate?
  After a prized collection of Poe poems is stolen from his house, A.J. stumbles upon an abandoned baby left alone in his bookstore after hours. Is he ready to take care of another human being? Or is he better off sticking with books?
  In The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, readers will lose themselves in A.J.'s story, and fall in love with his adventures as a bookstore owner, reader, and parent.
  This was a very sweet read. I won't overplay it and say that it's one of the best stories I've ever read, but I don't regret my time spent reading it. It was precious. Hilarious, full of inside jokes that every reader will understand, sweet, meaningful, and extremely sentimental at points.
  I know it doesn't take much to make me cry, but I got quite choked up near the end!
  A.J. Fikry is all of us. When we share opinions of books not everyone will get. When we passionately protect books with kid gloves as if they're our own children. When we first walk into a bookstore and smell that unforgettable smell of fresh paper, old paper, and ink. A.J. understands. It is obvious that Ms Zevin is a huge reader herself, because reading this book is not unlike chatting with an old friend about your favorite novels.
  Avid readers and bookstore-lovers will cherish this book as I, myself, have cherished this book.

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