Posts Tagged With: Fantasy

Winter Reading List 2017

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Finally a blog entry, right?  Work has gotten insane on me.  One of our own went out on disability to get her knee replaced (surgery went well, and recovery is too – yay!), but we’re all doing a little backfilling to pitch in. Couple that with all the beginning of the year crazy and the cold Brian shared that just won’t go away, and it’s a miracle I’ve been able to write at all.

Which is to say that blog entries might be sparser (once a week and irregular?) until March.  We’ll see how it goes.

It’s more than time for the winter reading list. The students came back last Monday and I’m officially late.  So, here’s all the things I’ve read since the fall, and what I thought of them.  I know… I did say there would be less book reviews in the new year.  I’m still mostly holding to that.  But I also said the Reading List was something that would stay.  This one wins the award for most books ever (if that’s an actual award) with 53.

I hope you find something to like in this batch.

 

Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart by Sarah MacLean – I’m basically in love with this woman and consider her books to be the best thing ever.  I have never seen Informed Consent in a romance novel, and not only does MacLean do it, she does it so it’s SUPER hot.  Basic rule for all the MacLean books that follow?  READ THEM NOW.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater – Beautifully written, but I just couldn’t get into it.  For some reason, I just felt like I had read this book before.  It didn’t offer me anything new.

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater – Again, a very pretty book with not a lot of exciting things to offer.  I decided not to continue with the series after this one.

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean – A runaway in the wrong (or right, if you like super hot guys) carriage trope, only this one is done remarkably well.

A Scot In The Dark by Sarah MacLean – It’s like if the naked celebrity selfie problem went 17th century on us.  Crazy well done.  And who doesn’t love a lady who ultimately saves herself?

A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean – A marriage of convenience novel in an illicit gaming hell.  He’s trying to keep her “pure.” Sign me up, please!

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean – Another in the gaming hell series, and just as good as the first.

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean – This one might actually be my favorite of all the Lord of Scoundrels series.  The lady the duke supposedly killed turns up alive, and of course sparks fly.

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery – A comfort read that I’ve memorized parts of, and don’t read often.  It’s such a gem of a book, and I think I got more from it this time than I did as a teen.  She’s saying important things about women and relationships in this one.

Never Judge A Lady By Her Cover by Sarah MacLean – OH so good.  I love the secret that is the premise of this book, though I won’t spoil it for those who are planning to read the others.  And who doesn’t like a newspaperman hero?  I ALWAYS do.  My FAVORITE of the Lord of Scoundrels.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – I’m probably a horrible person, but I just couldn’t get into it.  I think it’s because Kvothe annoyed the CRAP out of me, and I didn’t want to spend any time with him.

Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede – I don’t know why I keep returning to this book, because it really isn’t my favorite – it’s too long a timeline and too rambling to be About anything.  But Wrede’s world and alt-history is SO fascinating.  That’s what I go back for, I guess.

Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer – This hilarious book is all letters back and forth as the two girls confront separate problems in the country and in town that ultimately end up being related.  Combines Wrede’s awesome alt-history world with regency romance and is perfection.  Bonus points?  It reads like it was fun to write.

What Matters in Jane Austen by John Mullan – I think this book is for people who aren’t history-buffs and totally crazy about the Regency.  I learned a little bit, but not as much as someone else might have.  Also, I felt kinda “meh” about it.  I struggled to get through it, though ultimately was glad I did.

Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare – A couple of mystery lovers tryst in a room that both the Hero and Heroine happen to also be in, and they’re blamed.  Now they have to get married, which seems like a hardship but really isn’t after all.  It was definitely a solid novel, but not a favorite or anything.

That Scandalous Summer by Meredith Duran – It’s a marriage of convenience novel, where the hero needs the heroine’s money to keep a hospital he runs open.  I read it all the way through, but ultimately didn’t feel it was great.

Someone to Watch Over Me by Lisa Kleypas – I actually hated this book.  It was basically the plot of “Splash” in 18th century form, but it got a little rapey and awful in there.  I wouldn’t recommend.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase – Oh, so great.  The heroine is trying to pry her brother away from the hero’s terrible influence.  She’s super-smart, he’s fairly oblivious, and things are basically perfect.  I would 100% recommend this novel.

Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase – Love this novel, too. It’s an already betrothed but fell for someone else totally unsuitable trope, where the hero falls for his fiancé’s dressmaker.  Unique, though, because there’s genuine affection between the hero and his fiancé, just not romantic love.  So great, I kept picking up her books.

Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase – Dressmakers #2, and it features a delightful heroine who sneaks into all the Ton parties to report on the latest fashions.  So great.  Would recommend.

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese O’Neil – Totally hilarious and disgusting (in a good way) in every way.  Ever wanted to be a romance heroine?  This will cure you.  And leave you laughing.

The Young Blood by Erin Satie – I loved this book a bunch.  It was well written, and the murder scene was horrifying while still serving the story.  It lost a few points for me for deus ex machina balloon rides, but all in all I would recommend.

Lady Sophia’s Lover by Lisa Kleypas – I was out of stuff to read, and so I DID go back to the Bow Street series, despite my reservations.  This one was better than the last, but still not that great.

Secrets from the Eating Lab by Tracy Mann – Such a cathartic and helpful read.  I’ve read a ton of books and evidence about how diets don’t help, but Mann takes it farther and tells you how to live healthfully at any size.  Finally a course of action that won’t kill me!

Romancing the Beat, Story Structure for Romance by Gwen Hayes – Very helpful as I was planning my Nano novel this year, which was a romance.  And a quick read, which was also nice.

The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman – Oh, I love this man so much.  I got a little bogged down in the section that’s all commentary on comics and things because I don’t read that genre, but otherwise it was magical to read his thoughts on things.

Red Rose by Mary Balogh –   I hated this book completely, was 100% turned off by the way she treated her disabled heroine, and didn’t finish it.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin – I loved this book so much that I started my own project this year.  I’ve almost totally dropped it 3 months in, but I did change several significant things that seem to be really helping me feel better about myself.

Geoducks are for Lovers by Daisy Prescott – I mean, it was the usual contemporary beach house romance, complete with wishy-washy reason for the couple to stay apart.  But it was well written, at least.

The Rogue by Katharine Ashe – While I really loved the tension between the hero and heroine, I also felt like the book was missing something.  Maybe because it’s #4 and they’re not as stand-alone as everyone hoped?

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt – The plot was pretty great, really, as was the hero and heroine traveling through the slums after a secret.  I think I can’t give it full marks, though, because of a needless almost-rape.

His Mistress by Christmas by Victoria Alexander – Uh, no.  This book annoyed the CRAP out of me because there seemed to be no reason at all for the two not to at least schtup each other, and they didn’t.  And it was repetitive.  I read about 75% of the way through before I gave up in disgust.

The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig  – Maybe the best Christmas book I read this year.  An intrigue with puddings, silly and not too smart but still drool-worthy men, and much Christmas goodness.  Hot, but no sex.

Oh Horrid Night edited by Amber Newburry – This is the book I’m in!  I had a fun time reading everyone else’s stuff, which was oh so creative and very creepy.

All I Want for Christmas is You by Nora Roberts – it was fine, but nothing to write home about.  The kids were cute, the romance just fine.  I have nothing to criticize.  But, I also have nothing to praise, really.

Married for Christmas by Noelle Adams – I actually liked this book quite a lot.  The fellow in the relationship was a pastor, and so I thought it might be sickly religious.  Not so, though.  And very solid, with plenty of hotness and a story line that seemed natural.

A Christmas Kiss by Elizabeth Mansfield – A sweet holiday romance in which the spunky and awesome heroine falls for the father of the house, who’s mad at himself because he thinks she’s engaged to his son.  Sweet.

A Family for Christmas by Noelle Adams – It was written well, but I felt like this missed the mark for me.  They were both missionaries, and for some reason I didn’t feel like I really identified with them, though the writing and story were both solid.

Twas The Night After Christmas by Sabrina Jeffries – A cute and steamy novel about a man and his estranged mother.  The guy falls for his mother’s companion after she tricks them into reconciling.  He was a little too creepy at first, but I ended up liking it.

What A Lady Needs for Christmas by Grace Burrowes – This was one of my FAVORITE Christmas novels this year. It features a Scot, a train escape, an awesome wardrobe, and a precocious daughter.  I didn’t want it to end.

Three Nights Before Christmas by Kat Latham – The heroine is an ex-con and a train engineer, and watching her story unfold was great.  Especially because her brother and the hero are such funny guys.  Plenty of Christmas goodness, too.  Also, the ugliest sweater EVER.

Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan – A VERY cute tale that made me want to at least explore reading the rest of the series.  Plenty of skiing and coziness, along with a mean mother and a teen to adore.

The Duke and Miss Christmas by Amelia Grey – I got REALLY angry with the hero in the first chapter and refused to read the rest of it.  The verdict is a resounding No.

Wallbanger by Alice Clayton – Oh, I love this book so much.  I was skeptical because of the title, but the hero and heroine are both so quippy, and they both have a hilarious posse of friends, and it’s hot all the way through.  Yes please.

Once Upon a Highland Christmas by Lecia Cornwall – Another one of my favorites this year.  The villagers are such well-written characters, and I loved the Lady and Lord, and the way gossip traveled.  They both stubbornly held to marrying others beyond the point of reason, but I still think it worked.  Would recommend.

The Undervalued Self by Elaine Aron – This was an interesting read, and I think it was good for me.  The difference between ranking and linking situations, and how we rank when we should link sometimes, has been very helpful.

A Bad Boy for Christmas by Jessica Lemon – I was not really a fan of this one.  Eventually things get kinda sweet, but the hero in the beginning is a little creepy about his need to “protect” the heroine and it never quite recovered enough for me.

How A Lady Weds a Rogue by Katharine Ashe – This book had all the good parts of an amazing novel, but it somehow didn’t grip me.  I found my attention wandering even as I enjoyed it.  I recommend?  I gave it 4 stars on Amazon.

Seducing Mr. Knightley by Maya Rodale – downtrodden and shy advice columnist known as Dear Abigail reverses things and asks her readers for advice on how to seduce her crush.  Which happens to be her boss.  Nothing to do with Jane Austen (closer to Never Been Kissed, the movie), but features a newspaperman.  Yum.

Grin and Beard it by Penny Reid – It’s the 2nd book in the series, but it’s OH so good and can stand alone.  National Park ranger and movie star fall in love.  She has an amazing career, is Latina, and also a size 14 and totally sexy.  So is he, bear-trapping and all.  It sounds cheesy, but it’s really not.  It’s perfection.

Beauty and the Mustache by Penny Reid – I read the book above and HAD to read the entire series.  This one is technically part of the “Knitting In The City” series, but it features their sister and is also considered Winston Brothers 0.5.  A sad book since it features the death of the MC’s mother, but also a beautiful love story.  And you HAVE to love that gaggle of friends.

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid – The 2nd book in the series.  Two hometown haters fall in love when the girl mistakes the guy for his twin and things get hot.  Full of sassiness, too.  I almost said this one was my favorite so far, but I don’t think I can, really.  It’s impossible to pick.

Beard Science by Penny Reid – I was worried about this one because I don’t really think of Cletus as being romantic.  But he definitely is.  And this book may be the funniest yet because the heroine is so great.  She’s smart but sheltered, so it’s an interesting combination with Cletus’ slyness.

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The Resolution Post: 2017

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This is the end of the year re-cap on new year’s resolutions.  I don’t know if anyone is terribly interested in my introspection about the nitty-gritty of my chosen career, but it helps me to publish this stuff in a place I know is public.  It keeps me accountable.  Thanks for humoring me.

To recap, my resolutions this year were as follows:

  1. Read another 100 books
  2. Have a novel ready to shop around
  3. Beat or match my previous record for published short stories (2) and/or be paid for 1 short story
  4. Write at least 20 days of each month

How did I do?  Pretty well, actually.

I read a shit-ton of books this year.  Like, I’ll probably clear 150.  Which is CRAZY when you think about it.  I’m blaming it on the mass-quantity of awesome romance novels I’ve been reading.

The novel is not yet ready to shop around, although it ALMOST is.  3 page synopsis?  Done.  Query letter?  Done.  Just waiting for the beta reads to finish and to do one more draft (okay, maybe 2) before I start sending it out.  I can’t control the speed of the beta readers.  It’s out of my hands when I can start on those last two drafts.  Maddening, I know. I’m trying to be Zen about it…  But I’m SO CLOSE.

I have been paid for one story this year, which means I completed this resolution no problem.  I’ve had a couple of stories, too, where I’ve been notified that they’re keeping them longer for further consideration.  So I might meet both requirements, depending on several factors (whether they do, in fact, say yes, whether they notify me by the end of December…)

Whether or not I completed the resolution to write 20 days each month really depends on how you’re measuring it.  I missed March and September.  But I went over 20 days so many months that if you average it all out, I actually exceeded the target.  I’m calling it met, for morale reasons.

That’s it for last year.  Now moving to 2017:

I’m tweaking my resolutions this year so that they’re more in line with my goals of learning and getting myself out there.  I have realized the past two years of doing this semi-professionally that I can control my own output, but I can’t control others’ reactions to the output.  I’m refocusing the goals on production, not publication.

I’ve read a lot about the SF/F industry since last year, and it seems to me that people who make a living at this often win Writers of the Future and go to Clarion.  Which means I’ll at least throw my name into the ring for both. And then there’s all the book dissection I’ve added to my workload among all the writing stuff I’ve been doing.  So, I’m broadening even as I’m loosening.  Here’s what I was thinking of for 2017.

New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. I will have either 2 stories paid for or 20 rejection letters, whichever target I hit first
  2. I will dissect the structure of 1 book per month
  3. I will do writing of some form (either for publication or practice) 20 days of each month.
  4. I’ll Enter 4 stories into the Writers of the Future Contest (one per period), and apply to the Clarion Writer’s Workshop.
  5. I’ll have Ruby of Ra (book 2) ready for alpha reads

That’s all.

I’ll likely to do something with Blue Gentian even without having it on the official list.  At this point things depend on the speed of my beta readers, not on me, and so I’m not making it a target.

That being said, I’m pretty proud of all of that and think the goals will be obtainable, but still stretch me. Looking forward to completing some of this stuff!

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Oh Horrid Night

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It seems a little bit anti-climactic in the face of the world burning right now in America, but I got some good news yesterday.  The Christmas anthology I’m in is officially an official thing, titled Oh Horrid Night, and featuring 210 awesome pages of frightening short stories.  It will wend its way to you on December 3rd.  And what better time is there for escapism than this particular holiday season?

You can pre-order on amazon here, and if you have Kindle Unlimited it’s even free!

We also have a Goodreads page.  If you’re on Goodreads, shelving it as “to read” can help us out.  And, on another note… I officially have a Goodreads author page. (!!!) I look so fancy and professional, you can hardly believe it (did I just ruin the aura of professionalism?). If you’re interested in that, too, it’s here.

That’s all for now.  I may seem chipper, but I’m definitely still processing the results of the election this week.  I can’t be nice or reasoned about it right now, but I would expect a blog post about it at some point when my thoughts are more together.

Keep your chin up.  With some serious love for you all,

~Casey

 

 

 

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Politics of the Supernatural Kind

I can’t even today.  Every time I think that a certain political candidate could not possibly make me angrier, I somehow get more incensed.  It’s at the point now where I know I have to disengage or give myself an aneurism from all the angstyness that people are STILL supporting this – I don’t even feel like there’s a word bad enough to call him – candidate.  My only consolation is that it will all be over in about 4 weeks (for better or worse).

I was thinking about doing a post about all the feminist reasons to abhor this man, but I realized that all that info is out there in spades on the internet.  And this isn’t a political blog, it’s a book/writing blog.

So, escapism it is!

I don’t know about you, but I prefer my politics with a heavy dose of magic and/or the supernatural.  So instead of a rant, I present to you 4 Fantasy books in which the government plays an active character. But don’t worry, it’s not anything like your government today.  Have at them and try and forget that America is such a mess right now.

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Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell: There’s a new big box store going into the sleepy hamlet of Lychford.  Local crank Judith doesn’t care a bit about jobs or modernization, but she does care about the site plan.  Lychford lies on the boundary of two worlds. If the supermarket is built it will destroy all wards forever, unleashing demonic destruction on the world.  Judith has to convince the town to stop construction, but she’ll need some unlikely allies to make it happen…

The book is spunky and hilarious, with a few serious moments to make it really a good book.  It’s a novella, which means it’s a quick read, and it’s everything you ever wanted in a Walmart fight, with actual demons, witches dancing under the moonlight, fae in the forests, and magic markings on the doors.

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Chalice by Robin McKinley: The last Master and Chalice died in a horrible fire after doing unspeakable things to the land. Now it is up to beekeeper Marisol (the new Chalice) and the old Master’s brother (a priest of fire who may not be quite human anymore) to heal the land and stabilize the country, before the Overlord can launch a coup for power that will certainly damage the land irreparably.

This book is one in which nothing happens and everything happens all at once, like McKinley does best.  It’s so internal, so based on looks and gestures, or subtle power plays.  But you still feel the seriousness of it as you fall in love with the land.  I never put this book down without wanting to move to the middle of nowhere and keep bees with the man I’m in love with.

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The Lives of Christopher Chant by Dianna Wynne Jones: Christopher’s parents are both powerful enchanters who hate each other.  But Christopher himself doesn’t appear to be magical at all, unless you count the marvelous lands he visits in his dreams.  His only friend is his Uncle Ralph, who sends him on missions to bring back things from those strange lands as a game.  But when Christopher is told that he’s supposed to train to become the next Chrestomanci, the president of all magic in the land, his loyalties are thrown out of whack and he isn’t sure who to trust anymore.  Or that he’ll even want to become the next Chrestomanci at all.

I just can’t say enough about this book.  It turns all fantasy tropes on its heels and features one of those perfect Dianna Wynne Jones plots where everything is absolutely nuts, random, and up in the air, but somehow it resolves into a plot that was always perfectly right and organized by the end.  You just didn’t know it. My favorite person in the book is the priestess Asheth.  She always wants Christopher to bring her “exotic” books featuring Millie and her boarding school adventures.  It’s technically a children’s book, but it’s definitely complex and fun for adults, too.

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Voices: Memer is a daughter of the Oracle House, a place the conquerors and occupiers of the town Ansul are sure is filled with demons.  Reading and writing are punishable by death, and Oracle House is the only place that books now exist in the town, locked up in a secret room.  When the famous traveling minstrel, Orrec, arrives with his wife Gry to tell stories to the soldiers, Memer begins to see how important story really is.  Important enough that it could give Ansul back it’s peace and freedom, could give the people enough bravery to rebel against their oppressors.

I don’t know why I’m in love with this book so much, because it’s a serious read that deals with grave topics that surround war.  Memer herself is the daughter of a rape. But Memer is so beloved, and the world so vibrant, that you root for the townsfolk and their freedom wholeheartedly.  It’s got a magic to it that’s hard to define, partly (I think) because it feels so real.  This could be a history of somewhere you’ve never heard of, and it ends with so much hope.

So that’s my recommendation.  As always, happy reading!  And together maybe we can avoid imploding from election drama… Maybe.

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Fall Dreams

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It’s a weird time of year in Southern California.  The kind where I’m ready for Fall – for sweaters and boots, plenty of tea, rain dripping from the rafters, the Roger’s Red turning scarlet on the front of the house, cooler temperatures, fires in the fireplace.

But not likely to get any of it.

Well, I suppose I am getting cooler temperatures if you want to go with semantics.  Today it was 85 and not 100+.  But still, no sweaters, tea, fires, or rain.  I won’t get any real “Fall” until December, probably, the way things work around here, unless I decide to go to the pumpkin patch for the manufactured variety.  Christmas is about when the Roger’s Red decided to turn last year, and the giant tree on my lawn to drop its leaves.  Sigh.  It seems deplorably far away.

So instead I’m looking at pictures on my Tumblr feed and feeling envious.  I’m trying to think up stories that are Halloween themed.  I’m pulling out the spider earrings, which I can wear despite the temperature.  I’m contemplating fall jams.  Last year, the nutmeg persimmon jam I did was really good…  And there has to be something that can be done with the Ichabod Crane story that hasn’t been thought of before, right?  Maybe?  Maybe not.

In the garden, I’m taking stock of all the plants we lost to the heat.  The lemon tree made it through and so did most of the front garden, though the Butterfly Bush is traumatized and we lost a Sweet Pea hedge and a rose bush.  Don’t worry, the umbrella plant I abhor took its place.  And speaking of things I want to rip up, it’s time to get the tomatoes out, too, in prep for next year.  They’ve officially given up the ghost and aren’t fruiting.

That’s all from home.  I hope that wherever you are you can enjoy the flannel I can’t.

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Summer Reading List, 2016

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It’s that time again.  Or nearly that time.  We’re terribly late getting back to school in the state system, so there won’t be classes on this campus for another few weeks.  But the university near my house has started up, and so have all the kids I know.  And, of course, Hogwarts starts September 1st, so I’ll post the list a little early and call it appropriate.

The list is rather huge this time.  I’m blaming it on the fact that I go through bad books much faster than good ones.  And I also want to say you’re welcome for reading so much crap romance that you don’t have to wade through it yourself.  Here it is:

  1. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater – CRAZY good. I’m officially obsessed with the Raven Cycle now, and this book is a big reason why.  The ladies of Fox Way take over a bit, and things start to go even crazier than before.
  2. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater – Another book that’s crazy good beyond all reason. This is everything I was hoping the end of the series would be, and more.  And that’s saying something.
  3. The Usual Path to Publication by Shannon Page – Spoiler: there is no usual path. But this book is full of cathartic stories of joy, and also made me realize that there are more things I can be trying while pursuing my own path.
  4. Witches of Lichford by Paul Cornell – Also amazingly good, though too short to fully realize all the story lines. But I’m basically obsessed with the concept of big box store mixed with fae and devils, and it was well done. Can’t wait for the sequel.
  5. A Gentleman Never Tells by Eloisa James – I’ve read her back list, so now every time something new comes out it’s cause for celebration. This one was especially good, with plenty of house party fun, croquet, and general quippiness.
  6. The Earl Next Door by Charis Michaels – This was actually fairly good fun, if a little unbelievable. It felt like one of those books people make fun of where there’s a mean brother, and a family secret, and a chase up the moors, and a graveyard, and a haunted house, and… but all in all a solid effort at that type of thing.
  7. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – I think this is one of my favorite books right now. Cath’s crazy makes me feel less crazy myself.  Or that there’s hope for me, at least.  And you have to love Levi.
  8. My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke – An interesting read for anyone who’s a fan of Dick Van Dyke’s work. He’s brutally honest and reveals all sorts of fun in addition to the hard.  Written simply, but good.
  9. Cold Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas – Okay, so I guess we should have a talk about Lisa Kleypas. I’m reading Kleypas because I’m out of Eloisa James and Julia Quinn and haven’t found anything else of their same caliber yet.  I’m not 100% on board with Kleypas because there’s a lot of: woman – “No!” man – does it anyway; woman – “ooh, nice.”  Which isn’t my favorite, even in historical romance.  No means no. That being said, the rest of the book is usually so awesome that I’m able to go on.  And romance novels are my escape now, so there’s no not reading them.  This one has nice reformed scoundrel propensities and much making out in corners.
  10. Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas – Probably one of my favorites of the Kleypas variety. Misunderstandings and class differences keep 2 people apart.  Bonus points for lady doctor who literally kicks ass, and much department store fun.
  11. Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas – Interesting premise of hired escort that doesn’t really pan out like it should. It was fine, but nothing to write home about.
  12. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater – I feel like this is everything I wished Twilight was; a more feminist version of teens in a small town dealing with the supernatural. But at the end of the day, it’s a book I’ve already read.  The writing is BEAUTIFUL, though.
  13. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater – Things in Linger get a little bit more original, but not much. Still gorgeous writing with a good emotional pay off at the end, but it’s also still something I feel like I’ve seen.
  14. Mine ‘Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas – I do kinda LOVE the Hathaway sisters. This one has a Romani hero and is super steamy.  The best of historical Kleypas, for sure.
  15. Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare – I mean, it was a cute idea that tried to be a bit My Fair Lady but ultimately didn’t succeed that well.
  16. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – HOLY CRAP THIS BOOK WAS GOOD. I always forget that I’ve never read anything by Black that I didn’t like, and she blows me away every time.  This one is sort of a dark but modern take on the Tam Lin fairy tale.
  17. Seduce Me At Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas – The Hathaway sisters book 2. Nice stoic hero and recovering heroine who have to re-connect after long absence.
  18. Tempt Me At Twilight by Lisa Kleypas – Hathaway sisters book 3. This one featured a hero who was a little too forceful for my tastes.  But, you know.  Still okay.
  19. Married By Morning by Lisa Kleypas – The governess in this series is my favorite, and her quippyness with the hero insures that there’s plenty of fun to go around.
  20. The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn – A re-read. The Brigertons are my favorite.
  21. An Offer From A Gentleman by Julia Quinn – I really could say the same about all of the Quinn that’s below…
  22. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
  23. When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn
  24. Lean Thinking by James P. Womack and Daniel Jones – A read for work. It was fairly dry, but I do hope that it will lead to more streamlining within the university.  The ideas were good, if you can stick with it.
  25. Love In The Afteroon by Lisa Kleypas – Hathaways still. Kleypas left my favorite heroine for last.  Beatrix finally gets her own book, and it’s a good one.  She is a seriously strange lady and I love her for it.
  26. The Coldest Girl In Cold Town by Holly Black – A re-read. I forgot how violent and heartbreaking this book was.  But it’s still as good as ever, if more disturbing than I remembered it.
  27. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling – Oh man. I don’t know.  I didn’t really enjoy it, but I almost did.  It was nice to be back at Hogwarts and in the Wizarding world, but it moved too fast and was ultimately a bad story line, though the fact that it dealt with some real issues redeemed it a bit.
  28. Devil In Winter by Lisa Kleypas – Another book in which the hero is rather too forceful, though I did enjoy a lot of the novel anyway. It deals with gamblers and prostitutes, which isn’t something most romance novels do, so that was a change.
  29. Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas – Yeah, I don’t know. This one is basically a bunch of vultures lying in wait for a girl to go bankrupt so they can schtup her without having to marry her.  Eventually the hero redeems himself, but it’s not my favorite.  The relationship between the 4 girls, though, is a gem.
  30. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – A re-read, and another one of my favorites. I’ve been recommending this one to everyone I can.  You should go read it.
  31. It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas – Fairly good. The usual unsuitable manners vs. impeccable reputation thing, which Kleypas does well.
  32. Uprooted by Naomi Novik – Made me fall in love with fantasy novels all over again. It was exactly what I wanted and reminded me of McKinley and LeGuin while still being something totally new.  Go read NOW.
  33. Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas – Again, the wallflowers are good gals, but I didn’t ultimately love the book.
  34. Storyteller by Kate Wilhelm – Basically a memoir of the Clarion Writer’s Workshop that made me yearn to go even more than I already did. A great read.
  35. The Lady Most Likely by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway – Oh so much fun. It’s basically about 3 couples who fall in love at the same house party with the premise of all of them being on one guy’s “marriageable” list and slowly being whittled away. It reads like they had a blast writing it, and it’s very well done.
  36. No Place for a Dame by Connie Brockway – On the strength of the last book and the fact that this was free via Kindle Unlimited, I decided to Try Connie Brockway. Her books are solid, but nothing at all to write home about.  I would pick up Kleypas before I would pick up Brockway again.
  37. Highlander Undone by Connie Brockway – Again, another free one. Fine, but nothing exciting.
  38. A Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L’Engle – A re-read. I’m in love with this book and have been for a long time. The Austin’s live just as I’d like to, and it says different things to me as I get older, which is the mark of a good book.  I’ve been reading this one regularly since I found it in junior high.
  39. All Through The Night by Connie Brockway – Well, the hero actively locks up the heroine in his bedroom in this book, so there’s that. But there’s some thievery and other fun beforehand.
  40. Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas – Holy Crap this is the book I’ve been waiting for from Kleypas for all the time I’ve been reading her work. It has all her perks –amazing use of language, fantastical richness that still somehow seems likely, strong men, steamy sex – with none of the no/yes stuff that plagues the historical romances.  Read immediately.
  41. Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas – Another of the Travis series, and my favorite of them. Because of the past of the heroine, it reminded me a little bit of Kingsolver’s Bean Trees (as unlikely as that is). Another read now, if you like the romance novel thing.
  42. Blue Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas – Again, a Travis series novel. This one has some pretty egregious domestic violence, so trigger warning.  But it’s a crazy good book, and the heroine gets an amazing redemption.
  43. Brown Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas – Who doesn’t love the wedding planner trope? This book is the conclusion of the Travis series.  Good and still a read immediately, though I liked some of the other Travis books just a tad better.
  44. Pitch Perfect by Mickey Rapkin – I’m torn on this one, because it was really interesting and lots of fun. But Rapkin uses some metaphors and phrasing that kinda offended me.  And for the boys groups it’s all about getting some, and for the girl groups it’s all about managing the drama.  Ultimately I’m glad I read it, though I did leave feeling annoyed.  You can definitely see why they made a movie of it.
  45. The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide by Becky Levine – This book is probably great if you’re new to writing and critiquing, and does have great advice on starting or joining a group. That being said, most of the book is dedicated to teaching you how to crit, which I’m already good with. I didn’t get a lot out of it, but I would expect that others would.
  46. Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean – Holy crap this book is GOOD.  Basically, a spinster decides that her respectability isn’t doing her any good so she decides to do what she’s always wanted to.  And keeps running into the hero while she’s up to the inappropriate tasks.  Steamy and SO fun.  Just ignore the cheesy name, okay?
  47. Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord by Sarah MacLean – Awesomeness confirmed.  This one features a house full of spunky girls who are all struggling to keep their manor house from ruin while offering sanctuary to girls in trouble.  Bonus points for hot statuary.

As always, happy reading!

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Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

us-uprooted

I’ve been a sickie all weekend, which is the WORST way to spend a few days.  This thing just kept hanging on, too.  I felt a little scratchy of throat on Thursday night, and I’m only just back to the land of the living today.  I feel better than I sound, which is a combination of stuffy and gravely.  The house is a mess, the laundry did not get done.  The only silver lining was the mass amount of fudgesickles I had an excuse to eat.

I did, however, get quite a lot of reading done.  I just read Naomi Novik’s “Uprooted,” which has been on my list since it won the Nebula for Best Novel.

I’ll tell you right now it was SO well deserved.  The basic premise is that there’s a Dragon in the tower in the valley Agnieszka lives in, only he’s not an actual dragon.  He’s a wizard named Dragon, and every ten years he takes a girl to live with him and she never comes home again.  The villagers put up with it because he saves them from the horrible infestation of things that live in the forest that’s forever encroaching on their territory, and a girl every ten years is his only request.  He treats them well.

Agnieszka is one of the girls who will be sixteen when the Dragon needs to take his next girl.  Against all assumptions (it’s supposed to be her pretty, accomplished best friend), she gets picked.  But her ties to the land and to her family are too strong for her to stay in the tower as the rest of the girls did.  And that sets off a chain of events in which kingdom politics, wars, assassinations, infected tree people, and an innocent village will combine together in a fight against nature itself with no one on the side they seem to be.  It’s not a Young Adult novel, either.  It gets both bloody and sexual at times, though mostly it’s not.

Add that to a little bit of love story, and it’s basically the perfect novel.  It made me remember why I like fantasy so much, and reminded of Robin McKinley without the problems of unsatisfied plot lines I sometimes have with her Damar series.  It reminded me a little of Ursula K. LeGuin’s Tenar in the desert too, though Agneiszka’s problem is that she loves too much where Tenar’s is that she can’t love at all.

I’ll be buying the fancy hard cover version of this, and maybe also reading everything else Novik’s ever written (we’ll see).  I highly recommend that you check it out, too, if you have any interest in Fantasy at all.  This is the best of what the genre has to offer.

Happy Reading!

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In Search Of

I’m feeling super-lazy today.  This weekend was fun, but a lot of work.  I made 2 kinds of jam and some mushroom ketchup, as well as dissected the structure of Madeline L’Engle’s “A Ring of Endless Light.”  Not the exciting stuff that blog posts are made of.  It has dawned on me, though, that I haven’t posted any writing in a while.  And so here you go: this is 1/2 of a story  I’ve been finessing the ending of before I start shopping it again.

A.A. Milne

In Search Of:

“Do you think she wanted to drop it, or do you think it was an accident?” said Jack to Fritz.

“Does it matter?” said Fritz. “We still have to find the bloody thing. And if you thought the proverbial needle in the haystack was bad, try the golden apple in the miles of mud. We’ll never get back to Olympus, you know.”

The green khaki they both wore was stained with dry earth, their leather boots caked, their round helmets just covering their eyes. The helmet was just for looks. Even if someone dropped a grenade or a bomb into the pitted, broken earth of no man’s land, it wasn’t likely to harm either of them. Or not for long, anyway.

“Speak for yourself,” said Jack. “This war can’t last forever. We’ll find it. I have confidence.”

“I had confidence last year,” said Fritz. “But I don’t anymore. You’ve heard of the hundred years’ war, right? Doesn’t have to stop any time soon, brother.”

The land he and Fritz were walking over was nothing but violent pits of loose earth that undulated like waves, barbed wire fencing stuck between.

It had been almost three years since they frog marched him and Fritz down the mountain top and told them not to come back without apple in hand.

The golden apple. It had been so long, but Jack still remembered the way the thing reached into his mind and implanted its own memories, all of them horrifying. The desire that came with it, the wonder, the need to own it, to look into its precious golden surface forever. The urge to cut the eyes from anyone else who wanted to look too.

The size of a fist. Perfectly round, glossy, tantalizing, with a thin silver leaf reaching from the spindly, ideal stem.

“Come on, put your German on,” said Fritz, nudging him. “This is the spot – whole bunch of shelling, no movement either way. Looks promising.”

Jack shrugged and then touched his hand to his helmet and his sleeves, and then to Fritz’s. A faint, sweet smell of ozone rose from his palms and the flags on their uniforms turned to black, white, and red stripes. The holes covered over with green. Their boots gleamed.

“Which story are we trying?” said Jack.

“I dunno,” said Fritz. “Inspecting the troops in the wake of the General’s visit?”

“Sure,” Jack nodded.

Fritz made the vehicle out of the clouds that coalesced in the gray sky. He beckoned them down and encouraged them into the shape of an armored car, German flag on the door and flying from the side mirrors. They both got behind it and walked it up to the trench camp, and they both made sure to step out of it via the illusory door Fritz waved into being. It looked good unless someone tried to touch it, but Fritz parked it far enough back that probably no one would.

They had learned after Fritz took a bayonet to the thigh in the Italian camp almost 2 years ago. Blood everywhere and a whole week lost while his hamstrings knit back together.

The scene before them looked like all the other trenches they had been to. Broken earth, barbed wire, a deeper wound on the pitted earth that was the fissure these men fought from. The round helmets of a few men in the distance peaked over the wound, scanning the bare earth beyond for the siege of men that would come crawling over the top; if they weren’t the men crawling over the top of someone else’s trench instead. Every few hundred feet stood a machine gun tower.

The sentry nearest them raised a hand.

“Guten Tag!” Fritz called.

“Guten Tag,” said the sentry, saluting. “What brings you both today, Majors?”

“You will point us to your Kapitän.” said Fritz, in fluent German.

“Right away, Major,” he said. “Lars will take you.”

They followed behind the Musketier, keeping their shoulders upright, their strides purposeful, their movements sharp. The man led them down a wooden ladder, and then through the muddy trench made of piles of sand bags. Jack could touch the walls on either side if he reached out his hands far enough. Dark stains dotted the top row of bags.

Inset into the back of the wall was a framed doorway, which led into a hole with a desk in it. The walls here were wooden.

“Men from the Home Office to see you, Kapitan,” said the Musketier, saluting.

Jack blinked, closing his lids hard. When he opened them, they had adjusted to the darkness as if it was day. The room had a bare bulb swinging from the ceiling, and had been wallpapered in something floral that might have once been cheery but was now dust like everything else.

The Kapitan rose and saluted to them. Jack and Fritz soluted back.

“Nothing confidential,” said Fritz. He handed the Kapitan a folder. Inside it was the page he had encouraged weeks ago to appear like an official telegram.

He let the man look it over for a moment before he spoke again. “We are to bring you this news, and also to inspect the troops ourselves, as a precursor to the Generalleutnant’s arrival. He will be here in two days. Plenty of time for you to prepare your men.”

“Certainly,” said the Kapitan. “Should I call them now?”

“No rush,” said Jack. “We will spend most of the evening with you. We know there isn’t much room and won’t claim a bed, but part of our orders also include bringing back any requests for equipment you might need, or additions to these accommodations.”

“We are hoping not to be here long,” said the Kapitan. “Within the next month, we will take the next trench ahead from the Americans.”

“Certainly,” said Fritz. “But you will, of course, still hold this trench. We are not speaking of great things. Perhaps reinforcements to walls and frames?”

“Of course. We always need additional sandbags, but could also use whatever wood can be spared.”

“So we have your permission to go where we will and see if there is anything else we think you could benefit from?”

“The Generalleutnant orders it,” the Kapitan shrugged. “I will muster the troops for inspection just before evening mess, and then you must dine with me.”

“We would be honored,” said Fritz.

“With your permission?” said Jack

The Kapitan nodded and stood again. “You are dismissed.”

They traded salutes.

#

Out in the trenches again in the dark earth beneath the drab sky, they were alone except for the men on the top of the wall who looked only to the horizon. Jack took a deep breath and inhaled. Nothing but the faint traces of molasses ozone that came from their uniforms, and the piece of paper that was still inside the office.

He shook his head. “I can’t smell it,” he muttered.

“Of course not, idiot,” said Fritz. “None of them are pretending right now. They’re alone. There isn’t any fake to smell yet. You try this every time.”

“One of these days, we won’t have to stay until dinner to figure it out,” said Jack.

“Smell anything else, though?”

Fritz was talking about the smell of the golden apple, cloying and metallic.

It had been too long since either of them had seen the golden apple sitting under a crystal dome on Olympus. It was so long ago that Jack couldn’t remember the smell. He just knew he would remember it when he caught a whiff, that it was unlike anything else he had ever smelled. It was gunpowder and desire; honey and hunger; sex and blood.

“No,” said Jack. “None of that, either. It isn’t here, but we still have to ask.”

“Bloody unlikely that’ll be any help,” said Fritz. “Thousands seen it, no one’s grasped it. Come on, let’s get this ‘inspection’ going. The sooner we can move on…”

“Yeah, I know,” said Jack.

#

The Kapitan mustered the men just before dusk duty. They stood at attention, backs to the walls of the earthen trench, chests proud and muscles taut. Jack walked behind Fritz and breathed in. They got to the middle of the row before Jack smelled it; the ozone smell gone wrong, sweet rain with undertones of phlegm, the lie.

This one had the sickness.

He was pretending pretty well. The smell was not overwhelming, so maybe he only had obsessive thoughts of home now. But soon the Apple would take him, and he’d be at the mercy of what it chose to show him: cannon fire raining from a ship, pelting the walls of a seaside fort, men falling from the ramparts into the water; A woman plunging a knife into a man’s back, he gasps a sucking sound before falling to the dirt.

It would eat him. It ate anyone who was mortal.

Jack made note of the soldier. Blonde hair too long, escaping from his helmet. Grimy moustache above his lip. He may have been fat once, but now his cheeks hung from his face. His attention pose was looser than the men around him.

“Very good, Kapitan,” said Jack. “You have an impressive force here.”

“Thank you.”

#

Jack snuck out during dinner. He excused himself from the table and then made his way to the barracks. His calculation was right. The rest of the men were at mess, but this one had stayed behind. He was staring at the wall, hand poised over a piece of paper as if he was writing a letter. But the paper was filled with apples, the lines of them frayed and round.

“What is your name?” Jack asked him.

He startled. “Rolf,” he said, covering the paper with his arm.

“And you have seen the Golden Apple?”

“Is that what this is?” he said. He picked up the paper and held it out to Jack, hands quivering.

“I don’t know,” said Jack. “Tell me.”

“I was on patrol with – a friend. Oskar. Oskar Berger. And the Americans started shelling. A wave of dirt flew up and something landed next to my shoe. I thought it was a shell. But it didn’t blow. It was gold, and it brushed against me. But another shell hit, and this time it was a real one. It hit Oskar, and it… the earth and his body, his… it all thrust me aside and knocked me out.”

“Where?” said Jack. He could taste the apple now, the metal and cake. But it was the ghost of a smell, the memory of it.

“Oskar. Oskar Berger. Another faceless man lost to this…”

“Oskar Berger. We both remember him now,” said Jack.

“When I joined this war, I was so…” said Rolf. “All we saw was uniforms and glory, the heady shock that reverberates through your arm when you shoot a rifle, the glee that rises in your throat. We didn’t know what happens when the bullets hit their target, what your throat feels like then.”

A sob caught there, Rolf’s Adams-apple bobbing, keeping it in with a sucking sound.

Rolf swallowed. “I don’t know,” he said. “It was months ago. We weren’t even in this trench back then. I don’t know where I saw it.”

Jack sighed. “No, no. Of course you weren’t.”

“If you find it…?”

Jack shook his head. His answer was always the same. “You’ve touched it, and your mortal brain couldn’t handle the strife it’s been through,” he said. “Once you’ve been touched, it never lets go. That’s it. You will have to learn to manage as best you can.”

“No,” said Rolf. He closed his eyes, and the silence surrounded them. He opened them again. “And when will this damned war be over?”

“When I have found the apple,” said Jack. “Have faith, brother. I’m trying as hard as I can.”

Would it be another hundred years? Two?

Rolf covered his face with his hands and turned away. Jack went back to the bleak Kapitan’s quarters to finish his meal.

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Book Review: Wolves of Mercy Falls (Shiver, Linger)

ShiverLinger

I fell so hard in love with The Raven Cycle books that I started following Maggie Stiefvater on Instagram and Tumblr.  Just so you know, her life is way cooler than yours (and mine).  I offer as evidence her explanation of a race between her and John Green, and their subsequent car fires.  I want to have car fires.  Or, rather, I’d like to have car fire stories I can tell after I’m home and safe.  Bonus points if I don’t actually have to have the car fire to begin with.

Yes, I know.  This is why I’m never going to be that cool.

But her awesomeness and my religion-like devotion to Blue and the boys meant that I needed to see if I had an awesome backlist to read.

The verdict?  While I’ll read the stuff she writes going forward (and maybe the Scorpio book?), I’m not terribly impressed with her older work.  I read the first two books of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series (Shiver and Linger), and I’m not sure if I’m going to read the last one.

The series has all the things it should to be amazing: beautiful writing, interesting characters.  It’s all danger, ice, snow, and wolves with some books and music and high school antics thrown in for good measure.  It’s like if all your fantasies of what Twilight should have been come true.

Except that for some reason the yummy ingredients make a flat cake.

You can see glimmers of the sassiness and truth that made Raven Boys such a gem, but the books never quite get there.  The best character in the whole series is Rachel, who gets very little screen time.  Grace, the main character, is too bland to inspire devotion and not bland enough that you can insert yourself on her without thinking about it too much.  The books are beautiful, but they lack profluence* in places as Stiefvater lingers on the relationship between Grace and Sam or on description. Plot twists are predictable.

I can forgive all those things, though. I have before for other authors.  I think the reason I can’t here is that there’s nothing new to grasp at, to make the other sins worth it.   It mostly feels like a series I’ve read before.  I like that series, I like that this is an ideal version of it, but in the end it has nothing to offer that I don’t already know.

That being said, I was interested enough to read the novels through pretty quickly.  The emotion she evokes in the books is genuine, and I found myself caring, if not about the characters, then about the outcome to their stories.  I will also say that the books won several awards, so I might be full of crap.

And, of course, as I’m looking at the book art to download the covers on the top of this blog I’m also seeing all the fan art and getting warm fuzzies about the series and the characters.

It’s a solid choice as a read, there are just other things out there with more to them.  I would recommend the Wolves of Mercy Falls books to people who haven’t read Twilight, and would heartily recommend the series instead of Twilight.  But if you’ve been down that road already, just go pick up Holly Black’s The Darkest Part of the Forest instead.  You’ll get more bang for your buck.  And if you haven’t read The Raven Cycle yet go do that IMMEDIATELY.

 

*Profluence: A term coined by John Gardener in his book “The Art of Fiction.” The sense that a plot is flowing, moving the reader continually and evenly toward a goal that is well planned; that we are getting somewhere.  It’s the way the cause-and-effect connective tissue that makes up a novel interacts with the overall plot and story arc.

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Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Okay, so I know that “keep the secrets” is a thing, and I’m going to try my best to hold to that.  However, this review discusses the plot of the book, so be warned.  I won’t give away anything that is a major secret, but reviewing a book without talking about the book is impossible.  If you want to stay 100% pure, don’t read any further.

HP15_Q4_Square_LS_Pottermore

The Harry Potter books are an interesting thing.  They’ve become such the stuff of legend that it’s hard to separate the myth from the actuality.  I just know that I read them recently and fell in love all over again, so they do stand the test of time.  I was obsessed so quickly with the series when I was younger, attending every midnight release and reading the book in a day.  I’m a huge fan.  I’m quiet about it, but that doesn’t mean the fervor burns any less bright.  I didn’t attend the midnight release for Cursed Child, but some things haven’t changed.  I read this book in a day.

In general, I don’t like plays as reading material.  I think I should say that, too, so you know where I’m coming from.  Without anyone to speak them, the words can sound sappy and trite.  Without the emotion and the inner life of the characters, the narrative feels cold.  That disappears when you have actors to play the parts, but reading the script on the couch doesn’t help.  I was predisposed to love the book; I was predisposed to hate the book.

I ended up falling somewhere in between.

The basic premise of the play is this: Harrry and his youngest son Albus don’t get along.  At all.  Some of the problems seem to stem from the fact that Albus was sorted into Slytherin and makes a best friend in Scorpius Malfoy, but mostly it’s because Albus can’t come to grips with some of the things Harry has had to do to save the world.  Most notably, the death of Cedric Diggory.  Shenanigans ensue.

By the end of the first part, I was angry.  The plot seemed much like Back To The Future: Harry Potter Edition.  I felt like the whole thing was an excuse to trot out everyone’s favorite characters from the series who died or disappeared and had nothing original to offer me.  Was it neat to be back at Hogwarts?  Yes.  But that’s all I can really say for it.  The world felt cold, the scenes passed too fast.  I loathe reality reunion shows when everyone talks dirt about the contestants and rehashes their time in the sun.  I didn’t need the Harry Potter version.  I could go on and on: Inexcusably, Ron is the buffoon he was made out to be in the movies, and not himself at all.  They play with time, and the way they play with it is so anti the rules set out in the book that it’s maddening.  People are outright friendly to Malfoy, who did unspeakable, unforgivable things in the novels. I mean, I’m all for nice.  Nice is what you do when you’re an adult.  But friendly is a little steep for someone who broke your face, tried let Death Eaters into the school, constantly uttered racist slurs, and allowed your best friend to be tortured.  How much time do you have for me to rant?

But by the end of part two, it had redeemed itself.  Not enough to be fully satisfying, but enough that I didn’t feel like my money had been extorted.  The kids end up falling into disaster, the adults band together like old times to try and help, and it’s suddenly a new story with the old relationships I know and love.  It suddenly feels like Harry Potter and it starts to really grapple with its premise that sometimes bad things have to happen to create a good world. It becomes more the book I wanted.

I’m not gonna say don’t read it.  Because you either will or you won’t.  And I will also admit that there may have been no way this book could live up to the huge expectations I had of it.  But if you read it, just know that it probably wasn’t the thing you were expecting to get, though some of the qualities make sticking to the end worthwhile.

 

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