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[Review] Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

[Review] Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

[Review] Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildHarry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling
Published by Little Brown on July 31st 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 330
ISBN: 9780751565355
Goodreads
three-stars

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Let me start by saying, I’m not outright dismissing The Cursed Child with my less-than-enthusiastic rating. I still really want to see the play.

Prologue: Of course I had already preordered the book at a local book store but when the publication date was there, I contemplated waiting a few days and picking it up after work. The weather on the release day was nice however, so I set out and picked up the book on July 31st.

I got home, put the book aside and continued reading Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling’s A Career of Evil. After all, I am hoping to get my hands on theatre tickets for the play and why would I read the script for the play if I could see it on stage? Reading plays is such a hit or miss anyway.

But the book was staring at me, people around me had started reading it, and would I really be able to wait nearly a year (if lucky!) before knowing what it was all about?

In the evening I caved. I opened the book, flipped to the first page, and started reading “just to check to see how script-y/readable it was”.

Conclusion after I finished 100 pages (aka act one): it was highly readable, and holy shit I was loving it! Had I not been a responsible adult who had to start work at 8am the next morning and really needed her sleep, I definitely would have finished it there and then.

Clearly this ‘book’ is a script. Scenes are short, there isn’t much depth (except perhaps for one recurring theme, View Spoiler »), because it’s a play. As a book it was a nice read nonetheless, much better than what I was expecting from a script. It wasn’t hard to imagine the scenes at all, as the dialogues were quite straightforward. Quite funny at times (I didn’t feel the serious parts as much though) but all in all I think it will be much better to see in action.

As for the actual story… After finishing, and without even reading any other reviews, my first thought was ‘well, this felt like fanfiction’. Turns out I’m not alone in this.

The thing is, I absolutely adored act one. Adored! And from there it went downhill.

Warning: minor spoilers ahead! (Large spoilers have been hidden)

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Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novels

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novels

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novelsTell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Published by Pan Publishing on February 14th 2013 (first published 2012)
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult
Pages: 355
ISBN: 9781447202141
Goodreads
four-half-stars

1987. There's only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that's her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn's company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June's world is turned upside down. But Finn's death brings a surprise acquaintance into June's life--someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

I enthusiastically participated in Pretty Deadly ReviewsLGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge, but haven’t written all the reviews I’ve been meaning to write. So to catch up, here’s a collection of short reviews for the YA bunch!

Firstly there was Tell The Wolves I’m Home. Let me start with the positives: This was a beautiful and moving book and I really thoroughly enjoyed it. The author did a great job at describing emotions – loss, doubt, jealousy – and life as a teenager. The characters were interesting and for the most part likeable, even if they did unlikeable things. Also, like a proper YA novel, the pacing of the book was excellent.

At the same time I also have strong mixed feelings about the book. It’s told from June’s perspective, and in the grander scheme of things I get why. But she did not feel like the most important person in the book, the person deserving the attention. That, in my opinion, was Toby. I wish we had gotten more from him, about him, from his point of view. I wanted to get to know Toby, to feel his pain. June has lost the most important person in her life, but so did Toby.

All in all, I do recommend this book. Gorgeous, oh and do grab the tissues!

***

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novelsFalling From The Sky (Bear Creek #1) by Nikki Godwin
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on February 21st 2014
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult, Romance
Pages: 288
Goodreads
two-stars

All stability in sixteen-year-old Ridge McCoy’s life crashed and burned in the plane crash that killed his dad. This summer-long basketball camp is his chance to improve his skills and escape his problems back home. But his summer plans take a turn in an unexpected direction when he meets Micah Youngblood, the guy who runs the carousel at the local mall and has a reputation for devouring straight boys’ heterosexuality for breakfast, alongside his chocolate chip pancakes.

Confession time: I only read this book because I was on the other side of the world, in the middle of nowhere, with a Kindle that had just broken down, and this was one of the few e-books on my phone that was semi readable.

I actually won this book back in 2014, but never got around to it before. To be frank, this book made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. Slightly too romantic, almost voyeuristic. And I was going to say: with a target audience that is probably not me, but that wouldn’t be fair. I have liked books like this before, it can be done well. And the book wasn’t all bad. It just definitely, definitely wasn’t for me.

***

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novelsYou Know Me Well by Nina LaCour, David Levithan
Published by Macmillan Children's Books on June 2nd, 2016
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781509823932
four-stars

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

This was a spur-of-the-moment, I-want-to-read-something-recently-published buy. And I have no regrets! Although the synopsis sounds a bit ‘whatever’, the book itself is pretty cool. The book takes place during Pride celebrations in San Francisco, and while it started out just alright – the focus is very heavily on friendship and (potential) relationships – it soon turned into this fun YA/Pride explosion. And that’s mostly the appeal of this book, I think. I feel like I was missing out as a teenager!

Recommended!

***

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novelsThe Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on May 12th, 2011
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult
Pages: 264
ISBN: 9781461179931
Goodreads
one-star

Three thousand years ago, a god told a lie. Now, only a goddess can tell the truth. Persephone has everything a daughter of Zeus could want--except for freedom. She lives on the green earth with her mother, Demeter, growing up beneath the ever-watchful eyes of the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus. But when Persephone meets the enigmatic Hades, she experiences something new: choice. Zeus calls Hades "lord" of the dead as a joke. In truth, Hades is the goddess of the underworld, and no friend of Zeus. She offers Persephone sanctuary in her land of the dead, so the young goddess may escape her Olympian destiny. But Persephone finds more than freedom in the underworld. She finds love, and herself.

I practically want to throw a tantrum over this book. I really, really wanted to like it. Lesbian retelling of Greek mythology? Yes please!

But nope, I ended up hating it. It started out alright, and I had high hopes for it. But frankly, it just went downhill and became a steady two-star read. And that’s when I just should’ve stopped reading, about three quarters in. But I was stubborn, and so many people had liked it, so I decided to finish it.

BAM, 1 star. I hate it when that happens.

LGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge

[Review] Brothers, by Ted van Lieshout

[Review] Brothers, by Ted van Lieshout

[Review] Brothers, by Ted van LieshoutBrothers: Life, Death, Truth by Ted van Lieshout
Published by HarperCollins on 1999 (first published in Dutch in 1996)
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult
Pages: 155
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Half a year after Luke's brother Marius passed away, their mother intends to burn all Marius' possessions on his first birthday after his death as a grand goodbye. In an attempt to save Marius' diary, Luke starts writing in it to make it as much his own as it was his brother's. At first Luke doesn't read Marius' entries but just writes on the empty pages, but eventually he gives in and reads his brother's words.

It’s been a while since I reviewed an LGBT YA book (even though I read plenty). But then I picked up this book and I think it deserves a little extra attention, because it’s amazing and also because it’s a book from the Netherlands. I read it in Dutch, so that’s what most of my review will be based on, but the book has in fact been translated to a number of other languages including (but not limited to) English, German, Italian and even Korean. The book received a Dutch award and even a German youth literature award. And apparently the book is also a semi-popular read for the high school reading list in the Netherlands, which is pretty awesome.

Anyway.

I finished this book in no time, partly because it’s short but also for a large part because I just couldn’t put it down.

We get the story from Luke’s point of view in the form of diary entries. In an attempt to save Marius’ diary, Luke starts writing in it. At first he only writes in the diary without peaking at his brother’s entries. He writes about himself and his family. He wonders, among other things, if he is still a brother when his only brother is death. When his mother threatens to tear out Luke’s pages and burn the diary after all, Luke is forced to start using Marius’ pages as well and to write between his lines. This is how the dialogue with (or rather monologue to) his brother begins.

Not only do we find out more about what happened to his brother, but the diary also helps Luke come to terms with his sexuality. The diary format is incredibly intimate and it works perfectly for this story. It’s incredibly realistic. In just 150 pages Van Lieshout manages to make us care about his characters. Luke’s words are down to earth, often witty, sometimes heartbreaking. The book touches sensitive topics, and emotionally it was a bit of a roller-coaster. At the same time it was written in an almost light-hearted way and the book did not make me cry (kudos to that).
(The light-heartedness of the novel actually makes me question the English title – I am not sure if that subtitle Life, Death, Truth does this book any justice. It sounds too heavy.)

For me, this book was nearly perfect. There were a few pages approximately three quarters into the book that were a bit meh, but on the other hand: still infinitely better than the average book. Overall, this book is amazing and I hope more people pick it up. This book deserves it.

Also, a small warning: there is one(1) sex scene and it’s described in detail. It doesn’t even take up a page and honestly it’s still pretty mild. I have actually seen people on Goodreads give this book negative reviews because of this ‘unexpected’ ‘graphic’ scene and there’s only one way for me to reply to such criticism: bullshit.

[Review] Shadow Scale, by Rachel Hartman

[Review] Shadow Scale, by Rachel Hartman

[Review] Shadow Scale, by Rachel Hartman

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
Series: Seraphina #2
Published by Random House Children's Books on March 10, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 608
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads
five-stars

The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself, €”for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways.

Let me begin by saying: Shadow Scale, the second and final book in the Seraphina duology, was my most anticipated read of 2015. I absolutely adored Seraphina and I kid you not if I say I pre-ordered Shadow Scale back in 2013.

And now I finished Shadow Scale and oh, Rachel Hartman is a cruel woman. By which I mean to say: Shadow Scale was absolutely wonderful, but I need a serious talk with Ms. Hartman.

But let’s begin at the beginning. I was ecstatic to receive the eArc for Shadow Scale and started reading it almost right away. It opens with a very clever flashback to Seraphina… and right away I realised I’d have to reread Seraphina first before continuing with Shadow Scale. And so I did, and Seraphina was every bit as wonderful (and more) as the first time I read it. It is still one of my all time favourite books and if you haven’t read it yet we must reconsider our friendship you’re missing out.

Then I went back to Shadow Scale, and I’ll be honest and say I just wasn’t feeling it during the first 20-or-so % of the book. I missed something (I can’t quite pinpoint what) that I found readily in every single page of Seraphina and I got a bit worried. The storyline just seemed a bit bland? I am not sure.

Hartman was clearly tricking me though, as the story then did a 180 and I was sucked in and didn’t want to put it down (oh, to be an adult with silly responsibilities such as work and a household and food and sleep). Hartman added the intrigue I had been longing for. Just like the first book in the series, there were so many plot twists and turns it was dizzying, and it was amazing. The plot was perfection.

The colour returned to the story and Hartman managed to expand the world we knew from Seraphina even further. I loved the mythology, folklore and religious aspects and I couldn’t get enough of that, and oh the philosophy! What I also loved about Shadow Scale is that we meet so many new characters and I feel so strongly about all of them. I just want to embrace most of them. And I feel conflicted about certain others, in a way that I want them to step on a Lego and then embrace them. Hartman has proven something that we already knew from Seraphina: that she is a master at world building and bringing characters to life.

The ending though… My poor heart. It was both extremely satisfying and a bit saddening, in the way real life also works, I guess. I really only have complaint about this entire book View Spoiler ».

But then after the ending, there is the epilogue. Thankfully some natural defence mechanism kicked in and my imagination filled in the ending quite satisfyingly. But honestly, Ms. Hartman, we need to talk.

So in case this review ever reaches Ms. Hartman:
Dear Ms. Hartman,
In response to your epilogue: I can offer you a kidney, my first-born or my soul. You know what to do. Please contact me and I am sure we can come to a satisfying agreement.
Kind regards,
Carola

[Review] Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli

[Review] Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli

[Review] Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins on April 7, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT+, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-stars

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised. (from Goodreads)

When I first heard of this book (and if you are into LGBT+ YA, I doubt you missed it as it was one of the most anticipated 2015 releases in the genre), I knew I had to read it. Well… I RACED THROUGH THIS BOOK, that’s how much I enjoyed it!

For me Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda was most of all a nice mix of things I like to see in a LGBT+ coming-out themed young adult book. There’s friendship, there’s high school, there’s family. It’s got all the classic feelings of uncertainty that come with growing up and especially being a gay teenager. Everything is utterly realistic and believable without getting boring for even a moment. Does the book have anything super duper special? Not really, no. But that’s okay. Albertalli managed to write a modern, fresh book. The e-mails, Facebook, Tumblr, I really enjoyed all of that (although there’s a risk this book will get outdated soon..)

The book has a nice bit of mystery that takes up most of the plot: who is Blue? I think Albertalli managed to keep us on the edge of our seat. I couldn’t wait to find out and had to keep reading. I buddy-read this book with Cynthia of Afterwritten and since she finished it first I had a lot of fun throwing my guesses at her haha. The mystery especially made it a real page turner.

And then of course I shouldn’t forget to mention the characters. First and foremost there’s Simon and I think you cannot help falling a little bit in love with him. Simon is pretty much an average teenager and I love the voice Albertalli gave him. Simon’s friends, while a bit in the background, are still rounded characters which is great to see considering it’s a relatively short book. And I’ve got so much to say about Blue but… hah, I won’t.

So yes. Great quick read with lots of positivity. This book won’t take up lots of your time so that’s one reason to get it the moment it’s out… but it’s much more 🙂 An enjoyable and fun read and I definitely recommend it!

Also let me take this opportunity to once again promote Cayce‘s LGBT Challenge 2015. Please sign up if you are interested in reading LGBT+ literature (and this year it’s not limited to YA!). And if you’d like to do a buddy-read like me and Cynthia did with Simon, there’s a central post here where you can find like-minded people.