Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I loved Harry Potter when I was growing up. I went to the midnight premieres for the books and final films, and reread the books every summer. In my adult life, I occasionally reread a chapter or two from the series, but didn’t feel the need to read Cursed Child when it was released. I was living in France at the time, and while I can read French, I hate reading in French, because the layout is so foreign (they don’t use quotation marks and their plays are formatted differently than English ones.) I knew there was no way I could get to Paris to find an English copy, (#provinciallife,) so I made a mental note to read it at a later date.

Cursed Child is the eight installment of the series and takes place nearly two decades after the seventh book. Harry Potter’s son, Albus, struggles to find his place at Hogwarts and, in typical pre-teen fashion, resents his father. He forges an unlikely character with Scorpius Malfoy, son of Draco. Albus’ Hogwarts experience is vastly different from his father’s. He’s unpopular, struggles in school, and is sorted into Slytherin. One argument with his father quickly escalates and Harry shouts that he wishes Albus weren’t his son.

Meanwhile, Harry is approached by Amos Diggory, who claims there is a Time Turner that could bring his son back to life. Albus hears this conversation and decides to take it upon himself to unwind history. Albus and Scorpius go on a quest to revive Cedric Diggory, turning the magical world on its head.

I read this book in a day and would give it 3 out of 5 stars– it’s just average. While it was fun to return to Hogwarts, I wasn’t truly invested in Albus Potter’s story. I spent nearly a decade reading the original series, and Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny are barely present in this book. Their children are underdeveloped (it’s a play after all,) and the plot made absolutely no sense. The Time Turner theory was somewhat flawed in Prisoner of Azkaban and to make it the focal point of the play made it seemed rushed and unfinished.

Publication Info

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two. J.K. Rowling, Little, Brown, 2016.


343 pages


I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Full disclosure: I do judge books by their covers. Lately, I’ve found books to read by scrolling through Pinterest. If I see an intriguing title, I add it to my queue at the library; interesting cover art also pulls me in. So when I saw Iain Reid’s book on Pinterest in the midst of cookie recipes, I downloaded it from my library that day. It sounded creepy and that’s what I was in the mood for.

I should not have chosen to read this book this week. My parents are out of the country (I still live at home because a) I’m a millennial and b) I’m a historian,) and central NC (where I live) was slated to receive a huge snow storm (read 4-5 inches.) I read it anyways and was completely hooked.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is about a woman who plans to break up with her boyfriend, Jake. She agrees to drive with him to meet his parents. On the drive, she reveals to the audience she’s received a number of mysterious phone calls in the past weeks. She meets Jake’s parents, sees his childhood home, and the two leave. On the way back, they are caught in a snowstorm and take refuge in a local high school. I don’t want to give too much more detail, otherwise, I’ll ruin the story, but this is the best book I’ve read this year. Actually, it’s the best book I’ve read in a while.

While it’s his debut novel, Iain Reid has a clear talent for setting the atmosphere in his story. From the beginning I was unnerved, but I couldn’t tell why. The writing is simple and helps to build the slow-building tension of the novel. I was hooked as soon as I started reading it and couldn’t put it down. Coming in at just over 200 pages, you could easily read this in a day.

Publication info

I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Iain Reid. Gallery/Scout Press, 2016.

ISBN: 1501126962

224 pages

Because you’ve read all the way to the end of this post, I’ll share a story about why this book was so terrifying for me:

As I mentioned before, my parents are out of town right now, which means I have the house to myself. I’ve lived alone before and really don’t mind it, but my parents’ house is out in the boonies. We have neighbors of course, but it’s a quiet place where nothing happens and no one would know if it did. My area is also in the middle of a snow storm, which in the South means anything above .5 inch of snow. The other night, around 10, I was reading this book. The house was silent and then the phone rang. Jolted out of my reading, I went to pick up the phone, but saw no number on the caller ID (that’s exactly what happens in this book.) I was so terrified I couldn’t answer the phone. Thankfully, my mom’s voice came on the answering machine. She had called to tell me they were safe and enjoying their time, but I had to watch three episodes of Parks and Rec before I could calm down. Reading is not for the faint of heart.

Zero Waste Home

One of my goals for 2018 is to become more eco-friendly. I want to eat more locally and organically, use less plastic, and stop purchasing things I don’t really need. Because of these aspirations, I turned to Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson for inspiration.

In all honestly, I wanted to like this book. I had previously watched one of Johnson’s talks and felt inspired by her life. She, her husband, and two sons produce just one Mason jar of trash a year. They’ve committed to the shared economy and second-hand markets, buy in bulk, refuse one-use things, and live a more simple life. Johnson’s talk is helpful, her book was not.

The main disappointment for me was that the book didn’t go beyond her experience. It seemed redundant after having read through her blog and listen to her eco-talks. There wasn’t a lot of new information, and at times I felt she was writing just to meet a page quota. For instance, at the end of every chapter, Johnson includes an ABC wrap-up of steps readers can take to move towards zero waste. These lists reiterate the same information for multiple letters. Here’s an example : “Elect officials concerned about waste issues; Praise good practices and products; Sign petitions that support Zero Waste initiatives.” These steps are essentially the same: become involved in the movement and use your voice to influence others.

Now that we’ve gotten through my main problem with the book, I’d like to take a few minutes to discuss other things I liked and did not like.


  1. The author is clearly passionate about zero waste and has no trouble relaying that passion to her audience.
  2. Johnson demonstrates that small changes do add up over time. One-use disposables (i.e. plastic bags and cutlery) clog up our landfill and are completely unnecessary; with a bit of preparation, anyone can cut these out of their life.
  3. She spent a lot of time writing about composting, which was helpful. I never knew that food can’t properly break down in a landfill.


  1. Johnson never went beyond the individual. It seems that if we could all get on board, we could stop using plastic. But aren’t corporations also responsible for part of the waste. If corporations don’t change their practices, then how much will using reusable bags really help?
  2. The author’s suggestions may not be attainable for all. She’s clearly well-off and lives in a “European-style” community in California. She has access to bulk bins and can walk or bike most places. But what about people who live in food deserts, or in rural areas where public transportation does not exist? How can those who do not have access to zero waste options participate in the movement?
  3. She suggests giving out raisins for Halloween. Seriously, I know she’s French, but that’s unforgivable. All laughing aside, I also had a problem with her section on birth control. She claims that using the pill and condoms is wasteful because of the packaging. She also writes that surgeries like vasectomies and hysterectomies are wasteful because of the one-time use items associated with hospitals (i.e. gloves, packaging for instruments, etc.) I’m not going to start a lecture on whether or not people should use birth control, but isn’t it irresponsible to create another human who will create tons of trash in his/her lifetime, just to avoid throwing away your birth control packaging?

If you’re interested in zero waste, check out some of the blogs or YouTube videos of zero wasters. This movement seems to be such an individual experience, I’m not sure a book could ever be written to cover all the aspects of it.

Publication Info

Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste. Bea Johnson. Scribner, 2013.

ISBN: 1451697686

304 pages

2017 in books

Here’s a quick recap of what I read in 2017:

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Defending Jacob by William Landay

The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night Time by Mark Haddon

You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

A Season in the Congo by Aimé Césaire

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Bees by Laline Paull

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

No Future without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu

Finding Emilie by Laurel Corona

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

The Program by Suzanne Young

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

Let’s Pretend this Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson

Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Total books: 25

Total pages: approx. 7,367

Favorite reads: Quiet, Devil in the White City, You Will Not Have My Hate, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Secret History

Least favorite: The Road, The Bees, The Testament of Jessie Lamb, Slaughterhouse Five


Small Great Things

Happy New Year, everyone! I finished another book in the final hours of 2017 and I thought you’d want to know about it.

Small Great Things is Jodi Picoult’s latest novel (at least I think it’s her latest novel and one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to stop second-guessing myself) and tells the story of an African-American nurse, Ruth, who is thrown into an impossible situation. While working on the maternity ward, she is taken off a case because she’s black. The parents of the newborn are white supremacists and refuse to allow Ruth handle their child. As fate would have it, the child goes into cardiac arrest and Ruth is the only one in the nursery. Should she help the baby because it is her duty as a nurse? Or should she carry out the parents’ wishes and her supervisor’s direct orders and not help? Her choiceless choice leads to an indictment and a trial in which she is charged with murder and negligent homicide.

In the way of most of Picoult’s novels, this story is told from several perspectives. Ruth, the nurse, reflects on her career, her family, and the discrimination she’s faced throughout her life. Kennedy, Ruth’s white public defender, slowly comes to terms with white privilege and passive racism. Turk, the white supremacist father, spews racist thoughts and anger for losing his son.

In most of Picoult’s novels, I think the multiple perspective writing really works. But I felt that this story focused too much on the white narrative. This book, at least for me, is ultimately about the discrimination and racism people of color face on a day-to-day basis in America. Wouldn’t that story be better told by the characters of color? For instance there are five other black characters whose voice could have been used. There was Odette, the state prosecutor; Edison, Ruth’s 17-year-old son; Adisa, Ruth’s sister; Howard, the young second-chair on the defense side; and Wallace Mercy, a social justice advocate and pastor.

As Picoult tried to highlight white privilege and the ways in which whites benefit from racism, she also took agency and voice away from her characters of color. Was it intentional or malicious? No. Picoult wrote this novel in response to the police brutality against the African American community and clearly stated in her author’s note that she cannot speak for African Americans. However, I think she could have addressed racism by using the voices of her black characters instead of focusing on an idealistic lawyer and a skinhead.

Publication Info

Small Great Things. Jodi Picoult. Ballantine Books, 2016.

480 pages


Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

For those of you who do not know, I adore David Sedaris. I love his quippy world view, and his stories of France reflect my own experiences living in that country. I was excited to start  Jenny Lawson’s book, because many people have compared her writing style to that of Sedaris.

For the most part, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened was funny. Lawson is quite sarcastic, and some of her anecdotes are outright hilarious. However, her writing lacks a certain refinement, which was disappointing to me. Her humor is a bit obvious, and sometimes it seemed she was trying too hard to be funny. Her book lacked the effortlessness that Sedaris has. I understand that sometimes it takes authors a few tries to find their voice and style, so I’ll certainly give Furiously Happy a shot as well.

While I wasn’t completely blown away by this book, I would recommend it to anyone who wants a fun read. If you can get past a lot of the unfunny banter with her husband and the writing in all caps, you could easily read this book in a few days.

Publication Info

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir. Jenny Lawson. Putnam, 2012.

318 pages


If on a winter’s night a traveler

My senior year of college, I took a class on the Oulipo, a group of (predominantly) French writers who used constraints to test the limits of their story telling. Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler was one of the Oulipian works my professor assigned us. I decided to revisit this book a couple of weeks ago, because, if I’m honest, I didn’t actually read it in class (my undergraduate thesis took priority over an Honors elective.)

It’s difficult to describe this book in a succinct way. The best description I can give you is this: Calvino wrote this book specifically for readers, for those of us who love books. If on a winter’s night is a bit complicated because it’s divided into multiple stories. At the beginning, you, the Reader, begin to read If on a winter’s night, unfortunately, you find your copy is bound incorrectly with another book. And thus your quest for locating the real copy begins. On your journey, you meet other Readers, and begin other books which you will never finish.

Calvino’s work is an interesting read, although it may be bothersome to those of you who can’t stand to leave a book unfinished (in this book, you’ll start nearly a dozen books and only finish one.) However, if you love reading for reading’s sake, then try this book out.

Publication Info

If on a winter’s night a traveler. Italo Calvino, L &OD Key Porter, 1982 (first published in 1979).

260 pages