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


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

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


Anne of Green Gables

When I was about seven years old, my grandparents took a chartered bus tour to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. They brought me my very own red-haired Anne doll, as well as a copy of Anne of Green Gables. On days my grandparents picked me up from school, I insisted my grandmother put on the 1985 two-part film. Anne of Green Gables was one of my favorite heroines growing up, and, in a spell of nostalgia, I chose to re-read the book a few weeks ago.

Anne of Green Gables, for those of you who haven’t had a chance to read it, is about an orphan girl who is (mistakenly) adopted by an older brother and sister. The book chronicles her adventures in Avonlea, a fictional town on PEI, and is a classic coming of age novel. I thoroughly enjoyed going back to Green Gables once again to watch Anne accidentally get her bestie drunk, become resolute in her endeavor to be the top in the class, and surpass everyone’s expectations.

When I was younger, Anne’s ambition in school motivated me to study more, while her love for reading inspired my own. This time around, Anne’s decision to decline a scholarship to college in order to care for her adoptive mother helped me realize that it’s okay to channel your ambitions in places you didn’t plan to. Sometimes life happens, and things go awry, but there’s always something to look forward to. Thanks, Anne, for once again sharing a very important life-lesson.

So how about you? Do you love Anne of Green Gables? Is there a book from many years ago you reread and learned something new from?

Publication Info

Anne of Green Gables. L.M. Montgomery. Bantam Books (Classics,) 1982. First published 1908.

ISBN: 055321313X

314 pages

The Program

It’s been a long time since I’ve read any Young Adult fiction. For some reason, once I went to college, I felt that YA wasn’t sophisticated enough (it probably had something to do with befriending several literature majors.) Anyways, I found this book through Pinterest, and decided to read it without really knowing what it was about.

The Program is a dystopian novel set in nearly present-day America. Teen suicide rates have skyrocketed and the government, in an attempt to save the young generation, formulate The Program. While their intentions seem noble, The Program “rehabilitates” suicidal teens by tampering with their memories. Instead of sending the teens to grief counseling or having a psychiatrist treat them (many have lost friends or family members to suicide,) The Program removes their memories completely. When the young folks return to society, they are not the same people they were before, having lost large chunks of their identity and experiences.

The book follows Sloane who, months after her brother’s suicide, finds herself closely monitored by The Program. She and her boyfriend, James, fear they will be taken at any moment. and that, if taken, they will not be able to hold on to each other and they will return unable to recognize each other.

Much to my surprise, this was an exciting read for me. The writing was good, the plot was interesting, and the pace was fast. The one problem I had with the novel, and with a lot of dystopian literature in general, was the lack of background. How many children have gone into The Program? Were other methods tried? Why did the government think tampering with people’s minds (the books alluded to lobotomies) was preferred over counseling and psychiatry? How large was the suicide epidemic? What types of treatment do they plan for adults who have also experienced grief? Hopefully, the sequel will offer insight into these questions.

Publication Info

The Program. Suzanne Young. Simon Pulse, 2013.

ISBN: 1442445807

405 pages

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

It’s February and in honor of Black History Month I decided to read a book by a Black author. While I specialized in Afro-Caribbean thought in my university studies (wow, that’s one of the more pretentious things I’ve typed in a while,) I’ve read very little African American literature. Enter Maya Angelou.

I borrowed this book from my mom, and I could not put it down. From my understanding, Angelou wrote numerous autobiographies and this one chronicled her childhood in Arkansas, St. Louis, and San Fransisco. Angelou’s accounts are at times hilarious and heart-warming; other stories are heart-breaking and intense.

I found Angelou’s writing style to be simple, yet beautiful. I moved quickly through her book and was emotionally moved on several occasions. Her book recounts the difficulty of growing up in a segregated town in the deep south, the instability of her own family, and the relationships that had a lasting impact on her life. If you haven’t read this one already, you should.

Publication Info

Maya Angelou. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Ballentine Books, 2009 (first published in 1969).


289 pages