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.

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


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


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

Slaughterhouse Five

This was one of those books I pretended I’d read in college. Friends and professors mentioned it in discussions, my roommate often quoted it. In short, I assumed that it was a ground shaking piece of literature because the people to whom I look up seemed so entranced with it.

A few weeks ago, I was at the library without my trusty list of books I want to read. I both love and hate walking into a book shop or library without my list because I tend to go rogue, selecting books that I normally would never find, thus lengthening my to-read list. I picked up the only copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s book, figuring I could get through it that weekend. The short blurb intrigued me, since the book was set during WWII.

Overall, it wasn’t bad. The writing style is very simple and the book isn’t terribly long. The part that absolutely drove me mad was the narrator, which I found to be unreliable. (I know some people who love unreliable narrators, but I personally do not. I like to trust the narrator in order to feel more invested in the story.) There were constant time jumps, which I normally like, but these didn’t seem to add much new insight. The ultimate takeaway I got from the book was that war is bad, yet it is, in some ways, ordinary and mundane. And often the people who return from war come back fractured or broken in ways other than physical.

So am I glad I read it? Sure. It was quick, the style was simple, and I can now say I’ve read it. Would I read it again? Probably not, but I might try another of Vonnegut’s work. Will it go on my favorite books of all time? Nope.

Publication Info

Slaughterhouse Five, or the Children’s Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Delacourt Press, 1994 (first published in 1969).

ISBN: 0385312083

205 pages