Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This latest instalment in the Harry Potter franchise lacks the spark & intelligence of the original books. There are certainly moments where Rowling’s influence can be felt, and these were very welcome, but the script largely reads as if it were written by another, far clunkier, hand. This isn’t surprising given the format change and the writing team but I had hoped that this would be an opportunity to showcase some of the original magic (if you’ll pardon the pun) in a new way & unfortunately I felt ‘The Cursed Child’ fell short on this front.

Scorpius Malfoy is a wonderful character & I’m not sure this story gave us enough chance to explore him fully. I’d certainly welcome more writing on him in future.

I’m looking forward to ‘Fantastic Beasts’, the clips released so far look very promising, & I can’t imagine anything will stop my (near constant) rereading of the original Harry Potter series but, alas, ‘The Cursed Child’ will probably not be getting a second read through from me.

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Review: Night Watch

Night Watch
Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My favorite Discworld novel and one of my all time favorite books.

Sam Vimes leads the cast in this Time travelling – Les Mis – Detective – Fantasy mashup.

Prepare for origin stories galore as the children of the revolution head to the streets of Ankh-Morpork. Fight for “Truth, Justice, Freedom, Reasonably Priced Love, and a Hard-Boiled Egg”.

…And finally find out what happens on the glorious 25th of May.

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Review: The Nothing Girl

The Nothing Girl
The Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reviewing this book is proving quite challenging.

It’s “Romance or Erotica” month in the UK Bookclub Genre Challenge and I think it was immediately clear that I was out of my depth, it was finally time to face up to my literary blindspot.

Initially I planned to read ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen or ‘Evelina’ by Frances Burney but, as ‘Pride and Prejudice’ was the only romance novel I could remember reading, Emma seemed like a bit of a cheat and a few pages into Evelina I found I just wasn’t in the mood for it.

What about a contemporary romance? This was certainly new territory but I was tempted, if only because I’d recently read some of Jodi Taylor’s fantasy novels and something about her first romance novel caught my eye:

A character named Jen who finds communicating with others beyond difficult, is overly invested in her imaginary world, cripplingly anxious, seems a bit mad and has a beautiful love rival named Francesca.

*awkward cough from my inner 17 year old*

I don’t want to sound like a narcissist but if I didn’t get on with a book with this heroine, I probably wasn’t going to click with this genre at all.

So what about the book itself?

‘The Nothing Girl’ is a book of two very different halves. I’m rarely surprised by a plot twist but I honestly didn’t see this one coming, amazing job Jodi Taylor.

I found the first half of this book incredibly frustrating; the characters seemed nonsensical, a bit wet, I couldn’t work out where Taylor was going with them. I kept reading because it was a book club challenge and figured I’d just give it 1* at the end. I got the feeling there was some degree of pastiche that I might have understood and potentially enjoyed if I was a regular romance reader, but in my limited experience I just wasn’t getting it. The central relationship seemed to purposefully refer to elements that I’d associate with a classic romance: an element of financial transaction, inheritance, infantilisation of women, the shock of a woman without a chaperone and (the reference that even I could identify) the mad woman in the attic. I wondered if maybe this was the whole point of the book and maybe I was ill-equipped to get the most out of it.
The book I was expecting to read ended about half way through and I wondered what all those extra chapters were for. This is when the book got really good.

In the second half the book becomes interesting, then exciting and finally absolutely gripping. Taylor managed to create some kind of beautiful Thriller-Cosy-Romance-English-Countryside genre fusion.

I’m not sure how common this multidimensionality is in modern romance, but ‘The Nothing Girl’ has definitely persuaded me to give this genre another go. Maybe I’ll even get over my apprehension and join the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club, which I’ve secretly wanted to do since reading ‘You’re Never Weird on the Internet’.

If you’re not sure whether this book is for you (and don’t mind a few small spoilers) I’d recommend trying the short story ‘Little Donkey’, which is currently free on audible. It features the same characters and showcases Taylor’s writing but falls more into the romance/humor category.

Pleasantly surprised by my first contemporary romance!

Jen

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Writing 101 Day 2: Write a List

I was surprised by today’s Writing 101 task, I hadn’t really thought of using a list as a starting point for a blog, but it’s an excellent idea.  The Task asks us to write a list based on one of the following areas:

  • Things I Like
  • Things I’ve Learned
  • Things I Wish

So I’ve decided to do a short list of my favorite books published so far in 2015, with a view to doing a much more thorough round up at the end of the year.

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Review: Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having never read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, I decided, upon the release of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ to read both books this year.

Watchman was the first book written by Lee, it was deemed unsuitable for publication, but certain flashback scenes appealed to Lee’s editor and were expanded and re-written to become the much loved book ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

I thought it might be interesting to read the novels in the order that they were written, rather than publication order, so began with Watchman. Watchman has not been changed or edited since Lee first wrote it and so provides an interesting insight into Lee’s original thoughts and plans for her novel.

I have to say that I enjoyed it. Taken at face value, it’s a book about social change and the toppling of idols, seen through the thoughts and emotions of a young woman.

Many people say that not a lot happens in this book and that’s true. But I found it to be an interesting vessel for some of Lee’s character pieces.
On the novel’s nasty side…where the flaws of every character are laid bare, we see the holding of, and effects of individual and group prejudices and the negative impact they have on a community, a country and the people that live within it. On the brighter side we see a vignette of a specific time and place, the affection of family and childhood memories.

I think I’ll be thinking about this book for a long time and I’m looking forward to reading Mockingbird and seeing how Lee’s ideas improved and matured in her greater work.

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