Harry Potter and the Book That Better Not Ruin It All: Trusting in the Writer

It’s the eve of Harry Potter’s birthday, but the big gift is for us. Tonight at midnight, we’ll be able to get our hands on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child–the script that is essentially the eighth book in the series. For those of you out there who are like me, and quite literally grew up with Harry, this is a very big deal.


I read the first book in high school before anyone knew who Harry was. I still remember when I realized JK Rowling was a female writer, and it was an extremely empowering moment for a young girl who aspired to be a writer herself.

I read the last book as a married woman. By then, everyone knew who Harry was. I stayed up all night and read the book in one sitting, both wanting desperately to know how it ended and not wanting to say goodbye.


I take the Harry Potter series very seriously. I wrote my college senior thesis on Harry as an archetypal hero. I truly believe that the series brought back the golden age of reading.

So it may surprise you to know that I’m not sure I want to read the eighth book.

Rowling gave us a glimpse into the futures of Harry, Ron and Hermione in the epilogue of the final book. And when I closed the book, I was satisfied.

All was well.


I’m not sure that I need to know what life is like for Harry nineteen years later. We live in a world of sequels, trilogies, series…but I believe that sometimes saying the end is the best and strongest decision for a story.
I feel similarly about the upcoming movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which brings us back to the wizarding world–this time in America–long before Harry was born. Leading up to the movie, Rowling has shared information with us about the American version of Hogwarts. I just can’t get excited about it. I think the names sound a little ridiculous, the concepts too strained. It’s like Rowling is trying just a little too hard.

Why is she trying? My husband would say that it all comes down to money, but I disagree with him. I think that sometimes, when you’re a writer, it can be hard to let go. You live the characters, you breathe them and dream about them. And even though the best choice would be to let the story rest, you just can’t. I imagine that as she penned Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, it was a bit like visiting very old, very good friends.


And that is why, ultimately, I will read the eighth book. I’ll take my time with it, not like my marathon nights of reading for books past, and I will trust in the writer. Because I owe it to the little red-haired girl who so looked up to the red-haired Rowling, and I’ll trust her to bring me home to Hogwarts.

Will you be picking up your copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at midnight? Do you enjoy stand alone novels, or do you have to know what happens next?

No matter what quiz I take, I always end up in Hufflepuff.


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Summer Reading

I was always the nerd who loved summer reading assignments in grade school–and I usually blew through them within the first couple of weeks of summer so I could get on to the “good” books. Because, lets face it, 1984 is just not a “good” book when you’re a teenage girl.

Long gone are the days of required reading, but I thought I’d give myself a summer reading list–and even toss in a couple of nonfiction books, since I almost always read fiction. Here’s my list.


 

Perfect by Rachel Joyce

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Eat Dirt by Josh Axe

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin (out in June)

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling (out in July)

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

Love Walked in and Belong to Me by Marisa De Los Santos

The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan

The Girls by Emma Cline

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

The Book of Doing and Being by Barnet Bain

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

 

What’s on your reading list this summer? Are you or your kiddo doing summer reading?

 

 

 

January Book Round Up

My literary goals for 2016: read 100 books, and don’t waste time finishing books I don’t like (I’m really bad about this). In January I read seven books for pleasure. I started and stopped reading three books. Here are my mini reviews (and, as always, no spoilers).

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The Good Girl by Mary Kubica: This book was dark from beginning to end. Mia Dennett, daughter of a prominent judge, goes missing for 6 months–then is returned home with amnesia. If that’s not mystery enough, add on the questionable morals of her family, a weird case of Stockholm syndrome, and hints that the kidnapping may not be as black and white as it originally seemed to be and you’ve got yourself a pretty legit thriller with a  satisfyingly twisted ending.

The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas: This was a pretty good piece of historical fiction, and it will definitely please the feminist readers out there. Gracy Brookens, the sole midwife of a mining town in Colorado in the late 1800s, is accused of murdering an infant. The town splits as the trial convenes, and things come out about the community–and Gracy’s own family–give this slow-to-start novel the startling end it needs.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight: We know from the start that Amelia, a 15-year-old private school student, is dead from an apparent suicide. What we don’t know is why. Told from the perspective of Amelia’s mother as she researches her daughter’s life and Amelia herself as she lives out the days before her death, it becomes apparent that the truth is not always what it seems on the outside. This book made me really, really happy that I was mothering a five-year-old boy and not a teenage girl.

Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella: Oh, how I wanted to love this book. The original handful of Shopaholic books were great. The last one, Shopaholic to the Stars, was tedious at best. But I read this one, it’s sequel, out of loyalty. However, the things that made Becky, the main character, endearing in the previous books were grating and annoying. It was way too “out there”. I skipped huge chunks of the last part just so I could get to the end and see how it finally wrapped up.

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalain: Loved it. Read my full review here.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: This YA read was clever. When Clay, the main character, finds a box of cassette tapes on his porch after school, he realizes they’re a narrative from a girl he secretly crushed on for years–a girl who has recently committed suicide. Much like Reconstructing Amelia, this was an interesting but deeply sad story about the complicated web of teen suicide.

Remember Me This Way by Sabine Durrant: When Lizzie goes to put flowers on the crash site where her husband perished a year ago, she finds that someone has beat her there–and the flowers are signed by a woman she has never heard of. Her decision to find out leads her down a path that unwinds life as she thought she knew it. This book is also an excellent commentary on domestic violence and how easy it can be to miss (as an outsider) and escape (as a victim). This book was genuinely creepy, and had me looking over my shoulder more than once.

I just realized that most of the books I read this month were dark and a little depressing. I’m not as into thrillers as much as my January reading selection would lead you to believe–but I will say that most of these books were delicious to sink into and kept my attention until the last word.

What did you read in January?

 

If You Read One Book This Month: The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

I am so excited that my first “If You Read One Book This Month” column of 2016 is a book by one of my favorite authors, Chris Bohjalian.

  
The Guest Room tells the story of two very different people: Anahit, a young Armenian woman who was kidnapped at 15 by sex traffickers, and Richard Chapman, a legitimately happy family man who lives outside of Manhattan. Their paths cross when Richard hosts a bachelor party for his younger brother that turns deadly when the “management” for Anahit and the other young woman hired to entertain the guests end up murdered in his living room.

The story weaves backward from the murder of the men, until the reader is firmly ensconced in the messy world of sex trafficking. I’m not going to lie–this book was hard to read sometimes. There were moments I had to put it down and walk away. It terrified me as a parent, as a woman, and as a wife. There are things that go on in this world, right under our noses, that we don’t want to think about. This book doesn’t shy away from those evil realities. Instead, they are presented by the matter-of-fact voice of a girl that was told she was being taken to Moscow to become a professional ballerina and instead finds herself sold to men. It is the practical tone she describes what happens to her and the other girls she meets along the way that is far more chilling than any description of a bloody murder or even what goes on with the men who pay for her.

The other points of view we are privy to in the book are also thought provoking. There is Richard’s younger brother and his friends, who regularly use this “service” they have booked for his party even though they suspect the situation is not kosher; Richard’s wife, who questions her marriage and sexuality after what happens in her home; and the police who are both out to arrest the traffickers but resigned to the “realities” of that world.

I won’t spoil the ending, but as usual, it is unexpected and–despite the insanity that has happened up to that point–utterly real.

As always, it is Bohjalian’s writing that drew me into such a dark and spiraling topic. His books are never light and fluffy–he has written about transgender, nuclear explosions, and genocide. His writing is deep, his prose is addictive. It is his voice, and in turn the voice he gives his characters, that keeps me returning to his books and eagerly awaiting his new novels.

2015 Books in Review

  
At my best count, I read around 85 books this year. I did a bad job of keeping track of them, which is something I want to work on in  2016. The number jumps to well over 100 if you count the re-reads of the year, but I think 80 or so new books in one year is pretty good. Here is my year in review:

Best Book: The Lake House by Kate Morton. I waited a long time and this book was truly worth the wait.

Worst Book: Paper Towns by John Green. This book built…and built…and built…then fell flat on it’s face.

Best New Writer: JR Ingrisano, who published Captain Jolly’s Do Over. 

Best Mystery/Thriller: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. Creepy and incredibly engaging.

Best Chick Lit: Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella. Her books are always an easy, fluffy read when you need a mental break.

Best Twist Ending: Off the Page by Samantha Van Leer and Jodi Picoult. This was a fun YA sequel that answers the question, “what happens to the characters when the book is closed?”

Biggest Book Disappointment: In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume. You know how you feel on a cold January day? Like you’ll never be happy or warm again? This is how that book made me feel.

Book I’m Most Excited For in 2016: The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian. It is one of my life goals to finagle an early copy of his next book.

I hope you read some really great books this year, and I hope that your 2016 is full of amazing words. Thanks for making my words some of the ones you read this year!

 

 

 

If You Read One Book This Month: The Lake House by Kate Morton

I wanted “The Lake House” by Kate Morton to be my feature book review for October, but I didn’t manage to finish it until yesterday, so I’m sliding it in at the very beginning of the month. 

 

Beautiful cover and I was obsessed with the floral printing on the inside cover


I’ve been waiting for this book for a long time. I’m a huge fan of Kate Morton, and this book didn’t disappoint.

Morton’s books should be read slowly and digested. She is a master at creating layers in her novels, and in The Lake House she introduces you multiple generations, each with their own secrets. There’s Eleanor, who lives an entirely different life than even those close to her know; Alice, a writer with deadly knowledge she’s kept for decades; and Sadie, an anti-social detective who has been forced to leave the police force by a messy secret. And in the background of all of their stories stands Loeanneth, a country house that is not easily found but contains a special sort of magic.

The Lake House mixes romance, history, and a decades-old cold case and it kept me up reading way past my bedtime.

What was the best book you read in October? 

My Favorite Spooky Reads

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I usually avoid all things scary–I’m not into horror movies, scary stories or blood, guts and gore. But this time of year even I like a little spook, and I usually look for it in the written word. I find that my imagination is far better at scaring me than anything on the TV screen!

This October I’m reading two spooky books from my Fall To-Be-Read list: A Sudden Light and The Returned.

Here are a few more of my favorite reads that gave me the shivers. You won’t find too many traditional horror stories on this list–while I find writers like Stephen King to be fantastic, his books scare me so much I had to give them up.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ranson Riggs: Where do the freaks of nature hide? This book would have been a fairly creepy story on its own, but what made it even creepier were the old, black and white photographs in the books. Part fantasy and part reality, this book made me eager for the sequel and now the third in the trilogy.

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian: This ghost story was scary on a realistic level (the main character was a pilot who was one of the few survivors of a plane crash) and a fantastical level (pilot was then haunted by the ghosts of said plane crash). What got under my skin about this story was that the truly scary part built and built until the end, which completely threw me for a loop. If you’re looking for an unsettling ending, read this book.

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe: Do I really need to explain this one? Just the thought of the heart beat makes me break out in a cold sweat.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin: My high school boyfriend made me watch this movie and…I didn’t really get it. So I read the book, and it scared the pants off me. My mind went places the movie didn’t dare go.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold: I realize this is not supposed to be a horror story, but it terrified and disturbed me. The violence and the sadness that seeped through the pages…I found that I had to put the book in the freezer in the style of Joey Tribbiani from “Friends” with Little Women.

What is your favorite scary story?