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.


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?

 

 

 

Perfect Things

I found this quote in a new book I’m reading (Love Walked In by Maria de los Santos–I’m only a chapter or so in, so the story hasn’t evolved too much yet–but her writing style is beautiful). It stuck with me and I chewed on it all day, so I thought I would share.

 It made me think of items and things I’d put on my perfect list. Some I came up with:

  • The beginning of spring when the weather is amazing but it is too early for bugs.
  • The opening bars of Billy Joel’s Piano Man.
  • Twilight. The time of day, not the stupid books.
  • The way babies move their little mouths when they’re asleep.
  • Using your favorite pen.
  • The first bite of ice cream.

What would be on your list of perfect things?

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.

I Have a Weakness for Books

I have a really bad habit I’m trying to break: I always finish a book I start…even if I think it’s miserable.

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My husband thinks I’m crazy. My answer was always that I was waiting for the book to get better…or for the twist at the end…or for something. Occasionally I was rewarded. Most of the time I was not.

Since I’m trying to live more intentionally this year, I’ve decided to stop finishing books I don’t like. I feel pretty dastardly about it too. There is just something…cruel about not finishing a book. I don’t know if I think this because I’m an writer and I want people to read all my words, or if I’m just crazy.  But honestly, life is too short for books that don’t speak to you.

In the same vein, I’m also a bit of a book hoarder. I buy books with covers I like at clearance sales. I take in stray books when friends are cleaning out their houses. And I may have been known to buy a used copy of one of my favorite books  even if I already have a copy at home. I just like books.

As you can imagine, I have books all over the house. My bookshelves have long been filled and now the books are creeping into piles in every room. A lot of these books I don’t LOVE. It was bad when it was just me…but now that I have a junior bibliophile in the house, it’s officially out of control.  And so I’m going to start purging, and creating a library of books I truly adore. So that when people walk in my house and look over my shelves, they’ll only see books that really matter to me.

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(Frankly, this is something I could do in every room in the house. But baby steps, right?)

Do you finish books you don’t love? Is there an area in your life that would benefit from a purge?

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: “Captain Jolly’s Do Over” by JR Ingrisano

I’m starting a new column here on Mama Writes Words, highlighting my top “You’ve Gotta Read This” pick for each month. I’m excited to be starting with Captain Jolly’s Do Over by JR Ingrisano.

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In his debut novel, Ingrisano introduces us to Jamie, who is fed up with life, love and the doldrums of every day happenings. In a move all of us have dreamed about once or twice, he runs away to start over. In his case, he lands in the Caribbean, where he becomes the skipper of a ship called “The Do Over”. Over the course of the novel, we get to experience Jamie’s life on the island as well as the unravelling that led him there.

In this second life, Jamie encounters characters that are the very heart and soul of the book. There’s Bonita, who “must have once been something. She was still something, but she looked a bit worn around the edges…in her heart, Bonita was still someone’s princess.” There’s Jason the Bartender, who “understood people. He had a feel for them; he could read them”; and Yvonne, “big and friendly…more like a house-mother for a sorority than the owner of a small, well-run tavern.” They are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the cast that fills Ingrisano’s book. And while I love the characters, what really got me about this story was the journey.

You don’t get to leave your life, crumbled marriage, and children and run off to an island without consequences. You don’t get to reinvent yourself without facing the ghosts of your past. Jamie isn’t immune to these realities, and that grittiness is what makes his story so great.

As always, I don’t do spoilers on my site. You can find out what happens to Jamie by buying the book here…and one lucky person can win a signed copy of the book. All you have to do is make sure you’re following this site and Ingrisano’s site, and leave a comment on this blog answering this question:

If you were going to run away, where would you go?

Contest will run through October 1st. Open to residents of the continental US. Winner will be chosen at random. 

I was given an advanced copy of this novel. All opinions are my own.