The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnis

The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnisTitle: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Publishing Info: September 20, 2016 by Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Psych/Mental Health
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 20, 2016
Related Posts: A Madness So Discreet

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.
While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.
But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.
So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.
Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

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THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES is a hard book to talk about. It’s incredibly important in so many ways and has some great not only feminist but also important universal notions that really bring to light how we excuse certain male actions and condemn female ones for the exact same thing (sex, drugs, violence). I really did love how Mindy McGinnis said so many of these things right to readers’ faces and makes people truly confront all of these issues. That’s part of the beauty of Alex’s character as well. She’s described as both closed off and yet feeling too much. She isn’t afraid to say what she thinks or do what she thinks is right because she’s really never been the person to cater to a society’s “norms”. She confronts people, makes people pay for their actions, and somehow becomes this great antihero for us to gather around.

The book has a sort of Dexter-like feel and yet stands on its own. Alex has a darkness within her. It drives her every day life, takes over in moments of extreme emotion, and she once she actually finds people to care about and who care about her, she tries to be as “normal” as possible to not scare away her new friends. She uses this darkness to right wrongs and to seek vengeance on people who have committed horrible acts of violence, sexual abuse, or general heinous injustices. THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES isn’t focused on Alex as a serial killer (because she’s not) and I was both confused and satisfied with the ambiguity of “what she was”. Alex couldn’t even put a label on herself, seeking to fit in the category of sociopath or psychopath and didn’t quite seem to fit anywhere. I liked the uniqueness and originality, not fitting into a specific box, but I was also anticipating more of something… which I guess Alex would probably reprimand me for trying to put a label on her! I think the anticipation of the something affected the read a little bit for me because I felt like I was missing something and the book never quite crossed that line into supremely satisfying for me.

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES doesn’t shy away from really anything. Whereas some young adult books clean things up a bit for the sake of readers or publishing, Mindy McGinnis chooses to include all of the realistic speech (including swearing, descriptions of sex, and lewd behavior) that other books play down in order to reach a younger audience. I would definitely recommend this for a more mature young adult audience (although we always have that taboo of censoring younger teen audiences — I’m not a librarian, educator, or parent so that’s not for me to say but it a moderately explicit read even as an adult). There are also several instances or mentions of rape, date rape, sexual abuse, and scenes with near instances of all of these occurring so if that’s a trigger for you, do be aware that it pops up many times throughout the book.

One thing that actually bothered me about the book was the confusing involvement of animals. If you have an animal abuse trigger, it will likely bother you for this one (more than one person has brought up that it was an issue for them), and it’s not a trigger for me but I thought the violence towards animals was quite unnecessary. It wasn’t out right on the pages with a character abusing an animal but there are some really hard-to-read scenes about what happens to a few animals that I just didn’t get. It wasn’t directly tied to a character and didn’t push a plot point forward. The characters actually do take care of and help quite a few animals too but I didn’t know why the harsh scenes with injuries and death needed to be included. It didn’t serve a purpose for the book or assist a character’s story line. There was also a very gruesome scene at a meat factory that wasn’t abuse but a part of the job, but still seemed unnecessary to include (especially when I was trying to read this book as I was eating lunch — that was just unfortunate timing on my part).

My middle of the road feelings aren’t due to any of those factors though. As much as I thought the message was extremely important and valid, I just didn’t really connect to the characters in the book. I know Alex is sort of emotionally closed off and yet over-feeling and I kind of felt stuck between those two emotions. I just didn’t connect with her as much as I wanted to. I understand that she’s not someone you really connect to emotionally but I wanted to understand her just a little bit more or be able to stand behind her a little bit more and I just didn’t quite get there. It’s a weird spot because in a way, that’s the whole point of her character — she’s complex, she’s cold, she’s overly angered by injustices, she’s not your average person in terms of emotional ranges — but somehow it just didn’t click for me. It’s not that there was a lack of character development in any of the other characters either but none of the relationships really slid into place for me. It was just the little things with characters or perhaps the writing that just didn’t click and although the content was there, I just didn’t get bowled over like I thought I would.

Long story short, I’m just sort of a jumbled up from this book. I can’t quite sort out what I feel but I know that I don’t feel as wowed as I had hoped. When I end up rating books, it’s based on an overall feeling and THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES had a whole lot going on. The overall message of the book is so important but I feel like I can’t rate a book for its message alone. There are several factors involved in my feelings toward a book and this one had so many things for me to consider.

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Alex // Character obsessions: Justice, darkness, friendship.
Alex is a very simple and yet very complicated character all at the same time. She’s a very black-and-white sort of character, knowing exactly she feels is right and what she feels is wrong, and she’s not afraid to right the wrongs she sees in any way she deems correct. She carries a certain darkness with her that tends to lead to violent situations, which really brings out the anti-hero in her character as readers root for the violence to “correct” injustices within Alex’s town. I think I actually struggled a little bit when Alex started figure out some friendships and tried to be “normal”, as she called it. It was also complicated because Alex didn’t fit into an easily identifiable category for what she “was”. She stated that she felt TOO much, not that she was unfeeling, as so many psychopathic or sociopathic characters are and that really complicated things for me as a reader and former student of psychology. (Not like I’m any expect but I’ve always been incredibly interested and took many classes in high school and college.) I think it was hard for me that she didn’t quite fit into a common classification — and it was actually hard for her as well! It was a very interesting addition to her character but it also kind of confused me because I couldn’t figure her out!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Antiheroes. I love a good antihero. It’s so interesting to have the main character of a book have some normally abhorrent behavior but when it’s combating someone else’s worse actions, things get interesting.
Left Me Wanting More: Darkness. This is actually a pretty dark and serious book… But I think I just wanted more darkness, more shock from Alex. Maybe it was the way I went into the book. The way that the synopsis read and the way that the book was pitched, I think I was assuming that Alex would be more of a Dexter-type: a more easily-classifiable pathology, violent but with a purpose, and still loveable. I found some of those things but there seemed to be more gray area with Alex than I expected so I think I was expecting some more BIG “omg” moments, which I think a lot of content came from other characters that I didn’t expect. I actually didn’t know that it was narrated by three voices so that also threw me as well.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

This is kind of a hard recommendation for me. I was personally left with some off feelings — not bad, but off — and I just didn’t click with it somehow, which leads me to feeling hesitant about truly pushing this book to someone. BUT I think there is a lot of important content and some really important messages to not only today’s teens but really to a large audience of adults on the treatment and expectations of women, and even just our society in general.

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BOOKS LIKE THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    KILLER INSTINCT

Curious Minds – Janet Evanovich & Phoef Sutton

Curious Minds – Janet Evanovich & Phoef SuttonTitle: Curious Minds (Knight & Moon #1) by Janet Evanovich, Phoef Sutton
Publishing Info: August 16, 2016 by Random House Publishing Group, Listening Library
Source: Publisher
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 2, 2016
Related Posts: Lean Mean Thirteen (Stephanie Plum #13), Plum Lucky (Stephanie Plum #13.5), Fearless Fourteen (Stephanie Plum #14), , Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Stephanie Plum #15), Mini-Reviews: The Audition, Plum Spooky | DNF Report: Tether, Plum Spooky (Stephanie Plum #14.5), Mini-Reviews: Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16) & Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Explosive Eighteen (Stephanie Plum #18), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Mini-Reviews: Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top-Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), , Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum #22)

Emerson Knight is introverted, eccentric, and has little to no sense of social etiquette. Good thing he’s also brilliant, rich, and (some people might say) handsome, or he’d probably be homeless. Riley Moon has just graduated from Harvard Business and Harvard Law. Her aggressive Texas spitfire attitude has helped her land her dream job as a junior analyst with mega-bank Blane-Grunwald. At least Riley Moon thought it was her dream job, until she is given her first assignment: babysitting Emerson Knight.
What starts off as an inquiry about missing bank funds in the Knight account leads to inquiries about a missing man, missing gold, and a life-and-death race across the country. Through the streets of Washington, D.C., and down into the underground vault of the Federal Reserve in New York City, an evil plan is exposed. A plan so sinister that only a megalomaniac could think it up, and only the unlikely duo of the irrepressibly charming Emerson Knight and the tenacious Riley Moon can stop it.

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CURIOUS MINDS is the first book I’ve read from Janet Evanovich that wasn’t Stephanie Plum, which makes it really hard for me NOT to compare it to Plum after reading 22 novels featuring her wacky crew (and even some novellas). I guess in a way, I have to since it’s my frame of reference for her writing.

Truthfully, it was noticeable for me that it was a new series that was not Plum. I guess it wasn’t different in a bad way, but I’ve been reading Stephanie Plum for at least five years and that series just has so much personality and CURIOUS MINDS felt just a little flatter. I know that Evanovich has other series that aren’t Stephanie Plum and now I wonder how those feel — was it this book specifically or am I feeling a Plum-hangover? I liked that it wasn’t as silly as Plum novels get sometimes and yet I found myself wanting a little more from the characters and from the plot. The plot was much more detective-like versus crazy antics which I liked! I always like a little bit of a mystery to solve. I did feel that I was getting just a touch confused with so many characters having their hands in the cookie jar.

I also wonder, since this was co-written with Phoef Sutton, how much that really changed the tone. Did a co-author bring the silliness down or would that have happened anyway? Who was responsible for what? An overall picture written together? Or Sutton responsible for X characters and Evanovich responsible for Y characters? I always wonder how co-written books go! Janet Evanovich’s trademark tone was prevalent throughout the book but it was also noticeably different.

Riley was definitely a Plum-type character although quite toned down. There’s still a lot of classic Evanovich jargon and characterization there but Riley Moon was much more put together. Emerson Knight was a Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory-type character (and was even specifically compared to him) but has just a bit more social skills then Sheldon and his science is toned down just a bit. He’s basically a wealthy genius, overtly labeled an eccentric, and makes for a lot of comical moments with his awkward social responses. I did like this better than outright silly, though!

CURIOUS MINDS was fun, a quick read (aka listen — I listened to the audiobook) and just some brain candy. Like Plum novels, it didn’t really stand out for me but it was fun to experience. It’s not knocking anything out of the park for me but still enjoyable and I’ll continue the series.

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Riley Moon // Character obsessions: Her new job, junk food, reputation
I liked Riley! She was fun without being over the top. I think especially because the audiobook narrator was the same as the Plum series, she had a Stephanie Plum sort of feel except her life wasn’t quite as in shambles.
Emerson Knight // Character obsessions: Logic, science, curiosity.
Emerson was very Sheldon Cooper except maybe with a few more socials skills and less emphasis on the geeky side. He was actually really fun! I liked all of his logic and how that played into things from a comedic side.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Non-Plum Evanovich. I know, I know, that’s like the main focus here but it’s hard not to compare after reading 22+ books by the same author! It was fun though, and a nice change of pace.
Left Me Wanting More: Clarity of characters. The detective work got a little muddy for me when there were so many characters involved and five of them were family members. I had a hard time keeping track, especially when it’s a brand-new series and I’m still getting to know existing characters!

Addiction Rating
Try it!

If you enjoy Evanovich’s other books, this one has a pretty similar feel and tone. If you’re tired of Stephanie Plum, you don’t find too much different here. It’s a light, fun, and a little bit silly read but I enjoyed it!

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BOOKS LIKE CURIOUS MINDS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    BODY MOVERS

Book and a Beverage [158] – Mackenzie from Stories and Scripts

Book and a Beverage

Welcome back to BOOK AND A BEVERAGE!

In case you don’t know the deal about Book and a Beverage, it’s a very simple yet fun feature: We read books, we drink beverages, we take pictures of them and then I share your photos and a little about you to the blogging world!

Give a big welcome to Mackenzie from Stories and Scripts!

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Name & Blog Name: Mackenzie, Stories & Scripts
Tell us a little about your blog! I started blogging over three years ago, because I wanted to start getting in the habit of writing more frequently as I one day hope to become an author. With that, my blog is focused on the two things I love most — books and movies! I take a slightly different approach than most book blogs and instead of a traditional review, I pull out the themes of the novels and discuss what we can learn from the books. There’s so much more to books than the surface level story, and I love getting to delve deeper into what that is for each book.
What’s been your favorite post you’ve written so far? (Link us up!) I’d have to say my favorite is my recent review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I wasn’t the biggest fan, despite being a HUGE fan of the series, but writing my review gave a whole new meaning to the book and why I felt that way. If you didn’t like it either, or weren’t sure what to think, I’m curious to know if you agree with me, so check it out! 
Got anything special coming up we should know about? Nothing out of the ordinary, but I’ve got a lot of posts that I have to catch up on writing — so be on the look out for some reviews of some pretty popular and wonderful books!

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Whatcha reading? I actually just finished Illuminae and am about to start Dark Matter!
Where did it come from? (Library, purchased, publisher, etc): Illuminae was in my final package from my #otspsecretsister last round and Dark Matter is borrowed from a friend!
Any special reason you chose to feature this book?  With the Gemina release looming, I had to hop on the train, and I’ve only heard good things about Dark Matter so I’m really excited for it!
What’s important that we should know about this book? Would you recommend it? I’m not a big science fiction/fantasy reader and I still enjoyed it, so I would definitely recommend it! I absolutely love how the story is told through a unique format of classified documents, IM chats and the like. It makes for a fun read!

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Whatcha drinking? Bai Sumatra Dragonfruit…it’s so good!
What’s your favorite thing to drink while reading? It’s a toss up between tea and wine. Depends on the kind of day I’m having!
Favorite beverage of all time. Go! Green Tea Latte from Starbucks…everything you could want in a drink 🙂

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What are your top three books you would recommend to other people? The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and absolutely anything written by Jodi Picoult. 
What’s your proudest blogging/reading/writing moment? Last year during NaNoWriMo 2015 I won for the first time by writing 50,000 words in a month. The story was terrible and wasn’t even finished at that point, but it was an incredible moment! I’m hoping to do it again this year with a much better story now that I know I can do it!


 Thanks, Mackenzie!! I had some iffy thoughts about CURSED CHILD too. I enjoyed it but I don’t think it was the best. I love your recommendation for THE GIVER! I re-read it as an adult and it was still just as wonderful. 

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Mackenzie! Connect with her at the links below!
Blog // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Instagram

How to Hang a Witch – Adriana Mather

How to Hang a Witch – Adriana MatherTitle: How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather
Publishing Info: July 26, 2016 by Random House Publishing Group, Listening Library
Source: ALAMW16
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 2, 2016

It's the Salem Witch Trials meets Mean Girls in a debut novel from one of the descendants of Cotton Mather, where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past.
Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?
If dealing with that weren't enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with The Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it's Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

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** This is a spoiler-free review EXCEPT for the last paragraph about the romance in the book. It’s a very minor spoiler (and some may not even consider it a spoiler) BUT if you don’t wish to know any details, avert your eyes at the end! ** 

I first heard of HOW TO HANG A WITCH at ALA this past January and was instantly attracted to the “Mean Girls meets Salem Witch Trials” pitch. When I saw an audio review copy from Listening Library, I knew I wanted to read it soon and I quickly dove into the audiobook. I was surprised to find out that the author, Adriana Mather, narrates it herself! It was such a fun experience overall and I really enjoyed the entire vibe of the book.

The “Mean Girls meets Salem Witch Trials” pitch is pretty spot on. I was actually reminded a lot of The Craft as far as the Mean Girls aspect went with Sam having several conflicts with The Descendants, a group of classmates who are actual descendants of the families involved in the Salem Witch trials and who may or may not dabble in actual witchcraft. They dress in all black and are generally surly bunch and this totally reminded me of the movie The Craft! (And I loved it.) I also totally picked up a Hocus Pocus vibe with Sam moving to Salem from the city and being the new kid in school. She meets a boy, has a crush, communicates with spirits, and gets involved with witches. Not to mention the whole thing takes place during the fall and I was just totally pining for autumn and Halloweentime! My only regret about reading this book when I did is that it wasn’t fall already! I absolutely loved the overall feel of the book — movie vibes included — and really enjoyed how it was a contemporary take on the witches without being historical fiction or total fantasy world. It had that perfect modern feel that fit so well with the book’s overall tone.

The plot kept me hooked and entertained from start to finish. There were a lot of interesting twists and like your average book, some were predictable and some totally weren’t. I liked that the past played a really strong part in the present and there are so many ways that Sam’s current situation is intertwined with the actual history of the Salem Witch trials. Some twists really surprised me and I had a long-standing theory for a couple things that were happening that turned out to be incorrect, which I actually love because I think it’s great when an author can surprise or mislead me to keep a big reveal for the ending! There were a couple spots that got a little confusing or convoluted with some extra details that didn’t end up playing a part in the book but those details also kept me on the trail of something that turned out to be a red herring and maintained the element of surprise, so I guess that was good in one way!

The really, really neat thing about HOW TO HANG A WITCH is Adriana Mather’s actual, real-life relation to the Mather family of the Salem Witch Trials. She really is a direct descendant and there’s a neat author’s note that I listened to at the end explaining a long and rather important family history in which her ancestors played big roles in some major historical events. I thought it was really neat how she used her own family connection to create this story! Obviously some historical elements were changed to tweaked to accommodate a young adult novel as well as creating into a modern work of fiction, but there are a lot of general concepts and even some specific facts relating to the Salem Witch Trials and the Mather family specifically that are totally true! With Adriana Mather’s narration of the audiobook as well, it was just really neat to see so many specific elements of involvement in the production of her book and it felt like such a personal touch and connection.

(Possible spoiler paragraph) The one thing about the book that I really had a hang-up with was the romance. I was really accepting of everything — witches, ghosts, paranormal activity, a gang of descendants — up until this romance thing took a turn. It started out sweet with Sam and neighbor boy Jaxon slowly starting to develop a little bit of a romance but then Sam’s involvement with Elijah, the ghost that follows her around, starts to become romantic. And then you lost me. I can handle fond feelings for the ghost-boy but Sam wanted to actually start like… dating him. Sweetie. You realize he’s a ghost, right? Sam has the ability to physically interact with him and it’s pretty consistent  but things get weird when you start kissing ghosts of boys who have been dead for hundreds of years. Thankfully, that resolved itself but why throw in a love triangle angle with a ghost? That was my one big turn-off.

HOW TO HANG A WITCH was an overall fun and enjoyable read! I just really dug the whole vibe of the book, from The Craft and Hocus Pocus feel to the contemporary take to the sarcasm and snark, the book really just fit with me! Some readers will probably be anticipating a little more depth because for all of its history, it did still feel on the lighter side but I personally really liked that about it. I really enjoyed the levity while still digging into actual history (with a little bit of creative licensing) and having a book that was easy to breeze through and kept me entertained! I think this is a really fun fall read and should definitely be on your reading lists this autumn if you love reading spooky or seasonal reads before/around Halloween!

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Yes, I used a gif in my status update. Look at those skills! (ha) 

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Sam // Character obsessions: Her father’s health, being a loner, solving mysteries.
Sam was a fun character for me! I loved her sass and snark and with Adriana Mather’s voice narrating the audiobook, she kind of reminded me of the middle sister Mandy in Last Man Standing… Except not dumb haha. (That’s what her voice reminded me of!) I liked how she grew Elijah // Character obsessions: Protecting, watching, seriousness.
I had kind of a love-hate relationship with Elijah. I kind of liked his presence but I also got annoyed by it. I enjoyed how he interacted with Sam but I also really disliked it at times. I’m still on the fence about him but I’m glad things wrapped up the way that they did at the end of the book!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Modern History. I really liked that the history was so involved in a contemporary setting. It was fun to see witches but in a contemporary fashion and still have that Salem Witch Trials connection!
Left Me Wanting More: Platonic relationships. The romance aspects of the book felt a little forced. I think this is a book that could have done really well with little or zero romance at all! Instead there was a little too much and things got a bit carried away.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

This was just a really fun book from start to finish. If you’re into The Craft or Hocus Pocus, I totally recommend it because I had friends who picked up on those vibes as well! It’s a fun fall read and one I’ll be recommending come Halloweentime!

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BOOKS LIKE HOW TO HANG A WITCH

(Click the cover to see my review!)

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Top Ten Tuesday – August 23, 2016: Ten Books Still on my TBR from Before I Started Blogging

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TOP TEN TUESDAY
August 23, 2016

It’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the wonderful blog at The Broke and the Bookish! This week’s topic was Ten Books Still on my TBR from Before I Started Blogging

When I first started my blog back in 2012, I was barely into YA. Since then, my reading list has not only expanded exponentially in the way of YA but also in various genres. Lots of books have fallen by the wayside that I’ve been meaning to read and there are some books that are still on my TBR from four years ago (including some that I own!) that I just haven’t gotten to yet:

  • DRACULA by Bram Stoker | Date Added: 10/31/10 | I bought this at the used bookstore and added it to my shelves on October 31, 2010 (ooh spooky). It’s the oldest unread book on my TBR so it deserved the first mention!
  • BUMPED by Megan McCafferty | Date Added: 8/4/11 | I was super into dystopian when I discovered it in 2011 and added every dystopian book I could find to my TBR. Still haven’t gotten around to this one.
  • MUM’S THE WORD by Kate Collins | Date Added: 8/14/11 | I was also super into cozy mysteries when I first got REALLY back into reading in 2011. I bought the first books in this series at Border’s closing sales HA.
  • WICKED APPETITE by Janet Evanovich | Date Added: 8/17/11 | I was still working on Stephanie Plum and not very far in when this new series came out. I finally caught up to Stephanie Plum this year and haven’t started any other Evanovich series yet.
  • GREGOR THE OVERLANDER by Suzanne Collins | Date Added: 9/25/11 | After finishing The Hunger Games trilogy, I wanted everything by Suzanne Collins! I still haven’t read GREGOR because I just don’t feel the draw to middle grade… But I still own it.
  • ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis | Date Added: 11/26/11 | I don’t really have a reason why I haven’t read this yet. I guess so many books, so little time! I actually won a copy of the whole trilogy ages ago and yet… there they sit.
  • ALL THESE THINGS I’VE DONE by Gabrielle Zevin | Date Added: 12/1/11 | Another dystopian I just had to have! And then never read. It sounds good, though…
  • UNDER THE DOME by Stephen King | Date Added: 1/11/12 | I added this to my TBR looong before the show was even an idea. I got it from a book swap and then this BRICK landed on my door! I had no idea it was that big… I just thought it sounded interesting HA. Its size has pretty much prevented me from getting into it.
  • SLIDE by Jill Hathaway | Date Added: 3/1/12 | I actually had a book idea for something like this (before I knew this book existed) and I don’t think that’s WHY I added it to my TBR but it ended up there anyway. I actually own it now but alas. Still haven’t read it.

Which books have been sitting on your TBR forever? Any of these books something I should pick up after four years of waiting? Or should I start scrapping ones I’m not sure I’ll read?

Series Review: The Elemental Trilogy by Sherry Thomas

I was looking for a new audiobook to start (gosh, so many of my audiobook reviews start like this — it’s always on a whim!) and I was in the mood for a fantasy. I’d been meaning to read THE BURNING SKY for years, literally. I apparently have it marked that I got it at BEA 2013, which frankly was a whirlwind since it was my first year attending BEA and since the trilogy is now complete, I figured why not just binge read it so I can start and finish all at once? I’m so glad that I did because after starting, I didn’t want to stop! I had so much fun with these characters and this setting and it was such a fun series to consume from start to finish. (And oh gosh, these covers look SO PRETTY all next to each other!)

Each book is reviewed individually and then I have some overall feelings on the series, all spoiler-free for any major occurrences or twists. Please do note that if you’re reading about books two and three, there may be MINOR spoilers for previous books or for how they start. 

Series Review: The Elemental Trilogy by Sherry ThomasTitle: The Burning Sky (The Elemental Trilogy #1) by Sherry Thomas
Publishing Info: September 17, 2013 by HarperCollins
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 9, 2016

It all began with a ruined elixir and a bolt of lightning.
Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's been told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the most powerful tyrant and mage the world has ever known. This would be a suicide task for anyone, let alone a reluctant sixteen-year-old girl with no training.
Guided by his mother's visions and committed to avenging his family, Prince Titus has sworn to protect Iolanthe even as he prepares her for their battle with the Bane. But he makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the tyrant closing in, Titus must choose between his mission—and her life.
The Burning Sky—the first book in the Elemental Trilogy—is an electrifying and unforgettable novel of intrigue and adventure.

I was so excited to finally start THE BURNING SKY! I feel like I had heard a lot of good things before I started it and immediately, I knew why. The series had an overall Harry Potter-type feel to me and I mean that in the best way possible. Right off the bat, the feelings started creeping in with an orphan main character who is watched by her guardian and a separation of the mage world and non-mage world. I really enjoyed that the book kicked off with the mage character and then moved into the non-magical world instead of vice versa like so many stories tend to do. We already know the magical characters and then they bounce back and forth between worlds and figure out how to best stay protected in either one.

The characters are fantastic. I love, love, loved the banter between Titus and Iolanthe and these two are some of my favorites. They’re quite a pair and they play off of each other so well, Iolanthe being independent, stubborn, and sarcastic and Titus being protective and stoic. Their banter (really throughout the whole series) gives me life and I absolutely adore how even in the most dire of times, they’re still being witty and sarcastic and adorable. There’s young love, forbidden love, hate-to-love, and awkward love and I loved every bit of it.

Elemental magic is one of my favorite kinds and I loved all of the different ways it was used, but even more so than that, I really loved how elemental magic wasn’t the only kind. So often, if elemental magic is present in a book, that’s the only magic there is throughout but I liked how it was a different kind of magic, one that put mages on an entirely different level. Other mages still have the ability to execute magic with and without wands, though wands amplify and assist their spells/curses/hexes. There was so much to do and so many more characters were able to be included with magic not being exclusive to elemental mages. There’s also an aspect of Seers and the prophecies that play an enormous part throughout the whole series.

The element of the Crucible is one of my favorite things ever. It’s a magical book based on sets of fairy tales that mages may enter to experience as if they were really there. Their bodies stay in the actual world and they’re essentially mentally transported into the crucible but are still able to feel and sense everything as if it were real. No harm can come to a mage’s physical body within the crucible unless using it as an actual portal so Titus uses it often to practice particularly challenging bits of magic and defense against possible situations. I love the scenes in the crucible and I just adore its involvement throughout the whole series. It’s such an important part and is used so many ways.

The non-mage world is magical in its own right. Titus and Iolanthe spend a large amount of time at Eton College, a school for boys in Britain (yes, school for boys. Girl masquerading as a boy, I love it), and the camaraderie at this school is fantastic. There are a variety of friendships formed, from inquisitive Kashkari, to eager Wintervale, to adoring Cooper, to the glue that ties them together, Titus and Iolanthe aka Archer Fairfax. The friendships are just beautiful and I just love this group of boys (and girl). They’re so much fun to watch and I adore the way their friendships work and grow.

There is so, so much more I could say about this book but I’ll leave words for the other two books in the series. I’ll wrap this one up by saying that THINGS happen in the end (as they always do) and so many things are set up for the next book that I couldn’t stand it. Luckily, I didn’t have to and as soon as I finished this one, I kid you not I immediately started book two.

Series Review: The Elemental Trilogy by Sherry ThomasTitle: The Perilous Sea (The Elemental Trilogy #2) by Sherry Thomas
Publishing Info: September 16, 20114 by HarperCollins
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 17, 2016

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.
Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

THE PERILOUS SEA was quite the different set-up from THE BURNING SKY. While we still did have those shifting points of view (I wouldn’t really call it alternating — since everything was from the third person, it was much easier to slide back and forth betweet Titus and Iolanthe without such a stiff change but it is a definite shift in perspective), THE PERILOUS SEA opened up on the present time and the book kept flashing back to X point on the time line, working its way forward to meet up with where the book started. Sometimes this can get confusing, but I actually rather enjoyed it!

The shocker about the beginning of THE PERILOUS SEA is that we meet up with Titus and Iolanthe in the middle of the desert, not knowing how they got there and oh yeah, they have no idea who they are or who each other are. So as the book works through the past, the reader highly anticipates the moment when it’s revealed how they ended up that way. I rather enjoyed the suspense but I actually wish there was a little bit more time spent with that reveal. The magical thing about this whole part about Titus and Iolanthe not knowing each other was that they get to fall in love all over again. You think that little magic is gone because they’ve already gotten together? Surprise. They get to know each other again — with no pre-conceived notions, I might add — and it is amazing.

I wasn’t as thrilled about book two as I was about book one for most of the book until Sherry Thomas drops some SERIOUS TWISTS on us!! Really, a LOT happened in the last quarter of the book so it was a bit much to get all at once but oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, it was a doozy of a twist and there are a lot of reveals that happen here as well regarding several characters! Because of the mass-reveal, I kind of wish some things had been spread out so it wasn’t so soap-opera-confession-spree (it got to be a bit much and one more twist might have gotten to the point of silly) BUT I did love what the answers to all of these burning questions were. Like, I had some serious panic moments because of a huge twist and I was not okay.

Another thing that I noted in this book was something that I love so much about Sarah J. Maas’ books — the incredible ability to fit secondary characters in who become so much more. It’s so easy to dismiss supporting characters nowadays as so many books use them simply for support and not for actual plot development. Not Sherry Thomas. There are characters here for a darn specific reason and you will surely find out that reason all in good time. I loved how much foresight was involved in placing everyone where they belonged from the beginning of the series and holding some important moments with these characters until the exact right time. It was so neat to witness and one of my favorite things about this series!

Series Review: The Elemental Trilogy by Sherry ThomasTitle: The Immortal Heights (The Elemental Trilogy #3) by Sherry Thomas
Publishing Info: October 13, 2015 by HarperCollins
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 18, 2016

In a pursuit that has spanned continents, Iolanthe, Titus, and their friends have always managed to remain one step ahead of the forces of Atlantis. But now the Bane, the monstrous tyrant who bestrides the entire mage world, has issued his ultimatum: Titus must hand over Iolanthe, or watch as his entire realm is destroyed in a deadly rampage. Running out of time and options, Iolanthe and Titus must act decisively to deliver a final blow to the Bane, ending his reign of terror for good.
However, getting to the Bane means accomplishing the impossible—finding a way to infiltrate his crypt in the deepest recesses of the most ferociously guarded fortress in Atlantis. And everything is only made more difficult when new prophecies come to light, foretelling a doomed effort…
Iolanthe and Titus will put their love and their lives on the line. But will it be enough?
With The Immortal Heights, Sherry Thomas brings the acclaimed Elemental Trilogy to its breathtaking conclusion.

I basically worried about every single person’s death in THE IMMORTAL HEIGHTS. No spoilers there — I was just so, so worried about how it would end. I basically just felt like the Battle of Hogwarts was going to happen at any minute and I feared for all of my beloved characters. There are constant prophecies that show impending incidences but the concept of a prophecy is up for interpretation depending on the character. Are they a certain future that you can’t avoid? Are they a future you need to actively try to accomplish? Are they an overall picture that could come true but you still decide your own destiny? It was really neat to see how one prophecy after another popped up and how they were worked into the story. There’s a long-standing one that we hear from the beginning of the first book that I worried about the whole series and we do finally get to see how that one plays out.

There were plenty more twists in this book as well! Like the thoughts I had in THE PERILOUS SEA, some twists worked brilliantly and tied so well with every character and concept and others felt juuust a little cheesy for some reason. I still loved the whole thing and I don’t know the best way to describe it but it was like almost one step too far and was a little overboard. Still, the ideas behind how to tie all of this together were so impressive!

The ending was a whirlwind and literally everything that the series had been building towards, including pretty much every concept from every book and I loved that. I just really enjoy how these books all tie together instead of being plot 1. Plot 2. Plot 3. It was truly an overarching plot that carried readers from one book to the next, even if the settings were quite different and characters came and went.

SERIES THOUGHTS

These books were just so entertaining and so enjoyable. I LOVED the relationship between Titus and Iolanthe, romantically and how Titus kept calling her his closest friend and most trusted confidant. I really enjoyed how they had such a strong friendship and bond as well as a romantic connection. All of the relationships throughout the series were just beautiful and I loved all of the different types.

I do think the world building was probably the element that was just a little lacking throughout the series. The plotting was done really well and I always enjoyed how everything came together but there were times that I wanted just a little more history or a little more structure or a little more setting and I think those things really could have shot this book to a super-love status. I still loved all of the books and just felt so at home reading them but it was something that I noticed.

This was a great series to binge-read and I truly binge read them, not pausing to read anything else in between. I think that probably helped my overall enjoyment of the series since I didn’t have to stop and wait for a new book to be published, losing some of that memory of what happened in a previous book like I always do. I also loved how the settings and happenings were quite distinct from book to book so even as I was binge reading, I was able to keep them separated in my mind.

AUDIOBOOK IMPRESSIONS: I listened to all three of these books on audio. Philip Battley narrates them and sadly he doesn’t narrate much else that I could find on Audible. I just loved his narration! He has a delightful British accent and a deep, clear voice which was so enjoyable to listen to. His voicing of the characters was quite distinct and it was nice that Iolanthe was described as having a gravelly sort of voice so he didn’t have to put on a super soft, breathy act for her. He picked up on that beautiful, beautiful sarcasm and banter and the tone and volume of each scene was just perfect. I loved his narration and I’m so sad that he’s not a big audiobook narrator because I’d love to listen to more from him!

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Addiction Rating
Binge them!

I’m so glad I read these back-to-back-to-back. I didn’t want to put them down and stringing them all together really kept me hooked and kept everything fresh in my mind!

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BOOKS LIKE THE ELEMENTAL TRILOGY

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter #8) – J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter #8) – J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack ThorneTitle: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter #8) by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany
Publishing Info: July 31, 2016 by Scholastic Inc.
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 4, 2016
Related Posts: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter #1), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2), The Hogwarts Library, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter #3), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #4), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter #6), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter #7)

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.
It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

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Obviously there are a lot of mixed emotions before starting the infamous eighth Harry Potter book. Naturally I was excited — because it’s Harry freakin’ Potter — but I also just didn’t quite feel as excited as I thought I should be. Before picking up the bound version of the play (since I guess we really shouldn’t be calling it a book as it was never intended to be an actual book), I knew there were a few things that were hindering my excitement that I ultimately expected to affect my overall enjoyment of the experience (and in fact, they all did play a part in that). I knew that J.K. Rowling was involved in the plot and creation of CURSED CHILD, but ultimately, it was not her writing on the page. I knew that I was going to be reading a rehearsal script for the play and that the formatting might throw off my experience. And I knew that I’d be reading about adult Harry, Ron, Hermione, and company and I didn’t know if I’d like where their characters were in their adult lives since we had some pretty cheesy things happen in the epilogue of DEATHLY HALLOWS, and that actually was J.K. Rowling’s writing.

The short version of this review is that CURSED CHILD was kind of all over the place for me. The overall plot was interesting and I really, really loved certain parts but other parts of it just seemed so… I guess amateur is the best word I can think of at the moment, although that seems quite harsh. We’ve grown to love J.K. Rowling’s stories and how detailed they are and there were just certain things about CURSED CHILD that didn’t seem like they were plotted out very well. Other parts seemed completely random and totally uncharacteristic of the series. The overall concept of this story of the next generation was a really interesting concept but seemingly poorly executed. This was like cramming multiple books into one book (or I suppose, one play) and concepts were sort of flying all over the place. It was really fun to see things from the original series turn up but other times, the references back to the original series was very cheesy or just plain inaccurate. Small inaccuracies in some parts (it was “Happee Birthdae” not “Happy Birthday”), and some big timeline disagreements in others but it’s Harry freakin’ Potter. You don’t think the fandom will pick up on these? (They totally did.) It was just things like that that really made me feel like this was sloppily put together and that these playwrights who put the CURSED CHILD play together were missing some really core feelings and elements of the series.

I knew that I was going to be reading a script when I started and it was definitely a unique experience but I think the format lost a LOT in translation. There was less atmosphere, less dialogue, and less development which obviously you’ll get through the actors of the play and you won’t see in a rehearsal script. I just felt like I lost so much not READING those reactions, nuances, tone of voice, sensory descriptions — I mean, really a little of everything that brings the world of Harry Potter to life. Some of that is included in the script notes but the atmosphere is greatly lost because of the format. I mean, obviously this was specifically adapted for a play and that’s how they wanted to tell this story… But I really, really wish it had been developed into an actual book instead of just giving us the rehearsal script. There was so much more of this story to tell! Things would have been a lot less cheesy if they had been developed or explained. (Although some things I’ll never get over. They were just weird.) Everything felt really, really rushed and I would have rather had a simpler plot with more development instead of bursting from scene to scene. There was no time to really absorb anything and that also left very little room for character development. I don’t care if we already know the majority of these characters — they still need to have a personality.

I also didn’t feel like the characters were well-represented at all. Part of it may be because they’re so much older… But a lot of them felt far off from their younger counter-parts (although I’ve changed exponentially since I was 17 so… fair enough in some respects) but I hated that Ron came off the way he did. He was such a lump and a putz with little personality and he was essentially was Hermione’s lesser half. Hermione was a stronger personality, as she usually is, but I feel like even she lost a lot of her logic and wisdom… How do you LOSE wisdom over the years? Harry was always a bit all over the place for me so that was about the same and Ginny was a total movie Ginny, not book Ginny. (Ugh.) The main adult characters (the aforementioned) seemed so stiff and one-dimensional which is hard to bear after spending a full series with them, reading the series multiple times, and watching the movies over and over. We know these characters. They are our childhood. They are our friends. We grew up with them. To see them underdeveloped and misrepresented in a sequel like this just felt so uncaring. There were also a few characters from the series who make appearances (though I won’t reveal who they were) and some were AWESOME and some were confusing, to say the least.
There was a weird sexual tension between the Albus and Scorpius (which I thought was just me at first but there are tons of THINGS all over Buzzfeed and Tumblr about this so I’m not alone) and I honestly thought it was going to be revealed that one had a crush on the other, or that they both shared romantic feelings. That would have been fine expect for the fact that it didn’t happen and I was confused by them always bringing up hugging and the deep friendship feelings which when described really sounded like something more than just a deep platonic friendship bond.

It was so great to see the future for Harry Potter but I just really feel a little let down by a short story. Some of it was so much fun. Parts made me cry. Some made me laugh. But I also had moments where I scratched my head, questioned a lot, and even laughed out loud (not in a good way). Some of it was suuuuper cheesy and I can see why people said it read as fanfic. Overall, it felt messy and rushed and the more I think about it and discuss it, the more I realize that I’m more disappointed than excited about the development. I would have loved to see this really developed in a novel or in a series. We needed so much more time with Albus to understand him a little better. I would have loved to see this great friendship between the two boys and their complicated friendship with Rose (oh, and don’t get me started about her role in the end of the book. An even cheesier way to wrap things up. Yay). I always love more time at Hogwarts. I would have loved to see those little clues along the way to the big reveal. I was okay with what the plot WAS (except for some parts) but it really just needed way more development. I kind of feel like if it can’t be done well, best to leave it alone, and I don’t think CURSED CHILD did justice to this series at all.

We did beg for an eighth book though… so I guess beggars can’t be choosers?

But now can we beg for an Ilvermorny series, pretty please? (Will I ever learn my lesson?)

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Albus // Character obsessions: Fighting with his father, being moody, wallowing.
Albus really took after his father (if we’re talking about moody Harry from OotP). It was hard to read about him at times because he was presented as moody, difficult, and misunderstood right off the bat. Sure, I can handle that just fine BUT it didn’t seem like there was a justifiable reason for him to be so outright surly and that was the hard part. He seemed to be negative all the time.
Ron // Character obsessions: Food, following, fancies.
So Ron now runs the joke shop (did they say what happened to George? Heart isn’t into it?) but Ron is apparently the joke of this play. After everything he’s been through, the friendships he’s formed, the courage and strength and pride he found in himself, why is Ron such a putz in CURSED CHILD? He’s the butt of the jokes, makes lots of corny jokes that people laugh at just to make him feel better, and he has no personality at all. He’s basically the husband of Hermione Granger while Hermione is off being Minister of Magic (which was clumsily put together too) and it was just such a let down. He lost all that magic and sparkle that I loved in his character and was such a lump.

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Kept Me Hooked On: NEW Harry Potter. I’ll always be excited for new Harry Potter and CURSED CHILD was so exciting.
Left Me Wanting More: Magic. To put it simply, I needed more of that Harry Potter magic. It was missing from the plot, the writing, the characters, the structure. Really just everything. This didn’t do it for me at all. I won’t pretend it doesn’t exist but I feel like it needs justice and there should be a new story (NOT a play) to follow it up to make some things right. (Not just because I’m greedy. It can’t end like that.)

Addiction Rating
Read it… with hesitation

I still think this is worth the read for Harry Potter fans. Despite my lengthy, griping review, I actually did enjoy the experience. It was mediocre for me but I can’t NOT read a book that’s set in the Harry Potter universe (that’s an official work of J.K. Rowling). I think I’ll be more excited for Fantastic Beasts, though, as it’s far removed from the original series as far as plot goes.

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BOOKS LIKE HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD

(Click the cover to see my review!)

NANTUCKET BLUE    alanna