Book Memes · Commentary · Writing Insight

Tell Me Something Tuesday

For this week’s Tell Me Something Tuesday, let’s discuss the dreaded WB – writer’s block!

Most writers are often posed the question of what do they do to manage or defeat writer’s block. It’s a fair question because all writers, from professionally published to persons who pen works just for themselves, have faced writer’s block in some form or another and for various stretches of time. Some bouts of writer’s block are mercifully brief while others seem to persist for a while. To be fair, there is no one right method of overcoming writer’s block nor do I believe it’s entirely unavoidable. (Thus, if anyone ever tells me, “I never get writer’s block,” I tend to disbelieve them.)

For myself, here is what I do to help keep myself afloat when I feel my writing gears winding down.

Primarily, I try to have multiple projects going simultaneously, usually one editing project and one drafting project if possible. At other times, I may be revising a draft manuscript’s skeleton by crafting a new outline or character bios or backstories before diving back in and making edits to the story itself. And I might be doing this while writing new material or perusing an old draft and making revision comments/notes. Occasionally, I will switch and work on older things that I want to do something with while letting newer manuscripts sit a while to get my mind off of them. By changing what I work on, sometimes daily, it keeps me from getting too mentally drained. Granted, all writers have off days where it seems like nothing comes. But by having various projects to go between, I’ve found myself stuck in those creative dry spells for shorter periods of time.

To make a comparison, it’s a bit like working a crossword puzzle or a word find. Some clues come to you quickly while others stump you to no end. Some words you can locate in a matter of seconds while others remain seemingly hidden. However, many times if you sit the puzzle aside for a day and go back to it, those clues don’t stump you or you can find those previously elusive words. In either case, there’s something about sitting a project you’re working on aside for a spell and returning to it at a later time that seems to reboot your thought process. It’s as if you can view it again with fresh eyes.

The same holds true when writing. My typical process goes like this: I’ll get an idea; draft an outline, notes, character backgrounds, etc.; generate a rough draft; sit the draft aside for a little while; go back and read through and make comments on the rough draft; sit those comments and the draft aside for about a month; then go back and start making revisions or additions. Again, this is my process – it’s what works best for me and it’s what I’m comfortable with, so this isn’t meant to be a guide or standard to follow. For myself, it helps to sit a draft aside for a while (at least a month or so) before returning to it.

Doing so helps me spot troubles in the plot, continuity errors, sections that don’t belong or move the story along, weaknesses in character background that need fixing, and run-of-the-mill errors. Similarly, I feel like I can read a draft with fresh eyes, forgetting the details of the story after taking a short hiatus, and seeing what works and what doesn’t or what needs improvement and why. On the flip side, I believe if you constantly read and revise the same material over and over with no break from it, you start to belabor your own work and it can suffer from it. Your writing can benefit from stepping back and stepping away from it for a while, however long you need to take.

Again, this is my method, so while it works for me, it might not be a good fit for you. So this is one of many ways to help combat writer’s block, not only while writing but also while editing and revising. Remember, sometimes the best thing you can do for a story is to leave it alone, putting it on the proverbial shelf and returning to it at a later time. Doing so helps clean your mental slate until you feel ready to tackle the project with a renewed energy later on.

So that was today’s Tell Me Something Tuesday! Hopefully, you’ve found it helpful. Until next time, happy writing! 🙂

Book Memes · Book Review · Books & Reading · Story & Characters

Throwback Thursday

For today’s Throwback Thursday, I’m going to share two quick reviews of some favorite books from my childhood. 🙂

Once Upon a Time in the Meadow by Rose Selarose

From GoodReads: Six little girls who live by themselves without any grownups enjoy a lovely day highlighted by a picnic and a parade.

My Thoughts: This was one of my favorite books as a little girl, and even now I still think the story holds up. Being a picture book, the tale is a simple one but not simple in terms of being intellectually insulting. Six young girls, who live together, decide to dress up and have a tea party. But their adventure is interrupted when they discover a rabbit caught in a bear trap. The girls then band together and nurse the little rabbit back to health and all’s well that ends well. All in all, it’s a solid story that, in terms of teachable moments, advocates love of family, friendship, kindness, and compassion towards animals. The artwork is gorgeous and is not merely pictures but miniature paintings. While some of the faces are a bit overly emotive (though probably for the sake of helping young readers understand the emotions conveyed in a given scene), the artwork as a whole is quite impressive, especially in a book for children. I loved this story back then and I love it now – certainly a classic worth passing on to any young, beginning readers.

Bailey Goes Camping
by Kevin Henkes

From GoodReads: Bruce and Betty were going camping. Bailey had to stay home. “You’re too little,” said his brother. “You can go in a few years,” said his sister. But Bailey didn’t want to wait. And, with the help of Mama and Papa, Bailey went camping right where he was!

My Thoughts: This book was a much-requested favorite of mine when I was little.

Plot-wise, this is about little Bailey who wishes he was a Bunny Scout like his brother, Bruce, and sister, Betty. However, when Bruce and Betty go on a camping adventure, Bailey stays home because he’s too young to go along (though Betty assures him, “In a few years you can.”). With his siblings away, Bailey’s parents do their best to raise his dampened spirits. Finally, his mother gets the idea to let him “camp” right there at home; thus, the remainder of the story shows Bailey doing everything from pitching a makeshift “tent,” to roasting hot dogs, to telling ghost stories, to even falling asleep under the stars. It’s a simple, straightforward story but, for the target age group, that’s perfectly all right.

The illustrations here are tastefully done, being neither too cartoony nor too dull and muted. Even more importantly, the book’s themes (i.e. the importance of waiting, making the most of one’s situation, and the power of imagination) are age-appropriate and presented in a non-preachy way. Much like Bailey, children will have to wait to grow up before they can participate in certain activities, so this story does a good job explaining that concept chiefly by showing rather than telling. Likewise, children get to see how Bailey makes the most of things right at his fingertips during his at-home “camping” experience while also employing his imagination. Lastly, I also like the fact that Bailey includes his mom and dad in on his imaginative fun, which shows how parents should be active in their child’s/children’s playtime and imaginative excursions.

Overall, this is a cute little story with softly-colored pictures and good messages. I’ve kept my copy all these years and I trust it’s a tale most little bookworms-in-training will enjoy.

Book Memes · Books & Reading · Story & Characters

Whatcha Readin’ Wednesday

This week, I decided to share some books I’m currently in the process of perusing. Right now, I’ve just started three novels that I recently bought in a mini summer book haul, so I don’t have much to say thus far. But that won’t stop me from sharing some preliminary thoughts! 🙂 (I’ve linked the titles out to GoodReads in case you’re interested in checking out these books for yourself.)

Circus Mirandus
by Cassie Beasley
Cover Musings: Personally, I like the hardcover edition better in terms of design, but this one is rather colorful and does a good job of making me wonder how well the images depicted here tie into the actual story.

My Thoughts: I generally enjoy circus-themed books, but sometimes I feel hard-pressed to find something that isn’t dark or trying to sneak in adult content. I thought this middle grade book sounded like a fun read, so I look forward to diving into it.

From GoodReads: Do you believe in magic?  Micah Tuttle does. Even though his awful Great-Aunt Gertrudis doesn’t approve, Micah believes in the stories his dying Grandpa Ephraim tells him of the magical Circus Mirandus: the invisible tiger guarding the gates, the beautiful flying birdwoman, and the magician more powerful than any other—the Man Who Bends Light. Finally, Grandpa Ephraim offers proof. The Circus is real. And the Lightbender owes Ephraim a miracle. With his friend Jenny Mendoza in tow, Micah sets out to find the Circus and the man he believes will save his grandfather. The only problem is, the Lightbender doesn’t want to keep his promise. And now it’s up to Micah to get the miracle he came for.

Moon Over Manifest
by Clare Vanderpool
Cover Musings: I really like the muted color scheme here and something about the entire image says “summer” to me. This is one of these simplistic yet pleasant covers, which I enjoy far more than something that is too busy.

My Thoughts: This is yet another middle grade book that has a split POV set in two different time periods, the Great Depression-Era 1930s and the 1910s. I’ve recently been branching out into historical fiction and thought this, too, sounded interesting.

From GoodReads: Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was. Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.” Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.

Silver On the Road
by Laura Anne Gilman
Cover Musings: This cover was illustrated by my favorite book cover artist, John Jude Palencar. While I don’t enjoy every work of his as some are too dark for my tastes, many of his book covers are stunning and really draw in the eye. This cover is no exception.

My Thoughts: I’ve seen some reviewers dub this a “weird West” tale and its premise, which combines an imagined Wild West setting with magic, really intrigued me. (This is apparently the first book in a trilogy called The Devil’s West.)

From GoodReads: On her sixteenth birthday, Isobel makes the choice to work for the devil in his territory west of the Mississippi. But this is not the devil you know. This is a being who deals fairly with immense—but not unlimited—power, who offers opportunities to people who want to make a deal, and makes sure they always get what they deserve. But his land is a wild west that needs a human touch, and that’s where Izzy comes in. Inadvertently trained by him to see the clues in and manipulations of human desire, Izzy is raised to be his left hand and travel the circuitous road through the territory. As we all know, where there is magic there is power and chaos…and death.

book tags

Opposites Book Tag

This book tag comes courtesy of Dreamland Book Blog, and you can view the original post here. The theme for this tag is opposites. I thought it sounded like fun, so let’s get started!

1. First book in your collection/The last book you bought:

First Book: What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry

The first books I ever had were bought by my parents, so while I can’t remember my very first book, What Do People Do All Day is among some of my early favorites. It was one of my most requested as a child, so it holds a special place in my heart. 🙂

Last Book: A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson
This book was part of a small stash I treated myself to so I could have some new books to read over the summer. This was a light, cute, warm-hearted read and I absolutely love the cover.

2. A cheap book/An expensive book:

Cheap Book: Raggedy Ann Stories by Johnny Gruelle
This book I got really cheap for Kindle – it was free! Not bad for a batch of cute short stories.

Expensive Book: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
I pre-ordered the final Harry Potter novel months before it was released and decided to splurge and get the deluxe edition. This version, which is no longer in print, comes in its own box and features full chapter artwork in the back and a wrap-around illustration on the dust jacket:

This edition cost well over $40, which is more than I’d normally spend on one book. But seeing as this was the last book, I wanted to have an extra special copy. It was worth every penny – or make that Galleon! 😀

3. A book with a male protagonist/A book with a female protagonist:

Male Protagonist: Edmund Pensieve from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Out of the four Pensieve siblings, I’ve always liked Lucy and Edmund the best. Edmund comes into his own as the series progresses, but I like the rocky start his character is given in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as it makes the best ground in which to depict his eventual transformation.

Female Protagonist: Kendra Sorenson from Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull
Much like Edmund, I also love Kendra’s character as she evolves throughout the Fablehaven series. But if I had to pick a pivotal moment for her, it would be in Grip of the Shadow Plague where she lets her fairy-granted gifts shine (pun intended!).

4. A book you read fast/A book that took you a long time to read:

Fast Read: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
I read this novel for the very first time during a car ride (as an adult) and I finished it in around five hours of nearly non-stop reading.

Slow Read: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
I’ve read Tolstoy’s masterpiece at least three times and it usually takes me two months or so to finish. However, this long read is worth it.

5. Pretty cover/Ugly cover:

Pretty Cover: Stars Above by Marissa Meyer
This cover is one of the more stunning ones I own. I love the jewel-bright, saturated colors as well as the lifelike crown. A picture doesn’t do it justice as it deserves to be seen in person.

Ugly Cover: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
To be fair, I wouldn’t label the hardcover edition’s cover ugly but it’s visually annoying. At first glance, it seems as if the image of the model can be seen in full if you remove the dust jacket. However, the jacket’s cutouts are actually imprinted into the paper itself. That’s a shame because I think the cover would have been more effective either showcasing the model or having the cutout design alone. But to have the central image obstructed from view struck me as a weak design decision.

6. A national book/An international book:

National Book: Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
These books combine aspects of Wilder’s childhood and teen/young adult years with fictional spins. I adored them as a child and have always loved them, perusing them to this day. To me, they are a staple of Americana and give a window into the life of America’s courageous pioneers.

International Book: The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
This French novel is of my favorite classics as well as one of my all-time favorite books.

7. A thin book/A thick book:

Thin Book: Once in the Year by Elizabeth Yates
64 pages. My parents gave this to me as a gift one year when I was a child, and I’ve kept it on my shelf ever since. It’s a lovely story with equally lovely black and white illustrations.

Thick Book: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
1,216 pages. War and Peace would easily belong here but I didn’t want to use it twice. 🙂 When Peter Jackson’s film trilogy came out, I bought the books individually. But after I learned that Tolkien penned this novel as a single book, I decided to purchase and peruse his work as it was originally intended – as a solitary work. Undoubtedly, this is the second largest book I own!

8. A fiction book/A non-fiction book:

Fiction: The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
This was my first foray into Montgomery’s works for adults and I fell in love with it. It’s another one of my all-time favorite books and it’s always a joy to read.

Non-fiction: The Red Air Fighter by Manfred von Richthofen
I first became interested in WWI aviation when I played Sierra/Dynamix’s Red Baron PC game as a kid. I got to learn about the various famous aces, including the infamous Red Baron himself, Manfred von Richthofen. I started to read everything I could find about him and, out of all of the books, I’ve enjoyed this one – his autobiography – the most.

9. A way too romantic book/An action book:

Way Too Romantic Book: A Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
I wouldn’t call this book “romantic” so much as it is filled to overflowing with teenage infatuation that eventually leads to…well, yada yada yada. I didn’t mind this trilogy’s paranormal slant, but once a teenage love/lust triangle got thrown into the mix and became the driving force behind the plot, I quickly lost interest.

Action Book: Star Wars: Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston
Aside from seeing Grand Admiral Thrawn make his appearance in Star Wars Rebels, my second favorite character was Ahsoka, the disgraced Jedi. I have yet to watch Clone Wars but it’s on my list of things to do. This novel is a fun, fast read that I think does her character justice.

10. A book that made you happy/A book that made you sad:

Happy Book: The Guardians of Childhood by William Joyce
I’ve sung the praises of this series before than once I’ll sing them again. I absolutely love it! It’s full of whimsical adaptations of famous figures from folklore, weaving them into a magical original story. These books never fail to put a smile on my face. 🙂

Sad Book: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Good grief, was this one messed up family! While it didn’t make me sad in terms of tearing up, it left me feeling depressed. I finished this book in a day and was glad to be done with it.

Book Review · Books & Reading · Story & Characters

Book Review – “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

The Story: 
[from GoodReads:]
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.

My Take: [Just a quick note before I launch into my review: while I won’t reveal spoilers related to Cursed Child, I may inadvertently drop spoilers from the other Potter books. I assume most folks have read the Harry Potter series in full. But in case you haven’t, please be forewarned – there may be spoilers!]

Early on, I all but swore off reading this story (which is actually a play, not a novel). I assumed it was just a way to cash grab on the Harry Potter series rather than serve as any kind of new addition to the original canon. Reviewers seemed split: some loved it for the nostalgia, others hated it because it didn’t feel like a true Potter tale. I was torn between those two opinions myself and, for a while, I decided to sit it out. However, eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to check it out.

And to be honest, it wasn’t the Hogwarts Express train wreck I was expecting. Granted, it’s no where near being as good as the original Harry Potter novels nor does it function as a follow up or an addition to the original canon. Instead, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is elevated fan fiction. Nothing more, nothing less.

Is it terrible? No.

Is it great? No.

For me, it was some parts good, some parts okay, some parts meh, and some parts what-were-they-thinking and not in a good way. So as a whole…

However, it’s worth noting three key differences that set Cursed Child apart from the rest of the Potter canon.

First, knowing this was only based on a story by J.K. Rowling and seeing that it had different authors lessens the blow so to speak and readjusts reader expectations. If you approach this as if it is some long-lost Potter manuscript penned by Rowling herself, you’re going to be disappointed because it contains none of her hallmarks. But if you view Cursed Child as a work of Rowling-blessed elevated fan fiction, then you’re approaching it with the right mindset.

Also, Cursed Child isn’t a novel but a script for a stage play of the same name. Thus, not only is it written by different authors, it also lacks the flow and description of the novels, and this is simply because it’s a script. I have some experience reading scripts, so I know they essentially are dialogue-driven and lack detailed descriptions or backstories. In short, scripts are skeletons that require a visual element; however, they aren’t unreadable on their own. The format is worth pointing out because it might not be to everyone’s tastes. Myself, I don’t seek out scripts to read because they are sparse, but I didn’t mind perusing this and it is easy to read. So if you prefer stories that are fully fleshed out when it comes to setting, tone, and characters, be aware that Cursed Child significantly lacks these things by default.

Lastly, the play’s events occur chiefly after the epilogue in Deathly Hallows; therefore, Harry, Hermione, Ron, and a few other original characters are adults in Cursed Child. Some reviewers have claimed the characters here lack the same chemistry they had in the original novels, and while that’s certainly true, it’s not entirely problematic. While I’ll discuss more about what I enjoyed and what I took issue with later on, I do want to note that Harry and his old school chums are in their late 30s-early 40s, so they aren’t going to act or talk like teens anymore. Likewise, their relationship with each other has mellowed out and matured not only due to age but also distance. In the original novels, Harry, Ron, and Hermione spent a lot of time together at school and essentially lived together. But in Cursed Child, they have families and homes of their own, so this separation is going to cause their chemistry to cool a bit but not entirely. In short, the characters we see in Cursed Child are older and wiser, so their interactions and conversations naturally reflect this.

With those notes out of the way, I want to spend the rest of my review discussing the play itself minus any major spoilers. While there were things I didn’t care for, much to my surprise there were some things I actually liked and even enjoyed.

First and foremost, I really liked seeing Harry do his best to navigate the waters of fatherhood. Though Ginny, his wife, is supportive, and he seemingly has no issue with eldest son James and young daughter Lily, it’s his middle child, Albus, who provides him with the biggest struggle. One plotline that Cursed Child would be expected to traverse is how Harry’s children live up to his legacy. While James and Lily seem excused from this fate, it falls, instead, to young Albus. Thus, one major thread this play unravels and explores with all sincerity is whether or not Albus will be a carbon copy of his famous father or chart a new course for his life. As expected, Albus’ path is decidedly different and I enjoyed this.

To turn Albus into a Harry Potter 2.0 would have been a mistake namely because we already have a Harry Potter, so to create a clone would have been hackneyed. Instead, Albus is not like his father, neither in temperament nor magic. For starters, Albus breaks Potter tradition when he arrives at Hogwarts, from his Sorting to his magical skills or lack thereof. In brief, Albus is an average young wizard and doesn’t seemed destined for greatness at all. However, the temptation to compare him to his father and his namesake is too great for some characters, and Albus begins to feel the pressure. In time, he lashes out at those closest to him, particularly his father.

I’ll admit that seeing Albus speak to and treat his father so coldly, despite Harry’s best efforts to love and support his son, are hard to read. Harry really does give it his best try to encourage Albus and be a kind, loving dad, but Albus won’t have any of it. He despises being Harry’s son, not because, deep down, he hates Harry, but because he dislikes having to live out a legacy that he’s clearly not equipped to carry on. This doesn’t excuse Albus and his angst but it at least puts it into some perspective.

The same applies to Harry, who now has to juggle being a family man and a Ministry of Magic employee. We do see him donning both proverbial hats though I enjoyed reading the acts where Harry interacts with his children more so than the workplace scenes. Some reviewers have claimed that this version of Harry isn’t the Harry we knew and loved from the novels and they would be partially correct. The Harry Potter in Cursed Child is nearing his 40s, has been married to Ginny for years, and is the father of three children, one of whom tries his patience at nearly every turn. It can’t be expected that this older, wiser, and, in some cases, more harried Harry is going to have much semblance to his younger counterpart in the original novels, which end when he is 17 and only gives a brief glimpse of him nearly 20 years later. Seeing Harry in Cursed Child behave and talk like a teenager would not only be unrealistic but also insulting as it would mean he never grew up. However, I can see some reviewers’ point, especially as Harry fires back at Albus for his behavior, even at times wishing Albus wasn’t his son.

Yes, that’s harsh and hard to read, but I believe it, much like Albus’ behavior, is somewhat justified in context as Albus kind of brings it on himself. Harry tries to connect with Albus and guide him just as a good father should, but Albus rebels. A parent will only take so much pushing and shoving from a rebellious child until the parent begins to push and shove back. It’s not right and it’s not pretty but it does make sense and shows Harry as a relatable individual rather than a larger-than-life figure. Hence, when Albus pushes Harry, admitting he hates being his son, Harry pushes back and admits he wishes he wasn’t Albus’ father. I really liked this intense family conflict because it allows both characters to make their own choices and deal with the consequences, wising up to what is more important in life, the past or the present.

We see a similar dilemma arise between Draco Malfoy and his son, Scorpius. Draco, while no longer a Death Eater, is still painted in that light by others who dredge up his past. Just as Albus is viewed under the mantle of his father’s past deeds, so Scorpius is covered by his father’s past shadow. While Draco and Scorpius don’t have the same falling out that Harry and Albus have, the two father-son pairings contain a similar thread – should one live in the past or live in the present but remember the past and plan for the future. It’s a theme that runs the entire length of the play and I enjoyed the depth at which it’s explored. And just in case some readers are concerned over whether the Potter vs. Potter feud ever comes to a head, Albus and Harry do eventually make amends and it’s a touching, appropriate scene that caps the entire story.

Speaking of Albus and Scorpius, I really enjoyed their pairing. Just as Albus is unlike his father, so Scorpius not a carbon copy of Draco. He brings a breath of fresh air through his nerdy, comedic, adventure-loving ways but he isn’t a comic foil. Scorpius dislikes being cast under his father’s shadow but he doesn’t seem to let that bother him as he knows he has his own life to live. In time, I think some of this ideology rubs off on Albus, who begins to see himself and his father differently. Together, the boys are a delight and hearken back to the fun times and adventures of a young Harry and Ron. It does bear noting that while some readers assert there is a “romance” between them, I never picked up on anything like that. I think this is a case of if you want to read homosexual themes into this, then you’ll find them only because you’re intentionally looking for them – not because they’re actually present – so everything you read will be interpreted through that lens. I don’t look for those sorts of themes (nor do I care about them), so nothing ever struck me as such. In truth, Albus and Scorpius’ relationship is a pleasant friendship between two heterosexual boys and nothing more. Scorpius slightly edges Albus out as my favorite  character thanks to his colorful personality, which is in contrast to Albus’ wallowing in angst and self-doubt.

Lastly, it was nice to see nods to other characters from the canon novels, such as Madam Hooch (who only had a single appearance in Sorcerer’s Stone); the Hogwarts Express trolley witch (and her “secret” here is kind of fun); and even Severus Snape, whose inclusion was well-done (though I’m a big Snape fan so of course I’ll be biased about that!).

However, there were elements in Cursed Child that kept me from fully enjoying myself. One issue is some obvious contradictions and missteps from the original canon. For starters, Ron is reduced to a comic foil as he is seemingly sidelined and portrayed as a bit of a dunderhead. Hermione here has moments when she seems a little too harsh and snappish. And I will include some of Harry’s verbal lashings at Albus as, though they make sense within the context of given scenes, they do seem out of place coming from a person who never knew his own father and who remarked in Deathly Hallows that parents and children should stay together. Lastly, we learn what Harry’s biggest regret was, which involves the death of an innocent person. However, I would venture to guess that while Harry probably regretted many of the deaths that occurred during the war with Lord Voldemort, I would have assumed he would have felt more regret over someone closer to him, such as his godfather Sirius Black or Remus Lupin, as opposed to the character we learn about in Cursed Child.

Speaking of contradictions, one massive issue for me was the main villain. Not only is this character easy to spot from the beginning, lacking the are-they-or-aren’t-they misdirection that Rowling was so expert at executing, this person isn’t exactly compelling. In order to avoid spoilers, I’ll just refer to this person as Character Z. Character Z is introduced early in the play and eventually makes contact with two of the main characters. From the very beginning, we learn there is a rumor circulating in the Wizarding community about a child of Voldemort, an heir of the Dark Lord himself. At first, this is a workable idea; however, the way it’s executed leaves a lot to be desired, not to mention it raises a lot of questions. As in a LOT of questions!

Initially, I thought this person, who ends up being Character Z, was going to be a villain akin to Star Wars‘ Kylo Ren, someone who is inspired to continue the deeds of a villainous relative (but not a parent) who laid the groundwork before them. Or perhaps Character Z was going to be a figurehead baddie, someone who wasn’t related to Voldemort at all but who wanted to continue his legacy of evil and finish what he started. Either way could have worked. Instead, Character Z is an illegitimate child, a physical heir of Voldemort himself. And not during his original incarnation as the handsome Tom Riddle, by the way. No, the play makes it very plain that Character Z was physically conceived after Riddle had transformed into Voldemort.

Let that sink in for just a moment….

Uh huh. That’s not a pretty picture.

Character Z, thus, embodies the play’s biggest contradiction. The question is not so much when Voldemort would have made time to produce an heir but why. In the novels, we’re told time and again that Voldemort knows nothing about love, doesn’t care about love, sees love as a mark of weakness, holds no affections for anyone, and doesn’t have any true friends. And even those whom he considered his closest followers he holds at arm’s length. So in order to even have a child, that means Voldemort would have had to let down this guard, to put it politely. But the truth is, would he have been capable of even thinking he wanted to get close enough to someone to have a child? If he was that anti-love and anti-relationships, why would the thought even cross his mind? Therefore, it’s easy to assume that the idea of any form of intimacy – physical or otherwise – would be as far removed from Voldemort’s mind as Snape would be from a shampoo factory. Not to mention Voldemort clearly planned to be the one and only Dark Lord, hence why he created the horcruxes in the first place to secure his mortality. But if he desired to have an heir from his own family line, that would also mean he would have to be open to the idea of passing his legacy on, giving up his reigns of control. Again, is that something Voldemort conceivably could have done? Again, I seriously doubt it.

This put the biggest damper on Cursed Child for me because it makes no sense in light of who we know Voldemort is and how he operates, thus the play essentially tries to tack something onto the canon that doesn’t mesh with Voldemort’s inner character as it were. I can see making Harry, Ron, and Hermione act and talk like adults because that makes sense. I can see having Albus struggle with a legacy that isn’t his own – that, too, makes sense. I can see Scorpius contending with the deeds his father did in the past. But making the chief villain to be Lord Voldemort’s own physical offspring?

Like, no way. No…way…at…all.

Aside from this massive hiccup, another aspect in Cursed Child that didn’t sit well with me was some of its magical elements and the way they’re incorporated. Too much of it feels too convenient and borders on being a deus ex machina at times. It’s like saying to yourself while standing in front of a vending machine, “I’m hungry. I wish I had a dollar so I could buy something.” And then, lo and behold, you look down and spy a dollar stuck on the bottom of your shoe. Yes, the magic here is sometimes that convenient and that obvious.

While I won’t divulge spoilers, I will say that time turners have a heavy presence in this story and I’m not exactly their biggest fan. I wasn’t a fan of them in Prisoner of Azkaban and I’m still not a fan here. My reasoning is simply because they’re just too convenient. And the way they’re introduced in the play, while not quite with the same out-of-thin-air (“Look, I have a time turner!”) approach that Prisoner of Azkaban took, it’s still set up with so much foreshadowing that it’s like being clubbed over the head. Granted, what the time turners are used for here is interesting and adds to the adventure some of the characters have later on. But it still seemed too easy and the conclusions some characters come to regarding how the time turners get used are just as convenient.

Overall, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is, first and foremost, an attempt to adapt Harry Potter for the stage rather than the silver screen. It’s an ambitious effort that, to its credit, injects some genuine heart into its story. But knowing this is essentially glorified fan fiction means it lacks the warmth, whimsy, and depth that Rowling’s original novels contained. Therefore, I sense it won’t entirely win the hearts of or appeal to long-time fans. But it’s one of these stories that each reader has to digest for himself and reach his own conclusions.

Language – There are minimal, PG-level profanities though they’re sporadically used.

Violence – Violence falls chiefly into the fantasy violence category where magic is used as opposed to weapons. But because this is written as a play, it leaves a lot of such moments up to the imagination due to sparse descriptions. Elsewhere, one character magically transforms into a frightening creature but, again, most of the details are left up to the imagination.

Sexual Content – None. One character is revealed to be the product of an off-stage illegitimate affair but no further details are given.

The Run-Down:

Overall, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a passable read. I’ll confess that I probably would have liked this more if it was in novel form, but even that wouldn’t have erased the elements that detracted from my enjoyment of it. As stated, this is fan fiction but it at least elevates itself through its attempt to present a worthy theme and recreate Rowling’s world and characters. Though it’s a far cry from Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, it by no means falls on its proverbial face as it offers up a touching tale of a father and son at odds. As a whole, Cursed Child, for me, was an interesting experiment in not only adaptation but also in using new writers for an established series. And while it doesn’t exactly flounder, it doesn’t exactly capture the magic of the original novels.



“Reflections on a ‘Miracurl'” – New Article on Rivulet Collective

I recently penned an article for Rivulet Collective, an online Christian “magazine.” Below is a brief excerpt followed by a link to the full article:

Most people love an underdog story, and one such story emerged recently from a rather unassuming event during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Curling, which tends to be unfairly mocked in the American public eye, actually made headlines as the USA men’s team won gold for the very first time, marking only the second time the United States has ever medaled in the sport. Seeing as the men’s team defeated some highly favored teams, namely Canada (not once but twice) and Sweden by a large, nearly impossible margin in the gold medal game, the USA men’s victory became widely known as the “miracurl on ice.”

Avid curling fan that I am, I followed the USA men’s team from their rocky start during the round robin games all the way to their golden finish. Aside from making for some very exciting television (and, yes, curling can be exciting!), I found myself gleaning a few life lessons along the way—namely the importance of perseverance, proper handling of criticism, and the quiet strength of humility.

To read the rest of the article, go to

book tags · Books & Reading

TBR Shelf Book Tag

TBR stands for “to be read” and refers to a book stash a reader has yet to dive into. I keep track of my TBR titles on GoodReads using their Want to Read shelf. So today, I decided to share some of my fun TBR factoids. Maybe you might find a title or two to add to your TBR pile, too, because a bookworm can never have enough books! 🙂

1. How many books are currently on your TBR shelf?

At the moment, my Want to Read shelf contains around 110 books, give or take a few. That includes books I own but haven’t yet read and books I’m interested in purchasing.

2. Which book has been left unread the longest?
Victory Conditions by Elizabeth Moon. I’ve enjoyed the Vatta’s War series as it’s a fun mix of light space opera and military sci-fi. But I haven’t read it in years, so I need to do that before I read the final book.

3. Which book is a recent addition to your TBR shelf?
Silver On the Road by Laura Anne Gilman. I’ve seen this christened as a “weird west” story and an excerpt I read intrigued me, so I hope to check it out soon.

4. Which book on your TBR shelf has the best cover?
A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson. I’m a bird watcher and a bird lover, so I think this cover is adorable.

5. Name a book on your TBR shelf that’s by an author you’ve read before.
The Gold Son by Carrie Anne Noble. I love The Mermaid’s Sister, so I can’t wait to dive into this latest book.

6. Name a book on your TBR shelf that’s by an author you’ve never read before.
Winnie-the Pooh by A. A. Milne. I have never read any of Milne’s Pooh stories though I’ve seen the movies and TV shows as a kid. Shame, shame on me! 😀

7. Name a book on your TBR shelf that isn’t your usual go-to genre.
The Sultan, the Vampyr, and the Soothsayer by Lucille Turner. Historical fiction isn’t my initial go-to genre but I’ve been branching out my tastes. I haven’t yet read any books set in this novel’s time period, so I’m curious to check it out.

8. What book on your TBR shelf do you currently own that you’re most eager to read?
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. Though I initially swore off reading this, I found myself curious despite myself. My main reason to read it is not because I think it deserves to be Potter canon but to compare it against Rowling’s novels. Basically, I view this as a work of glorified fan fiction, so with that in mind maybe I won’t nitpick it too much. But I’m not promising anything! 😀

9. Name a book on your TBR shelf that’s not yet released that you’re most eager to read.
Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn, which has a late July 2018 release date. I am a Grand Admiral Thrawn fangirl, so I’ll snatch up anything featuring the Chiss officer extraordinaire (sidebar – I want a live action version, please!). Zahn’s Thrawn (2017) solidified Thrawn as my all-time favorite villain and I can’t wait to see where Zahn takes his story next!

10. Which book on your TBR shelf has the longest wait time for its release?
I have been waiting years to get my hands on Jack Frost, the final chapter book in William Joyce’s The Guardians of Childhood series. That’s not because I haven’t bought it – it’s because the book’s release date gets moved up year after year. Currently, Amazon has it slated for release in November 2018. Hopefully that will be the case.

11. Name a classic book on your TBR shelf.
Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe. I was inspired to read this after watching the movie Genius, staring two of my favorite acting gents, Jude Law and Colin Firth. The film chronicles the story behind this novel’s road to publication and I really enjoyed it. I’ve never read anything by Wolfe before and his prose sounds fantastic, so I look forward to diving into this.

12. Name a non-fiction book on your TBR shelf.
Maybe You Never Cry Again by the late comedian Bernie Mac. I loved The Bernie Mac Show when it aired on Fox in the early 2000s and I watch reruns of it to this day. Sadly, the Mac Man was taken from us far too soon.

13. Name an anticipated sequel that’s currently on your TBR shelf.
Legendary by Stephanie Garber. I had a lot of fun reading Caraval and thought it was an imaginative ride. Hopefully, the sequel will be just as good.

14. Name a new series that’s on your TBR shelf.
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi. I’ve never read manga before, so this should be a different experience. I’ve just started watching the anime series Sailor Moon (the English dub) and I think it’s really cute, so I hope the manga is just as good.

15. Randomly share one title from your TBR shelf you haven’t already mentioned.
The Fall of Gondolin by J.R.R. Tolkien. How did I – Tolkien and Middle Earth fanatic – not know this book was coming out in 2018? Shame on me again!