Saturday, August 27, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two

by J.K. Rowling
August 2-16, 2016

I'll take my Harry doses any way I can get them. Even in script form. At first it was hard to flow through stage directions and the usual, comfortable writing style that Rowling has (although she had help on this one), but after a few "chapters" which are really acts, I relaxed and tore through.

There's definitely less of a magical feeling this time around. And Harry isn't the delightful little boy we all grew to love – he's an adult with adult problems and three children. Ron, however, seemed to remain the same goofy kid he always was. With this being a play, there wasn't enough time to take deeper dives into these characters, so for that, it can be disappointing. I definitely liked it, but I wanted more. I felt the story too-quickly wrapped itself into a neat little package. But again, I'll take what I can get about my favorite wizarding world! I bet the play is going to be fantastic. If the authors gave us the depth that we are truly craving, the play would probably be eight hours long.
“Those we love never truly leave us, Harry. There are things that death cannot touch.”
Having said that, the original message from the first seven books remains the same.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Nightingale

by Kristin Hannah
July 5-August 1, 2016

Paris during Word War II. Seems to be a trending topic for novels these days. And I'm the first to admit that I am completely drawn to them. There is the saying "never forget, lest history repeat itself," and I think The Nightingale does justice to the horrific events of the war. It's nearly unfathomable what people suffered in Paris, let alone throughout Europe. Nightingale focuses on the women left behind while their husbands bravely try to stay alive and return home.

The story's heroines, though very different sisters, had an unbreakable bond. Truly some of the best character development I have ever read. I was enthralled from page one until I was utterly sobbing by the last page. When I think about it now, I still can't believe what Parisians had to endure, and for so long.
“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”
A few adjectives come to mind while I try to think of what to say about this book. Beautiful: The people, the friendships, the landscapes. Excruciating: The descriptions of Nazi torture, the concentration camps, and the human suffering. Heart-wrenching: What we will do for love and survival. Bravery: I learned more about the women left at home than I ever knew. And the public opinion of these women in the 1940s.

I know there are plenty of comparisons to All the Light We Cannot See. I will say that I liked each book equally, but the only comparison that should be made is on the subject matter. Both are brilliant in their own ways.

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The Art Forger

by B.A. Shapiro
May30-July4, 2016

It's been ages since I listened to an audiobook. I got myself burned out on them and needed a break. But there's something about long weekends, yard work and a great narrator in my ear that makes me happy. Luckily, I achieved two out of three with this one. But, I'm also a sucker for Degas, so it was all worth it.

Claire is a legitimate art forger, or more politically correct, a reproductionist. However, she's naive to the point of exasperation. I had many "of course" and "duh!" moments, but I did enjoy the true art history portions of the story. It's not an incredibly deep narrative, but kind of a fun one that is based around the real-life art heist in Boston in 1990.

My biggest issue was the narrator. The best word I can come up with to describe her style is "breathy." It demeaned the main character probably more than it was intended. I think it made Claire more of a pushover, more insipid, than she actually was. Good narration isn't always easy to find.

Still, a fun little lesson in art history with great descriptions of painting styles thrown in for good measure. Might be better to read than listen to.

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A Man Called Ove

by Fredrick Backman
June 5-July 3, 2016

Wow, this one took a while to get off the ground. I was warned of this and told to hold out for the payoff, but it was hard to plug away through nearly 70% off the book before I was invested. Normally I would have given up long before then. I'm not sure this is the best formula for a book, but Ove sure has been praised like crazy.

To somehow find joy, laughter and compassion in a plot where the main character's whole goal is to commit suicide doesn't even sound like a sellable premise. But it worked. Though again, the praise for Ove is off the charts. I'm flabbergasted by it. I mean, it was a good book, but people a just gushing. Pleas to vote Ove as character of the year (2015). Predictions that this will be book of the year. I mean, it's not that good. It's not that unique. But it was a good story if you remain patient. For all those who know a "curmudgeon," Ove will probably resonate stronger.

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Hundred-Year House

by Rebecca Makkai
May 16-June 5, 2016

The idea of taking the reader through a story in reverse chronological order is a good one, but it has to be perfectly executed. And, with the book being segmented into three parts, I found the character development lacking. For me this was a case of the back-cover copy being much more intriguing than the actual story.

Violet's the great grandmother ghost, who supposedly looms over the house, but it's more implied than fully realized. Zee, the main character, is pretty annoying, but as the story progressed in reverse, I cared less and less what happened.

Short review – I'm way behind. Plus, much better books to talk about.

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