The Summer of Awesome – Day 12

Hellooo readers (said in the manner of Yakko Warner saying “Hello Nurse.”)

My posts may be a little more sporadic for the next little bit, as I might be busy for the next couple weeks and I haven’t been feeling 100%. BUT I will do my best to keep it up, since I did start this because I wanted to keep honing and brushing up on my writing skills again.

So with that in mind, let’s get going with The Book of Awesome:

(67) The smell of the coffee aisle in the grocery store (pg 126)

Did you know there are some people who HATE the smell of coffee?

I am not one of those people!

My sister, however, gags at the smell of coffee.

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I also had no idea that you could find that delicious smell independent of Chapters locations…

For me, it’s a pleasant reminder of one of my favourite places – Chapters – and the memories from days when we would go hang out there and take a look at all the books during my childhood.

Back then, it was just this amazing, magical place that smelled so nice and was so fun – I had no idea that it was a chain of bookstores that you could find everywhere.

To this day, I still love going to Chapters, Indigo or any other bookstores and the wonderful smell of Starbucks is a huge part of that! (It’s almost too tempting NOT to go get a Java Chip Frappucino.)

(68) That pile of assorted beers left in your fridge after a party (pg 127)

I don’t drink beers, so this doesn’t really apply to me…but assorted cakes? Now that I could get on board with.

I do remember a time when, after a big party, our freezer and fridge were FULL of assorted cakes and desserts. You’d think I’d have gotten sick of sweets then, but instead, here I am today, trying to force myself not to have sugar because I just love sugary treats way too much!

(69) Staring out at calm water (pg 129)

There’s really not much I can say about this topic that this photo I took last year can’t say better:

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Lucky me, getting such a pretty view!

I am very lucky because I live within driving/commuting distance of a number of lakes. The above photo was from when I did my “30 for 30” – 30 things before my 30th birthday. I gave myself the challenge to visit a park I’d never been too, and as luck would have it, I discovered this little gem, by a lake I’d never known about – only about a 1/2 hour north of where I live! I’d drive through this area often enough for work, but had no clue this was here.

This past week, a friend and I went for another visit, and it’s just as nice as I remembered. I’d say it was slightly more enjoyable on my first visit, though, because I went in September when it was so quiet and the humidity was lower, making the water look much nicer and bluer (as seen in that above picture).

(70) Sneaking McDonald’s and hiding the evidence (pg 131)

This little exchange that Neil Pasricha wrote up between his friends Molly and Scott reminded me of an – opposite – exchange between myself and a childhood friend of mine.

We’d stopped into the McDonald’s drive-thru so she could get fries and to get my sister an ice cream. She turned to me and said, “What do you want?”

And I, at the time very healthy and diligent about my food intake, said, “Nothing, thanks. I don’t eat McDonalds anymore.”

  • Her: “WHAT. Wait, WHAT?”
  • Me: “Yeah, actually come to think of it… I don’t eat fast food at all.”
  • Her: “You don’t eat ANY fast food?!”
  • Me: “Well, I do eat Subway, but I don’t think that counts–“
  • Her: (at the same time as me) “Yeah, no, that doesn’t count.”

She stared at me suspiciously the entire drive back home. I should probably add, just so you get a full – hilarious picture – that this friend of mine is a beauty queen. A literal beauty queen, I’m not just using the phrase to describe her, she actually won a local, well-known beauty contest about 10 years ago. This exchange just makes me laugh even more when you take that into consideration – she was willing to have McD’s…but I wasn’t.

This was probably about four or five years ago, though, and I’ve eased up since then (as my waistband can attest to!), but I still try to limit the amount of fast food I eat.

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Greek Salad. Yummy, yummy

Now, if I do go to McDonald’s, I am one of those weird people who actually eats their salads! I know, it sounds ridiculous, but their Greek salad isn’t that bad! (By now I’ve eaten it too often that I’ve gotten quite sick of it, though.)

The other thing that McDonald’s always sucks me back in with is the complete opposite of healthy – their cookies.

I was a bit miffed by their rebranding as McCafe, at first, but I soon realized what a brilliant idea it was to compete with the (aforementioned) Starbucks allure and, here in Canada, our precious Tim Hortons.  I actually know more people who enjoy McDonald’s coffee and pastries than most other coffee shops around here! So kudos to them. Their cookies are, for sure, so worth the trip.

(71) Your family car growing up (pg 133)

We were just talking about our family cars from when I was a kid yesterday and how I always knew who was picking me up from school by the sound the cars made. My dad had a diesel car, and those make the MOST noise. Apparently, as I just found out yesterday, my dad was not a fan of diesel cars because of the noise, but once he got one, it’s been his favourite of all his cars since!

One of the cars Pasricha mentions in this section actually brought back memories of another big car from my childhood. Amongst his examples, he lists a Chevy Lumina van, which I never experienced, but my brother’s car when I was a kid was a Lumina that we affectionately referred to as… “The Lumina!” (We have become more creative with names since. I named my current car Buster Keaton, after my favourite silence movie actor/director.)

I don’t know that the car was as awesome as my memory makes it out to be, or if it’s just the fact that the memories I have of it are awesome. It’s probably just the haze of coolness of having a big brother who’d take me to buy toys or introduce me to new songs in his cool car.

My best friend’s family also had a Lumina, not sure why they were so popular with everyone around here in the mid-90s, but they were! When my brother’s car, sadly, finally gave up, I warned her there was a good chance the same would happen to her family’s car in time. And what do you know, a few months later, theirs also conked out for good.

Funny enough, what I most remember about The Lumina was that my brother always had McDonald’s food boxes and napkins in there… which totally falls in line with the previous topic too!

(72) Eating a free sample of something you have no intention of buying (pg 135)

I am going to announce a really unpopular opinion and I need you all to brace yourself.

Are you ready?

Okay…

I…am not a fan of Costco.

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I know! I know! Everyone loves Costco. Costco is God’s gift to shoppers. Costco is the greatest thing since sliced bread and it SELLS sliced bread.

Problem is, I can’t shop somewhere that doesn’t have all the products I’m looking for and Costco rarely ever has anything I need. I visited with a friend who was trying her hardest to convince me of how wonderful it is, but I went in with a list of things I needed to find (vitamins, food, clothing) and found maybe 1 of the 10 things on my list.

Due to food allergies and sensitivities, I have to be pretty particular about the things I choose (likewise with family members) and because of that, I can’t handle the inconsistency of Costco having different items in stock every week. It’s a total waste for me to go there for ONE item that I can get much cheaper, only to waste gas to go to the mall/grocery store to pick up everything else.

That being said, I learned from my dermatologist that even if you don’t have a Costco membership, you can still go to their pharmacy, which, let me tell you, was a pretty amazing discovery – a prescription medication that cost $65 at my regular pharmacy was only $12 at the Costco pharmacy.

And yet with that wonderful discovery came my further annoyance with Costco, in the fact that they told me I could pick it up in a half hour – which left me wandering the store because trying to get in and out of that parking lot was just ridiculous at that time – and when I came back… they said it wasn’t ready and would be another half hour.

I assume this was a scheme on their part, attempting to get me to buy things while waiting. But as we all know, I don’t have a membership! So, what did I do for that hour (really, hour and 15 minutes by the end of it)?

I went around and ate ALL THE FREE SAMPLES I COULD!

And thus, this entire topic just screams out – my relationship with Costco

 

An aside: “The Happiness Equation,” the “Do Circle” and Fargo

Before I get back to The Book of Awesome today, I wanted to take a brief aside to talk about two other things:

(1) Neil Pasricha’s other book that I’ve also been reading, The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything

I am almost done this book, but I have felt a particular affinity for the chapter I just read and wanted to say something about it while it was fresh in my mind.

In his section “Secret #7“,” he delves into the idea that you can “Turn Your Biggest Fear into Your Biggest Success.”

At first, reading that, I was skeptical. Something the big wide world of the Internet may not (probably doesn’t) know about me – I have suffered with varying degrees of anxiety my whole life. I can remember some of my earliest bouts of anxiety with such clarity and when I’ve told friends about it now, they are always shocked to hear it because I’ve always seemed like such a together (their words) and calm (again, their words) person.

To me, I’ve never been either of those things.

Ever.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to understand anxiety (and specifically my anxiety) a lot more, but at the same time, I feel like mine has only gotten worse. I have a habit of being able to convince myself out of things more than I am able to convince myself into them.

That’s why I found this chapter so special. Neil Pasricha really pinpointed why it’s so hard to do that – because 90% of the time, we are trying to convince ourselves that we can do something or that we want to do said thing, instead of just going ahead, giving it a shot, and doing it.

Take writing, for example. Like I said before, I used to love to write. And when I was younger, I used to – for school, for friends and just for the hell of it. Convincing myself to actually start writing again, even to come back to this blog and actually put my thoughts and feelings out there, well… that’s been hard to do.

So, I stopped thinking about it, and just did it.

And now here I am, and here you are reading these rambles.

His “Do Circle” idea makes so much sense to me:

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If you swap it from a progression from “Can do” –> “Want to do” –> “Do” and make it into a circle, where you just start DOING and see where it takes you, it gets easier.

I had a revelation seeing this, and it helped me understand my adult self more than I thought it would. When I was younger, I would just do things. I even took to The Joker’s quote from The Dark Knight:

“You know what I am? I am a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it! I just do things…”

Of course, in the context of The Joker – a psychopath – this is very dangerous, but for me, it just resonated with the fact that I used to just be willing to try things more often than not in my teens and early twenties. I still had anxiety, but I took more chances than I did as a child, or currently as a full-fledged adult.

I had started to feel like that desire to try things  was a weakness or vulnerability. That jumping head first into new things and taking chances left you open to things like failure, mistakes and mockery… When, honestly, as I read through this chapter, I realized, wait a minute. That’s not a weakness at all, that’s a strength. That’s what helps you get from “I can’t do this” or “This isn’t something I’d enjoy” to actually learning new things, seeing if you would like something you thought you wouldn’t and making the leap into a bigger, more full world.

Does that mean I am going to jump up this second and take swimming lessons like Neil Pasricha did, to conquer my fear of water?

No, probably not.

But it does mean that I am going to write more and share this post, which is pretty raw and vulnerable for me. (My insides are having a battle between “Nooo don’t share these thoughts with the world! What if people make comments or think weirdly of you” and “Go for it! The more you share your writing and feelings, the better you’ll feel about doing so more often!”)

So, I might still have anxiety to contend with in my life, but I am going to make a conscious effort to try more “DO” instead of more thinking, hemming-and-hawing, and convincing myself TO DO.

The second thing I wanted to briefly mention:

(2) Fargo: Season 3, starring Ewan McGregor

I love Ewan McGregor.

To anyone who knows me, this is the most obvious statement in the history of the world, but to anyone who doesn’t, that probably should be said. He is my favourite actor (aside from one other – also obvious – person), and has been for almost 20 years now.

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A photo that I actually saw online of me (girl in green taking a photo) and Ewan (obvious), ca. 2007, when I met him at the Toronto International Film Festival.

That being said, even I hadn’t watched Fargoyet… But that all changed yesterday, when – thanks to a marathon on TV – I binge-watched the first five episodes (I’ll be watching the last five today).

My love for Ewan, notwithstanding, he does a great a job playing Emmit and Ray Stussy – twin brothers who are very different from each other and, actually, who are even different from what I thought they’d be from commercials. At one point, he was talking to himself, and I forgot that they were both being played by Ewan McGregor (until he says “no” or “know” – then, despite his doing a good job hiding his accent everywhere else, he just sounds like his adorable Scottish self…)

My favourite actor, aside, I am actually even more into Carrie Coon‘s part of the story as Gloria, former police chief and step-daughter of the first homicide victim of the show (this season). I haven’t seen the movie Fargobut I did just watch The Big Lebowksi a few weeks ago and some scenes and moments in this season really reminded me of it, especially where the murder mystery and mixed-up identities are concerned.

Even though the show is only Executive Produced by the Coen Brothers and not directed or written by them, it does still feel very them (I’ve seen a few of their other movies on top of the The Big Lebowskiso I think I’ve started to get a feel for their style).

And now, the first of the five episodes for today should be done, so I am going to run off to watch that. I will be back later with more on The Book of Awesome!

 

The Summer of Awesome

In the words of the illustrious, Backstreet Boys – Oh my God, [I’m] back again.

I have been doing fairly well in keeping up with my goal of reading a TON of books this year – as of yesterday I hit thirty-two books for this year so far! Buuut… not so well in writing about anything.

As soon I finished that 32nd book (The Power of Your Spirit by Sonia Choquette), I started reading Neil Pasricha’s book, The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything. In there, he mentioned his first book, The Book of Awesome, and how it initially started out as a blog.

Which had me stop and think, “Dang, I really neglect my blog.”

Generally speaking, I miss writing, I really used to love it when I was in school – which I know some people would just shake their heads at because essays were the bane of their existence. WELL, not for me, people!

So, I had this really great plan to get writing more again by giving myself a bunch of journal prompts I’d compiled to choose from (I think I even mentioned this in one of my previous posts where I actually wrote about one, maybe?), and I had them all cut up and in a little bag because that just sounded like a kitschy and cute thing to do… And then what happens? I dropped them all over the floor of my closet one day when trying to grab for the bag and got so annoyed that I just threw them all out.

But as I was reading, the aforementioned, The Happiness Equation, and saw the mention of The Book of Awesome, I thought… wouldn’t it be fun to get that book and see how many of the things that Mr. Pasricha finds awesome I have actually done or experienced or also find awesome, and for those that I haven’t done or experienced… well… do them?

From the little base knowledge I have on the book and having flipped through it once at the library, as far as I can tell it’s pretty every day and low-key types of things, not like it’s crazy-Bucket-List-jump-off-a-cliff insanity, which suits me perfectly well, and some of them are really just crazy random things like “The cool side of the pillow” – which suits me even better.

So, welcome to…

The Summer of Awesome!

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Enjoy all the nonsense ahead and Happy Summer to you all!

 

 

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – spoiler-heavy review

***This post contains SPOILERS for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ***

Note: Also, please excuse any typos because I haven’t had a chance for a second read through yet

It has been a few days now since I finished reading “The Eighth Story” – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

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For anyone who – somehow – happens to not be in the know, this is not a novel, it is a play/scriptbook based on the actual stage play that is being put on currently in London, England.

Sadly, I am not able to travel to England any time soon, and even if I could, the play is sold out well into next year! So, thank Dumbledore (!), JK Rowling and co. decided to release the play as a book format.

I know this has some people disappointed because:

(1) Why is it a play and not a book or movie to begin with?

(2) If it’s being released as a book, why not a proper novel?

(3) JK Rowling didn’t actually write the play herself.  She collaborated with the playwright, Jack Thorne, and director, John Tiffany, to create this piece of work. Don’t be alarmed, it is her story, she just didn’t actually write the play.

One of my biggest concerns, aside from the obvious trauma of having characters I know and love either butchered or go off in a direction I didn’t want them to, was that if someone else is writing the actual dialogue, would they get too wrapped up in their image of them based, in large part now, on the movie versions?

If I ever got to ask JK Rowling one question (though I have a few!), the one that always comes back to me is if she found her own writing being swayed by the film representations – i.e. by the time the Deathly Hallows book was released, there had already been four movies, with two Dumbledores. Most people who read the books before the movies felt that Richard Harris was Dumbledore, the Dumbledore they grew up with, the one that was in their head. Then Michael Gambon took over and brought a certain…intensity…shall we say (Potterheads know what I’m referring to… 😛 ). Was her own Dumbledore ever influenced by the one that she saw coming from Michael Gambon?

I highly doubt it because she has very clear and concise ideas about her stories and characters, but does the same hold true when someone else, who is taking her lead, but who is not the original creator, goes ahead with the story?

This brings me to one of the issues I had with Cursed ChildBut before I get into that, let me tell you what I thought overall!

So…How Did I Like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?

A lot of people have asked me how the book was, but truthfully, I feel like I can’t give a proper answer without giving away some of the story, somehow.

I remember hearing recently, either one of the actors or writers, said something along the same lines – you really can’t discuss it without giving something away, and I completely understood that while reading it.

The little blurb about Albus Severus and Harry on the book jacket really is about as vague as you can be without spilling something.

My general – vague, spoiler-free – response to people has been similar to:

“It’s…interesting.  It isn’t what I expected, even though I didn’t know WHAT to expect, and at times it made my insides feel uncomfortable. There are things that are not going to sit well with people, but, for the most part, they’re still the characters we love, so you do get into it and want to see where it goes.”

But since I warned of spoilers already, I’m going for it a bit more in-depth here:

***SPOILERS BE AHEAD***

The entire premise of Cursed Child is based on time travel and messing with timelines which I, personally, am not comfortable with because it usually goes horribly awry and confuses my brain (*cough*XMen*cough).

I was really worried they were going to screw up the timeline and just leave it be and say “Oh well! Alternate timeline!”, as has been a theme of late (*cough*XMenAgain*cough*StarTrekToo*cough*), but thankfully, through a simple shield spell, things were rectified.

The whole first part of the play, though, my chest had a constant constriction of anxiety, worrying about this exact thing.  Also, I’m not going to lie, I really disliked Harry Potter’s son Albus Severus. He was all the whiny, emo, angst of Harry in Order of the Phoenixwith hardly any of the reason to be.

Maybe had we watched him grow from eleven to fifteen, as we did Harry, I would be more sympathetic.  If we’d seen some of his struggles of being sorted into Slytherin (gasp! Called it!), rather than brief snippets that just mush together until they reach the time they need to be at for the story, I may have understood his pain more, but from where I was, he was just coming off as a brat.

It doesn’t help that we’ve all, essentially, grown up with Harry, so seeing his son treat him so shoddily (how dare you treat his attempt to reach out by giving you his blanket from Lily with such disrespect!!), didn’t sit well with me at all.

His reasons for going back into the past (to save Cedric because he thinks his dad should have/should help Amos Diggory who comes to ask him to do so) were very rooted in this teen-angst too, so the first half really was a bit, for lack of a better word, “meh” to me.

BUT Part 2 sure did pick up, and even though I feel like I need another read or two to see how I actually feel about this (that is to say, if I can accept it as canon), I did end feeling satisfied and wanting more.

What Didn’t I Like?

I’ll start with the negatives first and then build to the positives…

Ron was too goofy/too like movie-Ron

As much as I loved seeing the trio, and Ginny and Draco, among others, all back and, for the most part, just as  I know them, I felt like Ron was used as way too much comic relief.

I think Rupert Grint did a fantastic job as Ron in the movies (honestly, can you really read Ron saying “Bloody hell!” without thinking of Rupert Grint now?), but they really did Ron’s character so little justice in the movies.

In the books, Ron has his hilarious moments, but he’s also a very brave and strong character when he needs to be. The movies, kind of, stripped that away from him, making him the silly, comic relief best friend and the play has just continued that. I don’t think there was a single scene where Ron wasn’t doing something that was just ridiculous, and that was a bit disappointing.

Ginny also didn’t do very much

Now Ginny is where I and a lot of other HP fans diverge because I actually liked movie-Ginny. I thought Bonnie Wright played a sweet, but still tough Ginny, one who I could see really cared about Harry all the way through. Many people have said they found her too weak and meek, but I never saw that… but I did see that in the play Ginny a bit.

I just feel like aside from berating Harry for being a bad father, or comforting him after a bad dream, she didn’t actually get to do very much. Same goes for their other two children, James and Lily, which leads me to my next point…

Not enough of the side characters

This really isn’t something I should complain about given which characters did show up (more on that later!), but I really missed seeing Luna, Neville and the Weasleys. Part of me feels like this is the downside of doing this as a play, you can only have a limited number in your company, which means you have to really make bold choices about who to keep in and who to cut out (or in Neville’s case, just mention and never show).

I think I was most upset that Luna was not only not seen, but never even mentioned in the play, and worse than her, neither was George! Time and again, it is said that Ron “runs a joke shop,” but it seems to me… it’s his brother’s joke shop…a brother they never once mention. I’d have really liked to know how George was coping, after the traumatic loss of Fred, all these years later.

Same goes for Teddy Lupin. There was no mentions of Harry’s godson in the least…

I understand the limitations of time, actors, space and money, but these were definite areas where the play was lacking. One of the reasons I started reading the Harry Potter books to begin with was because I got a taste for how many supporting characters there were in the movies and just how intricate the backstories were and I wanted to know more. Cursed Child spends 99% of the time with Albus (annoying) and Scorpius (sweet), which leaves a lot to be desired.

Albus Severus

With a name like Albus Severus, could I have really expected anything less than angst from this child? I might be a little hard on this character, and might change my mind upon another reading, but my gut reaction from the first read through was that he just grated on my nerves.

Time Travel angle

As I mentioned already, this didn’t sit well with me as the main impetus for the plot, but they managed to correct it and I suppose it was fun to see the alternate realities once you know that everything is back to normal. Still, as I was reading it, I did worry if it would screw up everything I knew and loved.

Delphi

As a person, she was very annoying. I knew from the get-go that there was something off about her and that she’d have to turn out to be the evildoer.  For me, it was like when you’re watching an episode of Law & Order and everyone is struggling to figure out who the criminal is, and they just happen to have a big name guest star, so in the first five minutes you point to the TV and say “It’s him/her” and lo and behold…it is!

She rubbed me the wrong way from the very beginning, which I suppose means the writers were doing their job and my judge of character is pretty good, but I just didn’t like her as a character… Towards the end when her big secret and motivations come out it was a bit better (her big “I am Lord Voldemort”-esque moment), but I feel like she could have accomplished what she wanted to do in another way.

Canon or Fanfic?

Am I the only one that felt like I was reading FanFic at times?

Not just any fanfic, very clear Drarry fanfic… (And then in the end ASP/SM don’t even actually end up together, so it was a cop out fanfic?) I have never been one for the Drarry pairing, I always felt like those two really did just hate each other, but you could completely see that Albus and Scorpius were in love with each other (or at least would be in time), but the way it was all written seemed so very hokey and fanfic-like.

The second alternate reality and big climactic twist also read as a bit fanfic-like – especially the climactic twist. The Voldie/Bella people (are there any?!) must be really happy though… 😛

Polyjuice Potion use

This is just a nerdy, nitpicky moment but – Polyjuice Potion takes a MONTH to brew, so to have AS, Scorpius and Delphi use that wasn’t really sensible. I convinced myself (and my niece corroborated with me 😛 ) that Delphi was shifty and maybe just had a bunch of it lying around. BUT then Albus mentions it again later when they want Harry to masquerade as Voldemort, that he is “good at Polyjuicing” — good or not Albus Severus, you can’t make a one-month potion in 5 minutes! (Just like Josh Groban can’t have his pizza in five minutes!)

What Did I Like?

Scorpius

Right from his first scene, I literally thought “I like this kid!” I like that he was nerdy and a bit insecure, the complete antithesis of his father. Speaking of, I liked the depth of his relationship – or lack thereof – with Draco. I actually cared more about their relationship and seeing it through than I did Albus and Harry’s.

When Part 2 starts with Scorpius alone, and Albus not existing, I was actually happier because I found Albus was holding the story down, and when Scorpius was given his time to shine it was much more interesting.

Of the newbies, he’s the clear favourite!

McGonagall galore!

I didn’t expect McGonagall to be there at all much less to be there so much. She is one of my favourite characters and that only grew even more as I read this play.  When she scolded – Minister for Magic – Hermione, that was pretty fantastic.

I was worried we wouldn’t see any of her and that she’d passed on from her job as Headmistress by this point. I was so glad she was back!

The time in the “Voldemort and Valor” universe

Much like the Star Trek Mirror, Mirror universe, these scenes gave us a look into a bleak alternate reality, which I enjoyed seeing – not least of all because MY FAVOURITE CHARACTER LIIIIIVES!

My niece actually said to me when she got to that part, “Were you happy? Were you happy to see Snape was alive?” and I was, I genuinely was, my heart literally skipped a beat when “Professor Snape” was mentioned and I was in jittery excitement all the way through the scenes where he interacts with Scorpius.

I know there will be some people who hate those scenes because they might think Snape acts out of character or that having Snape actually continue to be on the Order/Dumbledore’s side would be unrealistic, but I think this all comes back around to the “Great Snape Debate.” If anything, this will only make the debate even more interesting for years to come…

I like it because it really helps those of us in the pro-Snape camp by showing that, yeah, it started with Lily, but maybe it’s also possible he actually realized the error of his ways. That’s the Snape I’ve always believed in, so it was very nice to see.

My response to my niece when she asked me was that I was so, so happy, but I also was slightly nervous that he’d be a bad guy in this universe. It would have corroborated people’s theories that he really didn’t give a hoot aside from his love/obsession with Lily and needing to alleviate his guilt. The fact that it went my way, I was thrilled. 😀

And I won’t lie, as I was reading it (specifically the patronus part), I thought: “Is this cheesy? This might be cheesy… I don’t really care, I love it!” – so when it comes to Snape’s part in the play, sorry, I’m not really objective. 😛

For example, Scorpius’ line: “Thank you for being my light in the darkness” was…yes…quite cheesy, but because he said it to Snape, I just took it all starry-eyed. 😛 My reaction to it was literally: “Aww, that was SO cheesy,” but I still liked it.

Draco with the Trio

Having Draco spend some quality time with the trio (and even Ginny) was nice. This is another part that might come off as out-of-character, but with 20+ years to consider his life and then losing his wife, it’s not hard to believe Draco did some soul searching and became a new, and better, man.

I particularly enjoyed the small foray into his “small talk” with Harry about what he wished he could have done with his life. It was nice to see that Draco, deep down, was just an insecure kid, and even still an insecure adult/dad.

Harry and his parents

This is an odd thing to “like” because it was very sad, but having older-Harry actually present at the time of his parents’ deaths packed a huge emotional punch. That was sad to read and I’m sure would be even sadder to see.

Things I am unsure of and/or still have questions about…

Cedric the Death Eater

I am a proud (now) Hufflepuff and I have a very hard time believing that a Hufflepuff would become a Death Eater – especially just because he was humiliated or embarrassed. I’m sure there was more to it than this and maybe there are some bad-wizard Hufflepuffs around (though it’s the one house known to have the lowest percentage of dark wizards), but I just can’t believe it.

Voldemort and Bellatrix sitting in a tree…? o_o

I am definitely not one to disregard the obvious fact that Voldemort and Bellatrix had a…thing…of some sort…going, but them actually having a KID?!

I was so thrown by this momentarily and didn’t believe it, that I was caught up in that theory from earlier in the book about the time turner being used to go back and get someone impregnated just so Voldemort would have an heir later… I couldn’t fathom that this was meant to have taken place in the stories we already know/canon  (And unless JKR can outright say she always planned this or can explain it… I may never be able to!)

But clearly that made no sense whatsoever and it was just the fact that Voldie and Bella (ew ew ew ew) knocked boots at some point… (ewwww).

I wasn’t really sold on this, even though I think it is an interesting little twist, mostly because I couldn’t figure out when she had 9 months out-of-action when we didn’t see her around, BUT then I read a few theories online saying, if you actually look carefully, there is actually more than enough time for her to be pregnant and have a kid between Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows. If you disregard her showing up – looking very un-pregnant – at the Burrow and when Dumbledore is killed in the Half-Blood Prince movie, there’s a good chance she was pregnant all throughout HBP.

Some people speculate she was pregnant when she and Narcissa went to see Snape at Spinner’s End because she mentions that if she had “sons” she’d be happy to give them up to The Dark Lord… why would she say it like that and not as “if I had son/child” when she doesn’t have any kids? Alternately, she could have either already had Delphi or known she’s having a daughter (soon) because she only mentions if she had “sons” and not daughters/a daughter…

If she was pregnant at that point (summer of 1996), Delphi could have even been born in early 1997…which would make her the right age (“early twenties” as she says at one point) AND movie-Bella could have even been present for Dumbledore’s death (but not the Burrow destruction, unless she was just hiding it really well under that corset!).

So…the possibilities date-wise are there, but there’s the whole other conundrum of Voldemort being unable to love.

But then again…who said he ever loved Bella, really. :\

Gross.

Lol.

I imagine this will also bring up a lot of questions from children who either read the play or go to see it with their parents. It’d be easy to get around if they didn’t mention Bellatrix’s husband, but Delphi does mention Rodolphus is the one who corroborates whose kid she is/the prophecy (that I didn’t fully understand, to be honest). I’m sure there will be more than a few “But if Rodolphus and Bellatrix were married, how is she Voldemort’s daughter?” questions…

Questions that I will deflect onto parents when asked them from school children (or hope their parents have already explain…somehow. 😛 )

Prophecy

See above. Didn’t really get where it came from.  Did I miss something?

Harry-Voldemort connection

Why did Harry suddenly have his Voldemort connection back? Clearly Delphi has been around for 20+ years herself, so if it’s all because of her, why didn’t Harry feel all this much earlier? Where’s she been this whole time? Why’d she only start pestering Albus Severus when he was 14/15? Why not befriend him when he was 5 as his “invisible friend” and wreak some havoc? (She would have only been 13/14 herself at the point, but I’m sure she, as a Riddle-Lestrange, would’ve been smart and evil enough to get this done! Hm, I may be a Hufflepuff, but I do have the ability to think up dark things… Maybe Death-Eater-Cedric isn’t so unreasonable a thought after all!)

The cover of the book

I still don’t quite get who that is on there and what it represents.  Is it Albus Severus? Is it Delphi? Is it Albus Severus sitting in a nest made by Delphi? (The wings, I assume, represent her).

Who IS The Cursed Child?

I figure this seems obvious – it’s Delphi, right?

But it really could be any of the children the play focuses on!

It could be Albus Severus – cursed because of his connection to his father, his sorting into Slytherin, his screw-ups and his attraction to a pure-evil woman.

It could be Scorpius – cursed because of his name, his father and the loss of his mother (and his own screw-ups, though he worked a lot harder than Albus to fix them).

But it’s most likely Delphi… because, come on, her parents. Yuck. Lol.

(A friend of mine suggested she even thought it was Harry as she was reading Part 1).

Anyhow, in the end, as I told my cousin when she said she’s afraid to read it in case it ruins the world for her, I find it’s still okay with me because if I need be, I can still disregard it. 😛

I would like to see the play though because I can’t even fathom how they did the effects for it! I hope they either put it in theatres or bring it here at some point. My brother and sister have both said they think they’d have a hard time with it because they’re so used to the movie actors, and though I had originally said “as long as they do the characters justice I’ll be fine with it” – that’s when I had seen who’s playing Harry, Ron, Hermione and Draco and was satisfied… Now that I know who else is in the play… it might be a bit harder for me to let go and see them as the characters (Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith are exceptionally hard to replace…sorry…)

So that’s that for me on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

 

“Divergent” – Veronica Roth

After a three month hiatus (wow, hadn’t realised it has been that long until I checked my last post) – I am back with a post!

The last three months have been good (A new job!  Trip to Montreal!) and really bad (personal issues that left me down), but undeniably busy.

With all this, I actually did still manage to read quite a few books, including the first two in Sandra Gulland‘s wonderful series on the fictionalized life of Josephine Bonaparte, among others.

Today, I just finished a book that was recommended to me by at least three different people – Divergent by Veronica Roth.  People had suggested, if I liked the Hunger Games series, I would probably like this too.

divergent

Unfortunately, that did not hold true.

I’ve found in the last year or so, that I really do enjoy dystopian fiction.  Thinking about it, I’ve actually enjoyed it for a while, since I really liked Brave New World when I read it in high school.  I took to Hunger Games, despite its disturbing theme, because it was well-written and Suzanne Collins made her world really believable.

I think this is the main issue that I had with Divergent.  I understand that as Young Adult fiction, I – at 27 years old – am not the target demographic and that it is written for a younger audience.  Still, I do feel that Veronica Roth missed a number of opportunities to flesh out the world her main character Beatrice “Tris” Prior lives in.

I don’t want to keep comparing this to Hunger Games and bringing it back to that, because they are clearly separate and have their own stories, but I do have to use it as a good example of how – in just one short scene/paragraph, Suzanne Collins explains to us why the world has devolved into factions and the situations that led us to this dystopian society.

In the scene where Katniss awaits the reaping, and a film is showed – as is tradition – to explain why they must select participants from each district, we learn about a terrible war that led to this new structue.

Unless I missed it somewhere, Roth never explains the reasons for factions in her society very clearly.  She just has us take it for granted that people thought things were getting out of control in the world, now everyone is VERY strict about what they believe in and is tied to only ONE particular virtue.  There’s no real example of the impetus behind why people chose to be either selfless, peaceful, brave, honest or intelligent.

Sure, we can tell ourselves that a war may have happened, or maybe a terrible attack, or some sort of large-scale incident, but…we shouldn’t have to.  A good writer would have explained some history as to how the society ended up where it is, or at least hinted at it.

The way it is leaves the society a bit hollow and hard to believe.  The idea that the world’s political leaders (or just in the United States?  This is also not clear.) would ever agree to such a staunch breakdown of their society is confusing and really requires some more background.

From the way the book is set up, with the main story-line action taking place in the last 50 pages, I get the sense that we are meant to question these things in the hopes that they will be answered later (i.e. in the hopes that pre-teens/teens get hooked and have to buy all the subsequent books that she has written/plans to write).

History and reasonable explanations for why the setting is the way it is aside, calling the book Divergent was even a stretch because this concept, too, is not explained all that well.

Ninety-percent of the book is spent with Tris in her new faction (with her having moved from the “selfless” Abnegation, to the “brave” Dauntless).  The big taboo word of her being “Divergent” is thrown around at the beginning and all throughout, but it’s hardly explained until closer to the end of the book… At that point we’ve spent so much time hearing her complain about wanting to make sure she is “Dauntless,” that when she suddenly takes on being “Divergent,” it seems forced.

The “Dauntless,” themselves, as a group are quite ridiculous as well.  Their “bravery” is much more recklessness and stupidity.  This is actually a point that a character brings up, how “they’ve changed” from how they used to be – but, again, we have no frame of reference, so all we get to see is a bunch of teenagers jumping off trains and buildings, and shooting each other with paint ball guns to prove they’re brave…

The concepts behind this book were great and, like I said, I am starting to realise I love dystopian fiction, but it could have been put together in a much better way.

I didn’t know much about the author going into this book, but as I was reading it, I found myself questioning if maybe she, herself, was a teenager or quite young.  Sure enough, she’s only 25 years old now and was 23 at the time Divergent was published.

I know this only makes me two years older than her, but I did get the feeling I was too old for the book and would prefer something written by someone a bit more mature.  So, the chances of my continuing on with this series are fairly low, unless I am strapped for something to read (which is HIGHLY unlikely).

I may check out the movie version of this book, which is coming out next year – just to see how filmmakers decided to put their own spin on it.  From the trailer alone, I could tell they added in a lot more exposition and explanations as to why things were happening in their world.  Also, the character who appears to be the main antagonist throughout the series – Jeanine Matthews – seems to have a much larger role, and is played by the wonderful Kate Winslet, so that already lends the movie some more credibility.

And now, off I go to finish Doctor Who, season 1… (That I am enjoying very much!)

My Books for 2012

By the end of 2012, I managed to read twenty-four books! (Not including graphic novels.)

At two books a month, this was a pretty huge feat for me.  When I was in university I was probably averaging more than two a week, at times, but this was definitely the most books I’ve read for recreation purposes in one year.

The list of My 2012 Books is as follows (with the month I read them in parentheses and a brief blurb and rating out of five underneath):

1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (January 2012)

One of the best books I’ve ever read.  It tackled a difficult theme and Stockett wrote very thorough, fleshed-out characters.  It was also one of the few books I’ve read that translated over into a movie that was just as good.

5/5

2. The Colour Purple by Alice Walker (February 2012)

Ironically, I read The Help and this one after the other, leading straight into Black History Month, without realising it at first.  A good book that deals with intense issues, but it did drag at times.

3/5

3. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (March 2012)

I love elephants, which made this book disturbing, yet wonderful all at the same time.  My respect, admiration and love for elephants only grew further, hearing about the exploits of lovely Rosie, prompting me to “adopt” my first elephant, Kainuk, from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. 

4/5

4. I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella (March 2012)

Nowhere near as entertaining as her previous books.  This book made me realise it’s probably time I move on from the “chick lit” genre – especially Sophie Kinsella’s books – because all the characters and storylines are too formulaic and there are never any genuine surprises.

2/5

5. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (March 2012)

Such a horrific and disturbing concept, and yet so captivating.  I read this book after having seen the movie, and enjoyed both very much.  Like The Help, it’s one of few books that has made an amazing transfer over to film.  I look forward to the subsequent movies in the series.

4/5

6. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (March 2012)

Possibly even better than the first, this book had me in a state of stress all the way through.  By the last chapter, I literally felt as though I was going through the experiences myself the way I felt the emotions so deeply.  Again, I look forward to the movie later this year!

4/5

7. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (March 2012)

Not a terrible book on the whole, but definitely a disappointing and slow-moving conclusion to an otherwise riveting series.  The amount of time we spend inside Katniss Everdeen’s paranoid mind becomes tedious.  I am most looking forward to seeing how this movie translates onto the big screen, as Jennifer Lawrence makes a very likable Katniss, whereas I found my respect for her declined quite quickly in the books.

3/5

8. The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinski (April 2012)

This book restored my faith in reading “chick lit” because of the unique concept.  Still formulaic in some ways, but the storyline was interesting and different.  A good bit of fluff, with a darker undertone too.

3/5

9. The Bible’s Most Fascinating People: Stories from the
Old and New Testaments by R.P. Nettelhorst (May 2012)

A non-fiction book compiling short biographies on various Biblical individuals, based on information provided in the Bible.  Having studied the Bible, I enjoyed it to get a refresher on some of the people I had forgotten about, more details on others I remembered well and some that I have yet to come across at all.

3.5/5

10. Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d’Art by Christopher Moore (May 2012)

I usually take to Christopher Moore’s books right away, but I had trouble with this one.  None of the characters were likable, particularly not the main characters (who I think I was supposed to be rooting for).  I did, however, enjoy the references to paintings and various painters and the impact the main aspect of the storyline had on their works.

2.5/5

11. Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (May 2012)

Enjoyable, though, stressful, tale of two friends – “old sames” – in 19th century China.  Not my favourite of Lisa See’s books, but the detail and obvious research she puts into her books is admirable.

3.5/5

12. Bossypants by Tina Fey (June 2012)

A great fun book if you’re a fan of Tina Fey.  Probably very confusing, and possibly extremely annoying, if you’re not.

3/5

13. Zipporah: Wife of Moses by Marek Halter (June 2012)

One of my two least favourite books of the year – possibly ever.  An extremely boring and tedious look at the life of Moses’ wife, Zipporah.  The characters are flat, with no real depth whatsoever.  All antagonists for the main character are written purely villainous with no redeeming qualities – even GOOD Biblical individuals such as Moses’ siblings, Aaron and Miriam.

1/5

14. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (June 2012)

A wonderful little book about a wonderful little island.  Written in epistolary style, this book has a lot of charm, with sadness at heart, being based around World War II and post-World War II events.  Anyone who enjoys character-drive books would take to this, as it has many unique characters.

3.5/5

15. Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith (July 2012)

This story of the Three Wisemen – written as criminals and thieves accidentally brought together with Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus – is actually a bit boring and not as fun or funny as you’d expect.  Start out jokingly, then takes a turn for serious – the mix doesn’t really work all that well.  I feel like it would have been better written by Christopher Moore.

2/5

16. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (August 2012)

An amazing book that can hardly be explained without giving anything away.  This books tells the story of a young girl – Liesel.  Despite the title, it is less about her thievery than just her life in general during World War II.  Though it starts out a bit strange, with vague and cryptic narration by a disembodied figure (“Death”), the characters come to life in a way that makes you miss and mourn them and their lives.

4.5/5

17. Dead Until Dark [True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse series #1] by Charlaine Harris (August 2012)

Surprisingly, this is a book that was vastly improved upon when brought to the (small) screen (as HBO’s True Blood).  Not much more than chick lit with a tinge of the supernatural.  In a choice between reading the book or watching the TV show, I would definitely choose the show.  Even though the book is the source material, it adds nothing to the characters and actually portrays them as much more flat and uninteresting.  

2/5

18. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (September 2012)

My second most disliked book of the year.  Trying to be a a philosophical and existential gem, this book just goes in circles.  It may hit a note with people looking for a catalyst/inspiration for self-discovery, but if you’re already there, you’re better off turning to self-help books or experiencing your own life.  I do wonder, however, if there was something lost in translation, so I am willing to give it an extra 1/2 point for benefit of a doubt.

1.5/5

19. War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (October 2012)

Very imaginative and well-written considering when it was written.  It’s easy to take the book for granted in our times of technology, but considering this a book from 1898, well before any of our modern inventions, it is amazing what Wells was able to come up with.

3.5/5

20. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button [short story] by F. Scott Fitzgerald
(October 2012)

Entertaining, simple and interesting – if the hollywood film had stuck more closely to the short story it would have been a much better movie.

4/5

21. Extreme Frontiers: Racing Across Canada from
Newfoundland to the Rockies by Charley Boorman (October 2012)

A non-fiction book about actor/travel writer Charley Boorman’s trip across Canada, looking for extreme adventures.  Though fun to hear Charley’s point of view – always genuine and not at all pretentious – it was disappointing as a Canadian reader because of the lack of diversity.

2.5/5

22. The Midwife of Venice by  (November 2012)

A fast-moving story about a 16th-century Jewish midwife’s struggles to get her imprisoned husband back from Malta, while also doing whatever it takes to protect a Christian child she helped bring into the world.  Very entertaining and exciting!

4/5

23. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (November 2012)

A story about a naive young son of a German officer in World War II who befriends a Jewish boy imprisoned at Auschwitz.  In general it is hard to tell if this is meant for children or adults.  The concepts may go over the heads of children and teenagers, but the writing  style is too unbelievable and childish for adults.

2/5

24. The Magic by Rhonda Byrne (December 2012)

A non-fiction book, by the author of The Secret, on how to change your life using the power of gratitude.  Using the author’s 28 practices over 28 days, the reader is meant to feel an enormous change in their lives for the better.  I can’t say I experienced such a profound change – in fact my life got quite a bit worse right in the middle – but I appreciate the practices as a good way to remind myself I have things to be thankful for in life and keep negative attitudes at bay – something that has always been difficult for me to do.

3/5

I was reading Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore as we crossed over from 2012 into 2013!  I just finished it yesterday, so I am including that on my 2013 book list, but I will give my thoughts briefly here.

Like Moore’s much more recent, Sacre Bleu, I had a hard time getting through this one because I quite disliked the main characters.  The characters I did like and wanted more fromwere relegated to the background or minor roles.  Overall, an entertaining book that picks up about three-quarters of the way through, but not one of Moore’s best in my eyes. (2.5/5)

Of his thirteen books, I have read seven now.  Of those seven, I have loved four and thought the other three were mediocre – so, he still has me ready and willing to read more because at the very least I know it’ll be entertaining even if not amazing.

The next book I intend to read this year – 1984 by George Orwell

“Snowflower and the Secret Fan” by Lisa See

Snowflower and the Secret Fan” by Lisa See

As I stated in my post on Lisa See’s other two books I’ve read, Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy – I first attempted to read Snowflower and the Secret Fan almost (exactly) five years ago.  I was twenty years old, going into my last year of university and had never, once, taken a class on Chinese culture.

Until that point, all of my classes had generally been Medieval Europe or ancient Near East, but with very few choices in my final year, I was left taking two courses I didn’t expect – Introduction to Confucianism and Women in Chinese Culture.  Of the two, one became a favourite (the other, unfortunately, least favourite).

Considering I returned to this book five years later, I think it’s fairly obvious that the Women in Chinese Culture class was the one that struck me most.  Before taking this class, I appreciated Lisa See’s writing and style, but not enough to actually understand what she was hoping to get across.  After about 75 pages I had to return the book to the library (for fear of dreaded 25 cent late fees!) and hadn’t come back to it since.

Now, recovering at home after sinus surgery, I had time to read – and I had the book, which I’d just picked up from the library right before.  This time around, I really enjoyed it.  I finished it within two days and every time I put it down I was eager to pick it back up again.

The story tells the tale of two laotong or “old sames” – girls who are bound to a friendship and relationship that transcends even that of their eventual marriages.  [The best description I’ve seen for this relationship is a “kindred sister.”]  Lily, the poorer and less fortunate of the two, looks up to and is in awe of Snowflower’s upbringing and learning, but learns in time that things in their lives are not completely what they seem.

The book doesn’t have a lot of huge twists and turns – or drama – as the others I’ve read by Lisa See, but I think the subtlety is what makes it work.  You’re reading the book to find out about the lives of these women – many women – in 19th century China.  The gruesome realities of footbinding; a woman’s place in her natal family and family by marriage; and how political shifts affect their lives, are all written about in just enough detail to let you feel what it was like.

I have to say, I absolutely love Lisa See’s writing.  I hope she writes more books soon because I am always going to be ready to read whatever she comes out with next.  You can tell she puts a lot of effort into researching details for her historical fiction.  I imagine, being of half-Chinese descent this has impacted her desire to be in-depth and appropriate with her details.

Part of me feels a bit disappointed that I have yet to come across any authors who’ve written about historical India in this way.  In university, I remember my mom saying to me “Why don’t you take any courses about India or Hindusim?”  It wasn’t a conscious decision on my part – my university just offered very little in those areas!  When I was younger, that probably wouldn’t have bothered me much, but now, as I’m getting older, I’d really like to know more about my own culture.

Yes, I can read non-fiction.  But now that I’m out of university and it’s not specifically part of scholarly pursuits – I want to find an author like Lisa See for Indian historical fiction; someone who is able to weave history into narrative tales that will also entertain me – enough to make more than one stand-alone story, as well.

Maybe one day… Or maybe I’ll just have to do it myself!