Archive | August, 2016

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling (5/5)

15 Aug

I was so beyond excited to read this book. I’ve been looking forward to it since it was announced and I went to a midnight release party to celebrate it. Would I surprise anyone if I said I finished it by 2:30 PM the day it came out? I didn’t think so.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I and II by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

Other books by this author:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, Illustrated by Jim Kay
Harry Potter y el orden del fenix by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter y el misterio del principe by J.K. Rowling
Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Summary 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.

I was apprehensive, to be honest. This is my favorite franchise of all time, what if it wasn’t what I was hoping for? It was so fun to see the characters I love all grown up and grappling with parenting. It was great to meet the young children we only get a very brief glimpse into during the epilog of the 7th book. This was everything I could have hoped for. I’m going to try to keep this spoiler free and I’ll let you all know if you need to skip a paragraph.

I loved Scorpius and Albus. It would have been easy to make them similar to their fathers but Rowling (who I’m going to credit with the plot for this review) built them into entirely different people. I liked how they developed and interacted during the accelerated first years of the book and I enjoyed their relationship during the main focus of the plot as well. Again, I don’t want to get to any spoilers here, but Scorpius was very smart and resourceful when he needed to be and he had that Slytherin cunning to get him through.

If it’s not obvious, Scorpius was my favorite character. It was too easy to read Albus as a whiny teenager while Scorpius had real problems to deal with and a positive outlook on things that were beyond his control. I liked Ron the least. I thought he was turned too much into a bumbling dumb old man. It was disappointing.

I think Albus was easy to relate to. Growing up, I felt the pressure to be like my parents. I should be as successful as them, as happy as them, and do the work they did. I can’t imagine what that pressure would feel like if Harry Potter was my dad! The end of Deathly Hallows gives us a rosy view of Albus but this book really digs into the difficulty he has to go through.

J.K. Rowling Image via The Telegraph

J.K. Rowling
Image via The Telegraph

Ok, being vague here to not give away the plot. I liked Scorpius and Albus’s adventures in the meat of the novel. I liked what they had to go through to fix the problems and put things back to how they were. Was that vague enough? I hope so. If you read the book, I hope you know what I’m talking about.

I think the biggest difference to me between this play and the original novels was the multiple points of view. Not only do we get Albus and Scorpius’s conversations, but we have Harry and Ginny as well as Hermione and Ron. That was weird for me and threw me off a bit. I know it’s better for a play, but it was not ‘Harry Potter-y’ and to me was one of the most marked differences.

 

I think we’ve all wondered what would happen if one thing in our past changed. Maybe something that we consider insignificant but it could have resounding impacts on the future. I liked the way this was explored in the novel. (Again, trying to be vague here.) I thought the alternatives that were presented made sense and showed how important every part of our past can be.

Writer’s Takeaway: I hadn’t read a play in a while. I read Shakespeare in high school but I honestly think that might be the last time I cracked one open. It was fun to read this style again, but I see why Rowling needed some assistance to be an effective writer in this format. There’s a lot to consider with who is on stage when, how much you can do with effects, scene changes, etc. I think the team pulled the whole thing off well.

Yes, it’s because of the nostalgia and I don’t care. A full Five out of Five stars.

I did the math and the majority of this plot takes place in the future so I’m counting this title toward ‘the future’ time period for the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling | GemsBookNook
Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne | Bookiecookie Blog

Book Review: 10% Happier by Dan Harris (3/5)

11 Aug

The title of this book was intriguing. I think we could all stand to be 10% happier. It was nominated for a Goodreads 2014 in nonfiction which is what originally drew my eye. I was on a 20+ person waiting list on Overdrive for the book but got it off Hoopla as soon as I wanted it. (Note: If you have a library card, explore your digital ending options. Some are superior to others, in my opinion.)

10%10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works- A True Story by Dan Harris

Summary from Goodreads:

After having a nationally televised panic attack on Good Morning America, Dan Harris knew he had to make some changes. After learning about research that suggests meditation can do everything from lower your blood pressure to essentially rewire your brain, Harris took a deep dive into the underreported world of CEOs, scientists, and even marines who are now using it for increased calm, focus, and happiness. 10% Happier takes readers on a ride from the outer reaches of neuroscience to the inner sanctum of network news to the bizarre fringes of America’s spiritual scene, and leaves them with a takeaway that could actually change their lives.

I had never heard of Dan Harris before reading this book. I’m not a big fan of TV news, which is probably the major reason. I had no idea he’d been a figure on NBC for years and I had a little understanding of how that would affect his emotional state and personality. I liked Dan and he was very honest in this book, which read more like a memoir than a self-help book. Dan’s simple answer is meditation. While meditation is usually associated with Buddhist monks and many of those Dan interacts with are Buddhists, I don’t believe that the brand of meditation he subscribes to is in conflict with any person’s belief system. It’s a simple 30-minute exercise of clearing his mind, focusing on his breath and slowing everything down to a pace where his focus remains in the ‘now’ instead of worrying about the past or future. It’s something that might be helpful to me and my constant worrying about things coming up and dwelling on what’s already happened.

Dan portrayed himself in a very real and honest way. He refrained from saying too much about others or passing judgment on as many as he could and still tell his story. I liked that he didn’t go too in-depth about his wife or family and left them out of his story (95% of the time). He kept the focus very strongly on his journey to finding a form of meditation that worked for him.

I thought Dan portrayed the JewBu’s in a very positive way. This was a subculture I knew nothing about and he gave them a great light. I still think it’s odd that so many Jews embraced Buddhism with such fervor and I liked how Dan felt comfortable with this subculture.

It was hard for me to relate to any of the characters too deeply. That’s part of what I love about memoirs. I don’t have to be similar to the person or relate to their story to appreciate what they have to say. I think Dan’s journey is great. I don’t know if I would ever go through the same thing (especially because he says his initial downturn was because of recreational drug use) but it’s interesting to hear about how he recovered and what he found on the other side.

Dan Harris Image via ABC website

Dan Harris
Image via ABC website

I really enjoyed Dan’s story about his first retreat. He entered the week with skepticism similar to mine upon hearing the story. I like how he described recognizing his pain and it felt very real to me. It made me think of how I would feel in a similarly unfamiliar circumstance. One of my priests at church told me about a silent retreat they do as seminarians. They can bring a Bible, but any other books are a distraction from the prayer and study that should happen that weekend. This kept popping into my head as Dan told about his time on the retreat.

It was hard to hear about Dan’s addiction and struggles with drugs. It was reassuring knowing that he came out on the other side alright (assuming so as he narrated the audiobook), but it’s still hard to hear how that affected his life.

Harris narrating the audiobook himself was nice. He gave great inflection to his stories and the sarcastic tone he carried for a large part of it. One of his supervisors tells him at one point that he’ll never be an evening news anchor because his voice is too grating and I have to agree. I thought that after seven hours, he was a bit much.

I like the idea of what Dan is selling, but I didn’t 100% buy it. Maybe meditation would make me happier and help me approach life in a healthier manner. Or it could be a chunk of my day I don’t get back. It could be a long learning curve for me to get to a productive part of my study that would be more frustrating than rewarding while I’m going through it. It could be a lot of things. I’m not sure I’ll try it, but it’s nice to know that option is out there.

Writer’s Takeaway: I don’t think I would have read a self-help book on meditation, but I will pick up almost any memoir. I appreciated that Dan didn’t write one of the self-help books he reported on for so long and instead told us about his life and how he found something that worked for him. It was a good format for his message and I really appreciated that.

I liked the book and the story, but I’m not sure it will impact me going forward. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
10% Happier, by Dan Harris | Books in the Park
Dan Harris 10% Happier | Being Here
Book Review: 10% Happier, by Dan Harris | Aloha Dharma

WWW Wednesday, 10-August-2016

10 Aug

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


OnePersonCurrently reading: I got some solid reading of In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson this week. I had to go to the doctor and you all know how much waiting there is involved in that! I’m over 50% now and I can feel the tension building.
I’m really enjoying The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The advice Chapman gives is very practical and it’s something I can implement in my marriage. Though my husband is getting a little sick of me saying how my actions hit on one or more of the love languages, haha.
I started reading In One Person by John Irving on Saturday. I’m having to write this early because of my vacation so I can’t say too much about it besides I’m excited to read it because I’m a huge fan of Irving. I’m  hoping to power through it while I’m on the beach.

PeaceBreaksRecently finished: I finished Peace Breaks Out by John Knowles on Friday. I enjoyed this book a lot which I was really hoping I would. I loved A Separate Peace when I read it in high school and I thought this book was equally enjoyable. I’ll have a review going up next week or so. I’ve got another lined up before it before I’ll get it posted.

Because of my vacation time, no reviews up this past week but I do have one ready for tomorrow so look out for that!

BoySnowReading Next: I’m still waiting on the audiobook for World Without End by Ken Follett. I might start another one before it comes in because I’ll finish Love Lanaguages soon and need something to listen to. Not sure what that would be.
My next physical book is going to be Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. This is a book club pick for my club that will meet in September. A librarian friend of mine recommended this about a year ago and I’ve been looking for a reason to read it ever since. I’m excited!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

ON VACATION!

8 Aug

I’m taking today and tomorrow off to enjoy some vacation time with my husband’s family. Click on over to my Instagram page. I’ll make an effort to put up some awesome beach shots.

Don’t worry, WWW Wednesday will arrive on time and unscathed. I promise.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Release Party for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

4 Aug

img_3221It should be no surprise to anyone here that I made a point of going to the midnight release party for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It might surprise you that HP is the only form of cosplay I’ll engage in. My trip to Universal Studios in February added socks, a scarf, and a Slytherin pin to this ensemble. The rest is a time turner from a purchase at Barnes & Noble, a cape left over from one of my husband’s old Halloween costumes, an old black skirt (with running shorts underneath because man is that thing short!) and a t-shirt my sister-in-law made for me that says, “My Patronus is a Bookwork.” I added green eye shadow and was good to go. Thankfully, I was walking around Ann Arbor in a cape and not another city where this might be weird. Seriously, no one stared at me. Really.

img_3225We went to Literati Bookstore for the event. This is probably my favorite independent bookstore in existence for many reasons that I’ve articulated before. It was raining that night so my good friend Kristine (my partner in magic for the night) and I didn’t explore AA too much before the event. We picked up some ice cream (and I Instagrammed the image on the left while in line of my awesome lip-liner scar) before heading over as fast as we could to Literati. The party started at ten but we got there at nine to look at books and grab a cup of tea. I’m glad we got there early because we got to talk to the staff about their amazing costumes and watch them set up, getting a good idea of the different things they’d set up around the store. There was a guest list of those who had registered so the store wasn’t overly crowded and we could get around easily which was great. You were handed a vial of ‘Liquid Luck’ (green tea) when you walked in and I’ll likely save the bottle forever. The basement had a sorting hat quiz. I surprisingly got Gryffindor for my results, with Slytherin second and Hufflepuff third. For consistency’s sake, I still took a Slytherin pin.

7210e9e2-528d-4ced-bfb0-6d595dfd0eb0There were some incredible costumes. The staff was Fawkes, Draco, Harry, Luna, Trelawney, Moody, Dumbledore, Bellatrix, and Rita Skeeter. There was a costume contest for those not on staff and the winner was a girl dressed as Moody with an amazing staff and scars on her face. My second favorite were two moms who dressed as the Weasley twins. Their daughters were so proud. They were serving Butterbeer from the Espresso Bar and there was a birthday cake for everyone to take a slice of. The first movie was playing in the cafe all night except for the costume contest. There were stations for wand making and temporary tattoos. I was surprised to see a few girls get the ‘I must not tell lies’ tattoo on their wrists. Come on, people! My favorite was a young 10-year-old who walked up to her dad and put a lightening bolt right on his hairline and he didn’t flinch. Dad of the year right there!

img_3232At 20-till we lined up on the first floor in front of the registers.  I was so excited! Kristine took a few pictures of me and I think it’s pretty obvious how excited I am! We counted down to midnight and I immediately led the crowd in a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ for Harry. I didn’t exactly cry when I was handed my copy, but I was darn close!

It was late and I had a long drive so Kristine and I parted ways and I headed home. Due to some lovely construction (thank you, Michigan Department of Transportation), it took me about an hour to get home. My plan was to read until I feel asleep, but the drive alone was rough so I didn’t want to push it. I read 40 pages before falling asleep.

I picked it right up in the morning and was half-way through before church. I finished it that afternoon. I don’t want to talk too much about the book here because I’ll post a review post next week.

img_3236Huge shout out to Kristine for going to this event with me! I had so much fun. It was 2007 the last time I went to a midnight release for a book and that was Potter as well. I doubt I’ll ever go to a launch for anything different. The magic is real and it never ends!

Until next time, write on.

 

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 3-August-2016

3 Aug

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


5LL-7.09.F.inddCurrently reading: I read about a chapter of In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. My husband is out of town for a few days which might give me some time to read while I’m eating dinner alone. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I make a little progress here.
Peace Breaks Out by John Knowles is a short book and I’m hoping to finish it before this weekend when I head out of town. Then I can take just my ‘next’ book with me and not worry about running out of reading material. Maybe I’ll send another book ahead just in case…
The audiobook I want to listen to next has a hold on it, so in the meantime, I’m going to listen to The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I had a roommate in college who read this and talked to me about how it helped her relationship with her boyfriend and ever since, I’ve been interested in listening to it myself. It’s a shorter audiobook so I hope I can power through it before the other hold comes in.

626F6F78747265616D=7474747474727576707<7473Recently finished: I finished off two! The first was 10% Happier by Dan Harris. This was a cross between a memoir and a self-help book. I liked it, but I wasn’t convinced to start meditating, not just yet. I understand how mindfulness might help a person and I understand there are proven health benefits, but I’m still a skeptic. I struggle to fit in my five minutes a day of prayer! We’ll see how that goes. Review will be up soon.
I don’t know how I could have blanked on this, but another WWW reminded me that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling would be released before this week’s WWW. I’ll post soon about the release party I went to and I’ll add that I finished it about 14 hours after starting it. The book reads really fast because of the formatting and it was one I want to reread soon because speeding through it, I’m sure I missed something.

WithoutEndReading Next: I’ll be taking In One Person by John Irving with me on vacation this weekend. I’m not sure if it’s much of a beach read, but I’m really looking forward to diving into Irving. I love his crazy-twisted books.
The next audiobook I plan to undertake is World Without End by Ken Follett. This will be a long trek and I’m ready to make it because I enjoyed the first book so much. I’ll likely lose the hold and have to come back to it a few times, but I hope it will be worth it in the end.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Reading Landmark: 400 Books!

2 Aug

I know that this is now old news, but I’m excited to say that I have over 400 books on my ‘Read’ shelf on Goodreads! I’m really happy with this and I know it will likely take me over a year to hit 500 so I’m celebrating. I don’t often add books to ‘read’ any more that I remember from the past. Most of the adds are true additions to my reading repertoire. It’s even better that book 400 was a 4-star review. At this rate, book 500 will be a 5-star review and book 600 will blow my mind!

I know many of you reading this are well over 400 books, but for me, this is a great stepping stone. I’m really excited about the books I’ve shared with you before and all those I look forward to sharing in the future.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Challenge Update, July 2016

1 Aug

I was finally able to pick it up in July! Woo. I’m hoping to carry this through August because after that it will be back to school and hard for me to fit too much reading in again. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in July:

Truth & Beauty // Ann Patchett
In the Hand of Dante // Nick Tosches
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Illustrated) // J.K. Rowling and John Kay
The Drunken Botanist // Amy Stewart
The Invention of Wings // Sue Monk Kidd
10% Happier // Dan Harris
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child // J.K. Rowling

Reviews are up for all except the last two, both of which I finished Sunday. I’ll get to them soon. You can tell I’ve been writing reviews pretty soon after finishing books lately. I think my reading has slowed down since I got my new job about a year ago but I’m still reading as much as I can and I’m much happier in the new role.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

11/12
This is my challenge to read a book from 13 different time periods. You can read about it here. I’m glad to say I added TWO this month! I filled in 1800-1899 with The Invention of Wings, set during American slavery. I decided to count Cursed Child for the future. If you do the math, it starts 19 years after the Battle of Hogwarts (1997+19=2016) but a lot of the action takes place three years later (2016+3=2019) so I’m counting it in the future. One more to go! I’ll have to see about finding a book set in the 1600s, it was a challenge last year as well.

Goodreads Challenge

30/45
Four ahead! I’m feeling a lot better about this. For a while, I didn’t think I was going to make it. I’m out of the woods now and we’ll have to see how I finish out the year. This is a good time for me to feel like I can start a long audiobook.

Book of the Month

626F6F78747265616D=7474747474727576707<7473This probably seems obvious, doesn’t it? A big Potterhead like me, picking a book of the month. Yes, I’m going to pick Harry every time and this month, my favorite book was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling. I’ll be posting more about the book in the coming days so look out for more about how amazing this book was.

Added to my TBR

I only added three! And one of these I’ve already started so ha! I’m really proud of this because, for a while, it seemed my TBR would never go down but I’m knocking it apart bit by bit now.

  • A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. I’m not sure how this wasn’t on my list before. I’m a bit ashamed of that.
  • Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple. This got great reviews when it came out and I got it from the library sale for $1. What’s not to love?
  • The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I needed a short audiobook to listen to while waiting for a hold to come in and this seemed a good filler for the time I have. I started it yesterday and I hope to finish it soon.

How are your challenges going? I hope you’re killing it. If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge, it’s fun!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!