Literary Musings · To Read or Not to Read?

30 Favorites: Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday. Today I turn *gasp* 30 years old. So I figured I’d make a list of my thirty favorite books, in no particular order.

1-7: The 7 books in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

8: Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley

9: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

10-12: The first 3 books in the His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers

13: Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim

14: Between by Jessica Warman

15-16: Garden Spells and First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

17: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

18: The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee

19: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

20: The Friday Society by Adreinne Kress

21: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman

22: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

23: Alienated by Melissa Landers

24: Ashfall by Mike Mullin

25: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

26: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

27: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

28: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

29: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

30: Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley

 

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To Read or Not to Read?

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

I’ve had Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist on my radar for quite a few years now, originally because I was interested in the movie that came out in 2008. But I kept not watching the movie and I kept not reading the book until finally in August of 2017 I grabbed the book off of the library shelf, basically because I knew it was stand-alone and because it was short. And now that I’ve read it…well it didn’t take me very long to read but I still wish I had just watched the movie and been done with it.

First of all, Levithan seems to have issues with capturing the voice of a teenager. Now I’m not saying teens all have to sound stupid and use slang, etc. like a lot of authors think but Levithan takes it the other way. I’ve read four books that he’s worked on and each character sounds like a pretentious asshole who has swallowed a thesaurus and loves to hear the sound of their own voice. At least in Dash & Lily they were book nerds and I understood most of their literary references but Nick and Norah are music aficionados. I like listening to music but I don’t “get” it like they do so a lot of references went over my head.

And what was even more annoying about the tone of the narrators is that they both sounded exactly the same. Nick is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. He’s in a band. Norah is the privileged daughter of a music exec style father. They should haven’t basically had the same voice! They were both full of themselves, first obsessed with their exes and then with each other even though the novel only takes place over the course of one evening, and they both cursed up a storm and made constant stupid references and went on and on about nothing. Considering that the book is under 200 pages there shouldn’t be rambling.

Oh and along with the rambling there’s excessive cursing. I’m okay with cursing, I’ve been known to drop an “f bomb” myself but, in my opinion, cursing should primarily be used for strong emotions and emphasis. Nick and Norah are like kids who have been told they’re never to use naughty words and so as soon as they’re on their own they use as many as they can. One of Nick’s chapters has a five sentence paragraph and the f-word is used seven times. Ridiculous.

Basically I just really hated the characters and so there was no chance that I was going to come out liking this book. They annoy me so much I can’t even think about what else I disliked about the plot, etc.

Literary Musings · To Read or Not to Read?

Harry Potter Book 6 Reread. Post 1.

Here are my thoughts on rereading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, pages 1-216.

  • I always take the dust jacket off to read a book if I can just because it makes it easier without the whole flapping of cover going on. (I kind of hate that about very large library books. I get that the cover needs to have glossy protection and not come off but sometimes that gaping flappy thing that goes on is so annoying.) Anyways…Half-Blood Prince has the best cover color combination under that dust jacket. Purple and black are so pretty together! And it’s definitely a witchy/Halloweeny color combination.
  •  I like how the last couple books start with scenes outside of Harry’s perspective. It gives us more of an idea of how the wizarding world works. In this case we get to see how the Ministry interacts with the Muggle world and then we get to see more of Snape outside of school. Very interesting.
  • Dumbledore making himself at home at the Dursleys house and trying to teach them manners is just delightful! And I’m glad Harry (and the reader) get right into the information what with the Slughorn visit which, for those of us who have read this before, ends up being particularly important.
  • This book just makes me love the Weasley twins more and the scene in their joke shop makes for some lightheartedness that the book definitely needs.
  • And Harry’s Draco Malfoy obsession continues. I mean, we end up finding out Harry’s suspicions were correct in the most part but still…stop stalking your classmates Potter. It’s weird.
  • Snape finally gets the Defense Against the Dark Arts position. I should have known something like this would happen the first time I read it since we had to make it so Harry could continue with Potions and become an Auror.
  • The Half-Blood Prince’s Potions book. Obviously a very important part of the plot line but still seems so odd that Harry just randomly does everything it says including reciting invented spells from it. And he also doesn’t recognize the handwriting (which I guess kind of make sense…I know my handwriting has changed a little over the years but he still might have made the connection) and he never thought “hey, I know someone who loves Potions and went to Hogwarts.” idiot.
  • All of the meetings with Dumbledore make this such a faster read than the last book because stuff is happening, important and interesting stuff. So good. Voldemort’s history is so fun to read about and actually makes him a more well-rounded villain.
Literary Musings · To Read or Not to Read?

Harry Potter Book 5 Reread. Post 1.

Though Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a massive installment in the series I’ve decided I’m just going to do a single post on the book. Mostly because it annoys me to no end. Now this doesn’t mean I hate it, it’s definitely a worthy installment in the series and gives us a fair bit of background we end up needing to know but it’s not my favorite.

So buckle up, this might be a long one. And it’s going to be all wonky and out of order. Like a stream of consciousness review.

  • I really, really hate Harry during Order of the Phoenix. Yes, he’s a teenage boy and he’s kind of channeling Voldy but it’s really annoying to read a book centering around Harry when all Harry is doing is getting angst everywhere. Aww, poor baby, everyone wants to keep you alive. But nope, you’re mad that people can’t send you important information in the mail and that you weren’t made a Prefect and blah blah blah.
  • Hermione’s not my favorite in this one either. She’s usually a strong female character but in this one all she’s doing is nagging about everyone about studying and she’s judging/making fun of Luna. Yes, you and Luna are complete opposites but how about you stop throwing shade when she’s risking her life to help you all. Also, you can be snarky to Luna but you can’t just straight up tell Harry he’s being an asshat? Honestly, she should have slapped him like she did Malfoy and maybe this would have ended better.
  • I liked that we got to see inside of a dark wizard home. I certainly wouldn’t want to stay at Grimmuald Place but I think it helps to pinpoint how strong one must be to grow up in an environment like that and not just accept the family’s darkness.
  • I approve of the addition of Tonks and Luna. We needed the levity of the two of them. Fred and George were also a joy to read.
  • Umbridge is the worst. And the fact that she tries to hide her disgusting nature behind frills and kittens just makes my skin crawl.
  • Dumbledore’s Army is the best. Honestly, Harry probably saved a lot of his classmates’ lives by teaching them so much.
  • Honestly I think Order of the Phoenix would have been better if the first third was shorter and the last third was longer. The first bit had a decent amount of information but kind of dragged in places but the last had so much information and we barely had time to process any of it.
  • I will say that even after reading this a few times my heart still pounded during the fights in the Department of Mysteries.
  • The first of many heartbreaking death scenes. Damn you JK Rowling.
To Read or Not to Read?

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

The description for One of Us Is Lying sounded like pure gold, a mix of the classic Breakfast Club all rolled together with a murder mystery. Here’s the setup:

Five very different kids walk into detention on a Monday afternoon and we quickly find that they are all there under suspicious circumstances. (Each got into trouble because they were caught with a cell phone in class. Only the phones that were confiscated weren’t any of their real phones.)

Brownwyn is the smart girl, Addy is the pretty popular one, Nate is the bad boy, and Cooper is the all-star baseball player. And then there’s Simon, the unpopular outcast who runs a gossip app.

Simon doesn’t make it out of detention alive. And then a Tumblr post comes out and makes everyone who had been in the detention room with Simon a suspect in his death.

That sounds kind of interesting, right? I thought so. I liked how there were several different points of view, one for each of the suspects, and that they actually had distinct voices (we even had a person of color and a character dealing with his/her sexuality!). And I liked how they were definitely unreliable narrators.

Then I reached the last 50 or so pages of the book and it all fell apart.

Up until that point there had been mystery and intrigue and I’d felt that pretty much any of the characters could have offed Simon. But one meeting changed all that when a side character solves it all in only two sentences of dialogue. After that there’s a brief confrontation, one character ends up trying to murder another character, and then we have an epilogue.

It was abrupt and all the loose ends were wound up far too easily after everything else that had went on. And the epilogue was all super cliche, every more so than the rest of it. It was so disappointing given how well it started and the abruptness completely ruined it for me.

Literary Musings · To Read or Not to Read?

Harry Potter Reread. Book 4, Post 4.

My thoughts on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire pages 509-734.

  • Sirius shows up in Hogsmeade in dog form and meets up with Harry and company. This is kind of awesome because I love Sirius but then he adds that if they’re talking about him they should call him Snuffles. Um, shouldn’t they have also been using a code name for him when sending mail back and forth?
  • Nifflers during a Care of Magical Creatures class! Why couldn’t this scene have been in the movies?!
  • I really like how Hagrid and Hermione bond together again during this book which they also did back in Prisoner of Azkaban when Ron was upset about his rat. I think it’s just cute that Hagrid mainly took Harry under his wing but also ends up talking to all the misfits.
  • Oh Mrs. Weasley. At the beginning of the book the Weasleys are talking about how awful Rita Skeeter is, and Molly points it out again later, but when it comes to the rumors of Harry and Hermione she actually listens. Overprotective mother syndrome I’m guessing?
  • The whole scene with the insane Mr. Crouch is where everything really starts to go haywire. I can’t remember if I even had an inkling of what might be going on back the first time I read it?
  • The Pensieve scenes are super interesting and always have been but they are just uncomfortably invasive. I can’t imagine I’d be as calm as Dumbledore if I found someone walking around my memories. Also, this is when I really wanted to start seeing more of Neville Longbottom, after we learn what happened to his parents.
  • The Third Task. Like Harry you wonder if it’s so “easy” because they’re luring the champions into a false sense of security which actually probably would have been a good way to go. But then it goes unimaginably wrong.
  • Poor Cedric. Like I mentioned earlier we should have known something bad was going to happen to him since he became such a big part of the book so suddenly. And it was one of those cases where it all happened so fast and so much happened afterwards that it was hard to process. Just like if something like that were to happen in real life. (I just don’t like it when readers comment that characters didn’t take time to grieve or process a death. I mean, come on, they are worried about fighting for their lives. We’ll process later!)
  • All the Death Eaters and the Reverse Spell Effect. So emotional! And I love the big reveal of everything with Crouch/Moody. So creepy.
  • I like how quickly Dumbledore calls everyone together and we get to see the scope of the war effort.
  • Book four was when everything really started to get dark in this series which makes for some interesting, heart pounding reading.
Literary Musings · To Read or Not to Read?

Harry Potter Reread. Book 4, Post 3.

My thoughts on rereading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire pages 287-508.

  • In the last Harry Potter related post I mentioned that Ron never seems to learn from his mistakes. I suppose that’s nothing compared to Rita Skeeter who has to be one of the most frustrating characters. Until we read Order of the Phoenix of course.
  • Okay the fact that the kids get to tangle with dragons is fun to read about but honestly? The committee wanted there to be less of a chance for the champions to die during the competition and they decide the first task should involve dragons?! Well I guess it’s already a world where eleven year olds can fly around on brooms so safety already doesn’t seem like a top priority…
  • The whole House-Elf issue. I like that Hermione gets a plot line of her own and the fact that she’s fighting for equal rights is awesome but did she really have to be so annoying about it?
  • The Yule Ball. Beautiful imagery in the movies but that was just a mess all the way around. And Harry and Ron are the worst dates ever.
  • I really want to go to Hogwarts and become a Prefect so that I can use the bathrooms. A pool sized tub of warm water that fills really fast and you can add any number of colored bubbles?! Sounds amazing!
  • Harry is distracted and drops the Triwizard egg and the Marauder’s Map and finds himself in hot water. He literally just got through a challenge where his life depended on a Summoning Charm. Why the heck didn’t he Summon the egg and the map back to him? Idiot! A lot of the Crouch related stuff wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t lost the map…
  • The Second Task taking place in the Lake was a genius idea since we otherwise wouldn’t have gotten to see much there but I can’t imagine that was a fun event for spectators to witness? You’d think maybe they could have projected it somehow but clearly they didn’t or else Percy and Fleur wouldn’t have been so worried about their siblings. Also, come on Harry, you really thought they’d just let everyone die?