Archive for the ‘JK Rowling’ Tag

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2   2 comments

 

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MrsMowryI feel like I must start this post with a disclaimer…I am an avid Harry Potter fan. I spent my childhood attending midnight book releases at Barnes and Noble and sitting in lines for hours to see movie premieres. I recently cleaned out my closet and found more than 10 Harry Potter shirts…and forced myself to donate the one that really didn’t fit. It wasn’t easy. With all of this in mind, it’s hard to write a non-biased review of a new addition to a series I already love, but here goes nothing.

 

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

I’ll start by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself into the Harry Potter world once again. These are characters I know and love, and some of my issues with the plot were easy to ignore when I had the chance to read these old names on new pages.

The script picks up right where the books finish, opening with the Potter and Granger-Weasley families shepherding their children onto the Hogwarts Express. From there, we’re taken on an adventure across time, literally, starring Harry’s moody and petulant son, Albus. A member of Slytherin, Albus has been convinced by Delphi Diggory, cousin of Cedric Diggory, that Cedric’s life needs to be saved in order to get some of the blood off of Harry’s hands (um, what?).  In order to carry out this death wish, Albus, Delphi, and Scorpio (Malfoy’s son) break into the Ministry of Magic to steal one of the only remaining Time Turners from Hermione, the Minister of Magic. From here, the story takes on the qualities of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” The trio travel back in time three times, suffering the consequences that occur when a small change in the past drastically changes the future: Voldemort World, Cedric the Death Eater, and Ron and Hermione’s tragic lost love. Albus and Scorpious must find a way to fix the future with the help of our original favorite trio, while facing a new and incredibly dangerous enemy, one who was a friend.

While each separate adventure had its own bit of fun, I found the idea of the plot to be a little contrived. I know that this is a script, and therefore has a different life when it’s not being performed on a stage (as it is intended), but the idea of Cedric becoming a Death Eater because he was humiliated by his loss at the Triwizard Tournament seemed ludicrous to me. I also really hated the idea that Ron and Hermione would have remained friends just because they didn’t have a fight at the Yule Ball. At times it felt like this play was created purely to help us wade in a bit of nostalgia, bringing back old characters we loved and loved to hate and giving them a moment to shine again. The worst of which was Ron Weasley: we all love Ron because he’s a bit of a doofus. However, Ron’s character in this script was a complete joke. He was turned into an idiot with terrible timing, a feeble demeanor, and sub par dad jokes. After seven novels, I felt like Ron was not a static character. As he faced each challenge with Harry and Hermione, he grew to become a more skilled and capable wizard. Now he feels like the version of Ron we met on the Hogwarts Express as an 11-year-old, in other words, a buffoon. Not my favorite.

Some of the altered futures however, were amazing to imagine. When Umbridge shows up in Scorpio’s face, demanding he stop fooling around in the lake and help her celebrate Voldemort Day, I was giddy. Yes, that meant the tragic death of everyone we loved from the original series, but the world was so dark and fascinating. The Nazi-esque Death Eaters chanting “For Voldemort and Valor!” To one another was pretty exciting. I’m not a Slytherin myself, but I enjoyed the new version of Hogwarts, complete with muggle murder dungeons and Dementors as castle guests.

In the unaltered reality, I loved Hermione in all of her glory. She felt like the star of the play, and after the horrible race issues surrounding the casting of her role, I felt even more pride for how amazing her character is. Hermione is the new Minister of Magic. She’s powerful, but kind, skilled but humble, and a caring boss. She understands the seriousness of the situation and uses collaboration to save the day. She is by far the best character of the series, and luckily HPATCC doesn’t change that.

Finally, and most importantly, I loved that this play was still filled with magic. It is no easy feat to put on a show filled with magic spells, disappearing humans, flying wizards, and characters walking around stage with their exact replicas, and yet, HPATCC does it all. Reading the script, even with its flaws, made me want to see the show even more than I already did. From what I’ve heard, it is a truly magical experience.

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Posted August 20, 2016 by mrsmowry in Reading

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The Cuckoo’s Calling   7 comments

Cuckoo's Calling - British Cover

The first edition, British Cover … which has very little to do with the book, IMHO.

The problem, of course, is that a new author won’t get the time of day from most publishers. Even when their name is Robert Galbraith.

But there was a publisher that was very interested in this book, as they knew Mr. Galbraith wasn’t really Mr. Galbraith.

The publisher was Little, Brown. Why were they interested? They knew the he was a she:  Galbraith was actually JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series.

Now, understand from the beginning that I believe the Harry Potter books are Great Literature. They inspired a generation to read (yes, read). Colleges across the country still have clubs that try and emulate playing Quidditch on flying brooms. The Harry Potter series changed our world for the better … it made our youth a more literate group that read really thick books … 7 of them … to follow the exploits of the world’s favorite adolescent wizard.

So, heavy is the mantle of success on Ms. Rowling, as she now must find a new muse to inspire books that may not be as spectacular as the Harry Potter books (how could they be?), but the new books must be very good. Very, very good.

The Cuckoo’s Calling, released under the Galbraith pseudonym, got solid reviews and little notice. Supposedly, only about 1,500 printed editions of the book had sold 60 days after its release.

And then word leaked that this book was by JK Rowling.

Sales, of course, exploded and the book became the # 1 bestseller on Amazon.com. Incidentally, Rowling is adamant that she did NOT leak her authorship; it’s unknown who did that deed. The secret is now out, though, and I bought the book (or would that be I bought the .mobi for my kindle?).

Honestly, I probably would not have read this book as long as Rowling’s secret held. I do like murder mysteries, but often avoid the English authors working in this genre. Their prose is just different enough that it doesn’t scratch the itch for me.

The American Cover

The American Cover … which is at least representative of the main victim of the book. Better cover, IMHO.

On the other hand, I LOVE Lee Child’s books, and his Jack Reacher series is about a retired military policeman that’s now on his own solving crimes … just like Rowling’s Corcoran Strike in The Cuckoo’s Calling. I should like this book!

The title comes from “A Dirge” written by Christina Rosetti in 1865, which sets the tone for Galbraith/Rowling’s tragic character called Cuckoo by her friends:

Why were you born when the snow was falling?
You should have come to the cuckoo’s calling,
Or when grapes are green in the cluster,
Or, at least, when lithe swallows muster
  For their far off flying
  From summer dying.

Why did you die when the lambs were cropping?
You should have died at the apples’ dropping,
When the grasshopper comes to trouble,
And the wheat-fields are sodden stubble,
  And all winds go sighing
  For sweet things dying.

The book’s prologue can now be seen to speak on multiple levels … Rowling’s efforts to shield her role and have the work evaluated independently of her fame complements the heroine’s celebrity:

Is demum miser est, cuius nobilitas miserias nobilitat.

Unhappy is he whose fame makes his misfortunes famous

– Lucius Accius, Telephus

The book is about a super model that committed suicide … according to the police. Cormoran Strike (another wonderful character name from Rowling!) is hired to investigate and see if a murder happened. This seems like Rowling should be right at home … the Potter books were mysteries, after all.

Like Potter, Strike is scarred when we meet him. Potter had the lightning bolt on his forehead; Strike lost a leg in Afghanistan. Rowling likes her heroes to be hurting!

My biggest quibble with the book is Rowling’s verbosity in the beginning. She never met a qualifier that she doesn’t want in print, apparently. The prose begins to sound untrue to the characters being described … to my American ears. Perhaps Brits want a different type of exposition in their crime novels, but I prefer mine a bit more hard boiled. Here’s what I’m talking about:

By nature methodical and thorough, Strike had been trained to investigate to a high and rigorous standard. First, allow the witness to tell their story in their own way: the untrammeled flow often reveled details, apparent inconsequentialities, that would later prove invaluable nuggets of evidence. Once the first gush of impression and recollection had been harvested, then it was time to solicit and arrange facts rigorously and precisely: people, places, property…

And here’s another:

The act of shopping for what he needed, and of setting up the bare necessities for himself, had lulled Strike back into the familiar soldierly state of doing what needed to be done, without question or complaint.

But then there are times that her love of language and a wonderful turn of phrase just takes over:

“She wuz depressed. Yeah, she wuz on stuff for it. Like me. Sometimes it jus’ takes you over. It’s an illness,” she said, although she made the words sound like “it’s uh nillness.”

Nillness, thought Strike, for a second distracted. He had slept badly. Nillness, that was where Lula Landry had gone, and where all of them, he and Rochelle included, were headed. Sometimes illness turned slowly to nillness, as was happening to Bristow’s mother … sometimes nillness rose to meet you out of nowhere, like a concrete road slamming your skull apart.

Once Rowling caught her stride, the book was great. The characters definitely grew on me … good thing. Rowling has already announced that the 2nd book in the series is already written:

“Yes, I intend to keep writing the series as Robert. I’ve just finished the sequel and we expect it to be published next year.”

Happy to recommend this nice mystery to you. It’s not going to change the world, but it is a great read with a surprising, satisfying ending – and an enticing denouement. The promise of more to come is icing on the cake!

JK Rowling

JK Rowling

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The Times of London’s review

The Guardian’s review

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