Friday, August 26, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Want to know what a younger reader thinks of this new script-book from J.K.?   Special guest Olive of Little Librarian is here to share her thoughts on Harry Potter #8...
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling
Summary: Harry Potter (now married to Ginny Weasley) is sending his son Albus Potter to Hogwarts for his first year at the wizarding school. Albus expresses concerns to his father that he will be sorted into the Slytherin house, famous for outputting more Dark witches and wizards than any other house. On the train, Albus befriends Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius, despite Rose Granger-Weasley’s warnings of rumours surrounding him. When Albus gets sorted into Slytherin, they become fast friends, and the story begins…
It was amazing to be back in the Harry Potter world. I mean, once you go through the books more than two times, you start wanting some new story. So it was refreshing to be back in that world, but with some new stories. It was magical to be there, and I hope that I can give it a fair review despite the fact that I was just happy to be back.

Another thing that I liked about it was that it reminded my of Doctor Who in all the best ways. Time travel, alternate realities (although none referred to as such). If you know me, you also know that I am also a massive Doctor Who fan. Combining one of my favourite book series with some of the best elements of my favourite TV show is like a dream come true.

Read the rest of Little Librarian's review here.

Friday, August 19, 2016

More Mercy

Fire Touched, Patricia Briggs
As usual, I'm utterly unimpressed by the cover choices for Mercy novels.  In the first three books Briggs clearly establishes Mercy is the opposite in taste and style as the character who peacocks across the covers.  It's annoying.  But also in usual form, the latest Mercy story is a good read.  It isn't my favourite (this is the ninth novel), but it's very solid.  I really like the central relationship very much.  The end wraps up a little quick for my liking, but there is early action and great group dynamics, as always.   More Mercy here.
Hopcross Jilly, Patricia Briggs
Gah.  This was disappointing.  I won't be reading any more of the graphic novels about Mercy.  It read like a generic urban legend instead of creative, funny and strong Briggs.  The illustrations were also not for me at all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Icing on the YA SciFi Cake
Shield, Rachael Craw
I was so impressed with this author's debut, thrilled when the sequel proved so strong, but now -- oh -- now I can scarcely believe this entire tale was a beginning for Craw since the final installment bears no marks of inexperience -- how she has honed her writing!  For those awaiting Book 3's release in two short weeks, assured be, your pre-order money is well-spent; you will not be disappointed.  I chomped through the pages and came away impressed again and satisfied;
  • Reviewing the online glossary for the world of Spark was sufficient refresher for me to fall back into this story and quickly care about the characters again.  I remembered much of the details from the previous two books without re-reading because the story arcs of both are memorable.
  • I loved picking up where things left off with the central characters.  There's all of this hankering going on and it is a treat quickly delivered for fans.  Furthermore, having a male love interest who offers unfailing loyalty instead of snark? Thank you, Rachael!  Ladies, take note, good guys can be attractive.
  • And the heroine?  A delicate balance of feisty and fallible.  I especially like when she says and does things I am willing her to do but doubt anyone would do...oh wait, Evie would.  Also: Sometimes protagonists who are coincidentally and conveniently Super bug me; but Craw has succeeded in creating a cathartic pleasure in Evie's BA-ness; I don't roll my eyes when she is stronger and better than everyone else, I inwardly scream, "Take that!  Don't mess with Evie!"  It's good writing to have me so on-side and unquestioning.
  • The relationship trees, nay, webs of the story manage to be fun instead of contrived or confusing.
  • The short exchange dialogue remains en pointe!  It's sharp, smart and current.  The lengthier conversations are juicy too, enhanced by thoughtful consideration of each person's motivations and angle.
  • Early on there are a few dream recounts.  A lot of the time I find dream recounts superfluous.  These weren't.
  • I enjoyed the politics of the story and the level of world complexity -- it had enough dimension to make it more than a tough female fighting a system (what system mattered), but not so much that it bogged down the momentum;
  • ...which would be a travesty, since the pacing of the novel is one of its finest features.  I love that this book spits out bookmarks mercilessly, denying any page as a fitting home for such a thing.  Books 1 and 2 were also well-paced, but they relied on novelty, suspense and well-plotted twists for such effect.  Although Book 3 is less novel (we know the world), less suspenseful (we know what we want to happen and hope hard at least 75% of this will be delivered) and certainly less twisty, it is probably the most riveting.  Instead it is a story that sets off running, and doesn't take breaks.  That device works too.
  • I'm not at all surprised Spark is already optioned for the screen, Shield continues to read very cinematically.
  • If you haven't tried this series yet, you're in for the late-comers' delight of a) no wait between title releases and b) the promise the entire journey you're about to embark on is good from beginning to end.  Lucky you -- you need not even go out on a limb and worry you'll be left on a bouncy twig with nowhere else to climb!  It's all solid, friends.  
  • Isn't it a huge bonus that the covers are stunning?!  Good shelf candy.
  • If I had to say there was anything I look forward to seeing polished in future works, it is the resonance and uniqueness of the villain; at some point during my reading the bad guy morphed into an alter ego of The Hunger Games' Snow.  This isn't the worst comparison to have made, especially since it's the only note I feel is worth giving.
Overall, Shield has left me excited.  I wasn't sorry when I closed my review copy that it was all said and done, because Rachael Craw isn't all said and done; her latest tight, confident crescendo work may end this series, but is not the grande finale.  I am looking forward to what YA page-turner she delivers next.

Shield is in bookstores September 1.  Review copy received from Walker.

Mini Movie Reviews: Bulk Hit No 48

Me Earl and the Dying Girl
I finished yesterday's bulk hit with The Duff -- a missable high school movie.  This one's above average.
This is okay.  It's the most I've ever liked Jason Bateman.  I think my lack of enthusiasm probably has a lot to do with how grown-up the story seems (it's a criminal conspiracy) and how crazy-high my expectations were having caught a few review headlines.
Surprisingly nice.  Now with this one my rock-bottom low expectations probably helped.
Flipped (2010)
Loved it. WTB.  It's a great story -- the kind of story I want my girls to watch (around age 12, I'd say). Other things I liked: the high school actors were high school age, it was moving, it was a treat to look at and listen to (think late 50s / early 60s nostalgia), and the cast was great.   This is my favourite of this bulk hit.
So silly. But a little funny. silly.  I get it, it is a movie about a spider and human cross-species, but still...the silly!  Ant-Man's premise is absurd but it was awesome!  This was not awesome.  I think you know what it was.
Surprisingly funny and relatively clean for films of its type.  Haki and I enjoyed it more than we thought we would; general onsensus has it pinned it as very mediocre...we think it's better than that.
Bad.  It even ruined the father-son relationship that made the first movie.  Badly done guys, badly done.
Entertaining fiction.  Let's be clear, this is all very made up.  It did prompt me to think and read more though -- which I like when a movie does -- so I could get a better idea of something closer to what went down (but of course still filtered by what has been recorded by others).  The content is a lot; the M-classification note only lists offensive language but there is so much more (sexual reference, sexual scenes and drug use, among the "more").
Just okay.

The Hundred-Foot Journey
Good.  Really quite good.
I feel like this was close to being great.  It had so many of the ingredients of a timeless tale...but left me wanting, big time.  Overall a stink feeling at the end.  The cover is a bad sell because this story is way more about two adolescent boys and unusual summers.  Overall: missable although it wasn't the worst.
I'd seen this sometime in the year Esky was born but it was lost in the excitement and didn't make a bulk hit.  In re-watching I found it very...predictable and formulaic, but fine.  It's always a little fun to watch gifted characters jamming together, isn't it?
This is very rude.  It also features one of my not-so-favourite character tropes; the too-cool parents.  Something about Emma Stone and the script kept me watching and produced my conclusion that it's rude, but also one of the better high school movies.
Nice.  It lacks the chemistry I hoped for and something's not quite there in the depth of scenes, but it's very clean and nice.  No sex, swearing, or violence (a rarity, really).

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mini Movie Reviews: Bulk Hit No 47

Man Up!
This seemed like the recipe for a better-than-average romantic comedy.  It kind of was -- it was slightly better.  The script is more authentic...but it is so vulgar and crass I wouldn't watch it a second time or recommend it.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
This wasn't bad...but it's pretty forgettable; if you asked me to tell you the story now, I couldn't at all.  There's a good guy?  And a bad guy?  And a girl, I'm pretty sure there's a girl.  And a nice or fast car?  Yeah...nothing you wouldn't know yourself from the cover.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
This is what it is -- impossible action with Tom Cruise.  This is what I expected and therefore I enjoyed it.

Mirror Mirror
Nice to look at and not a lot more.
Playing for Keeps
Skip it.  It's not great, even if you like some of these names.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

This delivered the goods.  It has some truly magnificent blockbuster moments and tips its hat so nicely to the previous films.

This was awesome!!!  I did not think it would be awesome.  I was wrong.  So I can now say that of the Marvel movies I only really like Iron Man AND Ant-Man.

The Intern
Pretty good.  Home-date-night viewing and we both found "pretty good."

The Martian
Loved it.  Bought it.  Easily my favourite of this bulk hit.
Alex & Eve
Think Like A Man
Pretty funny and a better-than-usual moral for a rom com ensemble movie.
The Duff
Not one of the better high school movies -- and admittedly "better" still usually means "okay" in this field of relativity.  A fair amount of cringing and not as many laughs as I was hoping for.  Skippable.

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