Sunday, August 7, 2016

#CursedChild No-Spoiler Mini Review

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two (Harry Potter, #8)Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So it's not exactly an 8th Harry Potter book - but so what? We still get a deep dive into Harry and Ginny's married life and the next generation, focusing on the middle Weasley-Potter child, Scorpius Malfoy (son of Draco and his wife Astoria Greengrass), and, to a lesser extent, Rose Granger-Weasley.

Remember when J.K. Rowling said she wished she hadn't paired Ron and Hermione? Well, she seems to have jettisoned that thought, because clearly, Romione is meant to be in every alternative universe.

And maybe Rainbow Rowell ruined me on this, but I can't help but think Scorpius's crush on Rose is only temporary, and that eventually, Scorpius and Albus end up together. I kept waiting for them to kiss. But hey, I won't rush them. Let them figure it out in their own time.

Major Voldemort bombshell? Oh, yes! Major, major, major. I won't spoil it.

This play gave me a lot of good feelings, and some bad ones. (There's mention of Molly Weasley, but not Arthur. Jo, did you kill Arthur?) It's well worth the read, since we can't all get to London's West End. Just read it.

Look, there it is on my night stand. Photo by me.
View all my reviews on Goodreads

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Tribute in Books to My Late Grandmother

As you may recall from my previous post, it hasn't been the happiest, most carefree of summers for me and my family. I wrote that post on June 22. On June 25, my husband had to take me to the emergency room. I had a 103-degree (Fahrenheit) fever. It was a kidney infection.

My 26-year-old cousin died of pancreatic cancer. Less than 3 weeks later, I was in the hospital with an inflamed right kidney and sepsis. With antibiotics and a few days of rest,  I got better. Things were starting to look up.

Then, on Sunday, July 3 - in the middle of the 4-day weekend, which should have been a welcome stress reliever - my grandma, Gloria Elaine Stevenson ("Irish Granny"), started having seizures. She ended up in the same hospice care center where my cousin Joe died, in the room right across the hall from where he breathed his last. She was in a medically-induced coma, but I spent time with her on the afternoons of the 6th,7th, and 8th.

She passed away at 12:20 a.m. on Saturday, July 9th, without ever having regained consciousness. She was my last surviving grandparent. Born March 19, 1934, she was 82 years old.

If you read the blog, you might recall I'd been in the habit of taking Irish Granny's TBR list to the local library's used book sale and picking up books for her. I now inherit her books, most of which I purchased from the library.

Here are a few of them, sitting in the window seat of my home library. On the bottom are her medical reference book (we used to use those before WebMD) and a Danielle Steel. I personally have never been interested in Danielle Steel. For me, the best prospect is Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. It's a crime thriller marketed to fans of Gone Girl.

Inside one of her Laura Lippman paperbacks, I found these bestseller list clippings from the local newspaper. This is how she used to decide what to read next. The fiction bestseller on the first list is End of Watch by Stephen King. On the middle list, Bay of Sighs by Nora Roberts is #1, and the blacked-out books are Foreign Agent by Brad Thor and Here's to Us by Elin Hilderbrand. Those were the two she wanted to read. She liked a combination of thrillers and literary fiction. On the third list, the #1 book is Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Its film adaptation is currently in theaters, starring Sam Claflin as the doomed romantic hero.

Harlen Coben, James Patterson, and Laura Lippman were some of her favorite authors She had only discovered Lippman recently, within the past year.

More bestseller lists fell out of another Laura Lippman. On the first one, Harlen Coben's Fool Me Once is #1. (Danielle Steel is at #5 with Property of a Noblewoman.) The second also lists Fool Me Once as the #1, but Steel has moved up to #3. The third one also has Me Before You at #1.

Another bit of ephemera, one that she was probably using as a bookmark, was this Christmas tag from 2015.

I don't know if she ever read The Bourbon Kings, but if she did, she would have discovered one of the favorite authors of me and my mom. It's one of the few J.R. Ward novels I haven't gotten to yet. (The last one I finished was The Beast, which I did not enjoy as much as Blood Kiss.)

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware wasn't on her list. I picked it out for myself, but I thought she might enjoy it, too. I heard the author (who is English) discussing her book on NPR one morning while commuting. It's a mystery novel. I don't know if Irish Granny read it or not.

This last bit of ephemera came out of the James Patterson. I don't think it came from my grandma, but from a person who checked the book out before this particular copy was withdrawn and sold by the library. This person has $5.25 worth of library fines. I don't think my grandma ever owed the library any money in her life.

That may not be the end of the books coming my way from the late Irish Granny's house. There's still a lot of processing to do, physically and emotionally. Two deaths in the family in a space of 31 days have caused us all grief and stress. We are still accepting donations of hugs and warm beverages.

The good news is that my brother and his wife will have newborn twins in October. We can't replace Joe and Gloria, but we sure will be ready to welcome Henry and Andrew. Mentally, I'm already ready for summer to end and autumn to begin. I feel like the change of season will bring in a change of emotions. Things are tough all around this summer. I think I finally understand the words of the Green Day song: "Wake me up when September ends."

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Raise Your Hand If You've Ever Been Personally Victimized by the 'Person of Interest' Series Finale


To paraphrase a line from the movie Mean Girls, I have been personally victimized by the month of June 2016. Thus far:

- My cousin Joe died of pancreatic cancer on June 8th. He was 26 years old.

- On Sunday, June 12, the day of his funeral, I woke up to the horrible news of the Pulse night club shooting in Orlando, Florida.

- That same day, I heard a 17-year-old boy from the Michigan town where I work jumped off a pier and accidentally drowned. He was the second boy from his high school to die this year. The other boy had been murdered.

- Then Anton Yelchin, the Jewish Russian-American actor from the new Star Trek franchise, lost his life in a freak accident, pinned against a brick wall by his own car. He was 27.

To quote Winona Ryder’s character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, “Take me away from all this death.” I am so sick and tired of young people in their teens and 20s losing their lives. It’s all too raw with me.

 I probably shouldn’t have watched Season 4 of Orange Is the New Black, then.


I didn’t know going in that the show was going to kill off one of its major characters. One of its major, beloved characters. She was a lesbian character played by a lesbian actress, adding an extra layer of poignancy to a terribly sad dramatic development. It’s hard enough to get good LGBTQ+ representation on TV, much less representation portrayed by actually LGBTQ+ actors. I don’t want to overemphasize the point, but it’s an ongoing problem.

Silly me, I finished the season on Tuesday the 21st. I was already in tears when I approached the series finale of Person of Interest. But I had to know how it would all end, who would live and who would die.

My hopes for a happy ending for Sameen Shaw and Samantha Groves a.k.a. Root had already been crushed into the dust with Root’s death, in the episode that aired June 7th. At the time, I shoved that information into a corner of my mind and walled it off, unable to deal with the pain caused by Amy Acker’s character when my real-life family member was literally on his death bed in the hospice house.

At the risk of repeating myself, I find it stressful and depressing that television and books have dealt us so many awful endings for same-gender relationships when, to me, it seems important that young LGBTQ+ people see representations of life getting better after the hell of high school. I desperately want that for them. As the body count of fictional LGBTQ+ characters rises, my nerves increasingly feel raw and frayed.

The Positive: Sameen Shaw lives.
The Negative: She lives without the one single person she ever cared about in her life, and The Machine’s goodbye to Shaw (in Root’s voice) was heart-wrenching.

More Positive: Lionel Fusco lives. I honestly would have been crushed by the thought of Fusco’s son being fatherless. As the only living character on the show to have a child, I was really rooting for him. I’m glad he made it.

Unexpectedly Positive: Finch lives.
But not just lives!
But also…goes back to Grace Hendricks!
She thought he was dead!
I cried like a baby when Grace looked up from her painting and saw Harold’s face.

Expected, But Still Not Good: Reese didn’t make it. He sacrificed himself to upload the code that would shut down Samaritan, the bad machine. Like a certain other character portrayed by Jim Caviezel, John Reese voluntarily died so the world could go on.

I figured Finch, Reese, or both would die in the series finale. Anticipation doesn’t make it feel any better. John Reese and Joss Carter were my ultimate OTP of OTPs, and now they are both in their (separate) graves. I’m sad.

But happy for Grace and Harold.

But still accepting donations of hugs and warm beverages.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sense and Sensibility and Shoot - A Jane Austen/'Person of Interest' Mashup
Sameen now found the difference between the expectation of an unpleasant event, however certain the mind may be told to consider it, and certainty itself. She now found, that in spite of herself, she had always admitted a hope, while Root remained single, that something would occur to prevent her marrying Leon; that some resolution of her own, some mediation of friends, or some more eligible opportunity of establishment for the gentleman, would arise to assist the happiness of all. But Root was now married; and Sameen condemned her heart for the lurking flattery, which so much heightened the pain of the intelligence.

That Root should be married soon, before (as Sameen imagined) she could be in orders, and consequently before she could be in possession of the living, surprised her a little at first. But she soon saw how likely it was that Leon, in his self-provident care, in his haste to secure Root, should overlook everything but the risk of delay. They were married, married in town, and now hastening down to her uncle's. What had Root felt on being within four miles from the subway station, on seeing Mr. Finch’s servant, on hearing Leon's message!

They would soon, she supposed, be settled at Long Island.—Long Island,—that place in which so much conspired to give her an interest; which she wished to be acquainted with, and yet desired to avoid. She saw them in an instant in their parsonage-house; saw in Leon, the active, contriving manager, uniting at once a desire of smart appearance with the utmost frugality, and ashamed to be suspected of half his economical practices;—pursuing his own interest in every thought, courting the favour of Colonel Reese, of The Machine, and of every wealthy friend. In Root—Sameen knew not what she saw, nor what she wished to see;—happy or unhappy,—nothing pleased her; she turned away her head from every sketch of her.

Sameen flattered herself that some one of their connections in Brooklyn would write to them to announce the event, and give farther particulars,—but day after day passed off, and brought no text, no e-mail. Though uncertain that any one were to blame, she found fault with every absent friend. They were all thoughtless or indolent.

"When do you write to Colonel Reese, Mr. Finch?" was an inquiry which sprung from the impatience of her mind to have something going on.

"I wrote to him, Miss Shaw, last week, and rather expect to see, than to hear from him again. I earnestly pressed his coming to us, and should not be surprised to see him walk in today or tomorrow, or any day."

This was gaining something, something to look forward to. Colonel Reese must have some information to give.

Scarcely had she so determined it, when the figure of a person on horseback drew her eyes to the window. He or she stopt at their gate. It was a gentleman, it was Colonel Reese himself. Now she could hear more; and she trembled in expectation of it. But—it was NOT Colonel Reese—neither his air—nor his height. Were it possible, she must say it must be Root. She looked again. She had just dismounted;—Sameen could not be mistaken,—it WAS Root. Sameen moved away and sat down. "She comes from Mr. Elias's purposely to see us. I WILL be calm; I WILL be mistress of myself."
In a moment she perceived that the others were likewise aware of the mistake. She saw Mr. Finch and Fusco change colour; saw them look at herself, and whisper a few sentences to each other. She would have given the world to be able to speak—and to make them understand that she hoped no coolness, no slight, would appear in their behaviour to Root;—but she had no utterance, and was obliged to leave all to their own discretion.

Not a syllable passed aloud. They all waited in silence for the appearance of their visitor. Her footsteps were heard along the gravel path; in a moment she was in the passage, and in another she was before them.

Her countenance, as she entered the room, was not too happy, even for Sameen. Her complexion was white with agitation, and she looked as if fearful of her reception, and conscious that she merited no kind one. Mr. Finch, however, conforming, as he trusted, to the wishes of that asset, by whom he then meant in the warmth of his heart to be guided in everything, met with a look of forced complacency, gave Root his hand, and wished her joy.

Root coloured, and stammered out an unintelligible reply. Sameen's lips had moved with Mr. Finch's, and, when the moment of action was over, she wished that she had shaken hands with Root too. But it was then too late, and with a countenance meaning to be open, she sat down again and talked of the weather.

Fusco had retreated as much as possible out of sight, to conceal his distress; and Bear, understanding some part, but not the whole of the case, thought it incumbent on him to be dignified, and therefore took a seat as far from Root as he could, and maintained a strict silence.
When Sameen had ceased to rejoice in the dryness of the season, a very awful pause took place. It was put an end to by Mr. Finch, who felt obliged to hope that Root had left Mr. Groves very well. In a hurried manner, Root replied in the affirmative.

Another pause.

Sameen resolving to exert herself, though fearing the sound of her own voice, now said,

"Is Mr. Groves at the safe house?"

"At the safe house!" Root replied, with an air of surprise.— "No, my father is in Texas."

"I meant," said Sameen, taking up some work from the table, "to inquire for Mr. SAMANTHA Groves."

She dared not look up;—but Finch and Fusco both turned their eyes on Root. Root coloured, seemed perplexed, looked doubtingly, and, after some hesitation, said,—

"Perhaps you mean—my brother—you mean Mr.—Mr. Samuel Groves."

"Mr. Samuel Groves!"—was repeated by Fusco and Mr. Finch in an accent of the utmost amazement;—and though Sameen could not speak, even HER eyes were fixed on Root with the same impatient wonder. Root rose from her seat, and walked to the window, apparently from not knowing what to do; took up a pair of scissors that lay there, and while spoiling both them and their sheath by cutting the latter to pieces as she spoke, said, in a hurried voice,

"Perhaps you do not know—you may not have heard that my brother is lately married to—to the youngest—to Mr. Leon Tao."

Her words were echoed with unspeakable astonishment by all but Sameen, who sat with her head leaning over her work, in a state of such agitation as made her hardly know where she was.

"Yes," said Root, "they were married last week, and are now at Dallas."

Sameen could sit it no longer. She almost ran out of the room, and as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease. Root, who had till then looked anywhere, rather than at her, saw her hurry away, and perhaps saw—or even heard, her emotion; for immediately afterwards she fell into a reverie, which no remarks, no inquiries, no affectionate address of Mr. Finch could penetrate, and at last, without saying a word, quitted the room, and walked out towards the village—leaving the others in the greatest astonishment and perplexity on a change in Root’s situation, so wonderful and so sudden;—a perplexity which they had no means of lessening but by their own conjectures.


Inspired by this post

I just needed some fluffy "Shoot" fan fiction because...well, you know.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

August: Osage County (Not Spoiler-Free)

Remember “Hardcover Bound 2,” the clever literary parody of a Kanye West song with a memorable music video? It contains the lines:

“They ask me what’s next on my reading list-
Ever start a book that you can’t finish?!
Caryl Churchill and Tracy Letts, I
Think I’ll make time for Samuel Beckett
Books can help you overcome lotsa things
You know, I know,
Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

I was vaguely aware of Samuel Beckett as the author of Waiting for Godot, some kind of experimental play in which the two on-stage characters are waiting for an off-stage character who never shows up. As far as I could remember, I hadn’t heard of Caryl Churchill or Tracy Letts. To me, that sounded like the names of two lady playwrights.

It turned out I had actually heard of Tracy Letts, though. (And that he is a boy.) Several years ago, my dad told me and my husband we should watch a movie called Bug, which he said was one of the weirdest things he’d ever seen. So we watched the film, in which Ashley Judd played the main character.

The movie was made in 2006. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was based on a Tracy Letts play. Letts had another play made into a movie in 2014, and Meryl Streep won an Oscar for playing Letts’ main character Violet Weston in August: Osage County. I watched the film version on Saturday, June 11, on Netflix.

August: Osage County is set on Kansas. I’ve never been to Osage County, but it’s the county directly south of the one in which the city of Lawrence sits. I passed through Lawrence on my way to Manhattan for my nephew’s 2012 wedding.

The rural county is the home of poet and playwright Beverly Weston and his wife, Violet, who are both white. Violet has mouth cancer and a strong dependency on pain pills. The pills amplify her tendency to say whatever’s on her mind, no matter how blunt, thoughtless, rude, or obscene it happens to be. Bev hires a Native American woman named Johnna to help him take care of Violet, since Violet’s care is seriously cutting into Bev’s drinking time.

When Bev disappears, Violet’s family converges on the house: daughters Barbara, Ivy, and Karen (only middle daughter Ivy still lives in Kansas), sister Mattie Fay, brother-in-law Charles (played by Chris Cooper, who previously played a Kansan in Capote), nephew Little Charles, granddaughter Jean, Barbara’s estranged husband Bill, and Karen’s fiancĂ© Steve.

Mattie Fay is very harsh and mean to her son, Little Charles, played in the film by Benedict Cumberbatch. I have only recently warmed to his charms. At first I was like, “Ha ha – Benadryl Cookingpot.” That he played the creep in Atonement did not help his case. (Atonement makes a good case for falling in love with James McAvoy or Keira Knightley.) Tumblr wore me down until one day I said, “BBC Sherlock Holmes – actually kind of good-looking. And he does do that sexy impression of Alan Rickman…” (See The Simpsons.)

Let that be a lesson to ya, kids – stay away from Tumblr and British television. They’ll rot your brain.

Little Charles is the family disappointment, and the one thing that makes him happy is his cousin Ivy. They are having an affair that the rest of the family doesn’t know about. In one scene, Ivy goes to kiss Charles but he stops her, reminding her they have a deal not to be affectionate around the family. Then he stares at her in a very dreamy and romantic way, finally saying, “I adore you.” In another scene, they sit at the piano and he sings her a song he’s written for her.

It soon comes out, though, that Bev and Mattie Fay had an affair years ago. Ivy and Little Charles are possibly – probably – half-siblings. Little Charles doesn’t find out, but Ivy does. This does not change Ivy’s plans to run away with him to New York. She reasons that since she’s had a hysterectomy and can’t have any biological children, they aren’t hurting anyone. And it’s hard to argue with her logic. I mean, they were both fine with the fact that their mothers are sisters. They know they’re at least first cousins. It’s not too big a leap.

It’s a pretty grim, gloomy movie overall. If I were a theater major in college, I would compare and contrast Tracy Letts’ bitter matriarch Violet Weston with Tennessee Williams’ overly entangled, bitter matriarch Violet Venable in Suddenly Last Summer.

I don't know if I liked August: Osage County, but it was certainly interesting.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

'Night Shift' Wraps the Midnight, Texas Series Up In a Neat Little Package


Midnight Crossroad Review
Day Shift Review

Charlaine Harris wraps up her Midnight, Texas trilogy this year with Night Shift. Since I can no longer look forward to new seasons of True Blood in the summer, I get my supernatural fix from the annual May release of these books. (What will I do next year?)

No, Charlaine Harris is not perfect. Yes, her characters are subject to an old-fashioned double standard that punishes women when it comes to sexuality. This volume contains blatant sexuality-shaming of Fiji Cavanaugh's sister Kiki. I'd hoped maybe Harris had learned, through public criticism, not to write sexism and racism into her novels, but she's still a work in progress.

That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy reading these books. The third book in the series was as hard for me to put down as the other two.

Hints have been dropped all along that Manfred, the novel's psychic, is something other than a plain ol' human being. In this volume, we finally discover what his non-human lineage is. It's demon. The new guy who took over running Midnight's gas station turns out to be Manfred's biological grandfather, and said grandfather had a demon father. Manfred's mother was a quarter-demon, so Manfred is an eighth-demon. No wonder his psychic powers aren't just a cheap trick.

(I know Manfred is a carryover from another Charlaine Harris series, but it's not one that I've read.)

Other satisfying developments happen on the romance front. For one thing, we learn that "hybrid" vampire Lemuel and bow-wielding assassin Olivia Charity are now husband and wife. They got the Rev (a tiger shapeshifter, as we learned in Day Shift) to marry them so that if Olivia were killed in the line of duty, Lemuel could inherit her share of the family fortune.

To be honest, though, they probably would have gotten married anyway. They genuinely love each other, and Lemuel can be surprisingly old-fashioned when it comes to the ways to physical love.

Speaking of physical love, we learn a slightly surprising thing about Fiji: she's a virgin. That's not too terribly unusual, given that she lives in a small town with only a handful of eligible bachelors, and she's only - what, 25? Maybe 26 years old? Not that there's anything wrong with being a virgin, or with not being a virgin. It's just that Fiji is interested in pursuing romantic and sexual relationships, but she just hasn't had luck in that department...yet.

Well, that all changes by the end of this novel, in an example of Deus Sex Machina, sub-trope Mate or Die. As the town's virgin witch, Fiji must engage in a public sex ritual at the Midnight Crossroad in order to avert the rising of Manfred's demon grandfather. For several chapters, it's left open who will volunteer to be her partner in the hieros gamos

But I don't think too many people will be surprised to discover that Fiji's longtime crush, Bobo Winthrop, returns her amorous feelings. And then some. Their ritual mating is oddly sweet; it plays out like well-written fan fiction.

A Caution: There is a major "squick" in this novel re: details of how Olivia was abused as a child. If you're sensitive to depictions of child abuse, you may want to skip this volume.

One loose end has not been wrapped up, though: Quinn the weretiger is still without a mate. Ms. Harris, will you please write another Quinn book? I thought he was the wrong guy for Sookie Stackhouse and the wrong guy for Fiji Cavanaugh, but he's the right guy for someone. So if we could have another Quinn novel, that'd be great.

Not too long ago, NBC announced it would premiere Midnight, Texas as a series this coming autumn. I'm likely to watch it, but reluctantly so. I like my zaftig heroines to be played by curvy actresses. Parisa Fitz-Henley, cast as Fiji, seems too thin for the part. No offense to thin women - I just don't think Fitz-Henley looks at all like the Fiji Cavanaugh in my head. If she's not at least a size 10, she's not MY Fiji.

I checked this book out from my local library and was not obligated in any way to review it. This review represents my own honest opinion.