Cursed Child: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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Warning: This post contains tons of SPOILERS and a lot of Harry Potter nerdiness. I embrace it.

Recently Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was unleashed to the whole world in book format. I bought my copy the day it came out and finished it in two days. The world seems to have very mixed reactions on it. I personally enjoyed it overall, but there were some things that bugged me.

And no, there’s nothing in here complaining about the format. I get that it’s a play meant to be seen in person, in a theater, etc. I’m not that crazy.


The Good 

Let’s start with the positive—overall, I enjoyed the reading experience of the book and I don’t think it’s a total waste of ink like some other books.

Part 1

All of part 1 is really fun. I love that the action lies with Albus and Scorpius and the adults were on the periphery. I felt the same as I did when I read the other adventures Ron, Harry, and Hermione embarked upon as students at Hogwarts. I also felt it was paced appropriately and I liked getting a dual perspective, something we didn’t get in the novels as much (usually there was one chapter focusing on the impending evil and then it would go into the Harry story, told through his lens).

Scorpius

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He’s obviously the best character—both in heart and in the way he is written. I loved him so much. His awkward fumbling with Rose and banter with Albus were so heartwarming.

The “Alternate Endings”

It felt almost indulgent to read alternatives to the ending we got in “Deathly Hallows.” The Ron/Hermione shipper inside of me rejoiced that even in alternate strands of time, they still love each other. It was almost scary to read about a world where Harry Potter died and Voldemort ruled all. I love a good ‘What If?’ and these were safe. While raising the stakes, the alt-versions of the Wizarding World were fascinating.

Tidbits of (I guess what is now)  New Cannon

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Hermione as Minister of Magic? Yes please, thank you. Albus being in Slytherin? I like it and it’s a great way to have conflict. The rumors about Scorpius? Totally plausible. Ron and Neville drink together at Hogsmead? Darn right, they do! Dumbledore’s portrait? Yes, it would talk to Harry, obviously. And that thing about the trolley witch being essentially the guardian of the Hogwarts Express? Gold.

The Title

So it’s never really explained who the Cursed Child is, and I love that kind of ambiguity. Is it Albus? It’s the most obvious answer since he’s the center of story and the only human featured on the cover. But the title could be applied to Scorpius, Harry, and Delphi and the connotations of all of them being the cursed child are pretty deep.

The Bad

This was the stuff I didn’t love. Sigh.

Those pesky Time-Turners felt overdone

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Look, on a thematic level, I get the whole use of the time turner and how it plays into the characters, especially Harry, who wrestles with the fact that time has passed and he’s a parent and he doesn’t really know HOW to parent. I usually love time travel stories. But, I personally felt like the book relied too much on the previous seven novels. Time turners? Seen ‘em. Triwizard Tournament? Been there, done that. What I loved about the seventh book was the introduction to a wizard mythology. I wanted something new.

Too much of the adults, more of the kids, please

I guess on the night of the release JK Rowling said that this was the end of Harry’s story. I’m supportive of that. I look forward to exploring the world more in Fantastic Beasts and in the Marauder’s prequel my fangirl heart prays for. And I get that the book is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  But see, I didn’t want it to be Harry’s story. I didn’t need it to be. I had Harry for seven novels (and those last ones are doorstops!) and I was really, really happy. I can’t explain how much I love those books.

Now, nine years after Deathly Hallows, I wanted more of a focus on the kids. I wanted to see Albus and Scorpius at Hogwarts (I did think this part was well-paced for the outcome the writer wanted), I wanted to see more of Rose and Lily and James and even just SEE Hugo. I’m interested in the next generation, more so than I am about meetings at the Ministry of Magic.

Voldemort had a kid (?!)

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On paper, this sounds terribly interesting. I always wondered what would happen if he had offspring. It also made sense that Delphi was a product of Bellatrix and the Person Formally Known As Tom Riddle. There was some weird, creepy tension there. This is all good fuel for a backstory. It just seemed like she appeared out of nowhere and was fan servicing those weird HP fans that like the Death Eaters and the Dark Arts. It also is a weird mashup of the timeline. She said she was born before the Battle of Hogwarts, but never in the last two books do we get any hint that Bellatrix was preggers, and before that she was in Azkaban and unless they allow conjugal visits, it has to happen around the time of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. We see Bellatrix at the beginning with her sister and Snape, but there’s no mention of a baby on board or anything related to her being “sent to an aunt’s house for nine months.” When would this have happened? Why would it go unmentioned? Wouldn’t Voldemort be proud to have an heir?  I need to think on this one.

No Luna!

C’mon! I wanted at least a name drop of her. If you’re going to fan service, at least tell me where here and Rolf Scamander are!

The Ugly 

This is the stuff I’ll skip over when I re-read it.

That conversation between Harry and Dumbledore’s Portrait

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Look, I get it, Harry needs to have this heart to heart with his old mentor, and I love Dumbledore (I squealed out loud when he was mentioned in the Fantastic Beasts trailer), but this just felt like an awkward conversation. I think it comes from reading a play and how you can’t interject emotion the same way as you could a narrative.

Poor Ginny

I feel like she’s often given the shaft by HP fans and she serves a purpose here, but she’s got an uninteresting arc and the writer is trying too hard to make her spunky.

We saw that awful night at Godric’s Hallow and it just felt wrong

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Going back to that pivotal night and not being in JKR’s hands felt sacrilegious.


The night before the release of the book, my boyfriend and I were talking about how we felt about this eighth story that wasn’t written by the woman who crafted a world we both loved as children. We came to a similar conclusion: we were excited to read this new release and see the world we loved so much again, but it wasn’t going to take away from the original seven books.

Maybe that’s why it was written by a different person. When I go back and read Deathly Hallows again (something I try to do every year), I don’t know if I’ll have Cursed Child lurking in the back of my mind. It has Jo’s stamp of approval, but it’s not from her. Our reading experience won’t be tainted, but it can be enhanced. Only good can come from this. It’s almost a safe way that’s been carefully crafted by the brain trust of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

And you what, I’m okay with that.

So now, let’s focus on the Wizarding World and Jo’s future writing. I love the Cormoran Strike novels. I’m excited to see what the Wizarding World in America is like in November. Like I previously mentioned, I want a Marauder’s series in any format and I also secretly hope Jo pulls out a trilogy of books that take place in Harry’s world, but from a female perspective. However you feel about this eight story, and personally I’m glad there are more stories, there’s more to look forward to.

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Favorite Books of 2015

This was a weird reading year. I read 80 books total and while a lot of them were good (I can’t really pick out one or two that I hate), there was nothing that I loved like last year. There are no books joining All the Light We Cannot See on my favorites shelf. But, there were some good ones. I picked a couple of honorable mentions and then I listed the top 15 books I read (though not all were published in 2015).

Honorable Mentions: The Girl on the Train; Luckiest Girl Alive; Big Magic

I have to hand it to these books—they got me out of reading slumps, or, in the case of the last book, creative slumps.

15. The Martian by Andy Weir

This book was immensely readable and, though I skimmed the parts with the science, I laughed a lot at Mark Watney’s interior monologue. My favorite parts were him establishing contact with earth and all the attempts NASA made to bring him home.

Bonus: Learned a lot about Mars and hydroponics

14. Brain on Fire by Susanna Cahalan

I gobbled this book up. It’s better than any medical mystery show on TV. And the fact that the author got a lot of her information from watching videos of herself in the hospital that she can’t remember…chilling.

Bonus: Learned that the brain is one of the world’s biggest unsolved mysteries

13. The Runaways by Brian K. Vaughn

Brian K. Vaughn is my gateway into the world of comics and I loved this volume about teenage misfits who band together when they find out their parents are the bad guys. I enjoyed the twist at the end and loved me some Gert. Gert forever.

Bonus: I now don’t hate comics.

12. The Winner’s Curse and The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

This YA love trilogy is expertly told and Kestrel is a compelling heroine. The sequel (Crime) improved upon the first book.

Bonus: I’ve pimped these out to my students. They’re really popular.

11. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Despite some negative reviews, I’m in the minority of really liking this book. I liked the main romance and the erie twist at the end.

Bonus: I’m grateful I am not an East Coast trust fund baby.

10. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

A post-modern delight that followed a family through life in London in the 90s. It tackled things like immigration, class differences, and religion. The characters were great and I recommend it for anyone who likes multi-generational family stories.

Bonus: Now I want to read more Zadie Smith.

9. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

This was short, sweet, and scary.

Bonus: Had only one nightmare about this book.

8. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

A mystery told in the unfolding of the parents’ past and the current lives of their children. I so enjoyed it.

Bonus: Got to read about small town Ohio. Memories!

7. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

This behemoth was worth it. I loved all the characters and I’m still thinking about that ending! More Tolstoy, please.

Bonus: Understood a little more why women had affairs back then.

6. City of Thieves by David Benioff

I picked this up on a whim off my friend Kathryn’s coffee table and devoured it. The narrator was compelling, I loved his sidekick, Kolya, who made me laugh, shake my head, and cry, and that ending…Well, I won’t spoil it, but it put a smile on my face, which is saying a lot considering this book is about the siege of Leningrad.

Bonus: Continuing gratitude that I’ve never been a part of Russia’s history.

5. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

This was a delightful audiobook that sparked conversation and gave me a lot of respect for Aziz Ansari.

Bonus: I can now wow my older co-workers with facts about modern dating.
Double Bonus: Continuing gratitude that I don’t have to participate in Tinder.

4. The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton

It was like Gone Girl, but only in the Netherlands in the 1600s. I read the book in one sitting and adored the author’s style and the erie plot.

Bonus: Learned a lot about Dutch history.

3. The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

It’s definitely not Harry Potter, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. Rowling channeled Dickens and it was great, even though every character is despicable and the ending is good, though it crushes your heart.

Bonus: Another gentle reminder that things are not always as they appear.

2. The Diviners and Liar of Dreams by Libba Bray

I want to hug Libba Bray in gratitude for these books. I just loved them. The characters, setting, dialogue, and plot were all perfection. It was scary and parts and hilarious at others. I have a soft spot for the 1920’s and these books made my heart soar and more.

Bonus: New couple to ship! Same and Evie. Forever. Sorry, Jericho.

…and…*drum roll*

1. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Oh, this book! First of all, there is one passage that made me laugh harder than I have ever laughed while reading a book. Second, I loved the style of the book which kept me entertained. Third, the book was very realistic, which meant it was sometimes painful. And, last but not least, I freakin’ love Earl. He’s a really, really, REALLY wonderful character. Jesse Andrews needs to write another book.

Bonus: Movie adaptation came out this summer. Verdict: I loved it, except it needed more Earl!

 

Leave a comment below sounding off on the books! What were your favorites of 2015?

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Ah, 2015. It was the year of things I didn’t expect, both good and bad. It was a year of polar opposites. Some things and area in my life totally blossomed and made me really happy. As a result, other aspects of my life suffered a little bit.

Well, suffer is a bit of a dramatic term. More like things didn’t turn out like I wanted them to. In no way does my life suffer.

I felt like my personal life and career really took off. I got licensed and started my second year of teaching and it’s been MUCH better this year. I actually know what I’m doing! I developed my friendships, especially my Best Squad, and I met a great guy and I’ve got to experience a healthy, happy relationship. One of the things I am most thankful for this year is DJ and the experience of sharing a life with another soul.

I don’t know if it was a direct result of these improvements, or that I didn’t invest in them like I should have, but I felt like my reading and writing took a backseat. Maybe it was necessary since my life as far as relationships and career had been tumultuous for almost four years. The thing is though, I’m not really okay with it. I miss(ed) it.

I still took classes at the Lighthouse. I still read 80 books this year. But something was missing from it. I felt at times creatively drained—my job is great but it exhausts me, my free time is limited, and I felt trapped in a cycle of ideas that just didn’t pan out. I had no one to talk to about writing, either. My writer’s group was on hiatus and I drifted from my writer friend Katherine (probably my fault).

As far as reading goes I think I became too goal oriented. I kept telling myself to read my TBR, to read 100 books, to finish my list of classics, and I sort of lost my way. I also felt guilty whenever I would read. I felt like I should be grading, lesson planning, or working on my job instead. The nagging sense of I should be doing something else is hard to shake; it didn’t matter how desperate I was to get rid of it.

This is sounding like sort of a downer post. And I guess it kinda is, since I’m bummed about my creative life. But, it also had a lot of highs and included things I do love like travel, food, and my family. I have never been this happy in my personal life and my anxiety has waned and, when I do feel anxious, it’s manageable. Heck, I even found a long term house sitting gig and I don’t have to pay rent in the second worst rental market in the country. This alone is cause for a ticker tape parade.

Now that I’ve spilled all of this on the internet, my takeaway is that I’m after the golden calf that most adults want in their life: balance. I want to be able to leave work at work some nights and read without guilt. I want to travel more and spend quality time with my boyfriend. I want to write like an uncontrollable fiend. I want the only thing I despise about my job to be the fact I have to get up early. I want to be healthy, too, but not the kind of girl who turns her nose up at cheesecake.

Well, let’s be real, I’ll never be that girl.

I do not know if I’ll succeed in my new quest for balance, or if it really ever ends. I always have such lofty goals and seem to fall short, but I do know that balance is my new focus. It’s not a numbers game, a timing game, or a task game. It’s simply how I feel about my life in general. For 2016, that’s the best kind of goal.

The Only Hunger Games Spinoff(s) I’m Interested In

Recently, after their raucous appearance at San Diego Comic-Con, three of my favorite actors stopped by ‘Conan’ to talk about ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2.’ In their little interview Conan asked them if there could be any potential sequels and Josh Hutcherson let it slip that there is a distinct possibility.

Jennifer Lawrence’s reaction kind of confirms it, too. We could get sequels to ‘The Hunger Games’ or at least spinoffs that exist in the world of Panem created by Suzanne Collins.

Usually I balk at spinoffs that aren’t Marvel or Harry Potter related. Who needs them? The three books in the current HG trilogy tell a pretty distinct story and Katniss has her own arc. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that part of my DOES want some more HG stuff, as long as it’s a specific story with specific characters.

I don’t want anything about Katniss, Peeta, or their little adorable babies. Leave them alone for goodness sake! Another movie would mean more conflict for the Mellark-Everdeens and haven’t they been through enough? I also don’t really care too much about the other tributes. Unless it’s Johanna and Finnick, we both know that they all die. And if it is about Finnick, we do know how that will end. Telling the story from another character’s point of view doesn’t really do it for me, either. As Hutcherson said in another interview, Katniss is the best person to tell this story.

What I do want are movies about Haymitch.

Though he’s a little pricklier in the books, I love the movie version of Haymitch brought to life by Woody Harrelson. I find him to be a fascinating character, especially when we learn about his own Hunger Games in ‘Catching Fire.’ That subplot was dropped from the cinematic version for time, but it’s super interesting to me. Later we also find out that because Haymitch resisted some of the responsibilities bestowed on the recently crowned victors that his family and friends paid the price. I’d see a movie on that in a heartbeat. So much emotion and action and suspense!

I’d also watch anything on Haymitch post-Hunger Games. Does he stay a drunk that raises geese? Does he have a love affair with Effie? Do Katniss and Peeta’s children inspire hope within him? Does he help rebuild Panem? Is he looked upon as a wise old historian by the time his hair turns completely grey? So many unanswered questions!

Other than more celluloid exploration of everyone’s favorite mentor, I don’t need more Hunger Games. Some things should just be left alone and don’t need sequels, prequels, spin-offs or tie-ins. Every now and then, it’s nice to leave something alone.

But if you insist on poking the bear, Lionsgate, give me some Haymitch Abernathy.

The 7 Emotions I’ve Had About ‘Go Set A Watchman’

No other book has sent me on more of an emotional rollercoaster than “Go Set A Watchman” by Harper Lee. I know that may seem like an exaggeration, but it really isn’t. I can’t tell you how torn I am about this book. There’s been some high highs and some really low lows. And where am I after all of this? Still unsure if I will read this sequel to one of the greatest American novels ever.

1. So Elated I Cried At My Desk

Seriously. My friend Katie texted my the news and I started to well up. I collected myself because I was at school and if anything seems amiss I will get 137 questions about it. I was over the moon though. I was even more excited to learn that it would follow Scout as an adult. I could finally see if she ever married Dill.

2. Cautious Optimism Inspired By Teaching TKAM To My 8th Graders

I finished teaching “To Kill A Mockingbird” to my 8th graders. It’s a very rewarding book to teach, and it was while we were reading it that the news broke of the sequel. I was optimistic to read it and some of the 8th graders even expressed interest in picking it up. However, we did talk a lot about how Harper Lee doesn’t want anyone to write a critical introduction and how she declines interviews, which led me to the the third emotion…

3. A Weirdly Appreciative Nostalgia

You know, it’s kind of great that this beloved novel was the only thing Harper Lee ever wrote. She’s been living off it all this time! And the fact that she doesn’t want criticism means that you have to just take the book as it is and nothing more. It was kind of great that this book just stood by itself. In a way, I felt a certain ownership to Scout, Atticus, Jem, and Boo and I was happy just knowing them within the context of “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Do I really NEED a sequel? Well, no.

4. Pure Worry

Reports start to surface that Harper Lee has both failing eyesight and failing hearing. She’s almost 90. I remembered a story from a while back about some crazy lawsuit enacted by the lawyers who run her estate. It seemed really fishy to me that now this book is coming out. I mean, I always figured we’d get more from her after her death a la J.D. Salinger, but now? It seems to me like there are some sketchy characters behind the scenes and they are taking advantage of a poor old woman. Not okay! I hope and pray it isn’t true, but all signs point to skullduggery.

5. Looking Forward

“Stop worrying!” I tell myself. “It’s just a book!” After I repeat this mantra for a while I start to look forward to the book’s release, but not in a counting-down-the-hours-until-Deathly-Hallows kind of way. Harper Lee can tell a good story and I am interested to see where it goes.

6. Outrage

WHAT?! ATTICUS IS RACSIST?! WHY HARPER? WHY?! I AM NOT GIVING YOUR POSSIBLY CORRUPTED ESTATE ANY OF MY MONEY.

7. Apathy

I’ve now arrived at one of my least favorite emotions—apathy. Some great essays have come out explaining why it’s good that Atticus has a dark side. It fits with our modern times for him to be flawed. Others say it’s worrying. Others say that to them, “To Kill A Mockingbird” will stand on it’s own and nothing will change that. There’s a lot out there on it, and I just can’t find it within myself to care anymore. I may or may not read it. Part of me wants to, and another part knows I can live without. It goes back to the question I asked earlier, “Do I NEED a sequel?”


I’ll be interested to see how “Go Set A Watchman” sits with the literary community and if my students bring it up this winter when we read it. I think eventually I’ll get around to it, but I’m not chomping at the bit. Frankly, there are some other things out there that I’d rather read right now. That seems blasphemous, but it’s true. It also seems extreme to say I’ll never read it. Yet, at the same time, it doesn’t feel right buying the book.

See my inner struggle, readers? What about any of you? Are you excited for “Go Set A Watchman”?

The ‘While I Was Away’ Book Haul

Though I managed to restrain myself these past six months, thanks to my ‘Read Five Before I Buy’ program, I did go out and get some books. What’s best though is I didn’t pay full price for a single one. They were either gifts, found at thrift shops, or purchased at the annual Jeffco Library Used Book Sale. I’m gonna go ahead and pat myself on the back for that.

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As you can see by the picture above, I got another Penguin Drop Caps book. I’m officially obsessed. This time it’s “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Luis Zafron. It’s translated and I hear it’s just wonderful, especially if you love books. It’s also on my 100 Books list and I hope to get to it soon.

(The rest are from top to bottom)

“Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt– I can’t believe I haven’t read this yet! I’m probably the last English speaking person to do so.

“Snowdrops” by A.D. Miller– It’s a book about Russia (!) that I’ve had my eye on for a while.

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot – My dad read this and passed it on to me, telling me I could keep it if I wanted.

“The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher” by Hilary Mantel– My lovely friend Kristina got her hands on this ARC at Amazon HQ in Seattle. In all her kindness, she gave it to me. She’s a peach.

“Little Bee” by Chris Cleave – It was $1 at Goodwill.

“The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell  – I’ve heard nothing but good things about this! I also got it at Goodwill for that magical price of $1.

“A Tale For The Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki– A book given to me by my friend Lyndsay when she was cleaning out her own collection.

The books in this picture are from the library sale, except that top one, ‘Russia,’ that I got with Amazon credit. Again, from top to bottom…

“Russia: A 1000-Year Chronicle of the Wild East” by Martin Sixsmith– My fascination with Russian history continues…

“The Death of Vishnu” by Manil Suri– I know nothing about this, but I love literature written about India or Indian people.

“Out Stealing Horses” by Per Petterson– My writers group raves about this book. Time to see what’s up.

“Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe – I read this in high school and wanted my own copy

“Atonement” by Iwan McCain– I listened to this last year on audiobook and loved it. I just had to add it to my library.

“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston– Another book I read in high school that I need to own because in hindsight it was a really wonderful book.

“The Crimson Petal and the White” by Michel Faber– People at BookRiot love this. I trust their judgement so I picked it up, despite it’s heft.

“Zone One” by Colson Whitehead- Honestly, I picked it up just based on the premise. It sounds like it will be a good break from reading more “serious” stuff.

“Tracks” by Louise Erdrich– I loved ‘The Round House’ and I want to read more by her.

“The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver– I’ve tried to start this many times, but always put it down after twenty-pages. It’s a beloved modern classic and I’m determined to finish it!


Well, looks like I have some reading to do! Let me know in the comments if you are reading something you love or tweet me: @EmHof. Until next time, I’m out.

Unpopular Opinion Time #2: Books I Liked that Everyone Else Hated

You know that feeling when you read a book and your friends also read it an everyone loves it? It’s a pretty special thing. On the other hand, reading a book that you love and finding out no one else liked it? It can be a little crushing, especially to the wishy-washy people out there. But no more! I am proud that I read these books and I have no qualms saying I liked them. It’s further proof that you really can’t say if you’ll like a book or not until you read it. I know, the most obvious thing in the world, but it bears repeating.
“The Casual Vacancy” by JK Rowling
Not many people liked this beast of a novel. I had multiple friends who couldn’t finish it and was famously Mashiko Kakutani’d (that’s the industry term for the famous NYT book critic giving it a scathing review). I, on the other hand, really really liked it.
The book is far from perfect and I actually don’t think I would have enjoyed it if I hadn’t listened to parts of it on audiobook. That made the experience worthwhile and the book was dark and Dickensian, which I appreciated. And that ending! I won’t spoil it but it was gut-wrenching. Rowling still proves she’s not afraid to take her characters to hell and back (and leave a few of them there, too).
“We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart
There was lots of early buzz surrounding this book and then when it finally dropped many said they were disappointed that it didn’t live up to the hype. Because of this, I waited a while to read it and my friend Lyndsay had a copy she was willing to let me borrow. She loathed it, and I trust her opinion. Still, I went in with no expectations.
I ultimately really liked it. I liked the plot twist at the end, I loved the ghostly writing, and I thought the perfect amount of hints were given. I liked the main character and her love interest a lot and I thought her motivations were dark, yet understandable. It’s a layered book, especially when you consider the ending and E. Lockhart pulls it off. I’m definitely in the minority for liking it.

How about the rest of you? Which books did you like that everyone else seemed to hate? Tell me in the comments below or tweet me: @EmHof. Until next time, I’m out.

Books I Liked While I Was On My “Break”

Just because I was on a blogging hiatus doesn’t mean I wasn’t reading. That would be truly concerning. Though I didn’t read at my normal volume, I did read some great books. So far nothing has blown me away so far this year, but there’s still time and the books listed below were well worth the read.

“The Round House” by Louise Erdrich

I really enjoyed this tale of a boy who seeks to find his mother’s attacker on an Indian reservation. The politics that involve the Round House was fascinating and I thoroughly enjoyed Erdrich’s prose. I will definitely be reading more by her.

“The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton

A ghostly and gripping historical fiction thriller about a girl who marries a wealthy Dutch businessmen only to find that he and his household are holding a whole mess of secrets.

“Brain on Fire” by Susannah Cahalan

This memoir about a woman whose whole life is turned upside down by a mysterious illness is not for the faint of heart or any of the hypochondriacs in your life. Cahalan takes you on her crazy journey without getting too much into the science of her illness.

“Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng

For a debut novel, this was excellent. The golden child of a biracial couple dies, and Ng tells their story starting with the parents origins and moves to their horrible present day. I loved the style and that it still felt like a mystery even though we don’t get into the detective side of things. Ng’s prose was made me feel like I was floating while I devoured this book. It’s my favorite of the year thus far.

“Escape From Camp 14” by Blaine Harden

My boyfriend lent me this fast paced and fascinating account of the only known escapee of a North Korean work camp. It brings up interesting issues of morality and assimilation to western culture.

“White Teeth” by Zadie Smith

By far my favorite post-modern novel, Smith pulls back the curtain on human nature and in her interwoven tale of two lower middle-class London families.


What did the rest of you read these past sixth months? Anything I should add to my TBR pronto? Let me know in the comments or tweet me: @EmHof.

Guess Who’s Back (30 Before 30 and Life Update)

Hello everyone!

It’s been a while, right? Like, it’s been so long that I forgot my password and spent five minutes retrieving it. I missed writing in this blog, but unfortunately things like writing, reading, and other hobbies were put on the back burner while the last half of the school year owned me. I also had some changes in my personal life and I managed to cross three more goals off my ’30 Before 30′ list.

As of now, I only have four days of school left and then it’s a glorious summer break. I’m doing what I call “reverse weeks” over summer; two days of working and five days off. I’m especially hoping to read and write a lot this summer while I make a little extra money on the side. I’m also hoping to relax some. I loved my first year of teaching, but it was definitely draining at times.

The other big change in my life, is that I am in a serious relationship with a nice young man. I know, hide your shock! He’s great, and probably a little embarrassed that I’m mentioning him on my blog. Hi DJ! *waves*

Other than my job and my social life, I’ve been busy with family matters, getting my teaching license, and looking for a place to live. A lot is going on, per usual, but I’m hoping to clear some time for the blog and writing in general.

And last but not least, here are some of the things I crossed off my 30 before 30 list:

Go to an NBA Game 

I watched the Nuggets lose from the nosebleeds.

I watched the Nuggets lose from the nosebleeds.

My friend Allie, who actually follows the NBA, accompanied me to my first ever professional basketball game. I got discount tickets through work and we enjoyed sitting in the upper deck and chatting. I can see why some people dislike the NBA. The only exciting part was the last ten minutes. I still prefer college basketball, but I’m not totally shunning the NBA. LeBron is kinda growing on me….

Sing karaoke 

Didn't get a picture of myself singing (what were my friends doing?!), but here's a cute group shot.

Didn’t get a picture of myself singing (what were my friends doing?!), but here’s a cute group shot.

For my birthday I rounded up my book club friends and we spent a snowy night at El Charrito, a bar in Denver that features karaoke on Saturday nights. Let me tell you, we sang our little hearts out and I had a GREAT time. I sang two songs; “Royals” by Lorde (all my myself, too!) and “22” by Taylor Swift with the book club gals because it isn’t a party if Taylor doesn’t make an appearance. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. I was nervous, but the whiskey and gingers helped quell the stage fright. I also appreciated that my friends got up and sang, too. They’re a good bunch.

This is what it looked outside when we left. #coloradoweather

This is what it looked outside when we left. #coloradoweather

Go to the Kentucky Derby and Bet on a Horse

Here's my ticket!

                       Here’s my ticket!

I was in attendance for the 141st Kentucky Derby and ho-ly crap it was an experience. I don’t think I’d been in a crowd that big since I went to Lollapalooza six years ago. What struck me was that so many people were dressed up. I got lucky on my outfit–I found my dress for $8 at Target the day before I left and my friend Cassie lent me one of her adorable fascinators. I would like to thank her for her generosity and Kate Middleton for starting this trend.

Big thanks to Sarah and Cassie and their hospitality and flexibility on the trip.

Big thanks to Sarah and Cassie and their hospitality and flexibility on the trip.

I think my favorite thing about the Derby was experiencing the general anticipation. The day started somewhat early with watching the news coverage. The whole city of Louisville seems to be overcome with excitement. We then moved to a tailgate which was really fun. There I met my friends Sarah and Marleen and new friend Lizzie. We did encounter some douchebags though, but I felt vindicated when the people who parked next to us not only peed on their car, but gave us two tickets to the infield. Talk about saving money!

After the walk to Churchill Downs, we were swept up in the huge crowd. I bought a mint julep and then went to the betting area (which has some fancy name that I can’t remember) and took the $5 DJ gave me and put it on American Pharaoh to finish. He later won the whole thing! We watched the race on TVs and left around six. I managed to avoid getting a sunburn and had a great time, all without seeing a single horse. I’d definitely go back, but I would probably get seats next time.

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Here’s where I won $10.50. And by me I mean DJ. But I physically placed the bet.

Well, that’s all from me. As of now, I have 23 things left to accomplish in a year and a half. I’ve reconciled that I might not do it all, but what I do complete will be pretty memorable.

I’m Excited for 2015 And Here’s Why:

There’s something nice about turning the calendar to a fresh new year. It’s like hitting a restart button. Lord knows I’ve needed that the past two years. The other good thing about 2015 is you can start to anticipate stuff and it’s really not that long of a wait. A year goes by fast! I listed below some of the things I’m excited for in 2015. So excited that I wish I could snap my fingers and have them RIGHT NOW. Alas, this will not work, but I’m thinking that anticipation is half the fun.

Netflix 

I have never been more excited for Netflix original programming than I am for the slate of shows coming up in 2015. All of these are new shows that have some serious talent behind them. First, there’s ‘Bloodlines’ with Coach Taylor Kyle Chandler in March. That’s also the month that the brand new Tina Fey helmed comedy ‘The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ debuts. It’s about a thirtysomething who escapes her life in a cult and heads to the Big Apple. It sounds truly hilarious. Then there’s two Marvel properties I’m excited about: “Daredevil” and “A.K.A. Jessica Jones.” I normally would scoff at the former one, but if Marvel TV is behind it, I’m sure it’s in good hands. There’s also a Canadian drama about a world void of anyone over the age of 21. It sounds like it might fill the ‘Skins’ shaped hole in my heart since the series went off the air.

On top of all of this, there’s also the new season of ‘House of Cards.’ Can I just press fast forward?

Series Conclusions (books) 

The thing I love most about Netflix original series is you get everything all at once and you don’t have to wait around for the next episode. This really speaks to people like me who hate anxiety and crave conclusion in fiction. Recently this preference has transferred over into my reading life (I won’t read books in a series until all are out, with a few exceptions), but the series I have started I am anxious to finish. I’m looking forward to the conclusion of The Fifth Wave trilogy and I’m eagerly anticipating Winter, the final book in The Lunar Chronicles. I’m going to be sad when both are over, but I’m sure the book hangover won’t last long.

Series Conclusions (Parks and Recreation) 

Part of me will go into mourning when the seventh and final season of this awesome ensemble comedy ends. I am anxious to see how everything concludes with Leslie’s new job and the triplets, and to laugh at what I’m sure are some sly and witty technological advances (it is set in the future). Plus, I’m excited to see the regular gang back together. Still, it will be bittersweet. To paraphrase on the 21st century’s greatest minds, Ron Swanson, crying is acceptable at funerals, the Grand Canyon, and during the final season of this fantastic show.

Series Conclusions (Mockingjay Part 2) 

I pledge allegiance to Francis Lawrence, as the faithful and real true adapter of the Hunger Games series. Even though it was half of a book that I have mixed emotions on, Mockingjay Part 1 was a solid film adaptation. Jennifer was great, per usual. I’m excited to get some conclusion, even though this conclusion will break my heart more than any of the other conclusions.

Traveling

I always look forward to a little adventure. This year, I have a whole summer off and I plan on taking full advantage of this. I can’t say too much yet because things could change, but I’m planning an epic Pacific Northwest trip! Along that I’ll be traveling to Texas and Ohio for weddings and to Louisville, Kentucky for the Kentucky Derby! It will be my first time going, which is insane to me.

So much to look forward to. I should probably keep this list handy when I feel like my life is boring. There’s obviously much to look forward to.