Posted in Reviews

New Moon Review: Chapter 1

We open in a dream that is so obviously a dream that even our protagonist can tell it is, in fact, a dream.

She dreams about what she thinks is her grandmother. She has a mild panic attack when Edward steps into the sunlight in front of “gran.”

It’s a dream. And the payoff for it is almost non-existent, since it hardly impacts the plot of this book at all. This comes back to one of many “Meyerisms” as I like to call them. Meyer likes to get a lot of exposition out through dream sequences. I get the idea of the subconscious knowing things the brain does not. But it seems like Bella’s subconscious knows a lot more than her conscious mind does. It takes Bella an infuriatingly long time to realize things that are blatantly obvious to someone with even half a brain. Bella is constantly hailed as smart, but there’s little to back that assertion in the books.

In Bella’s dream she begins to notice that “gran” is mirroring her movements. She becomes aware of a gilt frame around her grandmother and suddenly everything clicks.

She mimicked the movement exactly, mirrored it. But where our fingers should have met, there was nothing but glass.

With a dizzying jolt, my dream abruptly became a nightmare. 

There was no gran. 

That was me. Me in a mirror. Me–ancient, creased, and withered. 

Edward stood beside me, casting no reflection, excruciatingly lovely and forever seventeen. 

He pressed his icy, perfect lips against my wasted cheek. 

“Happy Birthday.” He whispered. 

Good grief. This is more of the “wah I’m so old” stuff that I commented on in Twilight. Bella’s freakouts over her age are so asinine. There isn’t much, if any, visible difference between a seventeen year old and an eighteen year old. Even three or four years wouldn’t change her face that drastically.

Speaking as someone who is having a birthday as she types a commentary on this drivel, I find this a tad insulting. I’m twenty-four now. I’m not too worried about how old I am until I hit the big 3-O. Maybe not even then.

The crux of the matter is that she’s older than Edward. Even though people repeatedly tell her that it makes no difference, she insisted on getting really pigheaded about a teensy year. Edward is over a hundred years older than Bella. So the point is moot.

And it just drags on, and on, and on…

And now that it had hit, it was even worse than I feared it would be. I could feel it–I was older. Every day I got older, but this was different, worse, quantifiable. I was eighteen. And Edward never would be. 

Bella then starts looking for wrinkles on her face.

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Edward and Alice are waiting for her at school. Bella is ungracious about the party and gifts the Cullens get her. I know I myself am not a good gift receiver, but if someone spends money on me, I try to accept it with good grace. It’s just rude to do anything else.

Bella concedes the point that a few years is not a big deal, but makes the caveat in her brain that she’ll only accept aging a few more years if she can be guaranteed sparkly immortality before she turns twenty. Cause twenty is sooo gross, right?

Edward tells Alice to expect them at seven, so Bella can watch Romeo and Juliet. Because it will have supposed plot significance later on, and we need to get our lame-ass Chekhov’s guns on the mantle now.

Bella goes on for about a page and a half how she hates gifts and attention. And how she doesn’t deserve them anyways.

But how could I let him give me things when I had nothing to reciprocate with? He, for some unfathomable reason, wanted to be with me. Anything he gave me on top of that just threw us more out of balance.

So I want to be a sparkly vampire. Because being a bloodthirsty immortal will somehow fix my deep seated inferiority complex and low self-esteem.

Meyer expressed in her post about writing New Moon that Bella had to realize that Edward is hers as much as she is his. Honestly I don’t see it. Bella remains insecure until the moment she becomes a vampire. If Bella’s insecurities had been a character flaw, and painted as such (author awareness is important on that point,) and it had been resolved through character development, it would be one thing. This is never really addressed or changed until Bella gets what she wants.

So they get through the day, and she and Edward go home to watch the movie. Edward criticizes Romeo, which raises Bella’s ire.

“What’s wrong with Romeo?” I asked, a little offended. Romeo was one of my favorite fictional characters. Until I’d met Edward, I’d sort of had a thing for him. 

Which is stupid, because Romeo was really nothing to be admired. He was impulsive and a a bit of an idiot. I’ll address this here, since the parallels to Romeo and Juliet are all over the place.

Meyer loosely based each of her plots on a classical novel. And she missed the theme of every single one of them. It’s a mistake I see a lot of people make with Romeo and Juliet. They are not relationship goals. I know a lot of girls who find the relationship romantic for some reason.

Romeo and Juliet acted on infatuation, made bad choices, and each died at a tragically young age. The tragedy is that it took the senseless death of two young people to reconcile their families.So if  you want to parallel to be right, you’d have to have Charlie Swan and Carlisle Cullen in some sort of blood feud. Which honestly would have been a more compelling story than New Moon. 

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Edward whispers the lines of the play into Bella’s ear until they reach the part where Romeo commits suicide. He makes a comment about envying him.

“She’s very pretty.” 

He made a disgusted sound. “I don’t envy him the girl–just the ease of the suicide.” He clarified in a teasing tone. 

Bella freaks the hell out about him having thought about suicide, even though she routinely throws herself into harms way for no freaking reason.

Edward gives us some additional exposition about the Volturi, since they’re going to be competing for the title of series big bad. He explains that the Volturi are an old family that act as something of the ruling body, making laws and dispensing justice.

Here’s an example of Bella’s hypocrisy. These lines happen within a paragraph of each other.

“You must never, never, never think of anything like that again!” I said. “No matter what might ever happen to me, you are not allowed to hurt yourself!” 

And then:

“What would you do, if the situation were reversed?” He asked. 

“That’s not the same thing.” 

He didn’t seem to understand the difference. 

Because there is no freaking difference. What is good for the goose is good for the gander Bella.

When they get to the Cullen’s house the place is done up. Bella doesn’t like it. Surprise. Bella gets a car radio from Emmett, Rosalie and Jasper. Emmett installs it so she can’t return it.

She protests when Alice gives her the gift from her and Edward. Possibly because she can feel the inciting incident coming on.

Bella gets a paper cut unwrapping the gift and sheds a single drop of blood.

All hell breaks loose.

Jasper tries to attack Bella. Edward pushes her into the table full of glass plates, and it makes the situation worse, cutting her arm up and spilling more blood. Now Bella is in danger from the whole family, not just Jasper.

And even though its the end of the chapter review and I’d like to end it, I have to call bullshit once again. The entire family managed to resist Bella’s blood at the end of Twilight. And that’s when she had a gushing head wound. A paper cut should not have set Jasper off.

Some fan theories hold that Jasper felt the collective hunger of his family, and it drove him to attack, but that’s not right either. If that were the case, he should be attacking people right and left when his family is hungry. And again, we have to go back to the ballet studio. Why didn’t he attack her then? This plot point falls apart upon closer inspection.

This would have been better if it had been Edward, not Jasper who had attacked. The guilt would be more justified, the danger presented more real to Bella and the reader.

So that’s all I have for this review. Join me for chapter two wherein we discuss religion.

Posted in Reviews

New Moon: Preface and some background

So when I was a teen girl, I actually sort of liked Twilight. Blasphemous, I know. But all the same, I found the story rather, well…romantic. And it was vastly different from anything else I had read thus far. The series I liked at the time were mostly science fiction fare like Animorphs. Which I thoroughly intend to put on a my recommended page, as well as on my top list of science fiction books for kids.

I was also very different from my brief brushes with vampire fiction. At the time I liked Annette Curtis Klause’s The Silver Kiss and Amelia Atwater-Rhode’s Den of Shadows series. Twilight’s vampires hardly adhered to vampire canon, and I thought Bella and Edward’s relationship was compelling.

And all that being said, I was also fifteen. I had never dated or really had a male friend. I really had nothing to compare it to. So as I entered my twenties and started dating, I began seeing everyone’s point about Twilight. The relationships are possessive, nigh abusive. It was not an example I’d want young couples to find acceptable or to aspire to.

And as I took many writing courses in college, I also began to see the story telling flaws in Twilight. The purple prose. The flat characters. The weak plot and non-endings that Meyer favors. So in short I became a book snob in college.

On top of all that, New Moon is just freaking miserable. Even when I was reading the series, I thought it was a major bummer, and didn’t think it fit in well with the tone of the rest of the series. And that’s because Stephenie Meyer didn’t originally intend to write it. Don’t believe me? Check it out. 

Originally Twilight was just a pet project Meyer was working on. So after finishing it, she began her next book, Forever Dawn, or as the rest of us know it, Breaking Dawn. Yep. The books in between weren’t really planned for. She began writing them only after it was clear Twilight was going to be published.

Originally we wouldn’t have gotten the only good thing that came out of this book. Namely, Jacob Black. And boy does it show that the middle two books weren’t intended canon. This book barely furthers the plot, doesn’t do any favors for Bella’s character, and is just plain depressing.

So let’s get started on it, shall we?

We begin with the mandatory vague prologue. Bella is running.

But this was no dream, and unlike the nightmare, I wasn’t running for my life; I was racing to save something infinitely more precious. My own life meant little to me today. 

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Ah the return of the martyr complex. And on the first page too. Don’t pretend any differently Bella, your life means little to you every single day. Dating a vampire that has a raging death boner for you is proof enough of that.

Bella keeps running, spouting ominous phrases about an enemy we haven’t met yet. Sounds thrilling right? Be prepared for an anti-climax. The baddies are nowhere near bad ass enough for this intro.

As the clock began to toll out the hour, vibrating under the soles of my sluggish feet, I knew I was too late–and I was glad something bloodthirsty waited in the wings. For in failing at this, I forfeited any desire to live. 

Good lord. As a survivor of a suicide attempt I can’t even begin to express how melodramatic and insulting this sort of thing gets in the book. I’ll wait to drag out my soapbox another chapter.

Thankfully the prologue is short. Unfortunately, the rest of the book is not. See you next chapter.

Posted in Reviews

Devil and the Deep Blue Sea on Hiatus

Sorry all. I’ve been absolutely horrible about updating. I started reviewing Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea months ago. July I think. And now we’ve reached the tail end of October and I’m still in the very beginning of the book.

And its not for lack of trying. I feel like I have to repeat myself over and over, because in all actuality, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is one of the least offensive forms of bad literature. It’s amusingly awful. The bad elements can boomerang back on themselves and become downright laughable. I promise I will revisit this book after awhile, but due to a whole host of personal problems that have cropped up in my life I’m going to put this one on hiatus. I’m moving on to a book I know has thoroughly missed it’s potential and manages to be both boring and a miserable experience to read.

I’m moving on to the next book in the Twilight series. After such a long break I’m ready to tackle the most angsty book in the entire series, New Moon. 

Posted in Reviews

DADBS: Chapter Six

This chapter is boring as hell. I won’t blame you if you opt out of it. I wish I could. It takes twenty pages to get three small things accomplished in this chapter.

Still with me? Alright then.

We return to find that Violet has returned to the guesthouse. River is inside, talking with Luke and drinking coffee. We’re immediately thrown off the original premise of the trek over, which was to ask River if he had seen Blue in the tunnel as well.

What could distract our oh-so-noble protagonist from her quest? Some fiend lying in wait? A conversation she should not have been privy to?

No. It’s actually a coffee pot.

A moka pot specifically. Violet is surprised that River knows how to use it. Why? I’m not sure. This book was published in 2013. By that time it wasn’t at all uncommon to be linked in on a cellphone or other mobile device all the time. If River didn’t know how to use the moka pot when he arrived, he could simply have looked up how to use it while she was grudgingly babysitting Sunshine.

Violet assumes that River must have spent time in Italy, and surprise surprise, is right. River finally puts the wayward Violet back on the right track and asks about how Sunshine is doing.

“So how’s Sunshine? She alright?”

“Not Really.” I wanted to ask River more about Italy. 

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Why is Violet our protagonist?? She’s a terrible human being. Her next door neighbor went through a trauma that made her sick with fear, and Violet casually disregards all of that because she wants to hear stories from River. Whom she acknowledges in the very same chapter would probably lie to her about them anyways.

What a catch. You two morons deserve each other.

River denies seeing anything in the tunnel and Luke jumps on the bandwagon, since he is the only one in the chapter thus far who hasn’t had the opportunity to be an asshole, and he feels left out. He says that Sunshine must have gotten spooked and overreacted because she’s a girl.

Violet points out that he wanted to call the police just the previous chapter (and just to remind you, she was the one arguing against, because she’s a horrible friend.) She figures that now would be the time to go to the police. Not, you know, right after it happened.

Luke ignores Violet, as most sane people would, and stretches. We get another of Violet’s snide asides about her brother.

The thick tendons in his arms looked swollen and stiff and stupid. 

A few paragraphs later she voices this out loud. You see, Violet’s “don’t be an asshole” filter never developed properly.

It’s okay to like a certain body type over others. I know that I myself prefer lean muscle, instead of the big bulky bulging muscles the author is telling us Luke has. But that is a matter of personal taste. I have known women who like the body builder look. There is nothing wrong with either, if both are done in a healthy way.

Luke plays sports and regularly lifts weights to keep in shape. There is nothing wrong with his muscles. This is just more of Violet constantly being awful to her brother. No wonder he’s more friendly with a bottle than with his sister.

Luke makes plans to go into town and see his girlfriend. He asks if River will go to a movie that night. The town of Echo plays classic movies in the town square during the summer. Because it is easily the most recognizable of classic films, they are of course going to see Casablanca. 

Violet wants to make a picnic to go. Luke informs them he was planning on stealing booze and making out with his girlfriend. Luke tries to convince River to go with him to the movies. Which to me speaks to Luke’s desperate need for companionship.

“What do you think River? Shouldn’t Violet stay home and let the men play tonight?” 

This line is meant to convey how much of a misogynist Luke is. I don’t read it that way. Since he’ll lose this front of masculinity later on, it seems to me like Luke wants a male friend. Because of his isolation as one of the (formerly) wealthy kids, he has no friends to hang out with or to rely on during his parent’s absence. Luke just wants someone who won’t sneer at his interests the way Violet constantly does. Does it excuse his behavior, no. Is it understandable? I think yes.

Alas, no friends for Luke. River refuses to drink with him. Luke says that he needs the alcohol to not fall asleep during a film. Which is stupid if you know the first thing about alcohol. It’s a depressant, and it will make you sleepy if you drink enough.

River says that Casablanca is one of his favorite films, and he’d love to have a picnic with Violet.

Skip ahead a little in time, and they finally get going into town? You know that thing they tried to do two chapters ago?

Violet has to go on some more about coffee. She tells us about the Italian family that runs the pizza place and the coffee shop. Violet constantly refers to coffee as “joe”. There are a couple of different origins for this phrase. The one that most people readily accept is that a “joe” is your average person. A cup of “joe” unites the average people, in their shared experience of drinking the beverage.

Considering Violet’s attitude and affectations thus far, I find this an odd stylistic choice. Violet prides herself on being well-read and sophisticated. She makes a point of talking about how she drank coffee very young, and could be seen sitting alone in the shop reading Wuthering Heights. Its only a minor thing, but it does bug me. Joe is such an average commonplace word for coffee (and usually to describe really bad workplace coffee), it makes little sense for her to use it as a descriptor.

Violet feels a sudden pang for her missing parents, thinking about how she got away with drinking coffee when she shouldn’t have. Since her parents don’t give two hoots about her most days. She prays to Freddie briefly and feels better.

Luke meets up with his girlfriend Maddy, and they have cute little exchance. Violet mutters that Maddy could do better than Luke. It’s scenes like this that make me want to thump Violet on the head. Here’s some classic traits of low-self esteem that Luke exhibits.

He’s a bully.

This is pretty evident in the text. Luke pushes Violet around because he feels like he has no control over his life. His parents are gone, his grandmother is dead, and he cannot pay the bills and keep his sister and himself fed.

He uses alcohol to cope 

As I already said when Luke was introduced in chapter three, he’s sort of a budding alcoholic. He drinks quite a bit.

He’s unfaithful

Luke fools around with Sunshine as much or more than he does with Maddy. We never see or hear that he broke things off with Maddy. For all we know he was still seeing both.

He is influenced by peer pressure

As Violet mentions, Luke has two approaches to men. Intimidation (see the above bullying trait) or hero worship. With River he chooses hero worship. He goes along with whatever River likes, not even becoming angry with River when he discovers that Violet is becoming more physical with him after such a short time.

Luke clearly has low-self esteem. Why? Because his own sister puts him down all the time, even in public, within earshot of others. His only identity is found in the hypermasculine things he still has left to cling to.

So her date with River is interrupted by Daniel Leap, the designated town drunk. Because this story is borrowing its setting from a Stephen King story, it might as well steal its drunk guy as well.

Daniel Leap starts shouting about how the White family are snobs, looking down on everyone else. And how can we argue? This line proceeds his drunken rant.

“Daniel Leap has ruined our view.” I said.

Excuse me? Your view? You went and got a cup of coffee and looked out on the town. You weren’t on a terrace sipping champagne as you watched the sun dip over the Paris skyline. You’re making a much bigger deal out of this than it is. Yes, it’s rude of him to shout, but you can’t just act like he doesn’t have a point. You are snobs.

Violet has to keep River from punching Daniel Leap out. It’s a moot point, since he passed out cold after delivering his plot dictated rant at the protagonist.

So they go to the store. It’s a nitpick, but most small towns would not have this good of a selection of organic produce. Just saying.

Shopping at the Dandelion Co-op made me feel European. Very Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina in Paris (that movie had played a few weeks ago in the park.)

Clumsy. Very Clumsy. This sentence makes me cringe a bit. You just had to name drop another classic movie didn’t you? Even though it bogs down your narration and has no connection to the plot or characters whatsoever.

There are a lot of pages dedicated to showing that River is superior in everything, even shopping. She likes that he “does it like her”. Because anyone who doesn’t fall into the Violet White line of thinking in this book is a fool who will need to be publicly shamed for his ignorance.

They go home. River makes a dish that is actually pretty good (I was hungry while reading the chapter and tried it.) They talk about how there is more to Luke than the anger, drinking and sexism.

Violet and River cuddle up and take a nap on the couch. Despite the fact she has only known him a few hours and there’s no reason she should trust him this implicitly. She doesn’t even know if River West is an alias, she has no idea where he came from or how he has that much money. She’s just impressed that he likes to sniff espresso beans. What more could you ask for in a guy?

Gratuitous swear words: 6

 

 

Posted in Reviews

DADBS: Chapter Five

We didn’t go to the grocery store.

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Luke thought we should call the cops.

And you didn’t? Violet really is a terrible person. Violet casually disregards Sunshine’s well-being because she likes River. She’s willing to ignore Sunshine in favor of keeping her boy-toy out of trouble. She’s an asshole. No wonder she doesn’t have friends.

Misogynistic, “woman-hating”, boob-groping Luke wants to report the incident to the police. Despite the fact we’re told that he can never consider a girl his friend. Sounds to me like Luke is a much better friend than Violet.

Violet goes over to Sunshine’s house to have a conversation with her. Sunshine tells Violet that she and River had gone into the tunnel and that he grabbed her elbow. She thought he was going to kiss her, and instead she sees a man and child in the corner. They appeared half-blind and having “furry teeth, as if they’d been eating rats.”

That isn’t how eating works. I think the author meant to say that they had fur in-between their teeth, but it is never described that teeth. The teeth themselves are described as furry.

So Sunshine is still sick with fear over the incident. As she goes to throw up again, Violet calls Sunshine’s parents so they can come home and take care of her. That’s the only semi-compassionate thing that Violet does for Sunshine in the entire chapter.Our lovely protagonist, ladies and gentlemen.

Jump a little ahead in time and we meet Sam and Cassandra Black. And from the get-go it is cringey.

“Cassandra and Sam were nothing like their daughter. They were skinny. Skinny like gangly teenage boys, not skinny like older people who exercised or starved themselves.” 

Couldn’t the author have just said they were thin? Usually when people write this sort of thing they give a general description of the character. For example: He was a paunchy, middle-aged man with thinning brown hair. See? It gives you a general mental image of frame, age, and his hair color.

I think that the author was trying to avoid using a cliche line like “thin as a beanpole.” But she goes so out of her way trying to be original that she ends up being absurd. This isn’t the only case of this in the book. I’ll point it out when it comes up, but some of the descriptions and metaphors are so odd it actually pulls me out of the narration. I rock back slightly, make a face and go “What the hell?”

Panther hips for example. It’s just an odd mental image that it is very distracting.

My point here is the author could have compared Sunshine’s parents to anything, so why teenage boys and anorexics?

Yes, teenage boys can shoot up several feet during puberty, and it can make them awkward looking until they fill out. But that isn’t the case for all teenage boys. Why make your comparison something so inconstant?

And there’s the other comparison before. As I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews, I have struggled with an eating disorder for awhile now. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around about the illness. Particularly that it’s about weight and vanity. Rarely is the root cause of anorexia wanting to look good in a bikini. In almost all the cases I’ve seen, its an expression of a deep psychological problem. So comparing natural thinness to a severe mental problem ruffles me.

And the absurd comparisons don’t stop there.

Cassie put her hair back in a bun, like a ballet teacher. She wore thick round glasses like Aldous Huxley. 

This is another example of the Twilight theme that is strong in the story. The author and main character make references to classical literature all the time, even when it’s completely unnecessary. If it’s pertinent to the theme I have less a problem with it, but 99% of the time in these stories its not. It’s to show off how cultured our protagonist is.

And stuff like this line bugs the crap out of me. Not only is the author expecting her junior high/high school target audience to not only know who Aldous Huxley is, but also what he wrote and what sort of glasses he wore. 

The author could have easily looked up or made a stab at guessing what sort of glasses Huxley wore. According to a simple google search I did, trying to illustrate the point he wore tortoiseshell glasses. They looked like this:

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The author wants to get across that Sunshine’s dad looks scholarly. But it will confuse many readers who have not read Huxley. So far as I can tell he is not required reading in high school (feel free to correct me if you had to read him in high school, but I certainly didn’t, and its not on a lot of school’s lists for required reading.) Huxley’s Brave new World seems to be more of a college lit text if you ask me.

So basically, its kind of stupid to name drop him here, since it pulls attention away from the story, and most people aren’t going to know what the author is talking about.

So Violet tells Sunshine’s parents what happened and we get the real story of Blue Hoffman.

Hoffman was suffering from mental illness. He didn’t kidnap anyone. It was a big misunderstanding and the kids were apparently inspired by reading Tom Sawyer in elementary school. So they went off to live in the wilderness.

More name dropping literature. Should I start keeping a counter of that too? And this won’t be the last time that the author name drops Mark Twain’s work.

“They ran off into the woods and lived off berries and peanut butter sandwiches. Eight days later they showed up, hungry and dirty and surprised at all the fuss.”

Story time. Alright, my soon to be ex-brother in law was quite convinced he was a country boy, despite not having lived in a town less than 23,000, while my family had lived in many areas where animals outnumbered people, and the nearest neighbor was a mile or two away.

So he and his friends organized a camping trip. In the middle of September, just as the weather was beginning to turn. They were convinced they were going to fish and hunt and live off the land, and would return home victorious and well-fed.

Not the case. First of all, they’d picked terrible weather conditions in which to camp. The nights were bitterly cold. It is easy to forget how cold nights can be when you are usually ensconced in a house. It is also easy to forget how dark nights are away from city lights.

They ended up curled two in a sleeping bag, trying to keep warm. They hadn’t brought flashlights, and their phones died after they used the flashlight app for a couple of hours. Between them they caught three or four fish to feed five guys. The little fish were hardly satisfying for just one person to eat, let alone five. They returned home cold and tired and desperately wanting pizza.

That is why I call bullshit on the entire kids out in the wilderness story. Grown men with something to prove only stayed out for three days. Children accustomed to the care of their parents with no idea how to deal with the elements would probably have come home much sooner than eight days.

Putting aside that a lot of berries are poisonous and would have made the kids sick, they couldn’t have lived on just peanut butter sandwiches. Even if each kid took the peanut butter and whole loaf of bread from home, (alerting their parents to the fact that something was up) it wouldn’t have lasted a week or more. Most kids don’t have the kind of forethought it takes to survive more than few days away from home. I remember when I was a lot younger and tried to run away, I took only a soda and some crackers with me.

These kids should have been dirty, dehydrated and possibly sick when they returned home. After eating berries and possibly sating their thirst with unpurified water or saltwater from the sea they should have been very, very sick.

Violet argues that Sunshine must have seen something and Cassandra gives her a cucumber sandwich. Cassandra apparently grew up in England, so of course, we must rely heavily on our stereotypes here.

She grew up in England, and thought that cucumber sandwiches and tea solved problems, which they sort of did, sometimes. 

Sigh. You could have just typed “fish and chips and save the queen.” and it would have been just as nuanced an analysis of how her origin shapes her worldview.

Sunshine’s dad asks if River saw Blue, and Violet, like a dumbass forgot to ask. She begins to doubt Sunshine’s story, because she’s an awful person and River is of course the only thing that matters to Violet.

Sunshine’s dad tries to laugh it off. Cassandra doesn’t take it seriously either.

“We all see things sometimes. When I was your age I was so in love with Wuthering Heights I convinced myself that Heathcliff really existed. I still lived in Cambridge then. I took a bus stop to Yorkshire and set out to find him.I walked for twenty miles across the moors, following what I thought was Heathcliff’s shadow, stretching across the heather, calling me to him. I ended up in a pub hours later, tired, cold and embarrassed.” 

Sounds like a trek Bella Swan would undertake, if she wouldn’t fall on her face during it.

I think this is supposed to endear us to Cassandra, but it just makes me feel sorry for Sunshine.

Don’t get me wrong on this point. I’m a huge geek, I think escapist fantasy has its place. But I’ve always disliked the personality type who can’t distinguish between fiction and reality. Its good to develop attachments to characters. That’s the mark of good writing. But at the end of the day, they’re still just fictional characters. No matter if its a tv show or a book that sort of delusion isn’t cute or whimsical. It’s unhealthy. I’ve actually met girls like this and they bug the crap out of me.

Secondly, assuming she walks a thirty minute mile, which is about average, she couldn’t have walked twenty miles in one day. Thirdly, I’m sure the land belonged to someone. So wasn’t she trespassing?

So anyways, Sunshine is understandably pissed that no one takes her seriously. Violet leaves to talk to River. Because why the hell wouldn’t you leave  a traumatized friend to moon over a man you barely know? Makes perfect sense. Way to go Violet.

Posted in Reviews

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

SPOILERS AHEAD. You have been warned.

Alright this will be a bit of a deviation from my usual form, going chapter to chapter reviewing what I like and didn’t like. For one, I can’t even do that since this is a play and I don’t feel qualified to pick apart a medium I’m that unfamiliar with. However, I will tell you my impressions and give you my overall recommendation.

When I heard there was a new Harry Potter book I was very excited. Harry Potter was one of the quintessential books in my childhood. I fell in love with the story, the characters and the world. In my opinion the series is still one of the best I have read.

Do I like the play format? Well no. It makes reading it a bit awkward. Overall I think this book would have been better if Rowling had written a novelization of the play. It doesn’t feel like Rowling’s narrative voice at all, and that bugs the crap out of me. A lot of the characters are almost caricatures of themselves. The pacing was all over the place. The story felt a bit like a convoluted fan fiction.

So with that I’m about to enter spoiler territory. Turn back now if you haven’t read the story.

Still with me? Great.

Alright, we pick up where we left off at the end of Deathly Hallows. Harry is seeing his son off to Hogwarts, and Albus is worried that he’ll be sorted into Slytherin.

He and Rose board the train and they enter a compartment where Scorpius Malfoy is sitting alone. Through Rose we get some clumsy exposition.

And we come upon my first complaint about this book. Everyone hates Scorpius because there is a rumor flying around that he is the son of Voldemort.

What??

Why would someone think that? First of all it’s canon that a person born under the influence of a love potion cannot love. While it’s true that it isn’t necessary for someone to love a person to get them pregnant, even the timing is off. The rumor is that Astoria was taken back in time and impregnated by Voldemort because Malfoy’s father wanted to extend the family line past his son. That seems like a drastic way to deal with infertility. They could have adopted. They could have used some other magical means surely.

But no, we need to get this tragic backstory in somehow. If you can call it tragic. It’s actually really laughable. It sounds like a crazy story you’d see in a wizard tabloid, written by a disgraced Rita Seeker.

This shouldn’t have any real weight. The only people who should take this to heart are the kids raised by Luna Lovegood.

So Scorpius and Albus become friends. Scorpius is tickled pink that someone likes him for a change. Scorpius and Albus are decently written and I honestly really like the characterization of Scorpius. I was afraid he’d be obnoxious, like a first year Draco dialed up to eleven. Instead he’s a cinnamon roll. It was a pleasant surprise actually.

Albus is sorted into Slytherin. Of course he is, we have to have our angst somehow. Not that this is a bad choice, story wise but it would have been so much better to explore via a book, instead of a visual storytelling medium like a play.

What changes does this bring for Albus? What are the inner workings of Slytherin house like? I always got the impression that they were a tight knit group. Everyone else wrote them off, so they took care of their own. It seems like that could have come into play when Albus was bullied.

Because yes, he is bullied. Albus is constantly compared to his father (unavoidable I expect) and no one ever stops to think that he’s not an extension of Harry. James wasn’t given this treatment, why was Albus expected to be Harry Potter 2.0?

So Albus sucks at Quiddich, he’s an average student, and he’s not in Gryffindor. Yes, he might get teased a bit, but you’d expect that this sort of stuff would calm down after about a year.

No, it actually extends all the way into his fourth year. Fourth year. We fast forward through four years of magical education and focus solely on the bullying. What a waste. Half of the fun of Harry Potter was the world, not to mention the character building. I understand it’s a script, and adaptations need to be made (which makes me really really want a novelization of this so I can get some of the world I was missing, because it doesn’t appear in this play.) However, forgoing even a hint of that so we can get the “nobody understands me” cliche sucks.

So the plot gets rolling when Harry’s office seizes an illegal time turner from Theodore Nott’s home. (Really, shouldn’t he be in Azkaban for life? Or dead?) Amos Diggory turns up and tries to convince Harry to go back in time and save Cedric. Harry rightly tells him no.

We’re introduced to Delphi Diggory, whom Albus takes a liking to. He gets the bright idea to steal the time turner from the ministry in order to go back and save Cedric Diggory. Hermione (who is the Minister for Magic in this story) has it in her office. I can believe that Hermione could become the Minister in all honesty, but when I pictured her involvement in politics it was always about the rights of magical creatures.

They first have to escape the train and face down the trolley witch. Who turns out to be some sort of Terminator like thing. No, I am not even kidding. She comes after them with spikes and pumpkin pasty grenades. It was freaking hilarious. I wish we could have seen that fight play out.

They manage to get into the ministry via Polyjuice Potion (which the play forgets is an extremely difficult potion to brew, and takes two months to make. So how did they manage it that day? Unless Albus keeps flask of the stuff just for the hell of it.)

They go back in time, but the time turner has a defect. It can only take you years into the past for five minutes, and it might injure you. They dress as Durmstrang students and interfere with the first task, taking Cedric’s wand. They have a brief conversation with Hermione which has disastrous consequences.

When they return Hermione is the DADA teacher, a bitter woman scorned and a milder version of Snape. Ron married someone else and his children with Hermione cease  to exist.

We come to the next thing I dislike. Harry and Albus have a huge disconnect in his book. Harry doesn’t act like a good father at all. Albus has a huge chip on his shoulder and refuses to listen to his father at all. It’s bad all around. In this alternate time line Harry decides the thing that’s hurting Albus is his only friend Scorpius and bullies the headmistress into stalking them both. It’s so OOC it pulled me out of the narrative.

After weeks apart, Albus and Scorpius reconcile. They try to change time again and this time it actually erases Albus completely. Harry Potter was killed in the Battle of Hogwarts and Voldemort rules the world. Umbridge (the cow) runs Hogwarts. Scorpius tries to figure out why this future came to be. Apparently when they humiliated Cedric during the second task, it made him an angry and bitter person who turned into a Death Eater.

Never ever in a million years would Cedric have become a Death Eater! He’s not Snape, who was treated like crap his entire life and felt a pull to the dark side as a way to gain some of his own back. He was raised in a loving family, he had a lot of friends, he was a very noble guy. Basically its like pantsing guy in public and then having him transform into a super villain. It doesn’t happen like that!

So in this new reality the only ones fighting Voldemort are Hermione, Ron, and Snape. (I somehow seriously doubt that. There would be a resistance, or at least protest. No one with morals can exist in Voldemort’s idea of a perfect world.)

They undo what they’ve done, and things go back to the way they were. They decide to destroy the time turner. Only wait, something is wrong.

When I first met Delphi, she sort of struck me as the self-insert character in a fanfic. She’s got a weird name, even by Harry Potter standards, we’ve had no mention of her relation to Diggory up to that point. I was afraid it was going to get cringey and involve a love triangle. It does get cringey but thankfully no love triangle. (Unless you think that Scorpious is crushing on Albus, which there is evidence for.)

Delphi is Voldemort’s daughter.

Yeah, we officially entered into fanfic territory.

Delphi takes them back in time to try and fulfill a new prophecy. Yeah we get to the third act and there’s a new prophecy. Wasn’t this something that should have been mentioned before? I mean we spent an entire book on that alone in the HP series. Moving on. That plan doesn’t work out and she takes them further back in time, to the day Voldemort is coming to kill Harry’s Parents. She smashes the time turner and leaves them suspended in time.

They assume she’s going to kill Harry before Voldemort can, thus he is never killed. Through a series of incredible coincidences, they manage to get Harry and the rest back in time, and stop Delphi’s actual plan.

They return to the future, and Harry has a heart to heart with his son, and all is resolved.

Okay, overall thoughts. If you’re expecting this to be a continuation, you’ll be disappointed. This book has some of Rowling’s humor but none of her characters. Her narrative voice and a large part of her world are gone or modified too much. If you are reading it to get another Harry Potter story, you’ll be disappointed. The story is underwhelming and sometimes confusing.

The few things that I liked were fleshing out Scorpius and Draco. We get a few surprisingly heartfelt moments with Draco, and Scorpius is adorable.

Terminator Trolley Lady. Enough said.

Some of the jokes were funny, and some of the ideas were sort of interesting. Mostly though, I feel like the playwright was trying to capitalize on fan’s nostalgia by giving us a highlights reel of all the great parts of Harry Potter.

I didn’t want Harry Potter. I wanted Albus and Scorpius and their new adventures. Bringing back Voldemort as the big bad was a mistake, in my opinion. Especially since he isn’t as big a bad as you’d think. Delphi is not foreshadowed enough to build adequate tension. She doesn’t really feel right as a villain here.

I am not offended by this edition. It does not ruin my childhood or make me want to pull my hair out in fury. It is slightly disappointing, but nothing more than that.

This has been done before, and unfortunately it was sort of done better.

As it is, I’d watch this over the play. The play doesn’t push its comedy far enough to make it a parody, nor does it make the dark stuff dark enough to actually be scary. It is thoroughly middling.

So for that I give it a very average score. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child gets a five out of ten. Nice try, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I’m hoping Rowling will Retcon this and start a series about Albus and Scorpius with an original baddie.

 

 

Posted in Reviews

DADBS: Chapter Four

Violet spends the first three pages of the chapter missing her parents and her dead grandmother. I’m not saying it’s wrong per se, but it goes on for quite a bit, and it really doesn’t contribute much.

She, Sunshine and Luke find River washing dishes and ask if he would like to go into town and buy groceries. Violet says that Luke treats all women the same (because he’s a misogynist, get it? Complex men don’t exist except for River!) but that he either ingratiates himself to men he respects, or condescends to the ones who intimidate him. Violet’s hate for her brother really gets wearing, because it hardly ever lets up. There is clearly a lot of resentment and as of yet, I see no reason for it within the text.

Luke asks if River lifts weights, and would like to be his spotter. Not too bad, I suppose.  But he prefaces it with something stupid.

“I need someone who can drink whiskey without whining.”

                First of all, none of them are legal. At all. Not even remotely close to legal drinking age in the U.S.  If this were set in the U.K. or somewhere where the drinking laws were different, I wouldn’t have this quibble, but it’s set in the U.S.

I know plenty of people don’t wait until they are old enough to drink, so it’s only a minor thing. However, it’s implied in the later chapters that Luke regularly drinks, and not in a purely social setting. He drinks a lot and drinks to get drunk. Luke is a budding alcoholic. That’s actually kind of sad, when you think about it.

Luke does have some justification for being this way. His mother and father constantly abandon him, his grandmother recently died, and it appears that Violet has hated him from a very young age. He’s doing what he can to cope. It’s been postulated that some people use sex and relationships as a coping mechanism for depression. Violet does nothing at all to help her brother, even though she knows he’s struggling. I don’t see Violet as the victim here.

But let’s not focus on that, River’s making a “joke.”

“Yeah,” River said. “I just plugged in the fridge. I need some food. Hence, I’ll come with you to the grocery store.”

               

                Seriously. It wasn’t funny the first time. It’s not funny now. It’s ridiculous and forced, and just all around terrible writing.

They start to walk to Echo. They could have taken River’s car since, you know, it has a trunk in which to store groceries, but no. We won’t get the plot of this chapter if we’re driving.

Violet actually hasn’t fallen for the “omg I’m so insecure” cliché that Twilight so often does. Violet more or less has made her peace with being the way she is, and that alone makes her a superior character to Bella.

I recognize that the teenage years are the ones where you feel most self-conscious, but it wasn’t really an established part of her character up to this point. So the fact that she gets so insecure around Sunshine, and begins to describe in detail all of her physical features, is a little jarring. And it’s not even done in a way that implies she’s unhappy with Sunshine for being a flirt. It’s just there to juxtapose Violet against another woman.

As they’re walking they pass an old railroad tunnel. I think Tusholke could have gotten away with making it a mine of some sort, because that’s essentially what it is. A railroad tunnel has to emerge somewhere. Violet says this one ends in a cave in. So it could have just as easily been a mine.

What keeps most people out of the tunnel is a rumor about an old lunatic who supposedly lives inside.

“The story’s been going around since we were kids, maybe longer.” I said. “There was man named Blue Hoffman, who went to war and killed people. It made him crazy.”

                Clumsy, story, very clumsy. Yes, war can make people unbalanced, but by the time you were born, and maybe even a little before PTSD was becoming better known and was being treated. I hate, hate, hate it when books try to pass of their character’s bad decisions or a villain’s evil as the result of a mental illness. It’s such a cop out and it perpetuates stereotypes about the mentally ill that just aren’t true.

Only a very small percentage of people with mental illness are violent. In most cases the person suffering is much more of a danger to themselves than to anyone else. Most people with PTSD are not violent, and are not a danger to society. But from all the books, tv shows and movies out there spreading this sort of thinking, you’d think that everyone with a mental illness has a pickaxe in their closet they’re just itching to use.

Anyways.

“He came home, and then kids started disappearing. The cops finally went looking for Blue, but by that time, he’d disappeared too. They never found the missing kids. They say Blue lives deep in the tunnel and keeps the missing kids as slaves, and they never see the sun, and they run around like bats in the dark, and they’ve gone practically blind, and they live on raw rat meat, and they’re all mad as the devil.”

                Where to begin? Alright, first this is bullshit, as we’ll come to find out soon. Secondly, what the hell was he doing in the caves with the kids? What sort of labor is he having them do? Unless he’s got a labyrinth of caves like Jeb in The Host, then logically wouldn’t you think they’d need to come out? And all the kids plus Blue would have died long before they’d had the chance to go blind. There would have to be a whole hell of a lot of rats to feed an adult human and many children for even a week. And the human body can only live for so long without water. It’s a tunnel, unless it floods regularly with fresh water, all involved would have died of dehydration. I know it’s an urban myth but this book wants us to take it seriously, like it’s somehow plausible.

River asks Sunshine to accompany him in. She does, and Luke and Violet bicker outside the tunnel. Luke says that it’s crazy for Violet to be wearing her grandmother’s clothing. I agree with Violet that it’s not incredibly odd. However her prayers are.

Why is my brother like this Freddie? Why can’t he be nice to me once in a while.

                Maybe he is. Freddie’s husky voice flooded my brain. Maybe you’re just too damn busy disliking him to see it.

                All hail the great goddess Freddie. May she forever speak reason to our misguided protagonist and criticize her poor life choices.

Yeah, the Freddie voice, or Violet’s subconscious whichever you prefer, gave us some much needed perspective that Violet’s point of view is extremely skewed where her brother is concerned. Hell, where a lot of things are concerned.

Violet mopes, thinking Sunshine might be kissing River inside the tunnel. Then this happens.

Then I heard a scream.

                I snapped my head toward the tunnel entrance. Sunshine stood there, at the edge of the sunlight’s reach, face tilted back. She was screaming. She screamed and screamed while I jumped to my feet and ran. I reached her as she hit the ground, skirt up to her waist and sheer black underwear shining against her white thighs.

                Do you know what this sounds like? It sounds like Sunshine has been assaulted. But guess what? We’re not going to address that, because Violet believes river can do no wrong. Even after seeing an acquaintance with her skirt hiked to her waist, Violet still never distrusts River’s intentions.

She’s known him for less than one day. She’s known Sunshine for a lot longer. That should count for something at the very least. But no, true to form Violet will hear nothing against River.

Only one of two things could have happened in the tunnel. Either River did this, or Sunshine hiked it herself and is doing this all for attention. Which seems unlikely, considering how genuinely scared she is.

River lifts Sunshine up and she finally able to form a coherent sentence. She says that she saw Blue Hoffman.

Our chapter ends on a cliffhanger, much in the style of Goosebumps. It wasn’t scary then, and it’s not scary now. The only thing that’s even remotely unsettling about this scene is the implications about River.

Tune in next time when I’ll explore the urban legend of Blue Hoffman, and the absurdity of Sunshine’s parents.