Author Archives: BrittneyRz
The Wizarding World Book Club has moved onto Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. The questions for the rest of book one were alright but none of them sparked any discussion post ideas for me.
From the week of August 4th there were two questions that interested me. Both of them centered around the concept of home and how it is defined. Home is one of those words that has numerous definitions. For most it is a house but it does not always have to be. A lot of the times people talk about the difference between a house and a home. The house is the building you go to at the end of the day whereas a home is where you feel safe and loved. Both of the questions from this week center around how Harry and Ron define home.
The first question was pretty simple to answer; “Why is The Burrow so appealing to Harry?” The Burrow is appealing to Harry because it contains what the Dursley’s house does not, love. The crooked structure contains a family that adores and loves one another.
Harry grew up with nothing but anger and disdain thrown his way. No one wanted him around, no one gave him a second thought, no one cared about him. He had no purpose and no power in the Dursley household. He just made it day to day. Privet Drive was just house to Harry, somewhere for him to sleep and eat.
Harry meets the Weasley and realized that life could be better. He is welcomed into their home and their family with a smile and a hug. Mrs. Weasley treats him as one of her own. He is treated as someone who matters, someone who has a life that matters.
The Burrow itself is falling apart, it is crooked and nowhere near perfect, but it is what is on the inside that matters. Ron is ashamed of his house, not realizing what it means for Harry.
The way Ron talks about The Burrow reminds me of the way my parents talk about my childhood home. It is too cramped, dirty and broken. To me and Harry all those marks and scars are what make the building a home. It represents a family, a safe place and love. When I go home I am content and happy no matter what dishes are in the sink or what holes are in a door. It is somewhere where I am wanted and loved and I think it is the same for Harry. For Harry The Burrow is the definition of what a home means, it contains love and comfort and makes Harry feel safe and wanted.
The second question was a little tricker and required a bit more thought. “Where do you think Ron feels most at home?” I don’t think there is a particular place where Ron feels at home. I think it is more about the people that around Ron and what they make him feel. For him most of the time he is at home when he is with Harry and Hermione.
Ron grew up overshadowed by his siblings. He never got a real chance to stand out. We see in the first book that when he looks into The Mirror of Erised he sees himself the best of all his brothers and sister. On top of that he has a piece of himself that feels ashamed for his family’s status.
Unlike Harry The Burrow isn’t Ron’s favorite place. It isn’t a bad place to him, he loves his family and he knows that he is safe at The Burrow. When he is at The Burrow he is reminded of the people that overshadowed him. It is a safe place but it isn’t a place where he can find who he truly is.
When Ron is with Hermione and Harry he is able to stand out. Ron has a place and a purpose inside their group. He is not just a name in the middle of a giant family. He is an essential part of the group. I think for him that is where he feels most a home, a place and time where he feels like he matters, is wanted and needed and can make a difference.
In the end Harry and Ron were able to provide homes to each other. Both of them felt loss and powerless at the time when they met and in the end they gave each other places where to they could feel safe, wanted, cared for and needed.
(I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. All comments and thoughts are my own).
Aaru is one of those books that you think you understand but by the last page you realize you were wrong. There are two stories here but one is much deeper than the other.
Rose is a 16 year old who is dying of cancer. All the treatments have failed and she is being made comfortable for her last days. As a last ditch effort to save her, her parents sign Rose up for an experimental new system called Aaru.
Aaru is a computer system that copies and uploads a person’s brain and personality into a computer system. The person is able to live on digitally even though their body has died.
As Rose adjust to her new “life” her sister Koren is finding a way to live a new life of her own. She is made the spokesperson for the new technology but quickly learns what happens when you are forced into the spotlight at a young age. She is thrust into this role that begins to destroy who she is and puts her life and well-being in danger.
What I loved/enjoyed:
Aaru was a beautifully created world. I had no problem imaging this new place. It was vivid and alive. I felt like I was inside this computer program as they built it into a new home. I liked the system even though I didn’t quite understand why some aspects were chosen. Why there were Lords and Ladies or rankings didn’t quite get adequately explained but that didn’t keep me from sinking into this new world.
I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of what could be done and how things were made and changed. There was one scene in particular where Rose and her friends play a game of soccer that was exciting. I was enraptured by the game and how they used their new home and powers to make it more than just a simple and easy game of soccer.
I also liked the way life, personhood and afterlife were spoken about in this story. Is Rose still Rose without a functioning brain and body? Without the brain to create new pathways and links, can she evolve beyond who she was when she died? Who is she in this new setting?
Also if you become part of this place are you excluded from a traditional afterlife? Can you die again and move on to either Heaven or another place you believe in? What if your family is unable to join you? Is it worth staying in this place then? I liked asking these questions as we read because it put this new technology into a stark and real perspective.
Koren’s story was handled well. I can’t say I “liked” it, because of the way it went but I respected it and its part in the story. Her side of the tale explained how thrusting a child into a spotlight can do irreparable harm to them. Putting them on TV, or in magazines all dressed up can cause people to view them beyond their age. We saw how dangerous this concept can get. It was a good look at the dangers of child celebrity, even if it did disturb me into almost stopping reading at times.
What I was was okay with (didn’t love/hate):
I had some trouble with the way accents were written. They felt out of sorts, almost forced. There was only one character who was written with an accent while a number of them were supposed to be foreign. I found his speech difficult to follow at times and it threw me out of the story at times. I don’t know if his speech was needed to be written the way it was.
What I was wished was different:
My biggest issues in Aaru was with a handful of decisions that were made. Koren accepts the role as spokesperson without a minute of thought. Her parents never step in and demand a contract. There is no waiting period to think it over, she shakes hands and that is it.
Koren and her parents just trust a company they know next to nothing about. It was hard for me to believe they wouldn’t want details. Even beyond protecting their daughter’s well-being they don’t verify the money or the details of the deal. Her parents don’t even speak up during the exchange and decision process. There was also no later indication that they ever talked the contract over with a lawyer or verified everything that was as they were told it would be.
I also had an issue with the fact that there were cameras throughout the house. I can’t see anyone being okay with that idea right off the bat. Maybe it would have made more sense if there had been a discussion about it. Koren’s parents were intent on gaining the power and money that comes with being celebrities. I think I would have bought the idea more if there had been a scene where they were convinced to allow the cameras to be set up everywhere from the living room the the bedrooms.
Koren doesn’t even seem to know about the cameras. She states multiple times she doesn’t know how they got the footage. Shouldn’t she have at least known they were there? I don’t think it is even slightly legal to set up cameras without the owner’s knowledge and permission. I wanted more discussion about that fact.
I also would have liked more background on Rose and Koren’s parents. The story is about the girls but the parents felt flat. They were almost cliche’s. All her mother talks about it things “happening as they should” or “that is how things are in show business.” Her father falls into drinking, quickly. We have no foundation for them so watching them fall is hard to follow. I wanted to understand them better and why they allowed certain things to happen as they did.
This wasn’t something I hated but what I found hard to read. The way the Magic Man’s actions and desires were written were difficult to read. I understood why his storyline was there but I did almost stop reading because of his chapters. The first time he appeared I didn’t know where the story was going and I wasn’t sure I could continue. I did end up finishing and I understood his part but I would say that anyone reading the story should be made aware of the thoughts and actions that may be triggering to some people.
I gave Aaru 4 stars on Goodreads. It wasn’t the story I was expecting but it was well written and did tell a story with an important warning about the dangers of celebrity.
Villains fascinate me. I think it is because their backstories are usually more in-depth and complicated than the protagonist’s. They make hard choices, even though they are usually the wrong choice. The path to making that choices is a twisting one that makes you reconsider your own choices. I like that even though we understand them we still feel some type of aversion to them.
Because You Love to Hate Me is a collection of 13 stories all told from the “villain’s” POV. Some are retellings or reimagining while others are involve original characters. The idea was for 13 Booktubers (Book bloggers on Youtube) to provide 13 authors with a villain centric prompt. The author then took the idea and created an original story for the collection. Each story was followed up by a quick piece by the Booktuber who provided the prompt.
What I loved…
I loved the way every story made you question who was supposed to be the villain. Some did it better than others but all the stories left you wondering if the “villain” was really that bad. I did not hate one of the main characters. I didn’t like some of the choices they made but I found myself not despising any of them.
By giving us the whole story from the “villain” POV only, we got to be surrounded by the idea that they were people facing tough obstacles. In these stories they were not the obstacles but were just people trying to find a way to solve a serious problem in their lives. I liked this because it allowed us to focus on them, their identities, their choices and the consequences of those choices. We as readers got to focus on what happens when you make poor decisions or choose based on selfish thoughts or ideas.
My favorite story was Victoria Schwab’s, “Death Knell.” Her prompt was “Hades wakes up after bring unconscious at the bottom of a well in Ireland.” She took this idea and twisted it to be about death in general. This is someone we don’t generally see a traditional villain. I loved the way she told her story.
It was a simple story but it was beautifully done. It focused on the idea of our fear of death and also created a new way to look at the idea. I loved how original and fresh the story felt. It was the one that stayed with me the longest.
Things I was just okay with….
Everyone of the stories had a Booktuber follow up with it. The small essays ranged from discussions about the story to quirky quizzes and how-to guides.
While most were entertaining in some fashion I wanted more from the commentary. I wanted to know they the topics were chosen. Why choose to ask for a story about a spy or giving Ursula’s backstory? Why did this intrigue you enough to ask for a story about the person or topic?
I felt like the stories could have had more depth if the explanations were deeper. Some were great, like the one after Victoria Schwab’s story but most were goofy or unconnected to the story. I wanted a better look into the ideas and thought processes.
What I wished was done differently….
I enjoyed most of the stories. They were fun looks at a different viewpoint. But many of the stories felt like generic retellings or just took the prompt given at face value.
I wanted the prompts to push more depth into the stories but many felt surface level. They didn’t dive into the psyche or thought process’s of the characters enough. I didn’t want what we already knew just told in a slightly different way. We have basics about many of these characters, I wanted that next, deeper layer.
On Goodreads I gave the collection a 3.5. It was a fun read but could have been improved by more depth from both the authors and the Booktubers providing the prompts.
“Most people din’t steal or kill or sell drugs because they want to, Holmes, or because they love being ‘bad guys’ so much. They do it because they’re born to a life with no exists. No chances. […]” (pg 104).
“People are peculiar. They have a way of seeing only what they want, or not seeing anything they don’t.” (pg 208).
I have been debating changing up how I do reviews for awhile. When I write book reviews I sometimes have trouble deciding what to discuss. I take longer to write some reviews because I feel like I want to talk about a lot and have trouble laying it out in a comprehensive manner that flows well. Some reviews never get written because I can’t formulate how I want it to flow.
I have also thought that sometimes the longer reviews can look intimating and too drawn out. After some thought I decided I am going to change up the way I write book reviews.
Instead of just writing out a long review, discussing points as I go I am going to break it up into sections. When I read there are always things that I love, things that I feel indifferent about and things I wish were different. So that is how I am going to write my reviews from now on.
There will be three sections:
Things I loved – This will be where I talk about my favorite aspects. The parts that I think worked the best, the things that made me smile or laugh or cry.
Things I felt indifferent about : This will probably be the shortest of the sections. It will be what I thought worked and was alright but didn’t overwhelm me.
Things I wish were different: This section will be where I discuss what I didn’t like or didn’t enjoy about the story. It will vary per book but it could be the setting, how the plot ended or how a character is portrayed.
Quotes: I will also include when applicable quotes that I liked. I always find at least one or two quotes in a book that I find endearing and bookmark for later. This is where I will share them.
This is how my book reviews will appear from now on. Instead of doing a general spoiler warning I will do one for each section because spoilers may come up if I am discussing something I loved or hated. That way too it doesn’t exclude everyone from the review, it will allow those who don’t want to be spoiled to read parts of the review still.
Hopefully this new format will make it easier to write reviews and make them faster to write as well.
If you say you have never wanted to jump into a book you were reading, you are lying. A reader’s dream is to be able to jump into the pages of a story and live that story. I would love to be able to be apart of my favorite stories, even though many of the stories I love involve danger that I am sure would get me killed. The Book Jumper is a book that attempts to give the reader an idea of what that life would be like. It is an interesting take on the idea though I felt like it could have gone farther.
Amy and her mother need to get away from their lives. Amy’s mother just broke up with her boyfriend and needs somewhere to work on getting over him. Amy had some trouble in school and needs somewhere to get away from her so-called friends. In attempt to take a break from their problems they decide to visit Amy’s grandmother on a remote island.
While on the island Amy learns that she comes from a line of Book Jumpers. They are people who, until the age of 25 (though why 25 is not explained), can jump into books and interact with the stories. Amy begins to learn about her new power. She meets fellow book jumpers and learns that there is something going wrong in the book world.
A thief is stealing the main ideas of stories and destroying the book world. It is up to Amy and her new friend Will to find and stop the thief before all of literature is destroyed.
The premise of this story was fun and immersive. I loved the way it was described. Though I was fuzzy on the mechanics, I could picture Amy walking from story to story. To me it appeared like a quilt where all the stories were knit together and you could just wander from one to another. I loved the idea of all stories being apart of one world.
I also really liked how the characters were portrayed in the story. The characters from the stories could wander into these in-between places or even each others stories. They were portrayed as people acting out their story but between scenes they could go for a drink or just have a general conversation with someone from another story. I thought this gave them depth. The characters felt more real and alive, as if they were more than just the stories they were apart of.
The overall storyline was interesting. I can’t give too many details because it would involve too many spoilers. The plot moved quickly and at a steady pace. We found out pieces at a time. There was never a huge information dump or a ton of things thrown at you at once. You got one answer, a few more questions, that kept you reading. I kept moving through the book because I wanted to know what was happening. The pacing made the story flow well.
While I enjoyed the pacing and the concept of the story I had trouble with the characters. I love characters and unfortunately I felt no attachment to any character in this story.
I thought Amy would someone I could relate to but she felt very generic to me. She was your typical “reader, nerd.” She sees herself as plain and not pretty. She is portrayed as someone who cares about books only and not other relationships, at least at first.
I have an issue with this portrayal of readers. I hate how people, especially girls, who love to read are always seen as people who aren’t pretty or don’t think they are attractive. It is like because they enjoy reading they can’t appreciate themselves and that annoys me.
I would have loved to see Amy as more confident. She loves to read, she sees the world as bigger than it is. She could have been portrayed as someone who has pride in herself and that pride could have grown as she learned her new power. She could have been someone who walked around with confidence in not only her way of seeing the world but her appearance as well. Just because she is a reader does not mean she has to be seen as plain or unattractive.
I liked Amy’s relationship with Will at first. At the beginning it felt complicated but then it fell into the “insta-love” hole. They started as friends helping each other but as they built their relationship, it became about falling in love instead of helping one another anymore. I felt like that aspect wasn’t needed. They could have had a new relationship but it didn’t need that falling in love plot line.
My biggest issue though was with the adults in the story. The adults on the island are in charge of protecting literature. They spend their lives reading books and making sure things stay as they are meant to stay. You would assume that they would be the first to notice when the stories start falling apart, but you would have assumed wrong.
Amy tries to tell everyone what is happening but no one will listen to her. They pass it all off as a joke between the characters in the books. All they would have to do is open one book and see how much things are deteriorating. No one will listen to Amy. I could not believe that not a soul noticed what was going on or cared. That kept throwing me out of the story because I kept asking how it was possible for these people to be so naive.
In all I liked the plot of this book, it was a fast and fun read. I thought it explored the idea well. I just wish it had done a bit more to explore the concept and made the adults a bit more believable.
This Savage Song and Our Dark Duet ask the reader to rethink how you define the word monster. Is it a definition that applies to everyone or does it change based on the person and the circumstances they find themselves in? Our Dark Duet was a great end to a duology that makes you wonder about the grey areas in morality.
Our Dark Duet picks up 6 months after the conclusion of This Savage Song. Kate is in Prosperity hunting monsters and trying to start a new life. August is in Verity trying to salvage what is left of his life and city. Sloan has taken over for Callum and is letting the monsters rule and terrorize the North Side of the side.
Kate is drawn back to her past in Verity when she encounters a new threat, a shadow monster that is wreaking havoc. After an encounter with the new threat Kate knows she has to return to Verity and confront her past actions and choices.
August is trying to redefine himself. He is trying to become what the city needs, someone who can fight and can put his emotions aside. He believes that trying to become human is useless and futile now. He can only protect the people if he accepts who he is and uses his power to help instead of hurt.
When Kate returns home she finds a new August, a city falling apart, mistakes from her past in corporeal form and a threat she can’t name or see. She realizes that to save the innocent people and fix the mistakes her father made she has to accept her own mistakes. She also has to help August figure out that he has to find a balance between the two sides of himself to save the city.
What attracted me to this series initially was the idea of violence creating literal monsters. In this last book the definition of monster was explored, showing that a label does not always give you a full picture of the person you are dealing with. Labels are one way of classifying the people and world around us but it is a heavily flawed system.
This book took off from page one and didn’t slow down until the last page. We were on this constant chase to not only find the new monster but also to put a stop to it. Through the chase we learned who our characters were as full people and just what they were capable of.
Kate and August’s stories wrapped up in just the right way. Kate, who spent her life trying to prove her worth and strength, found an inner strength inside of herself. She realized she is flawed but that does not make her a bad person. She learned that you get to decide who you are. You will make mistakes, that is inevitable, but in the end it is about what you learn from those mistakes that matter. You can’t run from them and you can’t hide from them.
When danger and chaos is staring you in the face you fight and you fight without losing yourself. You can be strong without hurting the people around you. You define strength. You define who you are.
August spent much of the first book trying to fight who he was. He wanted to be human, didn’t want his power or to use that power. In the end he learned you can’t rum from who you are. Like Kate he learned it is about what you do more than what you are.
August learned he can find a balance between the park and light. He is a “monster,” which comes with power and responsibility but he is also human. He eats, sleeps, breathes and feels. He loves and that love, he learns, is not a weakness.
I loved that this book challenged the idea of labels and highlighted the detrimental power they can have. August was labeled a monster which made people fear him. They didn’t know him but that one word made them think that they did. Same thing happened with Kate. She was a “Harker,”which caused people to assume they knew what she valued and wanted.
Labels do nothing but gives us a simpler way to define things and people. Unfortunately we think that labels tell us all that we have to know. We think by hearing a few words were know a person or a group of people. In reality we know nothing but a preconceived notion. Labels won’t give you the inner person they will give you what people assume about a group or a person. In the end we have to learn that we need to approach people with an open mind and allow them to define themselves to us. Once we do we can learn that people are diverse and difficult to place into small little boxes.
The ending of this book was perfect. It was tragic but it was how this series should have ended. There were two paths one that was easy and predictable and another that hurt but was poetic and created hope. Victoria Schwab took the second path. We saw that the world is not doomed. Despite the dark that surrounds the city there is light and that light can be seen through the people you may have believed were capable of nothing but darkness. I like that the book ended on hope and showed that anyone can save everyone. You just have not allow yourself to be scared and to let your heart decide the way.
My obsession with Harry Potter is not a secret. When Pottermore announced that they were going to start a Harry Potter book club a few months ago I was excited. One of my friends saw the announcement and passed it on to me. It sounded like a perfect place for me to geek out about Harry Potter with fellows Potterheads.
The bookclub officially started in mid-June, unfortunately for me it is limited to a Twitter chat (as of right now). The chat takes place on Friday at 11am which is when I am at work (damn bills needing to be paid!). So I can’t take part in the official chat. I glanced through the feed though and saw that some of the questions they asked were interesting.
After looking through the chat I decided that, once in a while, I am going to do blog posts on the questions that I really like or have a strong opinion about. It won’t be something I do every week, just when I like the questions asked. I figured this would be a fun way for me to still take part in the idea of the bookclub in some way.
The way it appears to be working is that they are going to break the books down into small sections. Last Friday was the first few chapter of the first book. They had three questions that they asked and the question that I found the most interesting was “Why do you think the Dursleys are so afraid of magic?”
From the first chapter I knew that the Dursleys were going to be people who feared and detested anything that was different or unexplainable to them. I knew that they were going to be people who liked life one way and one way only. Vernon came off as the worst of the three of them.
They are the kind of people who believe the world should run in a way that they can define and understand. If something different happens or comes up that is beyond their comprehension they want it gone. The last thing they want to do is learn a new way of life. For Vernon, especially if he can’t define it, it is dangerous.
The Dursleys are the type of people who don’t want to learn anything new. They don’t want to find out that their way of thinking may be wrong. To them the “other” is wrong and thus dangerous. Unfortunately today this attitude is all too prevalent.
I feel like Vernon was always this type of person from when he was a child. I feel like he grew up thinking he was superior and looking down on anyone different than him. Whereas Petunia was more open-minded at one time but jealously and resentment clouded that aspect of her personality. She was so hurt to not be a witch and to be rejected by Hogwarts that she internalized that anger and turned it into fear.
She met Vernon who thought in that narrow minded way and it fit in with her anger. He allowed her to build this wall and then hide behind it. She didn’t have to deal with why she was upset and angry, instead she made it so that the wizarding world and magic were to blame. She fell into this blackhole of fear and anger. It became so deep that it took having to hide and leave Harry behind to even begin to crack that exterior.
Dudley is his parents son and we know he inherited their narrow-mind set and fear of the “other.” Though his parting words with Harry showed that redemption is possible; if he wanted it.
Why do you think that the Dursleys fear magic?
The Magicians series did not end up being the series I was expecting when I started it. I thought it would be more of an epic tale, one where someone learns they can do magic and have to go on grand adventures exploring their new power and saving their new lives. It ended up being snippets of Quinten growing up and finding out who is as a person. Each book could have stood alone. There was the loose thread of Fillory wound throughout but I felt like if I had read them out of order I wouldn’t have missed too much of the story. I liked this element though and I think the last book The Magicians Land was my favorite of the three books.
The Magicians Land picks up not too long after the last book ended. Quinten has been thrown out of Fillory and he is trying to find a new path in his life. After a short stint as a professor at Bakebills he gets caught up in a robbery plot.
Quinten and a number of others are hired to steal a cae. They don’t have any idea what they are stealing, just that they will get a big pay off when the job is done. Most of those involved need the cash to start a new path in life and are willing to take part even without much information.
The heist goes wrong and Quinten finds himself having to make some tough choices. Choices tied to his past and figuring out if he should save that past or let everything go. Quinten spent most of the series trying to find his path in life, trying to figure out if what has happened should influence what will happen later in his life.
Quinten was an interesting character. I never could quite determine how to read him throughout the series. He always seems lost and unsatisifed. I got a bit frustrated at times wondering when he was going to stop looking for something new. Every time he got what he wanted he felt empty. He became a magician but didn’t feel like he had a purpose as a magician. Then he became a king of Fillory and wanted epic quests. He didn’t want to just rule, he was always searching for something just beyond his reach.
At the end of the last book I felt like I finally understood him. Quinten was someone who grew up being told a number of things were impossible; magic and Fillory. Then he learns they are all real and he is part of them. He is in awe of this new way of life but reality quickly tramples over him.
Fantasy worlds and magic are complciated. It isn’t the utopia we all imagine it to be. We want to fall into our favorite stories, thinking things will be much better, easier. What Quinten learns is that these worlds and this way of life is just as complicated and difficult to process as the one he has walked away from. Nothing is simple. No land is perfect, no story has the perfect ending.
I loved this look into fantasy and fiction. Stories are our escapes but that is because we get to close the book. We don’t have to actually live those lives. The characters make the decisions and we get to watch safely from behind the pages. I love the Harry Potter series but living in that world would probably disenchant me with the whole series. Once you enter the world you see the flaws and the issues and if you live the story you have to live with the choices and consequences.
This series explained how it would be if we fell into those stories. Quinten learns quickly that there is no such thing a s perfect life and land. You, the one living the story, make the story itself. You make the turns and choices. Wanting that escape is natural and important but getting stuck in that idea will leave you feeling empty and lost. You have to find yourself outside of the story as well.
If you never find your place you will always feel lost. You need an identity that is real and solid. Life is complicated and stories can be difficult but once you find your place they have unmeasurable worth.
I enjoyed this series once I put aside my expectations. It was a fun story. It was a great look at life inside a story and see how finding a balance between fantasy and reality is essential.