Tag Archives: Reading

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling (kind of)

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

*Note: I rarely crucify prequels, sequels, adaptations, spin-offs, etc. Especially when produced by the original creator, or with their approval and input. If you are interested in a Cursed Child bashing, the Internet shall provide*

Try as I might, I couldn’t get a copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child from my local bookstore. I definitely couldn’t get it from my local public library – the waiting list was longer than Snape’s nose. Besides, any Potterhead worth their salt will scrape and fight to own all the HP books in all the lands. So, I Amazon’d Cursed Child to my front door and promptly read the entire script in one sitting on a beautiful summer day.

I read quickly, so sometimes I miss structure and detail. After reading the first few pages of the two-part script, I immediately started over again. Like many, I’m sure, I dove in reading as if Cursed Child is a novel. It’s not. It is the published script of a two-part play (still) running on London’s West End. Once I slowed down, I started catching more of the beats and nuance between old familiars and the new cast of characters. Whenever a play direction didn’t make a ton of sense, I did my best to visualize the production in action, and moved on. Since my reading of Cursed Child, more photos of the production have been released. Many are citing the set designs and special effects as hugely impactful on the story of Albus Severus Potter and his dad, Harry.

Let’s be clear about the question mark in this blog post’s title. Cursed Child was written by playwright Jack Thorne, based on a story created by directory John Tiffany, Thorne, and Rowling. This is causing controversy among Potterheads and critics alike. Some say this is the worst kind of Rowling-approved fan fiction.  I think the purists need a bit more muggle blood in their lives. Without spoiling too much, the play picks up right where the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows epilogue leaves off. When we read the scene as it was originally published and intended, it reads as an (overly) sentimental close to the Harry Potter story. Harry is happy and safe. Ron is happy and safe. Hermoine is happy and safe (and probably taking over the world in a good way). Fast-forward to Cursed Child, and we now hear Harry Potter’s heartfelt, well-intentioned speech as it is received by his prepubescent son, Albus.

Ho boy that is a lot of pressure for an eleven-year-old kid. Not only is his dad the single greatest bad a** in wizarding history, Albus is also named after two of the other greatest bad a**** in wizarding history. And to top it off, Albus’ older brother James is seemingly perfect at everything. Good luck, kid. Hope Hopkins/Hogwarts is fun!

Is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child perfect. Nope. But, Cursed Child gave me an excuse to re-enter my absolutely favorite fictional world. I fell right back into the magic without a hitch. I had fewer complaints than the average critic regarding character development for Harry, Ron, and Hermoine. Harry never had a consistent father figure, so he struggles with fatherhood. Hermoine was a boss, and now she’s the boss. Ron was Ron, and now he’s Ron. As for the new cast, I think Scorpius Malfoy is the best addition to the HP universe since Luna Lovegood. Albus’ emo, adolescent characterization can be exhausting, but so was 15-year-old Harry in Order of the Phoenix. In fact, I would argue this as the most significant marker of excellent continuity.

Finally, the plot. Actually, nevermind. I don’t want to give anything away. Ok, one thing. THANK YOU for revisiting one of the magical elements/artifacts/accessories I had the most questions about when I finished the original seven book series.

Maybe I’m not one to complain about the particulars, and maybe I’m a sentimental sap, but I was thankful to have a few more hours in the magical world of Harry Potter.

Read if you like: Harry Potter the books, Harry Potter the movies, Harry Potter everything

Avoid if you don’t like: Harry Potter

Summer Reading Survey Results 2016

So Long Sweet Summer

Courtesy of Meg Bisson, Katie Slater Photography

Hello and welcome to another exciting year at Hopkins! Here in Calarco we’ve got new textbooks waiting to be pulverized, fresh notecards itching to become memorization rectangles, and librarians gazing wistfully at beautiful summer photos instead of shelving books.

Three years running,  we librarians asked you to tell us about the best part of your summer – that’s right, summer reading. A whopping 198 of you responded, recommending 139 different books. There was a lot of turnover this year – two of the top three books from 2015 (Paper Towns and To Kill A Mockingbird) weren’t mentioned at all. In fact, no John Green books were recommended for the first time since we began this survey.

 

2016-summer-reading-inforgraphic

What is it about The Da Vinci Code? Is it the ciphers, the fast-paced thrills, Tom Hanks’ rumpled (no, not rugged) good looks? Whatever the “it” factor, The Da Vinci Code is Hopkins’ most recommended book of Summer 2016! Seven respondents wrote that it was “exciting,”  “incredibly suspenseful,” and that it “keep[s] you at the edge of your seat.”

Almost as popular were The Great Train Robbery and The Apothecary, both of which benefited from being assigned books. Other favorite books (or movies) were Emma Donoghue’s Room and Mario Puzo’s The Godfather – perhaps because of their film counterparts. David Levithan’s Every Day and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood were the other two unassigned books to make appearances on the “most read” list.

This was the first year we asked for your thoughts about your favorite book(s). In doing this, we discovered that even faculty and staff enjoy ALL CAPS. Please see some of our favorite commentary below.

The Godfather

It was AMAZING. I went in thinking it would have a pace similar to other books of its time, with lots of description and thoughtshots. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it moved like an action film, and it kept me going despite the length.

The Girl on the Train

Unreliable narration is key. What made this book so excellent was how you couldn’t trust anyone — even the protagonist with her flawed memories.

House of Leaves

House of Leaves was the weirdest book I have ever read and it invokes mild paranoia.

Americanah

This was an amazing book about African immigration. As a child of to Nigerians I found many similarities with their struggles. When many people think of Nigeria or Africa in general, they may think of thick jungles, aboriginal tribes, and no electricity. It is seen more as a charity case. This books lets you in on the lives of the people. The struggle to make it to America and become something. The stress of stereotypes and myths continually reminding them that they do not belong. The fear of coming back to their homeland and catching “Americanah.” And international love. How years and miles cannot erase true bonds. Wow. I wrote more than you probably wanted. Sorry about that.

[editorial note: no such thing as saying too much about a book you love]

The Apothecary

I thought that this was a great book and I could not put it down. I also would have never chosen this book if it was not required.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

It was great because it was kind of like a lot of kids dreams written out on paper. (Running away from home with your friends.)

An Officer and a Spy

It’s a great account of the Dreyfus Affair and is riveting from start to finish. My Dad forced me to read it, and when I finally gave in and started reading it, I was hooked.

[editorial note, again: good job, anonymous Dad]

Below you will find a list of every book recommended this year. Thanks to all of our respondents, and happy reading!

 

New Fiction News for March 2016

Hello readers!

We’re quickly approaching March Break, which means it’s time to come by the library and check out something to read as you sit on a beach or your couch or anywhere that is not here. May I suggest one of the new books listed below? You can click on the cover to go to that books record in our catalog. Happy reading!

calamity   red queen.jpg  broken.jpg  and again.jpg

library.jpg  thousand.jpg  accident.jpg  tlccontent.jpg

allamerican.jpg  ashley.jpg  avenue.jpg  childrens.jpg

crooked.jpg  dogs.jpg  fifth.jpg  find.jpg

forgetting.jpg  salt.jpg  since.jpg  hartgrove.jpg

truth.jpg  molecules.jpg  heart.jpg  alloy.jpg

bone.jpg  blood.jpg  gods.jpg  delicious.jpg

guest.jpg  find.jpg  people.jpg  short.jpg

simon.jpg  painted.jpg  uproot.jpg  bands.jpg

luckiest  year  rosalie

 

 

 

Sneak Peek: YA to Watch for in 2016

Before reading this post, it is important to note two things:

  1. These books are in no particular order (other than alphabetical, by author’s last name). They are not ordered by release date OR genre. Some of them do not have a hard release date…just a guestimate (or guestiDATE).
  2. There is loads of YA bookish “coming soon” news on the interwebs. I tried to glean the best of the best, but I had no method of doing that other than using my librarian brain.

Here we go! As determined by Librarian Barrows, the most anticipated YA fiction on the 2016 horizon. All books are linked to their respective Goodreads pages.

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2), by Victoria Aveyard

Bookishly Ever After, by Isabel Bandeira

Passenger, by Alexandra Bracken

The Crown (The Selection #5), by Kierra Cass

A Study in Charlotte, by Brittany Cavallaro

Lady Midnight, by Cassandra Clare

The Fever Code (The Maze Runner #0.6), by James Dashner

The Land of 10,000 Madonnas, by Kate Hattemer

The Love that Split the World, by Emily Henry

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, by Rosamund Hodge

We Are the Ants, by Shaun David Hutchinson

Exit, Pursued by a Bear, by E.K. Johnston

Rebel, Bully, Geek Pariah, by Erin Jade Lange

Untitled (Young Elites #3), by Marie Lu

Heartless, by Marissa Meyer

Stars Above, by Marissa Meyer

The Mystery of Hollow Places, by Rebecca Podos

The Shadow Queen, by CJ Redwine

Riders, by Veronica Rossi

Calamity, by Brandon Sanderson

The Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love, by Sarvenaz Tash

Into the Dim, by Janet B. Taylor

The Muse of Nightmares, by Laini Taylor

My Name is not Friday, by Jon Walter

P.S. I Like You, by Kasie West

The Last Star, by Rick Yancey

And finally…an anthology of YA goodness!

Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, featuring stories by:Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith

 

 

Book Review – Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell

Two years ago (!), Ms. Barrows and I were singing the praises of Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell. The book stars Cath, a young woman in her first year of college. Cath loves the Simon Snow books, and writes fanfiction while awaiting the last book in the series. While reading Fangirl,  I desperately wanted to read the Simon Snow books that Cath was so obsessed with. I must not have been alone, since Rowell went ahead and wrote that last book.

Carry On is the eighth book in the Simon Snow series, but it’s also the only one that actually exists. Reading it is almost like reading Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows without having read the six other books that came before it. It’s a fitting comparison – Simon Snow is a student at a magical boarding school. He’s an orphan. The school’s headmaster is his mentor. He has a smart, bossy friend. He’s supposed to save the magical world from a big bad guy. There’s a groups of old magical families who oppose the headmaster and his policies. Simon’s nemesis at school, Baz, is from one of those families. Baz is Simon’s roommate, he might be a vampire, and Simon wants to punch him. Maybe.

I’m not going to claim this is deep fiction. I found the central mystery pretty easy to figure out. And the hazard in writing a standalone book that is also (supposedly) the last in a series is that there are lots of callbacks to past events and adventures that feel both too fleshed out and not fleshed out enough. But it’s a fun book, and it was nice to spend time with these characters. The relationship between Simon and Baz is the real draw of the book. Rowell switches perspective between characters, and Baz’s chapters are probably the best of the lot. Come for the quasi-meta-fanfiction, stay for the scene that is essentially “Harry Potter has dinner at Malfoy Manor.”
Signing off, James Gette (if Hogwarts won’t take me, maybe Watford will?)

Summer Reading Survey Results 2015

Hello everyone, and welcome back: to Hopkins, to the library, and to the Calarco Library Blog!

Once again, the librarians sent out a summer reading survey to the whole school, asking you to pick one book out of everything you read this summer – required or not – as your very favorite. We received about 250 responses from students, faculty, and staff, which proves just how much you like reading. Or us. Or how accustomed you are to filling out surveys.

You continue to read a large variety of books: nonfiction, fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries, classic novels, contemporary fiction, poetry, and John Green.Untitled Infographic

Last year, The Fault in Our Stars was by far and away Hopkins’ favorite summer read with 15 votes. The playing field is a little more even this year, with the top three books getting 6 mentions apiece. John Green continues his domination of the YA landscape with Paper Towns. Next, proving that the Pulitzer committee knows what they’re talking about, we have All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. And rounding out the top three is To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Whether it’s the release of Go Set A Watchman, its status as a required summer reading book, or if Mrs. Riley just answered the survey a bunch of times, the story of Scout and Atticus remains popular.

Other popular books include:

5 votes: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

4 votes: The Great Train Robbery, by Michael Crichton; Looking for Alaska, by John Green; and Watchmen, by Alan Moore (shout-out to my adviser group!)

3 votes:  And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie (+1 “All the Agatha Christie books on the list”); The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, by Mark Haddon; Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee;  and Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell

We’re exceedingly pleased that most respondents (133 of you!)  read 5 or more books this summer, although we have some questions for the two seniors who admitted to only reading two books. Let’s hope at least one of them was The Tragedy of Arthur.

Book Survey Recommendations

Below is a spreadsheet of all the Summer Reading Survey favorites. Any items made available by the Calarco Library are color coded: blue = regular book, yellow = kindle book, green = both.

Remember, just because summer’s over (boo!) doesn’t meant reading is (yay!). Stop by Calarco Library for a book or Kindle – maybe one recommended above!

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows and James Gette, who both recommend The Alienist, by Caleb Carr

Summer Reading 2015!

JG: It’s almost summer! Time for sun, sleep, and – of course – reading. Last summer I read a lot, but it was mostly within my comfort zone; lots of sci-fi, mysteries, and YA. This year, I’d like to stretch myself a bit.

So here are the rules for the self-imposed summer reading challenge:

1. Read from the Hopkins Summer Reading List

2. Fulfill the Summer Reading requirements: three books I haven’t read before, plus the books for my grade. Since my advisees will be 10th graders next year, I’m going to read along with them.

3. No genre books. No fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries, or graphic novels. There is nothing wrong with reading and loving these kinds of books, but I read them all the time, and the point of this is to try something new.

So what am I going to read?

I’ve read The Great Train Robbery before (as a 10th grader), but it’s been long enough that I plan to re-read it.

After this, the list gets a little murkier. I plan to read one classic novel, one work of contemporary fiction, and one nonfiction book. Here’s the short lists:

There. Nine options which will condense into three books (though I can read more if I want to!), plus the two grade-required books for a total of 5.

…That’s not enough.

So here’s the other books I’d like to read this summer. No restrictions. Which means ghosts, murder, and explosions.

  • Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie.
  • The Shadow Throne, by Django Wexler.
  • The Alienist, by Caleb Carr (yes, this is on the Summer Reading List. But it’s a mystery, so it doesn’t count for my personal challenge. But you can read it!)
  • All of the Peter Grant books, by Ben Aaronovitch. I’d read the first one (Midnight Riot) a couple years ago, but on a recommendation from Ms. Ford I’ve been listening to it on audiobook, and it is fantastic. This summer I am going to walk everywhere and listen to the whole series. Or at least the next few books.

No plan survives the first encounter with the library catalog, so I’m sure there will be additions and subtractions as the summer goes on. But as of right now, I’m pretty happy with this list!


JB: We aren’t counting down the days until summer (25) or anything, but seriously, summer. While some consider sunscreen to be a summer necessity, I carry a book/kindle/device with kindle app at all times. Last summer I did not have as much time to read as anticipated, but this summer I feel cautiously ambitious. I don’t have any challenges, per se, but I do hope to read more diversely than usual.

Here are my 2015 Summer “Challenges”:

  1. Read from the Hopkins Summer Reading List.
  2. Read more dudes (I tend to read a lot of female authors).
  3. Read fewer white people. I usually do O.K. with this, but I am making a conscious effort this summer.
  4. Don’t restrict by genre or type. I want to mix in some older stuff, non-fiction, and genre with my FAVORITE type of book – the modern fiction novel.

What will I be reading? Take a look

    1. Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin.
    2. The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi.
    3. All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
    4. To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
    5. The Alienist, by Caleb Carr

As Mr. Gette said, I have free reign for anything I want to read off the summer reading list. To also cite Mr. Gette, I doubt I will follow this list as closely as a needlepoint pattern.

  1. Missoula, by Jon Krakauer
  2. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick
  3. An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay
  4. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews
  5. The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen
  6. The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters

What are you planning to read this summer? Did you set any goals or challenges for yourself? Tell us in the comments!

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows and James Gette (the former already suntanned, the latter already sunburned)