Homegoing | Review

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Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing is an absolutely beautiful debut novel about life, family, identity, and home.

It follows the story of two branches of the same family in Ghana, from the beginning of the slave trade to present day. One branch stays in Ghana, the other is sold into slavery in America, and slowly these two branches twist and turn and wind up back home.

The chapters alternate between branches, and each chapter is a new perspective, a new generation. You see how the current situation and culture affects that character, that family, as time continues to pass. Times aren’t always easy, and we witness firsthand the slave trade, slave life in the American south, the Fugitive Slave Act, Jim Crow, and the Great Migration. We see the tribal wars of Ghana, “African witchcraft”, and the effect of the White Man on African culture.

And yet we also see love and family, how despite being beaten down, people can rise up again and take control of their lives, despite being told they can’t.

The characters are so well developed, so rich and individual, and the history complex and authentic. It’s a 300-year family saga so complex and heartbreaking, yet inspiring and absolutely beautiful.

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Curioddity | Review

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Curioddity by Paul Jenkins

If you were to take Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and blend it with a bit of Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore then throw in the quirkiness of All My Friends are Superheroes, you’d get Curioddity. It’s a fantastically weird novel in all the best ways.

Life is pretty bland for Wil Morgan, and has been since he was 10. He trudges through life (trudging being one of his favorite activities), is haunted by the clock tower that can’t seem to work correctly, and has a daily battle with the teenage barista over his morning coffee. Nothing seems to go right for him. When Mr. Dinsdale of the Curioddity Museum shows up and enlists his help, however, Wil learns to unlook at things to see them truly.

The main theme of Curioddity is “your eyes only see what your mind lets you believe,” which I absolutely love. Only when Wil allows himself to let his imagination take control, to go off the one-way road, does he find himself and happiness again. It’s a great message.

Curioddity is smartly written, with metaphors for today’s society cleverly interwoven. Wil is harassed by a QVC salesman, his too smart Lemon phone, and Pan’s robust statue; and consumerism and laziness means spending more money just to avoid the red tape.

My only complaints were the pacing (I tended to read it in chapter chunks rather than binging it, though it does pick up towards the end) and some of the objects and events were hard to picture purely because of their strangeness.

At times, things felt too easy, but I suppose that was the point. There are even moments when the characters look at one another and address this, so while it was intentional, I would’ve still liked to see a bit more struggle at times.

Paul Jenkins’ history of writing for video games and comic books has helped flesh out his debut novel. It’s well structured, well written, and a fun adventure. Curioddity is very much in the realm of Neil Gaiman: a quirky and inventive magical realism that helps you see the world upside down.

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher for an honest review*

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | review

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne

First off, let me preface this by saying (for those who don’t know): I LOVE Harry Potter. Like so many others, I grew up reading the books, wanted to be Hermione, went to as many midnight releases as I could (both books and movies), instilled a “Harry Potter week” at the camp I used to work for, and even have a Harry Potter tattoo. Harry Potter is life.

Some people hate the continued content J.K. Rowling has put out since publishing the final book but I eat up every little bit, wanting to devour as much of the Wizarding World as I possibly can. Did I think she made a mistake in some of her history of the wizarding world in America? Yes, absolutely. Do I hate that she said (spoiler) Ron and Hermione shouldn’t have ended up together? 100% (R/H is my OTP and I even named my wedding table after them – they were all named after literary couples, so this isn’t as weird as it initially sounds). BUT, any additional information about her fantastic world is welcome to me.

Despite that, I was hesitant to pick up Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I still bought it at midnight (here’s the link to my vlog of that night: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESwSguiwfLQ) and read it first thing in the morning, but I was apprehensive going in. Would she break up my OTP? Did I really want to read about Harry’s humdrum life at the Ministry, about him adulting? Was I ready for adult issues from my favorite, golden trio?

11adf1b0-fd14-0133-805a-0e31b36aeb7fHarry Potter and the Cursed Child picks up with the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (a section many fans dislike), with Harry sending off his eldest two children to Hogwarts, and a young Albus is nervous about the sorting.

Here’s where things start to veer from the books, however. The Albus in the Deathly Hallows epilogue seems quiet, nervous, but overall a happy and well adjusted kid. The Albus in Cursed Child is not. This eleven year old boy is conflicted, troubled, and living in a heavy shadow of his father.

And so Cursed Child begins.

The story itself is a fun throwback to Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire (sometimes a little too on the nose), and it’s classic Harry Potter adventuring: kids think they know everything and make decisions that affect the entire wizarding world without consulting adults. We get to explore the effects of the decisions Harry and co. made so many years ago, and see how some of our favorite characters have fared post-Voldemort.

2333The hardest part for me, however, was seeing the trio as adults. It’s been nine years since the last Potter book hit the shelves, but we’re catching up with Harry in today’s timeline. When I read the books growing up, I was aging with Harry (I was 10 when the first book came out and 20 when the final one did), but now, Harry is way past me. He’s in a different stage of life than I am, and I found it harder to relate to him. I’ve never been 40, never had kids; I don’t know the struggles of parenting yet.

I also associate these three as teenagers saving a world that’s bigger than them, so to see them in their boring Ministry jobs and home lives, away from Hogwarts and Voldemort and the thrills (and anguish) that came with it, was difficult. I miss the precarious attitudes and adventures of youth.

The other thing that Cursed Child suffers from is the play format, which did it a bit of a disservice because the limits of the story are constrained by the time and scale, and reading it left something to be desired. Novels allow for nuance, slow build up, strong character development, thoughts, emotions, and details, but plays rely on the actors’ performances and set designs. Cursed Child is already a two part play, and I still feel like so much was skipped over or left out. Plays are meant to be performed, and I think this one is no different. On stage, it’s probably magical and a theatrical wonder, but on the page it’s lacking that dynamic layering that performances can give.

On to spoilery thoughts:

I wasn’t a fan of the reveal that Voldemort secretly had a child. I thought it was way too simple and also out of character for He Who Must Not Be Named, a loveless shell of a man who never cared for anyone other than himself. I just didn’t buy it.

tumblr_oawwevXdqo1uhoadvo1_1280Albus’ sorting into Slytherin and friendship with Scorpius made me happy, however. I thought it could’ve been simple for her to put him in Gyffindor and struggle to live up to Harry’s legacy in his own house, but putting him in Slytherin shook things up. It showed not all Slytherins are evil (finally) and allowed him to sort out his own legacy (even if he made some stupid decisions and I just wanted to shake him half the time). Scorpius is my new favorite character, though, and I’m glad Malfoy got to redeem himself.

The time travel element felt cheap to me, but it was a good way to bridge the stories of Harry and Albus together, to bring readers/viewers in, and it also allowed for the idea that every death and detail in the original story is important, that without each of those elements, time would have moved in a very different way. Death, particularly of the innocent, is hard on those around it, and sometimes we can’t get over it, but that might be the reason the war is won.

This meddling with time also just proved how much Ron and Hermione are right for one another, despite Rowling’s later admission. Every time time tried to rip them apart, they always found one another in the end (even if Ron’s character was very much a comic relief and pushed to the side for Harry and Hermione to run the world… he read more like Steve Kloves’ version of Ron rather than Rowlings). As this was one of my biggest concerns going into the book, I’m grateful Rowling kept with the canon, despite her misgivings.

End spoilery thoughts

Overall, it’s Harry Potter. Although I may not have felt that same rush I felt when reading the original seven, I was still giddy and excited to return to the world and characters I love so much. The characters – old and new – were wonderful, and the story was a reminder of why I fell in love in the first place.

Harry Potter has always been about relationships, being true to yourself, and finding a light in the darkness, and Cursed Child is exactly that.

So despite my misgivings, I absolutely loved it and am happy to have another Harry Potter story on my shelf.

Can someone buy me tickets to the stage show (and a ticket to London)? Now I really want to go. 😉

5/5 stars