Book Reviews: September 2016Posted: September 28, 2016
It’s been kind of a frustrating month of reading for me because most of the books are mediocre, but here it goes anyway:
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne:
This is the “it” book of the summer, isn’t it? (Well, it isn’t a book really; it’s a script.) I had to admit, I didn’t expect much, but from the photos of the cast, I thought it would be an interesting take on the world of Harry Potter.
The story, not to spoil it or anything, revolves around Harry’s youngest son Albus teaming up with Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius and using a Time-Turner to go back in time and try to save Cedric Diggory. Now there lies my first problem with it: the Time-Turner is one of the least thought-out magical devices in HP, and any story that deals with time travel just opens itself to all sorts of plot holes and inconsistencies (this “How HP Should Have Ended” video features the only use for a Time-Turner that makes sense, in my opinion.) My second problem is that all the characters are annoying. The kids, especially, but the adult Harry, Ron, and Hermione as well. Here’s the thing – they went with the movie version of these characters, so Harry is a tortured matyr, Ron is a bumbling idiot, and Hermione is the only one with any sense. Perhaps they would be more likable on stage. I don’t know.
So you can see, I’m not impressed. And then there’s the big “twist” reveal at the end. Oh, that reveal. To sum up, here’s how my reactions go: “Wow all those effects sound amazing! I wish I could see this in person!” Then, “This reads like fan fiction.” Then, “This reads like bad fan fiction.” And finally, “WTF?! That is so dumb!” I’d still go see the play if I could afford a plane ticket to London though. 2/5
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín:
This is one of the books I picked up from the Deventer Book Fair. I loved the movie, so I wanted to check out the book. Well, let me just say this: if I hadn’t liked the movie so much, I would’ve found this book soooooooooo boring. Not that the movie improved on the book or anything; it followed the source material quite closely in fact. It’s just that the movie did a much better job of making these characters charming and the story touching, whereas in the book, I can’t relate to any of them. Maybe it’s just not my kind of book. 3/5 (and that’s only because I like the movie!)
Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage by Hugh Brewster:
I picked this up before my Euro trip with the intention of taking it with me, but then I decided not to, because taking a book about the Titanic on a long trip doesn’t seem like a good idea. This book is, ostensibly, about the lives of the Titanic’s first class passengers, but other than a few broad sketches of their biographies, it’s a pretty standard retelling of the sinking of the Titanic. I think it has a great premise, but ultimately fails to live up to it: it doesn’t paint a very vivid picture of the rich and famous’ lifestyle in the Edwardian era and show how the sinking of the Titanic, in a way, puts an end to that way of life.
Another thing I found irritating about the book is the repetitive use of phrases like “likely”, “no doubt”, “undoubtedly”, and “must have”. It’s like the author wants to remind you that he doesn’t know any of these details for certain. I mean, we all know that a lot of it is just speculating; it’s not like this is a first-hand account, but that kind of writing is really distracting. 2.5/5
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari & Eric Klineberg:
My friend Debbi recommended this to me after one of our usual social/philosophical discussions, when I told her that I don’t know how people can date and have relationship in this day and age (because I am a robot who doesn’t understand human emotions.) This book is basically about the search for love in the digital age. I’ve read some disappointed reviews from people who expected it to be funny, since it’s written by Aziz Ansari, and found that it isn’t particularly funny. But I know it’s not a humorous book, so I wasn’t disappointed. It introduces some interesting concepts such as the idea of passionate love vs. companionate love, or the “phone self”, and also gives some insights into how smartphones and social medias are changing dating etiquettes. It doesn’t answer my question (because I am a robot who doesn’t understand human emotions) but a fun read nonetheless. 3/5