Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

This play was pretty much what I wanted and expected it to be. One of my friends worried that it would feel like fanfiction, and it did, but like a really good fanfiction. I laughed, I cried, I rolled my eyes a bit, and I mourned the near impossibility of seeing it on stage any time in the foreseeable future.

That's the extent of my spoiler free review, no promises from here on out.

I'm not sure what everyone expected from the story, the most common critique I've heard seems to be that it recycles Voldemort as the old villain. But were Rowling and her co-authors supposed to introduce, develop, and then defeat an entirely new villain in the course of four acts? Not to mention that a Harry Potter story without his nemesis in some form or fashion would seem . . . anticlimactic.

I loved the depiction of our older heroes--not unscarred by their earlier adventures, but absolutely building their lives and as happy as anyone can expect to be. Despite a bit of slash fic wariness at first, I loved Albus and Scorpius as the new heroes; they were absolutely adorable. The format of reading as a stage script instead of a novel was less unsettling than I expected, although I'm fairly certain that the stage directions were embellished for the reading public.

Yes, it fails in many respects. There's plenty of cringe-worthy moments, characters nothing is fleshed out very well because stage play, and Harry seemed even more emotionally volatile than when he was a teenager. I can't decide if this last is a result of the writers being painfully overdramatic or an attempt to portray PTSD.

I didn't love the time travel in principle because it's a cheap and messy plot trick, but I loved the exploration of the alternate histories that it allowed. There's a reason it's such a popular cheap plot trick. Specifically the scenes with Snape; I lost it a full half page before Scorpius' revelation of the existence of one Albus Severus Potter, I could just see it coming.

But on the whole I didn't feel disappointed, possibly because I had low expectations? There were many moments and quotes that I loved:

ROSE: The rumor is that he's Voldemort's son, Albus
A horrible, uncomfortable silence.
It's probably rubbish. I mean . . . look, you've got a nose.

Slightly ashamed to admit that I laughed. Suspect I have a terrible sense of humor.

And now before I hit publish, I have to mention a point that the brilliant Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas raised in her review. (I was slightly terrified to read said review because she didn't like it and I was afraid that I'd be convinced. Her literary analyses are that good, but I escaped with warm feelings intact this time.)

Huge plot flaw: Voldemort as Delphi's father. Voldemort as anyone's father. Lets skip the thinking about Voldy's sex life (ew) and think about the whole generating life thing. By Deathly Hallows, Voldemort has shredded his soul beyond recognition, been killed once, and undergone some serious physical changes. Death does not beget life; participating in the creation of a child should have been far beyond him at that point. Now obviously its Rowling's world, but it just doesn't seem to fit with the themes of death and love that run so deeply and beautifully throughout the rest of the series. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Gratitude 4: Birch Bay Edition

24. Road trip!
25. Evening ice cream with the family
26. Sunset walks by the beach. I am amazed by the color hot pink, it looks so unnaturally gaudy on clothes but then you turn around and it's blazing across the evening sky. And once isn't enough; visit Texas in the spring and it's blushing across the fields as Indian Paintbrush.
27. Meriadoc the Brave facing fear of water in his hair and potential "things in the water that will bite me" to gradually wade into the gentle waves up to his shoulders. Made me so proud and he loved it!
28. Itty bitty crabs all over the place! *skitter skitter*
29. Pippin's "baby dance"
30. Quiet time at the pool with Merry
31. Beach walks with Bella
32. Coffee and cinnamon rolls on the balcony, shared with baby bird Pippin.
33. Return road trip, now with even more autumn color and cooler weather to match.
34. Pippin singing along with the music, at least half a song behind.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Gratitude 3

13. Cool weather after a heat wave
14. Working with books
15. Baby's new trick: planking
16. Baby's new trick: wowowow yells (I can't figure out a better name for this, we pat her mouth while she yells, and she loves it)
17. The first hint of autumn colors
18. The kindergarten schedule we were hoping for. (Not our first choice, but the second best)
19.  A visit from the in-laws (this is not snark, they're great)
20. Asthma medicine
21. Bella's first word: "Bubba!"
22. Bella replacing her near-constant piercing screams with adorable babble
23. When I try to put Bella to sleep on my chest and she pulls back like she's going to fight it for a few seconds, then just thumps forward and passes out.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Gratitude 2

7. Fuzzy baby head asleep on my chest.
8. Sibling reunions *so. many. smiles!*
9. Warm Merry hugs.
10. Sweet Pippin snuggles.
11. That moment when you get a glimpse into what Merry is thinking and it's absolutely hilarious.
12. An overqualified ABA therapist (she's moving up, but it was wonderful while it lasted!)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


In a preemptive strike against the mild depression I can sense looming ahead (which I might get around to writing about in its own right), I'm going to try keeping a running gratitude list. I stumbled upon the truly beautiful blog A Holy Experience several years ago, and although Ann has thoroughly convinced me of the power of gratitude, I've never kept up an actual list. So here's a start at my own one thousand gifts:

1. Sweet bare baby arms, so deliciously kissable.
2. Ten long days of relative peace to focus on that sweet baby while the boys visit grandparents.
3. The best blackberries I've ever tasted, offered fresh off the vine by a kind neighbor (note to theoretical future garden ideas: Triple Crown thornless variety)
4. Air conditioning, a rarity in the mild pacific northwest but so very welcome for the occasional heat wave.
5. Visits from old friends.
6. Fresh blueberries growing literally right outside the front door.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place Series by Maryrose Wood

This series is entirely too much fun. I originally picked it up as a paired new YA novel with Jane Eyre as part of the awesome Sync audiobook program. It's a good initial match in plot and setting: an orphaned English girl leaves her boarding school to start her first job as governess. But from that point things veer sharply into delicious ridiculousness. Miss Penelope Lumley's charges were literally raised by wolves, but the unflappable young lady simply draws upon her veterinary skills and tames them with large doses of kindness and a pocketful of biscuits.

Anyone who grew up reading numerous stories starring intrepid English youth will be stepping into a world of nostalgia, but there's plenty to keep the story fresh and interesting. There's wordplay, literary references, random historical asides, and a zoo of colorful characters. The audiobook is a top notch performance in its own right; Katherine Kellgren perfectly matches the exuberant, over-the-top tone of the story that doesn't even attempt to take itself seriously.

I'm really looking forward to sharing this one with the kids in a few years.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Hamilton, Part 2

Well, my audiobook expired from the library before I could finish, leaving me stuck at Washington's Farewell Address for a few weeks, but here's my random thoughts so far:

  • Madison and Hamilton started out as friends and allies before dissolving into political enemies. Chernow has mentioned several times that Jefferson and Madison were BFFs, I'm waiting to hear if that had anything to do with the split. Update: doesn't seem to be any particular drama around the split, just politics. Disappointed.
  • I cant help being amused at the character pairs that are played by the same actors in the musical: Lafayette and Jefferson, the Frenchman and Francophile; Mulligan and Madison, the friend and ex-friend-turned-political-enemy; Laurens and Phillip, BFF and son; Peggy and Mariah Reynolds, sister-in-law and seductress (which at first is just awkward, but when you toss in the relationship with his other SIL it gets really tangled). 
  • I love the way that Washington has become our King Arthur. Several years ago I read Orson Scott Card's Alvin Maker series. The setting of Colonial America was so immersive and OSC laid the patriotic nostalgia on so thick when building his fantasy world that I didn't quite realize how far into alt history the story was going. Halfway through the book a character brags about seeing "the sword that cut off George Washington's head", and it was such a powerful drop-kick into the uncanny valley that it's stuck with me for years. 
Lin-Manuel Miranda guided me back from that valley with the line from Yorktown: "I see George Washington smile". The mere invocation of the name was such a powerful statement; if George Washington is smiling, all is good with the world. I've been thinking that modern America's mythology is all tied up in comic book heroes, but there's apparently still plenty of room for our historical figures as well.

  • Now that we're neck-deep in election season, I've had the lyrics from "The Election of 1800" stuck in my head all day:
Jefferson or Burr? We know it's lose-lose
Jefferson or Burr? But if you had to choose 
And I'm grimly amused to discover that voters have been bellyaching about presidential candidates since pretty much the birth of the country (1800 is the fourth presidential election?). It doesn't make me feel any better about the current candidates, but the perspective helps a bit.

  • Cabinet Battle #2 really bothered me, because Jefferson made it sound like America in general and Hamilton specifically were tossing their French friends under the bus by refusing to send aid in their war against Britain. I assumed there were details that made it more understandable, and this was the case. Turns out the post-Revolution government that was asking for aid had by that point imprisoned, executed or exiled most of the French officers and aristocrats who had helped in the American Revolution (not to mention beheaded the king who agreed to the support in the first place). I'd also forgotten how horrifically bloody the mob rule of the French Revolution was; jumping into bed with them at that point would have been difficult to stomach indeed.
  • I just mentally equated Washington/Hamilton with Dumbledore/Harry. Not a perfect analogy, but now it cannot be unthought. I suspect this is no accident b/c one of the best things about LMM aside from his musical genius is that he's basically as big a nerd as many of his fans.

Ok, your reward for making it to the bottom of the page is my major internet find for the week: the annotated lyrics of the entire Hamilton album over at Genius. This. This is exactly what I've been looking for to feed my Hamilton mania. And it's endorsed by LMM himself, who occasionally drops in to clarify and confirm. * fangirling intensifies *