Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tuesday Reviews: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child- Parts 1 and 2 (Harry Potter #8) by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne


Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child- Parts 1 and 2 (Harry Potter #8)
Author: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Release Date: July 31, 2016
Format Read: Hardback
Rating: Four Stars

Description from Goodreads: Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London's West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn't much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Many of you know that I, like so many others, cannot get enough of Harry Potter. What you may not know is that I actually haven't read the books. I read DEATHLY HALLOWS, because I didn't want to wait a year to find out what happened in part two of the movie, but other than that, I was already reading YA when the movies made the franchise big enough to get the books introduced to me. I had wanted to read them, but as I already knew much of the stories from the films, I felt like there was so much more as I could read-- stories that I'd never read before-- and I didn't want to take the time to read the Harry Potter books at that point in my life. 

Fast forward to now. Last year, I asked for the Harry Potter books for Christmas. I ended up with every single one of them, as well as FANTASTIC BEASTS, etc. It is now my plan to take a month out of the upcoming semester (probably November) and binge the series. You can expect my reviews for that month to be solely Harry Potter. #SorryNotSorry.

But I made the decision to read CURSED CHILD, even having not read the first seven books. I may have missed a few references or things like that, but I definitely think it was a great decision on my part. Reading the script was great for me, as my favorite parts of a book are the dialogue. My own manuscripts are always dialogue-led, and so the script form really worked for me.

One of the things I loved most about this book were the roles and appearances of the characters we've grown to love. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Professor McGonagall, and even Dumbledore show up in CURSED CHILD-- some more often than others, but they're there. There's also another cameo that gave me all sorts of feels, but I think I'll let you discover that one for yourself.

And then there are our new characters: Albus, Scorpius, and Rose. Scorpius was definitely my favorite of the three. I loved him in every single scene, and also loved getting to see so much of Draco as well. 

Plot wise, CURSE CHILD bothered me a bit. The plot revolves around a time turner, and I really just don't like stories that mess with time. It seems very obvious to me how things are going to turn out, I mean, the butterfly affect is real you guys. Changing things in the past will always change things in the future, even if it's only a small action. So that really messed with me. 

And then there's the characters. I always felt a bit like the adult characters, the Golden Trio and such, were so... odd. They felt really distant for me, and I couldn't figure out why until I watched JesseTheReader's review of the book, where he talked about how the characters felt off to him, and the only reason he could think of is that there's a 19 year gap in the story. Things have happened to our beloved characters that we weren't there to witness, and life certainly does change people. So I felt a bit better after watching that because at least someone else felt the same way as I did. And I actually agreed with every single thing Jesse said about THE CURSED CHILD. We had identical opinions on this one.


All in all, I give THE CURSED CHILD four stars. I liked it, and I'm super glad I decided to go ahead and read it, because now I'm doubly psyched to start the actual series. As soon as I have a slow month, I'm tackling it, and I cannot wait. If you've read the HP books, or you've even just seen the movies, you should definitely read CURSED CHILD. While it may not be exactly your thing, coming into it with an open mind and getting to experience the (quick) journey with ALbus and Scorpius is the best decision.

What houses are you guys in? #Ravenclaw

Happily,
Stephanie

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Thursday Thinks: A Post That's Been A Long Time Coming

Hello there, and Happy Thursday!

Today's post, as you read in the title, really has been a long time coming. I've just been so busy with blogging and going to events this year that I haven't had the time to sit down and write it out. But Now I do. So, here we go.

There's a book out, maybe you've heard of it, it's called BECAUSE YOU'LL NEVER MEET ME by Leah Thomas. 


Description from Goodreads: In a stunning literary debut, two boys on opposite ends of the world begin an unlikely friendship that will change their lives forever.

Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz's weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times-- as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.

A story of impossible friendship an hope under strange circumstances, this debut is powerful, dark, and humorous in equal measure. These extraordinary voices bring readers into the hearts and minds of two special boys who, like many teens, are just waiting for their moment to shine.

I picked up a copy of BECAUSE YOU'LL NEVER MEET ME last summer a couple weeks after it's release. I can't remember how I'd heard about it, but I knew instantly that I wanted to read it. Not only was Ollie's allergy to electricity intriguing since I'd heard of EHS before, and not only because it was about two best friends who had never met, but Moritz, one of the story's two main characters, has a pacemaker.

A pacemaker.

To most people, this may not have been a big deal. In fact, to most of you, this is probably only an interesting idea, if anything.

But to me, Moritz having a pacemaker was everything.

It was everything, because there was finally a YA character like me.

I've had a heart condition for as long as I can remember, and the amount of tests I'd had done between the ages of 5 and 10, simply to determine what it was, exactly, that I had remain countless. However, seeing as no one could pinpoint what it was that was wrong with me other than having an odd heartbeat, I was released with no restrictions. Three years later, I go in for a sports physical (I was going to play volleyball. Make it to the Olympics for my mom, who had that opportunity taken from her by way of knee surgery.) and my doctor decides to send me to a specialist, just to make sure that they couldn't find anything before I made my way into the world of sports. 

The night before my appointment with the specialist, I passed out in the shower. One minute I was good, and the next I was waking up on the bathroom floor with my head swimming. I remember my dad going to get me a soda and a candy bar so that I could get some sugar into my system, and then once we were sure I was okay, we went to bed so that we could go to my appointment the next morning. 

The appointment went totally normal, nothing different than any other appointment I'd had, and we went back to the hotel (We were out of state). That night, we get a call from the doctor we'd seen that day, and he tells me I need to stop any and all physical activity. That I need to keep my heart rate under 80 beats per minute, because anything over that was dangerous, since he'd determined that I had a condition known as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. In other words, the muscle of my left ventricle was too thick, and caused my heartbeat to be irregular. It was also what caused my shortness of breath with nearly any bit of physical activity. 

Cardiomyopathy is responsible for many teenage deaths. The disease isn't detectable in most patients until they reach puberty, which is why most of the kids who have it may not know that they do. That's what makes Cardiomyopathy so dangerous-- if you don't know you have it, and you go along playing sports, you could easily die on the field. Which is exactly what happened to an Arkansas Razorback in 2011. So I stopped physical activity. I didn't play volleyball. My plan didn't exactly go like I thought it would, but instead of ball, I turned to my love of reading. All I had to do was go for checkups and monitor my condition to make sure it wasn't getting any worse.

Two years later, I come home from school, do my homework, order pizza, and settle down for the night. I was laying on my dad's side of the bed (He was out of town on business) waiting for my mom to get off the phone with her best friend, whose husband had just gone to the ER for high blood pressure, when I fell asleep.

The next thing I knew, I was waking up on the floor-- My butt on the carpet, and my back against the bed. My mom was kneeling in front of me, my phone held up to her ear, and I could see that she was panicked, but I didn't know why. She told me to pet my dog, who was barking and whining and trying to make her way to me, so I did, and I remember thinking that my hands felt so... light. After a few minutes, she helped me up and told me that we were going to go see the doctor, which should have made me wonder what was going on, but instead I just got up with her. She told me we were going to go get my slippers from my room, but first, I insisted that we get my book from where I'd left it on Dad's night stand. After grabbing the book, the title of which I wish I could remember, we crossed the apartment and headed towards my room. Between my parents' bed and the threshold to my room, I passed out two times. Again coming out of my closet (with my slippers on, this time). And again just outside my door. This time, we didn't get back up.

I laid on the floor while my mom spoke to who I had finally figured out was a 911 operator. They stayed on the phone with us while mom asked me if I needed anything (to which I answered that I needed my stuffed dog, Sally.) and tried to keep my mind off of what was happening. Which turned out to be pretty easy, because I had no clue, I was just going with it. As we waited, I began to complain because mom said that we may be at the hospital for a few days, and I was not about to be okay with that because we were in the middle of state-wide testing, and that was my favorite part of the school year (I know, I know. I'm weird.). Eventually, she assured me that she'd see if I could retake the test, and after twenty minutes the paramedics arrived.

They took me on a stretcher to the ambulance, where I remember seeing my neighbors standing outside their door with their heads bent in prayer. Upon getting situated int eh ambulance, lights flashing and all, I had my pulse taken. It was at twenty-three beats per minute, which is so, so low. They also pricked my finger, and I didn't feel it at all due to the low heart rate. 

We made our way to the hospital, where they ran test after test, and where they obviously had no idea what was wrong with me. They called my specialist, who referred them to a cardiac doc much closer than my out-of-state one, and said doctor told them to stop running tests immediately, because they were just making it worse. It turned out that they were going to fly me in a medical evacuation plane to see the recommended doctor, but by this point, it was 1am and storming so hard that the plane couldn't make it. So we had to wait until 6am came around.

I spent those five hours dozing on and off, and at one point my mom ended up having to go have a little chat with the doctors who were outside my door saying, "If we can just keep her alive until the med-evac gets here, it'll be out of our hands."

Funnily enough, my mom's best friend and her husband had gotten released from the ER, so they came over to say hello and keep us preoccupied for a while. Between them, and me finally getting some sleep, 6am came quickly, and I took that plane ride by myself, since there was room for either my mom or a set of equipment that could save my life if something happened in the air. Mom was forced to drive three hours to the hospital while I made it there in one.

My dad, who had been away on business at the time, was also driving to the hospital, but from the other direction. He made it there before my mom, and as the flight-for-life team wheeled me into the hospital, he was able to meet me so that I wasn't alone in an unfamiliar face. Mom arrived soon after, which is when he doctors came in to evaluate me and hear what had happened, and that's when I learned that my mom had had to perform CPR on my lifeless body, and I'd actually passed out once between being CPR-revived and waking up at the bottom of the bed. After hearing this and talking to my specialist, the doctors made the decision that I needed to have an emergency surgery the next morning to implant an ICD-- A pacemaker/defibrillator-- that will help keep my heart rate in a healthy range so that it doesn't drop too low or rise too high.

So that next morning, Good Friday, I had a pacemaker put in. When I woke up, I found out that I'd flatlined during the surgery, and the surgeon had had to use the defibrillator paddles to bring me back.

Since then, all has been well for me in the world of health. I have yearly procedures so that the doctors can measure the pressures in my heart and lungs to check the function of the organ and see how much (if any) it's deteriorating. The battery in my pacemaker will be replaced in November, because I've used mine up a little bit faster than the approximated seven years. But all is well.

All is well, but I've found myself getting angry with YA contemporary stories. So many of them are based on a teenager with a cancer diagnosis, and I've had family members who had cancer, so I totally and completely understand how it's such a major disease in the world, but I want to take this moment to shed light on something that most people don't know.

Heart disease is the number one killer in the world.

And while cancer is a very prevalent thing, and books should be written about it, because it's real, and people go through it, and it's a terrible thing... I'm here to tell you that heart disease is also real. People like me go through it, and it is a terrible, terrible thing for those who aren't as blessed as I am. For those who don't catch it in time. 

And there are so, so many teenagers out there whose hearts are failing. And who need devices like pacemakers to keep their heart pumping (I became 100% dependent on my pacemaker in 2014. My heart will no longer work on it's own.).

This is the reason I want to give a big thank you to Leah Thomas for giving me Moritz. Because it's amazing to finally have someone recognize that cardiac kids exist. We're out here, and we're always waiting for someone to acknowledge that we have problems that are just as important and just as scary as cancer kids.

So BECAUSE YOU'LL NEVER MEET ME was an amazing book to read. Moritz has a pacemaker, and he's not ashamed of it, he's proud of it. As someone who tries to help others see that their imperfections and surgical scars aren't things they should have to hide, it was wonderful to see him being secure in his condition.

And speaking of his condition, I want to give you a spoiler. If you don't want to see it, skip to the next paragraph! The spoiler is this: Moritz has the same exact condition as I have. And when I read the line in the book where he told Ollie, it reduced me to tears, because I finally found a book with a main character who not only has my condition, but who has a pacemaker as well.

BECAUSE YOU'LL NEVER MEET ME earns five stars from me, forever and always. Book two was just sent out as an ARC, and I'm crossing my fingers that I'll find a copy in my mailbox. I cannot wait to see the next step in the story of these two best friends, and I can't wait to get more time with my Moritz.

Happily,
Stephanie

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Tuesday (Series) Reviews: Percy Jackson and the Olympians

So there's this book series, you may have heard of it, I dunno. but it's called Percy Jackson and the Olympians?
Apparently it's some sort of big deal?
I don't really know why...

Oh.
Maybe because it's freaking aWESOME!

I thought it was high time I did a series review for this one, so look out below.

*cue the fangirling*



Titles:
The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1)
The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2)
The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3)
The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #4)
The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #5)

Publisher: Disney Hyperion Books

Release Dates:
The Lightning Thief- 3/1/06
The Sea of Monsters- 4/1/06
The Titan's Curse- 5/5/07
The Battle of the Labyrinth- 3/6/08
The Last Olympian- 5/5/09

Formats Read: Paperback, New Covers


Description from Goodreads for THE LIGHTNING THIEF: Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can't seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse- Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy's mom finds out, she knows it's time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he'll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends-- one a satyr and the other a demigod daughter of Athena-- Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.



Description from Goodreads for THE SEA OF MONSTERS: The heroic son of Poseidon makes an action-packed comeback in the second must-read installment of Ricks Riordan's amazing young readers series. Starring Percy Jackson, a "half blood" whose mother is human and whose father is the God of the Sea, Riordan's series combines cliffhanger adventure and Greek mythology lessons that results true page-turners that get better with each installment. In this episode, The Sea of Monsters, Percy sets out to retrieve the Golden Fleece before his summer camp is destroyed, surpassing the first book's drama and setting the stage for more thrills to come.



Description from Goodreads for THE TITAN'S CURSE:  It's not everyday you find yourself in combat with a half-lion, ha;lf-human.

But when you're the son of a Greek god, it happens. And now my friend Annabeth is missing, a goddess is in chains and only five half-blood heroes can join the quest to defeat the doomsday monster.

Oh, and guess what? The Oracle has predicted that none of us will survive...



Description from Goodreads for THE BATTLE OF THE LABYRINTH: Percy Jackson isn't expecting freshman orientation to be any fun. But when a mysterious mortal acquaintance appears on campus, followed by demon cheerleaders, things quickly move from bad to worse.

In this fourth installment of the blockbuster series, time is running out as a war between the Olympians and the evil Titan lord Kronos draws near. Even the safe haven of Camp Half-Blood grows more vulnerable by the minute as Kronos's army prepares to invade its once impenetrable borders. To stop the invasion, Percy and his demigod friends must set out on a quest through the Labyrinth-- a sprawling underground world with stunning surprises at every turn.



Description from Goodreads for THE LAST OLYMPIAN: All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of victory are grim. Kronos's army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan's power only grows. While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronis begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it's up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time.

In this momentous final book in the NEW YORK TIMES best-selling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the long-awaited prophecy surrounding Percy's sixteenth birthday unfolds. And as the battle for Western civilization rages on the streets of Manhattan, Percy faces a terrifying suspicion that he may be fighting against his own fate.


I'd actually been wanting to read the Percy Jackson books for a really long time, before picking them up a year and a half ago. There were two reasons I hadn't done it-- 1.) I only owned SEA OF MONSTERS, and 2.) I really loved the movies, and knew by the reactions from you demigods that if I read the books I would end up hating the movies. But one night, I picked up the boxset, and I dove into it and finished all five books in five days. 

Percy was one of my favorite series ever to binge. I can't imagine reading them as they released and having to deal with those cliffhangers. But holy crap, you guys. These books are fantastic in more ways than I can count. Not only is Percy hilarious, but he's such a genuine character that I couldn't help but love him from page one. 

Also, can we talk about how sassy he is? Like, you guys got it right when you nicknamed him Persassy. He's a sasspot and a half, and it's amazing.

Literally each book in the series was great. They just got better and better as they went on. That being said, I can safely say that BATTLE OF THE LABYRINTH was my favorite. I really enjoyed the setting of the Labyrinth and the added suspense and mystery it gave the series. 

It's kind of crazy to me that it took me so long to pick these books up. If I had known that I was going to love them so much, I probably would have done it a long time ago. Though I think I read them at the perfect time, because it gave me the opportunity to dive right into the sister series, The Heroes of Olympus.

I give PJO five stars, and recommend it to literally everyone. I've yet to meet a reader who didn't adore the series, and frankly, I'm not sure one exists. If they do, that's the kind of person I wouldn't get along with. How do you not like Percy and Annabeth and Grover and Tyson?

How many of you have read the Percy Jackson books? If you have, who is your godly parent? Daughter of Athena over here *waggles eyebrows*

Happily,
Stephanie

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