Friday, September 2, 2016

When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson by Pam Muñoz Ryan


Rating: 

It amazes me how this famous opera singer never graces the pages of history books in terms of historical and remarkable tale of overcoming struggles in the United States. I remember vividly reading this book in my civics class and being enchanted by the story, how relatable Marian Anderson is, and how I never came across her name before reading this book. I couldn't believe this story to be true and I wish they would make a movie out of her character. If they could cast anyone for the role of Marian hands down I have to say Audra McDonald. 

Audra McDonald has the looks, the talent, and the capability of tapping into Marian and bringing her story to life and definitely Oscar-Winning performance. Marian predates Martin Luther King Jr. and yet both their performances have changed a nation. I applaud the author of writing this story and beautiful illustrations to make the story colorful and relevant in the 21st century. 

We meet Marian Anderson who has the natural gift to sing. She grows up in the church and as time passes she dreams of being a singer particularly an Opera Singer. The only exception is she's poor and sadly black in the early 20th century. It was never heard of a black person to sing Opera let alone sell sold out concerts between the prejudice they suffer both professionally and in society. Marian is desperate to accomplish her dreams and yet they seem so far away from accomplishing.

No teacher wants to accept her to a music school because of the color of her skin, she has to work to support her family since her father passed away early in her life, and luckily the church will pay for her private lessons because they believe in her dreams and are willing to donate to the church. I've never seen that religious experience before and regardless whether you are religious or not I believe we need that in our community. We should take care of our own and help others to aspire to their dreams especially children.

Then the magical event happens is when she discovers a famous opera singer who is accepting students for private lessons and she is granted the opportunity to work with him and she trains hard to become the singer she is meant to be. After two years of lessons she is prepared to make the next move and that means to travel to Europe where it's easier to land roles and feel free of living in a country and not worry about the color of your skin.

She becomes a overnight sensation in the opera world and decides to make the passage back to the States and immediately she suffers the consequences of racism in America. No hotels would allow her to check in, concert halls refuse to accept her, and she has to perform separate concerts for whites only and then for the color people.

One event that help fuel the fire allowed her to get press coverage and the chance of the lifetime to perform a concert at the Lincoln Memorial. The President of the United States and the 1st lady gave the permission to allow this event. This was never heard of in history which is part of the reason Dr. King used the venue during the civil rights moment and thousands show up to witness Marian Anderson. Everyone of every color and race show up to this event and she makes history. Years later she will break another record as the first African-American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera.

This book gave me all the feels the first time I read it and reading it for the second time I felt the same magic again. It always fascinates me when obstacles are presented to some people and how they careful analyze their choices and pick the different path that will help them achieve their dreams and more. In the beginning you connect with Marian and believe it's not possible for her to accomplish her goals and more and yet fate would present itself and by making the right connections at the right time, new doors of opportunities opened themselves up and allowed Marian to become an Opera Singer. Her goal was to just perform opera and yet she broke records never heard of in history and people should know about her and her story.

I cannot rave enough about this book and I suggest everyone to check out this book and read it! Cannot wait for the day when they turn her story into a movie...

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Quest (Journey Trilogy, #2) by Aaron Becker


Rating: 

THIS BOOK IS JUST AS PERFECT AS THE FIRST ONE!



Sometimes when it comes to children books and series, the sequel is an utter disappointment because the first book may not necessarily need a sequel and the author simply wrote it for more money which is a disappointment and lack of imagination. For Aaron Becker this was not the case and this book is perfect as a sequel. By the time I reached the last page my imagination was all over the place wondering what happens next?

The sequel begins right away with the girl and boy exploring this fantasy world with their chalk. They are waiting for someone and when the magical door opens it is a King who has an orange chalk and a mysterious map. The guards take him away and he leaves behind his orange chalk. The readers discover that in separate locations around this fantasy world leaves a colored chalk and the kids need to retrieve it for the King and to save him.

That sounds easier said than done because somehow along their journey these same guards want to arrest the kids before they collect all the colors. I will leave the story here for now because the ending is beautiful and perfect! I did not see it coming and I have no clue where this series is heading come book #3.

The illustrations are beautiful and I cannot get enough of them. They feel so real and this book series could potentially be an animated film because at times as I'm reading my brain makes the illustrations come to life and instead of reading it feels like I am watching a cartoon. I applaud Aaron Becker for his hard work and attention to detail which is extremely important! I need book 3 in my hands and I want read it NOW! :D

Journey (Journey Trilogy, #1) by Aaron Becker


Rating: 


When I first read this book it was in 2014 and I was at my only independent bookstore walking around waiting for my parent to pick me up after watching a film at the movie theater thats in front of this bookstore. I saw this book on display in the children's section and I remember that I saw this book somewhere on Goodreads and discovered I had added it to my TBR pile and decided to read it since it is a children's picture book. 

I really enjoyed it the first time I read this magical story and once I rated it I moved on with my life. I didn't know how to write a review for books at the time and I fell into this predicament where I rated books in the past and yet I do not remember a single thing about the characters, plot, or why I rated it 5 stars. Recently this book came into my subconscious again as I saw someone writing a review for this beautiful book and discovered that its now a series. I checked my local library and saw that they had the first two books available so I decided to check them out.

This children's picture-book does not have any words and lets the animation tell the story. I always find that type of experiment to be difficult because how can you properly tell the story without two pages of illustrations at a time? Well, Aaron Becker is a genius because I understood everything that I read and the images tell a spectacular story. The attention to detail and artwork is beautiful and I was blown away by it for this book.

We meet a girl who wants to have fun and play with her parents or sibling. They are all busy and complicated at the moment so she retreats to her room. She watches her cat get up and leave the floor and next to her where the cat was laying is red chalk. The girl grabs it and immediately draws a door which opens to this magical world.



The girl is entranced by this magnificent forest and decides to explore where the path leads and uses her chalk to draw a boat, a hot air balloon, and witness different cities and aircrafts never seen before on Earth. She gets absorbed into this world and along the way she sees a mystical bird trapped in a cage. The bird is being watched by security guards and luckily the girl is able to retrieve the bird and set it free. 

The bird guides the girl as they escape from these guards and soon they find themselves in the forest again except there is a purple door. The bird tells the girl to open it and we enter back to our world except the girl makes a new friend who has a purple chalk and created the bird. The story ends there but the adventure is only the beginning.

I cannot brag enough about this book and my book review does not give it justice. I recommend of people of all ages to read it because its both entertaining and makes the reader wonder what lies behind a door and what type of world can these characters enter with that magical chalk. I believe this book is phenomenal and deserves all the hype, awards, and attention it deserves and I cannot wait to see the direction of where this series will go.

A Pocket For Corduroy by Don Freeman


Rating: 

I wish this book was never written. 

The entire time as I was reading this book I kept having this thought that Corduroy is going to turn into Chucky and kill the little girl. This bear creeps me out and this is meant for children. I believe the author could have written Corduroy as a standalone and you wouldn't hear any complaints for a sequel.

We meet Corduroy again and he speaks like it is no big deal that a stuffed teddy bear can speak and communicate to humans. He tags along with his best friend and her mother to the laundromat to wash clothes. The girl puts Corduroy down on a seat and tells him not to move. Then he discovers that pants and jeans have pockets and he wants one. So he gets off the chair and explores other peoples clothes to find fabric to make a pocket.

The girl starts to panic trying to find Corduroy but no luck because the laundromat is going to close soon and her mother has a zero tolerance for this type of dilemma and they leave the store and Corduroy is left behind inside for the night. He gets to explore the laundromat and unfortunately cannot find fabric for a button and falls asleep. Come the next day the girl returns and finds him and they live happily ever after as she sews a pocket for Corduroy.

Can I mention again how creepy and weird it is that the girl accepts a talking teddy bear like it is no big deal? I know this book is a work of fiction but I cannot help myself think about the real world and if I met a talking teddy bear I would scream and panic. I love Toy Story, Ted, and countless other films that deals with personifying inanimate objects but I wish I will never see that happening in our real world. I was disappointed with this book and felt like it was written for the sole purpose of making money from the iconic first book. This is the last book in the series written by the author caused he passed away a few years later when he published this book and I've seen they have written countless books of Corduroy under other authors and I have no desire to read them. Until next time...

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka


Rating: 

I remember being introduced to this book when I was in 7th grade by my civics teacher. She is a lawyer and during that period she wanted to showcase what lawyers do in the courtroom and the jargon terms they use when they prosecute and defend their client. She used this book as the basis and had students play the characters and I was the jury member. 

While the students were epic failures in dealing with the court case I treasured this story because everyone and their mother knows the story of the Three Little Pigs and its interesting to see a different point and view and my teacher made this court case look like the O.J. Simpson trial for kids (Plus no one knew the details of who O.J. Simpson was just that he was a football player who murdered his wife and got away with it). 

The narrator is the Big Bad Wolf and he mentions how most people know his story but not the facts. Immediately based on the tone of his voice and dialogue I feel as though it may be innocent but he becomes a unreliable narrator and that makes the story that much entertaining. We learn that he was making a cake for his grandmother (Who looks remarkably similar to Little Red Riding Hood so it's possible he's lying and he disguised himself as his granny) and needed a cup of sugar so he went to his neighbors which so happens to be one of the pigs and did I mention he has a cold? Well the straw triggered his sinuses and he blew down the house and killing the pig.

It uses this excuse for his actions until finally he meets the final pig who lives in the brick house and the rest is history and you learn the outcome of his story in the end. I was entranced by this story and I wish this could have been the prototype to a longer story because I would love to see the trial and learn what his lawyers used as defense and who were the jury. Plus this book brings up an interesting aspect as to whether does it stay true to the original fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood? The wolf gets killed by the ax in that story but the author didn't include it in this book then it possible that the wolf is the same one who tried to kill Little Red and her grandmother. 

This book is great for all ages especially for the curious kids and it would be fascinating if family members or even teachers made this story into a court case like my civic teacher because for one its educational to learn how our court works, our rights as civilians, and it's fun to create a story and try to defend it while the other team is trying to discredit your alibi.

Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella by Robert D. San Souci


Rating: 

I need everyone to stop with what you are doing and read this beautiful and cultural story of an iconic classic of Cinderella. Except this is the Caribbean version! :)

I read this book in the 4th grade as it was featured in our textbook and I loved everything that dealt with fairy tales back then so I was hooked on it from the beginning. Until I started noticing the differences that I was a bit disappointed but reading it now felt amazing and a fresh of breath air for a classic story. Everyone on the planet knows the story of Cinderella, there's Disney's versions, films, musicals, books, and cartoons that illustrate this classic. My favorite version of Cinderella is the Whitney Houston and Brandy version of the Musical.

We meet the narrator of the story which is godmother of Cendrillon. When the narrator mothers passed away, she gave her this magic wand that could change objects from one thing to another but the big catch is you can only use the magic for someone you love. She took care of this friend who has a daughter named Cendrillon and when the mother passed away in many ways the godmother takes care of Cendrillon from afar.

Cendrillon gets a new stepmother and she is awful and the interesting aspect is the father lets the abuse because he is afraid of his new wife. Um... The question that pops in my head is then WHY DID YOU MARRY HER? He never dies in the book which I found to be a huge difference in the book and a bit sad that you don't have the courage to stand up and defend your daughter.

Cendrillon is treated as a slave and while that may seem tragic she never lets the pain and frustration get personal and enjoys life to the fullest. Then one day the godmother makes the connection that Cendrillon is not acting like herself and figures out that there's a special birthday party/ball for Monsieur Thibault's son Paul tonight. They are not royalty but Monsieur Thibault is one of the richest man in the island.

Cendrillon family doesn't permit her to attend the ball but the godmother makes the connection that she can finally use the magic wand to help her godchild. When everyone in Cendrillon household leaves to the party, the godmother uses her magic and creates a phenomenal carriage and a beautiful gown for Cendrillon and both head to the party.

The illustrations are one of the best I have ever seen in a children's book and make the magic and beauty of both the Carribean and Cendrillon story to pop out with color and her dress is spectacular in the illustrations better than the Disney animated version.

Plus I love the aspect that the godmother is always watching over Cendrillon and by attending the ball she doesn't appear like this crazy woman who popped out of nowhere and has magical powers. I do not know for other cultures but especially the Hispanic community, most huge parties that are celebrated in someone's household, if a girl that hasn't reached the age of 18 and wants to attend she cannot go by herself. It seems impolite, prevents the girl to be alone with a boy, and poor manners on the parents part. I can only speak for the Cuban side and I've seen this happen countless times in my upbringing.

This story reminded me a lot of the movie Ever After with Drew Barrymore? I used to watch it countless times as a child and I believe because it was a Cinderella story I was just entranced with real people. What I loved about that movie is the magic aspect doesn't exist so she gets caught when she attends the party. I had the same feeling and I thought Cendrillon would get caught at the ball but I believe since she never cleaned herself up and put makeup and all the beautiful aspect of getting dressed up, it possible that her family didn't recognize her or they were suspicious as to who is this beautiful woman who walked in.

You know the rest of the story of Cinderella so there isn't much left to explain. Midnight comes and all the magic disappears. Surprisingly the slippers don't revert back to its original state and Paul makes the decision that he will search for this girl and marry her. I love how the author made the reference to the original story and in many ways insulted it at the same time. When the stepsister is trying on the slipper, the godmother says maybe if you cut of her toes it will finally fit and the stepmother gave a look that could kill. I was laughing immediately because that's the original story of Cinderella. Once Cendrillon tries on the slippers they get married, lived Happily Ever After, The End.

Corduroy by Don Freeman


Rating: 

I remember seeing the cover of this book and I thought I had read it and seen the movie but I mistaken it for The Tangerine Bear which is practically the same story of a toy bear who was abandoned because no one wanted to buy it. I've been cleaning up my Goodreads read pile because I have a ton of books that either I read it and don't remember it or I only read 50% of it and DNF the rest because it was school requirement.

Reading now the story of Corduroy I realized that I have never read it and this book I am afraid is meant for Christmas. I enjoyed the story and figured this would be 5 star material for me but I would have been captured into the story if it were read in the Holidays. Can I just mention that the ending felt less Toy Story and more Chucky?

We meet a bear named Corduroy who has a missing button and no one wants to buy him. Then one day he meets this girl and she desperately wants him but her mother refuses to buy the bear because they don't have anymore money for toys and besides it has a missing button. When the bear overhears this statement, Corduroy decides that he is going to fix his button so that way he can find a new home to appreciate it.

Corduroy goes through a journey throughout the department store and in end fails to fix his problem but luckily the girl came the next day and finally bought the bear. When there's no humans around, the toys and Corduroy talk exactly like Toy Story and I thought that applied to the ending. But the girl fixes his button and when they hug she mentions how great it is to have a friend and the bear responds.

I do not know about you but if a toy stuffed bear started talking I would scream because that's not what's supposed to happen. Toys can't talk or could they? Growing up I always thought toys talked to each other thanks to Toy Story and I always tried to sneak up to my room and capture them in the act but always failed. That ending gave me the creepy Chucky vibe and I hope it's because I'm older and the general consensus for children.

The illustrations are great and I wished they had discontinued this series after the author had passed away because he only wrote two Corduroy books in total and when I saw that long list I got upset because you ruined the whole point of publishing a classic children's book. Hopefully the sequel is as good as the original!

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum


Rating: 


I have mixed feelings when it comes to this beloved classic. I have deep roots with the Wizard of Oz and now that I have finally read this book I am glad the movie is nothing compared to the book. I am curious if they ever make a brand new Wizard of Oz movie if they will be faithful to the material because the book would be considered too gruesome for children in the 21st Century.

Growing up my parents never had cable because we were barely in the house, if we were going to watch the tv then it was going to be a rented VHS from Hollywood Videos (Am I officially old?) or a movie in this humongous collection of Disney & Children films. When I saw the Wizard of Oz in VHS I was enamored by the magic and beauty of Oz. I wanted to escape the real world and be taken up by the tornado with Dorothy and wear those Ruby Slippers. I could never understand why she wanted to leave Oz and I still don't.

My fascination became to the point of obsession that I would sing all the songs, say the lines before the characters would speak, and I could spend hours watching the films over and over again and never be bored. The Wizard of Oz still has a foothold in my world that I went to see the 3D version in theaters, seen countless miniseries or spinoffs, and yet I have not read the iconic book. Shocker right? Well not really... I hated reading as a child I remember opening the book to just see the illustrations.

Technically I have read the Wizard of Oz but I dismiss it entirely because in Elementary School we had to read books to earn points for a grade (What a genius of our educated system am I right? :( ) and they had the watered-down editions of classics so instead of 224 pages of this edition they would shrink it to 100-150. So major scenes were either cutdown or they hired another writer to write this iconic classic for children's to get the simplified version of the story. 

We are know the story of Wizard of Oz because we've all seen the iconic Judy Garland as Dorothy and if you haven't seen it then you must be living under a rock because that movie is always playing on TV and I will watch it whenever it shows up. But for the few that haven't seen it I will give a general synopsis.

This book was published in 1900 which is over 100 years ago and that is an important detail later on. We meet Dorothy Gale who is a farm girl living with her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry. She is an orphan and we don't get a reason how she became an orphan but then again this is a children's book. She has a dog named Toto and life is rough on the farm. The crop has been doing too well this season and Dorothy hints in many ways that she wants to escape this gray-view Kansas.

Luckily for her a tornado brews up in Kansas and comes heading her way. Her aunt and uncle reach underground for protection and she would have too except Toto escaped and running around the house and hiding so Dorothy tries to capture him but it's too late. The tornado blows the house away and Dorothy is caught stuck inside the tornado. Surprisingly being inside a tornado is relatively calm until they crash to the ground.

Dorothy thinks they have landed faraway from the farm but when she opens the front door immediately we are introduced into this different world. Clearly we are not in Kansas as flowers of different color are blooming, colors of all spectrum is shone beautiful across the landscape and weird buildings are popping up in front of Dorothy.

We are introduced to munchkins and the Good Witch of the North. She tells Dorothy that she has brought peace to the land by killing the Wicked Witch of the East with her house. She has used the munchkins as slaves and was too powerful to be overthrown by the Good witch. She tells her that there are 4 witches in total: the Good Witch of the North & South, and the Wicked Witch of the East and West. Dorothy is in awe by all this and in that moment of wonder she realize that Auntie Em is still in Kansas. 

She begs to be returned to her world and the Good Witch tells her that if she visits the Wizard of Oz in the Emerald city it is quite possible that he will grant her wish. To protect her from evil the Good witch gives her the Wicked Witch silver slippers and a protective kiss on the forehead (I see J.K. Rowling stoled this idea from this book).

During her journey to the Emerald city, she encounters new strangers who become her companions such as the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Cowardly Lion. Each one seeks something such as a brain, a heart, and courage and believe they can get it in the Emerald City and tag along with Dorothy who in many ways saved them from their troubled-life.

Throughout the story, these lovely characters stumble into trouble that test their wits and endurance which luckily having all 4 of them helps with creating a plan and how to survive. When they finally meet the Wizard he tells them that Dorothy must kill the Wicked Witch of the West. Simple right? Well try telling your 7 year-old that she needs to kill someone and see how well they take it. 


For now I will stop spoiling the story because they is plenty of action to read (I believe a little bit too much I'm afraid). While reading this story I couldn't help make the connection that this book is a mixture of Grimm Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Andersen, with a dose of Alice in Wonderland. What I loved about the book is it went into detail and explain certain plot holes that the movie either doesn't explain or changes because it couldn't cater to special effects back in 1939. I'm curious if it were filmed now would it be live-action or making it animated would be the simpler route. 

I was shocked by the gruesomeness of the story when it came to animals attacking the characters. The Tin Woodsman chopping head off, the Scarecrow breaking crow necks. Yikes. I couldn't believe these horrors were written for children but then again in 1900, children read Grimm Fairy tales for bedtime so this was normal to them compare to now this book would be considered for older kids. I couldn't give this 5 stars because I grew up with the movie and even though the book came first, if it contradicted the movie I was disappointed and the whole repetition of wanting a brain, a heart, and courage became tedious in the book. 

One thing that the book could have erased altogether which the movie did brilliantly was the ending. In the last 30 pages or so the characters have to go on this long and tedious adventure to help get Dorothy back to Kansas and at that point I wanted to give up. The segment was trying to cater to the magical hat that Dorothy discovers that allows the Winged Monkeys to obey her bidding for 3 events. She spends one of them and then that long plot to cater to the other two which wasn't necessary. I love how in the film Glinda just shows up in a bubble to help Dorothy.

I miss all the scenes where we get to see the Witched Witch because in the book she is such a minor character and her storyline last for 2 seconds so her appearance is brief whereas the film you felt her presence everywhere which is brilliant. The Tin Woodsman is an idiot the way he became tin because if you had a magic axe that kept chopping up your body then how about getting a new axe when your arm got chopped off the first time? 

I never understood why Dorothy wanted to leave Oz. I know she wants to be with her Auntie Em but if you realize how powerful were those slippers you could either transport them to Oz or create a tornado to bring them to you. Why leave this beautiful and magical world to go back to the boredom of Kansas? Life was miserable in 1900s especially for Farmers so why live in a world that magic doesn't exist, your Uncle has to build and buy a new farm, and work like a slave whereas you are treated like a Princess in the magical land of Oz. Plus by the time we reached the ending, Dorothy is bit cruel to her new friends (no wonder Danielle Paige got the idea for Dorothy Must Die). 

Overall I enjoyed this book (a bit disappointed I'm afraid) and I would love to continue this series but I'm afraid my journey ends with this book. I believe if I read anything else it will distort the Oz that I grew up and cherished which was an phenomenal world and not this nightmare that I discovered.

Before I end my review can I just mention that Judy Garland is the only one who can sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow? I cry everytime I see her singing that song in the movie. Believe it or not it's one of the hardest songs to sing and almost every single famous person I know screws it up. It's meant to be sung like a lullaby and the hardest part is to have emotion in the voice while being on pitch. Half of the singers today just want to belt and all these atrocities that ruins the song. If you would like to see the clip here it is:

Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland

Then I can't forget that I saw MadTV do a skit of Wizard of Oz and I lost myself in tears of laughter and I still crack up every time I see it and I highly recommend everyone to watch it:

MadTV

P.S. If this helps anyone, this edition that I read which I got from Barnes & Noble, it's missing a few illustrations because I checked my original copy of the Wizard of Oz and theres like 5 illustrations that didn't make the cut in this copy so I would highly recommend reading the reprint original 1900 hardcover edition.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne


Rating: 

I cannot believe that I just read a brand new Harry Potter book. I repeat I CANNOT BELIEVE I JUST FINISHED A BRAND NEW HARRY POTTER BOOK. It never crossed my mind in the years that follow since the books and movies have ended that I would find myself reading more adventures about Harry and the gang again particularly after Deathly Hallows. I worshiped the films as a child, I saw the 1st movie twice in the same day of its released and I played all the video games, dressed up like Harry for Halloween, except participate in the midnight release parties because I never read the books until High School.

I wished my passion for reading would have started way sooner because I would have been the million of fans waiting in line in costume waiting for the final book to be released and be part of the conclusion of this beautiful story. Now that the play was being released I was able to participate in that chaos of waiting for the book as millions of fans got to reunite in a bookstore speculating what the play is going to be about and whether this will the end or the continuation of the franchise. 

More than a year ago when this play was announced I had no clue what the plot was going to be about because if you are one of the millions who have read Deathly Hallows, the ending is self-explanatory. I figured maybe it will be about Harry Potter as an adult kicking ass for the ministry of magic and trying to make the Wizarding world a better play but then the title was released and it became Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The title alone speaks volumes and endless possibilities what the play was about and then I realized that the main focus is going to be about the kids and I was right.

In many ways Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has many implications in the play which I found fascinating because it implied many characters and their relationships to one another and I am glad that J.K. Rowling still has the magic touch even though she didn't write the play.

Before I begin writing about what the play is about I need to remind everyone before reading this book: HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD IS A PLAY NOT A NOVEL. IT IS NOT A NOVEL SO DON'T HAVE FALSE HOPE WHEN READING IT! THIS IS NOT YOUR TYPICAL HARRY POTTER BOOK SO PLEASE ENTER THIS PLAY WITH FRESH EYES AND REALIZE THIS IS NOT A NOVEL IT IS A PLAY! I REPEAT IT IS A PLAY!!!! DO I NEED TO KEEP REPEATING MYSELF???

For the millions who have devour this play already, I've seen the reviews and for the most part they either loved it, liked it, or hated it which is perfectly fine. Not every book is going to be a blockbuster for others. But what I've noticed in many reviews from different people in the literary community, they leave out the fact that they went into this book expecting a novel and for many this is the first time reading a play so I can understand their frustrations but if you enter this play with fresh eyes and no expectations this could be a magical experience for you.

The play is divided into two parts with a total of 4 Acts. It begins immediately where Deathly Hallows ended which is Harry and the gang dropping off their kids for the first time on the express train to Hogwarts. We meet James, Lily, Rose Granger-Weasley, and the main character Albus Severus Potter. He is Harry's second child and he is scared up to his wits about Hogwarts because he has big shoes to fill being the son of Harry Potter.

Immediately I fell in love with Albus because he reminded me so much of his father and the stubborn-side of the Weasleys and his cousin Rose is almost an exact replica of Hermoine except the annoyance level reaches a new high. Immediately I wanted to smack her because she enters the train with this cocky attitude that because her family is famous she can use that to her advantage when picking friends that made me think of her as a mean girl.

We can tell that Albus does not like the pressure especially how his family wants to recreate the same experience as when they were children because it's impossible to live the life of your father especially since the circumstances that Harry never knew he was a wizard until he was 11. Somehow history repeats itself and Albus makes a new friend on the train which is Scorpius Malfoy. I can just see the reactions of fans all around the world saying WHAT? Draco and Harry were mortal enemies how can this happen? Well it did happen, it's awesome, and they are my new favorite characters and besides Scorpius is hilarious. We learn he's an outsider because of his last name but it doesn't matter to Albus; just because your last name belongs to a horrible family doesn't mean you are a horrible person.

We get to see them arrive at Hogwarts and the sorting hat ceremony commences and Albus greatest fear happens which is he gets sorted into Slytherin with Scorpius and everything goes downhill from that moment on as he fails at everything that his father succeeded in Hogwarts. Albus basically is fighting two major wars: the war of what people expect him to be as Harry Potter's son and fighting the ghost that you will never be as successful as your father and we see the dilemma hurting him as the years go by. 

Shifting now to Harry life and its interesting to see him as an adult working for the Ministry. He obviously misses the days of Hogwarts and I believe while he had horrible moments growing up I believe deep down everything was perfect and innocent before the Battle of Hogwarts and now we see that grief and guilt affecting him as a grown adult. He is finally a father which doesn't help because he has no experience on what it means to raise a child and teach them about life when your own parents were murdered and you had awful relatives who treated you like garbage.

One day while working on the job, Hermoine and Harry come into possession of a time-turner which supposedly were all destroyed and the difference with this particular time-turner is it can go back in time to days or even years compare to Hermoine's in Prisoner of Azkaban. It's absolutely dangerous and should be destroyed but Hermoine holds on to it. Already the wheels start spinning for me and by then the plot became predictable but I was still entertained. 

Somehow word gets spread around and one evening Amos Diggory (father of Cedric Diggory aka Robert Pattinson in the 4th movie) visits Harry asking if he can use the time-turning to rescue his son and Harry says no. Albus overhears the conversation and cannot believe that his father won't help Amos. Albus is outraged by it and not being in good terms with Harry pushes him over and he decides he's going to take matters into his own hands and will retrieve the time-turner and save Cedric during the Triwizard tournament. While he knows the basic story of what happen in the tournament, he won't realize the repercussions of his actions till it's too late and not even considering the possibility that he can bring back Voldemort.

This is where I leave off for those who haven't read the play. I haven't spoiled much of the plot and trust me there's so much action that you won't believe it! Plus you shouldn't be reading a review for a book that you haven't read yet but are going to. Now I am placing a warning because the rest of this review will be about my thoughts and beliefs about the play going forward. 

***WARNING SPOILER TERRITORY WARNING SPOILER TERRITORY***

This was a phenomenal play and I would love to see it in London because there were scenes like Albus and Scorpius jumping off the train, the time turner sequences, and trying to retrieve the time-turner that made perfect sense with CGI on film but on stage with a live audience that must be difficult and spellbinding at the same time if they did those scenes correctly.

I love this play and I cannot rave enough about it but if I am being completely honest: I wish this was a novel. In a play there is so much you can do with bringing characters together in scenes and I disliked how there wasn't enough scenes about Rose, Hugo, James and the other siblings. If this were written as a novel we would have gotten more action with these characters but because of time constraint and plot we got mini snippets with them and the main focus was Albus and Scorpius which makes sense since they are children of Draco and Harry. 

There were many scenes that needed explanation and in a novel J.K. Rowling could divulge plenty information about Hogwarts now, the characters, and the time-turner. Plus we got no scenes of Hagrid in the present tense which made me felt like he had died because he's not referenced except in scenes of Harry as a boy. But in the end I realize that J.K. Rowling didn't want to write a book because I know millions would automatically believe that she is setting everything up for HP Books 8-15. So by having this play acted out it leaves the readers to interpret the scenes and accept everything in face value until you see the play live in person.

Another major issue that I had in the book and I hope I wasn't alone was Albus and Scorpius relationship. These two characters reminded me a lot of Aristotle and Dante!! They way the communicated to each other, express their feelings, and how they bond it felt familiar to me and I was heartbroken when we finally reach the end and it all went to shit when Scorpius asked Rose out.

I do not know where I went wrong because 9/10 I am always right when it comes to gay romance in books and because they extremely similar to Aristotle and Dante I thought finally J.K. Rowling made a bold move and show gay romance in the Wizarding World. Some may say well Dumbledore is gay. Yea he is but it's not directly mentioned in the books and I guarantee you if someone had read just the books themselves without any outside knowledge they wouldn't have known that fact.

I felt like we got this organic relationship blossoming between these two characters and then rushing towards the end they try to make the friendship appear similar to Harry and Ron and ruined the moment. Harry and Ron are definitely straight based on the writing and the way they communicate to one another. But there were awkward scenes where Albus hugs Scorpius about 2-3 times throughout the play and they are long embraced hugs. There were countless homoerotic undertones that suggest they are a couple and if she decides to continue this series I hope this relationship is true and it's just a matter of Albus and Scorpius accepting their identity.

Now to one of my beliefs that has made people outraged. It is revealed Voldemort apparently has a daughter and the mother is Bellatrix Lestrange. The whole baby drama was being foreshadowed from the very beginning but with the wrong child. The character Delphi was extremely obvious she was a villain from the first moment we laid eyes on her. I do not believe she is Voldemort's daughter and here is my reasons why:

1. Voldemort thought he was going to successfully kill Harry Potter and therefore didn't need an offspring to avenge him. Plus if he had a child he would have that fear that the child would try to destroy him and that's a big no no for him.

2. Voldemort did not know the meaning of love. That was the whole point because he never felt genuine love and was never raised with compassion and empathy, he always felt like an outcast and went into a dark place where he made the sick connection that he can be powerful without human emotions and that's why he tried every possible course to remove all that is human about him including his name.

3. You do not have to be in love to have sex with people but regardless having sex with someone makes a connection whether you acknowledge or not. While I have no doubt that Bellatrix would gladly sleep with her master, I do not think Voldemort would be capable enough to sleep with anyone. He's crazy, angry, and lack all human emotions so he couldn't bond with someone sexually even if he wanted to. I could see if Voldemort had succeeded in killing Potter that he would help raise the child under his image as the first child under his new regime.

4. Plus I believe her real parents are Bellatrix and her husband. Her Husband was sent to Azkaban after the Battle of Hogwarts and I believe by having his child hidden from the world, he could teach her how to become powerful and try to resurrect the Dark Lord and what better way then telling her that Voldemort is her father and this made up prophecy.

5. From my understanding, all prophecies either end up being recorded and stored in the Ministry of Magic or a famous prophet like Trelawney (thanks to her ancestors) would have spoken about a prophecy years ago to Dumbledore or someone of high position so I believe the prophecy was made up by Delphi to cater to her own agenda. 

I was excited to see familiar faces again especially Snape and I wanted to tear up when he mentions how he took up the cause for Lily but along the way he found himself and love Harry Potter. Plus how he was proud that Harry named his second child as Albus Severus Potter after the two names of one of the respected and powerful wizards. Dumbledores scenes are still as powerful in the books and we got to see a vulnerable yet wise side of him even though he was a painting. It was intense between him and Harry and I love how in many ways he still helps Harry even though he is dead and his painting is speaking for him. I wanted to cry when Albus and Scorpius met Cedric during the maze and couldn't do nothing except watch him run to his death but at least he knew his father loved him.

Then the moment where the flood gates opened and couldn't hold it in which is Harry watching his parents being murdered and he couldn't do nothing about it. He had visions growing up of the murder but it's always been distorted and he only remembers his mothers screams and trying to protect him. But this time around he saw his father getting killed instantly and then his mother pleading for his life. We read those scenes countless before but when I was reading it I felt like I was part of the scene and got caught up in the moment and it felt real. I cannot describe the experience but I felt like my heart was being ripped out while reading and watching that scene being played out in my head. 

Harry and Albus are extremely similar and I believe that is part of the reason why it was difficult for both of them to bond because Harry saw himself in Albus and his son thought of Harry as the savior and not a human being. Living under your fathers or any parents light can be quite difficult when you want to stand out from the crowd and hearing all these tales of your father saving the day makes it seem that he is this perfect savior and that makes you more of a task and not a person and that really affected Albus and the way he approaches his father. The other issue is Harry wants Albus to experience everything that Harry missed out in his life like his parents, growing up not knowing he was a famous wizard, and growing up in a happy household that it backfired on Albus who knows everything about his family past. One quote that fits perfect with this is when Harry is speaking to Draco and says:

"Love blinds. We have both tried to give our sons, not what they needed, but what we needed. We've been so busy trying to rewrite our own pasts, we've blighted their present." 

Can I quickly mention how bad I want to see the scene on stage of Draco and Harry fighting each other in the kitchen? It reminded me of when they were kids and it brought back warm feelings in that intense moment until Ginny comes back. Also Hermoine as Ministry of Magic? CONGRATULATIONS GIRL! I see you moved up the ranks and I guarantee you she will be one of the best Ministers in history! Plus I love how when Albus and Scorpius was messing with time, she became essentially Snape (and Ron is Lily) and then a rebel warrior which was interesting how she survives any obstacle no matter how rough life gets for her. 

I had a marvelous time reading this play and I read it nonstop. I didn't want to take a moment to pause because I felt like I would miss an important detail. I usually tend to not reread books but once I finish reading the Harry Potter series again I will gladly read this play again to see if I retrieve something different that I didn't see the first time around.

Usually I write reviews right after I finish reading the book and yet with this play I wanted to take my time and throughly process everything. Rowling has announced that this is the end for Harry Potter and whether that is true or not I will never know until they make announcement for a brand new Harry Potter story whether it be a play, movie, tv show, or any other form of art that illustrates this magnificent world of magic and storytelling. This play was not enough to fill up my Harry Potter hunger but it's a milestone compare to the epilogue of Deathly Hallows. I feel like I am back at square one when it comes to Harry's future but I am grateful for this journey that J.K. Rowling has taken us on and being kind enough to publish the play for those who are unable to see the play in London.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Now Sheba Sings the Song by Maya Angelou


Rating: 


I do not know the chronological order of when Maya Angelou wrote these children books but if this was written after Kofi and His Magic (which in my imagination she did) then she dedicated herself hard on this book and it's a total success both poem and the artwork.

The difference with this children book is Tom Feelings. Decades ago he was in Africa working as an illustrator and other jobs and he constantly was drawing African women and never both to published it or make a story of it. As the years went by he never touched those drawings until one day he decided he wanted to make a story of the iconic images of beautiful African women.

He suggested that Maya Angelou should write the poem/story because they were friends and the expert who can describe the emotions and thoughts of what it means to be an African woman. Maya Angelou had lived in Ghana for years and studied in the University so it was interesting how faithful she was when it came to Tom Feelings artwork. 

The illustrations are stunning and the only issue I had with this book was I wish the people who were in charge of matching the illustrations with the poem should have done a better job of feeling the spaces and not making it into a jumbo mess of too many drawings and not enough words and vice versa. 

I felt the emotional impact of Maya's words and made me appreciate a culture that is completely different from my daily life. I was proud to read this book because I saw the effort, the attention to details and the precise words carefully used to craft this book. Excellent work Maya!

Kofi and His Magic by Maya Angelou


Rating: 

Maya Angelou missed her mark with this book. I'm sorry to say it but these photographs either did not have a strong story to tell or the passion of writing this book was not fully committed. She incorporated the same experiment of making a story out of the photographs and I was disappointed. I was expecting more out of the story and character development but I didn't get anything in return.

I love that Maya Angelou wanted to incorporate African culture whether it be the different cultural lifestyle, the beautiful costumes, or how as a community they make beautiful art whether it be music, storytelling, or other. We need diverse books for children especially how ill informed are we when it comes to Africans and what is daily life for them in the 21st century. 

Once again the photographs are spectacular but it couldn't help the story or making me raise it from 3 stars to 4.

My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me by Maya Angelou


Rating: 


When it comes to this book I see Maya Angelou getting excited about writing and in particular writing Children books. We get to see the whimsical side of her and I wish I could have loved this and rated it 5 stars but I feel as though Maya fell short on this poem.

Instead of creating an original poem and incorporating illustrations or beautiful artwork instead she told a story through photographs. The photographs were already taken and she tried to make a fun and entertaining read which I believe she conquered in the beginning of the poem but by the time I reached the ending I felt like she lacked information about the Ndebele women and the growth of her characters.

I have no clue how to pronounce Ndebele which should have been incorporated into the book, I have no clue about African culture except women like to paint their houses with beautiful patterns and design. It's been a few days since I read this story and yet it's already forgettable which speaks volume for me because my memory is one of the best. 

The photographs are marvelous and really capture the beauty of the artwork and I believe it's the reason why I rated this book 4 stars instead of 3. I wouldn't recommend it unless you like Maya Angelou or want to read a bit about African culture.

Life Doesn't Frighten Me by Maya Angelou


Rating: 

I read this book a few years back and loved the simplicity of the poem and the beautiful artwork of Jean-Michel Basquiat. I discovered his artwork while I was in high school and I remember telling artist about him and they didn't have a clue who he was let alone his artwork. 

Then I picked up this book again because I saw the democratic convention and saw this politician and he referenced Maya Angelou poem in his speech which I disliked because he twisted the meaning of her poem to satisfy his message and I am against using art in whichever format to cater to your propaganda. After his speech it peaked my interest and I decided to see Maya Angelou's bibliography and I saw that she has written a ton of books and particularly children books so I decided to invest and reread this book to give it a review.

This poem I believe is great for children because it showcases how when life gets roughed we as human beings tend to become cowards and hide away from our problems which isn't a great decision but a normal responses when we are clueless to solving our problems. With this poem it helps the reader to realize that yes life can we difficult in different periods of our life but at the end of the day we must face our problems head on and look for the silver-lining or the rainbow at the end of a storm.

This poem can resonates for everyone whether you are reading it to your child or as a grown adult trying to figure out what to do with our personal and professional life. Plus with the beautiful artwork as illustrations it makes the whole experience heartwarming and entertaining.

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley


Rating: 

Somehow I always read a book featuring a gay character during the month of July and last year it was Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe which forever completely changed my life and the author's name kept popping up in my life until finally I read that book. The same incident applies to John Corey Whaley. I have seen his other books being read by my goodreads family and the BookTube community but never bother picking up any of his books until now.

This book was hilarious, realistic, heartwarming, and sad all mixed of intense emotions. I highly recommend everyone to read it but don't be surprised by the outcome. 

We meet Solomon Reed who is a teenager suffering agoraphobia and has anxiety issues. Growing up was a difficult process and then one day he had a mental episode at school and for the last three years he has been a recluse/prisoner in his own home. His family feels awful of his situation but they realize that him simply breathing and eating is a miracle in of itself and it's become a burden for them especially since they haven't seen any improvements in his time in captivity.

Solomon is lonely boy who has cease communications with anyone that is not his family and while that may seem okay for him in actuality he's become a prisoner in his own mind and his form of escape is watching Star Trek The New Generation and read books and comics. He suffers major anxiety attacks every day and you feel awful the way he suffers these intense moments and being drain of energy for the rest of the day.

While that couldn't get any more depressing, we meet Lisa Prayton who is a junior at Upland High. Her personality is annoying because she plans every single minute of her day because free time is considered missed opportunities and she likes to be in control and manage a million things at once while her family life has gone to shambles. She remembers vividly about Solomon Reed and his infamous mental breakdown episode and hasn't heard anything about his state of being in the last three years. Then one day we discover that for weeks she has been looking up what colleges she wants to apply for which are all out-of-state because she wants to get the f@ck out of Upland, California.

She wants to attend Woodlawn University for its psychology program and in order to get a full-ride scholarship she has to write an essay on her personal experience with mental illness. She connects the dots and decides that she is going to meet Solomon Reed, become his friend, and cure his agoraphobia. Sounds simple enough right? Well it's harder than it looks and it's pretty f@cked up to enter into someone's life who has low self-esteem and make it seem that you want to be their friend when in reality they have become your little experiment.

Lisa has a boyfriend named Clark Robbins. He's an athlete and the complete opposite of her in which he has no clue what he wants to do with his life, very relaxed, and loves his suburban life of Upland. Lisa is always pushing him to think about their future and to attend a university nearby Woodlawn but that dream isn't realistic. She tells him about this essay and while it clearly pisses him off that she's using Solomon, he puts his beliefs in the back of thoughts because he believe she's going to fail. What I love about Clark's character is he's a humble teenager and sex is not on his top priority which is rare in the 21st century and relatable to my lifestyle.

Luckily Lisa made the right connections and moves and got into contact with Solomon and immediately she notices that he's not crazy, very intelligent, and has made this huge world in the confines of his home. His parents are excited he's made a new friend and room for improvement is an actual possibility for the first time in Solomon life. We learn immediately that he is gay and he's still in the closet but not for the reasons we usually believes. If he's never going to leave his house why bother telling his family if he's never going to get a boyfriend.

What seems simple at first for Lisa becomes difficult in the end as this friendship between Solomon and Clark is no longer a research project and now a healthy and beautiful friendship. I won't reveal any spoilers but I loved this book from the front cover to the last page. You really get into the mindset of these characters and I was shocked how relatable is Solomon. I had no clue what I was getting myself into when reading this book because all I wanted was the gay action and while that was not the main topic of the book, the story was entertaining and realistic.

I've realized in the past year that I dislike books that uses the 21st century as the setting in their books because most writers do not know how to use the present in the current format in their writing and it becomes distracting and out of place if I see a character mentioning Twitter, Facebook, or something ridiculous. I read to escape the craziness of my life and I do not want to read a book that reminds me of the world I live in and I have to applaud John Corey Whaley because he's the only writer that knows perfectly how to write in the present and not let it be tedious, annoying, and inappropriate.

I was shocked how he made references like Walmart and other places in his book and it didn't register in my mind until 25 pages later and that's interesting for me because it's difficult to sneak stuff past me in books. The writing was fabulous and I really felt like a part of Solomon's world even the moments of his panic attacks and I wish he was a real person because all I would want is to give him a big hug and tell him everything is going to be alright.

I can relate to all three characters mostly bits and pieces when it comes to Clark and Lisa but I would say about 80% of myself I could identify with Solomon. I do not suffer from anxiety attacks or have agoraphobia but sometimes I do not want to leave my house for days and if I do not speak to anyone and just watch Netflix or read books all day it's utterly bliss for me. It's not a healthy lifestyle but it's my escape when it comes to the drama of school and family life and in the past few years I've lost contact with many of my friends from high school and while I wish we stayed in contact I'm not going to bend head over heels to stay friends if it's not reciprocated.

Plus John Corey Whaley knows how to describe the heartbreak when a gay guy has feelings for a straight guy. Every gay guy experiences this heartbreak especially within the first few years of him coming out and I had that major episode in my middle school years and it was not a pleasant experience. The guys were utter a@@holes and even if I met someone like Clark it would still have been a devastating experience for me. I could empathize with Solomon and he reminded me a lot of my younger self and issues I had to go through especially with low self-esteem and the ugly heartbreaks. 

I laughed at the moments where Solomon was making jokes and the parts that were sad I just wanted to break down and cry but in the end I didn't because I wanted to know what happens next in the story. I wish Clark and Solomon became boyfriends or hook up but it's not realistic and Solomon is not ready for a relationship. 

One issue I had and it goes to show that this is a fictional book is the side effects don't match up to the characters description. I do not remember or the author didn't specifically wrote about it but Solomon should be a chubby guy. Yes he is tall which helps with losing weight and the anxiety attacks is a booster but if he hasn't done exercises, gotten any sunlight, and has been in his house 24/7 then he can't be skinny or muscular. Plus where is the acne? He's a teenager not getting the proper nutrients so he should have pimples and all that jazz.

One little bit of information I need to comment is the Solomon and Clark pool scene. I have never heard of straight guy tell his gay friend that it's okay to look at his package but do not touch the merchandise. Even if the straight guy is comfortable with his sexuality that's just plain weird to allow a gay guy to check you out and allow them to have sexual thoughts about your body at the very moment with your knowledge. It was a great scene and I wish I had more action between them too. A boy can only dream. 

I absolutely loved this book and how they address the mental illness and I believe it could be one of the best books of 2016! I wish I could reread this book with brand new eyes and see this beautiful friendship blossom again. Thank you John Corey Whaley for writing this epic and fantastic book.