Book Review : Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I finally got the chance to buy this book and I read it on my way back from Australia; I finished it right before landing in Rome. I wanted to get my hands on it ever since it came out, but I wanted it in English, not Italian, so this was my chance. I bought it at a duty free shop in Brisbane Airport.

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So, as you might already know, this is not an actual book as much as it is the screenplay used for the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play that everybody has been going crazy over this past year.

The plot picks up 19 years later, right where the last film ended. We have a new set of characters, some of whom get introduced in this book anew. You will immediately notice that time and action move very quickly and that the whole dynamic has changed. Harry is now a father dealing with a son he does not understand, Hermione is juggling being a mother while also being Minister of Magic and Professor McGonagall, well, she keeps dealing with insane students.

I will not give anything away, since it is a very interesting book and it keeps, despite the new characters, giving us a glimpse into the world be all know and love. It does really feel like being back at Hogwarts, but from a different perspective. Humour is very present and I actually found myself laughing more than twice at certain passages (hint: Ron was always present).

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Unfortunately, there is one aspect I did not like of the book, not because it was unpleasant, but because it did not convince me. You will understand what I am saying if and when you read the book, since it is a pretty big part of it. Being used to JK Rowling’s writing, who only revealed the mysteries of the series in the last book, coming face to face with such an important event without it being accurately premeditated sort of left me hanging.

All in all, I am very glad I am part of this world again and I loved every single page. It was a pretty fast read and I do whole-heartedly recommend it.

Score: 9/10

Thank you for reading.

xx

Book Review : Il mare non bagna Napoli

I have been reading this book for the past two months, and despite it having only 176 pages, it was the book I least felt like reading in all my life. I am sorry for having to open up the review with such a bad start, but it is one of those books I just did not enjoy.

Roughly translated, the title in English would be “The sea does not bathe Naples”, but since I could not find the English correspondent online, I believe it was not translated. This book, written by Anna Maria Ortese is a collection of short stories depicting post-WWII Naples. There are some stories I liked more than others, those being the shortest. The problem is that the biggest story in the book talks about real authors and journalists from that era in Naples, but having not studying said era, I initially thought that they were fictional.

If you speak Italian and you like books which are 95% descriptive and not 100% clear, then this is a book for you. The problem I found with this book is that it did not flow : I was actually counting the pages until the end. Had I not had to read it for school, I never would have picked it up.

It depicts a very sad and hopeless landscape, where people have no hope for the better and everything is rough instead of smooth.

Score : 2/10

Thank you for reading.

Book Review : The Appeal

I am finally back with another book review and this, unfortunately, will not be pretty; not because the book is not nice, but simply because I found out what the genre I least like actually is.

This book was gifted to me by my friend’s mother, since she had it laying around and never read it. It was not in its best condition, but I never turn my back on any book. I finally got to read it a month ago and it took me much longer than with any other book, mainly because of the lack of action throughout.

The plot consists in a web of legal (or should I say “illegal”) relationships between business magnates, judges, lawyers, and private organisations. The whole ordeal starts four years prior to the beginning of the book, when Krane Chemical, a pharmaceutical company that had a factory in the fictional Cary County (later nicknamed “Cancer County”), got accused of creating more toxic waste than what it declared and burying it underground, illegally. This action contaminated the water of the county and led to many cases of cancer, 15 times superior than in any other USA county.

The lawyers which accused the company on behalf of a woman who lost both her husband and son, won the case and got $41 million in damages. Of course, had it been this simple the book would have ended within 20 pages. The defence attorneys then brought the case to the Supreme Court and this is where the whole mess gets created. Part-owner of Krane Chemical, Carl Trudeau decides to contact an organisation that puts certain individuals on the Supreme Court, by removing others which would have sided with the underdog. The narration gets frustrating at times because it deals with important social issues such as homosexual marriage and civil liability, issues that get dismissed or refused by the chosen candidate, an oh-so-perfect Christian with a perfect family whose only hobby is reading the Bible and misinterpreting it. It gets frustrating seeing how many people can suffer from ignorance and this book is a portrait of what happens today in the world. Having been written in 2008, the law making same-sex marriage legal had not been emanated yet, so it is sickening to read of how homosexuals were treated in southern states.

The whole book is full of technical terms, but it is not too difficult to read. The one thing that upset me the most was the lack of action. The most action-filled scene is the one at the beginning, where the good lawyers win the case, but that is about it. There is also very little dialogue and the time of the book seems stale, even if it narrates a whole year.

On a good note, it did open my eyes on corruption and bribery, but had I wanted that I would have read an essay.

Score : 4.5/10

Thank you for reading.

 

Book Review : 1984

I finally finished reading this book. I think I have been reading it for two months and today I finally read the last 150 pages.

Let me start by saying that this is not a book for everybody. Of course, everyone can read it, but not everyone can understand it. You need to have studied a certain amount of modern history to understand the historical references and the political changes and systems.

That being said, this book is a classic. It tell the story of a dystopian world, divided into three big sections, so to say, which are always at war with one another. The story is set in London, part of Oceania, where the main character, Winston Smith, works for the outer (political) party. Until here, everything seems ordinary. But the way the world works is completely messed up, according to our ideals : the inner party controls everything, as in every movement a person makes, every facial expression, everything they learn since birth. They modify history and turn rebel individuals into brainless puppets, who end up agreeing with the party, after various forms of physical and psychological torture.

Winston Smith is, in fact, one of these rebels who becomes an ally of the Brotherhood (an association of rebels) and tries to defy the system, if not by facts, by thoughts. Most of the book, about 80% of it, explains the background of the way the world works and why it works that way. The remaining 20% is concentrated towards the end and it was, for me, the most frustrating and angering part, since everything in it is against my morals and modern thinking. It goes as far as denying that the force of gravity exists or that our Solar System is heliocentric, saying that it is the party who controls everything. It felt as if I was a spectator who could not do anything about the situation, which is how Winston himself felt. I do think that George Orwell was very smart by doing that and it makes you, after reading the book, want to take a stand against oppression of thought. It shows you what the world should never be like, but could be, since there are many power-hungry people out there.

All in all, this book was very eye opening and I only realised that towards the end. It may seem boring in certain passages, but it all adds up.

Score : 8/10

Book Review : The Picture of Dorian Gray

First of all, the picture above is of Ben Barnes, the lead actor in the film “Dorian Gray”; I thought this would be more appealing than the photo of the book.

As we all know, this book is a modern interpretation and version of the legend of Faust, a scholar who made a pact with the Devil, trading his soul in change of knowledge and pleasure. The temptation, in Dorian’s case, is timeless and ageless beauty. His portrait is painted by Basil Hallward, a man who some think was infatuated with the protagonist himself, and Dorian, influenced by a new acquaintance, Lord Henry Wotton, an aristocrat who enjoys having philosophical debates, unfortunately says that he would do anything for the picture to age instead of him. Unknowingly, in that instant, he makes a pact with the Devil. Therefore, for every year that passes, the portrait ages and for every crime he makes or sin he sins, the portrait becomes more and more horrendous. There are indeed a couple sub-plots, but the most important one is Dorian’s journey, which culminates in him thinking that the only way out of all that he has done was a full confession and I think we all know how that ends. If not, then it is time you read this book.

This was the most difficult and intricate book I have ever read, in all honesty. It was long and there were many philosophical dialogues, which voiced Oscar Wilde’s opinions. Every action and every word has a meaning. The main themes in this novel are Beauty and Pleasure, the only thing worth having and feeling. I can understand why some critics of that century disliked the book, saying that it was too hedonistic and unclean and that Wilde did not portray English moralism as it really was. But as a 21st century reader, I do think that I can agree with Lord Henry on many aspects; of course not on those that are misogynistic.

Have I liked this book? Yes, especially towards the end, since it becomes filled with action. I would give it a 7,5/10. I read it mostly because it is considered a classic of 19th century literature and because I really wanted to see what Mr. Wilde was all about.

I will leave you to some quotes and passages which I particularly enjoyed.

“You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.”

“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

“The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold. The curves of your lips rewrite history.”

xx

Book Review – Doctor Sleep

Disclaimer : the photo above was not shot by me, but it was taken from Wikipedia. I would have taken a photo of my book, but I threw the dustcover away. I like the feel of the actual raw book in my hands, not the plastic cover on it.

Ah, Stephen King. Where do I even start? He is the one man who can make me look under the bed twice by just writing a sentence. The way this man writes is unlike any other and it makes me want to devour his books in record time, while listening for the smallest noises in my house.

I read The Shining this summer, usually during the night. Bad choice on my part. In order to finish it and get the “happy ending” (for lack of a better term) I stayed up until 3 am. Having read a couple of his other works (It, Full Dark no Stars), which I have added in my favourite books post , I can honestly say that The Shining is the one that terrified me the most. Maybe it is because it talks about a father who turns on his family, albeit not on his own will, maybe because there is a child involved; I do not know what it is, but it is the most terrifying book I have read to date.

Fast forward to Doctor Sleep : Danny, the protagonist and one of the survivors of his father’s rage, is all grown up and he fell right in his father’s footsteps : he became an alcoholic. After a significant event which will haunt him for the rest of his life, he decides to put down roots in a small city, where he also finds a job in an hospice. His job, although his contract might disagree , is to bring comfort to dying patients, guiding them towards the end. In a nearby town, a couple of days before 9/11, a baby is born, called Abra, who shows the same abilities that Dan has, but much stronger. The two are destined to meet once they find out that a group of seemingly immortal individuals, the True Knot, that tortures and kills children like Abra in order to live longer, is after the girl herself. They, along with some other friends and family, have to defeat the Knot and its leader, Rose.

Well, let me just say that this is a 500 page book and I finished it in 4-5 days. That says a lot about this book : I could not put it down. It was full of action and turning points (one which left me literally shocked), in true King style, from start to finish. The thing I probably liked most is, besides the story and the action itself, the fact that Dan is extremely relatable : he did exactly what I thought he would not. First he was an alcoholic, then he went and got help and, even if he could have stayed out of the chaos, he was willing to risk and potentially lose his life for the little girl who, in my opinion, he saw as his young female counterpart. Dan is not your typical hero, he is not spotless, he is flawed; but despite those flaws he still made the right decision, simply because his willpower is strong.

As you can see, I did enjoy this book quite a lot. Therefore I give it a 9/10.

xx

Book Review – Arturo’s Island

I finally finished reading this book. It took me quite a long time since I had to pause it in order to read another book, which was an assignment from school. This book, which I should have read last summer, also for school, was a surprise.

I did not think I would like it, since it is not necessarily the type of book I would go for in a bookshop. I prefer horror, psychological thrillers and such. I am glad I had to read it because I ended up enjoying it. I would not put it in my top 5, but it was a pleasant read : it is what I would generally call a “break book”, which means that it is something that I would read between two more difficult works of literature.

It is a coming-of-age book : the plot is centred around Arturo’s story, whose mother died of childbirth, and his relationship with his mostly absent father. He lives alone, besides for the small periods of time his father is home, on the island of Procida, near Naples. He is an adventurer and his biggest ambition in life is to become a man just like his father. The narrative changes when Arturo’s father brings home his new wife, who turns out to be about one year older than Arturo himself. He tries to understand this new woman, and he finds a confidante in her, but only briefly. He slowly but surely falls in love with her and he starts hating her at the same time, especially when she gives birth to his half-brother. All throughout the novel we can see and feel Arturo grow first into a teenager and then into a young man, sensing his different attitude towards his step-mother and his father; regarding his father, he starts seeing him as less of a perfect hero and more as an annoyingly normal man who is simply getting older. Another theme that characterises the novel is Arturo’s desire to flee the island and visit the world, for which he has prepared by reading an immense amount of books.

This book did leave a mark on me, just like every book I have ever read. I felt sorry for Arturo, since he had to grow up without a mother figure and with an absent father, whom he mistakenly idolises. I felt attacked, as a woman, by some of his behaviours and at the same time I wanted him to find peace and love.

Overall, I would give it a 6,5 out of 10.

xx