This Savage Song

Of course, I had heard of Schwab’s other series, beginning with A Darker Shade of Magic, and had been interested in quite some time (don’t worry, I am currently reading that one now!) but I hadn’t really heard much about her earlier duo. To be honest, I didn’t even realize it was the same author at first since she uses only her initials on the Shades of Magic series.

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This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Published by Greenwillow Books on July 5th, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Demons, Family, Friendship, Romance, High School, Fear
Pages: 464
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review: 4.5 out of 5 ★★★★☆


To begin, I just want to say that I don’t think I’ve ever given a book here 4.5 stars out of five. I don’t even have a half star image to use.

As we pass the first-week mark of 2018, it doesn’t seem like much has changed in terms of our environment. The North East where I live is still frozen, but Chicago is thawing out on this balmy, 34 degree Monday. San Francisco was just hit by a moderate sized earthquake a few days ago and I’m assuming parts of southern California are still on fire, but since the news only reports on things for about two days and forgets about them, how am I ever to know? Things certainly haven’t changed immediately in the political sphere of the US and even though it’s a new year, new you, I highly doubt that they will. While the women of the Golden Globes made their voices loud, people are still laughing about it on Twitter and such. And what was I doing during all of it? Finishing Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song. I had originally picked up her A Darker Shade of Magic to read first and after reading a few pages I knew I would like it too much that I didn’t want to get sucked in right away–I wanted something lighter, I suppose. And that clearly didn’t happen. This Savage Song is breathtaking–and, more importantly, relevant.

“What do you want?” chided Leo. “To be ordinary? To be human?” He said the word as if it stained his tongue.

“Better human than a monster” (81).

Schwab tackles the question: What makes someone a monster? And while not not successful, can this question ever really be answered? Based in a world where monsters, like the ones from our childhood nightmares, exist, This Savage Song directs the readers’ attention to how a label or an identity can be changed. August Flynn is one of our two main characters and he is, more or less, a monster. As one of only three known Sunai–the deadliest and most unknown monsters out there–the reader would like to assume that he’s creepy crawly like how the other monsters (Malchai and Corsai) are, but he isn’t. August is a timid boy, cute but probably not sexy, too young for me no doubt, but all around sweet. He doesn’t want to be a monster; he doesn’t want to be what this society has already labeled and created him as.

On the other hand, our other main character, Kate Harker, is a human but does this make her any better than August? She might not kill people and feed on their souls, but she’s still…a bitch through and through. Her father runs the north end of their city, Verity, and forces people to pay for his protection from the things that go bump in the night. Kate really only wants to please her father and make him see that she is capable of running a corrupt empire like he does.

She was her father’s daughter. A Harker. And she would do whatever she had to do to prove it (119).

August lives in the southern part of Verity, the war-torn half that offers as much protection as possible–but still isn’t enough–and doesn’t force the residents to pay for it. North and south sides are obviously opposing, the north and Harker’s domain want control of the entire city to build a greedy corporation that “protects” people from the monsters Harker himself controls. The Flynn family in the south, though far less wealthy and resource heavy, are honest and good people. They don’t want a war, but they realize that they cannot let Harker take over Verity for his horrid reasons. In a way, Schwab’s tale takes from Romeo and Juliet. To warring families with children of the same age that team up together to fight the battle their families created for them.

Of course, there’s bad guys and fight scenes ensuing all over the place as the reader inches closer and closer to the climax, but something that never really happens, while I, as a fangirl, was certainly craving it, was August and Kate never had a romantic moment. Sure there were times when I could feel the tension crackling off the pages myself, but even in the end, there was never an embrace or a kiss or anything. And I left both shocked and pleased. Sure, Schwab could have finally let the fangirl’s dreams come true and let Kate and August be together–perhaps this happens in the next book, I wouldn’t know since I haven’t read it yet–but she didn’t. Schwab chose to exclude that crucial part of any good YA romance-type book because, at least what I’d like to believe, is that this book isn’t about Kate or August really. They are just the examples, the vessels used to further discuss her main, overarching question of who is the real monster?

“And you?” asked Kate…

When August answered, the word was small, almost too quiet to hear. “Lost.” He exhaled, and it seemed to take more than air out of him. “I’m what happens when a kid is so afriad of the world he lives in that he escapes the only way he knows how. Violently” (308).

I could pick up the first five YA books on my shelfie and find at least one kiss scene in each of them–and don’t get me wrong, I love the kiss scenes, when my heart fills and flutters and happiness pools inside me cause two people that aren’t even real are happy–but by omitting that scene from This Savage Song, Schwab forces the reader to think closer about who is the true monster in this story. Is it the actual monsters? Sure, they do horrible things and are creepy, and are rightfully labeled “monsters” because they kill and eat people. But then there are people who think they’re doing good, but end up doing bad–like Kate’s father for example, or August’s older brother Leo. These characters might not look like monsters in the traditional sense, but their beings are monstrous.

There are too many people in power right now who aren’t technically a Malchai or Corsai or Sunai, but they still are monsters. Women are still mistreated left and right, and have to work in solidarity to at least be heard (hinting at the Golden Globes again) and even when we do speak out, we’re mocked or cringed at for not letting Guillermo del Toro be happy for winning his (rightful cause he is a great director) best director. Our president doesn’t care about us citizens unless we’re in the one percent and a white male. He could care less about anyone else; he only himself like Kate’s father. He might as well have branded his minions with T’s under their eyes, like Harker does his.

So while people hashtag New Year New Me, maybe we should really be looking at our own actions and those of the people around us. Just because we are human, doesn’t mean we are not monsters.

He was a Sunai–nothing was going to change that–but he wasn’t evil, wasn’t cruel, wasn’t monstrous. He was just someone who wanted to be something else, something he wasnt (351).

 

Bitter Romance, Bitter Family: Review of Vinegar Girl

good morning friends! at least for those that it is still morning. trying to continue my adventures in posting a review every, single day (trust me i already almost forgot about that today!), here is another review!

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Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
Published by Hogarth Shakespeare on June 21st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Family
Pages: 240
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 3.5 out of 5

 

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Kate Battista is the head of her house but not by choice. her younger, high-school aged sister, bunny, is more interested in boys than her family and their father is a hardwokring, but slightly crazed scientist. when he comes to his eldest daughter about a problem at work, he wants kate’s help in something she doesn’t think she could do: marriage.

mr. battista’s prized assistant is about to be booted out of the country because his visa is up. however, if he finds a woman to marry him, his green card will stay in tact and mr. battista can continue the scientific breakthrough he claims he’s having. kate, feeling like she is in a rut, contemplates the idea of helping her family, or herself.

taking on the infamous Taming of the Shrew by none other than shakespeare himself, tyler puts a modern spin on the classic play.

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alright so i really wanted to like this book. i really wanted to. The Taming of the Shrew is such a classic play and one really cannot grasp shakespeare’s portrayl of women without reading that play. there have been a few modern reconstructions of the performance, the first, and probably best that comes to mind is the movie 10 Things I Hate About You starring the late heath ledger and julia stiles. to say that i heart that movie would be an understatement. so i was very excited when i discovered this hogarth shakespeare and their modern adaptations of the centuries-old plays. however, tyler’s rendition left me slightly unsatisfied–but in a good way.

allow me to explain. [please note: this might be considered spoilers] if you haven’t read the original play, please do, you will not only understand me better as a person, but also better your life. that being said, the play has much controversy over what katherine does to herself. she willingly submits to a brute and marries him, seemingly silencing her forever. (thats the short version obviously). now, in tyler’s rendition, it seems that her kate does something similar.

in the age of third-wave feminism and everyone talking on facebook about women’s rights (the fact that we’re about to potentially have a female president) it’s only fitting that this modern retelling would have the opposite ending that the play portrays. however, it doesn’t. i was disappointed in kate’s decision to marry the lab assistant instead of doing what she wants–much like how the katherine in the play does. so perhaps i am upset because tyler did exactly what shakespeare did: allow us to question the role women play in families and marriages.

on the other hand, and the bright side, tyler’s writing style is elegant and soft. it wasn’t a difficult read, however it didn’t fully suck me in either. perhaps this is because of i wasn’t too enthralled with any of the characters. bunny is supposed to be annoying and tyler captures this well–she doesn’t care about her family at all until what seems like it’s too late. mr. battista is a groveling father who also doesn’t care about his family, just his research, leaving his young daughters to not only take care of themselves, but also him. pyotr, the foreign lab assistant, is just that: foreign. he doesn’t seem to understand the social graces and concepts of the battista’s home and village and america in general. he is forward and only slightly charming. when i have romantic characters, i want them to be charming and fire-y and yet neither pyotr nor kate are those things. finally kate is submissive and nonchalant. she doesn’t seem to care, not about her family, but about herself. she only aims to please her family and those around her, which is not necessarily an endearing quality.

She walked into work every day feeling starkly, conspicuously alone. It seemed that everyone else on the street had someone to keep them company. someone to laugh with and confide in and nudge in the ribs…Kate pretended not to hear. If she ducked her head low enough, her hair would swing forward so it completely hid her profile (page 71).

so i wasn’t that impressed with Vinegar Girl, but i did still enjoy the read while finding it challenging and true to the original. it was easy enough, short enough, that i could have finished it in a day if i felt that it suck me in, but it didn’t really so i did struggle with that. i would still recommend it of course, especially to those who are shakespeare lovers like myself. to read a modern interpretation is to allow oneself to remember and relive the first and original story. it’s a beautiful thing.

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Nostalgia at it’s finest: Review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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what better way to start off my new website reviews than with the highly coveted Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? such a fitting way to profess my love of young adult literature and newfound talent in review-writing.

a bit of background if you don’t mind (and if you do, then place skip on ahead. this is a free country after all). brace yourself: i was never into harry potter as a child. GASP! UNFOLLOW! I HATE HER! i get it. i’m a horrible person and therefore have no right to review the next chapter in the series. however! i do think that this is my website–last time i checked–and have within the past five years read the seven book series multiple times. i enjoy the movies, owning the 8-bluray collection. i have even been to harry potter world in two different countries. the first, obviously the wonderful wizarding world of harry potter in orlando, florida BUT! also, the making of harry potter at the warner brothers studio in the united kingdom. so to say that i am a fan, though late, is an accurate statement.

i sought out this book the day it was released from my local barnes and nobles and was pleasantly surprised, but also fearful, at how “instock” they were. i didn’t have to bargain with the manager for the last copy, nor have to fight some fan-girl in glasses. instead, i walked right up to an overflowing display, plucked a copy off the shelf, handed one to my awaiting boyfriend, and we proceeded to the checkout. easy. perhaps the locals, mainly older folk, are just not that interested in this wonderful wizarding world? anyway, after completing the play in two days, i figured it was best to write a review of it.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on July 31st 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Death & Dying, Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 4 out of 5

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[caution: slight spoilers below!]

being harry potter has never been easy, especially when he is an overworked, father of three Hogwarts-aged children. his middle child, albus severus, is giving him the most trouble and, since he is harry potter, he doesn’t necessarily know what to do about his tense relationship with his son. albus, on the other hand, does not feel at home at school, he befriends draco malfoy’s son, scorpius, and worries he’s a complete disappointment to the infamous harry potter.

deciding to pursue an illegal magical item and taking matters of death into his own hands, albus and scorpius in tow, sets out to make the past right in the eyes of his father. of course, nothing comes without a price in the wizarding world and a new, unexpected but extremely dangerous foe rises from the ashes completely under the noses of the ministry of magic and all our heroes and heroines.

instead of simply ron, hermione, and harry teaming up to battle at the end, the three sets of families must work together to right the past and the future.

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perhaps my least favorite part of the play, and i think the main reason i didn’t give it a five-star rating, is because of the stage direction. majoring in literature during my four-year stint in college, i made my rounds through literature and i homed in on the most famous playwright of all time (not J.K. Rowling) but Shakespeare. soon, the early modern period of england and europe became my livelihood and my lit courses revolved around those subjects. so to say i have a little experience in reading plays that are meant to be performed is an understatement. however, in Shakespeare’s plays there is hardly an stage direction and that’s okay because at least it is consistent. in this new installment to the series, there is inconsistent stage directions. at first, it seemed fine and started out alright. but then the stage direction began to sound more like omnipotent narrator and less like the director controlling the cast. a play cannot have it both ways. one is able to find the tone simply in the words a character uses, even if we cannot hear him speak them out loud. the context helps provide the tone, and the context can be found in the conversation. no where does the stage direction really provide context expect to clue the audience in on where the characters are and with whom. other than that, the stage directions should be silent. and in this play, they are not. for an example: The room transforms around them, becoming darker and more desperate (page 241). how exactly is a room supposed to become more desperate and even if i were watching this scene performed, how would i see a room become desperate? this is a classic case of what i was told to never do while writing: telling and not showing. the play teeters the line between wanting to be a novel but sticking to what it originally calls itself.

now, that is not to say that i didn’t enjoy every crafted word, every beautiful scene, every bit of dialogue. i loved the play just as much as the next gal holding her own copy. it stayed true to many of the notions that rose out of the first seven books. for example, i could hear harry’s and ginny’s, hermione’s and ron’s voice all while reading; both as i imagined them while reading the books on my own and how their expertly casted actors played them. each, now older, classic character that shows up is exactly their same as their younger counterpart, just now with some gray hair and other signs of aging. harry is still in the middle of things, unaware of what to do; ron is still hilarious but endearing; hermione is still quick-witted, smart, and the only one with her head on straight. now there are a few character changes, too. draco and harry have an unexpected, but totally perfect relationship but this is not the main point of course. the main plot revolves around harry’s son, albus.

HARRY (failing to contain his anger): If you were trying to do as I did, you went the wrong way about it. I didn’t volunteer for adventure, I was forced into it (page 203).

the two boys, albus and scorpius, the sons of harry and draco respectively, are excellent as the main leads.  Rowling’s original voice in the first seven books is channeled here by having the world revolve around a confused, emotional, and scared young boy who has a troubled family, is unsure of who he is and who he’s supposed to become.

SCORPIUS: You’re Albus Potter. She’s Rose Granger-Weasley. And I am Scorpius Malfoy. My parents are Astoria and Draco Malfoy. Our parents–they didn’t get on (page 16).

i think people should read this eighth book because it reminds the reader of why they enjoyed the first seven to begin with. it’s been a little less than ten years since the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released, and not that any of us have forgotten why we love the characters and this world, but The Cursed Child gives the reader an opportunity to look into harry’s and all our favorite characters lives nineteen years later. so if you’re wondering if harry and ginny are still married after the short epilogue Rowling gave us in the The Deathly Hallows [spoiler: yes] or if draco is still a mess [spoiler: maybe]. the harry potter generation, which i am proud to be a part of, is all grown up now as well, with their own lives, children, and other adulthood things so it only makes sense that harry potter would have to deal with those things too. and not to mention how comforting this is–our childhood, though ages ago now, is still with us thanks to The Cursed Child.

i cannot even imagine what it must be like to watch the performance live, which is how this eighth book is supposed to be perceived as: seen, not read. when visually experiencing it, the problems i have with the stage direction will (most likely?) be irrelevant because, well, one is actually watching the actors instead of trying to envision it. so, if anyone wants to score me some tickets, that would be super cool.

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