Over Sea, Under Stone

Find the treasure, said the note I read on a birthday party. I knew it was only a game, but I reveled in finding the clues. While the other kids were wondering when it was time to eat fries or what the prize at the end would be, I felt important and adventurous. Although I have to admit I was a bit dissapointed when I found out what the chest at the end of the treasure hunt contained. I don’t know what was inside of it anymore, but I do remember the excitement of the journey.

Over Sea, Under Stone continuously reminded me of that experience. It had the excitement of a treasure hunt designed for kid’s birthday parties. While fun and enjoyable, the clues are not hard to crack. Our heroes never have too much trouble with it. And when they think they do you quickly learn that as a reader you don’t have to worry for them too long. It only takes a couple of pages before luck strikes. It’s not clever deductions that help them on this quest. It’s more that magical moment when people happen to be at the right place in the right time. Call it coincidence, call it faith or destiny.

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The book is even a little cheesy. The evil guys are so obviously the bad guy that they might as well run around with signs around their neck that tell us so. This first novel in the Darkness is Rising trilogy gives off a warm and nostalgic feeling. Once more I felt like I was that kid going on a treasure hunt, but this time the prize did matter. What didn’t was the villains nor the attempts to make this scary. Sometimes I loved the nostalgic and warm feeling I got during this read, but at other times I wished for something more. I wanted this book to surprise me after all. To reveal a mystery or show me an unexpected turn of events. I hoped Bill might help the heroes in the end or that Gumerry was actually not an ally of the children at all. I found myself looking for a darker turn of events, but all I found was the light. Some of my thirst for an actual mystery did get quenched when Gumerry’s secret was hinted at. I hope to see more of this in the series.

A treasure hunt is well and all, but what I want to see in the other books is an actual heroic quest. I want Simon, Jane and Barney to turn into the heroes that would be worthy enough to sit at the round table. I want more elements of why the Arthurian legends is still being passed on from generation to generation to seep into the story. Thankfully Susan Cooper decided this novel couldn’t be a standalone after all. Because this truly does read like a prologue that’s leading up to the real thing. The birthday bash is over, it’s time for a true adventure.

Over Sea, Under Stone is a novel by Susan Cooper. It’s part of the The Dark is Rising sequence.

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The Answer

Confession: most of the tv-shows I watch are cartoons. I get as much of a kick from funny animated characters as I do when Sherlock makes a brilliant deduction. Last year I discovered Steven Universe and it’s honestly the best thing I’ve watched in 2016. To me it transcends being a kid’s show. It’s not just the first show created by a woman on Cartoon Network, it’s also a wonderfully diverse story that breaks down stereotypes. In the end Steven Universe teaches anyone that watches that you don’t have to be what others expect of you. The molds and stigmas don’t apply. The main character is one of the cutest characters and a boy that wears pink all the time. It must also be one of the first cartoons that made no doubt about characters not being straight. The message of breaking stereotypes shows in all the episodes, but one in particulair.

Now that episode has been made into a picture book. There’s new art by two incredible artist and the story isn’t made up of dialogue, but it’s fiction. It’s got Sugar’s own creative style all over it. Just like her show, her writing is not conventional. I called this book a picturebook, but it’s sort of inbetween that and a graphic novel. The story however is the same in the episode. And what a beautiful tribute to the show this is. There’s not a lot of pages and while I wish there had been more, it’s a nice book to allow yourself a little breather.

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I wouldn’t say the story is missing something without all the dialogue, animation and music. It still stands and remains interesting. However it was more suitable for, and enjoyable in, the tv-show. The pages of the book feel a little cluttered. On some of them there’s a lot of text, so it has to be written in a font that’s easy to read. This is a good decision, but it’s not as aesthetically pleasing. The font is probably Times New Roman, which is really overused. The drawings themselves are beautiful, but don’t get enough space to shine. Only in a few occasions they take up the whole page. This is due to the characters Ruby and Sapphire taking up the top and bottom part with their commentary on the story. I’ve never liked it when manga’s did that and I don’t like it here either. This book reads like those version of movies where the actors comment on what happens. It’s unnecessary and takes you out of the story. Sapphire even tells you there’s only 5 more pages to go, which it wasn’t, but it does highlight the fact that this is a very short book.

The Answer is a tribute to a wonderful episode. I wanted it to feel more like its own product and not just a little extra. While I enjoyed it and the story remains wonderful, I did expect more. I wish they spend more time on making it feel complete, like a fusion. I like the story and I like the drawings, but spending more time on choosing the font and placing the drawings would have made it better in my opinion. Having said that I hope the message of the story is as clear as it is in the show: you can be whatever you choose.

The Answer is a picture book written by Rebecca Sugar. Art by Elle Michalka and Tiffany Ford. 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

“Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” It has done so for Odette and me on our re-read. Once more we opened up the books as we did ten years ago and got carried away to the wizarding world. When I last closed this book I was 14. I had just begun my own adventure in a new school and was starting to learn that not all friendships were meant to last. But it was due to these books that I remained hopeful. I honed my writing skills (though there was much honing to do) and I found likeminded people online that liked the books as much as I did. Back then Harry’s outbursts were the epitome of my own teenage angst and the revelations about a mentor figure were a sort of betrayal.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a worthy end to the famous books. It wraps up mysteries in a heroic quest to save the day, without losing its magic. In all the other books the actual showdown took about 100 pages near the end. Here, there are a lot of battles to be fought and epic moments that can compare to the finales of all the other books. However there’s still a good pacing and a time for the characters to come to necessary realisations. In the end it’s not just Harry’s time to shine. The other boy that the prophecy could have been about as well, also has his heroic moments. Luna used to be my favorite character, since she has taught me to be unapologetic about who you are. She still has a special place in my heart, but I have to say I’m most impressed by Neville’s growth. I myself got sorted into Gryffindor and I used to say that would probably make me the Neville of that house. Having read all the books I can only hope I may be as brave and overcome my fears in the way he did.

Is J.K Rowling without flaws? No, I have no doubt I will find many in the Cursed Child screenplay (that I will be reading soon). In this real ending of her series I find she didn’t give Slytherin what it deserved. It’s not clear to me how many students are in that house, but was there seriously no one besides Slughorn that fought on Harry’s side? I’ve tried to tell myself that the way Slytherins are portrayed is just the way Harry views them, but that’s not really true. Where in most parts Harry Potter teaches its readers to treat everyone equal and shows redemption, in others it’s quite black and white. And seeing as Dumbledore was gay, it would’ve been great if she gave his words about Grindelwald a little more weight. Knowing this their ‘friendship’ becomes more special, but I don’t see why she kept it hidden. Even though his sexuality may be one of the many secrets Dumbledore had.

In the end Harry Potter is a part of my childhood that has made me who I am. It has the most impact on me out of all media I’ve consumed to this date. Thanks to this I think I have an openminded mind and try to see people for what they are, not what others say they are. It has given me hope, dreams and much more.

While re-reading this book in 2016 I am still working on my writing. One passionate thought I had while reading this hasn’t changed at all: I want to write a book that does only a little bit for others what Harry Potter did for me. But around me I’ve gathered a group of friends I feel as loyal about as Harry does. Being 24-years-old I am still carried away by this timeless tale. Although I did feel like I had aged. Harry’s outbursts felt so trivial and I fully accepted what had to be done for Harry to end up where he did. More and more I started to feel for the adults. Understanding their worries a little bit more, even though I only feel like I just started this adult thing. I can’t wait to read this series in 10 years and see what I think about it. Odette, will you be joining once more? ❤

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a novel by J.K Rowling. I’ve read this in Dutch.

The Thousandth Floor

The Thousandth Floor reads like a doll house. No matter how intricate and detailed the world, the people living in it are only dolls. Sure, in this doll house you’ve got real Mattel Barbie’s that were expensive. Just like there are dolls of a knock-off brand. In the end it doesn’t matter how much they’re worth. All of them are dolls in the end. The only difference is the clothes they wear and the shinier hair.

What I’m trying to say is: no matter how pretty and well crafted this world was (and it was!), the story was flat. Most of the characters acted the same. If their names weren’t at the top of each chapter I’m sure for most of them you wouldn’t even have noticed who’s chapter it was. I haven’t been able to recognise any quirks or even character traits that make these characters unique. Except for Watt, who wasn’t interesting because of his characteristics but the clever use of technology Katherine McGee is able to produce. Maybe it feels this way because this book was one big dramabomb.

Which I did expect, mind you. Hell, I picked up this book because it promised me Gossip Girl with technology. I won’t say they didn’t keep their promise, but I’m still let down. What Gossip Girl does so well is give us a glimpse of society life and all the bitches that roam high school, through their eyes but also a poor girl that will do anything to be a part of them. Through Jenny’s eyes (the poor girl) you get thrown into this crazy wild life that millions of teenage girls dream about – but should be careful of what they wish for. It’s crazy, it’s dramatic, it’s hysterical and it deliveres. That should be the keyword here. For me The Thousandth Floor didn’t deliver. There was a lot of drama and hysteria, but in the end the reasoning behind it always felt stupid. Atlas’ reason for leaving so long feels like a cop-out and so does the one that falls from the tower. There’s always more characters with their drama, more new plotpoins to focus on, but when we get to the reveal it never feels worth fuzzing so much over. I want what Gossip Girl gave me. I need true scandals that completely drag these characters. I crave for the exact guilty pleasure factor I get whenever I click a news article about the Kardashians. That you know you just can’t help clicking it every time, because for some reason you need to know. I want to SEE them in rehab, I want the differences between living on the highest floors and the lowest be even more apparant. Sure, this book has big, dramatic secrets. But they aren’t juicy nor fun.

Another thing seriously all characters have in common is their drug problems. Why is drugs such a big part of this novel? Did McGee want to make a point about recreational drugs? If so, what’s her point?! That drugs are dangerous or that they should all be legalized. I get using drugs for some characters and to show how far they’ll go to pleasure themselves, but it was mentioned a little too much.

The scenes that were fun consist of actual sweet moments. It’s the parts that some characters become humble that can actually be called good. The couples that could be called starcrossed lovers and that were made up out of a person living in the lower parts and in the higher were my favorite. Those scenes the characters outgrew being Ken and Barbie, if only for a second. They actually showed character growth and felt like people. Also, I love this book having an LGBTQA+ couple without anyone having to come out of the closet. In this world it seemed normal and the characters didn’t feel ashamed about it. I hope more writers use that for their novels.

It’s not the only thing I loved about this book. If The Thousandth Floor is a doll house than it’s a very well crafted one. The tower felt like the tower of Babel, only when they weren’t able to all speak the same language anymore. I love that the world feels like it could be our future. The technology feels like a natural process from what we have now. And it’s incorperated just as well as the LGBTQA+ couple. I’m hoping one day I get to play in an ARena myself. The honoary mention goes to Watt and Nadia. I think it’s really cool how far McGee took it and how realistic for this world it all is. Sometimes I wonder if Katherine McGee has written a book in the wrong genre. Her world building skills are superb, but the actual characters don’t set this novel apart from any average young adult high school novel.

The Thousandth Floor is a novel by Katherine McGee.

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times

I’m glad I judged this book by the cover. If Odette had not send a picture to me via WhatsApp I wouldn’t have discovered it. Knowing what I would miss now, that would be quite a shame. Although London + steampunk is always interesting, so there wasn’t much that could go wrong. And it didn’t. Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times even surprised me in the beginning by how good it was. The story immediately managed to grab me and transport me to a world, even though it was my first week of starting a new workplace and having only five to six hours sleep at night. But even through my tired haze I made time to read this.

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It’s a little silly of me, but I didn’t expect it to be so much like reading a Neil Gaiman or Ransom Riggs novel. I loved the amount of creepy it posessed. Hangings were described with some detail and darker subjects weren’t pushed away. I only applaud this. What I loved the most is that the main character truly has the mindset of a kid. He’s easily manipulated and the writer isn’t afraid to fall into temptation. To me, this was refreshing since most main characters in children books are always able to outwit the antagonist during the entire book. Emma Trevayne didn’t do this, but still managed to let Jack have the qualities of a kid who thinks he can triumph over all the evil beings in the world (which he does for the most part).

Yet, the story could have a better flow. In assembling the clock that is her story Emma Trevayne may have mixed up some parts or took spare parts from other things. The elements to her conclusion are all there, but at the second half of the book they just pile up and up. To me everything happened a little too quickly and the main ingredient to ending conclusion could have been introduced better. Besides, near the end I’m still left with questions. Is the golden room the remembrance to a war from the past? Where does the Lady come from and why is she what she is? Are Dr. Snailwater and Xeno faeries? You tell me.

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times is a novel by Emma Trevayne. This review was first published on june 2016 on Goodreads.

The Girl with All the Gifts

What if the world we knew had ended? Would you try your best to salvage all remains of it and find a way to rebuild it again? And if you planned to, does that mean you have to set aside all your empathy? How far would you be willing to go for the greater good? And is the greater good really what you think it to be? Those are the questions that a dystopian should focus on. Not halfheartingly falling in love with two guys. Some dystopians that I’ve read don’t feel enough like it truly is the end for all humanity. Most of the time it’s the end of a democracy, or a social commentary on the way we use technology. Not The Girl with All the Gifts.

This novel begins with a tale not unlike Never Let Me Go. It plays with ethics and how we would handle humans that aren’t all that human in someone’s mind. Even though the ones that treat them may have less human qualities. I imagined it to stay in this setting. I would have been happy with just that. The Girl with All the Gifts is written masterfully. The way things Melanie describes with all the knowledge she has (and more importantly NOT with things she can’t know being as sheltered off as she is) is done really well. All the points of view in this book are without a doubt there own. You don’t need names on the page to know who’s pov you’re reading. It’s all apparant from the way they see the world.

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This novel is constructed extremely well. From the narratives to the worldbuilding. There’s no doubt that this is a dystopian Britain. I mean, they mention David Attenborough! I wasn’t surprised when I learned M.R Carey worked on the screenplay for this at the same time. Every seen is easy to imagine. You feel that the writer didn’t just have the words in his mind, he could easily conjure a picture of everything that happened. This makes it easy for the reader to do so. I wonder if this is because the writer is a comicbookwriter. Due to this fact the world really feels like it has already ended. Everything the characters knew or got accustomed to will perish. It takes a lot of skill to make that believable. So does the pacing.

I should have given this book 5 stars. In terms of it being a masterwork, it deserves it. I doubt I will read a dystopian in a long time that really manages to convey the world being so destroyed. The idea behind it is very believable and just really super cool.

But instead I gave 4 stars. Why? There were times when they were on the go that I couldn’t bring myself to care. They came across too much of the same. Always looking for answers to questions I had lost interest in. And the weird thing is, I know that’s not because of the skill level of the writer. I think it’s more because I might have not been in the mood to read this at that time. However I think books that I give the highest rating should be able to make me fall head over heels no matter what genre I crave to read at the time.

Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince

I’m re-reading the Harry Potter books with a good friend this year. This month is was time for the sixth book. I do have to put up a little disclaimer, I read it in Dutch. Commence the nostalgia!

Lately there have been a lot of new Harry Potter spinoffs, from a play to a movie based on a textbook. But what I’d like to see most (not including the marauders movie) is a TV series by the BBC. Especially the sixth book is the perfect source material for television. It has suspense, political messages that will ring a bell for any generation, a good hearted nature, the feeling of loss of innocence and compelling characters.

There’s not a lot of stories that handle flashbacks as well as this one. It’s not just Harry and Dumbledore that take a look in the past. It feels as if you are right there with them learning all about He Who Must Not Be Named came to be. The memories only add to the mystery of the man. You want to unravel his secrets, but at the same time you’re afaid of what you might find.

But it’s not Voldemort that scares me the most. One scene that really struck a core is one where Harry sees the man that everyone believes in crumble. The boy must be brave enough to keep his promise, to guide the one everyone seeks out for guidance. Maybe it’s this scene that is more heartbreaking than the ones that follow. Knowing he is the one inflicting pain, having to believe it’s for the greater good. Only to come to a different conclusion in the end. Although the book doesn’t linger on it, my mind wanders. It makes me think of the depressed, alzheimer or ill patients that can’t move at all. Where do you draw the line? This is just me reading into the novel way too much, but I love it when a book makes me do that.

In a way this is the perfect set-up for the finale. Malfoy and Snape’s storylines are phenomenal. It makes you see that people are not what you thought. Reading it again it surprises me how many times there is foreshadowing to such an extent that you are basically already read what happened, just without the information. During the second book you feel as if Dumbledore already knew about the Horcruxes and he admits he did always have his suspisions. But almost like a scientist he had to test his theory. The same can be said for Snape and why Dumbledore believes in him. It’s there, but not really. It’s so subtle that you wouldn’t pick it up if you didn’t know. Brilliant.

Jo is brilliant when she’s writing her action, her suspence, her foreshadowing and her worldbuidling. But her romance? Not even a little bit. There’s a romance in this that’s completely shoehorned in. While one couple gradually turns from friends to lovers, the other one goes from nothing to I don’t even know what in one second. All of a sudden Harry feels as if a beast awakens in him. This isn’t due to his connection to Voldemort or any other evil magic. No, it’s how Rowling describes the teenage desire. It’s so awkward that I really do have to say: Twilight is a better love story. There’s no buildup, no sweet moments beforehand. Not even a single butterfly floating around as you’re reading the blossoming romance. I’ve said before that as a reader I want to fall in love while the characters do. In this I was only disgusted. I forgot the romance was this bad, because I really didn’t want to think about it. I’ve never been a fan of this couple. It’s weird how Rowling can write such believable friendship but completely fails at love. Especially since her greatest message seems to be: love conquers all. I hope this wasn’t what Dumbledore meant when he said Harry possessed the greatest power of all – love. Because of he did.. Harry’d be screwed.