Read | Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Read | Burial Rites by Hannah KentBurial Rites by Hannah Kent
Publication: Back Bay Books on April 1st 2014
Genres: Adult FIction, Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.

Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes's death looms, the farmer's wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they've heard.

Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

I had a hard time getting into Burial Rites, partly because of the difficult name pronunciation and partly because the story sort of dragged on for the most part. While the premise was interesting, the story itself was boring and we did not learn much about Agnus until much later in the book. By then, I was already skimming the pages to get to the end of the book. I never really liked the characters much, and really did not sympathize for Agnus or the family she was staying with.

Burial Rites was uninteresting, and simply not for me. I made myself get through the whole thing but really wished I hadn’t spent so much time on it :/

one-star

Read | Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

Read | Things We Know by Heart by Jessi KirbyThings We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby
Publication: Harper Teen on April 21st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
When Quinn Sullivan meets the recipient of her boyfriend’s donated heart, the two form an unexpected connection.

After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all.

Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn't want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they're connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake.

Things We Know by Heart was a cute read, and there were a few things I really liked about it, but mostly it was very meh for me. It’s been a few months since I listened to it and I already have forgotten what I did (and didn’t like) specifically about it to be honest but I do know one thing: it was too cheesy for me. That’s saying a lot. I love the cheese but I just thought that it was too much for one book. I guess some of it was cute, but mostly, felt unrealistic.

This was my first Jessi Kirby book, so I’m looking forward to reading another book of hers in the future, and hoping for the best.

two-stars

Read | The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder

Read | The Day Before by Lisa SchroederThe Day Before by Lisa Schroeder
Publication: Simon Pulse on June 28th 2011
Genres: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
One moment can change everything.

Amber’s life is spinning out of control. All she wants is to turn up the volume on her iPod until all of the demands of family and friends fade away. So she sneaks off to the beach to spend a day by herself.

Then Amber meets Cade. Their attraction is instant, and Amber can tell he’s also looking for an escape. Together they decide to share a perfect day: no pasts, no fears, no regrets.

The more time that Amber spends with Cade, the more she’s drawn to him.  And the more she’s troubled by his darkness. Because Cade’s not just living in the now—he’s living each moment like it’s his last.

I sometimes enjoy books written in verse, but sometimes don’t. I’ve had The Day Before sitting on my shelf for years, and maybe I missed when it was actually magical because for me it was forgettable. I didn’t care for Amber much, and while her situation did seem like something that was hard to go through, I had a hard time feeling anything for her. I think this story would have been so much better if not written in verse, but to each their own.

I have enjoyed Schroeder’s work, though, so I shall definitely give her other books a chance. The Day Before was not for me.

two-stars

Reading Harry Potter as an Adult | Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Reading Harry Potter as an Adult | Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Series: Harry Potter #1
Publication: Scholastic Press on June 26th, 1997
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard!

With the excitement of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opening up at Universal Studios Hollywood, and several other Harry Potter related stuff going on recently, I decided it was finally time. I’ve been trying to re-read Harry Potter for the past few years and this is the year to do it.

I haven’t read the series since the 7th book was released back in 2007. Before that, I read them constantly. It was different reading them, and growing up with Harry Potter at the same time. So with it having been 9 years since the last time I read them, I finally picked up the first one.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone introduces us to a ten (almost eleven) year old boy living with a horrible aunt, uncle, and cousin who treat him terribly and make him sleep under the cupboard. Living a very miserable life, Harry soon discovers he’s not only a wizard, he’s also very famous in the wizarding world. Of course, we all know this already and if you don’t, then it’s hard to believe you are not living under a rock.

Reading it as an adult is a very different perspective. When I first read Harry Potter, I was eleven myself, and his adventures seemed amazing and so daring. Now that I read it now, all I kept thinking was, “HE’S ELEVEN YEARS OLD, HE’S A CHILD! WILL SOMEONE PLEASE STOP HIM FROM ALMOST GETTING KILLED,” and felt very Professor McGonagall about it.

But after the initial shock of realizing I was reading a book about a child, I got really into the story. It’s not like I didn’t know what was going to happen, but there were so many little things I had forgotten. There was also so many things you don’t catch the first time around, until you know how the story is going to end. There were also several times where I found myself tearing up simply because it had been so long since I’d read about these characters, and I missed them. And I know what is coming in the future for them, and I know the pain, struggle, and so many more dangerous situations they’ll be in.

I found it also surprising what an easy read it is. I guess I never noticed until now, but these books are so short and so fun, and really just quick to get through. I got through the first one in just a few hours, and it would have been less if I didn’t have adult responsibilities. I am definitely glad to finally be reading them again, and am looking forward to getting though the rest pretty quickly as well. The Harry Potter series, as many of you know, is a must read for readers of all ages.

five-stars

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Universal Studios Hollywood


The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood opened up on the 7th of April, and of course, I had planned to be there. The boyfriend and I had plans to get our annual passes for the park and enjoy our first day on opening day.

What we didn’t expect was for park tickets to be sold out for opening day. I was crushed, and after several reassurances that my life was not over, we agreed that the following week would be better. I’m glad we did this after because 1) It rained on opening day 2) The lines for rides were about 2 hours long and 3) My boyfriend ended up getting sick that day (while we were at Disneyland) and wouldn’t have enjoyed himself.

Anyways, Thursday was the day! I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. I had a hard time falling asleep the night before.

That morning I was up bright and early, decided to wear my Hogwarts inspired uniform (black leather skirt, knee high socks, Dr. Marten boots, and my Slytherin cardigan of course.) I decided not to take my Sirius Black wand because I knew I’d be getting another one there.We arrived and entered the park at 10:00am and headed straight for Hogsmeade. I was jumping for joy as we went through the archway. Immediately to the right was the Hogwarts Express and I wanted to burst into tears.

I took a picture with the conductor standing out front. We knew from checking the wait times that the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride was a 45 minute wait, so we wasted no time and headed there first (although my boyfriend had to drag me there since I wanted to stop everywhere — Ollivander’s, The Three Broomsticks, etc.)

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

The ride itself is inside Hogwarts, so our first view of the castle was while we walked to wait in line. The winding line outside the castle offers the best views of it. Once past the gate onto the school grounds, where I was warmly greeted with a “Welcome back, Slytherin” and a high-5 from a fellow Hogwarts student (employee), we were steered into the bag line. As it turns out, if you have a large purse or backpack, you have to rent a locker before the ride. I had a backpack so we had to make the quick stop, which turned out to be a bit of a commotion with all the people bustling around — like a real train station! If you don’t have a bag though, you can continue in the line. After the lockers, we made it back into the line.

As it turns out, and also read in several reviews after, waiting in line is actually quite enjoyable. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is considered to be the first ride (at both parks I’m assuming) to have a queue where guests enjoy being a part of. As a huge fan, I can agree wholeheartedly with this because as you make your way through the line, you also get to experience the inside of Hogwarts.

Winding through the outside portion of the line, there’s a greenhouse with exotic plants, including Mandrakes. Once inside, there are statues, and classrooms, talking portraits, and offices, the hourglass with the points, and plenty of things to just “Oh” and “Ah” over. I had to pause in every section to get a few pictures in and really couldn’t stop looking at everything. Walking through Hogwarts did not feel like a wait to be honest.

The ride itself is, in one word, magical. I have seen a few negative reviews on it already, but before I visited HP World, I knew nothing. I had NO idea what to expect and really wanted to just enjoy everything. Back to the ride. Universal is known for great, thrilling rides that really cannot be compared to other amusement parks. The Forbidden Journey is no exception. Not knowing what was in store, I really felt immersed into Harry Potter world, and loved the ride. I don’t want to give too many details because it is really a ride that needs to be experienced first hand.

The Flight of the Hipogriff

After our first ride, we headed to the second ride of Harry Potter World. To be honest, the short little roller coaster looked laughable, but of course needing to experience everything, we quickly got in line. I am not a big fan of roller coaster rides but this one looked like something that I could handle. While the ride is short, the quick little roller coaster does provide a few stomach drops which come as a bit of surprise because it seems to move pretty slow from the line.

Butterbeer Carts

It is foamy and delicious. You can get it hot, cold, or frozen and since it was a warm day for us, we went for a frozen and cold. I definitely recommend the cold one better because it doesn’t taste as watered down. And while it is quite delicious, it is also really sweet. Even for someone with a sweet tooth like myself, sharing one among two adults is perfect. And you have a choice of getting a souvenir mug!

Ollivander’s Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC

For Ollivander’s you can choose to experience your wand being chosen by waiting in line (approx 45 minutes when we went.) But we wanted to check out the rest of the park, so we decided to do this towards the end of the day. With an hour left before closing, we headed back. We were getting restless after only about ten minutes though because we really had no idea what we were standing in line for. We decided to skip it and I sadly accepted I would not get my wand this trip. Since we still had a few shops to check out, we went into one and realized Ollivander’s was on the other side and we could enter that way. After asking an employee, I found out that the line is for a group of about 6-10 people taken into a room, and only one guest gets chosen for their wand. Once that’s over, they are ushered into the shop and buy their wand there.

I felt like I was okay with missing out on that experience this first time, and had someone help me find my new wand. I asked about it, and the wands can be chosen by qualities or by birthday. I went with the birthday and got a Vine wand. Character wands are available and can be picked between interactive and non-interactive.

Interactive wands can be used for “spells” in several locations in Hogsmeade. Because of our time constraint though, I didn’t get an opportunity to do this but saw people waving their wands a couple times so I got the idea and it seems fun.

& lots of shops!

I got to walk through all the shops, which include Zonko’s Joke Shop, Honeydukes (where I got Bertie Botts Every Flavor Jellybeans and a Chocolate Frog — and got Salazar Slytherin!), Dervish and Bange, Gladrags Wizardwear, Wiseacres Wizarding Equipment, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods and the Owl Post. The only thing I missed out on was eating at The Three Broomsticks, but I’ll make sure to check that out next time.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is truly amazing, and if you get the opportunity to go, I definitely recommend it. I cannot wait to go back and spend the entire day there, since there are a few things I missed out on. It really is a great experience for Harry Potter fans of all ages.