For the Last Week…

My Lady Jane

If you follow my instagram you may have noticed that my last two photos have been a little… unseasonal looking? Considering I hail from Northeastern Pennsylvania and the place has been cold and grey and snowy for the last month or so, my photos definitely may have seemed a little out of place.

Well, that’s because I spent the last week in Florida at Disney World!

Disney Castle

I’ve always had a soft spot for Disney, and had never gotten a chance to visit as a kid, as when we were saving as a family for a trip, in the end we decided that putting in a pool would be a better use of that money, since it would last oh, 20 years as opposed to one week.

No regrets there. In fact, I feel like I was able to appreciate the overall Disney experience far more as an adult than I would have as a kid (and god, did I love that pool). It’s SUCH a great vacation experience, and they have all sorts of little details covered that make the whole thing super easy and super relaxing – even at the budget resorts. We went for the first time three years ago, and decided pretty much as soon as we returned that we’d go back as soon as we could afford to.

Well it took three years, but we managed to get back. And the second trip was even better since, having already been there once, we didn’t feel pressured to cram every sight, ride, and experience into 5 days.

I’m not going to write a full post on the trip because we just did too much, but while I was there I read three books, and took a ton of pictures. If you’re interested in the visual side of my trip you can follow along on my instagram @magpiemakingdo over the next few weeks as I get photos up, and reviews of the books are forthcoming as well!


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Review

Harry Potter

So look what I bought and read yesterday!

Warning: Spoilers, ahoy – so scroll no further if you haven’t read it yet and don’t wish to be spoiled (although they will be on the mild side).

Okay, so last warning, seriously, there be spoilers ahead…

Alright. So.

I kind of really liked it, and I wasn’t really expecting to.

Let me explain.

I was kind of disappointed when they announced it was simply going to be a release of the play script instead of a novelization but frankly I wasn’t super duper hyped about the announcement either way. Because while I love the Harry Potter series, I do need to be honest about the fact that I enjoyed each of the last few books a little less than the last. One through four remain sort of the pinnacle of the Harry Potter world for me, with five through seven each being slightly more “meh” than the last.

And I was expecting the same sort of “meh” from this, so I wasn’t super excited. I didn’t even pre-order it. In fact, I was basically operating under an “I’ll get to it when it comes out in paperback” sort of attitude until my friend Kathleen read it and said she was super upset and disappointed with it.

And of course, I’m a rubbernecker at heart, so if it was that much of a disaster – I HAD to read it.

So to the bookstore I went.

Four hours later I was done with it, and was pleasantly surprised. It seems that I really liked it, for all the same reasons that it seems a lot of die-hard Potter fans didn’t.

To be honest, the plot itself was sort of meh in the big picture. I’m kind of over the whole time-travel-messes-things-up-in-the-past-gotta-fix-it trope, to be honest. But that’s not what really shined for me in this script. What was the true gem of this was the dialogue and the character writing. I love the way the adults have grown slightly complacent, and how their flaws are allowed to shine. I love the way the cruelty of kids is laid bare. I love the slightly melodramatic conflict between Harry and his son, and how Albus’ teenage angst is handled in a FAR less annoying way than Harry’s was in Order of the Phoenix. I love how they handled the first few scenes, establishing the conflict and resentment that grows between Harry and Albus, and how both Albus and Scorpius are having a rough time at school over the first few years using short snapshots to move time along. I even love that Ron has become king of the Dad jokes (I ALWAYS knew that would happen).

I think a lot of what I’ve been seeing in terms of disappointment is that people aren’t taking it for what it is… a script. It seems to me a lot of people really built this up in their heads because of the way its been marketed as the “8th Harry Potter book.” But it’s not a book. It’s meant for a stage performance, and I think maintaining sight of that as I read through it helped me enjoy it. Because I can see how upset you could end up if you were expecting a story of the magnitude of the novels. I really can. And in that sense, I think me not really having high hopes for it to begin with really helped me avoid disappointment and just have fun reading.

Because that’s really what it is. A fun little read.

Final Verdict: 4/5 stars.

What’s Up, Wednesday?

During the lull of the last few months I’ve been…

antm logo

… listening to: America’s Next Top Model. I can’t really say that I’ve been watching it, as it’s mostly just been on in the background as I work. I like seeing the results of the photo shoots, and there’s something about Tyra Banks that I just really like for whatever reason. I don’t really have words for why I like her so much, but I do. I know she’s got a reputation for being a little bit cuckoobird, but I love it. She just seems like she’s so unabashedly her, and I admire that. I imagine it’s far easier to just be YOU, weird and goofy and all, with no worries when you’ve got a bazillion dollar empire behind you, but even so. So old seasons of ANTM have been my soundtrack for the last few weeks.

brush calligraphy

… learning: brush calligraphy. This was one of my New Years Resolutions, and unlike some other resolutions that I’ve made in the past, I’ve been working pretty consistently on this one for most of the year. I’m still just okay, but I can actively see improvement from a few months ago, so that’s pretty cool.

game of thrones

… watching: Game of Thrones. Oh. My. God. How did I not hop on this train earlier!? nnngghhhhhhh. Jim and I started watching a couple of weeks ago after my brother bought my Dad season one for Father’s Day (my dad read the first book back in the day, and enjoyed it), and after I accidentally watched the “Battle of the Bastards” episode (the apartmentmate was watching it and I perked up at the SUPER AWESOME depiction of a pitched battle… I love me a good medieval murderfest…) We’re on season 3 now. This show, man… It makes me angry and frustrated, and sad and then mad all over again… but (generally) I love every second.

sansa stark red

…obsessing over: my new Sansa Stark red hair. Basically this is the exact color I’ve always wanted. Sort of ginger, sort of brown, with just a little bit of blonde depending on the light… it’s like, perfect. And after starting to watch game of thrones? I FINALLY had something other than like a video game screenshot (my Inquisitor and my Sole Survivor have this exact color) to use as reference for my stylist. Sansa Stark red. Perfect.

pokemon go

…playing: Pokemon Go. Because who isn’t? Well, plenty of people. But I’m playing, so yea. RIP my phone battery.

armpit cuddles

… enjoying: getting to know this little brat. Sieglinde. My parent’s new Goldendoodle puppy. And brat is definitely the right word for her… But I love her. Full post on her to come.

… working on: getting my life back together. Those of you who have been around on this blog journey with me for a while know that the past year and a half have been rough for me thanks to a persistent anxiety problem. My attempts to get a handle on it by myself just really weren’t working, as the continued silence here probably made clear. So I’ve finally started therapy to get it under control, and so far the experience has been a very positive one. I feel more relaxed and in control of my life than I can remember, really since I left school.

I have what’s been referred to around the internet as “high-functioning” anxiety. It’s not something that you’d see or that you’d know I was struggling with unless you were super close to me. This article describes what it’s like to have that constant “worst case scenario” running through your head but still appear “well adjusted” (whatever that means) to the rest of the world. My triggers are different, and my version of “learning to live with it” looked a bit different, but the overall idea is the same. Someday I’ll feel like the time is right to share my whole anxiety journey with you. Because I’m still in the process of working on changing my thought patterns, that time isn’t now. But I’m feeling like there’s a real light at the end of the tunnel for the first time in a long time.

So that’s like, super great.

What have you been up to the last few months?

Mid-January Pleasure Reading Update

Reading Update

So far so good on the whole “read more” goal. As of right now, I’ve already finished two books for pleasure this year (although technically the first one was started in the final days of 2015 – but I’m still counting it). I don’t feel like either book is really worthy of it’s own separate review post, as one was just kind of frivolous fun, and the other, well, wasn’t great… so I think mini-reviews will do the trick nicely.

The first book is Stanley Weintraub’s 11 Days in December: Christmas at the Bulge, 1944. I bought this a couple of years ago after I read his Pearl Harbor Christmas, expecting it to be roughly the same thing – and I was pretty much right. Like Pearl Harbor Christmas it is by no means, a traditional or complete history of the Christmas of 1944. Unless you already have a solid knowledge of the overall timeline of the Battle of the Bulge, I actually wouldn’t recommend this book at all. Without already knowing what’s happening where and when – this one’ll confuse you more than inform, because really this book is more of a snapshot of conditions than anything else; a collection of (admittedly scattered) anecdotes and experiences that fall within the month of December during the fight. The author does a lot of name dropping without much explanation, jumps around a lot – from the British, to the Americans, to the Germans – often without warning, and he even occasionally jumps around chronologically. So if you don’t already have decent name and place recognition it’ll be very very disorienting. Hell, it was disorienting for me sometimes, and I DO have those things (although I admittedly favor the PTO over the ETO in my own studies). That said, it’s not without value, and does contain a lot of great stuff. If you’re willing to tough it through the organization, this can be a nice little supplement that serves to humanize the experience through the minutia of life on the ground and in command.

Rating: 3/5 stars – To summarize: very scattered and disorganized, but contains a lot of valuable material if you are willing to sort it out.

The second is a novel that is part of the expanded Dragon Age universe: David Gaider’s The Calling. It’s a prequel of sorts – chronicling the adventures of Ferelden’s King Maric Theirin in the Deep Roads about 20 years before the events of the Dragon Age: Origins video game. It’s nothing spectacular in terms of literature – but it’s a lot of fun. Lots of action, and – minus a few action sequences that dragged on just a *tad* too long for my personal tastes – pacing is generally good and keeps you interested. It also has a lot of great backstory that has me really wanting to replay the game again so I can relive the story with all this new information and perspective. I suppose that’s the real upside to the author actually being the lead writer for the series. Instead of the hole a lot of expanded universe novels fall into of having unconnected authors who often don’t quite have the hang of really writing the characters or the world properly (*coughDOCTORWHOcough*), it actually feels solidly like part of the universe.

Rating: 4/5 stars – To summarize: it’s no work of great literature, but it’s a really fun little romp in a universe I love. If you’re a Dragon Age fan, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Have you read anything great so far in 2016?