The Three Musketeers

This was a book that I’ve been meaning to read for years. I am a big fan of French literature, but have never gotten around to Dumas. So, when this year’s book challenge included a book that’s been on your “to read” list for way too long, this book immediately came to mind. And, thankfully, it’s free on the Kindle, so there really was no excuse for me not to read it.

Most people know the general characters of the Musketeeers- Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, along with their young aspiring friend, d’Artagnan. And I think I’ve seen the old ’90s movie, however I really knew nothing about the plot. And I will say that it took me halfway through to really get into it. Partly because the language is out of date, leading me to  spend a lot of time clicking on words to get the definition, (don’t get me wrong… I LOVE reading older books because of the language) but also because there is a lot of setting the stage for the big plot points. There’s double crossing, triple crossing, back stabbing (literally and figuratively), poisoning, murder, love, and a lot of wine. Basically, all the elements for a classic adventure story.

I can see why this story has endured the ages. Along with The Count of Monte Cristo and The Man in the Iron Mask, Dumas has endured two centuries of translations and reading. He was a prolific writer, and I imagine the French read more of his works that we Americans do. But this was a fun read. And although the setup was lengthy, the payoff was worth it.

Hamilton: The Revolution

I really despise musicals. Probably because my mom made me watch them when I was a kid, and they just were so boring! I’m also way too cynical to think people singing and dancing is happy entertainment. However, I saw the movie of Rent and saw that musicals didn’t have to be all happy and cheesy. I never saw Rent on stage, but I did see a dvd of the stage play, which was really great. But then stuff like Wicked comes around, people say how great it is, but I just need more. I need some sort of depth and importance to the story. Book of Mormon just doesn’t even count in the traditional musical category, in my opinion, because it’s so offensive (and I loved every second of it) and funny. And then there’s Hamilton.

I was very skeptical when I first heard about this hip-hop musical and how great it was. I was familiar with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work, though. I’ve been to NYC a sum total of one time and saw two musicals while there- Hair, and In the Heights. My BFF was living in Washington Heights at the time and drug me to see it. And I liked it. Sadly, Lin wasn’t performing that night, but the show was still enjoyable. But Hamilton had so much hype that it made me skeptical. Rolling Stone said it was one of the best hip-hop albums of the year. Then the Pulitzer. Then the MacArthur Grant. What?? That just doesn’t even seem possible. So, I reached out to a musical nerd friend of mine and asked her if it was really worth it. Her short answer was YES. So, I got a clean version (so I can listen in the car with little kids) and went from one song to the next, taking me a few weeks. And by the time I got to “It’s Quiet Uptown,” I was sobbing. Yes, it really is that good.

I mostly listen to Act I upbeat stuff because my kids really don’t want to hear the sad songs (and honestly I can’t listen to them on a daily basis) and I think we’ve listened to “My Shot” about 100 times. My 5 year old is obsessed with A.Ham, Washington, and NYC in general. I’ve shown him Lin’s SNL performance and assorted YouTube videos of the songs. He says our next vacation is to go to NYC and meet the guy who plays Alexander Hamilton. (Anyone want to make this happen? You would make his little heart burst with joy). But what strikes me most isn’t just the story, since it can easily be found in a number of books, but Lin’s brilliance as a writer. His ability to craft a phrase is second to none. I’ve never read such clever word play in a musical. My favorite part is his ability to use a phrase in so many ways and how he assigned these phrases to Burr and Hamilton to be repreated through the entire musical. Rise up, talk less, write like you’re running out of time, throwing away your shot, etc. And the music associated with these phrases is repeated in various songs as well. As soon as a Hamilton song comes on, my 5 year old knows what it is because of the familiar melody. The consistency, yet ability to keep it fresh is amazing. I just can’t rave enough about this piece of art.

And then there’s the book. Every song is included, along with annotations by Lin. And he’s so clearly a product of my generation, referencing the same rap artists I listened to growing up, Harry Potter, and Jordan Catalano. The pieces of background information were written by Jeremy McCarter. He clearly did his research and conducted a number of interviews with the cast and the behind the scenes people like the costume designer, set designer, and choreographer. This book made me see the musical as a whole, rather then just the words and music. It was truly a fascinating insight into how much work and thought people put into this amazing musical. So, even the most skeptical people (myself included) should give this musical a chance. Every award Lin won was much deserved and I look forward to his future endeavors, whether they musicals or not.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I’m nothing if not true to my word. I told myself I would get to this book when I finished the 2016 book challenge and The Dark Tower series. If I don’t make myself finish books, I end up putting them off for new and shiny books. And since I had heard less than stellar reviews about this one, I wasn’t really in a hurry to get to it. Ultimately, I enjoyed it and it was nice revisiting the characters.

Since this is a play, it’s very sparse and missing a lot of the magic that the books provide. But I fully expected that going into reading. Somehow, I managed to avoid all spoilers for this book. All I knew was that it took place pretty quickly after book 7 finished. If that’s all you know, too, I would stop reading at this point. I’m not going to reveal tons of stuff, but will address basic plot points.

So, we meet up with the old gang pretty quickly. Ginny, Harry, and their three kids. Ron, Hermione, and their two kids. And Draco and his son. I love that Draco and his son, Scorpio, are central figures to this book. I was always a Draco fan, mostly because he was exactly like Harry- forced into a situation he didn’t want to be in and overshadowed by his father (or lack there of in Harry’s case) and expectations put upon children. And it looks as though neither Draco or Harry has fully resolved their father issues. Neither one of them is a great dad, which was hard to read, given how good of a person Harry is, but it’s also nice to see him still learning about himself and trying to be better. It’s clear that Ginny wears the pants in the family, which is awesome. I always thought she was a good match for Harry and could keep him grounded.

Ron seems to be as lackadaisical as expected. Hermione has succeeded in the wizarding world to the highest position, and Ron manages the Weasley joke shop. He makes some terrible dad jokes and just is very bumbling, although full of love. Seems right on point. The story focuses on Albus, middle child of Harry and Ginny, and Scorpius. They meet early on in the book, after being told to stay away from each other, but they are fast friends. Scorpius is a good kid; nothing like the evil Draco tried to espouse. He has a crush on Rose Granger-Wealsey, Ron and Hermione’s daughter and is just generally a sweet kid.

The Cursed Child named in the title really could apply to many characters. Obviously Harry and Draco, but also Albus, Scorpius, and a character not to be revealed here, because it was a pretty big spoiler. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you really do need to read this just to see what happens to your friends. However, don’t expect to be in love with it the way you are with the books. It’s just not the same reading experience.

Adnan’s Story

I was very reluctant to read this book, only because I listened to both Serial and Undisclosed and just didn’t want a rehashing of the same facts I already knew. And there are a few pieces of information that I hadn’t known, but mostly it was old information. However, it was really worth reading for a few reasons.

It’s no surprise that Rabia is going to write a biased story about the facts. And I have no problem with this. She makes no apology at all for believing in Adnan’s innocence. And I agree with her 100%. I was pretty sure after Serial, mostly sure after Undisclosed, and completely sure after reading this book. Having the facts in paper in front of me was really helpful to see all the inconsistencies. And one great thing about the book is the inclusion of original documents like police reports, cell phone records, and attorney’s notes. Rabia also does an excellent job of putting a lot of things into context within the Muslim faith. Why is it such a big deal that Adnan was sneaking around behind his parents’ backs? Why is Ramadan such an important holiday? How is faith used in support and simultaneously against him within the trial? This information was touched on in Undisclosed, virtually ignored in Serial, but well explained in this book.

The best part about this book is getting to hear Adnan’s voice. There are entire sections that he wrote himself. These parts give his side of the story behind his relationship with Hae, his interaction with Sarah Koenig, and his thoughts on his situation in jail. These were my favorite parts because I knew his words weren’t being edited or taken out of context. I knew Rabia would do his voice justice.

Rabia gives credit to Serial for bringing Adnan’s story to the masses. There would be no PCR and subsequent new trial without Serial first existing. Although it seems like Rabia is frustrated with Koenig with good reason when Koenig discusses the police mostly did a good job at their investigation (that is absolutely NOT the case; my goodness they were so inept), she is also upset that Koenig didn’t give Adnan the support she was hoping for. And I see this differently. I got up at 6am the morning the last episode was posted. I laid in bed in the dark and listened with excitement for Koenig to take a side on the issue. And it irritated me that she didn’t. However, after much reflection, I believe she did the right thing. She’s a journalist. And in a world of complete bias from most mainstream media, I think presenting the facts and letting the listeners decide for themselves was the right thing to do. It would have been wrong of her for her to flat out tell us what she thought. And granted, she only presented part of the story (obviously, there was no way to put it all out there in the 12 episode limit), Undisclosed took up the slack and filled in the blanks.

I really do recommend people who are not only familiar with Adnan’s case and a MUST read for anyone on Team Adnan. It really did help solidify my thoughts on the case. Rabia might not be a spectacular writer, but that’s irrelevant because her passion comes through loud and clear. She believes in Adnan and so do I.