Wellness Wednesday – Wizards Unite!

A week ago, I didn’t know the upcoming release date of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. I knew it was meant to be this year, pushed back from last year, but I hadn’t seen an actual release date. Imagine my surprise when I suddenly saw Adam‘s Instagram post showing he’d signed up! I immediately went to the app store to download…only to have my search come up empty. Boo!! I’d seen a comment from someone saying that they believed it was only out for Android users, so I googled the iPhone release date and found an article about how the app was out a day early. It had a link out to the iPhone app, and I downloaded at once. A couple hours later, the app became searchable in the app store, but I’d long since downloaded and signed up and gone through all the opening procedures. I was super, super excited about this!!

A brief history: Back in 2016, Pokemon Go came out and some friends of ours first told Jason and me about it on release date. Jason and the boys downloaded it, but I had never read, seen, or collected Pokemon, so it didn’t much interest me. Eventually, I was persuaded to join, and I played a little, but I could never fully get into the game. I said that I’d jump at the same game in Harry Potter format, and that’s the game that has FINALLY released.

To say I “jumped” is an understatement. Let me describe my second day on the app (my first day being homebound as Jason recovered from minor surgery – and as a side note: good news! No cancer!): The boys wanted to go to Planet Fitness. As I’d already done an hour of Aquafit, I dropped them off and drove to the library to wait an hour before picking them up. I knew there’d be some good HP-related stuff at the library and park (which is attached to the library), and my plan was to pick up what I could and then grab a book to read. This was at 3pm, with 100+ temps and a 110+ heat index and the worst kind of direct sunlight, so it would be foolish to be outside for long. I was wearing regular clothes and flip flops – also foolish for outside exercise. Foolish for walking on uneven rock trails. But hey, if I went just a little further from the library, there’d be another Inn to grab, and another, and another – there are about 20 Inns, Greenhouses, and Fortresses around the 0.7-mile Library Loop trail – and if I kept to the shade, 0.7 miles isn’t TOO bad, right? So…45 minutes later, when it was time to pick up the boys, I was sunburned and soaked in sweat and had blisters on the undersides of both feet from the inappropriate footwear…and totally happy with no regrets. Ha!

I’ve been out somewhere to play HP every day. I’ve been getting lots of steps in! There’s a Fortress at the park that’s only a few houses away from me, so Jason and I have been going  there to team up on battles and gain points and collectibles. We’ve been placing Portkeys and growing plants in Greenhouses and brewing potions and training for our wizard professions. We’re helping the Ministry of Magic, and finding hints about the magical crisis, and fighting off baddies. Probably spending WAY too much time and energy on this, but I don’t regret a thing. I love this so much and I’m so happy that after three years, this game is finally here. I’ll just keep walking walking walking my way up the Harry Potter levels!

Anyone else on Wizards Unite? Add me! My code is: 1616 3005 0666 – I’m pookasluagh as usual!

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Tell Me How You Really Feel, by Aminah Mae Safi

Rachel and Sana are not friends. When they first started in the same high school together, Sana asked Rachel out, and Rachel assumed it was a mean prank. Ever since then, the two have avoided each other. Now, they’re forced to work together on a school project, which will inevitably break down barriers…

This was a really cute romance with a lot of complicated life issues thrown in for depth. Meeting family expectations, trying to get into college, absentee parents, art vs commercialism, etc. Best part about the story for me was that these two girls had feelings for each other, but the romance wasn’t the center of their lives. They both had strong ties to family, determination for their future careers, and dedication to their work (both school and otherwise). They felt like real people who didn’t know how to communicate the best and who both messed up plenty. They were flawed in the best way, making them both all the more lovable. My only complaint was that the end wrapped up a little too quickly and unrealistically. But for a cute romance novel involving the making of a film (the school project mentioned above), I guess the cinematic ending was exactly what should have been.

Also: I love this book cover.

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Sunday Coffee – Books Galore

Every December, I compile a list of “book priorities,” which includes all the books I want to read and/or try throughout the upcoming year. I pull the list from several sources: my audio queue, my physical and virtual TBR, my library hold list, anything in my “to investigate” list on GoodReads, and any books I want to read that will be published throughout the year. The list is usually between 20 and 30 books long, and by the midway point of the year, I’ve gone through a large chunk of them. For 2019, I had 26 books on the priorities list, and as of right now, there are 10 left. Of those 10, six have not been published and three are waiting for RIP season. Which really leaves only a single possibility on the list at present – and that means it’s time to make a new list, as I usually do around the midpoint of each year.

My mid-year priorities list is less formal than the one I create in December. I kind of think of it as a rollover list – whatever doesn’t get read/culled from it ends up as the next year’s priorities. It’s really just a way for me to drag all my various lists (Goodreads, Audible, library, etc) into one location so that I don’t forget about stuff that might be buried deep in a queue. These lists also get me excited about reading again, after a few months of slump in this year’s case. I have 22 books on the new list, not including the 10 still on the original. There’s LGBTQ+ graphic novels (Gender Queer, My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness), non-European fantasty (David Mogo Godhunter, The Bird King, Soul of the Sword), new releases from authors I love (Leigh Bardugo, Rainbow Rowell, G. Willow Wilson, Maggie Stiefvater, Brandon Sanderson), and so much more. Unlike my original list from the year, I see a lot more reads and a lot fewer culls on this upcoming list, and that makes me happy. It’s been quite some time since I had a lot on my TBR that I was excited about!

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The Alchemist’s Illusion, by Gigi Pandian (audio)

Zoe is looking to put down roots in Portland despite knowing that her circumstances – she’s a 300+ year old alchemist – make that a near-impossibility. It doesn’t help, however, when attention is drawn to her via newspaper photographs and a rich woman accusing her of murder outside an art gallery.

After the third volume of this series, The Elusive Elixir, I wasn’t sure if there would be more to the story. There seemed like there could be, but I saw no hint anywhere that Pandian was working on one. So imagine my surprise when I went randomly looking for possible audiobooks to spend credits on and discovered that this book released back in January. Of course I snatched it up and began listening immediately!

It was so great to revisit Zoe, Dorian, Max, and all the others. This was a fun new mystery and great further development of several characters. I was completely surprised by revelations, and if memory serves me correctly, that’s been pretty consistent across the series. I also noticed one small change for the better in this book – there wasn’t as much emphasis on recipes in the text. A few times in previous volumes, the narrative stopped while vegan dishes were described by their processes. In The Alchemist’s Illusion, there were still references to the food cooked – it’s an integral part of this cozy mystery series! – but the flow of the narrative wasn’t stopped by processes. I thought it flowed better for that change. (On another note, I do wonder if actual recipes are given after the novel in physical editions of these books, because that would be awesome…)

Performance: Julia Motyka as usual does an amazing job with the audio. I adore the way she reads this, and I think revisiting the characters in voice was as phenomenal as learning the next part of their stories. I do hope she continues to read the series as it publishes!!

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The Lying Game, by Ruth Ware

Nearly two decades ago, four girls became fast friends at a boarding school. They kept up the Lying Game, earning a reputation for deceit, and isolating themselves from the rest of the school. Their lies were mostly harmless…until they weren’t, until the lies became secrets they had to keep for the next two decades, when those secrets start to unravel…

This was an interesting thriller because it was less about the mystery (who did it) and more about the psychological impact of lies and secrecy. The characters were well-drawn, if a little typical, and the book was perfectly paced for a good afternoon read. This was my third read from Ruth Ware, and falls smack in between the other two (The Woman in Cabin 10, which I really disliked, and The Death of Mrs Westaway, which I really loved) in terms of enjoyment. Honestly, I think I read it too fast for it to make a long-lasting impression on me, but it was exactly what I needed when I read it, and I call that a win.

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Sunday Coffee – Enter Chaos

It’s no secret that I don’t do well on chaos. I thrive on organization, routine, and predictability. I don’t mind a bit of whimsy or change, but I don’t function well in environments that are pure chaos. The boys have been out of school for less than two weeks, and already, pure chaos is what I’ve got.

This week was graduation, then finding out that Jason’s parents’ RV can’t be fixed for a week or two, then Morrigan’s oral surgery. Some days we had people over. Some days I played chauffeur and drove kids back and forth between places. Some days I was on constant nurse duty. Exercise routines – yeah right! Eating schedules? Nope. Paperwork and errands? Postponed. My desk looks like something exploded onto it. My email is overflowing. The living room is currently functioning as Morrigan’s bedroom. Nothing is where it belongs, and most days I’m avoiding my computer, my desk, and almost every part of the house.

So I tell myself: This is temporary. Tomorrow, Laurence starts summer school, which will put a bit of organized routine back in our days. Jason’s surgery is scheduled, so I know which weeks I’ll be a nurse/single mom, and can plan for them. Starting in mid-July, there are no more medical procedures upcoming, and we have about a month of summer-normal until it’s time for school to start again. I have about a month of chaos to make it through. I can do this.

Lists are my friends. Lists will get me through this without cracking. Plus coffee. Fingers crossed, everyone!

PS – Morrigan’s oral surgery went swimmingly and he’s pretty much back to normal already.

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Shadow of the Fox, by Julie Kagawa (audio)

From GoodReads: One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos. Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.

I received this audiobook via the Sync YA summer program. For the most part, I enjoyed the story. I always love, in particular, when fantasy novels depart from the traditional American/British/French settings and cultures. Yumeko was an interesting character. In part, she’s a well-used trope, a naive girl who has some reason to know nothing about the outside world, and thus learns about the outside world alongside the reader. Despite this being a trope, however, Kagawa’s approach to Yumeko’s journey feels different, as her journey is paired with a set of adventures that read more like parables or fairy tales than simple “learn about the world” moments. It was an interesting way to tell the story, and Yumeko herself was endearing and wonderful.

There were a few things I disliked about the book as well. There’s a long section in the middle that feels too repetitive: travel, adventure, pick up a new member for the group, travel, adventure, pickup a new member…etc. I also thought that for a seasoned warrior for the Shadow Clan, Tatsumi is extremely naive and blind through a big chunk of the story. It’s a quality that makes him interesting but also slightly stretching believability. Lastly, the audio narration (read by Joy Osmanski, Emily Woo Zeller, and Brian Nishii) was not my favorite, as they often used exaggerated accents, inflections, and styles common in YA audiobooks.

However, despite the small negatives, I’m definitely going to be reading the next book. Shadow of the Fox ended on a perfect note – just enough cliffhanger and new information introduced to completely hook me! Soul of the Sword (book 2) is supposed to release later this month, and I can’t wait!!

Posted in 2019, Prose, Young Adult | Tagged , , | 2 Comments