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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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Novel Ideas, in a completionist turn, brings you Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling (but really by Jack Thorne and John Tiffany). In this episode we discuss insane bestselling sales, the nature of long delayed sequels, time travel plots, and how plays differ from novels. We also talk about the influence of cocaine (probably none), that Voldemort is likely a virgin, alternate Ron, and the inadequacy of riddle based security measures. And much, much more.

The music bump is “Sybilla Delphica” by Orlando di Lassus in honor of <spoiler of gobsmackingly stupid plot twist redacted>, Delphi.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – A Thing That Doesn’t Need To Exist

Our recommendation: This sequel was a smashing (financial) success. Otherwise, it doesn’t really feel that much like Harry Potter.

Ben: 4/10. I’ve never been a fan of unnecessary sequels. This falls into that category for me.

Gabs: 4/10 faulty Time Turners. Because it failed to turn back the clock and recapture the magic.

Also, if you have suggestions for future episodes, please share them with us! We’re trying to be a bit more responsive to our six or so listeners this year.

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Little Women

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Happy New Year! We’re back with a classic in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, a book that many would call a quintessential American girl’s tale. Do we agree with this assessment? You’ll find out if you listen to this episode. You’ll also discover what we think about feminism in historical context, question certain self-improvements, agree with the narrator’s opinion on spinsters, and discuss the lack of passion in this story. We also talk about ladies who don’t like ladies, the creation of shipping, obnoxious children, and (perhaps oddly) lobsters.

The music bump is Chopin’s Mazurka in A minor, op. 17 due to period appropriateness. Feel free to imagine Beth playing it in heaven if that makes you feel better about it.

109 – Little Women – Marmee is the Worst

Our recommendation: Short version is that it doesn’t really hold up that well.

Ben: 5/10. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. I liked that there were a lot of things to discuss, as there usually are with classics.

Gabs: 5/10. 6/10 for part 1, 4/10 for part 2.

Quick administrative note: We’re hoping to post more often this year, though of course we guarantee nothing. As part of this “do more stuff” plan, we would like to be a little more responsive to our listeners. Please leave some requests/recommendations/suggestions for books for future episodes either in the comments for this episode or on our suggestions page.

The Obelisk Gate

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Novel Ideas apologizes for the delay, but we return with a new episode on N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate. This novel is the sequel to The Fifth Season, the Hugo award winner and a Novel Ideas favorite. We should warn you going in, since this is a recent publication, this episode is chock full of spoilers. In addition to spoilers, we also cover Chosen One plots, dark elements, shades of gray, and family. We also talk about how this story is not Harry Potter, adorable monsters, the importance of the moon, and how none of these characters are actually Gandalf.

The music bump is “The Unanswered Question” by Charles Ives in honor of all of the questions from the first book that were answered with more questions in the second book.

108 – The Obelisk Gate – Sympathetic Murderers

Our rating: A worthy follow up to the original with excellent depth of world building and characterization.

Ben: 10/10. I love the world building and the characters and anything else I forgot to mention.

Gabs: 9/10 moons. Darkness is slightly less shocking the second time around, but the complexity is great.

 

Go Set A Watchman

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Novel Ideas returns with a rare venture into the topical, reading Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, the very hyped “sequel” to To Kill A Mockingbird. In this episode, we discuss why the word “sequel” might by appropriately contained within quotation marks, the murky ethics of this book’s publication, racism, and (of course) feminism. We also talk about whether this story takes place in a closely parallel alternate universe, shoddy research standards, how to get someone’s attention without backhanding them, and Ben’s utter lack of interest in Hank. And for a special bonus, we get at least two good Gabs rampages.

The sound quality is a little odd this week as I tried to use a more sensitive recording set up, but forgot to kill the fan in the background. Our voices are clearly audible, but the background is white noise city. My apologies. -Ben

The music bump this week is “I Wanna Go Back to Dixie” by Tom Lehrer, a satirical take on songs that glorify the south and things commonly associated with the south.

96 – Go Set A Watchman – Everyone Is People

Our Ratings:

Ben: 5/10. The flaws in the writing and Atticus’s heel turn bother me less than the fact that if TKAM didn’t exist, this book wouldn’t stand up for ten seconds under its own merit.

Gabs: 4/10. Didn’t hate it, but it was too unpolished. Also annoyed that a book dealing with racial issues only had black people in one scene.

‘night Mother

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After an unscheduled delay caused mostly by a certain male sibling’s recent life changes/laziness, Novel Ideas returns with ‘night Mother by Marsha Norman. We read this play because it is award winning and unlike our previous two plays, written by a female playwright. We brought back special guest Jessica Showers (at least at the time of recording) because she works in the theater industry. In this episode, we discuss women and Broadway, depression, conformity, and detachment. We also talk about the possibility of cotagonists, Sno Balls (and how they are the worst), candy, and a few terrible alternate endings.

The music bump is “Communication” by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and was inspired by our discussion of the theme of the play.

‘night Mother – Suicide is Hard to Joke About

Recommendations:

An award winning play that would definitely be worth seeing staged. Is it worth reading? Tougher question to answer.

Gabs: 7/10. Interesting, but hasn’t stuck with me completely.

Ben: 7/10. About the same.

Fledgling

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After a lengthy, mostly unplanned, holiday hiatus, Novel Ideas returns with Fledgling by Octavia Butler. This is a book about vampires that offers a slightly different spin on what has arguably become its own genre. Not to mention a science fiction/fantasy book not written by a neckbearded white man. In the episode, we discuss various subgenres at play, direct writing styles, what is at the core of a person, and racism. Lots of racism. We also talk about vatigue, podcasting as a visual medium, trope subversion, and Canada.

The music bump is “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, mostly because Ben has an abhorrent sense of humor.

Fledgling – Chemically Bonded Group Marriage

Recommendations:

Ben: 8/10 Excellent world building and interesting relationship building. Definitely read it.

Gabs: 6.5/10 An interesting new approach to vampires, but not really my thing.

The Joy Luck Club

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As promised, Novel Ideas returns with episode number two for this week: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. This is a book that is not easily summarized, as its narrative follows eight different women through various episodes in their life, not particularly linked by any continuous plot threads. Listen to the episode to hear us talk about genre vagueness, embarrassing parents, marriage, and character authenticity. We also discuss losing your mojo, baby hatin’, murder by anorexia, and what really defines your “second best bed.” And of course, feminism, though through a very positive lens this time.

The music bump is “Mah-Jong” by Chicago (yes, that Chicago).

The Joy Luck Club – China Is Not America

Recommendations:

Ben: 8/10 One point for each cotagonist.

Gabs: 9/10 Just as enjoyable as Ender’s Game, but in a very different way. Also gets a gold star for being full of interesting, complicated women.