Sunday, May 31, 2015

Harry Potter Revisited: The Early Years

Hello Lovelies!!

Sorry I've been away. I thought I was gonna be better when my semester finished, but it turns out the condensed summer classes are even more intense than regular semester classes. So I've been prioritizing my education. Of course, now that I have two papers due this week, I have no interest whatsoever in working on them, so I thought I'd catch up on a few reviews. So in this particular post, I'm going to sum up my rereads of Harry Potter: Sorcerer's Stone, and Chamber of Secrets, and Goblet of Fire.

Published: June 26, 1997
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Received: I own the whole set, but I borrowed this particular copy from the library

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone introduces readers to Harry Potter--a young orphan taken in by his aunt and uncle. The Dursleys are terrible people and Harry suffers under their upbringing until his 11th birthday, when he receives his first letter in the mail. Harry discovers he's actually a wizard and has been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At Hogwarts, Harry has to deal with making friends, making enemies, and saving the world from evil. All in a day's work for a typical 11-year-old. 

Oh gosh, it's been so long since I've done a Harry Potter reread. Sorcerer's Stone hit me just as hard today as when I first read it in second or third grade. I've read the first three books in the series a couple dozen times. I used to have them nearly memorized. And while I still knew what was going to happen and could pinpoint some of my favorite lines, I was surprised at how much I had forgotten. Since I had watched the movies a couple times between my last reread and this time, I'd managed to supplant the movie stuff with what actually happened in the books -- even though I had been irrate that they'd left so much out when the movie released. These books mean so much to me and I'm glad I can still relate to them even though it's been literally more than half my life ago that I read them. 

As someone who spends a significant amount of time on Tumblr, I have seen various meta regarding how the trio looks and acts. So for this reread, I paid extra attention to Rowling's descriptors. I was pleased to discover that the only person whose skin is specifically mentioned (of the trio) is Ron--and he's simply described as pale and freckly. Those two adjectives could apply to a lot of variations in skin tone. Most readers have relied on Mary GrandPre's illustrations which depict the trio as white. I love GrandPre's illustrations. I truly do. I want to get a tattoo of one of them eventually. However, I am so grateful that Rowling did not specify her characters race. While white has become default, it's now possible to point out to younger readers that the characters are not white. They can be anything you want them to be. And that can be very empowering. I am a huge advocate for the We Need Diverse Books movement. I think it's important that we not only have characters which readers can see themselves in, but which readers can see other people in. It's just as important for me (as a white girl) to read about the experiences of an African-American boy or Asian girl or Native-American non-binary individual as it is for them to be able to read about themselves. However, I also think it's important to leave racial identity out of stories--to allow every reader the ability to project themselves into the characters without canon saying, oh well you don't fit the description because of your race. So I loved that Rowling rarely states the race of a character. 

I cannot recommend Harry Potter enough. If you haven't read them, at least give them a try. No matter what your book tastes are, there is something here that will appeal to you. Seriously, if you think you won't like it for X, Y or Z reason, leave me a note in the comment, and I will try to persuade you otherwise. 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Published:  June 2, 1999
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Received: I own all, but I borrowed this copy from the library

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry returns to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This time he's a year older. He knows his friends, he knows his enemies, and he's ready to succeed in school. But a bumbling new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and a whisper that only Harry can hear lead Harry to a dangerous situation.

Chamber of Secrets has always been my least favorite book of the series. I really disliked Dobby when I was a kid. As the other books were released and I interacted with other fans, I found a place in my heart for Dobby, but my original dislike still lingers a bit. I tend to speed through his appearances. I still enjoy this book over all. There are so many parts to this book which affect the larger story arc. I kept finding myself wondering if Rowling had planned out the series from the beginning or if she just happened to be that good. 

This time I kept noticing Ron and Hermione's interactions. I kept thinking to myself, Ron you are jealous!! I see people complain about their relationship a lot, but I think most of that stems from the movies. The movies don't develop Ron and Hermione in the way the books do. In the books, their relationship becomes obvious from this book. There are even hints in the first book. But the movies don't have the same depth. 

While this is my least favorite, I still love and recommend it highly.

Published: July 8, 2000
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Received: I own all of them, but I borrowed this copy from the library

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry returns to Hogwarts for his fourth year at school. Harry gets to attend the Quidditch World Cup with his friend, Ron Weasley and the Weasley family.When Harry returns to Hogwarts, he finds out that Hogwarts is hosting the Triwizard Tournament for the first time in a long time. Although only students over the age of 17 are allowed to enter, Harry gets pulled in to the tournament. He has to survive three obstacles and his school year. 

Goblet of Fire is where the series starts to verge from middle grade into young adult. It gets dark. Rowling gives readers more questionable character. She asks readers to interrogate the characters we know and love and their actions. It's a massively important book to the series. It creates the arc for the next three books. It makes me cry every time. 

Harry's own moral character is called into question multiple times during this book. He's frequently accused of lying. I kept thinking, why are people suddenly convinced Harry is a liar? He's never been one before. But I realize that this is typical of growing up. Even when kids are telling the truth, adults suddenly question their every word. 

This reread also made me super emotional about Neville Longbottom. I love Neville so much. I've always loved his character. But I've read a lot of meta about Neville since I last reread the series, and it's made me consider his character in a whole new light. And Goblet of Fire really tells readers the most about Neville to this point. He becomes a fleshed out character in this book. It's not just Neville the Forgetful. It's Neville who has a backstory and a past.

If the thing that keeps you from reading Harry Potter is its middle grade status, this book will make you change your mind. 

So lovelies, leave me a comment about your favorite Harry Potter book! Or scene! Or anything!! I can literally talk about Harry Potter all day long. Also, I know I skipped Prisoner of Azkaban, I just reread it a few months ago for class, so I figured I would catch the rest of the series and include that reread for this time. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Two Awful Retellings

Hello Lovelies! I'm going to a two-books-one-post today. I had to read both of these for a class, and I wasn't impressed with either of them, so I thought I'd just stick them together here, okay, alright?

Published: April 28th, 2009
Publisher: HarperTeen
Received: Borrowed from the library

"Can pity be turned into love?"

Apparently, yes, according to Alex Flinn. First of all, this is a Sleeping Beauty retelling. And let's be honest, Sleeping Beauty isn't really the best fairy tale to start with (cause of its creepy rapetastic plot line), and then Flinn's characters are just awful--not to mention the frankly, amateur writing. 

Talia is a spoiled brat of a princess in the early 18th century. She hasn't been allowed to leave the castle because of the looming spindle in her future. Of course, she was destined to prick her finger on one, so one finds her. Three hundred years later, we meet up with Jack, a spoiled brat in the 21st century. He hates Europe. He wants to go to the beach. So him and a friend hop a bus which leads them to getting lost and wandering through overgrown hedges. Jack finds Talia and thinks she's so beautiful. He has to kiss her. So he does. She wakes up. Everyone wakes up. But they weren't prepared for the reality of sleeping for three hundred years. Talia leaves with Jack to experience the new century without letting anyone know. 

Basically this book was just a hot mess. Like besides the rape-y overture, (on top of kissing someone without their permission while they're in sleeping/dead statsis, Jack gets egged on by his friend Travis who says she's asleep, nobody will even know), there is no visible character growth. Readers are told that the characters have changed, but we don't really see it on the page. It's just like, no really, here's the climax which shows how they've changed. I would not recommend this book.

Fairest of All by Serena Valentino
Published: August 18th, 2009
Publisher: DisneyPress
Received: Borrowed from the library

"No, it was something more terrible than love"

Valentino takes Snow White's tale and attempts to tell it from the Queen's perspective. It's definitely a middle-grade novel, so the writing is suitable for the level. Honestly, the worst part of this book is that Valentino only names the characters which she unnecessarily inserts in to the narrative. Otherwise she uses epithets as names: the King, the Queen, the Prince, and then Snow White (which is arguably her name--it's just not a very good one). I wanted to tear my eyes out after about ten pages of this. It was obnoxious. And for all the hard work Valentino puts in to making the Queen relateable, this barrier of a name is just ridiculous. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Act Quick

Published: November 4, 2013
Publisher: Atria Books
Received: Bought for my Kindle!

"It's about trying to balance out the good with the bad. I don't believe in second chances"

Cain has been owning and running a strip club for years. He takes care of the dancers: makes sure they don't have to do anything more than dance to get money, makes sure they aren't harassed in or out of the club, and never takes advantage of them. Then Cain's bartender Ginger brings a new friend to the club for a job: Charlie. 

Charlie is living a lie. She's working for her step-father as a drug runner, but she hates it. She's just trying to make enough money to disappear for good. She never expected to meet someone who could make her want to stay.

Tucker once again makes me want to crawl inside her characters. She does a great job of making the characters real and believable. Even though her love stories tend to require a modicum of insta-love, I still fall for it every time. I'm a desperate romantic: I love watching characters fall in love. So even though Tucker relies on a bit of "love at first sight"-ness, I'm okay with it. She works to forge connections between characters. So even if love at first sight happens, it becomes so much more than that.

While, I didn't enjoy this one as much as One Tiny Lie, I did really enjoy it. I devoured it quickly, and I can't wait to read the next one. I would totally recommend this to someone looking for a feel-good contemporary new adult book with a touch of angst. 

Once Upon a Time Now


Published: Dec. 1, 2002 and August 1, 2003
Publisher: Vertigo
Received: Borrowed from the library

"Once Upon a Time..."

After the Adversary attacked the land of fables and fairy tales, a few of the characters made it out to the real world. For the last couple centuries, they've been living among mankind. Now, Rose Red has been murdered, and it's up to the Wolf to figure out who did it and why. Then Snow White must check out the Farm--where they send those fabled creatures who are inexplicable to humankind. Something's going on up there, and it's up to Snow White to figure out what it is and put an end to it.

I was required to read these two comic collections for a Fairy Tale course. I enjoyed them to a certain extent, but they also frustrated me. I love seeing fairy tale characters in real life situations. I think retellings can be super fun and enjoyable (I'm obsessed with The Lunar Chronicles for example). However, I felt like these fell just a little short for me. They were fine, but I don't know that I actively enjoyed them. 

It seemed like aside from Snow White, the men characters took over the plot. Little Red Riding Hood doesn't make an appearance, but the Wolf does, for instance--not only does he appear, but he's a major character. For every woman that appears, there are several men, and usually the men are revered scoundrels, and the women are nagging wives. I hate that kind of trope. It's insidious sexism.

I'm not sure I would recommend these. If someone was really in to retellings and had read everything else, I might suggest it. Or if someone enjoyed noir-esque comics, I might suggest it, but it would be farther down my list.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Patron Saints

Published: May 5th, 2015
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Received: Bought!!

"There's no shame in trying to make broken stuff work, is how I see it. It's better than just accepting the broken."

Sydney's family is broken. Her brother Peyton was sentenced to prison for hitting a person while driving under the influence. Sydney's mother is desperate to keep up with Peyton in prison--visits, phone calls, everything she can possibly do. Sydney's father throws himself into work. Sydney just feels guilty. She needs a major change. So she switches school.

"You only really fall apart in front of the people you know can piece you back together."

Sydney has no friends at her new school. And it's a change to go from an elite private school to a regular public school. She finds herself visiting the pizza place against the way. Just to waste time. She ends up befriending the brother and sister whose family's own the place. And everything is going well, until it all falls apart.

As usual I loved Sarah Dessen's work. She knows how to make realistic fiction feel real. People aren't perfect and events aren't perfect, and of course, everything goes wrong when it should go right. Dessen fantastically relates the many varieties of family (although she sticks to the two-parent, heterosexual kind). I think Dessen also really does well with female friendships which is something that makes me very happy. There aren't enough friendships out there. 

I would recommend this to fans of Dessen's other works, as well as fans of romance. 

Attack of the...

Published: August 4th, 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Received: E-galley from Publisher--Thank you, Delacorte!!

Tamaya Dhilwaddi is in the fifth grader. She loves school. She loves learning. She doesn't love walking home with her neighbor Marshall, who used to be her friend before starting seventh grade. Marshall's been dealing with a bully. And when Marshall tries to take a shortcut through the wood to avoid his bully, that's when everything falls apart.

I loved Holes--but then again, who doesn't? And in comparison to Holes, Fuzzy Mud falls dreadfully short. Sachar's writing is equally as fantastic. However, the plot doesn't weave together as perfectly as Holes. Fuzzy Mud leaves a lot to be desired plot-wise. There are a lot of unanswered questions. 

Overall, I found Fuzzy Mud to be an entertaining read. It would be a decent book for middle-grade readers and fans of environmentally based mystery thrillers.

Persuade Me

Published: 1817
Received: Bought for my Kindle

"If there is anything disagreeable going on men are always sure to get out of it."

Anne Elliot is 27 years old. She's becoming an old maid, destined to live as the supporter for her father and sisters without ever managing a match of her own. Her younger (and much more annoying sister) Mary has managed to find a man and have several children. Her older sister is guaranteed to find someone soon. And all Anne wants is to remember the man with whom she was betrothed eight years ago. She seems to be getting along, when none other than that man, Captain Wentworth comes back to town. 

I read this several years ago for class. It was my favorite of Austen's novels (yes, I'm that weird person), and as I reread it, I enjoyed it even more. As I'm quickly approaching Anne's age, I see both her despair and wish for her ease. I was also struck by how little has really changed. Austen writes about societal problems from a very specific privileged view, but many of her points are still valid. There's still a steep difference between rich and poor, and men and women. 

I would recommend this book to fans of nineteenth-century literature. It has a delightful little romance that will surely strike the hearts of fans of drawn-out love stories. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Nope, No Thank You

Hello Lovelies!! Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish! This topic is a little hard for me because I try not to deal in absolutes, but here we go...

Top Ten Books I Will (probably) Never Read

The Lord of The Rings (1-3): Sorry everyone! I read The Hobbit, and I wasn't a fan. And I've tried to start FotR like three times and I just can't. I can't do it. I'm a failure. Take away my nerd cred.

The Magician King and The Magician's Land(4-5): Considering how much I hated The Magicians, I have absolutely no interest in continuing the series.

Blue Bloods series(6): I had the first book in this series for like six years and never read it. I started it, but I just couldn't do it. And now it just sounds like I wouldn't like it anymore. Whoops.

The Immortals series(7): I just don't think this one sounds that good. I'm way more interested in her other series.

The Gone series(8): I thought these sounded pretty interesting until I found out how much of a douchecanoe Michael Grant is through a comment he posted on The Horn Book's Roger Reads Blog. Nope. Can't read anything by him now.

The House of Night novels(9): I mean, I would honestly probably like these, but there are so many, and I'm not sure I'm willing to wade through the crap to get to the good stuff. Soorrrrry.

Guy in Real Life(10): maybe this is cheating since I DNF'd it a while back, but I will never finish this one. It just irritated me. And I know the ending.

Are any of these on your lists? Let me know in the comments!!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Growing Up Never Stops

Published: February 21, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Received: Finally got a copy from my wonderful friend Melissa at Christmas!

"The summer sun was not meant for boys like me. Boys like me belonged to the rain."

Angel Aristotle Mendoza hates a lot of things. He hates his name. He hates that his father doesn't talk to him 
and that his mother is strict. He hates that his siblings are much, much older than him. He hates being fifteen. 
He hates not being able to swim. But Ari finds out that he doesn't hate Dante. 

"I got to thinking that poems were like people. Some people you got right off the bat. 
Some people you just didn't get--and never would get."

Ari has always felt misunderstood. He doesn't like to talk about his feelings either. But somehow, Dante gets him.
Dante talks enough for both of them, and finally Ari finds a friend. Ari has a couple other friends at school. And 
this year, he's going to kiss a girl.

"I bet you could sometimes find all the mysteries of the universe in someone's hand."

Ari's going to learn how to drive. He's going to figure out what happened to his brother. Ari's got a lot of plans.

"Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere.
The clearest summer morning could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder."

I loved Aristotle and Dante. Of course, I did. It's one of those books that got rave reviews when it came out. And 
when people hear I haven't read it, they always say "oh you'll love it!!" And I did. How could anyone not love it? It's
about finding out who your true friends are, and what love means, and how far is too far. It's about how people 
gravitate towards one another without any intention of doing so. It's just an incredibly beautiful book.

I'm just as much a fan of this book at 24 as I would have been if I'd read it at 12 or 13 or 15 or 19. I think it's one
of those books that just works. No matter what age you are. It just clicks. Or, I don't know, maybe it doesn't.

Recommended for: fans of first love, fans of first friendships, fans of beautiful writings, romantics