Eh, reviews and stuff. Probably.
I'm being deliberate in my title as this is probably the 948,205th* time I've re-read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, but this is the first time I've re-read it with Booklikes handy-dandy re-read function, hooray for new toys! Given all of those factors, I title this:
The Great Harry Potter Re-Read of 2014, Huzzah!
Up until the release of Book 7, I would re-read the series in advance of each new release and usually 1 or 2 times in the interim just to keep the cravings down, you know, to manage my addiction. Additionally, as the series grew from 4 to 5 to 6 books, and so on, I would start my re-read a little later in the series, usually with Book 3, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 'cause that one has always been my favorite (or one of my favorites or maybe my favorite, oh, I don't want to play favorites, I love all of my frie- I mean, books equally). However, since the end of the series I think I've only done maybe 1 re-read and it was, again, from Book 3. So, with my recent purchase of the series in "e" format, I thought now would be the perfect time to start the whole adventure again, begin at the beginning and review along the way.
I am also re-rating them. I had rated most of the series, if not all, 4 or 5 stars. You'll note from my ratings I don't give many 5*. In fact, I tend to reserve 5* for classics, for lit-ra-ture if you will, so it's pretty rare for me to dole those out. You may also note that the rating I've got on this is now 5*. That's an increase and it's because after so many years and so many re-readings this book is still wonderful, charming, engrossing and decidedly holds up to the test of time. I would venture that I'll say the same in 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 years.**
So, here we go, installment 1:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - The Review
I love the way this series begins, it's very nearly perfect. I mean, take the opening line:
"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."
That is glorious. I love everything from the name "Dursley"-- doesn't that just sound so...well, dursley -- to Privet Drive, ubiquitous and hearty privet. I have a neighbor who planted a privet hedge between our properties, (I live in Atlanta and privet is the Great Invader, next to kudzu, of course.) horrible, rampant, impenetrable stuff that I am forever trying to remove from my jasmine. To have the Dursleys live on Privet Drive, to me, just sends home the point of this uninspired, uninterested, uninteresting, unthinking couple who are impossible to remove. They are boring and permanent and very happy about that fact...thank you very much (oh, how I love that too, so prissy and know-it-all, just fantastic).
Rowling starts us off with the most mundane (Dursleys, Privet, drills, most boring ties, fat-disagreeable children, gossipy small community, small lives) before we embark on our fantastic journey to the wide wizarding world -- this new universe to us. Her use of names and language is one of my favorite things about the HP universe, and points to why I uped the rating to 5*, the way she named people and places, the spells, everything has a deeper significance or are wonderful little jokes for the careful and curious reader. (Curses and Counter-curses (Bewitch Your Friends and Befuddle Your Enemies with the Latest Revenges: Hair Loss, Jelly-Legs, Tongue-Tying and Much, Much More-by Professor Vindictus Viridian. Ah-mazing.)
I have to say, it was so much fun re-reading Sorcerer's Stone again. There is something deeply wonderful about going back to the beginning and having it all be just as fantastic, just as heartbreaking, just as funny, magical, tragic, remarkable as it was the first time around. That's the true test of this book, series and world.
*might be exaggerated for effect...might.
**probably won't be saying anything in 100 years...probably
This was quite a surprise, truly. In some ways it reminded me of the Witching Savannah books, The Line - J.D. Horn, but I liked the MC more here and the mythology around the family.
The Not as Good:
All in all though, as I mentioned in my update yesterday, this is a fun read that I flew through. If you're looking for something fun and witchy this is a great choice, highly recommend. Now, off to buy the sequel Always a Witch
There's not much I can say about this, 'cause I don't want to spoil anyone else's fun, but hooo-weee, that sure was sumthin'!
So, here's the review: I started this book at lunchtime on Friday (yes, I was working). I read it over lunch and then put it away until I got home from work around 6:30 pm. I finished it around 8 that evening. Super crack-o-licious. Go forth, read it, and be ready for some(show spoiler)
I'll say it again, hooooo-weeeeee!
So, what I've heard/read about this book:
"You should read it, definitely read it, OMG* totally read it..but DON'T read any reviews or the blurb or the spine or look at it too closely or even let it know you were wondering about the general plot. If it knows you're wondering about the plot EVERYTHING will fall apart!!!!!!!"**
So, I'm reading it now, fresh as the virgin snow...or something like that.
I do have to say, if it all falls apart if I know more about the story, well, how good of a book is it? You know? (Ok, I might just be being a contrarian there--who're we kidding, I'm totally being a contrarian, but thems the breaks--and yes, I hate being spoiled***as much as the next person who hates being spoiled, but folks need to simmer down a little on this.) Deep breath y'all. It'll be ok, promise.
*Ugh, I cannot believe I just typed "OMG." Shoot me.
**I might be exaggerating. Might.
***Holy crap is it like The Crying Game?!?!? It's totally like 6th Sense, amirit? Gone Girl all the way, like completely Dangerous Girls....what??
Well, I finished this up last night. I have to say it was very good. Strayed has a fantastic writing style (so thinks I) and does a wonderful job of taking the reader with her on this pilgrimage.
I use the word pilgrimage deliberately here, rather than journey, adventure, or even quest. This memoir reads like a pilgrimage to reclaim something of her self, to release something of her self (the her selfs, also deliberate) and to crossover into new being.
Now, writing that? I nearly made myself hurl. I'm mean how indulgent, how eyerolly, but there's something almost painfully sincere about Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Strayed does a wonderful "warts and all" job of telling her story and even when you get those few moments, that to me felt a little...I can't think of the word, maybe indulgent? Narcissistic? I, at least, was willing to accept as a fundamentally human trait. I'm not explaining this well. Let's try this, there's a moment near the end of the book where she's speaking with the Young Bucks and they tell her they've figured out her "trail name." [A trail name is the name you're given by other hikers along the trail, more common on the AT, but also carries over to the PCT. So, for example, the Young Bucks is the trail name--it is odd to have one name for several people--for 3 young guys hiking the PCT from Mexico through to Canada.] They tell her that her trail name is
Normally, that right there would cause me to sprain my eyes from rolling them so hard, particularly since throughout the book we've been privy to how little she actually prepared, how little she knows about long distance hiking, how frequently she seems to ignore her common sense and end up in avoidable situations. It could come across as yet another pretty, blonde girl just floating through and trading on her looks rather than her ability. In fact, Strayed even mentions that while in high school she deliberately hid how smart she was because she knew she'd have a better go if thought dumb, pretty and popular. That would usually cause me to throw the book across the room, BUT in this case there is such a sincerity and such a humanness about Strayed here that I understood.
That said, there are moments, whoooo boy, there are moments when I just wanted to shake the girl she was and say "get it together, kid!" I mean, seriously,(show spoiler)
All in all, this was a great memoir and I'd definitely recommend it.
I was reading last night (I know, shocker) and I got to this part right here:
"I arrived in Ashland the next day around lunchtime, after hitching a ride from the trail with a group of AmeriCorps volunteers.
'Did you hear the big news?' one of them had asked after I'd climbed into their van.
I shook my head without explaining that I'd heard little news, big or small, for two months.
'You know the Grateful Dead?' he asked, and I nodded. 'Jerry Garcia is dead.'"
Ok, so I knew this took place in 1995, but I didn't really think too hard about that. Like I didn't try to place my life in context to this journey, not sure why, I think I just hadn't stopped to consider it. So, when I read that little exchange it stopped me cold, Like floored me and here's why-at the exact same moment in time that Cheryl Strayed was walking the PCT, the exact same time she was in an alien landscape trying to survive in the wild, I was doing THE EXACT SAME THING!!
Now, to be clear, I was not alone and I was not on the PCT. I was on my NOLS course in the Absorakas and the Wind River Ranges in WY. I did a horse packing course, a month in the wild with a horse, your gear and a pack animal (there were instructors and about 8 other students, you learn how to survive with minimal impact on the land. We had classes, lightening class, bear class, etc).
One of the funny things, and the reason I remember that it was when Jerry died, is that there was a tradition/joke on NOLS (until that point) where whenever you stopped for your re-rations the instructors would tell the students that Jerry had died. Since the vast majority of folks who did NOLS were rampant Deadheads it would usually create a stir. My brother had done a couple of courses, so I knew of this little tradition.
So, we stopped for our re-rations and...nothing. No lamenting the loss of Jerry. No needling students about memorials and other things happening in the civilized world, just nothing. Now, I thought that was really weird and there were a few of us on my course that talked about it, but we figured maybe the folks that met us just weren't in the know.
Flash forward to the end of our course and when we returned to Lander, WY we heard the news that Jerry had in fact died while we were on our course.
So, last night when I was reading that just struck me so clearly. I know exactly where I was at that exact time in her story...which is kinda freaky and kinda cool.
Or, at least, I thought so.
So I finished Ashfall, last week? I think it was last week, I'm not exactly certain. I was preparing for a keynote speech I had to give and the last few weeks are a blur--eh, let's go with last week.
I thought it was really good. I loved Darla, Alex is a great MC, useful, reasonable, but not a Gary Stu, which is refreshing. Loved that the book was told from the POV of a male protagonist, which you don't see as often in YA. The world that Mullin describes is painful, bleak, horrifying, terrifying, and frighteningly possible. I think he did a fantastic job of creating an entertaining and horrifying read.
I will say this. It's not an easy book to read. There are no punches pulled, which did make it difficult to continue at times. Honestly, I had to set it aside and pick up something fluffy to distract me before I could continue with the story on a couple of occasions. This, to me, is a sign of an author who is willing to follow the story wherever it may take him, which I really appreciated as a reader and really applaud in a YA book. It's lovely to see an author respect the intelligence and maturity of teen readers and not talk down to them.
My only thing (and I'm not going to call it a complaint or a criticism, because it's not) was how it ended. I very much appreciated it not ending on a cliff, praise Jeebus, the story had a beginning, middle and end. Yes, there's more to the story, but it's not an "Alias Season 2 Cliffhanger of Doom" (as I've taken to calling these things) so I'm grateful. (***If you have not watched Seasons 1 & 2 of the show Alias Do Not Watch that link!!!***)
The way it did end, however, reminded me of TS Elliot's line in The Hollow Men , "Not with a bang but a whimper." It just sort of...ended
I've wanted to read this for ages, ever since I realized that she was Sugar. I love Sugar. So far, so good. She has such a way with language and words, I really do love reading her stuff, it feels effortless while still having gravitas and a delicious weight.
(stupid job keeping me from reading today...)