Voldemort Likes My Hair

voldemortmyhairI’m in what feels like a theater, as there are rows of chairs where various people (and other magical beings) are seated, when suddenly, Voldemort enters the room. He floats up and down each row along with some sort of creature that can find missing people, searching for Harry Potter. It’s terrifying to be in the same room as him, but I can’t run away because that will draw his attention to me. And he mustn’t know that I’m Harry Potter in disguise! Yes, Harry Potter is disguised as me!

This is the dream I had the other night as I was finishing up the final book in the Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Apparently I’ve been spending too much time in the wizarding world this summer as I re-read the series! It has managed to creep into my dreams. The dream didn’t end there either – instead, it got even weirder…

I try to stay calm – which is difficult when the snake-like face of Voldemort is nearby – but I’m confident that my disguise will keep me safe. How could he think a 30 year old woman would be Harry Potter? Unfortunately, Voldemort stops when he gets to me and starts running his long, thin, grey fingers through my hair. He brings a handful of my hair to his creepy, slit-shaped nostrils and inhales. He is surprisingly gentle with my hair. He says something like, “You have good hair.” While I’m relieved – and weirded out – by this turn of events, I’m still on edge because I’m still Harry Potter in disguise! What if he takes me just because he likes my hair? Then he’ll really have Harry!

Then my alarm went off and that’s where the dream ended. What did we learn from this? Either that Voldemort may have some weird hair fetish, or that you shouldn’t stay up until all hours of the night reading, even if it is Harry Potter!

I had been wanting to re-read the series for a long time, but always thought it was too much to take on. I have the hardcover versions of most of the books and they are huge and intimidating. Also, there are so many other books to read, so why would I read a seven book series again? And perhaps the scariest thought, what if they weren’t as good as they were the first time around? Pushing these worries aside, I jumped into the series (ebook version this time) and enjoyed every minute of it.

First, I’m pleased to report that the books were still just as magical and wonderful as I remembered. It amazes me every time I start thinking about how J.K. Rowling put together these books. How did she make everything fit together so well? How did she create such a believable and incredible world? How did she craft characters that we would care about for years? For real. Harry, Hermione, Ron, Hagrid, Luna, Neville, Professor McGonagall, Dumbledore, all the Weasley’s, Lupin, Sirius, Snape. I don’t think there is a cast of characters that I love more. Second, the books were not that big of an undertaking. I read all seven books (plus five other novels while I waited for the books to become available through the Overdrive app) in less than three months. The books read quickly, perhaps because they are technically children’s books, but also because they are so wonderful that you want to find out what happens next.

If you’ve never read the Harry Potter series (*gasp* how is that possible?!), or you’ve been wanting to re-read them but you just haven’t found the time, I encourage you to pick up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and get reading. You won’t be disappointed.

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Current Read: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

imageThis week, I’m re-reading a book I read almost 16 years ago: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It’s J.K. Rowling’s’ first book in the Harry Potter series, and a game changer in the world of literature. I’d like to re-read the entire series, but we’ll see how that goes!

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last eighteen years, here’s what Goodreads has to say about the book:

Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard! The first book in the “Harry Potter” series makes the perfect introduction to the world of Hogwarts.

The first time I read this book, I was skeptical. Why would I be interested in a book about a boy magician? Why would that interest me? It was a different reading experience because I didn’t have any movies to shape my perceptions of the characters or world, and I didn’t know how to pronounce the name “Hermione.” Needless to say, it’s very different to read this book a second time around. I not only know how the book ends, but I know how the series ends, and I can’t help but to see Daniel Radcliffe as Harry.

This time around, I’m struck by how flawlessly Rowling created her wizarding world. Everything is so well thought out, yet there is never an info dump. Everything a reader needs to know is seamlessly integrated into the text. We learn about this amazing world right along with Harry. Around 300 pages long, the book is well-crafted, but easy to read and understand. It is not as dark and sinister as the movies make it out to be, but I think the danger and intrigue increases as the series goes on and the books become longer and more complex.

However, the ending of the book is sort of silly if you start to think about it too much. CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD! Let’s be real here. Voldemort is a powerful dark wizard, and while he might not have much physical strength in this book, he does have power over his followers, like Professor Quirrell. If he’d wanted Harry dead, he could have done it. Apparently, Quirrell can’t kill Harry in the final scene because it’s too painful to touch him…but why didn’t he use his wand?! He should know plenty of curses – after all, he teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts! Quirrell attempts to knock Harry from his broom during a quidditch match, but that’s the ONLY attempt on his life all school year. I guess Voldemort didn’t realize what a hinderance Harry would be to his comeback. Also, why didn’t Quirrell wait to go get the stone until after the students had left the school? They would have been gone in just a few days, and then there wouldn’t have been any interference. Oh well, this is the suspension of disbelief we as readers must endure at times. For Harry and J.K Rowling, I guess I’ll let it slide!

Have you re-read the Harry Potter series? What did you notice the second time around?

A Second Look at Allegiant

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*** Spoiler Alert! ***

*** This post contains spoilers about the book Allegiant. If you haven’t read it, but plan to, STAY AWAY! You’ve been warned! ***

 

So I decided to give Allegiant another shot. You may recall that I was not a fan of Veronica Roth’s final installment of the Divergent trilogy. Many readers were disappointed by the novel, but my main faults were that the switching narratives didn’t work, Four became a ninny, the book was dull, and I felt unaffected by Tris’s death. Now that the movie trailer is out for the first part of the novel (because, of course, they HAD to split the book into two parts), I wanted to re-read the novel and see if it was really as bad as I first thought. So with fresh eyes and an open mind, I dived into the novel and found out….

1. The dual-narrators still doesn’t work. Tris and Tobias don’t read like two different characters. I once again had to keep asking myself, “which character am I reading?” I found Tris to be a compelling narrator in Divergent and Insurgent, and I really enjoyed reading the short stories from Tobias’s point of view in Four, but in Allegiant, their voices are the same.

2. What’s outside the fence is still a big let down. It’s boring. It’s not the futuristic, fancy place that the movie trailer depicts; it’s literally O’Hare airport, but rundown and modified into a laboratory compound. Tobias thinks, “I don’t want to think about staying here, making this my home. I already feel trapped by my own disappointment. This is not what I imagined when I thought of escaping my parents and the bad memories they gave me.” It is not what readers imagined either. The characters, used to the excitement of initiation, serums, war, and a constant struggle to survive, become bored because they no longer have a purpose. Tris thinks to herself, “When we left the city, we lost our factions, our sense of purpose. Here there is nothing to do but wait for something to happen.” Why didn’t the Bureau give Tobias, Cara, Peter, Caleb, Uriah, and Christina jobs or tasks or schooling or send them away? Tris at least had her mother’s journal and some council meetings to attend to keep her occupied. No one else had anything to do all day. I think this is part of the reason why Tobias gets mixed up with Nita and her schemes. He’s bored and used to have something to fight against. Overall, the book’s premise is just a little silly. Especially when it comes to their plan to take down the Bureau. I mean, why is no one keeping track of what they do at the compound? Tobias is supposedly on parole for having helped with the first attack, yet he is giving Caleb shooting lessons. And how do they have such easy access to weapons and explosives? I’m not sure what David and Zoe were so busy doing all day long. Seems like they brought about their own demise. The plot was unbelievable and had a few too many plot holes.

However, Roth may have been on to something with her genetic modifications. David explains to the group that, “a few centuries ago, the government of this country became interested in enforcing certain desirable behaviors in its citizens. There had been studies that indicated that violent tendencies could be partially traced to a person’s genes–a gene called ‘the murder gene’ was the first of these, but there were quite a few more, genetic predispositions toward cowardice, dishonesty, low intelligence– all the qualities, in other words, that ultimately contribute to a broken society.” Can you imagine if this was something scientists could really do? That instead of stricter gun control laws, for example, we just modified people so they wouldn’t attempt those crimes? This is both interesting and terrifying. Unfortunately, while Roth might have had something here, the delivery of all the sciencey details gets boring and repetitive. Some rewriting or editing could have helped this out.

3. I was perhaps too harsh on Four the first time around. booklove1I thought he was weak and focused on being genetically damaged, but now I see that he’s really more concerned about his parents and his desire to be loved. He is busy deciding which parent he can work with to put an end to the chaos in Chicago. He’s also feeling guilty about not protecting Uriah. Oh, and he’s acting as a buffer between Tris and Caleb. So maybe he wasn’t the ninny I pegged him as during the first read. This makes me happy because I really do love Four and I was so disappointed by him when I first read Allegiant. Now he can return to his rightful place as my literary crush!

4. Tris’s death felt more real and valiant this time around. Perhaps because I knew it was going to happen, but I understood her reasoning better this time and respect the sacrifice she made. However, it was still terribly sad that she gets shot by David of all people. I’m not really sure why he shot to kill in the first place. I don’t think he even knew what she was trying to do. It’s also sad because she has mended her relationship with Tobias and they will finally get to choose how to live their lives, and suddenly everyone has to go on without her.

imageIn all, I liked Allegiant more the second time around, but it still didn’t live up to my expectations. I just think it could have been better. I’m glad I gave the book another chance. It’s a quick read, so it didn’t take time away from other books, and it got the bad taste out of my mouth from the first reading of the novel. That being said, I think there is a real opportunity for the movie to improve upon the book…

Books I’d like to Re-read

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It’s rare for me to go back and read a book again. After all, there are SO MANY books to read! But I haven’t been in love with my reads lately, so I’ve been considering a re-read. These are a few that have been on my mind…

  1. Allegiant: I was pretty harsh on the novel after my initial reading. I’m wondering if I would still feel as strongly about it after a re-read, and I’m curious to know if it was really as bad as I thought it was.
  2. The entire Harry Potter series: I loved each and every book the first time around, but it’s been many years since I read them. Can you believe It has been eight years since the final book came out? I’ve seen all the movies, of course, but I know they left out a lot of details.
  3. Graceling: I really enjoyed this book and the world the author created. I want to go back to that world again, as well as Katsa and Po’s unique relationship. If you haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend it.
  4. Cress: The final installment of The Lunar Chronicles just came out this week. I haven’t purchased the book yet because I’m afraid I’ve forgotten where the story left off. A refresher would be nice before reading Winter.
  5. The Bronze Horseman: The history. The romance. Tatiana and Alexander. Simply, I loved this novel and I’d love to revisit it.

What books would you’re-read if you had the time and opportunity?

Entry #15 – Re-read:

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Entry #15 – Re-read:  This is a book that you have read more than once.

As an English teacher, I’ve re-read my fair share of books.  I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve read Romeo & Juliet, The Outsiders, The Miracle Worker, or Holes.  When it comes to reading for pleasure rather than for lesson planning, I tend to shy away from re-reading.  There are so many books I want to read that I don’t have time to re-read.  I don’t have the tattered book that I carry with me everywhere and read once a year.  Despite this, I was surprised at the growing list of books that I have re-read.

rereadbooks1. The China Garden by Liz Berry……Read 5 times

This title is always my response when I’m asked what my favorite book is.  I’ll talk about it more in a later post.  All you need to know now is that it’s wonderful…and I kind of want to re-read it again soon!

2. The Giver by Lois Lowry……….Read 4 times

This is a Young Adult classic.  I used it with my seventh graders last year, but I’ve also read it plenty of times on my own.  I love the world of “sameness” that Lowry has created and Jonah’s realization that his world is not as perfect as he once thought.  It’s the original dystopian novel.

3. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger………….Read 2 times

Don’t we all wish we could travel through time?  In Niffenegger’s novel, she shows readers a darker side to time travel through the romance of Henry and Clare.  Cool fact: Niffenegger is not only a talented writer (she wrote the creepy novel Her Fearful Symmetry, too), but she’s also an artist.  She creates stories and artwork for visual and graphic novels.  See some of her work for the story Raven Girl here.

4. Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth…Read 2 times

It should be no surprise from my previous posts that I adored Divergent and Insurgent.  I took a break from reading during November to focus on my NaNoWriMo novel, but I wasn’t very good at staying away from books!  I told myself, “I’ll just re-read Insurgent so I’ll be ready to read Allegiant…” and then I decided I might as well re-read Divergent too!  I was pleased to discover they were just as good as I had remembered.

5. The Terrorist by Caroline B. Cooney……………Read 2 times

Cooney was my favorite author as a teen.  I read The Face on The Milk Carton and became hooked on Cooney’s ability to create believable teen characters who were going through crazy things like discovering they had been kidnapped, or might have unleashed smallpox on the world from an old scab in a book, or traveled back in time.  Her books were short and could be read quickly.  I always made a beeline for the “C” shelf at Barnes & Noble, eager to pick out another one of her novels.  Even as an adult, I wander over to the shelf to find out if Cooney has written anything new.  I recently re-read The Terrorist on my Kindle Fire.  Even though the book was published in 1997, the subject matter (a kid from an international school in London is killed by a bomb) still feels relevant.

How about you?  What books do you find yourself re-reading?