Saturday, December 31, 2011

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? Being Grateful.

2011 has been an interesting year for me and mine.  We have had a rough few years due to circumstances out of our control, but I always take comfort in the fact that The Hubs and I continue to remain happy and strong when we are together, no matter what life throws our way.  Thankfully, this has been a pretty good year, a crazy year, a year full of changes and new jobs and books upon books upon books, and I really couldn't be happier.  Lots of great things planned for 2012, so I really hope the world doesn't end.

I would like to thank all of you out there who've read my blog craziness over the years as well.  I love having an outlet with which to express myself, and I never imagined anyone would read this besides The Hubs or my mom or something.  So, from the bottom of my heart, no matter how you came to read this, thank you for taking the time to make me feel just a little bit important.  I am so very grateful.

Please enjoy this mega-cuteness from Zooey and Joseph.  See you next year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Why I Love Being Called a Nerd aka Thank You, John Green

Two quotes (and the videos in which they appear) from the incomparable John Green about why I value and embrace my nerdiness.

"Saying 'I notice you're a nerd' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' In fact, it seems to me that most contemporary insults are pretty lame. Even 'lame' is kind of lame. Saying 'You're lame' is like saying 'You walk with a limp.' Yeah, whatever, so does 50 Cent, and he's done all right for himself.”

"...nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff!  We don't have to be like, 'Oh yeah, that purse is okay,' or like, 'Yeah, I like that band's early stuff.'  Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. Hank, when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff,’ which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Review of "Young Adult" or Why I Needed This Movie Right Now

I was joking on Twitter with my buddy Nick that Young Adult should be titled Jessica's Movie.  Anyone who knows me at all, whether IRL or not, knows that I love YA and I love quirky, awkward movies.  My want to see this movie was a no brainer.

Needless to say, I loved this movie in all its uncomfortable, awkward, realistic and unrealistic glory.  What I didn't realize was that it would leave me feeling elated and depressed, a brilliant mix of sad/happy in the best way.  As I walked across the parking lot immediately post-movie, I was overwhelmed with the urge to simultaneously laugh and cry, both hysterically.  

Here's the part where I try to explain myself...

Mavis Gray, the "heroine" of the film, is a YA (ghost) writer for a series that has seen more popularity in its past than it's seeing now.  In fact, her series is being cancelled, and she's currently working on the last story.  She lives in Minneapolis in a high-rise apartment with her Pekingese, she drinks Diet Coke and all other alcoholics beverages fairly heavily, she hates her life just as much as she loves it, and, after receiving a birth announcement email, she becomes obsessed with winning back her high school boyfriend, even though he's happily married with a brand new baby girl.  Mavis sees all of these facts as non-important, as things he can overcome, because she knows deep in his heart that he's just as unhappy as she is and that all will be fixed when they are together.  So she returns to her small Minnesota hometown to win Buddy back, fully believing that she will be successful in a matter of days.

Clearly, Mavis is mentally unstable.

That's the beauty of Mavis, though.  Her instability is so far out there, but it's so relatable as well.  I'm not saying that I want to win back anyone from my past (because, uh, do you see who I married?  SO the man for me!!) but that yearning to recapture a time when you felt invincible certainly sounds appealing.  Throughout the course of the film, she is absolutely out of control, vindictive, brash, bawdy, inappropriate, and totally unlike anyone I actually know in real life... but I feel like I know what she's going through.

Becoming an adult is painfully hard and extremely awkward, especially becoming an adult outside of the town in which you grew up, especially when you grew up in what's considered a "small town."  While my hometown is technically Richmond (not a "small town" by any stretch of the imagination), I grew up in a small district that operated just as a small town operates.  Because of this, whenever I return to this part of Richmond, I have a tendency to return to the Jessica of those days of yore.  This is partially of my own volition due to years of feeling that this is the Jessica that people expect, but also... I feel I have to be the Jessica they expect.

Recently, I have been thinking about my personal Arrested Development very often, wondering why I do this, wondering why people treat me this way, wondering why I allow people to treat me this way.  I think that everyone obviously grows and changes and adapts as time goes by, and this growth and change and adaptation should be acknowledged and allowed rather than looked at with confusion.  I should be allowed to be my true self, no matter what version of Jessica you've met along the way.  And I shouldn't be chastised for being myself.  Frankly, if you don't like what I say or how I act or who I am... then why are you friends with me?

...Am I still talking about the movie?  Sort of.  Let's get back on track, shall we?  Great.

Charlize Theron is just incredible in this, giving life and layers to a character that could so easily be one-sided and awful.  You're not supposed to like her, but you do just as much as you don't.  And Patton Oswalt?  Oh. Wow.  Perfection.  I really want him to win all the awards for this.  ALL of them.  The script is pitch-perfect, as I expect from Diablo Cody, and it all fits together just as it should.  It doesn't end all wrapped in a little bow, but that's exactly how it should be.  I cannot think of another way to say it, but I loved it.  I really, really needed this movie in my life right at this very moment.  Not only because the girl at the ticket counter ACTUALLY CARDED ME to make sure I was over 17. Seriously, that happened.

In short, I predictably and unpredictably adored Young Adult.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Top Ten Favorite Childhood Books

There is a meme created by The Broke and The Bookish called Top Ten Tuesday.  Every Tuesday, they ask YA book bloggers to post their Top Ten of whatever that week's theme is.  This week's theme is Top Ten Childhood Favorites (which, incidentally, was the *first* TTT theme, so they reposted it since they thought more people would participate this time around).  In reading the many different lists, I was inspired to post my own.  SO, without further ado and in no particular order, here are my Top Ten Favorite Books From My Childhood.

1. Tuck Everlasting

Holy crap, I love this book like it's my job.  I've read it more times than I can remember.  Thinking back, this story has probably influenced  my current reading habits much more than I ever realized.  Even in elementary school, I adored how (mild spoiler alert) it ends on kind of a downer, and yet it's still so hopeful.

2. The Baby-Sitters Club

Oh, I read them all.  Every single one.  Every book, every special edition, every anthology, even every Baby-Sitters Little Sister.  I even owned the game pictured.  I bet it's still at my parents' house in my closet right now.  I may or may not have tried to get my parents to take me on a trip to Stoneybrook, CT as well.  (P.S. it's not real so don't ask.)  My personal favorite was Stacey because she was super fashionable and she lived in Manhattan and dotted her i's and lower case j's with hearts.  However, I always loved that Mary Anne, the plainest girl in the eternal 8th grade, was able to bag a hottie like Logan Bruno.  Good for you, girl!

3. Sweet Valley Twins, more specifically Jessica's New Look

Obviously, this Jessica was a huge fan of the Wakefield twins, seeing as one of them has my name and all.  Why this one in particular?  Well, much like my girl Jessica, I also had to get glasses.  However, this book came out about 2 years before my glasses initiation, but I always knew it wasn't far away.  I must have read this one a billion times.  Freakin' glasses.

4. The Secret Garden

I distinctly remember this being one of the first books that wasn't a school summer list read or a BSC/Sweet Valley book that I chose myself.  I just started reading it on a whim, and I couldn't stop.  It's where my love of the UK began, frankly.  I wanted to live in a big manor house out in the English countryside with beautiful gardens and foggy moors and a dude named Dickon to teach me about animals.  And also a really demanding cousin.  Have you ever seen the 1993 movie?  It's amazing.  Dame Maggie Smith is in it, and she rules.  My mom also took me to see the musical when the touring company came to Richmond.

5. Bridge to Terabithia

Truly, truly, truly one of my favorite books on the planet still to this very moment.  I first read this in the 4th or 5th grade, and I swear I cried in class because I was so wrapped up in the characters.  This was the very first book that made me realize just how much words can affect your heart.  Amazing.

6. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

I mean, come on.  This one just sells itself in title alone.

7. Wayside School is Falling Down

This is the silliest book ever, and that's why I adore it.  In a complete turnabout of my usual character, I read this without having first read Sideways Stories From Wayside School (aka the first book).  However, that didn't really matter.  I would still rock a shirt that says, "Star Bringing Purple!"

8. A Light In The Attic

I seriously cannot choose my favorite poem.  Everyone loves Shel.

9. The Monster at the End of this Book

My dad used to read this one to me all the time, and his voice would get progressively higher and more nervous and it was hilarious.  He's not a big reader at all, but he always read to us.  That's important.

10. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

All girls of a certain age have read this.  Fact.  I think it's like required.  It's terrifying in its description of maxi pads on belts.  BELTS. WHAT DID THOSE GIRLS LIVE THROUGH? Oh, I'm still totally wigged out.

What about you?  What are your favorite books from childhood?

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Hunger Games trailer, aka Is It March Yet?

I have now watched the trailer for The Hunger Games about 400 times.  Holy moly.  I haven't been this excited about a movie since... well, since Deathly Hallows.  And that is really saying something.  Oh my goodness.

What gets me the most about this is Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss.  I always thought she looked the part, and I had complete faith that she would be able to handle the role.  What I am not prepared for is how well she will be able to handle it.  The clip that will destroy me in the theater is her volunteering.  In the trailer, she fights with the guards after her sister's name is called, then crazily, passionately, without a thought in her head except fear for her sister's life, she screams, "I VOLUNTEER!"  Then, immediately after, she gets herself together and states plainly and strongly, "I volunteer as tribute."  It gives me chills. It's Katniss through and though.  It's perfection.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"It's hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake him off."

I needed this song more than I realized.  It speaks straight to my heart and chases every cloudy thought away in an instant.  Love.

Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play

And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues strong
It's always darkest before the dawn

And I've been a fool and I've been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I'm always dragging that horse around

And our love is pastured such a mournful sound
Tonight I'm gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues strong
But it's always darkest before the dawn

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah

And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh woah

I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart
Cause I like to keep my issues strong
It's always darkest before the dawn
[ Lyrics from: ]
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah

And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh woah

And given half the chance would I take any of it back
It's a final mess but it's left me so empty
It's always darkest before the dawn

Oh woah, oh woah... 

And I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't
So here's to drinks in the dark at the end of my road
And I'm ready to suffer and I'm ready to hope
It's a shot in the dark and right at my throat
Cause looking for heaven, for the devil in me
Looking for heaven, for the devil in me
Well what the hell I'm gonna let it happen to me

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah

And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh woah

Friday, October 28, 2011

One Last Weekend.

On Tuesday, I'll hit that age where I'm supposed to start lying.  I'll be 30.  Honestly, I'm not too fussed about it.  Not to get all overdramatic on you, but my 20's haven't been the easiest.  I've been through a lot, dealt with more than I ever imagined, and I'm here relatively unscathed on the other side.  I've got a really good feeling about 30.

So this is my last weekend with a 2 as the first number in my age.  However, it's supposed to be mega cold and possibly snow(!) so my plan is to hide out.  Since it's also Halloween weekend, I'm going to have a non-horror movie marathon!  Here's what I've come up with so far.

Hocus Pocus, one of my favorites forever and for all time.
Sanderson sistas!!

The Nightmare Before Christmas, the perfect Halloween/Christmas crossover.
"Oh, somewhere deep inside of these bones, an emptiness began to grow..."

Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, because it's hilarious and those bunnies are presh.
Bunnies!  Bunnies! It must be BUNNIES!

Any movies you love for Halloween?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

I read the awesomely amazing Chuck Klosterman book featured in the title of this entry circa 2003, and I called my brother when I was on page 4 to say, "You must read this book."  The below quote was just posted on Facebook, and it is yet another reminder of why both this book and Chuck Klosterman are THE BEST (and why I loved JMU).

"There are no 'fashion don'ts' inside the Mainstreet Bar & Grill in downtown Harrisonburg.  You want to inexplicably wear a headband?  Fine.  You want to wear a FUBU sweatshirt with a baseball hat that features the Confederate flag?  No problem.  This is the kind of place where you see a college girl attempting to buy a $2.25 glass of Natural Light on tap with her credit card-- and have her card denied."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Something's Comin', Something Good.

It's that time of year again!  What time?  The new TV season, of course!  Yay!  I love New TV Season!

This year, I've decided to break up with Grey's Anatomy, despite how much I enjoyed most of it last season.  My Thursday dance card, even with DVR, is just too full.  Plus, I have to make way for new shows to love. This year, my shows are: HIMYM, The Sing-Off (full season YAY!), Glee, New Girl (because I swear it's about me...), Raising Hope, Parenthood, Community, Vampire Diaries, and The Office.  Man, do I love New TV Season.

So... my first happy of the year comes from (der) Glee.  More specifically (der), Blaine.  Darren Criss sang my absolute FAVORITE song from West Side Story last night, "Something's Coming."  I think it's just the most perfect song from WSS.  Tony is so sweetly excited about what's to come, and he doesn't even know what it is but he knows it's going to change him, to make him better.  The music pulses along in the background, and I grin every time I listen to it.  When I heard Darren would be doing this, I was, needless to say, really damn excited.  Upon first listen, though, I was simultaneously impressed and dissatisfied.  I just thought it was done better in the movie.

Then, when I saw the performance last night... well... just wow.  He blew me away... So, for your viewing and aural pleasure, I've included Darren/Blaine's version below, as well as the Richard Beymer/Jimmy Bryant version for comparison.  I couldn't find a video from last night's Glee (or figured that when I found out, it would be immediately taken down), but you can watch it here.  (Thanks, tumblr!)

I'm such a girl.

Monday, September 19, 2011

News, Everyone!

I am officially a reviewer at Wastepaper Prose!  I'm pretty excited about it, because now I have another writing outlet AND it's an excuse to read more books.  My first review is up at the site (spoiler alert: interesting but not my favorite).  Also, check out the How I Know Susan entry before it (just for the background info on how two former classmates use the internet to realize we still exist) and my bio.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Tina Fey is my spirit animal.

I have been told a million times that I remind people of Tina Fey.  Is it the black framed glasses I wear when I'm too lazy to put in my contacts?  My brown hair?  My pale whiteness? 

Yes.  Probably.

However, one of my oldest friends was reading Bossypants recently, and she told me that she thought I sounded like Tina.  She thought I was as funny as Tina freakin' Fey.  That's a serious compliment, y'all.

I'm currently "reading" the Bossypants audiobook, read by Ms. Fey herself.  I don't want to overstate this, so let me say this carefully: this is the best and funniest shit I have ever read in my entire life.  Below are some of my favorite quotes and more reasons why I love being compared to Tina Fey.

"Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it." 
tina fey high five Pictures, Images and Photos

"Gay people don’t actually try to convert people. That’s Jehovah’s Witnesses you’re thinking of." 

"I was a little excited but mostly blorft. "Blorft" is an adjective I just made up that means 'Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.' I have been blorft every day for the past seven years." 

"(By the way, when Oprah Winfrey is suggesting you may have overextended yourself, you need to examine your f***ing life.)" 

"It's a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke you can until the last possible second, and then you have to let it go. You can't be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it...You have to let people see what you wrote." 

"THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities." 
(all of the pics & gifs in this are from photobucket)

Monday, August 29, 2011

May the odds be ever in your favor!

I watched about 20 minutes of the VMAs last night in order to see the teaser trailer for The Hunger Games.  It is 20 minutes of my life that I will never get back.  I don't know if I'm just old or what, but it was terrible.  Absolutely awful in every possible way.  And who thought it was a good idea to have Bruno Mars sing the Amy Winehouse tribute?  Did he get busted for cocaine?  Oh... right.

Anywho... the trailer is amazing!  I desperately wish it was longer or it gave a glimpse of Peeta and Haymitch... but I'll take it.  The best part?  Besides how awesome Jennifer Lawrence looks at Katniss (BRAIDS!)?  Those four notes at the very end.  Haunting.  Perfect.

Is it March yet??

Get More: 2011 VMA, Music

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nicassio [Coz] Johnson, and Why I Will Miss Him.

I don't even know how to start this.  It still feels surreal.

On Saturday the 6th, I was rushing through my parents' house, trying to get myself ready to go to my cousin's cutie-pie kids' dual birthday parties.  Most of the family left before me, leaving me at home with my dad and The Hubs.  I noticed a friend from my old days at The Ocho had called and left a pretty bizarre voicemail.  It made me... suspicious.  So, like I usually do in these situations, I checked Facebook.  Where I saw the words RIP Coz.

And my legs went out from under me.

I met Coz while working at The Ocho in 2004.  I worked at The Ocho for a total of 15 months, and Coz started there just about 3 weeks before me.  I started on Morningside, and he came over from Nightside shortly after we were hired, along with our third team member Dax.  The three of us literally ran the floor, with Paulie, Ilya, and Betty running things from the control room, every single morning for those 15 months.  I spent more time with them than I did with pretty much anyone else during those months.  When your shift STARTS at 4 am, no one else is around to hang with you.  Your co-workers become your friends by default.

Lucky for me, I couldn't have picked better guys if I tried, especially Coz and Paul.  Every interesting work-related story I have is from this time, from the Jumping Out Of A Giant Box To Scare Other People story to the Let's Watch A Six Foot Four-ish Large Black Man Extract Himself From The Back Of A Volkswagen story to our random talks about cartoons and baseball and religion and politics and Black History Month and Journey and Cankles and Japanese Van Suicides and epic floods and MacGuyver and Dead Otter News...

Did I mention we started our shift at 4 am?

I moved away to RI (briefly) and back to DC and then to C-ville and then BACK to DC after I left The Ocho, but I didn't lose touch with Coz.  He was always a pretty large presence in my life, both physically and mentally.  Every new job made me wish I was still working with the Little Big Bear (despite the better pay and the even better hours).  We had successfully infiltrated each other's lives outside of work, something practically unheard for me, and it always blew my mind when I found out my BFF from forever, my BFF from JMU, and Coz were all together without me.

Which just makes it all the more terrible to find out that he's gone.  I have some inklings about what happened to him, though I'm still not sure on all the details (don't know if I want to be).  Depending on the day, hour, and minute, I'm sad or angry or frustrated or laughing or clutching at my chest in pain.  I don't understand why this happened, and I know I never will.

Strangely, I consider myself lucky that Coz wasn't in my daily life anymore.  I had a chance to miss him already, and I certainly did.  This will all hit me even harder months from now, when we're planning a big party and I'm calling all my friends to show up and I realize I haven't heard from him in so long, and I'll look at my phone and remember... oh... that's right.  It still feels sort of... fake to me right now.

I'm concentrating on those great stories now, remembering how much we laughed together.  More than anything, that boy could get me laughing like I would never stop, and about the most random silly bits ever like Grandpa's Itchy Stomach or quotes from the Oblongs.  I'll miss that the most.  Coz truly understood me just as I am- not work Jessica or JMU Jess or jeskuh.  Just me.  There aren't many people out there like that for me, and it sucks that there's one less...

All I know is that I miss my friend.
And he is laughing at me for all of this.
"Really, Boom?  All this sadness and emo and a friggin' BLOG POST, for me?  Really?"

Deal with it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Who likes to win pretty books written by awesome ladies?

i need something good to happen to me after the weekend I've had (blog entry about that to come after i can process the thoughts that i'm thinking and the feelings that i'm feeling) so until then...

see those books up there?  they sure are pretty, aren't they?  i would like to read ALL OF THEM very much.  so... if you are like me and YOU would like to read them, click here and enter to WIN THEM before you can buy them.  while you wait, just keep looking at the pretty covers.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

"I fell asleep watching Veronica Mars again..."

In my post-Potter world, I've been looking at life differently...

Sorry, couldn't help myself.  Honestly, it was quite an experience to see the movie, and I loved it to little tiny bits, but I'm not suffering from Post-Potter Depression.  It was a lovely conclusion, and now I'll look forward to Pottermore.  I didn't really have anything to say of any importance, but I felt I should update the blog to let my oh-so-many followers know that I wasn't about to self-Avada Kedavra.  Currently, I'm just suffering from Extreme Comic-Con Jealousy.  I'll make it there one day... ONE DAY...

So, to thank you for reading this entry, please enjoy this video!  It's currently my favorite song.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

ReRead 2011: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Okay, seriously, just read the books.

I don't even have the words to give justice to my feelings about this.  You may think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not.  Reading DH is an experience, and it has yet to be matched with any book I've ever read.  I had spent a little more than 5 years with these characters when I first read this (still a newbie by lots of HP standards), and joining them on their journey is no easy task.  From start to finish, this is a action packed, emotion-filled roller coaster of epic proportions.  And I love every word.

First, my own personal midnight story: I made plans to get the book from a local Barnes & Noble with my buddies Katie and Doug.  We went to B&N, and it. Was. CROWDED.  There were people errywhere, and the chances of us getting a book and getting out of there unscathed were slim.  Sitting in the parking lot, we made an executive decision.  We knew there was an unfrequented Wal-Mart nearby, so we went to check out the crowd there.  We found a crowd... of 3.  The lady at the front of the line was hardcore super crazy, but she made sure each of us got all 4 of the house wristbands that Wal-Mart would have handed out if the crowd got insane.  We had the books in hand and paid for by 2 minutes after 12.

So we head back to their place to make like a Strawberry Debutante and readreadreadreadreadreadread.  We all sat together in a room and snacked on delicious junk food and read like mad.  Katie reads the fastest, so she got a few pages ahead of us, and every time she gasped or laughed or anything, I was like, "OMG WHAT NOW?"  At the first death (HEDWIG!!!), we shed a tear, and we knew no one was safe.  Finally, something happened where Katie slammed her book closed and walked upstairs, yelling, "NOPE!" as she went.  I couldn't imagine what would be so terrible that it would drive her out of the room.  I found out just a few pages later, tears streaming down my face.

It's long been told on this blog that I am an epic crier.  This book... holy crap, I'm crying from start to finish. Hedwig.  Mad-Eye.  The attack at the wedding.  Ron and Hermione holding hands while they slept.  Ron LEAVING... but showing up just in the nick of time.  Hermione beating the crap out of Ron (those were tears of laughter).  Blow after blow after blow.

The worst (before the Battle of Hogwarts) comes in the form of a free elf.  Poor, sweet, selfless Dobby shows up just in time to save his friends while sacrificing himself.  For a character that irritated me endlessly upon introduction, I didn't expect to openly weep at his death.  In fact, during this past reading, I started to cry when he first showed up in the dungeon!  Before anything bad had even happened to him!  And when Harry, Ron, and Dean all give him clothes to wear when they bury him?!?  Oh, just leave me here to drown in a sea of my own tears.  Dobby's death is an important moment in Harry's journey as well as really freaking sad.

The absolute worst worst most terriblest of deaths in the book, however, is Fred.  It's so... oh, it sucks so bad.  I know when I see this part in the movie that I will officially be done.  Like, stick a fork in me because I might be dead on the ground from over-crying done.  I can't say anything more about that.

And so we reach the end of Harry's journey, where he faces Voldemort one last time, and he defeats him in a glorious way.  He chose love, his family, his friends over anything else, and that was the best decision in the end.  He fought through the hardships, destroyed the Horcruxes, avenged his parents, showed how very strong he was, and it all paid off for him.  I would love to know what Harry did over those next 19 years- the changes he and Ron made to the Auror office, the toast he gave as Ron's best man at Ron & Hermione's wedding, the cheers he made up while watching his wife Ginny rock the Quidditch pitch as a Holyhead Harpie.  However, I am totally satisfied with the epilogue Jo provided, bringing Harry completely full circle back to Platform 9 and 3/4, this time with his own family, a family that truly loves him.  Rumor has it a certain sob-inducing song will play at the end of the film, and, if this is true, I will be a steaming hot mess of tears.

I know they are fictional characters.  I know it's a series of fantasy books originally written for children.  I don't care.  These stories inspire me, these characters affect me like nothing has before.  In that way, they are real to me.  I adore this series more than any other, and I cannot wait to read these tales to my own children someday.  Tonight's movie will be a fitting end to this beloved story of the Boy Who Lived.

Thanks for staying with me through this.  Until the very end...

Friday, July 8, 2011

ReRead 2011: Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince

Um... you know what I'm gonna say!

The closer we get to next Friday, the harder and harder these things are to write.  I can't believe the movie is almost HERE.  I can't believe any of this.

So, what are my thoughts on HBP?  Well, first, here's my own personal buying story.  When HBP came out, I was working at a tv station, and my shift started at 4 am (YEP, 4 AM!!).  There was a Books-A-Million right next to the station, so I went there at midnight to get my book, and I hid from our cameras who would be running the midnight book buying story on the morning show.  From there, I sat at my buddy's desk for the next 4 hours until my shift started, reading and eating peanuts.  Then, I sat in the audio booth and read in there until the show started at 6 am.  Then, I read during commercial breaks.  I'm amazed the show even had audio, to be honest.

The moment I finished the last sentence of HBP and closed the book, I couldn't think.  I couldn't even move.  This one hit me hardest of them all (until Deathly Hallows came around).  It's very clear that the end is so near, and yet there are so many questions that need to be answered and so many things that need to be addressed before the fans would be satisfied.  However, if the journey would be anything like this one, I would definitely be there for the ride.  HBP dove into Voldemort's past, showing the unsavory roots of the most terrifying wizard of their generation.  And what's worse- Jo actually makes you feel kinda bad for him.  He grew up in a terrible environment, feeling abandoned by his family and knowing he was destined for something greater.  However, it becomes abundantly clear that life is all about the choices you make, and he... chose poorly.

The most interesting and important aspect of Voldemort's past, however, is his creation of Horcruxes, the pieces of his soul that must be destroyed before he can officially kick the bucket.  Dumbledore reckons there would be seven, since it's a magical number and all (though I'm partial to three meself).  Either way, between the diary from CoS and the ring that Dumbledore found and destroyed, looks like that's 5 to go, essentially turning Deathly Hallows into a road book with a mission.  And that's just fine with me!

I truly love so many things about HBP, from the reveal of the identity of the Half-Blood Prince himself to Hermione's complete and total girly anger over Ron's snogging of Lavender.  All of those are reasons why HBP stole the throne of Jeskuh's Favorite HP Movie Adaptation from PoA (also for this scene).  BUT, the thing I love the MOST?  HARRY AND GINNY FOREVER AND FOR ALL TIME.  I've read on the interwebs before that many fans thought it would be Harry & Hermione together.  Those people are, frankly, idiots.  Ginny has always had The Feelings for Harry, and she's awesome, and if they are together forever and for all time, that makes Harry OFFICIALLY Ron's brother and Molly & Arthur's son.  It's a no-brainer.  Plus, reading how his crush slowly develops is really fun, especially when he doesn't even realize what's going on.

The best part of this book, however, is the relationship between Dumbledore and Harry.  It really grows and blossoms over this story, though it becomes quite clear that he's setting Harry up to take over for him.  And with good reason.  Severus Freakin' Snape just up and kills him.  Double U.  Tee.  Eff.  The death itself isn't what always gets me in this book, though it is quite sad.  It's the funeral; more specifically, the description of Hermione sobbing into Ron's shoulder while a single tear falls from his the end of his long nose.  For whatever reason, that's the moment I join the Golden Trio in their tearful sorrow.  Bucket for my creys.  At least it prepared me for the extreme and total cryfest that would occur from Deathly Hallows.  But, you have that to look forward to with the NEXT entry, which will most consist of me telling you all the times I cried.  Spoiler alert: THERE ARE A TON.

I love the idea of a love potion that has a different aroma for each person, so it smells like whatever attracts each person the most.  I love how that's one of the first obvious signs that Harry's got a crush on Ginny.  I LOVE that Hermione thinks of something and immediately blushes and shuts up.  I ESPECIALLY LOVE that I recently found out (via Tumblr, OF COURSE) that the third thing Hermione smells in the potion is Ron's hair.  That's so damn precious.

I've already stated why this chapter makes me cry, but it's also just so... final.  It's our main three characters, all together, deciding to go on their one final mission.  To quote a TV show I used to watch so much back in the day, you think you know... but you have no idea.

My next and final HP ReRead post will be very soon.  It'll be up next week, hopefully at least before I head out to the movie...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

ReRead 2011: Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix

Great big angsty spoilers.

I think Order of the Phoenix gets a bad rap.  In my informal polls, it was constantly showing its face in the Least Favorite category.  My pollsters claimed it was too whiny, that Harry needed to shut up and deal with his business.  While I certainly agree that the Harry we see in this book is quite the complainy brat who needs to put on his big boys pants, I also cannot fault him for said complaining.  He has a LOT to deal with coming off of the events from GoF.  I'm not saying there weren't better ways for him to act, but still... give Harry a break!

See, I sort of love OotP.  It was the first of the books I had to actually wait for, so the experience of getting it was the first time I felt a kindred spirit to the other Potterheads out there.  I was desperate to read it, and I got duped into ordering it from Amazon rather than going to the bookstore to get it.  The book didn't show up at my house until almost 4 pm, and I had company to entertain at the time.  I didn't get to read any of it until that night before bed, and I read most of it the following day.  Oh, I was so so mad, but I definitely learned my lesson.  You'll hear more of the book buying tales of HBP and DH in a few entries' time.

You still with me?  I do love my tangents.  Anyway, like I said, I sort of love OotP.  I do understand all the complaints, and I have a few of my own, but I just love how totally dark it is.  Everything is just so morose, from the beginning where Harry is feeling so isolated to DEMENTORS IN LITTLE WHINGING to his time at Grimmauld Place and the sadness he feels there and finally to his fear over his hearing.  So much happens before they even leave for school, adding to the extreme density of this story.  This is the longest of the books, coming in at a whopping 870 pages for the US version, and it's chock-full of details from start to finish.  So many details, a good reread REALLY helps to accentuate the important ones.

With so much information to take in, this entry is hard to keep focused.  First, I'll talk about what I love.  Again, I know I'm entering the broken record zone, but I do love the Weasleys, ESPECIALLY Fred and George.  Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes!  And, Dumbledore's Army!  It's here to stay!  Despite their main reason for creating the group, I absolutely love how the students form Dumbledore's Army.  They do need to know defense spells to protect themselves, but I think it's cool that they all get excited about learning.  That doesn't happen often.  And Harry finally getting to mack on Cho Chang, only to have the world's most cringe-inducing date and end up as nothings.  Meh, I never really liked her anyway.

One of the things I don't love is (duh) Umbridge.  Holy poo on toast, does that lady blow!  She is AWFUL.  Nothing about her is redeemable to me- NOTHING.  I cannot abide her in any way.  She's not misunderstood or broken or sad.  She's just a mean lady who is mean because she thinks she is better than everyone else.  No, thank you.  When she finally gets carted off by the centaurs, I practically cheered.  I know that's the intent, but still, SEE YOU NEXT TIME.

Another thing I don't love is... the death of Sirius.  Literally, when I first read it, I screamed, "Oh no!"  My roommate at the time was reading the book in her bedroom, and she yelled back, "Crap, who died?"  It is such a painful read, such a dissatisfying moment.  It is quite heartbreaking for him to disappear through the creepy veil, never to return again.  The closest thing Harry's ever had to a father, snuffed out in a moment.  Yet another significant and terrible death at the hands of the Death Eaters.  This will surely not be the last...

Again, in times like these, it's no wonder Harry's pissed.

FAVORITE CHAPTER: The Department of Mysteries
Come on, this is epic.  This is real life awesome sauce.  Part of the reason I like this book is because of this sequence, where the kids get to show how they can fight, how they can stand up for themselves.  Granted, it causes a crapton of problems for the Order, but it still kicks ass.  I also like all of the allusions to the things that are studied in the Department- time, love, thoughts.  It's all written so well, it plays out like a movie in my head every time I read it.  Love it.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Snape's Worst Memory
Okay, I know that's a chapter.  But, I'm counting the whole memory as a moment.  I loved the opportunity to see the Marauders in their school days, especially through Harry's eyes.  I also love how the reader knows it's Snape's worst memory, but he never states to Harry that it IS.  I know that Snape will have a redemption, and I know that lots of people end up loving Snape, but I still have a hard time with it.  This scene is one of the only times I actually feel sorry for him.  Because his own pride and idiocy caused his worst memory...

Half-Blood Prince time!!  Two weeks until the movie!  Man, I'd better get reading!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ReRead 2011: Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire

Do I really need to say this?  Spoilers, people!  SPOILERS.

I took an informal poll via Facebook and asked my fellow Potterheads what their favorite and least favorite books are and why.  Turns out, everyone says something along the lines of, "I love Deathly Hallows, but my other favorite is..."  Also, it turns out that almost everyone's favorites are PoA and GoF.  It's interesting to me that the reasons for the favorites are mostly the same: that either PoA or GoF are the first in the series to delve into the deeper topics and feel less like a "children's book."  While I personally think it starts with PoA (as I stated in my last entry), I wholeheartedly agree that GoF is definitely more adult than any that came before it.  And it starts right from page one.

There are about a million things to love about this book, but I'll start with my first favorite thing: the Weasleys.  We get to see all 9 Weasleys together for the first time, and I love the family dynamic.  Everything about it is so true to life, how a big family operates.  They each have their place, and they are glad to have it.  I especially like the little things that Jo writes to show their personalities, like how into Quidditch Charlie is (since it's already been established that he was a top-notch player at Hogwarts) or how Ginny clearly worships her biggest brother Bill.  Everyone should have friends like the Weasleys.

I also adore all of the new characters introduced (or reintroduced).  Krum, Fleur, Cho Chang, Cedric Diggory, even the Patil twins.  Each one of them brings a new side to the story, and I think it's a real testament to how creative Jo is that she can write all of these fully developed, awesome characters.  They stand out in a crowd when they could so easily be one-sided and boring.  Take our Golden Boy Cedric Diggory.  He could be written as a one trick character so easily, and it wouldn't have made much of a difference.  By showing how honest and caring he is while also showing his fighting side (as a Hogwarts Champion), it proves that he's not just your usual Hufflepuff (though I hear they are particularly good finders!).

Which makes it all that more sad and terrifying when he dies, quickly, needlessly, unceremoniously.  It is a big, bright, blinking turning point in the series, right before the biggest, brightest, blinkingest turning point: the return of Lord Voldemort.  Holy crap, that's some intense stuff.  Between Voldemort getting his body back, to the duel in the graveyard, to the brief and ghostly reappearance of Cedric and the Potters.  Yowza.  My personal story: I was reading this book for the first time at my friend's sister's house in Radford one balmy summer evening.  It was about 3 am and I was totally exhausted, but I couldn't stop reading because I was so into this and so terrified for Harry.  I had to read until he got back to Hogwarts before I could finally go to sleep.  As soon as I closed this book, I knew dark times were coming.  Very dark times.  And I couldn't wait.

FAVORITE MOMENT:"Mrs. Weasley... put her arms around Harry."
Between the Tri-Wizard Tournament tasks, the Quidditch World Cup, and the Duel in the Graveyard, it was damn near impossible for me to pick one moment that was my favorite in this book.  However, I keep coming back to Mrs. Weasley and Harry in the hospital wing.  It breaks my heart to think that he is fourteen years old before he knows what the love of a mother feels like.  Poor sweet Harry Potter... Ugh, those Dursleys, man.

So. Many. Great. Moments.  Mostly, though, it's all about Ron and Hermione and how they are just so freaking blind.  I always feel so bad for Hermione, because she's always the girl with the two dumb boys.  Sure, she has Ginny as a girl to talk to (and this is the first book to consistently refer to the fact that Hermione and Ginny hang out), but she considers Harry to be her best friend... and his best friend is Ron.  And Ron's best friend?  Harry.  So she's just looking to have that one normal high school moment, just like another kick-ass dame.  AND, like Buffy, she got her brief happy moment, only for it to be ruined by... a big ginger idiot.  RON.  YOU LOVE HER.  FIGURE IT OUT.  Also, extra love for Fred & Angelina's dancing.  And Herm-own-ninny.

And now, the angsty greatness of Order of the Phoenix!

Monday, June 20, 2011


Having a hard time coming up with my entry for Goblet of Fire.  Don't quite know what it is.  Could be that I'm not READY FOR HP TO END!  Could be that I'm lazy.  Could be because, after going to see X-Men: First Class, I have reignited my McAvoy Fever.  So I watched Atonement.  Which never fails to make my brain ache and hurt for days and days.

So... while I struggle to string words together, please watch this sad, pretty video of Robbie & Cecilia.

Friday, June 10, 2011

ReRead 2011: Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban

Warning again: if you haven't read HP, take notice.  Here there be spoilers.

In preparing for this entry, I started to really think about why I consider Prisoner of Azkaban my favorite in the series, why I love it so much, why I always come back to it.  Much like CoS, there are many reasons why I love it; some petty, some not so much.

The first and the most basic reason is that, to me, it's the first time that I didn't feel like I was reading a kid's book.  It's not that the language suddenly expands or becomes overly complicated- not at all.  It's simply that the plot and mood of the whole series get darker, paving the way for what's to come.  It introduces more layers to Harry's background, showing that he lost far more than his parents that Halloween night in 1981.  This is very evident in the movie, and PoA held the title of Jessica's Favorite HP Movie Adaptation for a wicked long time (I just recently changed favorites; keep on reading these entries to find out which one!).

In that same vein, I love this because PoA is when it truly becomes Harry's quest and mission to defeat the enemy.  Yes, he chose to go after the Stone in order to save it and to go into the Chamber in order to save Ginny, but he had no idea at either time that the enemy was Voldemort.  In this, though he chose to go into the secret passage to save Ron and he didn't know who the enemy would be at the end of the tunnel, he DID know who Sirius Black was, knew his history, and knew that he would come at Sirius with all he had in order to end him.  Voldemort may have "pulled the trigger," but he believed Sirius sold his parents out, and that was just as bad.

Finally, I love this book because, quite simply, I love Sirius Black.  Love him.  He is so broken and sad and I just want to give him hugs and carry him around in my pocket.  He is the closest thing that Harry has ever had to a true father figure, and he has loved Harry his entire life.  Plus, I bet he's super hot once he gets back to his fighting weight and takes a shower... Along with Sirius, Harry meets his dad's other BFF, Remus Lupin, who is also awesome in a million different ways.  He's a great teacher and he was a great friend to Harry's parents, another awesome dude for Harry to look up to.  Love it.

I also really like the importance placed on time, how it can make such a difference.  Just when they think all hope is lost, Dumbledore's like, "Turn it, Granger!"  And they save the day!  Granted, there are times when I find the Time-Turner plot to be the deus ex machina of the whole thing, but most of the time, I think it was a fun and interesting way to change what you thought you knew.  This is one of the things I think was shown better in the movie than in the book.  I've actually taken classes in Film Adaptations before, so I know just how difficult it can be to perfectly capture the words on the page.  The PoA movie really enhances this scene, IMO.  (Mostly, I just like SEEING Hermione punch Draco and hug Ron.)

I'm getting a little rambly about this book, but I can't help it.  There are so many things to love about it; sometimes, it's hard to pick just one.  That's why the Favorite Moment and Favorite Chapter were SO TOUGH.

FAVORITE MOMENT: "You truly are your father's son."
This line always gets me, partially because it's so sweet and partially because... well, I love Sirius Black.  This seems like something you know Harry loved to hear, and you know he replayed it over and over again that night in his head.  Harry's always wanted a loving family, and this guy, this crazy misunderstood guy, knows exactly who Harry is after spending barely any time with him.  It is a shame that Sirius got so much time with them and Harry so little.

In keeping with my theme of loving the moments where Harry gets to be a normal kid, I love this first chapter where Harry gets to be a normal kid.  I love that he doesn't even realize he's been 13 for an hour.  I love what he writes for his witch burning essay.  I love how Hedwig had the forethought to go to France to get Hermione's gift.  I love that he is so happy just to receive birthday cards!!  And, I love how happy I get when I read this chapter.  I just... well, can you tell I love it?

Up next, Goblet of Fire.  Many things to love, especially that sparkly Cedric Diggory who is so in love with Cho Chang from Bangkok to DingDang.  Now I'm off to get this song unstuck from my head.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hermione is the Coolest Girl in the Whole Wide World

Been watching A TON of A Very Potter Musical and A Very Potter Sequel lately.  This is my favorite thing ever right now: Hermione Can't Draw, and Hermione's Song.  Love it.

Friday, June 3, 2011

ReRead 2011: Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets

If you haven't read any HP books, be warned: spoilers abound.

In every list, there must be a first and a last.  CoS is what I consider my last place Harry Potter book.  There's nothing wrong with it on the whole- it's written just fine, it forwards the plot, it's got lots of great sequences and moments.  It's just not my favorite.  Some of the reasons why have already been mentioned in the previous entry, but the rest are below.

For starters, the most petty and silly reason: it is standing in the way of me and my favorite book in the series!  I'd rather skip this book and just go right to Prisoner of Azkaban.  YET, I never do because I simply cannot skip one or read them out of order.  Yes, I know I have problems; so does everyone. 

Secondly, I remember the first time I read this, and I thought the plot was pretty weak.  It's like, oooooh a book that is EVIL!  Scaaaarrry.  So this was the Dark Lord's big comeback plan?  To start life again as a TEENAGER and just... be evil?  No offense, Tom, but that plan is pretty lame.  Granted, CoS becomes quite important to the bigger storyline at hand, but I didn't know that at the time.  Once you know why it's important, it makes it SLIGHTLY better, but it still doesn't fully redeem it for me.  Plus, the movie?  No bueno.  It's like everything I don't like about the book times ten.  Harry and Ron are like Captain and Lieutenant Obvious, repeating every single line and every question to make sure the viewer UNDERSTANDS WHAT IS HAPPENING.

And then there's Dobby.  I have been known to refer to him as this series' version of JarJar Binks.  Every time he showed up, I was like, DUDE, you have got to be kidding me.  I was not a fan.  HOWEVER, this opinion is one of the many that changes over the course of the series, like "complete 180" changes, and let's just say Dobby's reinvention is perfect and awesome and I should probably stop talking about it...

There are a few redeeming things about CoS, though.  The readers get their first glimpse of Ginny Weasley, the first girl to be born to into the Weasley line in generations, the super awesome chick who can hold her own against her six older brothers.  We get to see The Burrow for the first time and see how an awesome wizarding family lives.  In the same vein, we get to see Mrs. Weasley treating Harry like a surrogate son for the first time, which is so sweet.  She even butters his toast for him!!  Also, we are introduced to the fabulous yet awful Gilderoy Lockhart, who cracks me up with every rougish wink and cheeky grin.  He's so ridiculous, you just have to love him.  I particularly love Kenneth Branaugh's portrayal of him in the movie, especially after the "accident" with Ron's busted wand.  Jo had said before that Lockhart is the only character fully based on a real person, and you just know she had fun skewering that idiot.

Yeah.  I know.  I just talked smack about how I didn't like Dobby, and yet he is the double winner of this book.  This just goes to show you how much my opinion of him changed by the end of the series.  Dobby under the thumb of the Malfoys is annoying.  Dobby as a free elf is AWESOME.  I especially like the way Harry tricked Lucius into freeing Dobby.  It was so simple and yet so effective.  However, knowing that house-elves are freed by receiving the gift of clothes... do they do laundry?  I guess if they aren't receiving it as a gift or being presented with it, then it wouldn't matter.  These are the things I think about...

Plus, one of the other reasons this is my favorite chapter is because it's the last chapter of the book, meaning it's over and that means it's time for PRISONER OF AZKABAN!  And I so love the Prisoner of Azkaban, both the book and the person to which the title refers.  It's going to be near impossible to pick favorite moments and chapters for that one...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

ReRead 2011: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone

The first two books in the series are the hardest for me to get through for a couple of reasons.  One: as mentioned in the previous entry, I've read the books repeatedly since I bought the first 2 to read on the family vacay to Hawaii in June 2002 (though, I finished them both before we even landed in Dallas, where we would catch our connecting flight TO Maui, but that's another story).  Therefore, I've read them the most times, and I already know every little detail about what's going to happen.  Two: they are the most "juvenile" of the entire series, and it's tough for me to get through them because I know the amazing-ness that awaits after they are done.  However, in contrast to that, one of the many, MANY reasons I love the series is that the books grow with the reader.  A kid who started these at age 11 would thoroughly enjoy this book at their 11-year-old level, and by the time they get to Deathly Hallows, they'd be 21 reading an extremely dense and intense book not written for or catered toward children.  It's not a 21 year old reading a book written for an 11 year old anymore.

Still, all that aside, this is the beginning, the one that started it all, and despite everything I just said, I still find that it's so lovely.  It's every kid's dream to find out that they have some kind of special power they never knew they had, especially to be a freakin' witch or wizard.  I am so glad I was in college when I started this and not a sad kid whose 11th birthday would come and go without one stinking owl.  I love so much about this book, from the introduction of the beloved characters to the first glimpses of some of our favorite places (Hogwarts, Diagon Alley) to the spells and lessons and Quidditch and... shall I go on?  It's a wonderfully (pun warning!) MAGICAL start to an epic and fantastic series.

FAVORITE MOMENT: I award 10 points to Mr. Neville Longbottom.
I became a HP fan because my buddy C invited me to come see the movie with her and her roommate at the late great second-run theater in Harrisonburg.  The first movie was the only one that was released when I started to read the series, so the visuals in it became very important.  Why am I telling you this?  Because this moment is made for me because I always picture the look on Neville's face when it's announced that he is the reason Gryffindor wins.  The first movie isn't known for its acting, though I think the cast of kids do an amazing job, considering this was their first foray into the industry.  However, chubby little Matthew Lewis has the most perfect expression of shock and happiness on his face, and it always brings a tear to my eye.  Now that I know what Neville will become over the course of the series, it manages to REALLY affect me.  (Confession: I saw a promo still for Neville during the Battle of Hogwarts, and I almost burst into tears.  I am going to be ONE HOT MESS on July 15.)

FAVORITE CHAPTER: The Mirror of Erised
Why?  It's funny, it's deep, it's sweet, and it's full of little details that you don't realize are important until later.  To me, it's the embodiment of the book and what's to come of the series.  For humor, we have one of my all-time favorite Fred & George sequences (Christmas morning, Gred & Forge frog-marching Percy out of the dorm).  For sweet sentimentality, we have Harry having his best Christmas Day ever, where he gets actual presents from people who love him (including his very first Weasley sweater) and a group of redheaded boys that treat him like a brother.  And those details?  Well, you'll just have to figure that out for yourself.

What always gets me, though, is Harry's discovery of the Mirror itself.  The descriptions of his feelings after he realizes it's his family in the Mirror breaks my heart every single time.  All he ever wanted was to be loved, to have a true family that treated him with kindness and love and respect.  To see that literally reflected to him, along with Dumbledore actually stating that it's the "deepest, most desperate desire" of his heart... well, that's something so tangible and REAL for a so-called "children's book."  The entire chapter is so easy to lose yourself in, which happened to me despite the fact that I read the chapter on my morning commute while standing up and squished in the corner of the Metro.

Now, onto Chamber of Secrets: my least favorite, even though it's my girl Ginny's first year AND even after I found out how important it was to the series.

[Side note: the first chapter of SS takes place on the day after Halloween in 1981, which Jo claims is a Tuesday. Sadly, she is mistaken, because I was born on the day after Halloween in 1981, which was a Sunday. And what a wonderful Sunday that was, even for the wizarding world!]

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Harry Potter and the Great Re-Read of 2011

In preparation for the final Harry Potter movie, I'm rereading the entire series.  Now, I've basically been reading HP since the summer of 2002, and as soon as I would finish whichever books were available at the time, I would take a cue from Brian McKnight and start back at one.  I kept up this trend until about a year and a half ago, when I started getting into more books and decided to give Harry + Co. a well-deserved break.  That being said, I've probably read the entire series about a billion times (both the US and the UK versions).

Since I have read them so many times, I tend to lose the meaning and the importance of the words on the page, letting my eyes run over them in a familiar manner without letting anything really sink in.  I started thinking about this a few months ago when my mom was reading the series for the first time, and I had the chance to see it through her eyes.  She'd make a comment about certain passages or plot points, and I'd think, "Man, how could she tell that from so far into the beginning?"  I felt as though I were taking these characters for granted, treating them like comfort food more than anything else. 

With that inspiration and keeping those thoughts in mind, I am doing this reread slowly and carefully, trying to fully appreciate the words on the page and the deeper meanings to them for the first time since I cracked their spines.  I also plan on writing an entry for each novel and talking about my favorite chapter after I finish each one.  In order to do this before the movie comes out, I've got to read about 4 chapters a day.  So far, I'm at a good pace, and I can probably finish before the deadline (which is about a week before the movie is released).  I haven't purposefully done this before any of the other movies, mostly because I didn't want to ruin a movie by noticing all the things that were changed and/or omitted.  I'm kind of excited about this.

Also, if you happen upon one of the 7 entries, please feel free to post your own thoughts about the books, whether they are telling me that you agree with my choice or telling me that I need to find a hobby, mate.  I'm so very anxious to see this film, and I'm hoping I won't be the worst crier in the theater...

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer- win it!

Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.

She's wrong.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer hits stores everywhere 9.27.11. Pre-order your copy here. Download the widget here. Enter to win an Advanced Reader’s Copy here.

(had to do it; read a teaser of this book, and it was SO VERY intriguing.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why Lee Greenwood and I will never be friends.

The following story is quite silly, but I wanted to share after my recent FB status.  This disclaimer is here to let you all know that my feelings for Lee Greenwood's "masterpiece" entitled "God Bless the USA" aside, I do love my country, and I do love my freedom.

That being said...

I hate the Lee Greenwood "masterpiece" entitled "God Bless the USA."  Whenever I hear it, my skin crawls.  Granted, there is nothing particularly wrong with the song.  In fact, it says some lovely things about this land of ours.  It's also experiencing a rise in popularity as of late, though I can't imagine why...  No, my hatred of this song is all related to one experience, dating back to the first grade.  And it's all because of my stinking dance teacher.  (And also my mom.)

For those that don't know, I took dance lessons as a child, from the time I was about 4 until the sixth grade.  I started with ballet, but by the end, I was taking ballet, tap, jazz, and en pointe, and I was considered one of the top students.  (I often wonder what happened to the graceful girl I used to be, usually when I'm tripping over my own two feet or bumping into walls.)  I loved dance class as a kid, and I always wanted my best friends to be in the class with me.  One year, I was successful enough to get my pal Jenny to join my class.  For our tap number that year, our costumes consisted of weird baggy shirts emblazoned with the American flag, blue bottoms (that I swear were like blue underpants), white tights, and jaunty sailor caps with red, white, and blue stars.  For the life of me, I can't remember what song we tapped to, but I'm guessing it was American.  And hopefully nautical.

That same year, our elementary school was putting on a talent show (as elementary schools do), and the entire first grade was scheduled to perform "GBtUSA."  It was very basic by 1980's elementary school standards, with the students singing along to a tape of the song, and the most difficult choreography being us holding our arms up in the air while we belted out the last, epic note (actually, it probably looked a lot like this).  We'd practiced, it went fine, I got to stand next to my friends on the risers, no biggie.

The night of the performance, my mom had this brilliant idea.  "You know what would be so cute?" She said.  "You and Jenny should wear your dance shirts with the flags on them!  Oh, how precious you two will be!  Call Jenny and tell her!"  I knew this was cheesy, even at the ripe old age of 6, but Mom said call Jenny, so I called Jenny.  Jenny's mom agreed with the cuteness, and she said she'd wear hers too.  Fates officially sealed.

I showed up, waiting backstage with the rest of my classmates to kick off the big Talent Show, and every single solitary adult that walked past me had to comment on my shirt.  Oh, how cute!  What a great idea!  So patriotic!  Everyone will just love it!  I probably did permanent damage with the amount of eye-rolling I did that night.

Then... Jenny walked in.  Wearing the same shirt.

Our music teacher went totally postal.

She could not believe we had these amazing shirts on, almost like we planned it.  She called everyone together and pointed out how cute we were in our matching shirts.  We were instructed on how wide to hold our arms to make sure THE ENTIRE CROWD could see our amazing great shirts.  They would eat it right up, and we would be the stars of the show.

To sum up, Jenny and I were mortified.  We did not want to be the patriotic stars of the show.  We wanted to stand together and sing our song and be done with this forever.  However, like the good kids we were, we kept our mouths shut and did as we were asked.  As we walked out on stage, the crowd was all abuzz with the talk of how adoooorable we were in our little matching shirts.  People asked if my mom made them for us, or if we got them just for this performance.  We sang the freaking song, and we raised our freaking arms, and the freaking flashes went off in the crowd, and our parents all freaking cried, and everyone came up to comment about how freaking cute we were, and it was freaking ridiculous.

Then, for the next 20+ years of my life, every time anyone heard the song or said any of the lyrics or mentioned God, Bless, and USA in the same sentence, my mom said, "Oh, remember how cute you and Jenny were in your little shirts?  Wasn't that so great?" And the memory would come rushing back like it was yesterday.  And my brain would ache just thinking about it.

Why am I complaining about this seemingly vanilla story?  I mean, it's not like I had to do an interpretive dance or wear a costume where I LOOKED like a flag or something of that nature.  And it's obvious that I was used to being in front of crowds as a child because I was IN DANCE RECITALS at least once a year.  But... I know it's silly, but at the time, it was just so embarrassing.  And then hearing about it OVER and OVER and OVER.  Ugh.

So, Beyonce, next time you wanna sing this song, please pick something else.  Like "God Bless America."  That song, while basically having the same title, is totally different.  And beautiful.  And far more challenging as a singer.  In fact, sing the NATIONAL ANTHEM.  Do that next time.

On a final note, I cannot WAIT until my future kid takes dance class.  I hope she/he loves it when they do their patriotic number.  Jaunty sailor cap and all.

You wanna see mine and Jenny's matching shirts?

That's me on the left with the random red triangle, and Jenny's in the row in front of me near the middle bottom.  The guy next to her (whose name is Mitch and I can't believe I remember that)?  He's trying to keep the trend alive.

Now... close up on how much I LOVED DOING THIS:

The hatred is literally spewing from my eyes.  in red-eye form.

Though... how cute are those tights?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why My Mom Is The Best

I follow a super fun, funny, and inspiring blog called Tales from the Motherhood.  Wendy Hagen is a former child actress who is now a mother of three hilariously awesome kids, and they got that way because she is hilariously awesome as well.  She's currently hosting a Mother's Day contest with tons of prizes and coolness, so I'm going to answer some questions about my moms in order to give her prizes and coolness on her day.  Check out Wendy's blog to answer the questions and try to win for YOUR moms too!

1. What is your best childhood memory with your mom?
My favorite childhood memories of my mom all involve her being the hostess.  No one can plan and execute a party quite like Carol.  There are themes and door prizes and scavenger hunts and elaborate decorations.  Our birthday parties were always so much fun, with just the right amount of planned game activities and free-for-all time, complete with chaotic present opening and delicious, meticulously frosted cakes in every shape, size, and character imaginable (and all homemade, thank you very much!).  Her creativity knows no bounds, and it's been really fun to see her continue that tradition with the new generation of kids tumbling through their house.  The best and most embarrassing game she created?  She got me a life size cardboard cutout of the New Kids On The Block, glued velcro lips on them, and we had to throw a velcro-covered plastic ball in order to Kiss Our Favorite New Kid.  I think that cutout is still at my parents' house, velcro lips and all.

2. Was she consistent in her discipline?
Wendy hinted that we should answer NO to this question... but truthfully, I don't think I can.  She was very consistent, especially for punishments for my brother and me.  Her mantra was "The Punishment Should Fit The Crime," so we didn't get your run-of-the-mill groundings like my friends got.  If we failed a test, we had to study that subject extra every night under her watch.  If we lied, we weren't allowed phone time with our friends.  If we didn't do what she asked, she would think of something off the wall to make us do.  In general, don't cross Mrs. B.

3. Did you ever make your mom cry because you were so unruly or disobedient?

I'm sure that I did, but she wouldn't do that in front of us.  I've been told that my brother and I were mostly good kids, and we didn't do anything SO unruly and disobedient because... well, did you read my answer for #2?  We didn't want to know what her creative mind would think of next.  My mother plays her emotions very close to the vest, though, so if she did, she wouldn't let us see it.  Occasionally, we would make her so angry that she would order us away for 10 minutes so she could calm herself enough to deal with us rationally.  Probably because we talked too much...

4. Do you remember any of the special things your mom did for you?

The parties, of course, were very special.  However, the best thing in recent times that my mom has done was come take care of me and my dog when I was so sick I couldn't function.  This was the worst I remember feeling ever, and I was home alone with the dog who didn't understand why all I could do was lay on the couch and cry.  At the ripe old age of 29, I called my mom in tears and begged her to come help me.  She was there as soon as she could get there.  It's comforting to know that you're never too old to call mommy.
5. Did she teach you anything really significant?

My mother continues to teach me significant things every day just by being herself.  I know she's my mom and I'm biased and everything, but seriously, she is the strongest and most selfless person on the planet.  She never puts herself first.  She has been there for her friends and family through the hardest times they could imagine, and she will do whatever they need without blinking.  She's everyone's mother, taking care of children young and old, providing them with the best desserts, the best hugs, and the best conversations.  I know that I will be an excellent mother one day because I have had the most excellent guide to follow.  That is the most significant thing I can think of.

SO... happy early mother's day to all those mothers out there, or soon-to-be mothers, or maybe-one-day-will-be mothers, or even pet-and-rescue mothers (like me!).  And, THANKS MOMMA for being amazing!  And, you know, for having me.  That was super cool of you.