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?