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...