Thursday, 28 February 2013

HP Friday: Harry Potter and the Goblet of "Wand" Jokes

It is fitting, I think, that my first day of (this stint of) unemployment be filled with Harry Potter and video games (sweet, sweet Guild Wars 2). 

Regression is always the right choice. Thanks, Reading Rambo, for enabling me.

I'm writing this Thursday night, just home from drinks with my lovely coworkers whom I'll miss dearly, so I haven't got much for you in this post. On the plus side, I will have ALL the time to comment on all of yours. In the meantime, I do have two things for you:

Thing One

Olivander, on Cedric's wand: "It's in fine condition ... you treat it regularly?"
Cedric: "Polished it last night!"
Olivander, on Krum's wand: "Rather thicker than one usually sees ... quite rigid ..."

Thing Two

Madam Pomfrey: "Last year Dementors, this year dragons, what are they going to bring into this school next?"

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Tell the Wolves I'm Home - Carol Rifka Brunt

It is rumoured on the internet that this book is a face-wrecker. As one who is not immune to quietly beautiful language and emotionally wrenching subject matter, Tell the Wolves I'm Home wrecked my face, indeed.

Here's most of the Goodreads summary, because everyone I describe the book to accuses me of spoiling it but it's not a spoiler if it's the premise
"1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.
At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most."
Now stay with me, my Harry Potter buddies. I was worried I wouldn't be able to get into this book because Serious Story is Serious,

but I had no trouble becoming completely invested in it. Also, the longest chapter is something like five pages, so, zippidy zip.

The single most impressive thing about this book is its narrator, June. Actually, its cover is so amazing that I keep shoving it in people's faces and demanding the appropriate, red-zone level of enthusiasm, so maybe that's the most impressive thing. But the second most impressive thing, for sure, is its narrator. June is 14 and, praise be, she sounds like a 14 year old. This means that she can be frustrating to read sometimes (rarely), and maybe a little short sighted, but she's authentic and you don't catch her revealing herself to be a grown-ass lady with offspring and a masters degree. June has a passion for things medieval and a penchant for pretend. I would be this girl's pal, is what I'm saying.

There was much crying and exclaiming during the reading of this book. It might wind up being one of the best things I read in 2013. I loved its face.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

HP Friday: Krumtrulescent

Welcome back to Harry Potter Friday, now featuring Activist Hermione. Thank you, Reading Rambo, for bringing us all together to spoil the crap out of these books. This week, we're talking about chapters 1-13 of Goblet of Fire.

How's THAT for an opening!

This was the first Harry Potter book that I had to wait for - the first three were already out when I started. So when GoF hit the scene, I was pumped to the proverbial max about its sheer girth and its Dursley-free chapter one. I'm still pumped, this time around, and for the first time in this readalong, I read all of this week's chapters on Saturday. And, probably because of that, I had my first Voldemort nightmare in years. IT WAS AWESOME.

To the bullet points:

- The dream in the first chapter is a little tricky. Is Harry experiencing it through Frank's eyes? Or are we getting an omniscient narrator telling us what's happening, while Harry sees it through Nagini's eyes?

- After his dream, Harry spells out his need for a parent who can understand the world he's living in. It made me think that Hermione must go through this too: her parents are wonderful, but there's so much that they can't understand.

-Kruuuuuuum! I love everything about the chapters around the Quidditch world cup.

-This book was almost too scary for me when it came out. Even in this first section we see some creepy stuff. Voldemort killing Frank and talking about killing that witch. Death Eaters tormenting Muggles.

It's getting real.

- Durmstrang doesn't admit Muggle-borns! I'd forgotten that detail. Sketchy.

- That the Sorting Hat belonged to Gryffindor explains his slightly negative choice of words when singing about Slytherin ("power-hungry," for eg).

- I love that Hermione is so outraged by the whole House Elf situation. Looking forward to seeing that develop. 

That's all I got, kumquats. Friday forth.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic - Alison Bechdel

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is a graphic memoir, sad and funny and even shocking, like a good memoir should be. Bechdel deals with disillusionment, sexuality, and the tricky matter of knowing your parents all with a sort of offhanded tone. Her artwork is fantastic. She packs a lot of detail into those squares, carefully composing scenes. And the faces of her characters (herself, especially) are wonderfully expressive.

Bechdel uses the comic format to lend more layers to her metaphors, give more meaning to any manner of thing she's expressing (specificity FTW), and add that much more weight to the family secrets she exposes to the world. And I love the way she reveals those secrets, hardly building up to them at all, but carrying on with the ordinary until WHAM, secret-sucker-punch.

Do not be afraid of the whole "Graphic Novel" thing if it's new to you. If you can dig a good memoir, pick this one up. Bechdel's writing is wonderful: it gets out of the way when it needs to and it delights in its own goodness when it's called for. And she uses so many literary references that it really upped the "Ah, yes. I am Reading a Book" feeling. It did make me realize that I really need to go ahead and read Joyce's Ulysses already. But I feel like I should read The Odyssey first. I have seen O Brother, Where Art Thou. That'd be enough background, right?

'bout sums it up. 

Friday, 15 February 2013

HP Friday: Siriuser and Siriuser

Greetings, internetlings. It's time to talk about Chapters 12-22 in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Thanks to Alice at Reading Rambo for hosting and for bringing the funny.

Finally, finally, we can start talking about Sirius.

I think what made me cling to Sirius so dearly was the moment in the tunnel when we think Harry will be going to live with him instead of the Dursleys. I wanted that to happen as ferociously as Harry did. Damn, universe. You cruel.

But, is it just me, or did the scene in the Shrieking Shack drag a bit? I think it's because I knew what the Deal was, and so all that "But, why?" "But, wait." "But, who?" got me a mite impatient. And Sirius had the opposite problem of most villains (probably because he's not, in this instance, a villain), in that he didn't monologue enough. Use your words, Sirius! It didn't drag in my first read through; this time, I was just anxious to get to Understood Sirius.

I'm writing this Thursday night (Happy Valentine's Day, kids!), and I can hear some of you typing out how laaaame it is that Harry, not Hermione, realized what Dumbledore meant for them to do when they used the Time-Turner. And you know what, I have no answer for you. Sure, Hermione was a bit rocked from encountering the gaggle of Dementors, but she was still Hermione. It's not like she'd come to and forget how to use furniture.

One thing we've been wondering is how big the student population of Hogwarts is. On pages 224-225 of my edition, in chapter 15, Rowling says that 3/4 of the crowd at the Quidditch final were cheering for Gryffindor, while 200 people were rooting for Slytherin. So there are 800 people in attendance. How many of those do we think are staff? Maybe 50? Either the whole "200" thing is a big ol' whoopsy-daisy from JKR, or there are way more than 10 new students per house each year, which would make more sense to me. It could be that there are multiple rooms for boys in Harry's year, and he's just assigned to bunk with the four we know. Did we ever land on a solid estimate in anyone's comment section?

I loved reading PoA, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it won't be my favourite this time 'round. I'm so excited for the next book. Our first four-parter! And the Quidditch world cup! And will we perhaps see the result of Trelawney's second prediction?

Now. Talk to me about Sirius + Crookshanks fanfics. I know they're out there.

Friday, 8 February 2013

HP Friday: RIP, Flobberworms

We did it, you guys. We made it to Friday. I commend us. As a reward, let's talk about Harry Potter on the internet. In this installment of Reading Rambo's Readalong, we're looking at chapters 1 through 11 of Prisoner of Azkaban, otherwise known as the BEST (at the very least, so far) of the books.

Celebratory/obligatory Dumblin' gif.

This far in, I understand why it was my favourite early on. First, and perhaps most importantly, the intro-Dursley chapters are kept to a minimum. And any impatience I experienced during them was immediately forgotten with the appearance of a large dog on Magnolia Crescent


and the knight bus with its fabulous entrance

Almost as good as this guy's.

How great is Lupin? I was very excited to have, instead of actor-Lupin, brain-Lupin appear in my mind's eye. The Lupin I think I originally pictured when reading the book. This has never happened to me before. It's a momentous occasion.

Hagrid, though I love his face, was not made for teaching. Every class has a Malfoy equivalent, and you just can't let them derail you. This is why I could never be a teacher. Also "Er - how are the Flobberworms?" "Dead," said Hagrid gloomily. "Too much lettuce." 

Sad lulz.

Hermione is a freaking badass. Firstly, she is infinitely better at keeping a secret (that should be kept) than Harry is. 

Secondly, she told McGonagall about the Firebolt, knowing Ron and Harry would be horrible about it. Rock on, Hermione. I'm glad that (don't read this, Brie)             she's right. Right like a damn fox.

(S'ok to start reading again.)

Why is Lupin being so secretive about his relationship with Harry's parents? Does he give a reason for this later? Or is it just so we can have this moment on pg 140:
"When they get near me - " Harry stared at Lupin's desk, his throat tight, "I can hear Voldemort murdering my mum."
Lupin made a sudden motion with his arm as though he had made to grip Harry's shoulder, but thought better of it.

I cannot even. Let's all move to Diagon Alley and live off sundaes.

Until next week,

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Saga, Vol. 1 - written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples

I bought Saga, Vol. 1 as a birthday present for the Mister (and also because I wanted to read it). It's our first foray into graphic novels, and when I told my local indie bookseller that I was looking for one that would interest a guy who's majorly into most all video games, he jumped at the chance to thrust this into my hands. "It's got a war between science and magic in a Star-Wars-like universe," he said. 

Yeah, I bought it right stat.

When I think "Graphic Novel," I think of guns firing in bursts of light, I think of blood spraying stylistically across the page, I think of boobies. Saga has all these things. I wanted the artwork to be flashy, dark, and interesting, and Saga has that, too. As a bonus, the story is entertaining and makes me want to read further into the series. 

See, a man and woman from opposing sides of a war meet and fall in love. They have a baby, and volume one here sees their flight from the war and the armies they've deserted. In addition to the speech bubble dialogue, we have some sparse narration from the grown-up baby, looking back on the events that we're seeing as they unfold. The graphic format ensures that it'll be a quick read, and the storytelling style adds suspense that makes it even quicker. There are aliens and strange planets and, my favourite, "horrors," which were excellent in a way I didn't expect.

Saga, Vol. 1 was the perfect introduction to graphic novels for me, because it was what I expected and wanted it to be. It made me want to read more graphic novels. This particular series, though, I probably won't spend any more money on it. But hey, guess what, turns out libraries carry graphic novels! Who knew, right? I just picked one up that is vastly different from Saga. It's something I didn't realize graphic novels could even be until the internet informed me thusly: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. I've just read about 20 pages, but prepare for some gushing in an upcoming post.

Friday, 1 February 2013

HP Friday: Two books down.

It's Friday, my little diary zombies, which means it's time to talk Harry Potter. This readalong of excellence is hosted by Reading Rambo. Be sure to check out her post for hilarity and also links to the other readalongers. Spoilers abound, as they do.

This week we're rationally and studiously discussing the last half of Chamber of Secrets. To that end, here are my bullet-pointed feelings and reaction gifs:
  • I would really like to know what Riddle was up to in those years after Hogwarts, spent cavorting with dark wizards and undergoing horrible magical transformations and whatnot. I would read that book. 
Look at him. It's like he knows he's going to lose his nose.
  • Riddle was one of the smartest students Hogwarts had ever seen  I don't really buy that he'd forget phoenix tears have healing properties until it was too late. Another villain caught monologuing. He probably even wears a cape. Amateur.
  • Ernie does Hufflepuff proud. A 12-year-old kid is confronted by the boy whose back he's talking behind, and so tells him honestly what he was talking about and why he's suspicious. Later, when he finds out he was wrong, he approaches said boy, apologizes to him, and offers his hand in truce and apology. A 12-YEAR-OLD KID. My heart. I love Ron, for example, but that little punk wouldn't dream of doing such a thing.
  • Fred-and-George banter is totally vultures-from-Jungle-Book-banter. 
  • I think that, given the times, Salazar Slytherin's original reason for wanting to keep Hogwarts to pure-blodded wizards and witches was understandable (though not something I agree with, of course). Magical folk were getting burned at various stakes, y'all. But then, they weren't actually in danger, I guess. Is Harry Potter the series that tells us witch/ards would bewitch the flames so that they wouldn't be harmed, but rather slightly tickled? If so, then I take back my sympathy for ol' Saly.
  • "Voldemort put a bit of himself in me?" Harry said, thunderstruck.  She knew so many things I love JK forever.
  • I tweeted this to Alice last week, and I feel the need to reiterate it here. IN CASE YOU MISSED IT BECAUSE IT IS VERY IMPORTANT. Dobby is way better than Jar Jar. Instead of flouncing around, being annoying for no reason, he, like Gollum, serves as a litmus test for jerks. (Don't get me wrong, Gollum wins entirely on the actual character front. Way more complex and tragic and wonderful. But in this way, they're the same.) How people treat Dobby reflects their true character. On a related note: suck it, Lucius.
That's right. I said it.

I. Am so. Excited for the next book. When I first picked a favourite, maybe 10 years ago, it was my favourite. We'll see if that still stands. I look forward to all your collective thoughts on Sirius. I hope it goes better than the Dobby fiasco. (It's like I don't even know you guys.)