What I’ve Read Lately, or, Lots of Digressions About Harry Potter

Reading is back with a vengeance, you guys. I paused while I was settling in, while I obsessed over a few shows on Netflix (which really deserves its own post, don’t you think?), but a trip to the library turned everything around.

That, and Harry Potter. You guys. Harry Potter.

nerve-movieHere’s what happened: I saw a preview for a movie called Nerve. I’d heard of it before (and maybe seen the preview already– watching movie previews is a hobby of mine), but the movie was coming out, and due to my temporary “single-parent” status it’s pretty hard to go see movies. (And apparently it wasn’t very good anyway.) So instead I did the next best thing: I got the book from the library.

Unfortunately, none of the libraries I use for Overdrive purposes had the ebook, so I had to trek to a brick-and-mortar library for *gasp* an actual paper book! And while I was there, I remembered a long ago ambition to reread all the Harry Potter books. So among a few others, I picked up the third book in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

hp3Allow me to date myself a bit with the following story:

I first started reading Harry Potter between when the third and fourth books came out. I was 13 or 14, which, now that I think of it, is the same age Harry, Ron, and Hermione were in those two books. I’d found the first and second books at the library, but the third was all checked out. Luckily, though, a friend of mine had it, and while I was sleeping over at her house one night I read it. Yep, the whole thing. In one night. Now, for a 13-year-old book lover, this isn’t astonishing, or even particularly difficult. Looking back at it, what floors me is how rude it was to spend the entire sleepover reading a book– even if I started at  bedtime, which I’m pretty sure I did. (Not that I was tired the next morning– that would have come in the afternoon, once I was home again. Ah, to be young again…)

So when I started reading it a few weeks ago, I had to smile to myself a little when I found myself reading deep into the night one night, finally finishing at 2 in the morning. Even if I hadn’t read it all in one day, it had still caught me and made me remember that these books are insanely popular for a reason: They’re crazy good!

I’ve seen the movies so many times that I’d forgotten how great the books are– they suck you in and make you excited and happy and worried and scared for Harry and his friends. No wonder these books make kids want to read.

Ok so once I loved reading again, here are a few of the books I’ve read lately:

hero-and-the-crownThe Hero and the Crown — I cannot believe I’ve never read this classic. I went through not one but TWO phases when I really should have– once when I read a bunch of Robin McKinley books (Beauty, Rose Daughter, Outlaws of Sherwood, etc.), and one when I read all the Newbery books I could get my hands on (random ones, too, like The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle and Call It Courage). And all the while this book was sitting on my family’s bookshelves.

ps-i-like-youPS I Like You — The latest Kasie West book. I love her books because she’s really good with solid characterization. (I especially loved her scifi book Pivot Point, which, as the name implies, is pretty much Sliding Doors meets X-Men.) This one I found to be… a little lacking there? One of the reviews I read on Goodreads pointed out that all of the peripheral characters (the girl’s best friend especially) only really existed to further the main romantic plot line. And once I noticed that I couldn’t really un-notice it, unfortunately. That being said, it’s a super cute, super breezy update of You’ve Got Mail, and I liked it a lot.

night-circusThe Night Circus — Once I was firmly ensconced in Reading again, I set my mind to The Night Circus, which is a book I’d started once before but had drifted away from. I started again at the beginning, and made my way through it. And it’s gorgeous. The descriptions of the circus itself, the dreamlike quality of the narrative, the whole thing… I swear, this book needs to be a movie. It’s a design team’s dream. Baz Lurhmann, WHERE ARE YOU???

(Side note: I have an ambition to start listening to audio books, and I read somewhere that starting with one you’ve already read is a good idea. This one is narrated by Jim Dale, who has won Grammy awards for his performance of the Harry Potter books, so I’m gonna start here. I’ve heard it’s amazing.)

So after I read The Night Circus I was a little adrift. I thought, what book can I ever read again? What will ever be so well written as this book?

And then the Jim Dale thing clicked, and I remembered what had started all this in the first place: Harry Potter.

hp4Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — I actually went to a brick-and-mortar library to try and find this one, but unfortunately it was all checked out of the one I went to, and frankly my motivation to drag two children in and out of libraries fails me most days. To Kindle! Luckily, all the Harry Potter books are in the Prime Lending Library.

If you will, another digression:

So when this book came out I was in the middle of a move between two houses (not states or schools, just neighborhoods. Ah, the life of a military brat…). I happened to be at the library one day with my sister, who was home from college for the summer. And for some reason… that still floors me… there was this copy of the new Harry Potter book, just… there. There wasn’t a hold on it or anything, and the librarian checked it out to me on the spot. I then spent the entire day on the couch, reading the thickest book in the series so far. And not only did I spend the whole day reading it, but every time I stopped, to eat or whatnot, my sister would come bug me: “Are you done yet? Can I read it? Can I have it now?” Looking back, I think she was teasing, because I remember her being a bit surprised when I gave it to her late that night: “Here! Now leave me alone!”

Knowing what I know now about the rest of the series makes reading the books that much more interesting. Sirius! Voldemort’s reference to horcruxes! The prophecy about Harry/Neville! SO MUCH IS COMING. This book was also fun after reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I’d forgotten how insecure Amos Diggory was; it makes his attitude in Cursed Child a little more believable, wouldn’t you say?</minor spoiler>

fatal-graceA Fatal Grace — This is the second book in the Inspector Gamache series. It’s about a small town in Canada, where a police inspector gets to visit and also solve murders. I’ve heard that the series is amazing, but it doesn’t really “get going” until book 3 or 4. So… I’ll let you know. I liked this one well enough; Gamache is a good dude, although his assistant-friend character (I’m super uncultured about foreign police forces; they have all these complicated ranks, and I just can’t be bothered to pay attention to them. It makes me one of those rude Americans, I’m afraid…) is a little bit in love with him, maybe? And not in a good way. Aaaand… man, does Nichols drive me crazy. She’s pretty much the actual worst.

listThe List — So this is how I know I’m getting old. Because I read this book, and the thing that makes me the most upset is how the parents are acting. Of the eight girls,  two of them have decent parents, three of them have parents who aren’t mentioned much, two of them have parents who buy their daughter’s friends alcohol, and one girl has a single mom who threatens to homeschool her (again) as soon as she starts making friends (which, by the way, is classic Abusive Boyfriend behavior– isolation from other friends). Like, ok, the girls are horrible to each other, too, but the PARENTS should know better!

i-let-you-goI Let You Go — This is one that Modern Mrs. Darcy has been promoting a bit, and when I saw it on sale on Kindle, I went ahead and bought it. So halfway through this book there’s a Huge Twist, and suddenly the book you thought you were reading becomes a book about something else. I’m not sure how I felt about it, to be honest. On the one hand, it DOES lend sympathy to a character who might not have otherwise gotten it. But on the other hand, there’s a lot of other things done to give that character sympathy, and it felt a little bit like something the author did Just Because She Could. I LOVE me some unreliable narrators, but I also want there to be a reason for it: is the main character going crazy? Is she a liar? Is she coming to terms with some crazy traumatic thing that has happened? Is she suffering from memory loss? In this case, no. No she wasn’t. The author was just being misleading. So that halfway through she could go, “PSYCH! JUST KIDDING!” And so while it was kind of fun to find out that something I’d thought to be true was something else, it also felt pretty arbitrary.


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