Top 5 Wednesday: Top Fictional Bromances

When I first saw this topic, there were two pairs of characters that immediately came to mind.boy-meets-world-reunion-2 It was a lot more difficult for me to find characters from books that fit the theme as well as these two. Cory and Shawn (Boy Meets World) were my first ever example of a bromance, and probably the strongest I’ve ever seen. They were childhood best friends who remained best friends all through their lives, despite going in separate directions as they got older and all of their differences. Cory was a pretty average kid from a middle-class, very supportive family, and Shawn grew up in a trailer park with a strange and broken family and struggled his whole life with figuring out where he fit in. The boys were such strong friends who supported each other above all else, and it was incredible to see how close they remained through everything.

a-house-bromanceHouse and Wilson were another solid example. For those who don’t know, House is an eccentric genius doctor, and Wilson is the best friend who tries to keep him somewhat under control. Before watching this show, I’d never been a huge fan of medical procedural shows, but it was the interactions between the characters, including between House and Wilson that really made it work. There’s no denying that House is incredibly difficult to put up with, but Wilson sticks by him and does his best to keep House out of trouble, and House in his own bizarre way is just as protective of Wilson. It was actually very hard for me to find examples from books that were bromances anywhere near on the level of these.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Sirius and Lupin (Harry Potter series)

hqdefaultThis is probably the most obvious choice, although a case could also be made for Harry and Ron. I’ve always been very interested in the Marauder’s and wanted to know more about their time at Hogwarts. It may be because they were the last remaining (and not Dark) Marauders remaining, but these two seem particularly close, to the point where there is a huge non-canon following that ships these two. While I don’t necessarily agree that it goes that far, the friendship between them as well as James Potter was very strong and definitely seems to fall into the bromance category.

2) George and Lennie (Of Mice and Men)

890This one may be a little more questionable because of how it ended, but I would say George and Lennie qualify because of how they stick together and look out for each other. George and Lennie are two field workers who travel together, work together, and help each other. Their friendship is complicated a bit by George’s need to take care of Lennie who has a cognitive disability but is also very physically strong. Although he frequently seems frustrated with Lennie, George stays with him and does everything he can to protect Lennie, make sure he finds work, and keeps him from getting into trouble. The ending of this story was so upsetting precisely because of the powerful friendship between the two men, and given how short the book is, it is very well-developed.

3) Amir and Hassan (The Kite Runner)

77203This is another bromance that might be debatable. Amir is the son of a wealthy merchant and a member of the ruling class, and Hassan is his servant but also his best friend. The main reason I think this one is questionable is because of this power discrepancy between the two of them. The boys grew up together as best friends, and in the beginning it seems that neither of them care that they are from different social statuses. It is not until later that this becomes an issue for Amir, leading to an act that separates the boys and for decades. Even though they are no longer speaking, the bond between the two boys is still a running theme as Amir spends most of his life trying to make up for his mistakes and repair the damage done to his relationship with Hassan. It is definitely one that is a bit more controversial, but I think you can make a case for it.

4) Augustus and Isaac (The Fault in Our Stars)

11870085This was one of the friendships on the list that was a little less memorable to me, but at the time I read the book, I remember that I really enjoyed the friendship between Augustus and his best friend Isaac, both of whom have cancer. The boys have a close friendship, and seem to have a lot of inside jokes. It’s been a long time since I read this book, but if I remember correctly, a lot of their friendship history seems to be left off the page. I was a little hesitant to include this one because I could not remember it as clearly, but I thought the two boys were very supportive of each other and helped each other through some very difficult situations, including both normal teenage experiences and much more complex emotions due to their medical problems. This is another book that may be due for a re-read at some point.

5) Sherlock Holmes and Watson

8921Although this was one of the most immediate examples that came to mind, I was reluctant to include it because I have only read one Sherlock Holmes book so far (The Hound of the Baskervilles). I’ve never quite been certain of how much of the bromance angle was really in the books, and how much is just from the huge cultural phenomenon surrounding these two. Holmes and Watson are typically cited as one of the strongest friendships in literature, although it seems to be along the lines of House and Wilson due to the eccentricity of the main character. I will have to read more of these books to find out how much of it is from the books, but it is definitely one of the most well-known!

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Reader Struggles: Meme Mini-Series

One of the advantages of having Goodreads, reading fanpages, and several of the blogs I follow on Facebook is I get to see a whole bunch of reading and book-related memes. Not too long ago, I stumbled upon a list of “Internal Struggles Only Bookworms Will Understand” (link here for anyone interested), which inspired me to create this new Meme Mini-Series.  I love “Reader Struggles” memes because I find so many of them so relatable, and some of them are really funny! I thought it would be fun to share some of the reader struggles I’ve found, with my response to them. I will be starting with the memes on the website above, but if anyone has any other memes they would like me to comment on, please feel free to send me a link!

be-quiet

It’s a little ironic that this first meme is one that has been especially relevant for me over the past few weeks. One of the biggest issues I’ve always had as a reader is trying to prioritize everything that I need or want to do, and still finding enough time to read. It can especially be tricky because so many of my books come from the library, so I need to make sure to get them returned on time! Just the other day, I told a friend that I wouldn’t play Minecraft with her until I’d finished my book since it was due back to the library soon.

Especially since I’ve started doing reading challenges, I’ve really made reading a priority. When I come home from work or have free time on the weekends, most of it is spent reading. The struggle, like in the meme, comes when there are other things i need or want to do instead. There have been so many days where I tell myself I’m going to put down the book for a bit and play one of my computer games, watch Netflix, etc. and then I end up continuing to read anyway. Usually, it depends on the book. If I’m very engrossed in it, I will happily prioritize reading over just about anything else, but if it’s a book that I’m not so into, I’m more likely to switch to something else.

I think what this meme essentially comes down to is the struggle sometimes with dividing our time. For me, reading is a way to relax after a stressful day and a way to entertain myself. People often ask me how I find the time to read so many books in a year, but the answer is always the same: I make the time. I choose to read instead of doing other things. That is not to say that I avoid other obligations, avoid seeing friends, or skip work to read — but when it comes to my free time, reading is often my first choice. There have been times where I’ve told myself to put down the book and do something else, and there have definitely been times where I respond to myself with “be quiet” and keep reading. If I’m really not in the mood to read, I’ll know pretty quickly and I will put the book down, but otherwise I see nothing wrong with the amount of my time I devote to it!

 

Top 5 Wednesday: Character’s Fitness Routines You Want

I have to be honest — I cringed when I saw this topic on the list for Top 5 Wednesdays. Fitness routines are not something that interest me much, and definitely not something that I pay much attention to while reading. I am not an athletic or coordinated person at all, and I tend not to enjoy fitness routines. I hate going to the gym or doing exercise for the sake of exercise. I prefer activities like soccer, yoga or swimming that are fun but active at the same time…not that I do any of these consistently. It was hard for me to think of characters whose routines I might want without putting myself in their shoes, and thinking about what they need those routines for.

I loved how Sam, in her video explaining this topic, specified that we are not limited to characters who are athletes. It can also incorporate characters who are good at a variety of skills, or even foodies! Personally, I think it is important for everyone to find a routine that works for them. Ideally, I would love to be able to eat whatever I want and not worry about burning off the calories, so it would be great to find some characters who can do that! The characters I’m choosing here, for the most part, are all ideal goals and definitely not realistic for me. I apologize for the lack of pictures this time!

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

This was the first character who immediately came to mind when I saw this topic, but also one that I almost didn’t choose because of what Buffy’s fitness routine really means. It may actually be a bit of a cheat since Buffy, as a Slayer, is gifted with supernatural strength, speed and healing abilities, but she still goes through a lot of training to keep developing her skills with weapons, agility, and a variety of other abilities. I definitely would not want to be a Slayer with all the responsibilities that go along with that, but I would love to be able to handle Buffy’s fitness routine. I actually did a kickboxing class for a short time in high school, which seemed fairly similar to what Buffy was doing, and I loved it!

2) Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games

One of the things I enjoyed most about the Hunger Games was learning about how Tris and the other tributes got to train and hone their skills before being thrown into the arena. Katniss is a talented archer, but also got to learn a whole bunch of other survival skills that I think would be great to know. Actually, even if I could just have her archery abilities, I’d be pretty happy. Like Buffy, Katniss seems to be a character who is pretty well-rounded in terms of her abilities but in a way she is more impressive because she does not have the supernatural powers to help boost her. This is another case where I would love to have the skills, but not to be in Katniss’s situation!

3) Tris Pryor from The Divergent Series

I almost didn’t include this one because I was so strongly opposed to the idea of being in the Dauntless faction, but I think it would be really interesting to be trained to control fears the way Dauntless members are. Most of the rest of their lifestyle is much too intense for me and I actually would really hate to go through the training that they require in order to master your fears, but the ideal of being able to control them to that extent is pretty tempting. In theory, I think it would be very valuable to learn how to control your emotions in the most frightening situations, but I’m too much of a coward to actually go through with it.

4) Hermione Granger from The Harry Potter Series

This one probably seems like an unusual choice, but I think mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness. Hermione is definitely a character who keeps her mind active by reading and absorbing as much information as she possibly can. She also challenges herself to play chess, even though it is a game that she consistently loses at. Not only is chess a great mental exercise, but it is also good to push ourselves to do activities that are difficult for us and not win every time. Plus I’m sure Hermione gets some kind of a workout by lugging all those books around all the time!

5) Sunny Baudelaire from A Series of Unfortunate Events

Again, probably a bit of a weird choice but I picked Sunny because of her talent for cooking that develops at a ridiculously young age. For me, diet is an important part of a fitness routine and I especially think it is important to really enjoy what you’re eating. I don’t care how healthy a food is — if I don’t like the taste, I’m not eating it. Sunny develops amazing abilities to cook simple foods for herself and her siblings, eventually branching out to try new and more complex dishes. I would love to be able to cook simple, healthy and delicious food for myself (although I don’t think there is anything wrong with having treats sometimes!).

A Thriller That Still Thrills: The Girl on the Train Movie Review

I seem to be in the minority of people who actually thoroughly enjoyed reading The Girl on the Train. When I picked up the book two years ago, it was receiving rave reviews. After reading it and loving it, I was very surprised to see that many reviewers on Goodreads couldn’t stand the book! It may have been because this book was one of the first of its kind that I’d read, but I thought it was very well-written and I was completely caught off-guard by the ending. I was excited to see the movie version when it came out the following year, but somehow managed to miss it until today, when I finally got a copy from the library to watch. I think it actually really helped that I watched the movie so long after reading the book, because the experience was pretty fresh and almost prevented me from comparing the two.

Plot

The basic premise of The Girl on the Train is that a woman named Rachel, taking the same commuter train every day, becomes obsessed with a couple she sees through the train window every day. She imagines a perfect life for this couple, until one morning where she sees something that completely destroys this image. After a night of drinking, Rachel wakes up injured and with no memory of what happened the night before only to learn that the woman she has been watching has gone missing. Rachel becomes convinced that what she saw is relevant to the case and goes to the police, and becomes heavily involved in trying to piece together her memories of that night and what might have happened.

As with most thrillers, it is difficult to describe too much of the plot without giving anything away. The movie version stays incredibly true to the novel, which is a rarity for adaptations. When I first read the book, I was completely absorbed in the storyline and trying to figure out what happened. Being two years after reading it, I did not remember too much of the details, and especially barely remembered the ending. I actually was sure they had changed the ending until I went online afterwards and double-checked how the book had ended, discovering that it was the same. I was impressed by how well the movie managed to recapture the same experience I had when first reading the book. I was completely absorbed and invested in the plot, and still thought that it was a well-crafted story with a genuine twist at the end. I was surprised by how many reviewers of the book complained that the ending was predictable. Maybe it was my own inexperience with thrillers at the time, but I had no idea what to expect.

Characters/Casting

One of the major criticisms I’ve found about this book is how unlikable all of the characters were. Personally, I found the characters all very compelling and more troubled than unlikable. Both versions of the story quickly established Rachel as an unreliable narrator due to alcoholism, and it is her unreliability that really drives the story along. The film does a great job of showing Rachel as a depressed, lonely woman who drinks to the point of blacking out. The flashbacks and memory fragments used to show how Rachel understands what happens in her life kept me trying to piece things together alongside her. I did not find her unlikable at all. Emily Blunt, one of my favourite actresses, did a brilliant job of portraying Rachel perfectly. I was a little worried when she was cast because she did not seem to fit the character, but she really brought Rachel to life.

The cast also consisted of Justin Theroux as Tom, Rachel’s ex-husband, and Rebecca Ferguson as Anna, Tom’s new wife and mother of his child. Aside from her fixation on the couple she watches from the train, Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan (Haley Bennett), Rachel also is struggling to move on from the dissolution of her marriage to Tom and especially resents his new family. I was not very familiar with any of these actors before this movie, except for Luke Evans who recently played Gaston in the live-action Beauty and the Beast remake, but I thought they all were strong choices for their characters. All of the characters in this movie have several layers, and I thought the actors were all very convincing and made their characters seem very real and human. They all brought a depth to their characters which brought them out of the “unlikable” label, and instead made them complex, fully-developed individuals. To be fair, I thought that was true in the novel as well, despite it receiving so many complaints about how all of the characters seemed to be horrible people. Without revealing too much, I will just say that I think the story works better because of how the characters are written, and it may not have been so effective if they were more “likable.”

Visuals/Music

Once again, this is the most difficult aspect for me to review because it is always the part that is least memorable for me. While watching the movie, I thought the cinematography and music both worked well to create a creepy atmosphere, and I especially liked how Rachel’s flashbacks were captured to leave the audience doubting her just as much as the other characters did. During flashbacks, images were often blurred or fragmented to show how Rachel saw things. The cinematography was also used very effectively to maintain the mystery/thriller aspects, letting the twist come as a true surprise. I thought it was very well-done.

Overall Impressions

I was very impressed with this adaptation, and it is quite rare for me to see a book-to-movie adaptation where I am not left constantly comparing the two. Even if the movie did stray away from the strict text, it definitely captured the spirit of the story very effectively. I went into the movie expecting a mediocre adaptation, and instead I got a well put together thriller that was just as engaging as the original novel. The cast did a brilliant job capturing the characters, and this really helped to make the movie so compelling. I would definitely recommend it, although those who already did not enjoy the novel probably won’t enjoy this either.

Plot – 10/10
Characters/Casting – 9/10
Visuals/Music – 9/10
Overall – 9.5/10

The Reading Slump Paradox

I know this title sounds suspiciously like an episode of The Big Bang Theory, but I also think it really fits my current situation. I’ve always associated a “reading slump” with boredom, difficulty finding a good book, or otherwise just not enjoying what you’re reading. One of my earliest posts on this blog actually talked about different kinds of reading slumps (here, for anyone interested) and some suggestions on how to overcome them.

Over the past couple of weeks, I found myself in a strange kind of paradoxical reading slump. I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve been reading, but I also feel like I’ve been reading very slowly and struggling to motivate myself to continue reading. In fact, of the past 5 books that I’ve read, 4 of them were either 4-star or 5-star reads so it’s safe to say that I’ve been enjoying them. I first noticed the feeling of a slump when reading Uprooted, which was a book I adored but found myself struggling to push through. The odd thing is, while it felt like it was taking me absolutely forever to finish it, it only took me 4 days, which is completely reasonable for a book of that size given the amount of time I had to read.

I was looking forward to my two weeks off from work because I thought I would get a lot of reading done, and I was excited to read and make progress on my challenges. I squeezed in In Real Life on my last day of work, but was quite disappointed with it. I also read Allegedly during my first couple of days off before I left, although I came down with an extremely annoying summer cold which might have also contributed to the slump.

I think in a way I felt the slump a bit more because I seriously overestimated how much time I would have to read while on vacation. I was away for a week, and decided to bring 4 books with me thinking I would have lots of time to read at the airport, on the train, and at the hotel. The four books I brought with me were: Purple Hibiscus, The Forgetting Time, Uprooted, and The Translation of Love. My plan was to do most of my reading on the train rides, and in the evenings but I ended up having much busier days than I expected, leaving me without too much time to read. I finished the first two books above while away, although they each took me a day or two longer than expected, and finished Uprooted the day after I got back home. I’ve decided to put off The Translation of Love for now to switch things up and read a couple of shorter/lighter books in between. To be fair, I don’t think I ever really thought I’d finish all four within the week but I always end up bringing more books than I could possibly finish.

What confused me about this slump is how much I was enjoying what I was reading. Normally when I feel like I’m forcing myself through a book, it’s because I’m really not enjoying the book very much. When I started reading Uprooted, I fell in love with the world that was created and the writing style, so I was surprised to find that by the middle, I felt like I was slogging through it and kept getting easily distracted to do anything but read. It was weird, since I still came out of the book loving it and I rated it 5 stars because I’m not sure it was the book’s fault that I was in the slump.

Actually, I think one reason is because of the pesky “you are x books behind schedule” on Goodreads, which has me a little worried about my challenge progress. As much as I’ve said I would prioritize certain challenges to finish within the year, I still would ideally love to finish them all, but I am currently just under halfway.

The other main reason for the slump is this other kind of odd paradox, where a book I haven’t even read yet is causing the slump. As part of my BookRiot challenge this year, I have the task of reading a book set in South or Central America that is written by an author from South or Central America. I intended to read One Hundred Years of Solitude which has become my Goldfinch/Dracula of the year. To put that in context, each year there always seems to be one book I have in mind to read for the challenge that I end up putting off over and over, until eventually deciding not to read it at all. Two years ago, it was The Goldfinch which I actually never had that much interest in, but chose because it fit a challenge which I believe called for a long book. Last year, it was Dracula, a book that I’d been meaning to read for a long time but never seemed to be in the mood for. I kept putting it off hoping that eventually I would really feel like reading it, but as I got closer to the end of the year, it started to seem more and more unrealistic to be able to squeeze it in and finish the challenge in time. I ended up putting it off and reading it this year instead, and I loved it!

Unfortunately, I now seem to be in the same boat with One Hundred Years of Solitude. It is one of those classics that I feel like I should read at some point but didn’t have a super strong interest in trying. I chose it mostly because I found a real lack of options for the prompt it covers, and a co-worker has told me in the past that they really think I’ll love it. Although I still waver a bit about wanting to read it, every time I pick it up just to flip through and try to motivate myself, I find myself completely not interested. I’ve learned over the past few years that the worst thing I can do is try to force myself to read something when I don’t really want to, because that practically guarantees that I won’t enjoy it at all. It might end up being a book that I scrap and replace, and try to fit in again next year. I actually intended to read it during my time off since it seemed like a longer/more dense book than most of the others I’ve been reading, but when it came down to the time to pick books to bring with me, I just wasn’t in the mood for it.

I don’t think I’ve really come out of the slump yet, but I’ve just released a whole bunch of my holds from the library including a few books that I’m very excited for. I’m hoping that will be enough to get my motivation back on track. I still find it very strange to lack motivation to read, while at the same time enjoy everything I’m reading. Has anyone else ever had this?

 

 

Top 10 Tuesdays: Ten Series I Haven’t Finished Yet

Top 10 Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Although Top 10 Tuesdays is officially on a bit of a hiatus over the summer, since I am still so new to it, I decided I would backtrack a bit and post about some of the topics I’d missed until new ones are available. Recently, Top 10 Tuesdays asked about series that we have yet to start (found here), so this one seemed like a natural follow-up. I’ll admit that I generally prefer standalones over series since I find series often drag the story out unnecessarily, leaving the dreaded “transitional book” where not much really happens, but it moves the characters from the introduction of the conflict in Book 1 toward the conclusion in Book 3. Over the past couple of years, I’ve really committed to trying several of the more popular series, which has left me in a bit of an awkward position with many series open. Because I try to fit my books into my reading challenges, and I generally try to avoid too many by the same author, I have trouble managing series. Here are some of the series that I have started, but not finished yet:

1) The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

29995315To be fair, I am almost finished this series and it is one of the few that I prioritized to finish this year. I read Cinder toward the end of 2016 and I absolutely loved it, so I made sure to fit Scarlet in this year. I actually didn’t intend to read the rest so quickly, but I wanted Winter for a particularly irritating prompt (a book over 800 pages), so I needed to find a place for Cress too. I just finished Cress last week, and I loved it. Aside from the four main books, there are also the “between the numbers” books and apparently a new, related graphic novel series focusing on Iko. I’m not generally a fan of “between the numbers” books, but I think in this case I will make an exception.

2) Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

28960212This was another series I started toward the end of last year, and I was blown away by the first book. I thought Juliette was such an interesting protagonist and I really connected with the writing style. I know a lot of people take issue with the excessive metaphors and strikethroughs, but for me they fit well with Juliette’s mental state. I read the second book not too long ago, and although I didn’t find it quite as strong, I’m still very interested in finding out what happens next. This is another series that has a few “between the numbers” books, and I’ve only recently learned that there will be a fourth book coming out sometime next year.

3) Delirium by Lauren Oliver

11614718I have a bit of a strange relationship with Lauren Oliver’s books. I generally enjoy the concept and I like reading them, but something always seems to hold them back from being 5-star reads for me. I picked up this series because I was intrigued by the concept of a world where love is viewed as a disease. I really enjoyed how the first book explored what it would mean to outlaw all kinds of love, not just romantic love. While I enjoy these books as I’m reading them, I find them a little less memorable, although I’ve just seen that the third book is told from a dual-perspective of Lena who has joined the resistance, and her friend Hana who is still at home where love is banned. It seems like it will be an interesting way to bring it all together.

4) The Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

13537830I picked up Beautiful Creatures last year because I’d seen and loved the movie. It is actually not so often that I find a non-Harry Potter series that involves witches or magic. I also liked how this book was a little different since it was told from the male perspective. I’m sure it is not the only one to do that, but it was definitely one of the only ones I had read. I enjoyed the first book although I found it a little slow-paced. I don’t have any of the rest of them in mind for this year, but I would like to continue the series eventually. I’ve been a bit scared off since I saw so many negative reviews about how much the series goes downhill!

5) The Program by Suzanne Young

11366397This is another series that I started last year but didn’t manage to fit in anywhere this year, although I would like to continue it. This series is about a world in which suicide is an epidemic so people are constantly screened for signs of depression, and sent to The Program if they show any. This was another series that I heard a lot of mixed reviews about, especially because of concerns with the way mental illness is discussed. However, I thought it was a very interesting start. The only reason I didn’t fit it into this year was because there were several new series that I wanted to try more, but I will have to try to squeeze it in!

6) The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

11127I’m actually not 100% sure whether I’ve ever finished the series. I’ve definitely read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and The Magician’s Nephew more than once. I also vaguely remember reading one or two more of them when I was much younger and had the flu, but I don’t remember anything about them. I’ve also never been able to figure out what the best order is to read these books. This series is definitely one of my longer-term goals, because I would love to finally finish them all! If anyone has any recommendations for what order to read them in, please let me know!

7) The Selection by Keira Cass

10507293This one of a few series that I committed to trying this year, but I was on the fence about it because of the mixed reviews. Most reviews compared this series to The Bachelor, which I have never watched and have no interest in, so I went into it with fairly low expectations. While I think this book would have been better if it was told from multiple perspectives, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I’m hoping in the next few books there will be more character development of some of the other competitors. The book was fun to read, and it caught my attention enough to want to try the rest of the series.

8) Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

22328546This was another of the series I decided to try this year, and again it had me worried because of the reviews. It may have helped that I read this book before others that it has been compared to, but I also really connected with the writing style. I was surprised to find that Victoria Aveyard actually caught me off-guard with the ending. I can see where some people might complain about the heavy use of common tropes, but it was well-written enough that it didn’t bother me at all. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of the series and I hope it holds up to this one.

9) Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

714902I started this series last year for a prompt that required a series written by an author of colour, which was surprisingly difficult to find. This book is about a world where people are divided into Noughts, who are colourless members of the lower-class, and Crosses, dark-skinned members of the upper-class. I’ll admit that I found the beginning of the book a little frustrating since many of the events were ripped straight from the history textbooks of the Civil Rights movement in the USA. It made it seem a little less creative to me, but I loved the rest of the story. I am still waiting for my library to get a copy of the next book so I can read it!

10) The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

the-madmans-daughterThis was another of my favourite series that I started last year! This series consists of three books, each of which is loosely based on a classic horror story. Juliet Moreau, the protagonist was one of the most interesting main characters that I’d read all year. It was a little ironic since I kept putting off reading this until close to the end of the year and even considered switching it out for something different. It ended up being one of my favourites! I read the second book earlier this year, and immediately went and found a place to squeeze the third one in for later on.

 

In Honour of Harry Potter’s 20th Anniversary

I was not intending on making a post today, but when I got online and saw that today marked the 20th anniversary of the release of the first Harry Potter book, I knew I couldn’t just let it pass by without commenting. For anyone who has been following my blog for a while, it is no secret that I am a huge Harry Potter fan. It is the one series that seems to sneak its way into just about every post I make, in one way or another, and one of the only series that I can constantly re-read and never get tired of. In honour of the 20th anniversary, I wanted to share 20 memories of the series, including stories from my Harry Potter history, some of the most memorable moments, and reasons why I think the series has remained so powerful. I apologize in advance if the order is a little scattered and all over the place.

1) My first exposure to Harry Potter – I believe I have told this story before, but I actively avoided reading Harry Potter for a very long time after it came out because of all the hype. I was convinced that anything with that much hype couldn’t possibly be that good. I was in fifth grade (if I remember correctly) at the time, and my school hosted a Book Chat where our former school librarian visited to read us a page or two from some of the most popular books at the time. As soon as he started reading Harry Potter, I was hooked and I knew I had to get the book for myself! I’m so glad I didn’t miss out.

2) Reading the books to my dad (and struggling with character names!) – My dad used to come home from work very tired, so I would read to him instead of him reading to me. I had already read the books myself and decided I wanted to share them, so I started reading chapters of it out loud to him whenever I could. Actually, the most distinct memory I have was my struggle to pronounce Hermione’s name, so I asked my dad if I could just call her something else instead. He wouldn’t let me because he said “But that isn’t her name” and asked me if I would have liked to be called some other random name instead of my own. I think I figured it out before J.K. Rowling helpfully explained it during Goblet of Fire, but it took me a while! (I also never knew how to pronounce Seamus’s name until the movies).

3) Watching all of the movies with my best friend and coming out of them complaining about everything that they had done “wrong.” Although we loved the movies, we constantly complained about how they didn’t do much justice to the books. We came out of each movie listing everything that had been changed or skipped, anything that had been added, and just generally comparing the books to the movies. We both liked the books a lot better!

4) “You’re an excellent prophet” — The time Half-Blood Prince got spoiled for me – I think I have told this story before as well, but just before HBP was released, we all knew that a major character was going to die by the end. My friends and I spent hours talking about who we thought it would be, and I had a pretty good idea of who it was. Before I’d even had the chance to read the book myself, a friend of mine who was reading it came over to me and said “I just want to say, you’re an excellent prophet!” I was so upset with her! I didn’t care about whether I was right or wrong, I just wanted to find out for myself. I was still interested in seeing how it happened, but why would she think I’d want to know in advance?!

5) Smudging chocolate on my copy of Prisoner of Azkaban – Prisoner of Azkaban has always been my favourite of the series, and for some reason, I decided it was a good idea to eat a chocolate granola bar while re-reading it. I was very upset to discover that I had smudged chocolate on the edge of many pages (kind of like a thumbprint) when I picked up the book without checking if my hands were clean first. I hate damaging my books, and I was especially upset since this was such a favourite. Ever since then, I’ve avoided eating or drinking anything while eating.

6) Sirius Black going through the veil – Sirius was one of my favourite characters, and I was absolutely devastated by the scene in Order of the Phoenix where he falls through the mysterious veil. It seemed so sudden and so hard to understand exactly what happened. I was shocked, and it was one of the first times I really strongly remember literally crying from a scene in a book.

7) The experience of reading each of the books for the first time – I can still remember eagerly awaiting each new release, and getting so absorbed into the story every time. I was genuinely surprised by many of the plot twists (ie. the diary in Chamber of Secrets, the Shrieking Shack scene in Prisoner of Azkaban, etc). It is not very often that a book can catch me so off-guard since I have a tendency to predict what might happen next pretty accurately. This was one of the rare cases where, aside from the HBP example above, I genuinely had no idea what was going to happen and I was so excited to find out!

8) Buying a copy of Deathly Hallows with missing pages/some pages repeated – If I remember correctly, I got my copy of Deathly Hallows from the bookstore. When I picked it up, I noticed that there was a section of 30 or so pages that weren’t lined up properly with the rest, but I assumed it was just bound a bit strangely so I didn’t think anything of it. While reading the book, I got to that section and realized that it was actually a complete misprint — my book was missing a chunk of pages, and instead another chunk from earlier in the story had been repeated instead. I have no idea how that happened, but I was so frustrated! Not to mention I always have a bit of anxiety about returning things at a store because for some reason, I always think they will give me a hard time about giving things back. Luckily I was able to get to the store pretty quickly and make the switch.

9) Dolores Umbridge! – Need I say more? What other book or series has a character that feels so real and so genuinely scary? I have written about her in the past, so please see this post if interested.

10) Hermione Grangerone of the first characters I ever truly related to – It is not very often that I can completely relate to a character, but Hermione was definitely the first. From the moment she was first described with her “bushy brown hair” (which I had), her tendency toward being a know-it-all, and the fact that she practically lived in the library, I related very strongly to her. I am nowhere near as confident/out-going/bossy as Hermione, but I can relate to her in a lot of other ways. When I was younger, I genuinely enjoyed learning and even homework, and I was always a bit of a teacher’s pet. Even her Yule Ball transformation was relatable to me – I had a drama assignment in seventh grade where, as part of my costume, I straightened my hair for the first time ever and showed up to my (male) friend’s house to work with my (all male) group dressed in very feminine clothes for the first time. Even though these guys were all my close friends, they were in shock when they saw me! It definitely reminded me of everyone’s reaction to Hermione at the ball.

11) Playing European handball in gym class, and everyone comparing it to Quidditch – I’m pretty sure it was the one and only time we played that game, and I barely remember how to play anymore, but I remember everyone commenting about how similar the game was to Quidditch but without the brooms.

12) The incredible world-building – I have never read another series where the world that was created was so magical and yet so plausible at the same time. It is so easy to believe that the wizarding world of Harry Potter really could exist in parallel to our own, exactly the way it is described in the books. I loved the idea of the wizarding world co-existing alongside the Muggle world, and how the magical elements were nothing too elaborate. It made it so easy to imagine ourselves in the world, and I think nearly all readers at some point wanted to go to Hogwarts.

13) The fully-developed and wide-ranging cast of characters – This is a series that has a huge number of characters, but unlike other books that have so many people in them, I never had any problem keeping track of everyone. Each character, even minor characters, had a unique personality and seemed to be a fully developed person with a backstory, relationships, and their own strengths/flaws. Even characters in roles that are usually pretty one-dimensional (teachers, parents of main characters, random classmates) seemed real, human and often very interesting.

14) The way everything got tied together eventually –  One of the most memorable aspects of this series for me is how interconnected everything is. Things or people mentioned in passing in earlier books often show up again and take on a much more significant role later on. Even storylines that seem like fairly throwaway or one-off plots come back later one (Horcruxes being a main one). Items that are casually mentioned while the group is cleaning out Sirius’s house, for example, are actually essential later one. It is a real talent to open up all of these threads and have them come together logically and naturally, even several books later. Even character names (Mrs. Figg, Mundungus Fletcher) who are mentioned in passing early on later become much more important. It really taught me to pay attention to everything, and it also made the books fun to re-read to see how everything connects.

15) The humour! – I absolutely loved J.K. Rowling’s snarky sense of humour which came out often in the books. There were so many lines that were hilarious, even some that seemed unintentionally funny. For example, I’ve always loved Ron’s line “Of all the trees we could have hit, we had to get the one that hits back!” To this day, I have no idea why I found that line so funny but I’ve always loved it. I often find jokes/clownish characters tend to fall flat or be annoying after a while, but Fred, George and Peeves were all hilarious! I also loved the sarcastic humour spread throughout, especially Harry’s interactions with Dudley. Aside from the brilliant plot, the books were fun to read because they were just so funny!

16) The amazing bits of wisdom naturally interspersed throughout the story – There is a good reason why so many of the quotes from this book  have become so well-known. This is a series that contained some very powerful lines and messages, and these were blended into the story so naturally. It never really felt like characters were preaching or moralizing to you, but it was still easy to pick up on what J.K. Rowling was trying to get across. Even from the first book, we have so many great quotes about friendship, courage, standing up for what’s right, etc.

17) The way the series grows up with you – I was probably 10 or 11 when I started reading the series the first time, so approximately the same age as Harry each time a book came out. I literally grew up with these characters, and I appreciated how the series as a whole grew up with them as well. I loved how the writing style evolved a bit each time as the characters aged, and how the story got progressively more intense. My favourite authors have always been those (like Roald Dahl or Lemony Snicket) who don’t talk down to children, and I think Harry Potter definitely fits in with those. The books can get quite dark at times, but I never felt it was more than I could handle, even when there were some very creepy moments.

18) The community that surrounds the series – As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never been overly involved in any “fandoms” but Harry Potter comes pretty close. This is one of the only series where I’ve actually been very interested to go online and read what other people are saying. I love reading Harry Potter fanfiction, reviews of the books, and especially loved reading essays people posted online analyzing various characters and aspects of the book. It was a lot of fun to read different people’s views, and get new perspectives on the books and the characters that I loved.

19) The way so many of the characters defy our expectations – A huge part of the strength of this series for me was the way that it very quickly showed us not to judge a book by its cover. There are so many examples that it is hard to name just a few — Hagrid is one of the first examples that comes to mind. He is a half-giant who looks wild and enjoys keeping dangerous pets, so it would be easy to assume that he is scary and possibly even violent, but he is actually very gentle, friendly and loyal. The Dursleys do their best to seem normal, but they are actually abusive and mean. Neville starts out as a seemingly weak, talentless coward, but ends the series as a very powerful character. Just about every character in this book has shades of gray, and that is a huge part of what makes them so powerful and so memorable.

20) The fact that the books stand up so well to being re-read, no matter how many times I read them – I think this one pretty much speaks for itself. I have read and re-read the series so many times over the years, and I think there is a lot to be said for the fact that I can do that without getting bored. Even the first book, which I have probably read close to 20 times, still generally feels fresh and I still enjoy it each time. It is rare for me to find a series or even a single book that I can re-read so often, and still enjoy just as much as the first time I picked it up.