Tag Archives: J.K. Rowling

Saturday Seven: Books with Green Covers

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I was originally planning to make this post about Irish books that I’ve read and loved, but it turned out that I couldn’t think of enough of them to fill out a Saturday Seven list on this topic. My goal for next year is to change that, so do speak up if you know of any good reads from that country.

In the meantime, let’s talk about books that all happen to have green covers. If I ever become wealthy enough to buy a big house and fill one room of it with nothing but books, I’m going to be terribly tempted to sort those books out by colour. Don’t you think it would be magical to walk into a room that looked like a rainbow?

I also think that arranging stories like this would be an interesting way to stumble across something you might have never otherwise picked up.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, some of my aunts and uncles were still kids when I was born. It was a little like growing up with older siblings except that we never lived in the same house and therefore didn’t have to share toys or bedrooms with each other. I remember my youngest aunt reading this story to me when I was very young. At the time, I loved it. Now I wish I could talk to Mr. Silverstein and find out whether he thought it was a virtuous thing for the tree to sacrifice every single part of itself for the boy or whether he was warning his young fans about the dangers of giving so much of yourself that you have nothing left for your own needs.

The Magicians Nephew by C.S. Lewis

This is my favourite story in the Chronicles of Narnia series in large part because of how C.S. Lewis came up with the idea of writing about a young boy whose mother was dying from a disease that had no cure. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but knowing the context of those scenes made them even more poignant.

 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

As much as I liked them, the last few Harry Potter books were so dark that I don’t reread them as often as I do the earlier ones.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire struck a nice balance between the sillier themes of the first few books and the very serious themes of the last ones. I also appreciated the way Ms. Rowling fleshed out wizard society. The audience was able to see just how well wizards and witches could live their entire lives cocooned away from muggle society without feeling like they were missing out on anything at all.

Also, the Triwizard Tournament was a thrill. I remember feeling afraid for Harry when he dove into the lake and began searching for the merpeople. Even magical humans can only survive for a few minutes without oxygen, and I wasn’t sure that his solution to breathing underwater was going to work.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

As fun as the movie adaptations are, the original Oz series was a million times more creative and sometimes even downright bizarre than anything that made it onto the big screen. I have no idea where the author came up with half of his stuff, but they sure did make for an attention-grabbing plot.  Don’t read this to young kids, but do go read it.

A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor.

I adore O’Connor’s writing style, although I will admit to not understanding a lot of her stories when I first started reading them. It took some rereads and a few more years of maturing before I began to see what she was saying about ethics and morality. She’s yet another author I wish I could take out for a cup of coffee and have a long conversation with.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare.

When I was a teenager, my mom took me to see a production of this play that had been put on by a local college. I loved every single bawdy minute of it, and I’ve been a fan of it ever since.

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

I had no idea what to expect what one of my college professors assigned a few of these tales to us. “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” was my favourite one because of how much it revealed about what it was like to be a woman in England during this time period. For example, women were defined by their relationship to men back then. They could be a maiden, a wife, or a widow. Their options outside of these roles were all but nonexistent. If only Chaucer had been able to finish this series.

What books that have green covers have you read recently? Do you sort out your books this way in general, or am I part of a small minority of readers on this issue?

Saturday Seven: Funny Quotes from Books

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

If a book contains a funny line, conversation, or passage, the chances of me becoming a huge fan of it are large. Sometimes I will reread a story I’ve already read many times before for the sheer joy of eventually finding my way to that witty scene again.

Today I’ll be sharing some of my all-time favourite humorous quotes from various books that I’ve read over the years. I hope you’ll share your favourite quotes in the comment section, too!

This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“No sight so sad as that of a naughty child,” he began, “especially a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after death?”

“They go to hell,” was my ready and orthodox answer.

“And what is hell? Can you tell me that?”

“A pit full of fire.”

“And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?”

“No, sir.”

“What must you do to avoid it?”

I deliberated a moment: my answer, when it did come was objectionable: “I must keep in good health and not die.”

― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

 

There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.

— J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

 

“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.”

LOG ENTRY: SOL 61 How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”

―Andy Weir, The Martian

Mr. Wonka: “Don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted.”
Charlie Bucket: “What happened?”
Mr. Wonka: “He lived happily ever after.”

― Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

“We’ll never survive!”
“Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.”

― William Goldman, The Princess Bride

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

4 Movies I’m Looking Forward to Watching in 2018

So far, 2018 doesn’t seem to be offering quite as many movies that I’m looking forward to watching as the end of 2017 did. This is a good thing, though, since my to-watch list of movies in general is still quite long and I haven’t actually managed to catch any of the movies in that previous post.

It will be nice to have the chance to watch them and some of the other films on my to-watch list over the next few months.

With that being said, there are still a few 2018 movies that I can’t wait to see. Now that we’re quickly moving to the end of this year, this is the perfect time to look forward to some of the exciting stories that will soon be told.

Black Panther 

Release Date: February 9

I’m generally not a huge fan of superhero movies, but Wonder Woman was an exception to that rule earlier this year.

Black Panther will be my 2018 exception to the rule, too. The trailer looked incredible, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the storyline so far. I can’t wait to see if it will live up to the hype, and I fully expect it  to do just that.

A Wrinkle in Time

Release Date: March 9.

Who else loved this book when they were a kid? I’m planning to reread it before watching the movie because I’ve honestly forgotten a lot of the plot. All that remains is a sense of wonder and excitement about the characters’ adventures, and I can’t wait to see how that translates to the big screen.

From what I’ve seen so far, it’s going to be quite the adventure.

The Little Stranger.

Release Date: August 31.

The poster for this film doesn’t seem to be available yet, but that doesn’t make me any less excited to watch it. Sarah Waters is a talented storyteller in general, and this tale of hers is especially thought-provoking because it can be interpreted in so many different ways.

The main character was a doctor who is hired to look after the members of a formerly-wealthy family who live in a crumbling mansion. While tending to the old war wounds of one of the family members, the doctor slowly begins to wonder if the once-grande estate is haunted.

This isn’t your typical ghost story, though. At least in the book, you can find evidence to support nearly any explanation you wish to believe for why that family’s house was so eerie or how they lost their wealth so quickly. I’m hoping the film will capture the grief and decay of that strange house without pushing the audience to any one particular conclusion about why it was such a sad place to live.

 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Release Date: November 16.
It will be almost a year before anyone gets to see the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I’ve already begun to count down the days until the next instalment in this series is released.
I’m thrilled that J.K. Rowling is continuing to expand the Potterverse. While I’ll continue hoping that she’ll someday write a prequel to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone that explores his parents’ lives in more depth, I’m happy to learn about other parts of that universe in the meantime.
Fantastic Beasts was an energetic and playful movie. I expect the exact same experience from the sequel.
What 2018 films are you most looking forward to watching?

What Harry Potter Taught Me About Celebrating the Holidays

Image credit: Jmh2o.

There are many things I love about the Harry Potter series. How it describes Christmas and the winter holidays in general is one of them. I’m planning to do yet another reread of these books in the near future, so all of the Christmases Harry celebrated with his friends have been popping into my mind again.

Today I wanted to share a few quotes from this series that illustrate some of the most important lessons they’ve shared about food, presents, and celebrations at this time of the year.

Harry had never in all his life had such a Christmas dinner. A hundred fat, roast turkeys; mountains of roast and boiled potatoes; platters of chipolatas; tureens of buttered peas, silver boats of thick, rich gravy and cranberry sauce — and stacks of wizard crackers every few feet along the table… Harry pulled a wizard cracker with Fred and it didn’t just bang, it went off with a blast like a cannon and engulfed them all in a cloud of blue smoke, while from the inside exploded a rear admiral’s hat and several live, white mice.—Description of the Christmas feast in The Philosopher’s Stone

The food descriptions in these books were mouth-wateringly delicious in general, but they somehow always outdid themselves over the holidays.I wanted to eat chipolatas even before I had any clue what they were because of how delicious everything else sounded.

There are plenty of Christmas crackers for sale here in Canada, but a small, playful part of me doesn’t want to buy any of them unless they’re magical and clearly meant for wizards.

Harry Potter: “Will you look at this? I’ve got some presents!

Ron Weasley: “What did you expect, turnips?

One of the things I loved the most about this exchange between Harry and Ron was how it showed the subtle ways their childhoods had influenced their expectations of the holidays.

Ron Weasley’s family was poor but loving. While his parents could only afford simple, homemade gifts most of the time, they were always distributed evenly.

Harry’s family could have afforded to buy him all sorts of things, but they chose to use what should have been a joyful day to inflict even more abuse on him by giving basically all of the love, attention, presents, and desirable food to his cousin every year.

What was a fairly ordinary Christmas to Ron was something Harry found overwhelmingly kind. This was a good reminder that everyone’s approach to the holidays is different. Some people love them. Others find them painful for any number of reasons. ,

“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.” – Dumbledore, Philosopher’s Stone

I couldn’t agree with this more. Socks are a deeply under-appreciated gift. There’s nothing like starting the winter off with some brand-new socks that are warm, comfortable, and maybe even cheerfully colourful. One size fits almost everyone, and they can be personalized in all kinds of cheerful ways. I’ve seen socks that have animals, superheroes, rainbows, flags, baseballs, musical instruments, sassy sayings, TTC lines, and all kinds of other stuff printed on them.

Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, socks would be close to the top of my list if I were expecting any gifts at this time of the year.

“Do people usually give their house-elves Christmas presents?” ~ Harry, Half-Blood Prince

Who deserves presents at Christmas?

To give readers who aren’t familiar with this universe more context for this question, house-elves are owned by wizards in the Potterverse. The only way for them to be freed is if the wizard who owns them gives them an article of clothing.

Normally, house-elves don’t receive Christmas presents, but Harry didn’t know that when he first met one of them. His joy at being fully included in the Weasley family’s celebrations made him assume that everyone should receive presents at Christmas.

I agree with him. If your’e going to give gifts, be inclusive about it as much as possible. It’s like Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather, said:

” The more the merrier!” ~ Sirius, Order of the Phoenix

10 Fantasy Books I’d Recommend to New Readers of This Genre

Last August I blogged about science fiction and fantasy books I’d recommend for elementary, middle school, and high school students.  Last week I blogged about science fiction books I’d recommend to adults who are unfamiliar with that genre.

Today let’s talk about books that are a wonderful introduction to fantasy in general for anyone who hasn’t explored this genre yet. I’m much more selective about what types of fantasy fiction I read than I am about science fiction. On the positive side, once I fall in love with a fantasy story I will become one of it’s biggest advocates for many years to come.

I generally have a preference for fantasy tales that were written for children or teenagers for reasons that are hard to tease out. This list reflect that, although there are still plenty of novels for adults on it as well.

Fantasy is a genre that requires a lot of world-building in order to make an unfamiliar place feel like home for the readers, so there won’t be any short stories in today’s post. Longer novels usually do better in this regard in my experience.

Finally, I gravitated towards books that have been made into films, TV shows, mini-series, or plays. I often prefer to watch fantasy rather than read it because of how rewarding it is to see a world I’ve spent years dreaming about finally come to life, dragons or intelligent little rabbits and all. Nearly all of the recommendations below have been transformed into one of these things at least once.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

First of all, everyone’s heard of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. There are references to it everywhere, and for good reason. This was actually one of the first fantasy tales I ever read, and it’s something I enjoy going back to visit again every so often.

The scene that made me a lifelong fan was the one where Alice drank a potion and magically shrunk to a fraction of her size. I giggled the first time I read it, and it’s still charming to me to this day.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman.

I saw The Princess Bride movie years before I had any idea it was based on a book. It was a fairy tale that seemed to somehow be self-aware, and it was like nothing I’d never read or heard of before. I’m still not entirely sure if it was supposed to be a kindhearted parody of the fantasy genre or an homage to it. Given the tongue-in-cheek but ultimately warm and supportive writing style, it’s probably a little of both.

What I do know about this story is that it’s timeless and appeals to kids and adults alike. To me, this is a sign of great fantasy.

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Before I read The Mists of Avalon, I’d never known that retelling a classic legend from the point of view of an antagonist was something that had been or could be done. Morgan le Fay was someone I’d barely heard of at that point, and all of the reference to her in the versions of the older King Arthur legends I had read were fairly negative.

It came as a shock to me, then, to read about Arthur’s life and kingdom from the perspective of Morgan. I was fascinated by all of the details of her life that the author invented in order to explain why this character made certain decisions and why the other characters didn’t always understand her.  Morgan became much more human and likeable to me after I finished The Mists of Avalon.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.

Creating imaginary worlds and then playing in them is arguably one of the best parts of childhood. Terabithia was as complex and magical as any other world a kid could imagine, and I loved reading about Jesse and Leslie’s adventures there.

This is also one of the few fantasy novels I’ve ever read that had a sad ending. I don’t give generally give away spoilers in my posts, but I would recommend being cautious with this one for readers who are younger or sensitive.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling.

Every once in a while I run across someone who has never read the Harry Potter series. I’m slightly surprised every time it happens, but I’m sure there are other series out there I haven’t tried yet that others would have the same reaction to.

This series is a smart introduction to modern fantasy for a few different reasons: it has a large fanbase; the movies were well done; the story telling only gets stronger as the series continues. It’s also aged well and is something I expect people to continue to read for generations to come because of that.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

I have one word for you: puns. This story is brimming with them, and it only makes the Kingdom of Wisdom even more amusing than it would have been otherwise. I also enjoyed the messages embedded in this one about the importance of education and the wonders you can discover if you explore the world around us with curiosity.

The fantasy genre can be quite good at exploring messages like these without feeling preachy or pushing the main plot off topic. The Phantom Tollbooth did a fantastic job of showing the readers the importance of these things without skimping on the development of the plot.

The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman.

Disclaimer: I haven’t read the other two books in this trilogy yet. My recommendation only extends to The Golden Compass at this point.

This is the heaviest and most complex book recommendation for today’s post. I almost deleted it and replaced it with something else, but I eventually decided that it should stay. Complexity isn’t a bad thing, and neither are stories that are darker than what is typical for the age range or genre they were written for.

How do you know what is real? What do you do when your experiences of the world don’t match the orthodox explanations for how things work? When should – and shouldn’t – we trust authority figures simply because they’re authority figures?

These are hard questions for adults to answer, and they’re even tougher for kids to comprehend. I enjoyed seeing how Lyra tried to figure out what the truth really was regardless of who wanted to stop her.

 

Watership Down by Richard Adams.

Watership Down was something I discovered shortly after I developed my love of rabbits. The idea of reading an entire story about a fluffle* of rabbits who were searching for a new home was quite appealing, and I only enjoyed it more once I realized just how unique each rabbit was and how much they all mattered to the plot as well as to their urgent need to find a safe place to call home.

*No, I am not being cutesy here. This is the technical term for a group of rabbits, and I love it.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Not only is this a classic Christmas story, it’s a magical glimpse into what fantasy can look like if its set in an urban society that barely seems aware of its existence at all. Out of all of the different types of fantasy out there, this one is my favourite. It’s exciting to find the subtle hints that a fantasy realm has influenced an otherwise completely ordinary society.

Having such an ordinary setting also made Scrooge’s encounters with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future even more poignant than they would normally be. Who would have guessed that such a wealthy, greedy, and powerful man was being quietly watched by beings who desperately wanted him to change his tune before it was too late?

 

The Stand by Stephen King.

Will the world end with a bang or a whimper? This novel was so long that I only managed to read through the whole thing once. All of those extra pages and scenes were used to to create a frightening world in which 99.4% of the human population died from an unforgiving virus that had been accidentally released into the general human population.

The survivors were gradually separated into two distinct groups, one lead by a devil figure and the other lead by a woman who is fighting on the side of good. That’s when the plot became a must-read for me. This is such a classic trope in the fantasy genre, and it was explored fully in The Stand.

How about you? What fantasy books would you recommend to new readers of this genre?