Sunday, July 31, 2016

Suicide Reviews: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Spoiler Free!)

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter, #8) 

Date Published: July 31, 2016
Published By: Arthur A. Levine Books
Number of Pages: 327
Rating: 5/5

I'll admit - I was skeptical. When it was first announced that the eighth Harry Potter story was going to be a play, I definitely had some strong reservations. Why do a play? I wondered. Why not just write it as a novel so that every Potter fan can enjoy it? 

After reading the script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, my expectations were completely blown out of the water. I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. I was so pleased to see my beloved Wizarding World again and see my favorite Golden Trio all grown up. The story definitely has that special Harry Potter feeling - lots of action and drama mixed in with humor, a great sense of character, magic and mystery, whimsy and wonder. It does justice to the epic seven-book series that came before it.

After reading the script, I am dying to see the play. As I was reading, I tried to imagine in my head what certain moments would look like on stage. There are so many fantastical scenes in Cursed Child that I'm willing to bet it takes an extraordinary amount of stagecraft to pull off. I'm sure it's quite the spectacle. 

And herein lies the problem with the script - it is a story that is meant to be seen on stage to get the full experience of it. You know how you never quite grasp the full meaning of a Shakespeare play until you see it live (or at least on film?) The same principle applies here - I will not be able to experience the true magic of Cursed Child until I see it on stage. I understand why J.K. Rowling chose to write the eighth story as a play as opposed to a novel - I'm not sure the story would work as a traditional book. But I was left feeling slightly unfulfilled after I finished reading it - a problem I don't experience with the seven books. 

I'm not going to post any spoilers but I will say that my absolute favorite part was towards the end of Act Three, Scene Nine - people who have read the script already will probably know what I'm talking about, especially if you know who my favorite character is. I'm sure if I was to see this particular moment on stage, I'd be reduced to tears.

A Brief Note on Canon:

Some people say that the creators get to decide what is canon and what isn't. J.K. Rowling herself calls the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play part of the official Harry Potter canon. For me, canon is a personal thing. Some might disagree with me, but I decide for myself what I consider to be part of the HP canon. I consider Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to be part of the official Harry Potter canon?

Well....yes and no.

To me the epitome of Harry Potter canon is, and always will be, the seven book series. They encompass a complete story, from beginning to end, and it does not need adding on to. It is the official canon from which all others are derived. There's a distinction between Harry Potter book canon and Harry Potter movie canon. And now I would say that there is Harry Potter play canon. I consider Cursed Child to be a part of the overall HP universe but separate from book canon. A nice bonus story, but not part of the official storyline that's set down in the books. 

But this is just my own opinion, which you may completely disagree with. And that's great! I think people should make up their own minds about what they consider to be part of the canon and that it shouldn't be this thing that's dictated to us. (I'm sure Star Wars fans can relate.)

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Harry Potter Reread: Deathly Hallows

 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7) 

Potter fever is ramping up this year thanks to two exciting new projects: the eighth story, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, will be debuting in London's West End on July 30 and the first in a new movie trilogy, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, will hit theaters in November. In preparation, I decided to revisit my most beloved series and blog about it. (Besides, I don't really need an excuse to reread Harry Potter.)

Origin Story

Back in 2007, everyone was eagerly counting down the days until the final book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, would be unleashed upon the world. At midnight on July 21, 2007, Potter fans around the world attended midnight release parties. As for me...

....I got my copy of Deathly Hallows at a Costco.
That's not even the worst part. I didn't even get it on the day it came out AND I got my mom to pick it up for me. I wasn't even there to buy it in person! This is one of my most shameful moments in my personal history of Potter fandom. (OH THE HUMANITY!)

In my defense, Harry Potter wouldn't come to be my absolute favorite book series until I reread all 7 books in a row. Only then did I grasp the true genius of the series. But if I had a Time Turner, I'd go back and do it properly - anticipate each book eagerly as it came out, attend all of the midnight releases, and spend years in agony between each installment. Not that I didn't look forward to each Harry Potter book as they came out but still...I could've been a bit more obsessive about it, like a proper fangirl. 

Things I Noticed This Time Around

p.115- Fred says, 'When I get married...' and all I could think was 'OH NO, FRED!' J.K. Rowling, why must you be so cruel?

p. 524- In the scene in the Shrieking Shack, Snape says this to Voldemort:

" 'Let me find the boy. Let me bring you Potter. I know I can find him, my Lord. Please.' "

Snape is practically begging Voldemort to let him go and find Harry but it's not because he wants to hand him over to Voldemort, IT'S BECAUSE HE WANTS TO FIND HARRY AND TELL HIM THE TRUTH!

p.607- Harry names his second son 'Albus Severus Potter.' This is a matter of great contention within the Potter fandom. Some people are outraged that Harry named one of his children after Snape and not someone else like Hagrid or Lupin. This has always annoyed me because I don't think these people understand how stories work. The story arc of Severus Snape is clearly a redemption arc. His ultimate redemption is Harry forgiving him and naming his son after him so that his sacrifice won't be forgotten. DO PEOPLE HONESTLY NOT GET THIS?

Favorite Parts/Lines

-Chapter Thirty-Three, 'The Prince's Tale' is my favorite chapter in the entire Harry Potter series. At the end of it, I'm reduced to a sobbing pile of feelings and tears. 

-p.578 'Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love.'

Concluding Thoughts

Reading all seven books in the Harry Potter series always makes me feel exhausted but in the best possible way. I feel transformed at the end of Deathly Hallows, like I have been through this great trial with Harry and his friends and I emerge from it a better person, with a better understanding of what's important in life - love, friendship, hope, courage, and self-sacrifice. People who say Harry Potter is overhyped or is just a children's book series have either never read it or never read it properly. I encourage those people to give it another chance. 

I will continue to reread the Harry Potter series throughout my life - hopefully once every couple of years or so. It is a story that I will always return to, a story that will always feel like home. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Harry Potter Reread: The Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter, #6) 

Potter fever is ramping up this year thanks to two exciting new projects: the eighth story, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, will be debuting in London's West End on July 30 and the first in a new movie trilogy, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, will hit theaters in November. In preparation, I decided to revisit my most beloved series and blog about it. (Besides, I don't really need an excuse to reread Harry Potter.)

Origin Story

I honestly cannot remember where I bought Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when it first came out. Was it from a bookstore or a supermarket? I know for a fact that I didn't read it right away because I remember being spoiled (yet again) about the big death at the end. 

I know this is a pretty lame origin story compared to the first few books in the series. Just wait. My Deathly Hallows origin story is even worse.


Things I Noticed This Time Around

p.257- An 11-year old Tom Riddle expresses the belief that his mother 'cant've been magic or she wouldn't have died.' We know that Voldemort's mother was, in fact, a witch but this particular belief seems to be an early manifestation of Voldemort's obsession with immortality. Voldemort seems to think that those who succumb to death are weak. He sees himself as the most powerful sorcerer of all time and so, in his mind, he should be immune to death.  This is why he goes to such great lengths to create the Horcruxes and stay alive at all costs, even if it means ripping his soul apart.

p.418- Dumbledore tells Harry that 'we have never been able to keep a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher for longer than a year since I refused the post to Voldemort.' Is it possible Voldemort placed an actual curse on Hogwarts? Maybe he was so bitter about Dumbledore refusing him that he wanted to ensure no one else would be able to keep the job for any long stretch of time. Or was this an unconscious bit of magic?

p.578- Hermione is explaining to everyone what happened after Snape killed Dumbledore:

 " 'We went into his office to see if we could help Professor Flitwick and found him unconscious on the floor...and, oh, it's so obvious now, Snape must have Stupefied Flitwick, but we didn't realise, we just let Snape go!'
     'It's not your fault,' said Lupin firmly. 'Hermione, had you not obeyed Snape and got out of the way, he would probably gave killed you and Luna.' " 

Now that we know that Snape was really a good guy all along (relatively speaking), my theory is that Snape stunned Flitwick and told Hermione and Luna to look after him so that they would be safe from the Death Eaters invading the castle.

Favorite Parts/Lines

p.113-When Harry and co. go and visit Fred and George's joke shop:

"The right-hand window was covered in a gigantic poster, purple like those of the Ministry, but emblazoned with flashing yellow letters:

Why Are You Worrying About You-Know-Who?
You SHOULD Be Worrying About 
the Constipation Sensation That's Gripping the Nation!

Harry started to laugh. He heard a weak sort of moan beside him and looked round to see Mrs Weasley gazing, dumbfounded, at the poster. Her lips moved, silently mouthing the name, U-No-Poo.' 

p.529-When Dumbledore and Harry are in the cave looking for the Horcrux and Harry sees the Inferi:

" 'There is nothing to be feared from a body, Harry, any more than there is anything to be feared from the darkness. Lord Voldemort, who of course secretly fears both, disagrees. But once again he reveals his own lack of wisdom. It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.' "

Concluding Thoughts

The end of Half-Blood Prince is truly mind-blowing because Snape finally reveals his true colours...or at least, we think he does. I remember when I read it for the first time, I actually thought that Snape might still be a good guy. I think I predicted that Snape only killed Dumbledore because Dumbledore told him to. Of course, I could be just conjuring up this memory in retrospect but I think I always knew, even after Half-Blood Prince, that there was a lot more to Snape than met the eye. (I know my posts are always very pro-Snape but I can't help it! He's still my favorite character! #sorrynotsorry

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Harry Potter Reread: Order of the Phoenix

 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5) 

Potter fever is ramping up this year thanks to two exciting new projects: the eighth story, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, will be debuting in London's West End on July 30 and the first in a new movie trilogy, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, will hit theaters in November. In preparation, I decided to revisit my most beloved series and blog about it. (Besides, I don't really need an excuse to reread Harry Potter.)

Origin Story

I am ashamed to say that I don't have a great story for when I first bought Order of the Phoenix. I didn't go to a midnight release party. Hell, I didn't even buy it at a bookstore. I bought it at...a supermarket. 

I do remember buying it the very day it came out. I think the reason I bought it at the supermarket was because it was a lot cheaper. (The retail price for the Canadian edition was $43.00!) But I don't even remember reading it right away. Maybe it was because I was rereading the other books first? I remember being spoiled about the big death at the end of the book so maybe that's why I put it off. 

I was excited for Order of the Phoenix but I think at that time I wasn't a hardcore fan of Harry Potter like I am now. (I know, I know, FOR SHAME!)


Things I Noticed This Time Around

p.34-When Aunt Petunia blurts out that she knows about Dementors and Harry asks how she knows, she says 'I heard - that awful boy - telling her about them - years ago.' Harry (and the reader) assumes that she is talking about James but she's really talking about Snape!

p.108-When Harry and co. are cleaning out Number 12, Grimmauld Place,
J.K. Rowling craftily sneaks in a passing mention of a horcrux - Slytherin's locket. 'There was a musical box that emitted a faintly sinister, tinkling tune when wound, and they all found themselves becoming curiously weak and sleepy, until Ginny had the sense to slam it shut; a heavy locket none of them could open; a number of ancient seals; and, in a dusty box, an Order of Merlin, First Class, that had been awarded to Sirius's grandfather for 'services to the Ministry.' This is so clever on Rowling's part because the reader would not know the significance of this until they had read the end of the series. This is why the Harry Potter series demands to be reread.

p.240-Harry's detention with Umbridge is truly one of the most disturbing parts in the entire series. Here is a grown woman basically torturing a teenage boy because he is daring to contradict her and the government's version of events. Throughout the novel, we see the Ministry of Magic use intimidation and slander to discredit anyone who thinks Voldemort has returned.

p.473-During one of Snape's Occlumency lessons with Harry, they have this exchange:

'I told you to empty yourself of emotion!'

'Yeah? Well, I'm finding that hard at the moment,' Harry snarled.

'Then you will find yourself easy prey for the Dark Lord! said Snape savagely. 'Fools who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves, who cannot control their emotions, who wallow in sad memories and allow themselves to be provoked so easily - weak people, in other words - they stand no chance against his powers! He will penetrate your mind with absurd ease, Potter!'

Snape's speech is an indication of how much he has had to conceal from Voldemort, how hard he has to work to protect his true thoughts and feelings from the Dark Lord. This, to me, explains a lot about the psychology of Severus Snape. Imagine having to hide your memories, thoughts, and feelings from someone skilled at penetrating minds. Snape would constantly have to be on his guard. He would have to essentially hide who he is. Now, Snape is one of my favorite characters of all time but I would never excuse his cruel and bullying nature. But I have a hunch that this is the thing that messed him up - never allowing himself to feel anything for anybody (with the exception of Lily), taking on a life of solitude, having no one to confide in, being used by people on both sides of the war - is it any wonder why he turned out the way he did?

Favorite Parts/Lines

p.149-When Mrs. Weasley finds out that Ron was made a prefect:

'I don't believe it! I don't believe it! Oh, Ron, how wonderful! A prefect! That's everyone in the family!'

'What are Fred and I, next-door neighbours?' said George indignantly.

p.597-After Fred and George make their spectacular exit from Hogwarts, I love how Peeves becomes anarchy incarnate in their honor: 'But not even the users of the Snackboxes could compete with that master of chaos, Peeves, who seemed to have taken Fred's parting words deeply to heart. Cackling madly, he soared through the school, upending tables, bursting out of blackboards, toppling statues and vases; twice he shut Mrs Norris inside a suit of armor, from which she was rescued, yowling loudly, by the furious caretaker. Peeves smashed lanterns and snuffed out candles, juggled burning torches over the heads of screaming students, caused neatly stacked piles of parchment to topple into fires or out of windows; flooded the second floor when he pulled off all the taps in the bathrooms, dropped a bag of tarantulas in the middle of the Great Hall during breakfast and, whenever he fancied a break, spent hours at a time floating along after Umbridge and blowing loud raspberrries every time she spoke.'

p.743-'There is a room in the Department of Mysteries,' interrupted Dumbledore, 'that is kept locked at all times. It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than the forces of nature. It is also, perhaps, the most mysterious of the many subjects for study that reside there. It is the power held within that room that you possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all. That power took you to save Sirius tonight. That power also saved you from possession by Voldemort, because he could not bear to reside in a body so full of a force he detests. In the end, it mattered not that you could not close your mind. It was your heart that saved you.'

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the force Dumbledore is talking about is love. I wonder what the room dedicated to the study of love looks like?

Concluding Thoughts

Order of the Phoenix sometimes gets flack from HP fans for being too long, too angsty, and too depressing. Yes, it can be depressing and yes, it is a bit of a slog to get through sometimes. And in some scenes you're dying for Harry to just, like, chill already. But after rereading Order of the Phoenix, it strikes me how brilliant the novel is. There are so many plot threads to keep track of, but Rowling ties them all together brilliantly. Harry might be a tad angry in this installment but he's far from boring. And while the book has a reputation for being depressing, it also has some of the best humor in the entire series. (Humor that is sadly missing from the film adaptation.)  

Friday, July 1, 2016

New Releases: July 2016

 July 5

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab
This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1)

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

And I Darken (The Conquerors Saga #1) by Kiersten White
And I Darken

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Saga, Vol. 6 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Saga, Volume 6

Genre: Comic Book

The Waking Fire (The Draconis Memoria #1) by Anthony Ryan
The Waking Fire (The Draconis Memoria, #1)

Genre: Fantasy

The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone
The Hatching

Genre: Horror

The Trap by Melanie Raabe
The Trap

Genre: Thriller

The Dinosaur Knights (The Dinosaur Lords #2) by Victor Milan
The Dinosaur Knights (The Dinosaur Lords, #2)

Genre: Fantasy

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn
Heroine Complex

Genre: Fantasy

The Tyrannosaur Chronicles: The Biology of the Tyrant Dinosaurs by David Hone
The Tyrannosaur Chronicles: The Biology of the Tyrant Dinosaurs

Genre: Science

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis
The Wolf Road

Genre: Thriller

The Fangirl Life: A Guide to All the Feels and Learning How to Deal by Kathleen Smith
The Fangirl Life: A Guide to All the Feels and Learning How to Deal

Genre: Nonfiction

July 12

The Shadow Hour (The Girl At Midnight #2) by Melissa Grey
The Shadow Hour (The Girl at Midnight, #2)

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murder by Kate Summerscale
The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer

Genre: True Crime

Red Queen (The Chronicles of Alice #2) by Christina Henry
Red Queen (The Chronicles of Alice, #2)

Genre: Fantasy

Crystal Crowned (Air Awakens #5) by Elise Kova
Crystal Crowned (Air Awakens Series #5)

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

The Creeper Man by Dawn Kutagich
The Creeper Man

Genre: Young Adult Horror

Time Siege (Time Salvager #2) by Wesley Chu
Time Siege (Time Salvager #2)

Genre: Science Fiction

The Crimson Skew (The Mapmakers Trilogy #3) by S.E. Grove
The Crimson Skew (The Mapmaker's Trilogy, #3)

Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy

Dancing with the Tigers by Lili Wright
Dancing with the Tiger

Genre: Fiction

Disney Villains: Delightfully Evil: The Creation, The Inspiration, the Fascination by Jen Darcy
Disney Villains: Delightfully Evil: The Creation • The Inspiration • The Fascination

Genre: Pop Culture - Film

July 19

Monstress, Vol. 1 by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda
Monstress, Vol. 1

Genre: Comic Book

The Dragon Round by Stephen S. Power
The Dragon Round

Genre: Fantasy

July 26

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
Truly Madly Guilty

Genre: Fiction

The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
The Beauty of the End

Genre: Mystery

July 31

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Genre: Fantasy