Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Question for Harry Potter fans

I meant to ask this in yesterday's post but I forgot.

What scene is being depicted on the US cover?!! I have a feeling I'm being really stupid, but Twin and I can't figure it out. Obviously that's Harry and Voldemort, but where are they? Neither have wands in their hands. What are they both looking at? And what is that aqueductlike structure behind them?

Help me out please. It's driving me nutters.

And I promise that after this I'll talk about something other than Harry Potter. :)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author: J.K. Rowling
Published: 2007, Scholastic
Category: Fantasy/Young Adult
Rating: 9.5/10

Oh, trying to do a review of this book is so hard. I read it in one day, directly after it was released (9 am until 4 am, pretty much nonstop). And it's been simmering in the back of my mind ever since. The whole epic series is just so huge (and I am such a demented fan) that I could probably go on forever and still have things to say. I will try to be brief. ;)

I also don't want to spoil anything for anyone who might come across this review and hasn't read the book yet. But I have to get a couple things off my chest that include major spoilers, so after I post this, I'm going to add a comment to it with those spoilerish thoughts. The thrilling conclusion is so exciting that I HIGHLY recommend that you read the book (the entire series, if you haven't done so already) first. Really, I mean that.


So. Let's see, what can I say that's not really spoilerish? Hmmm. Well, we know that Harry, Ron, and Hermione have been given the mission of finding the four remaining horcruxes. The whole wizarding world is at war now; things are as bad, if not worse, than they were the last time Voldemort was powerful. Everyone is terrified, and Harry is in the worst danger he has ever been in. The protection that Harry's mother gave him when she gave up her life for him wears out the minute he turns 17. He has been the thorn in Voldemort's side (to put it mildly) for sixteen years, and Voldemort's had enough. The big showdown is impending.

This book was actually quite a departure structure-wise from the rest of the series. Though the timeframe is the same (one school year), the kids are not really kids anymore. They're not schoolchildren going about (for the most part) normal schoolchidren's lives--they are adults fighting a serious enemy in the midst of a very frightening war. I was really not expecting this. And I have to say that, IMO, this is NOT a children's book. YA, okay. Children's book, no. Because Rowling doesn't pull her punches here. Not to give anything away, and I really know almost nothing about children and what is appropriate for what age child, but parents of very small children might want to have a read first and see what they think.

Deathly Hallows has such an incredible amount of action. Every other book has seen the kids dealing mostly with regular kids-at-school stuff, with whatever evil plot Voldemort was hatching slowly gaining force through the book and leading to one big climax at the end. Deathly Hallows is a long series of explosive scenes---I couldn't believe how many close shaves Harry had. Voldemort is no longer a shadowy figure that appears in the final scene only. He's all over the place! One of the earliest scenes is Harry leaving Privet Drive. Now that is something that's happened in every single book, but I finished this scene in DH and I thought, "Well, holy hell, she's really kicked that up a notch, hasn't she?" And it hardly ever let up. My heart was in my throat for nearly the entire time I was reading.

There were also so many new elements introduced! Like the Deathly Hallows and all the extra info we got on Dumbledore. I was surprised by this too because there were so many loose ends to tie up from all the previous books that I didn't know how she was going to sort that all out, plus this new stuff. But she managed it. And it all comes together at the end to make sense. Dumbledore goes from being a rather flat character (though lovable, he is two-dimensional: the wise mentor) to being very complex and interesting. We come to understand why the most powerful wizard in the world could not defeat Voldemort. And why the task falls to Harry, who we all love, but by comparison is just a teenager.

Okay, I have two complaints. One is majorly spoilerish, so I'm leaving that for the comments. The other is that it got a bit grim there in the middle. For all I say that the action was unstoppable, there were some scenes in the middle that I thought was just going to drag on and on. The trio seemed stuck in place, unable to do anything and GRIM, GRIM, GRIM. I'm being sort of vague here, so someone ask in the comments if you don't know what I'm talking about.

I haven't been very brief at all, have I? Ah well, I tried. But overall, I was very satisfied with the book. It is huge and powerful and epic, and the sort of book that I can (and will) read again and again. The final conclusion was surprising and just . . . right. The way it was supposed to happen, if that makes any sense.




Monday, July 23, 2007

Ooh, shiny! Zippy! Sparky!

I'm still in the process of getting situated here, so I haven't had much time to blog. And then we had the Harry Potter madness, which I'm still recovering from. (I'm trying to figure out how to do a review without giving any many spoilers.) But Twin and I did manage to buy a car! We both sold our cars back when we moved to NYC, so since the move we've been driving my dad's VW bus, which is great for camping but also has several little quirks. Like stalling whenever it idles, making town driving really . . . fun.

It's a Honda Fit. Isn't it cute? We think her name will be Sparky. We'll see if it sticks anyway. :)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter 7 Chez Twin. EEEEEEEE!!!!

Those lucky Brits already have it! No fair. WHY does midnight come so much later here! (Okay that doesn't really make sense, but you know what I mean.) I feel sorry for you West Coasters.

But we are ready here at our house. I've finished my re-read of the entire series even though I was afraid I wouldn't have the time or inclination. But that was silly. By the time I started reading them, there was no stopping me. ;)

We've laid in plenty of easy-to-prepare food and snacks. And Twin emailed me our schedule earlier today while she was struggling through her workday. It is funny, so I will share:

11:30 Head to Borders for GALA, where our copies await us.
1:30 Home, read ONE chapter, go to bed. Lock Jennie's book away so she doesn't wake up in the middle of the night and sneak in some reading.

9:00 Awaken.
9:05 Breakfast (orange juice, yogurt, granola bar, maybe some chocolate cake)
9:10 HP7!
11:00 Elevenses (Milanos)
12:30 Lunchie (tuna on french bread, chips, dc, chocolate cake)
12:45–4:00 HP7
4:00–5:00 Tennis
5:00 Snackies. Watermelon.
5:05–6:30 HP7
(6:00 Place papa johns order)
6:45pm–1:00am HP7

Sunday schedule:
Repeat as above until the THRILLING CONCLUSION and HAPPY ENDING (or until every character is dead, whichever comes first.)


Note that we are going to try to go to bed tonight after getting our books. I think I'll be too sleepy tonight to appreciate the Harry Potter to its fullest extent. ;) We'll see.

And to all my blogging friends, I apologize that I haven't been to visit. I've been deathly afraid of HP spoilers, which I know are all over the Web. I haven't read any newspapers or turned the TV on. But come next week, life will be back to normal. ;)

To everyone who reads Harry Potter: HAPPY READING!!


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Author: J. K. Rowling
Published: 2003, Scholastic
Category: Fantasty/Young Adult
Rating: 9/10

Why, yes, I'm still re-reading Harry Potter. Because look at the countdown! Less than two days till HP7! Wheeeeee! Every once in a while I have to stop whatever I'm doing and run around the house waving my arms and squealing a little to let out some of the excitement. By tomorrow I should be in quite a state. (Okay, I'm exaggerating a little---I'm not a crazy person. Really. But I am excited.)

So what to say about Order of the Phoenix? It is the angsty book. Though there is little that is ordinary about Harry's life, he still acts like a typical teenager. He is angry and confused, tired of being treated like a kid but not really mature enough to act like an adult. He feels cut off from everyone, shutting out his friends because he feels like they just can't understand. He's sort of annoying, but then aren't most teenagers?

While this might be my least favorite Harry Potter (though really that doesn't mean much as I love them all obsessively), there's still lots to appreciate. The book is really a sort of political thriller. The ministry turns a blind eye to the signs of Voldemort's return and sends despotic Umbridge to take over Hogwarts. My favorite thing about this book is probably the D.A. Civil disobedience, woo hoo! Rock on, kiddies. They band together to do all they can to deny the tyrant. I love it.

The scenes in the Department of Mysteries are not, imo, the best Rowling ever wrote. Everything happens so quickly and so many odd things happen that it's actually sort of hard to grasp sometimes. The dark humor didn't really work for me (e.g. Neville's broken nose and the Tarantallegra curse). I just found it odd next to such important events. Yes, I'm being vague. I don't want to ruin anything for anyone. ;)

But despite all the darkness, there's still the whimsy that all the books have to counteract the gloom. My favorite example in this book is when Harry is rushing into the Ministry and he's greeted with the voice that asks him to state his business. Harry says,
"We're here to save someone, unless your Ministry can do it first!"
"Thank you," said the cool female voice. "Visitors, please take the badges and attach them to the front of your robes."
Harry's badge says: HARRY POTTER, RESCUE MISSION. Hee hee.

I was going to do a separate post about the OotP movie that just came out, but I haven't had time. So, I'll just say here that I LOVED IT. I think it's the best Harry Potter movie yet. The kids' acting, which in the past has been the cause of occasional cringing, is fantastic---they've really come into their own. The screenwriters did a really good job of condensing the plot; the action and the pacing were great. Umbridge was deliciously evil and so easy to hate. I've already been to see it twice. (Hey, I'm on vacation! Sort of.) Twin and I were thinking about going again on Friday evening to help wile away the time until midnight.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Unfortuante Miss Fortunes, Crusie/Dreyer/Stuart

Title: The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes
Author: Jennifer Crusie, Eileen Dreyer, and Anne Stuart
Published: 2007, St. Martin's
Category: Paranormal Romance
Rating: 7/10

I was prepared to completely love this book. Crusie is one of my absolute favorite authors, the premise sounded so interesting, and look at that pretty cover! But I only liked it. Enjoyable read, but still a bit disappointing given my high expectations.

The three Fortune sisters are witches. They each have a different ability: Dee can shape-shift, Lizzie has the ability to transmute objects (she's trying to turn straw into gold, but more often only manages to change forks into bunnies), and Mare is telekinetic. They've been on the run from their evil Aunt Xan, who killed their parents years ago. Hiding out in small towns, they've never learned to control their gifts, with the result that none of the sisters are able to use their gifts in any useful way and generally consider them nuisances. Now Aunt Xan has come up with a plan to steal the girls' powers: she's going to send them each their true loves in the hope that the sisters will give up their powers to be "normal" and happy with their lovers. So Danny, the hunky book researcher, shows up with lots of questions for Dee about the Fortunes' shady past and a huge prejudice against any kind of "magical" con artist. Elric, the all-powerful sorcerer arrives to tell Lizzie that she just can't go on disrupting the universe by trying to make gold. And Mare gets two for the price of one---Jude, a dashing executive with a fantastic job offer, and Crash, Mare's high school sweetheart who she's never quite been able to get over.

This book has a lot going for it. There are some hilarious scenes, really funny moments. And I was afraid that the book would feel choppy with three authors, but they've done a great job of making it read seamlessly. I think that PW reviewer must not have read the book (though it's hard to believe), because this is definitely one novel, not three novellas. While I could tell which author was writing which sister, the style I thought was quite consistent. And really, I think fans would have a fit if they didn't see (or hear?) each of these authors' very distinct voices. Mare was very much a Crusie heroine and Stuart fans will be glad to find the dark and powerful hero matched up with Lizzie's character. I've never read a Dreyer, so I can't tell answer for Dee.

But as good as the authors have done at making the book flow well, I did feel like there was just too much going on here. Three main characters who are each battling for control of their powers, who each fall in love, who also must face up to the villain. Especially at the beginning I'd be reading along with one sister and just when I felt I was getting a grasp on her story, we'd jump to another sister. And I never felt I got a good handle on any of the men, especially Danny and Elric. How did Danny overcome his prejudices against magic? Why did Elric change his mind so quickly about allowing Lizzie to continue to use her magic?

And the magical elements, while cute, felt at times tacked on. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think any of these authors have really done paranormal before, have they? The book felt to me like a contemporary romance with the magic crammed in there because it held the plot together. The result was that the magic felt rather ... unmagical. But maybe I am being too critical. I did interrupt the Great Harry Potter Re-Read 2007 for this book. The comparison probably isn't fair.

Anyway, I still recommend this as a good read. I certainly don't begrude the $7.99 I spent on it. :)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Just checking in

We have arrived in NC, safe and sound! The move was surprisingly easy. This is the first time we've used an actual moving company. We always just rented a U-Haul and did it ourselves, but we've reached the critical mass of crap that it's not really possible anymore. Having large men carry everything was fantastic. (And they could really heft some heavy stuff! I'd packed up my books so carefully in small-ish boxes, but they were carrying 2-3 at a time.)

Above is our new stoop. We have a stoop! Aren't the flowers nice? A housewarming gift from my mom. The new apartment is great and it's lovely and hot here. I'm going to the pool tomorrow. ;)

I'm completely sick of unpacking, but we've got most of the place done. Except for the craft room. (We have an extra bedroom here and we've decided to make it half and half a craft studio for Twin and a home office for me.)

Yeah, that's pretty much wall-to-wall stuff. You can't really even enter the room right now. Ugh.

And if you haven't seen enough pictures of my TBR yet, here it is in its new home. It's in its own bookcase now. Well, partly. I thought sure they were all going to fit---but not even close. I think this picture is big, so if you click on it you can read the titles. The top left hand corner are my high priority books. ;)

In reading news, I'm still making my way through HP5. And I've just been to the bookstore to reserve Twin's and my copies of Deathly Hallows for next Friday. Yippee!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Top Ten, Part II

After Wednesday’s post, I feel a bit like I’ve betrayed the city I’ve called home for years, even though it's been pretty good to me. And everyone was so nice at work today---I'm sad to leave them all.*sniff* And I had to pack up my office! I love my little office.

I’m sorry, NYC, you’re lovely sometimes. And I am a stronger, more independent person for having lived here. ;) So, here we go:

Top 10 things I will miss about NYC

10. The restaurants. Damn, there’s such good food here. Any kind of food you could possibly want.
9. Shows and concerts. I’m not exactly a gad-about-town kind of girl (incurable homebody, that’s me) but I love going to shows (especially Broadway musicals, mock if you will), concerts, and the ballet. And the Brooklyn Public Library is amazing---they have such a big collection, almost everything I ever went looking for.
8. Public transportation. It’s easy to complain about the MTA, but really it’s pretty amazing the way the system moves millions of people wherever they need to go. And having all your transportation costs covered by a $75/month metrocard is great.
7. Not having to drive everywhere. Within a 3-block radius of my apartment I can go to: grocery store, produce stand, meat market, post office, bagel shop, deli, Chinese restaurant, pizza place, schlock shop (we call it the Everything Store), about a dozen other shops, and a subway stop. That’s cool.
6. Shopping. Okay, now I don’t actually like shopping all that much, but the fact that you can find any kind of store you want is pretty nice.
5. Politics. I grew up in southeastern Virginia where my family’s political views were about 180 degrees to the left of everybody else's. So it’s been great to live in a blue, blue state and be surrounded by people whose views are as liberal as my own.
4. Diversity. I live in a fairly un-trendy, un-gentrified neighborhood in Brooklyn and just taking a stroll down the street I’ll hear about 5 different languages, none of them English. I love it.
3. Working in book publishing. It’s been such a fabulous experience---no matter how much we complain about the small salaries and the hard work, it is amazing to be part of the process. I will miss it so.
2. Free books. SOB! ARCs. SOB! Books before the on-sale date. SOB! SOB! SOB! SOB! SOB! SOB! SOB!!! This one hurts.
1. How will I feel sophisticated and self-important if I can’t say, “I live in New York City”? LOL.

All right, they’re cutting off my internet this afternoon, so I’ll be offline for a while. The movers come on Monday! I think everything's going to go very smoothly. Here's hoping anyway. :)

Everyone have a lovely weekend, and I'll see you in a few days!

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

Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author: J.K. Rowling
Published: 2000, Scholastic
Category: Young Adult/Fantasy
Rating: 10/10

Yes, I'm still rereading Harry Potter. I have it all planned out. I'm going to read #5 next week and then see the movie. Then I'm going to read #6 the next week and hopefully finish it just a couple days before the last book releases on Friday. EEEEEEEEE!! I'm way too excited about this. But really, it's fun to get excited, so why not? :)

I love Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I remember the first time I read it, I stayed up till about 4 a.m. to finish it. And I'm not someone who does that a lot. I love my beauty rest and a book has to be seriously thrilling to keep me up that late. And it wasn't a lounging-in-bed-lazily-reading kind of thing. No, it was a crouched-over-my-book-biting-my-nails-making-occasional-little-eek!-sounds kind of experience. Because from when Harry starts the last task until the end of the book, it's such a great rush of events, one great climax after another. *sigh* It is fantastic.

I think the reason this is one of my favorite Harry Potters is because it's such a good mix of light and dark. It starts off with the disturbing dream in which Voldemort kills the muggle. But then after that it's all very fun and playful. Harry gets chosen as a Triwizard champion and he stresses over the tasks, but mostly it's just a game to everyone. The adults have it all under control and everyone's sure no one will get hurt. And then the last bit turns so dramatic and serious. Harry is faced with very frightening events and shows that he is amazingly brave (and lucky too). He faces everything he needs to face even though he doesn't think he has a chance to survive at all.

By the end of this book, the world of Harry Potter is so intricate, so full of twisty, delightful secrets and mysteries. This is one of those books that I can't do a proper review of at all because it is a friend, one which I am not able to stand back from and objectively evaluate. I'm sure there are flaws. I just don't want to think about them. :)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Top Ten

I'm feeling a bit sad about the move tonight, so to cheer myself up:

Top 10 things I will not miss about NYC

10. Spending 8 hours a week on a crowded subway car. Twin timed her commute to her new job in NC and it's 4 minutes. 4 MINUTES!
9. Trash on the streets, on the sidewalks, in stairwells, in subway stations, EVERYWHERE. It's just depressing.
8. New York/Long Island accents. I'm sorry, I just don't like them. They sound so brash and arrogant, ya know?
7. February and the icy wind that hurts so much it feels like your sinuses have frozen. And snow that sits around for weeks and turns brown and icy and hard to walk on.
6. Cost of living. It's just sad when you have to travel an hour away from your work to find affordable housing. The rent on our apartment in NC (nicer and with an extra bedroom) is less than half what we pay here in Brooklyn. *whimper*
5. Traffic noise. Car alarms. Sirens. People yelling. The hum of millions of people living in too close proximity.
4. Poor people. Homeless people. Sad, crazy people you pass on the street and think, wow that person really needs some help. But you can't so you just feel sad.
3. Enormous, insomniac landlord who works in his office (DIRECTLY above my bedroom) at 3 AM. STOMP, STOMP, CLUNK. CCREEEEEEAAK. THAWUMP! After the move, I'm going to stage a ritual smashing of my white-noise machine. Like that scene in Office Space with the fax machine. It's gonna be awesome.
2. Concrete! Everywhere! Black, gray ugliness. Other cities may sometimes be described as pretty but never New York. Because it's just not. There are some attractive neighborhoods, but overall---blah. I need some green.
1. The fifty five spawns of Satan rambunctious children who live next door and try to kill each other play on the stoop.

Now I feel better. :)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: J.K. Rowling
Published: 1999, Scholastic
Category: Young Adult/ Fantasy
Rating: 10/10

I've always thought that Azkaban was my favorite Harry Potter, but I just finished Goblet of Fire and I think I've changed my mind! (Next I'll finish 5 and 6 and think they're my favorites, maybe.) But this will always be one of my favorites.

I should probably say that this is not a proper review. It is me gushing and speculating. I just felt like giving it a ten anyway. :)

Random thoughts:
The Harry Potter books kind of break into two chunks: the first three, which are very much children's books, lighter and shorter, and the last three, which are much darker and more intricate, exciting, action-packed and often quite scary, with the fourth book sort of half and half bridging the gap. In Azkaban, Harry is definitely still a boy; he's growing up and changing but still has a youthful innocence that we see him lose in #4. He is happier in this book than in any of the others, which is nice.

Though this is the only book in which Harry does not come face to face with Voldemort, the villain portrayed is just as intimidating and scary, maybe even more so because he is thought to be insane.

There are some elements and characters introduced that I especially love: the Marauder's map is completely cool and presents all sorts of interesting plot twists in this and the next few books; I LOVE Professor Trelawney, she is always good for a laugh; Trelawney's prophecies, which we all know become very important; and we start to learn a bit more about Harry's parents, especially his dad.

The movie version of this one is currently my favorite, though I have great hopes for #5. They did really clever things with the time-turning scenes at the end---I love it when a screenplay takes what is great about a book and twists it around just a bit to make it work as a movie.