Category Archives: Books


There I was on July 31, standing outside the book store, rushing in to  get “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”  While it occurs twenty years after the seventh book (it actually starts at the epilogue) and it’s not a novel but a play, I was ecstatic to finally be reading a new Harry Potter story.  So there I was, first in line (it actually kind of was serendipitous…I didn’t camp out or anything, I just showed up expecting loads of other people in line and no one was there), ready to make my purchase, my inner child was squealing.  It felt like I traveled through time back to when the books were being released.  I then raced home and opened my copy, savoring the moment, wondering if this truly would be the last time I’d read a Harry Potter story for the first time.


I haven’t finished “Cursed Child” – I just started the fourth act, I’m savoring it- but so far you can tell J.K. Rowling didn’t write the play completely by herself.  Apparently she helped come up with the idea, but it was really written by Jack Thorne, but it feels a little like a bad fanfic.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not terrible – any Harry Potter is better than none – and it grabs my attention and it’s very fun/easy to ready, it’s just not the usual J.K. Rowling I’d expect.  I mean, in her seven novels, J.K. Rowling thought everything through.  For instance, I read an article once about how Professor Trelawney in HP3 says that if thirteen dine together, the first to rise is the first to die.  Then in later books, there are dinners where thirteen people dine together and the first person to rise was the first to die (Sirius, Dumbledore, and Lupin).  I haven’t actually gone through and checked to see if this is true, but it’s something J.K. Rowling would do: she puts so much minor detail and attention in it, that every time you read it you get something different out of it.  However, “Cursed Child” seems to lack this continuity.

Hermione-Granger-harry-potter-37266338-250-250Not to give anything away, but, for instance, in “Cursed Child” everyone refers to Voldemort as Voldemort.  Everyone.  Not just Harry, Ron, and Hermione.  All the people who, in the books, were too afraid to use his name all of a sudden could use it.  Yes twenty years have past, but in the books twenty years past after Voldemort first vanished after killing Harry’s parents and they still called him “You-Know-Who.”  What’s more, everyone refers to Malfoy as “Draco” (his first name).  It’s so bizarre.  For seven books he was “Malfoy,” and then all of a sudden he’s “Draco.”  There are just moments where I sit back and scratch my head and think, “This isn’t right.”

I will say, though, that I thought reading the play would curb my desire to rush off to London to see the play.  It, however, probably did the opposite: so much action and magic happens in the play, I’m so curious how they perform it on stage.   I mean, to see it performed would be awesome…I hope they film it for those of us who can’t make it to London.

Anyway, I don’t write this to dissuade anyone from reading “Cursed Child.”  It’s great to be back in the wizarding world and checking up on our old friends, but be prepared for it to be different. Let’s hope, though, that this inspires J.K. Rowling (and only J.K. Rowling) to write more Harry Potter books!


The Girl On the Train

I was a big fan of the movie Gone Girl.  I didn’t actually read the book until after I saw the movie, and the only real reason (if I’m being honest) I saw the movie was because Rosamund Pike got nominated for an Oscar for her role as Amy Elliot-Dunne…that was the year I decided to watch all (well, most) of the Oscar nominees.  Regardless, I enjoyed the way Gillian Flynn (both the author and screenwriter) crafted the story so that in the beginning you were for one character and against the other, and then it so dramatically switched.  The ebbs and flows of the story, the twists and turns, really drew me in – and I’m not the kind of guy who likes thrillers.   So when I heard Paula Hawkins’ book The Girl On the Train  was going to be “the next Gone Girl,” I immediately picked up a copy.  Also, I heard it was becoming a movie, and I wanted to read it before seeing the film….I felt reading Gone Girl before would’ve been better than seeing the film first, it felt kind of pointless reading it once I knew how it ended.  But I got to say, after reading The Girl On the Train, I’m not really that excited for the movie.

First, let me just say whoever told me that The Girl On the Train was the next Gone Girl lied.  Gone Girl was freaky/demented, but there wasn’t anything exactly thrilling about The Girl On the Train.  She literally sits on a train, drunk, and thinks she witnesses a murder.  No one believes her because she’s an alcoholic and is unemployed (she lost her job for being drunk), so she spends the whole time trying to remember what happened a night she blacked out (the night of the alleged murder).  *SPOILER ALERT* Turns out she was right the whole time and the person she thought committed the murder did.

With Gone Girl, you have no idea where it’s going.  When you think you know, the plot changes and we go somewhere else.  But, I didn’t really get that with The Girl On the Train.  Now, I’m not hating on Paula Hawkins or her novel.  It was rather interesting and I did finish the book after all – which says something, I usually just stop reading a book if it’s terrible.  It’s just, in my opinion, I wouldn’t qualify The Girl On the Train as a thriller.  And I definitely would not compare it to Gone Girl.  I know the trailer makes it look like it, but to me it wasn’t as freaky.

Maybe it’s just how I read the book and when I see it on screen it will be demented and thrilling…also, how much do you want to bet Emily Blunt will get nominated for an Oscar for this role?  Just saying…

They Didn’t Think it Through

I recently decided to start rereading the Harry Potter novels.  I suppose the eleven year me is still waiting for his letter from Hogwarts, but the grown up me is fascinated by the way J.K. Rowling crafted these stories and each time I read them the more I learn.

I’m currently in the second book where Harry, Ron, and Hermione take the polyjuice potion to investigate if Malfoy is the heir of Slytherin.  As I was reading this part for the umpteenth time, it occurred to me that Harry, Ron, and Hermione really didn’t think their plan through.  Let’s say hypothetically Malfoy was the heir of Slytherin and confessed to the transformed Harry, Ron, and Hermione, there is nothing they could do with that information.  First, they would have no actual proof but Malfoy’s word, which considering his character traits would probably be inflated.  Also, Malfoy’s confession would’ve been, in his mind, to his friends, so they would have to confess to making a dark (and probably illegal) potion, blowing up a cauldron during Potions as a distraction, breaking into Snape’s office and stealing the ingredients, drugging Crabbe and Goyle, stealing Crabbe and Goyle’s clothes (and hair), and probably a ton other things.

On top of that, the three of them decided to split the potion three ways when they should have split it two ways.  Hermione was intending on transforming into Millicent Bulstrode, but given the fact she wasn’t in Malfoy’s inner gang – at least it wasn’t conveyed to us that Millicent and Malfoy were best of friends – it would have been perhaps a bit suspicious that she would be interrogating Malfoy.  From the book we know that Malfoy’s best friends were Crabbe and Goyle and that he told them everything.  If Hermione (as Millicent) strode in the Slytherin common room with Crabbe and Goyle and started asking Malfoy about the Chamber of Secrets it might of come across fishy.  If they then split the potion two ways and had two of them go in as Crabbe and Goyle, then they probably would have had more time with the potion – remember, they ran out of time when they were interrogating Malfoy.

This whole part of the story seems a bit of waste, but I realize why Rowling needed it for her story: it helps defining the characters’ arcs and it’s a twist and turn in the plot.  It’s just, when you think about it, it’s all rather unnecessary because they characters never consider the fact that they could never prove anything.  In the first Harry Potter book, they were in a similar circumstance when they found out about the sorcerer’s stone, but Harry told Ron and Hermione they couldn’t go to Dumbledore until they found enough proof.  But getting an oral confession from Malfoy while using polyjuice potion probably wouldn’t constitute as evidence.

I told all this to my local librarian whom I often discuss Harry Potter with. She listened to it, nodded, and simply said “And yet after how many times you read the books and saw the movie, you’re now starting to realize it?”  Which is quite a fair point.  I probably have read Harry Potter a thousand times and I’m just realizing this minor flaw.  But still, it’s interesting to wonder.

J.K. Rowling Still Blows My Mind

I am a huge Harry Potter fan.  Did I wait for my Hogwarts letter to arrive on my eleventh birthday?  Yes.  Am I kind of mad it still hasn’t arrived yet?  Yes.

I think one of the things I love the most about this series is how much J.K. Rowling thought through and planned these books.  I mean, there’s a scene in the fifth book where Harry, Hermione, Sirius, and the Weasleys find a locket that can’t be opened, which ends up being the Horcrux Harry and his friends need to find in the seventh book.  It’s such a small, minor detail, but she tied it all together.

I had read somewhere that Rowling got a lot of her inspiration for spells and names of the characters in Harry Potter from the Latin language.  Like Lupin’s name came from the Latin word lupus, meaning wolf.  So one day I randomly decided to look up what the name Phineas meant.  I was curious as to why she would give Sirius’s ancestor, Phineas Nigellus Black, that name; was it random or on purpose?  Well, apparently “Phineas” is a Hebrew name meaning “oracle,” and Phineas Nigellus Black was the painting that gave information and advice to Harry when Harry was in 12 Grimmauld Place (or when Phineas Nigellus was in Hermione’s purse in book seven), acting like an oracle.

Then, randomly, I ended up on Google translate, and decide to type in “avada kedavra,” the killing curse.  Now, I was assuming it was going to be Latin for something. Except it’s not. According to Google, it’s Estonian meaning “forbidden curses.” Seriously. J.K. Rowling is familiar with the Estonian language (she might not be, but this lady is so seriously smart and talented, I would not put it past her for knowing Estonian). On a side note, I did read that she came up with the term avada kedavra as a play on “abracadabra” and something about using Greek spellings (I kind of skimmed that part of the article…) but what are the chances it means “forbidden curses” in Estonian when in fact avada kedavra is the most forbidden curse in Harry Potter.  My mind is blown and now I kind of want to have tea with Ms. Rowling and discuss how awesome she is…

If I discover anymore mind blowing facts, as I no doubt probably will, I’ll share.

The Misunderstood Life of Severus Snape

I saw this video where someone put all of Snape’s scenes from the eight Harry Potter films in chronological order of Snape’s life, so it starts off with him as a young child to his death.  And it’s actually pretty clever and shows Snape in a different light.  Instead of seeing him as a bully or arrogant man as we usually do from Harry’s perspective, we see him fall in love with Lily, Harry’s mom, and lose her to Harry’s dad and then death.  Then you see him risk his life trying to protect Harry and his friends.  Tie a rather moving soundtrack that this person added into all of that and the movie is rather moving.  All this perspective is in the books and films, but it’s split across the entire series, so I would overlooked Snape’s actual intentions and believe that he was not truly protecting Harry.

Go Set a Watchman

Harper Lee is publishing her second book, Go Set a Watchman, almost fifty-five years after she published her critically acclaimed novel To Kill a Mockingbird, and I must admit I’m rather excited.  Lee is now eighty-eight and is releasing her new novel in July.  It’s supposed to feature an adult Scout with flashbacks to her childhood. Apparently Lee had written it before To Kill a Mockingbird, but her editor at the time was fascinated by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood and encourage Lee to write from that perspective.

Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for To Kill a Mockingbird, could she go two for two?

To be honest, I think I’m excited because I remember having a conversation with the librarians at work (I work at a library) about To Kill a Mockingbird and how that was Harper Lee’s one and only novel and how they were sad about it, but now I get to go into work today and tell them all the good news (assuming they don’t already know).

Why is that Harry Potter Book There?

The other day, my friend and I had a discussion about why Harry Potter is considered a children’s book and not an adult book, given the rather lengthy nature of the prose, the darker themes (Rowling said once in an interview that her mother’s death was “splashed” across all the pages), and the violence (particularly in Deathly Hallows) in the books.  Ultimately we concluded that the magical environment of the Harry Potter books sort of align with fairy tales and could, rather lamely, be considered “childish.”  We did, however, argue with this conclusion given that other fantasy/science fiction books, like The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, were classified as either young adult or adult even though they held magical/fantasy elements.  So what kind of book are the Harry Potter books?

Today I walked into the children’s room at the library where I work and the children’s librarian, as usual, said “So, how are we tonight?”  The children’s librarian is fairly new to our library, but we both happen to work Monday nights (I shelve in children’s where she works) and we have started having rather deep, in-depth conversations.  It’s not uncommon for these conversations to be about Harry Potter, both of us being huge fans and both having been sorted in Hufflepuff in Pottermore, so I said to her “I have an argument I need you to settle.”

The librarian who was half way looking through an older book trying to decide if she should get rid of it looked up startled, “Oh?”

“My friend and I have been having a debate on whether Harry Potter is a children’s book, and, since you’re the children’s librarian, I want to know why,” I boldly stated.

She marked her place in the book, set it aside, and sighed, “Well, part of it comes down to the fact that she intended the books to be written for kids.  A lot of it comes down to the intent of the author and publisher, like Scholastic doesn’t publish adult books.”

“So, for example, The Hunger Games books are young adult books because Suzanne Collins wrote it for young adults, and even though the violence level should make it an adult book?” I asked.

“That would be part of it, but you have to remember that the characters in The Hunger Games are teens, and in Harry Potter they’re kids who face kid problems.  Like, the Harry Potter characters are still in school, they think like kids, and face similar emotions.  It’s not like it’s written as a flashback or told from an adult perspective, the stories are told from the kids’ perspective.” She paused for a moment, shuffled her books, then continued, “Also, adult books tend to have people versus people, young adult books tend to have teen versus society, and children’s books tend to have kids versus some cause.  So, The Hunger Games  have Katniss taking on the Capitol and the revolution, and Harry is facing the usual growing pains while taking on Voldemort.”

“Okay, ” I said, trying to catch her off guard, “but don’t forget the books are incredibly long, arguably longer than most adult books.  Even her writing style, word choice, and descriptions are more adult style.  A lot of people think the books progress to be very dark and violent.  Like, why is Game of Thrones considered adult when it takes place in a fantasy world and holds violence like Harry Potter” (if I had long hair, this is where I would flip my hair…also, I haven’t read/seen Game of Thrones, this is just what I heard about it).

“They don’t get long until Goblet of Fire, so the first few are manageable for a kid.  And the themes of Harry Potter are darker, but they’re not like Game of Thrones that holds more violence and, from what I hear, a lot sex.  And people often underestimate what kids can handle in terms of violence in books, I think it goes back to the idea of kids thinking themselves invincible.”

She then paused, reached back for her book, and said “Huh, that’s some good food for thought.”