Sunday, December 8, 2013
Right away I have to say that J.K. Rowling truly is a literary genius. I get that the Harry Potter series is a bit overrated...it doesn't need to be said. But for those who take the time to reread these books and analyze them (ex. Alohomora Podcast, Mugglenet Academia Podcast), readers can see all the time and brilliance that Rowling poured into the series. The same can be said for this small edition, Tales of Beedle the Bard. The book contains five Wizard fairy tales, the most popular one being (and my personal favorite) the Tale of the Three Brothers. I guess I consider this a favorite because it holds some nostalgia from reading the final Harry Potter book since it is a big part of the plot. Another reason I love it is because of the message. I read it and it feels as if I have read it before as a child. The story shares the message that not everything is what it seems and that we should be
The other four stories were enjoyable as well. What I enjoyed most though were the statements made by "Albus Dumbledore" after each tale. Rowling really knows her characters and is nothing short of brilliant when she writes as Dumbledore himself outside of the Harry Potter book canon. Not only do we hear from Dumbledore's voice but in that we learn more about the history of this world Rowling has created and I love it! It is really well done.
The stories were great, though some not as great as others. Overall, it is a nice read and great if you have any young kids in your life who love reading or being read to. I will give the Tales of Beedle the Bard 4 out of 5 stars.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
During the summer of this year, Miley began going a bit crazy. I am not counting her chopping her hair off or anything like that. I am talking specifically about her performance at the VMA's (which I still haven't seen by the way) and her Wrecking Ball music video. It was hard not to know about Miley's performance at the VMA's. I would check Tumblr and Twitter and there would be tons and tons of posts about her. It was a tweet by Eugene Cho saying:
"That so many would be outraged byIt was a bit of a slap in the face but I hadn't tweeted about Miley or Syria so I felt I could be excused
#MileyCyrus and yet, so apathetic by what's going on in Syria, Congo, & North Korea...is truly outrageous."
With all of this Miley stuff going on, I began to think about child stars and wondered why it is always them that go crazy. Just look at Macaulay Culkin and Lindsay Lohan. But then there are child stars that are doing okay for themselves like the golden trio Harry Potter actors Dan Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson. All five of these people grew up with fame yet their fates are far apart and I knew that statistics would not help me with my questions about Miley. I began to think about what her childhood must have been like - living with a famous father, being destined for talent, having to deal with millions of fans after being on a TV show, having the pressures of being on a TV in general, having her "dating" life advertised to the public for criticism and observation, etc. I remember when I was fourteen and posting a video of me singing on YouTube. I am not a good singer but I wouldn't go as far to say I am awful. I am just okay...but my video did not get any positive feedback. The only comments I received were saying rude things to me that I prefer not to restate on this blog. I felt so terrible that I removed the video and have since never done anything of the sort again. I was upset about reading two or three mean comments. Imagine being Miley and have millions of negative comments written about you daily. Yeah, it sounds like it sucks.
I came to the conclusion that Miley was not crazy as people were saying. Sure she was acting out (because no other sings act out - Lady Gaga, Madonna, Katy Perry, Rihanna, need I say more?) and sure she is another seemingly classic example of broken child stardom - but I don't think that either of those points to her going off the wall.
About a month ago, my thoughts were confirmed when someone posted another graphic - this time quoting Miley about the TV show Breaking Bad. The comment says:
"America is just so weird in what they think is right and wrong. Like, I was watching 'Breaking Bad' the other day, and they were cooking meth. I could literally cook meth because of that show. It's a how-to. And then they bleeped out the word 'f***.' And I'm like, really? They killed a guy, and disintegrated his body in acid, but you're not allowed to say 'f***'?"I've only watched the first two or three episodes of Breaking Bad and so far, I am not hooked but repulsed and wracking my brains wondering, why is this beloved again? Hearing Miley's quote was a bit refreshing but also had a good point about America and this weird way in which we make sense of things. Miley is spot on with her quote. Why is it that we can have shows about illegal drugs that teach people how to make the drugs and yes the F-word is bleeped out. Seriously?
My point is - I don't think Miley is as crazy as everyone thinks. It seems like she is maybe trying to tell us something in the only way she knows how - by performing and acting. That was how she was raised. I have no doubt that she has a good head on her shoulders but I hope that she knows how much her actions are influencing the youth of America and I pray that she is able to deal with her issues and not worry about what the media says about her.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Alright...time for my background story with this book. I received this book as a gift for Christmas from my aunt when I was 11. I do not have that original hardcover...I sold it on Ebay. The reason I sold it is because my copy was, for some reason, smaller than the typical publications. It turns out, it must have been a very rare copy though I don't think it was worth a lot. Never the less, I kinda wish I had kept it. Anyway, there isn't much for me to say about this book except that I read it when I was 12. I remember reading the first chapter on the bus to school and being really confused but it was a good kind of confused because it meant that this book was distinguished and that I was reading a more mature text. Ironically, I now consider the first chapter of this book to be one of my favorite chapters in the entire series.
Goblet of Fire takes the Potter series in a brand new, exciting and mature direction. There is much more depth to the book than the previous three, brand new characters and story-lines, and at the same time, readers still have the same element of mystery and humor that they have come to know and love. Rowling has a great way of dropping hints and foreshadowing throughout her writing. This book is very special because it is literally the center of the series - it is the moment when the books change from adventures at Hogwarts to darkness and evil. It is a nice look at the psychology behind why we do what we do - whether it be Ron's jealousy of Harry's fame and Hermione dating Victor Krum, Cedric's want to help Harry after Harry helped him, Fudge's choice to not believe Voldemort
has returned, or Voldemort's choice to choose Harry's blood over a random person's when he returns. Another great aspect to this book is the introduction of S.P.E.W! Hermione's call to act for the house elves is arguably (next to Dumbledore's Army in book 5) the biggest call to action that has inspired young readers to also act for what is right.
While Goblet of Fire is an excellent fourth novel, it has it's inconsistencies. Many are specific events and I am not going to sit here and write them all out but they are there. It is no secret that Rowling felt rushed when writing this novel and it has been said that she still is not satisfied with it. Regardless, this novel is still hands down the best thus far and I am giving it 5 out of 5 stars.
Monday, November 11, 2013
It was during one of my listens to MuggleNet Academia that I heard of Travis Prinzi, a Harry Potter academic. An entire episode was dedicated to Prinzi's new book - Harry Potter for Nerds. On the episode, hosts Keith Hawk and John Granger discussed Prinzi's new book of essays and what to expect from it. After listening to the podcast, I drove home from work and ordered Harry Potter for Nerds on Amazon.
This book was just as excellent as I expected it to be. The content was so unique and unlike I had ever heard. This book, I believe, is one of many (and many more to come) that ultimately prove that Harry Potter is a book series worth studying in academia and worth reading. The series is a modern day classic. Essays in this book include Is There Hope for Slytherin House?, There and Back Again: The Chiastic Structure of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Series, Muggle Studies 101, Technological Anarchism, Merlin's Pants!: The World of Wizard Insult, Cracking the Planetary Code, and more! Those essays I just listed are all fantastic and so are the others in the book. I can't give this book enough praise. The essays were well written by a diverse group of individuals, each united by their love of this book series. I recommend the book to any lover of literature and especially to those Harry Potter fans that want to study these books on a higher, academia level. I give it 5 out of 5 stars!
Sunday, November 10, 2013
As usual with these books I would like to start out with a bit of background I have with this book. I read the book when I was 12 in sixth grade. I really enjoyed the book at the time, particularly the chapter titled Hermione's Secret. I still own the same copy I read from all those years ago. It was a hardcover copy. I loved the cover art as a kid, particularly the green lettering of the title.
Prisoner of Azkaban is yet again another fantastic sequel by J.K. Rowling. The way she crafts the mystery in the novel while also creating Harry as a realistic teenage boy is nothing short of brilliant. In my opinion, Prisoner of Azkaban is the most poetic of the books - the second being Deathly Hallows. This book begins the theme of Harry's search for a father. We see many beautiful one on one conversation scenes between Harry and Professor Lupin. Another beautiful set of scenes are the ones where Harry is either confronted with the dementors or when he is fighting them. The writing was just so well done and moving. Well done J.K.R.! Another thing I love about this book is that it is the first time we get Ron and Hermione love tension. I love the relationship Rowling creates between these two and I love that she had is all planned before we even knew it ourselves!
“‘Why? Why do they affect me like that? Am I just – ?’‘It has nothing to do with weakness,’ said Professor Lupin sharply, as though he had read Harry’s mind. ‘The dementors affect you worse than the others because there are horrors in your past that the others don’t have.’ A ray of wintery sunlight fell across the classroom, illuminating Lupin’s gray hairs and the lines on his young face.”As with all Harry Potter books, the ending contains a lot of dialogue where people explain themselves
Okay, you know I want to give this 5 out of 5 stars but I am actually going to give it 4 out of 5 stars for the simple reason of what I stated above. The first two books were Rowling's debut but this is her third book and while I get it is a children's book, that does not give anyone an excuse to cop out of writing a good ending. I do not mean the ending of this book was not good but, as mostly all the Harry Potter books end, it had the lengthy explanation and then it was suddenly "okay, another year gone. See ya next year guys!" By the third book, Rowling's writing definitely improves but the endings always stay the same. This will be the only time I count it against her. As you know, I think the books only get better and better and I truly believe they deserve five star ratings.
Saturday, November 9, 2013
As Americans, we live the life of luxury. We have everything available to us. We can afford to upgrade our phone before the contract expires just so we can have the newest and coolest version of things. We can afford to throw away our left over food so we can have a fresh meal the next time we are hungry. Shinabarger dares the reader to go on a few social experiments while also presenting a few of his own personal stories of social experimenting and shows us why we need to appreciate what we have and how we can learn to live with enough instead of excess.
As I stated in my previous book review, I have been super busy and have not come to this blog in almost two months. I listened to this audiobook about three months ago. Yeah, not a good choice on my part to wait this long to write the review. Not only that but because I listened to the book instead of actually reading it, I have not really gotten the full experience in my opinion because I forget it much easier. Therefore, I will do my best in rating this book though I can definitely say I know I enjoyed it and will probably come back to read it sometime in the future.
There was one particular moment in the book that really inspired me and I would like to share it in this review. Shinabarger and his wife decided that for one month they would not buy any food from the grocery store and eat only what was in their pantry. They completed this experiment, and gained some weight in the process, but completed it none the less and they still had some food left by the end. I was amazed and also jarred because just hearing about this experiment sort of woke me up and reminded me how lucky I am and how much I have.While the book is written by a Christian author, it is NOT a Christian book. If you are familiar with my blog, you must know that I hate when things are described as Christian. Christian is not an adjective. You can't call a sweater Christian or a CD Christian. You can't say - that painting of angels believes Jesus died for our sins. It doesn't make sense. Anyway...this book is secular. It presents a universal truth that everyone can agree with, whether they are Christian or atheist or Buddhist or Jewish. Christians are moved to do good things through Jesus, but the book does not make this claim. I did not pick up on this small detail until I read a review of the book on GoodReads. It is a valid point though I think as Christians we are called to unite with those who do not agree with us and therefore unite our faith with the secular.
This book was excellent. It is not a literary book by any means. It is a book that challenges the reader and while literary books do challenge us, this just takes a different approach. I will give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
Friday, November 8, 2013
Now, allow me to give you a bit of my personal history with this book. Chamber of Secrets is the first Harry Potter book I ever bought. Before buying it, I viewed Harry Potter as a stupid book series and had no interest in reading it. My love of books got the better of me though when I was in a Toys-R-Us and there was a Harry Potter book section. Since they did not have the first book in paperback (I did not like hardcover as a kid), my parents bought me the second book in paperback which I still own today. I do not have many strong memories of reading the book though I do remember looking through it, after I bought it, in my front yard during a summer evening and I also remember bringing it to school with me and showing my friends that I was on Ch.3, The Burrow.
The second book of the Harry Potter series does not disappoint. While the writing is pretty much on
Chamber of Secrets is a great sequel to Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone and is indeed better than the first though not the best in the series. As you will notice when I review the later books, I believe they get better and better as Harry ages. This book still fits as a children's book though I think the humor will go over children's heads and the dark material will cause nightmares. The mystery is a so-good-you-can't-put-the-book-down mystery and Rowling does an excellent job of supplying the reader with enough clues and yet still surprise us by the end. As expected, I will give this book 5 out of 5 stars.