Monday, March 23, 2015

NEW BLOG! Keep Calm and Read On!

Hey everybody. So guess what? This will be my final post on this blog!

That's right. You read that correctly. Final post. I have moved to a brand new shiny blog that I've been working on for the past few months called Keep Calm and Read On. This blog is harking back to my beginning days as a book blogger as I used to put Keep Calm posters in my reviews and later stopped but now have started the tradition up again.

Be sure to subscribe to my new blog for monthly updates in your email box (subscription form on the home/blog page) and also be sure to subscribe to my new daily podcast on iTunes which will mostly be me talking about, what else, books.

Thanks for the support guys. Have a wonderful spring and be sure to KEEP CALM AND READ ON!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Guide to Exploring The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by Devin Brown

I have subjected myself to a lot of Narnia in recent months. After reading the first book in the Chronicles titled The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I read an e-book about the series as a whole and then came to this monster of a book by Devin Brown titled A Guide to Exploring The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Don't be fooled by it's small size of 256 pages because this chapter by chapter analytic look at the first Narnia book is packed with a ton of content that will set your brain ablaze. This is not a drill. This book is for the ultimate Narnia fan and not for the feint at heart. If you are looking for a fairly easy read, don't read this book. If you are looking for an unbiased interpretation of the text by C.S. Lewis that not only contains literary criticism but a look at the theological aspects of the text, allegorical debate, authorial intent and more than this is definitely up your alley!
A Guide to Exploring The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by Devin Brown is the ultimate guide to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Period. This book was fantastically intricate and so well paced. I honestly wish someone would replicate Brown's style and study Harry Potter books too. While I won't lie and say the book didn't have dry spots, part of me says hell with it. I don't care! I loved it too much to fault it for something like that because truth be told, literary theory (or really anything academic) is dry. There isn't much you can do to get around that so usually when I approach a book of this nature I just expect that. That being said, if you don't like literary theory or criticism then please don't read this book and then go on to bash it in a review because it was boring or too serious (I have seen these reviews about this book). You will be bored. Let's just make that clear right away.
Now to the meat of this book. The book has a lot of substance to it. I didn't expect it to take me such a
long time to read which was a clear mistake on my part. Each chapter is content heavy and in my opinion leaves no stone un-turned. I now have a much richer understanding of the first Narnia book. In fact I actually questioned myself when I didn't call the book a favorite because this book by Brown really holds it on a pedestal and gives so much depth to the story. And it is warranted. What I really appreciated about the book's tone is that Brown came off as a completely unbiased party member. Whenever he came to a controversial idea, he was able to provide evidence for and against and really found a happy medium at the end of the day.
This book was great. Being an English major in college, I have a real appreciation for this book because I really enjoy being analytic and thinking about things and it is hard to do this outside of the classroom sometimes so this was very refreshing. Excellent read. I can't wait to read the other two Brown has written. 5 out of 5 stars!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Black and White Slytherin's

If you've ever read my blog then you know that I love Harry Potter to a fault. It has taken me a long while to admit to myself that the series isn't perfect and in today's blog I am going to tackle one of these imperfections.

The imperfection I will be writing about is one that has been of particular annoyance for as long as I can remember. I've listened to fan opinions and read multiple essays and heard many lectures on the subject but none truly solve this specific problem in the series.
I take issue with the way Slytherin House is portrayed in the Harry Potter books. None of the characters are outright redeemable and if they are good it is either not directly addressed by Harry or it is Snape. This is most apparent when it comes to Slytherin House while Harry is at Hogwarts. We see the Slytherin's cheat on the Quidditch pitch, not join Dumbledore's Army but the Inquisitorial Squad, and none of them stay to fight for good in the Battle of Hogwarts. They are all either ugly, stupid, snobby, a bully or everything put together. It saddens me to see Rowling paint most other characters with such color yet the Slytherin's are almost amateurly black and white. For years I have been questioning these small details from the books and have only just come up with an explanation. Hopefully it holds some validity. Let's find out!
As I said, I've constantly wondered why Rowling would fail to create any god Slytherin characters. I mean sure there is Snape but he is kind of a jerk even though I love his character. Then there is Slughorn who is a good Slytherin character however he does come off as a bit of a coward and addicted to his status quo of knowing so many famous witches and wizards. Finally there is Andromeda Tonks, Tonks's mother and sister to Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange. She was a Slytherin but ended up marrying muggle Ted Tonks against her family's pureblood standards and we see her fighting for the good side in the final book. This character is barely touched upon in the books and isn't talked about enough to redeem Rowling. While Draco Malfoy is a strong contender, I think his struggle is passed over like Andromeda's too much for it to close this gaping hole. Surprisingly the film version of the sixth book humanized Draco much more and Tom Felton captured the very complex essence of Draco's character and struggle. The books don't do this and while it can be argued Harry's point of view prevents this from happening, I'd argue it is Harry's point of view in the final book that could easily humanize Draco Malfoy. Of all the internal struggle Rowling writes in the final book, I'm sure she could squeeze in a bit more about Draco.
But all of that aside for a moment because I finally think I have a case for the black and white Slytherins. There are many themes coursing through the veins of these seven books but one of the major themes is tolerance. Rowling herself has stated, "The Potter books in general are a prolonged argument for tolerance, a prolonged plea for an end to bigotry." As I pondered this question and thought about this major theme, a light bulb suddenly went off in my head. I began to think of all the bigots - Westboro Baptist Church, haters on the internet and racists. I thought about politics and how no matter what wrong a politician commits, their political party will make excuses and defend their actions. This is when I realized that the Slytherin students in these books could be one big huge metaphor for the bigots of the world and the powerful people in the world who like to abuse the power they hold.
Slytherin House, per the examples I gave earlier, never gives us a reason to like them. They hold a very strict God complex and like to abuse those who don't fit into their mold of thinking. They fear for their own power and will make an excuse to hold on to it. This very much resembles corruption and bigotry in our our world.
Now I know it is a stretch and some could argue that this theme is already capitalized by Fudge and the Ministry of Magic in the fifth book or that making Slytherin House as a whole theme is still dehumanizing since they are all the same still but I think this is the only valid explanation of Jo's actions before jumping to the conclusion that she overlooked this aspect of the books.
What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is a classic children's picture book that has been cherished for years by children and parents alike. I did not grow up with the book and only picked it up for the first time hours before reading a parody book titled Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd. I went through it quickly to get a glimpse of the source material and found it to be charming and original but also bland. For me it was just another children's picture book. I made sure to read it again before writing this review because while I am going to be writing about Goodnight iPad, I wanted to have a competent understanding of the original work because it obviously plays a big part in the parody book. After reading it twice, I definitely have a much better appreciation of the text.
Goodnight iPad is subtitled "A Parody for the Next Generation" which is so subtly clever and at the same time respectful to a modern audience. To children it is a fun book of rhymes; to adults it is a funny and wise commentary on our obsession with gadgets. I found this book to be quite delicate and detailed in the smallest of places. No stone is left unturned. From the copyright page to the tie in to Goodnight Moon's final sentence and overall story, it is just brilliant cover to cover. It is a book that you not only want to read twice but should read twice.
Now I want to talk spoilers so if you want an unspoiled review, move on to the next paragraph. In this spoiler paragraph I want to briefly comment on the brilliance inside this book. To do this I first want to quote the final sentence of Goodnight Moon which says, "Goodnight noises everywhere." Goodnight iPad seems to cling to this sentence that technology is noise and needs to be shut off. In Goodnight Moon, the so called noises being written about are bedtime rhymes like a cow jumping over the moon or the three little bears. This book takes the modern approach in that the once popularity of bedtime rhymes is comparable to the viral popularity of angry birds and cat videos. Angry birds and cat videos are now what we must say goodnight to. What I also found interesting about this book was the specks of dialogue littered throughout the illustrations. As more and more technology vanished, so did the dialogue. The book symbolically goes on the journey with the text and the reader in slowing down and growing quiet. The colors slowly dim as well. The book's final page is also a piece of brilliance in that we see a child pick up a book instead of a gadget and the book is Goodnight Moon. This was a great way to not only get a point across about reading and it's importance but pay homage to the original work. And what is interesting is that in the original book, books are what the characters are saying goodnight to but now books are a way to find quiet.
This book is fantastic. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. It's attention to detail and social commentary and humorous style are nothing short of brilliant. This book gets 5 out of 5 stars from me. Buy it at or Amazon!