Sunday, July 27, 2014

An American reading the British editions: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

(SPOILER ALERT: I’m sharing details of the Harry Potter series in this post, and in every post on the last Sunday of the month for the next two months. Just so you know!)

This is a blog series about an American girl reading the Harry Potter British editions. If you missed the previous posts, well, to be honest you’re a bit behind. But there’s still time to catch up! Here are the links: Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

First Line: “The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive.”

British vs. American English: I’ve been overseas so there are some things I read in these versions and don’t even recognize as different. Like car park vs. parking lot or garbage vs. bin. But here are a few differences that popped out to me. 

(British edition word/phrase = interpretation/definition)

trainers = sneakers
holidaymakers = vacationers

mollycoddling = to coddle or pamper
dottiness = crazy, eccentric

taking the mickey = to tease or make fun of
frame-up = set-up

at loggerheads = in dispute with
gibbering = to speak inarticulately


Laugh-Worthy Moment: After the Divination exam…
            “’We shouldn’t have taken the stupid subject in the first place,’ said Harry.

            ‘Still, at least we can give it up now.’
            ‘Yeah,’ said Harry. ‘No more pretending we care what happens when Jupiter and Uranus get too friendly.’

            ‘And from now on, I don’t care if my tea-leaves spell die, Ron, die—I’m just chucking them in the bin where they belong.’” (page 633)


Cry-Worthy Moment:  Sadly, there were a few in OOTP, including when Mr. Weasley was attacked and when Sirius fell into the veil. However, even though those were both sad, I only truly teared up at the very end, during this scene…
            “’Bye, then, Potter,’ said Moody, grasping Harry’s shoulder for a moment with a gnarled hand.

            ‘Take care, Harry,’ said Lupin quietly. ‘Keep in touch.’
            ‘Harry, we’ll have you away from there as soon as we can,’ Mrs. Weasley whispered, hugging him again.

            ‘We’ll see you soon, mate,’ said Ron anxiously, shaking Harry’s hand.
            ‘Really soon, Harry,’ said Hermione earnestly. ‘We promise.’

            Harry nodded. He somehow could not find words to tell them what it meant to him, to see them all ranged there, on his side.” (page 766)


Notable Quote:  “’Yes, yes, one of these days you’ll write more horrible stories about Harry and me,’ said Hermione indifferently. ‘Find someone who cares, why don’t you?’” (page 499)
            This quote is eerie now that Rita Skeeter’s article about the old DA reuniting at the Quidditch World Cup was posted on Pottermore earlier this month.


Last Line:  “Instead, he smiled, raised a hand in farewell, turned around and led the way out of the station towards the sunlit street, with Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and Dudley hurrying along in his wake.”


Even though Harry’s been a teenager for two years, he hits it full force with a few cringe-worthy episodes of angst in Order of the Phoenix. But who’s to blame him? If you were at the center of a situation such as this (however unlikely, but imagine for a moment that you’re in the midst of a wizarding war), wouldn’t it be frustrating if everyone was treating you as though you’re an outsider? If you were the ONLY ONE who had seen the darkest wizard return, wouldn’t it be aggravating to be cut off from news of said world?

Of course it’d be maddening. However, Harry may have taken it out on the wrong people. And even though he has moments when he knows this, he still can’t seem to stop himself from blowing up at his closest friends and supporters, Ron and Hermione. He doesn’t, however, seem to take it out on the adults (mostly). Is he nervous that they’ll put him in his place? Does he not want to be viewed as an insolent teenager? Or does he just feel most comfortable with Ron and Hermione, knowing that even through it all, they will still be his friends?

I seem to be asking a lot of questions, so I’m going to switch gears. Order of the Phoenix is by far the longest book of the series. It has a mingling of subplots (just as the previous books) but there are two things that stand out to me in these 766 pages. Umbridge and the DA. One of them is the absolute worst and one of them is probably the best thing about this book.

After my boyfriend read OOTP for the first time, he told me that he hated Umbridge more than Voldemort. I wouldn’t be surprised if many people in the Potter fandom feel the same. For all Voldemort’s done to Harry, namely kill his mother and father shortly after his birth, there is something so supremely frustrating about Dolores Jane Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic and High Inquisitor of Hogwarts. She believes whole-heartedly that Harry’s delusional and that Voldemort hasn’t returned. Since Harry refuses (rightly so) to deny Voldemort’s return, they are at odds. Umbridge banning Harry from Quidditch still makes me grind my teeth. Blatant favoritism (for Malfoy and the Slytherins), utter ignorance and a pompous attitude all equal one of the most hated characters of the series. Luckily, since she was the Defense against the Dark Arts teacher, she only lasts one book.

And the best thing about OOTP: Dumbledore’s Army, Harry’s secret society in which he teaches a couple dozen Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff students defensive spells. There is inspiration in solidarity and in youth taking it upon themselves to do something about an injustice. Umbridge’s method of teaching Defense against the Dark Arts isn’t teaching at all. It could be argued that Hermione’s motives in pressuring Harry into teaching them defense were selfish. She wants to pass her OWLs, after all. However, I think that although Hermione may have came upon the idea with that in mind, she never would have opened it up to people outside the trio if she was indeed being selfish.

In the end, Dumbledore’s Army gets very little page time in OOTP, but the society plays an important role in Harry’s happiness (until it’s disbanded) and in the incidents leading up to the climax. If the DA hadn’t been discovered, Dumbledore wouldn’t have taken the fall for leading the society and Harry would have had someone to go to (with Hagrid sacked and McGonagall at St Mungo’s) when he dreamt that Voldemort was torturing Sirius in the Department of Mysteries.

Per what happened at the Department of Mysteries: the fandom saw two things they had been dying to see. 1) Action. (Fully-trained wizards in action against Death Eaters.) 2) Dumbledore vs. Voldemort. (No explanation needed). Within the setting of the DoM and the Ministry of Magic, the climax is spine-tingling, exciting yet terrifying and ultimately devastating. Sirius’ death comes as quite a shock and we barely have time to process before Dumbledore and Voldemort are dueling. Then the Ministry Aurors arrive to catch a glimpse of Voldemort, alive. Even though there are good things that result from Harry’s trip to London, namely the wizard community discovering that Voldemort has returned, it’s cast in the shadow of Sirius’ death. A double-edged sword, that one.

In the aftermath, the most notable piece of information that Dumbledore divulges is the prophecy. It defines Harry’s path for the last two books. If neither can live while the other survives, then eventually Harry and Voldemort’s path will converge with a climatic, potentially heart-breaking result.

Up next month: Half-Blood Prince, the tale of a textbook, teenage love and bits of Voldemort’s soul.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Short Note on Moving

Tomorrow I’m moving a zip code away. This is the first time in two years (which is a long time for me) that I’ve packed my bags and moved apartments. The last move was a big one—from Bloomington, IN to Indianapolis, IN. This move is a big one too, but the important factor this time isn’t the where, it’s the who.

Two year ago, I wrote this short note on leaving when I moved an hour north to Indianapolis. I have to admit it’s different here. Bloomington is a liberal college town, full of students, eclectic restaurants and bad traffic patterns. Indianapolis is a metropolitan area (though I live in the ‘burbs)—it’s a big city with distinct neighborhoods, spread over a whole county and extending into every surrounding county.

The move to Indianapolis was a great one and I’ve loved the past two years. I’ve spent my time focusing on what I love: writing, reading, blogging, talking to people about books, writing, writing. Did I mention writing? My apartment had a wall with two bookcases, three bins of books and hundreds of YA novels filling the shelves. There were posters and bookmarks and mugs and enough YA swag that I had to start a Swagbox (made from a shoebox). But now that’s all packed away. And when I open the boxes at the new place, I’m sure I’ll set it up differently.  

Because I’m leaving behind the bachelorette pad.

And moving in with my boyfriend.  

Now my living situation won’t be centered around what I love, but who I love. Yes, I’ll still have my bookcases and books and swag but it might not be all together in a big display, screaming to anyone who enters which fandoms I fangirl over and what I love to read.

Our new place will be a meeting of the minds. My books and my boyfriend’s music and movies. We have our similarities—Harry Potter, Friends, Firefly, Mumford & Sons. But we have our differences too. He’s more It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and I’m more Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. He’s more Coheed and Cambria and I’m more The Fray. 

I’m excited and scared. (Don’t worry, he knows this and feels the same.) It’s a great mixture of feelings. The happiness that swells my chest. The anxiety that edges around, poking little holes. Both of them keep me balanced. Because in the end, I don’t want to be too excited, nor do I want to be too scared. I want to walk forward into this new era knowing that it will be different. Knowing it won’t be perfect but that we will do our best to keep it close.

As Monica Gellar would say, “Now I have to live with a boy!”

Sunday, July 13, 2014

15 Must-Read Teen Books: 2014 Update

Shortly after I started this blog two years ago, I compiled a list of 15 must-read teen books. It's highly subjective and based on what I’ve read, but it also represents a variety of genres within the YA category. I’ve updated the list twice since then, in 2013 and now, in this 2014 update!

For those new to YA, this list provides an introduction to YA. Which books on the list would you pick up? For avid YA readers, what are your must-reads? Do we share ten, five or possibly even none?

Anna and the French Kiss: Stephanie Perkins (new)
Anna’s senior year in a Parisian boarding school is an adventure, especially when she meets Etienne St. Clair, a Parisian/English boy with a great accent. Their friendship and budding romance is a swoon-worthy YA relationship with an equal balance of realism and fairy tale. This is Anna’s first year on the list.

Boy Meets Boy: David Levithan
This is an expertly crafted book about a boy who loves another boy and the crazy unique high school that they attend. Its ground-breaking impact continues to be felt in YA, especially as it reached the 10th anniversary of it's publication last year! This is Boy Meets Boy’s second year on the list.

Code Name Verity: Elizabeth Wein (new)
This historical fiction novel isn’t your typical WWII tale. A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France with two best friends, the pilot and the passenger, on board. What follows in this Printz Honor Book is a fierce, forward, expertly plotted story. Code Name Verity is a new addition to this year’s must-read list.

Divergent: Veronica Roth
When Tris Pryor chooses to leave her family behind for the danger of the Dauntless, she has no idea the hard work, controversy and consequences that will come. Roth creates a magnificent dystopian tale where Tris, Four and others are not only in the midst of the action, they are the action. This is Divergent’s second year on this list.

Eleanor & Park: Rainbow Rowell
The relationship of Eleanor and Park is not only moving, but makes for an astounding and unputdownable read. It's ground-breaking in its realness and their love is relatable in its imperfection. A Printz Honor Book and the newest book on this list (published in early 2013), Eleanor & Park is a YA gem.

Graceling: Kristin Cashore
Katsa is a strong, Graced but flawed girl struggling to break from her uncle's control. Her world is medieval fantasy and full of magic and mystery. This novel is one of my favorite YA reads, and due to the fact that I’ve loved it for over four years, Graceling has graced this list since the beginning.

Heist Society: Ally Carter
Kat Bishop is from a family of thieves but strives to use her skills for good, which equals an intriguing yet mischievous female Robin Hood. Carter writes light-hearted novels that are fun yet entrancing reads. Heist Society is the first in her second series and has been on this list since its conception.

If I Stay: Gayle Forman
Mia is in a coma after a devastating car accident that took the lives of her family. In an out-of-body experience, she relives past events and watches her friends and family gather around her. Will she join her family on the other side or wake to the everyday struggle that is life? This is a profound, moving YA book about the importance of choices and the will to fight. The movie adaptation's coming to theaters on August 22!

Levithan: Scott Westerfeld
Westerfeld writes an alternate version of WWI in a story that pits the Darwinists (British, French) and their living creatures against the Clankers (Austro-Hungarians, Germans) and their war machines. Imaginative, full of action with sprinkles of history, this tale is on the forefront of YA steampunk and has been on this list three years running.

Shadow and Bone: Leigh Bardugo
When Alina, a lowly mapmaker in the nation of Ravka, discovers an ancient and terrifying power, she's whisked away by the mysterious yet alluring Darkling. Bardugo crafts an intriguing, new tale with layers of Russian legend and lore. This debut for Bardugo is the first in a trilogy and it’s appearing on this list for the second time. 

The Book Thief: Marcus Zusak
This historical fiction novel has quickly become a modern classic. Narrated by Death during the Holocaust, the story follows Liesel and her life in Nazi Germany. This is a fascinating, powerful tale and a new take on this time in history. The Book Thief has been on my must-read list since the beginning.

The Fault in Our Stars: John Green
Hazel and Augustus are both teens dealing with cancer. Theirs is a love story for the ages and is already a record-setting bestseller for YA. With the movie release just over a month ago, this novel has cleared a place in pop culture history. I added TFIOS to this list last year, shortly after I read it for the first time.

The Giver: Lois Lowry
A classic dystopian novel, this is a quick, intriguing read that leaves the reader thinking. A precursor to today's dystopia and a permanent fixture on this list, Lowry created a classic in her telling of Jonas and his seemingly perfect world. The movie adaption will be in theaters next month.

The Hunger Games: Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games will likely be immortalized as the poster-child for YA dystopia. In a televised fight to the death in a futuristic world where the U.S. has fallen and the Capitol controls twelve districts in a grueling manner, one girl starts a revolution. With the Mockingjay: Part I in theaters this November, this series is now a household name. It’s been on this list three years running.

Throne of Glass: Sarah J. Maas (new)
Celaena Sardothien is an assassin brought before the king not to be sentenced to death, but for a chance to win her freedom in a competition to become the king’s champion. But there’s evil lurking at the edges of the castle, and possibly even inside. Throne of Glass is one of my favorite YA fantasies and I’m thrilled that the third book in the series is less than two months from publication! It’s new to the list this year. 

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Six Star Reviews: Kiss of Deception

The highest rating a book can get on Goodreads is five stars. Five stars means the book was awesome, worthy, well-written, etc. But sometimes I wish I could give six—YES 6—stars. These instances are rare, but there are some books that stand out that extra inch. They are truly unputdownable. They are not just great, but extraordinary. They speak to me, and I love them.

Here’s a book that deserves six stars:

Kiss of Deception—Mary E. Pearson

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.

Every now and then I start reading a book and just can’t stop. This is one of those books. I engulfed the DRC in one day—one afternoon/evening, really—because it contains one of the biggest who’s who mysteries I’ve read in YA.

A prince and an assassin follow Lia, a runaway princess, to her hideaway town. One's named Kagen and the other's Rafe, however the reader doesn't find out who's the prince and who's the assassin until halfway through the book. It’s simple but brilliant to keep their identities a secret, so the reader’s guessing: Is Lia falling in love with the prince or with the assassin? When she’s alone with Rafe/Kagen, is he the jilted prince or the assassin who’s trying to kill her? Pearson does a great job keeping the reader guessing, with hints and misleading and general confusion. It drove me positively insane, in a good way. It’s a marvelous yet frustrating ploy. And just when not knowing became unbearable, the secret is divulged and it’s AMAZING.

Of course, this isn’t the only great feature of Kiss of Deception. This writing is solid and clean with clear descriptions. Lia’s strength, stubbornness and forthrightness make her an exceptional, fierce yet relatable female lead. The intricacy of the world—it’s nations, peoples and religion—make it seem real and interesting even while the cloud of coming war make it dangerous. The play of the characters and the depth of their relationships with each other made me cringe and cry. There were sisterhoods and sibling relationships and new-found loves and each one was deep, real and expertly weaved into the overall plot.

Also, I tear up plenty at the end of books and every now and then I cry during a heartfelt climax, but I can’t remember the last time I outright bawled at the end of a book. Kiss of Deception made me ugly cry, which is a true feat. No spoilers, but the moment was emotional, heart-wrenching and unexpected but as I reached for the tissues, I kept reading. 

This novel is a strong start to a planned series and the cliff-hanger at the end already has me clamoring for the sequel even though Kiss of Deception has yet to grace the bookstore shelves. However, I only have TWO DAYS to wait for its release, as it will be on shelves this Tuesday, July 8th. Yay!

Kiss of Deception is a 6 out of 5 stars book, and I can’t wait to stroke its spine and smell its pages and wrap it (carefully) in my arms and yeah, I’m a book geek. But I’m a passionate, unapologetic book geek.

My recommendation: READ THIS BOOK. (Especially if you like fantasy and/or well-done love triangles and/or big reveals and/or fierce female leads.)