Celebrating 20 Years of Harry Potter.

I’m a little late to the party, but I decided over the weekend to start reading the Harry Potter series again over the weekend. Twenty years ago, J.K. Rowling’s books were published by Bloomsbury in England. A year later, Scholastic published the books in America and the rest was history.

I can’t imagine the world without Harry Potter. He opened the door to reading for so many people and for someone like me who already loved reading, it opened a door to a magic world. Floating candles, flying broomsticks, flavored beans, and unforgettable characters lit up my world. Before then, I never actually read much in the way of fantasy. Harry Potter was the guy who made me realize there were other books I’ve never read before. These were the books that made me wait impatiently until the next book came out.

I still can’t believe it’s been twenty years since the books have been published to be honest. It seems only yesterday that I was reading the books for the first time, only a minute ago that I was wondering when the next book was coming out so that I could finally find out what Harry was doing next. No one else will be able to have that same experience of having to wait until it comes out. The new generations can buy all seven books, sit down, and read them all one after another. I wasn’t able to do that.

If only I could go back and read them all for the first time without knowing what was going to happen next. If they ever invent a time turner, I’d immediately go back and read them all again. It would be worth it.

A Series-ous Beginning.

What is your favorite book in the series? Do you like the beginning when your being introduced to the characters your going to journey with, or do you enjoy the ending when events are finally taking place? I haven’t asked recently, but it seems like a lot of people like the last book just because they can finally figure out what is going on. The first book is too laden with introductions and the second book always has the middle book blues with no clear beginning or ending.

I’m one of those strange people who actually like the beginning.

Why? do you ask.

It’s really quite simple, to be honest. I love being introduced to the new characters. I can meet them as they are with no stress and conflict. These are the people that I’ll be taking a journey with. This is who they are before all the darkness clouds over them. In The Lord of the Rings, we meet Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin in The Shire. This is the place where they grew up and fell in love with. And when trouble comes to greet them, we can appreciate the sacrifice their going through because they want to protect the Shire. If Tolkien had started their journeys as well as the others in the thick of destroying the one ring, I don’t think I would have cared as much.

Of course, not all series start so tranquil. In The Hunger Games, we find Katniss breaking the law to feed her family and worrying about what will happen later in the square. We are made to think, how horrible. Why hasn’t anyone hasn’t anyone done anything yet? And when she rushes out to save her sister, we pump our fists and say, yes! Let’s do this!

These are the moments that make me pick up the first book in the series. I want to know who they are and why they chose to go on these often perilous journeys. When I pick up the first book, I think, yes, this is why they’re doing the things they’re doing.

Obviously, other sides of our characters are revealed with each book. We see them grow bigger or smaller with their experiences, sometimes even harder or softer or more kind. We might even see another side to them that we wouldn’t have known initially. But we wouldn’t have known these things if they hadn’t made the choice to go and do something about the problem they were faced in the beginning. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have a series to begin with.

Review: Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything EverythingTitle: Everything Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Genre: Young Adult/Realistic
Rating: 4 Stars

Maddy has something called SCID, a disease that causes her to be allergic to everything. She hasn’t been out of the house in seventeen years and has read every book you can think of. She thinks life is as perfect as it’s ever going to be. That is until Olly moves next door and she can’t stop studying him through the window and falls irrevocably in love with him. There is a risk to everything, but how does she know it’s going to be a disaster unless she tries?

The thing that caught my attention about this book is Maddy’s disease. It’s hard to imagine living in a house without ever having been on the outside of it. I even enjoyed the love story, but in general I found the story to be more on the superficial side. This may be the point of it: the only interaction she has is with her mom, Carla, and Olly. The mom doesn’t seem to be really there: she’s either at work or obsessing with her daughter by having “sleepovers” and “game nights.” I would have liked to see more interaction with her mom; after all, if they were so close, why didn’t they talk more about every day things and work and school? If her mom was so obsessed with caring about her daughter, why didn’t she have a closer tab on her in some of the situations at the end of the book?

I gave Everything Everything 4 Stars because of the ending. I don’t want to spoil it, but I think it was a great transition from what Maddy thought was real to what the true reality was. Her reaction is genuine and I can see myself having the same reaction if I was in her situation.

Mockingbird.

I’d be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of American literature. I often find it dry, boring, and lacking real plot and characters. So it’s no small thing when I bought a copy of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

I first read it when I was studying for my bachelor’s degree several years ago. It was one of several American works that we had to choose from to read and this one was the one that I found most interesting out of all of them. Needless to say, I couldn’t stop reading it and knew that it would be the few pieces from an American writer that I would truly love even after many years.

Over the weekend, I went to Barnes and Noble to browse through the books and see what bargain prices they had this time. I noticed a big sign that said that all leather bound classics were on sale for $15. I immediately went to pick up a copy of Mockingbird. I always admired this edition of the book because the cover is so pretty and simplistic, conveying everything it needs in little detail. I never bought it before now because it costs $5 more than the other leather bound copies. With it being on sale, however, I got it for $10 cheaper. I felt like I won the lottery.

I don’t know why I like Mockingbird so much. I think it comes down to the fact that the author chooses a language that is so easily accessible. Even Scout is an easy character to spend time with because she’s so young and frank about everything. She doesn’t understand the complexities of adults and often wonders why people are acting the way they do. Instead of weighing heavily on morals, she brings it to us gently and makes us think about them in ways we wouldn’t have thought before.

I’ve only read Harper Lee’s novel twice in all my life, but I hope with such a grand copy, I’ll be able to re-visit it time and again. It’s one of those books that need to be read at different points in your life because you get different things out of them. Now I don’t have to worry about finding a copy of it at the library. One less book off my list of books to acquire.

Review: Here Lies Daniel Tate by Cristin Terrill

Daniel TateTitle: Here Lies Daniel Tate
Author: Cristin Terrill
Genre: Thriller/crime
Rating: 4 Stars

It’s been six years since ten year old Daniel Tate disappeared without a trace from the elite gated community without a trace in California. Since then, his family deteriorated in a cloud of secrets, drugs, and alcohol. Then one day, he reappears in a Canadian town, traumatized and no memory of his previous life. It’s a miracle that he’s even alive at all.

Except that he isn’t Daniel Tate. He’s a con artist who can’t believe his lies are so readily accepted. But it’s not long before he realizes that he’s not the only one in the Tate household with secrets, and he must discover the truth before he’s revealed for what he is…or be killed for it.

If you think Cristin Terrill’s Here Lies Daniel Tate is based on the case featured in the documentary “The Imposter,” then you’d be absolutely correct, albeit a few changes so that it’s not exactly the same in certain spots.

From the very beginning, “Danny” sucks you into his story, an unreliable one at best. The writing is fluid, the mystery is suspenseful. It was very hard to put it down in order to do other things. The ending is very ambiguous and left me unsatisfied as I wanted to have a more concrete ending. Most times this is the reason for me not liking a book, but this is the one book that I will make an exception for.

For those who are into thrillers, mysteries, or crime, this is the book that you should invest in reading. I might even consider reading it again on a future date just so I can soak in the details more slowly and have benefit of knowing what’s happening at the end, connect a few more dots.

 

Review: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

what you left behindTitle: What You Left Behind
Author: Jessica Verdi
Genre: Realistic, young adult
Date Read: 28 July 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

Few books these days can suck me in from the very first page and drag me to the very end, but Jessica Verdi’s What You Left Behind did that very thing. Ryden Brooks is a single teen father ridden with guilt over the death of his girlfriend, Meg. She was fighting a battle with cancer when he got her pregnant and because she wouldn’t terminate the pregnancy, she passed away after giving birth. Trying to balance between being a parent, grieving for his girlfriend, and getting into UCLA with a full ride athletic scholarship, there isn’t much time to do anything else. Until he finds some of Meg’s journals that could reveal the key to her death and Joni, a girl he finds himself falling in love with in spite of all his anxieties.

I loved this book for its originality. Usually when we talk about teen pregnancy or cancer, we usually see it through the eyes of the girl. Rarely do we get a glimpse of what it’d be like for the teen father to balance new responsibilities with every day life. Rarely do we get to see a teen boy grieving for someone he loved so much.

Verdi made tough subjects real and she wrote the story in a believable, easy way. I’m glad that she didn’t sugarcoat Ryden’s experience post-Meg. Even though he’s a single parent, he’s still a 17 year old boy who notices the girls and goes through regular teen problems. She didn’t make him a saint who suddenly did everything by the books.

I rated What You Left Behind 5 stars because I couldn’t put it down and for its perspective. There is a part near the end that made me go “What?!!” when I read it and I was a little unsure as to whether those choices could really happen, but it was a minor detail that worked for what was going on.

The Comfort of Reading Books Again.

A common question to readers is why we enjoy reading books over and over again. And one of the most common answers is that we keep finding new things each time we read it. We get new meanings at different points in our lives. And these are answers that I’ve used myself on several different occasions. They are still true, but I don’t think it exactly hits the nail on the head, either.

I enjoy reading certain books over again for the sheer fact that I enjoy reading it. There are certain books like Me Before You and Water for Elephants that have connected to me on a spiritual level and I have to keep returning to them and surrounding myself in their world.

To me, reading a book again is the literary equivalent to eating comfort food. I’m reading it not only because it’s comforting, but because I already know what’s going to happen. I don’t have to be shocked by unexpected surprises or be disappointed at the end. I can read it at my own pace, safe in the knowledge that everything is already set in place. You can look for the moments that lead up to the end and delight in those little clues that foreshadow what’s going to happen, those things that you may or may not have noticed the first time around. I already know that the book will satisfy me, so why hurry through it this time around?

Not everybody likes to read a book more than once and I think that’s okay, too. Some of the most avid of readers read one book and move on to the next one; after all, there’s so many books out there and so little time to read them all in. Why read something over again when there’s other books out there waiting to be read? It’s not said, but it seems like people are confused when readers don’t want to re-read something.

I say read what makes you happy. I will read as much as possible, but I won’t hesitate to stop and immerse myself in a comforting book that makes me happy. And shouldn’t that be what makes my reading world turn? I can’t think of anything better.