Harry Potter and the 8-book review

Hey there friends and fans! It’s the end of May and, as promised, here is the first in a new kind of review for me. I apologize for being a bit later than intended, but between work and some personal challenges, here we are. Without further ado, let’s jump right in! Obviously, the appeal of the standard review isn’t something I can completely drop when a book particularly calls to me, but this has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while. In case you’ve had your head in the sand, I’m talking about my review of the Harry Potter series in its entirety. As someone who grew up with J.K Rowling’s amazing books (although I admittedly didn’t join the celebration until the release of the third book) I have been incredibly influenced by the ideas and art within them. My style, my interests, even some of my own moral ideas reflect some of those exhibited by The Boy Who Lived and his closest friends. One reason I wanted to do this review, aside from having an excuse to talk about them, was to make myself buckle down and read the series from beginning to end again. The last time I read each book in succession like this was immediately after the release of “Deathly Hallows,” and, after doing it again, I think I see why. I’m pretty sure my brain was saving me once again from the pain of having to deal with the end of this amazing series. However, in this instance I also had “The Cursed Child” to stave off the ‘ending pains.’ As a side note, since this book comes so long after the originals and acts as a very different sort of book, I’ll probably set up a separate paragraph about it as well.

To begin, this series is about Harry Potter, a young wizard who was attacked by the most powerful Dark Wizard who ever lived. Potter, after being raised by muggles (non-magic folk) for 11 years, is thrown into the wizarding world and his own fame with no knowledge of any of it. The series follows Harry’s footsteps through his 7 year tenure at Hogwarts, where he and his friends must face typical teenage angst, learning the facets of magic, and the return of Voldemort, who still wants nothing more than to see Harry dead.

As I said, I fell into this series at a young age and I was instantly hooked. From the first paragraph J.K. Rowling drives you into this fantasy world that, despite the silly antics littering the pages, is almost entirely believable. Even now, more than a decade later, I love reading about Harry’s adventures and his education at an antiquated, unusual, and wonderful school. The characters were, for the most part, incredibly relatable to me. I was very impressed to find out that this was still the case after all these years. As I read into these characters I found myself understanding their conflicts, their sadness, and their excitement.

One of the strongest things Rowling presents, in my opinion, is the threat of darkness that surrounds Voldemort’s return. Every one of his followers we are introduced to is more dastardly than the last – despite the blatant incapability of some of them. Harry’s link to his would-be murderer is something that, even at the end of the seventh novel, feels like it is much deeper and more involved than we could ever understand. This idea is, of course, further explored in “The Cursed Child,” but more on that later.

One of the things that continuously interested me with this series – even more so at this point in my life and the state of the world – was Rowling’s continued incorporation of the necessity of equality, between sexes, genders, sexualities, species and races. Time and time again our main characters (particularly Hermione) find the mistreatment of anyone who is different from the pure-blood, magical standard in the wizarding world deplorable. Organizations are started (S.P.E.W. – not spew), punches are thrown, spells are cast, and lives are lost in the name of equality. I love the repeated examples that show all species and races and sexes should have the same claim to the world and its happiness. Rowling doesn’t back down from bringing these issues to the forefront of the novels in many different ways, and I think the story and morals are all that much more important because of it.

Harry’s coming of age was something that made many of my generation feel a little less alone, a little stronger, and a little more at ease about our own lives. Rowling’s tale reflects some of the difficulties that can face all of us as we enter adulthood – with the hopeful exception of a murderous psychopath chasing you through your life. So many of us bonded incredibly with this tale, feeling the characters experience some of the same things we all felt, facing some situations we were familiar with, and it showed us all that everything would be fine. After all, if a 17 year old can handle battling most of the wizarding world and coming toe-to-toe with the most powerful wizard alive, we can surely handle high school, right?

Rowling’s nonchalant style throughout much of this saga makes the books very easy to read. Her often lighthearted approach at even the most difficult situations helps drive these novels home and make them stick with us long after we’ve closed the books. The saga is so immense and full that I’m not sure I have a favorite part, or even a favorite book, although I think “The Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Order of the Phoenix,” and “Deathly Hallows” are steps above the others for me.

Overall, I’m not sure there are many things I don’t like about the series. I would like to see more of Harry’s story played out. I would really love Rowling to write a book about the events before Harry’s birth. A nice long exploration of Dumbledore’s past, the true story of Voldemort’s rise to power, background on James’s family. Of course these things have been touched on in various ways since the original novels.

When it comes to “The Cursed Child” I had a good deal of inner conflict when reading the work. I was very excited to see the script released in novel format, and I would love to see the production, and I do think it could be a great movie. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, as this was my first reading of the book, even though I preordered it and have had it for well over a year. This continuation of Harry’s tale, bringing his family into focus and revisiting events of his past was a wonderful idea. I had a good deal of trouble relating to the adult Harry and his son, Albus, at first. I found the boy to be quite impetulant and much more like a Malfoy than a Potter, and I thought Harry did not feel like the same person he was in the series. As the story went on I did relate a bit more the characters, and I admittedly do enjoy the idea of Hermione as Minster of Magic. I won’t mention too many more spoilers here, because a good deal of people have missed the book. Suffice to say that I enjoyed the continuation, but still would have loved more mention of the past events of the wizarding world.

Overall, this series is by far one of the best things I’ve read in my life – and, believe me, that list is NOT a small one. The wizarding world continues to have immense appeal to me, particularly in that they have little to no need of the technology that continues to drive this world forward and diminish our connection with the universe. The continued use of quills and lanterns, a lack of trivial things like television and video games, and the obvious embrace of the natural world still warms my heart, too. But what did you think about it? Do you love the series, do you hate it? If you’d never read it before, how did it hit you, and if you were returning to the books did you still find yourself interested in the story? What, if anything, changed for you? Share your thoughts in the comments and share this as far and wide as you can to get plenty of people involved! For me Harry Potter was, and is, truly an inspiration. The laughter, the tears and the passion that filled these pages will never die and I am exceptionally glad that I can always turn to them. I am proud to have grown up on them. I will be happy to pass them on to future generations. Always.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Happy Monday, everyone. This was an awesome book. Obviously, even though I made my schedule for the year and said I was only doing series reviews this year, the review bug and the need to discuss literature is absolutely irresistible. Call it the teacher in me. (It’s also indescribably thrilling to say that). Anyway, let’s dive into the discussion about this great work of art.

First and foremost I have to say that this book was a pleasant surprise. I first got the urge to read it after seeing the trailer for the movie (which, if you haven’t noticed, tends to happen a lot. When the worlds of art mediums collide I go a little nuts at times). I thought, based on the trailer and the reviews, that the story would be an interesting experience, and I was very right. The writing was something that I was automatically able to relate to, YA novels being easy going and workable in the best way.

The author, Becky Albertalli, presents her audience with a story that encompasses generations and breaks a lot of emotional barriers. I was instantly impressed with Simon’s maturity. For a junior in high school, he is already more than capable of understanding himself and has an immense threshold for emotion. Although it was a decade ago, I don’t think I remember many of the people I went to school with being capable of quite his level of adulthood.

Simon is a kid who realizes that he is gay. In today’s society coming to terms with that is obviously not quite as shunned as it was, say 20 years ago, but it is still one of the most difficult things some people can ever admit. This book does a fantastic job of delving into the problems with our world and the issues people have just letting other people be themselves. One of the biggest conflicts Simon faces is his own worry of how people will perceive the truth about his sexuality – the very nature of who he is. He is convinced that his family and friends, as well as his peers in school, will react negatively to his coming out. The high possibility of this fear being completely justified is driven home by our introduction to Simon, who starts his tale by being blackmailed by a guy in his school who has discovered his secret. Martin finds out Simon’s truth and decides to use it to benefit himself – by getting a date with one of Simon’s best friends. Great guy, right?

From here Simon’s tale turns into a roller coaster of emotion and experience. I found myself repeatedly blown away by Simon’s life. He has amazing friends and a great family. For the first half of the book we go with Simon on his journey of emailing his crush and dealing with his fear that the world will throw him aside and destroy him if they find out what he’s holding from them. The dynamic between Simon and his friends and family leaves nothing to be desired here. Even after he is unwillingly outed to the world, Simon’s close peers are more understanding than he could have ever imagined. His father, who has made lighthearted gay jokes for his entire life, is forced to face the music and comes to terms with how hurtful these words can be to his son. Something that he accepts and immediately apologizes for. As a whole, the reader is almost able to breathe a sigh of relief with Simon as he immerses himself into his life after everyone knows his secret. Very little changes for Simon once he goes back to school. Of course, there are a handful of immature people who make their remarks and poke fun, but the author is very careful to spin the story away from that. I do feel that she is trying to speak to new generations about how different the world is today, giving Simon a support base that provides him with everything he needs to understand that he is still loved for who he is, which hopefully will allow teens facing similar issues a doorway for the same.

I really don’t want to give much of the detail of this book out, because it is really something you just have to read. Simon’s story is absolutely his own, and I won’t take that from him. I feel no consternation saying that this is a book every single person with a pulse should read, regardless of your sexuality. Albertalli is very good at giving her audience everything they need to slide seamlessly into the scene. For much of the book I honestly related more to Simon’s life than I ever expected to.

For me one of the most important things this work brings to the table is the crucial need for humans to be accepting of one another. For decades the issue of gay and LGBTQ rights have been on the forefront of most news outlets. People have protested and marched, people have written letters and books, people have stood and fasted and done all nature of things to draw attention to this. As a Christian man in America I have heard so much about this issue, and I’ve always found it painful. For me the biggest problem with this entire issue is the very idea that we as a species feel we have any right to even question the desire of another person.

The issue of “the norm” is brought up repeatedly in the novel, and it spoke to me above all else. Simon repeatedly posits why straight and white are the norms, and it really drives the whole novel home. Anyone who has seen the movie trailer knows this is also a facet of the movie, and the question itself is one of the most important things Albertalli brought to the public eye. For me, everyone is important. Everyone is special. Everyone is worth living and loving. There is no such thing as “normal.” Living in a very rural area, I have unfortunately seen the culture of unacceptance, and I’ve never really understood it.

The idea that anyone feels they have a right to tell another person who they have a right to love is one of the biggest issues we can discuss in relation to Simon’s conflict. Every human on this planet is their own person, with their own reality, their own personality. Who we love is not the business of others and it is not for anyone on this planet to say who we can and cannot love – who we can and cannot be. I think the dichotomy of Simon’s unfortunate blackmail experience accompanied by his fear of this harsh possibility is something that speaks volumes as well.

Overall, I can’t think of much that I would change about this book. I would love to get more of a perspective of how Simon’s life changed after he figured out who Blue was (I won’t spoil that here!), of course. We get some of that experience, naturally, but I would really like to get a sort of long-haul look. Maybe a follow-up novel detailing Simon’s senior year, or his transition to college would be a good idea (hint hint, Becky!). I would also like to see more of an internal scope of Martin’s point of view about the whole thing.

Regardless, I definitely recommend this book. It will open your eyes to a point of view that some people intentionally avoid and it will give you a new perspective on life. As always, I’m working on my own writing as well behind the scenes and I am enjoying my journey as well. My review of the Harry Potter series will be up later this month as planned, and I’ll be looking into another series review after that if my work schedule permits it. Of course, there will likely be another few books that insist I discuss them as well, so be sure to tag along for the journey!! Feel free to share your comments about this book or any of my other reviews, and leave me any suggestions you have about a future review. I love to check them out! Have an awesome week, and stay tuned for the updates I’ll have for you on my many projects.

Today’s the day!

I hope you’ve all gotten plenty of rest after that long-haul read last month. I wanted to give you all a few extra days to recover before I made this month’s announcement, but today is the day! In more ways than one, you’ll see soon enough.

For this month, I thought we would read a classic banned book, since Banned Book Week is at the end of September. I chose “Bridge to Terabithia” as the book for this month. This is a great YA novella that has been adapted into a good-quality film as well. I have a soft spot for this work, because it’s on the list of books that helped inspired me to really tackle my own desire to write. It’s relatively short and a really good read, so I’m sure you’ll all enjoy the break after August’s marathon with “IT.”

Speaking of “IT,” today is the official unofficial movie release in my region! I’ll be seeing the new film tonight and I couldn’t be more excited! I may even be inspired to do a movie review post as a companion to the book review, depending on how inspired I am after seeing the movie. I hope you’ll all be able to hit some early premieres and let us know what your thoughts are as well.

Anyway, this month’s book will hopefully impress everyone and help bring you to a heightened and effective state of mind and spirit! Have you ever  read this book before? Did you see the movie? Do you like them? Let me know what you think in the comments below. And, as always, if you have any suggestions of what you’d like me to review in the future, leave me a comment or shoot me a message! Have a great weekend, everyone!

13 Reasons Why

I hope everyone took the time to read this awesome book by Jay Asher. I honestly felt it was more than just a novel; it was an experience. Asher uses Clay to take us on an insane journey through Hannah Baker’s life and, ultimately, death. I finished this book much quicker than I thought I would and I don’t think I’ve been quite so invested in a YA novel in a long time.

From the first page I could feel the pain and angst Clay was experiencing. The writing in this book was more or less what you would expect, coming from the perspective of a teenager.  It was very conversational and relatable. At first the feeling of trepidation was almost tangible. I could almost put myself in Clay’s shoes as he put that first tape in the player and heard Hannah’s voice come out of the speakers. The feeling of shock as he realized just what he was listening to is still with me.

I loved reading as Clay wrestled with whether or not to actually listen to the tapes. The idea that there could be literally anything on them, that he had absolutely no idea what effect he had had on Hannah’s life, was one of the most intense things in the book. With the turn of every tape, with every new detail Hannah expressed, Clay’s tension got greater and greater and I felt like I gripped the book tighter and tighter. Seeing the pain his friends and classmates caused and knowing what the result of that pain was made Clay all that much more tormented by the tapes.

One of the most important things the book really brought to light is the real and true effect that our actions can have on others. To hear the description of how the actions of Hannah’s classmates lead her to make the decision she did was really astonishing. As someone who (believe it or not) is just over half a decade out of my teens, I remember things like what Hannah described happening in my school. Casual discussions of who was the most attractive, who was into whom, rumors of which girls (and guys) did what and with whom – those especially – were everywhere in high school. Unfortunately, some of it even lasted through to college, but that’s a whole different story. Really seeing what effect those things can have on someone is hopefully eye-opening to anyone who feels they need to do such things.

As Clay got to his own story, the feeling of relief he felt at knowing that his own page in Hannah’s story was actually a relatively good one was seriously heart wrenching. Seeing the words on the page was almost like watching a movie. For the most part with large portions of this book it was always like watching a film that words couldn’t compare to. I know that’s an odd way to put it, but hopefully some of you understand.

The last bit of the book was insanely powerful. Clay kept listening to the tapes despite the intense pain he was feeling over the matter. He talks so much of how he felt he could love Hannah, may even have loved her before she killed herself. The biggest thing that hurt him with this tale is knowing her whole story, knowing what else had happened to her. Seeing him continually wonder if there was something he could have done to save her, seeing him practically begging the universe for a second chance for her, was heart-breaking. Anyone who has lost someone – to suicide or not – knows this feeling. I think the stage of life you are in has something to do with just how hard it hits you, as well. While I was in high school I actually lost someone who was very special to me, and I took it very hard. Although it was not a suicide I wondered why it happened, what more could have been done to prevent it and if similar situations could end differently.

I think the main point this book brought forward to me is the way people process what happens to them, what is said about them, what we can do to change that and how wide our circle of impact really is. So many people are effected by anything and everything we say or do, and I feel like we really don’t consider that most of the time.

With this book, I don’t think I really had many complaints. Given that it was a YA novel, told from a first person point of view, there were things that you had to attune yourself to with the tone of the writing and the voice of the author, but it definitely didn’t take away from the story. I guess my biggest complaint would be that, for a good portion of the book, I was hoping it would be revealed that Hannah hadn’t actually killed herself. I hoped that on the last tape she would explain that, despite the problems she’d faced, the pain others had caused, the rumors they’d told and the suffering she’d experienced she was going to rise above. I hoped to hear her say she had asked her parents to take her to another town, that she had decided to run away, that her death had somehow been a hoax, but it didn’t happen. Her final words affirmed her plans and ended the 13th part of her story, leading to that mentally taxing scene with Clay falling asleep listening to the static of the other side of the final tape.

Basically, this book was enlightening, incredible and educational. I think anyone and everyone would benefit from reading this awesome work. I chose this book because one of my high school English teachers asked me to look into it and it has been on my radar for a while. It’s a book that her students have been interested in, but she was worried that it may glorify suicide and cause problems. If anyone is worried about this, I’m glad to say I don’t feel like it glorifies suicide in any way. I think the book serves as a warning for our behavior and the pain and problems it can cause. In addition to being a warning for us to monitor our behavior, I think it also serves as a bit of a warning to anyone who  may be considering suicide. It shows the reader that suicide, like rumors and other painful things, has an effect on everyone around us. Although the pain of life may be over for one who commits suicide, the hole we create by not being there is still very much a problem for those we leave behind.

Finally, Asher tells the story without really using the word suicide very much. I thought this was a good thing. It made the act as well as the word seem almost taboo. While telling the story, he shines a light on some of the common signs exhibited by those considering suicide. He even mentions a list of signs of suicidal thinking, which can be found online here; http://bit.ly/2mrmpWD among other places.

I couldn’t do a post like this without saying I can’t stress enough that if you are considering suicide, you have to find the light in life. As someone who has been there, I can definitely say that, if you look, you’ll find many more reasons to live than you could ever find to die. Suicide is final. It is not a way out. It is not good. It can’t solve the problems, it can only cause so many more…

Anyway, that’s a post unto itself as well. I hope you all enjoyed this book as much as I did, and I really look forward to reading your thoughts on it. My announcement for the next book in the book club will be posted on or around Tuesday. Leave me suggestions in the comments or send them to me in a message. I want to know what you guys want to read and discuss! Share this as far and wide as you can to get a lot of eyes on it. There are a lot of people who could benefit from reading this book, and hearing that it’s not a terrible representation of the issue might help them get motivated. Thanks for reading with me, and I look forward to seeing what’s next!

Book Number 3

Happy New Year, everybody! I hope the holidays treated you all very nicely and I hope 2017 is starting out awesome. I’ve really enjoyed the first two books in the book club so far and I look forward to continuing the project in 2017. I hope to get the club spread farther than ever as we go on this year. That will definitely be helped by getting a lot more interaction with comments and spreading the word!

All that being said, without further ado, the big announcement for the first of 2017 is nigh! For this month I think we’ll tackle a little YA fiction and run with a New York Times bestseller; The 5th Wave.

This book, published a few years ago by Rick Yancey, tells the story of an alien invasion that pits man against man, woman against woman and children against children. Mankind suffers multiple waves of alien attack that leaves the species crippled and isolated.

I’ve had my eye on this book for a while and I look forward to getting to cover it! I hope you’ll all join in and discuss it with me!

Look for my review to be posted on the 28th. Keep me posted on your progress on social media and right here!