I love this book so much, I lingered over it and made it last me for days and days instead of gobbling it down like I did the first two. I would pause at favorite bits and savor them. I reread my favorite page in the whole series multiple times. I stopped and reread my favorite two chapters. I let myself savor the story, the characters, the writing. It was a glorious reread.
I was very much struck, this time, with Snape's correct assessment of Harry's character flaws. He says, "famous Harry Potter is a law unto himself. Let the ordinary people worry about his safety! Famous Harry Potter goes where he wants to, with no thought for the consequences" (p. 284). How right you are, Snape! Harry really does think he can do just about anything, and so far, he's gotten out of some bad scrapes pretty handily that he wouldn't have really needed to get out of if he hadn't gotten himself into them in the first place.
This is a common thing in kids books, where kids just ignore the wise adults and go their merry way and solve everything on their own by doing ridiculously dangerous things. I'm glad Rowling addresses that issue in her series, that she shows that this is NOT a good way to go about things, especially as the series progresses. Yes, Harry is not an ordinary boy... but he's also only a boy. And his stubborn belief that He Knows Best does have serious consequences at times. As Lupin says about himself and his friends at Harry's age, "We were young, thoughtless -- carried away with our own cleverness" (p. 355). It's a dangerous business, being young and thinking you're invincible.
Part of me wants to just stop here, with a vast array of possibilities ahead for Sirius and Harry, everything hopeful and unknown. I won't. I'll keep rereading the series. But I'm also going to very much enjoy the next couple of weeks before I start book four, of living in this in-between world for a bit.
|(Mine from my Instagram account.)|
Particularly Good Bits:
Meanwhile, in the rest of the castle, the usual magnificent Christmas decorations had been put up, despite the fact that hardly any of the students remained to enjoy them. Thick streamers of holly and mistletoe were strung along the corridors, mysterious lights shone from inside every suit of armor, and the Great Hall was filled with its usual twelve Christmas trees, glittering with golden stars. A powerful and delicious smell of cooking pervaded the corridors, and by Christmas Eve, it had grown so strong that even Scabbers poked his nose out of the shelter of Ron's pocket to sniff hopefully at the air (p. 222).
"What was there to be gained by fighting the most evil wizard who has ever existed?" said Black, with a terrible fury in his face. "Only innocent lives, Peter!" (p. 375).
Black's gaunt face broke into the first true smile Harry had seen upon it. The difference it made was startling, as though a person ten years younger were shining through the starved mask; for a moment, he was recognizable as the man who had laughed at Harry's parents' wedding (p. 379). (That's basically my favorite paragraph in the whole series.)
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for some rude humor, mild bad language, peril to children, discussion of executions, and the very scary Dementors.
Cora's family has fallen into hard times ever since her father died while ice fishing. Shunned by many villagers who think they're cursed, Cora's widowed mother and her three siblings struggle for basic necessities like food and socks.
The village is watched over by a remote deity called the Winter King. Cora blames him for her father's death and her family's struggles. When a coughing sickness strikes the village, Cora becomes determined to confront the Winter King. When she finally does, she learns more than she could have ever expected and brings true peace not only to her own heart, but to the lives of her whole village.
This book started a little slowly, but it built steadily until I was totally gripped by Cora's fight to find a way to save her family and understand her god. It can be read as an allegory for the Protestant Reformation, with sacred texts and the truth they hold being withheld from the common people, but also as simply a coming-of-age story of a determined young woman trying to make sense of her world with too little guidance. I'm labeling it as Christian fiction, but it's not overtly Christian, only allegorically so.
Oh, and before you start comparing the "coughing sickness" to Covid-19 too strongly -- this book was published in 2019, before the virus was in our public consciousness here in the US. So that's totally a coincidence.
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for a man who presses his attentions on a woman he has power over, some scary moments with monsters, descriptions of death, and a few kisses between young adults. No bad language, no racy content, no gory violence.
This is my 14th book read from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.
I watched the 1934 movie starring Leslie Howard close to twenty years ago, and the 1982 miniseries starring Anthony Andrews much more recently than that, so I knew the basic story (and the real identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel) already. But most of the plot had kind of faded from my memory, so that was fresh and exciting for me. By the last ten chapters or so, I was on tenterhooks to see how it would all get resolved. In fact, I did my housework extra-fast so I could finish it :-) And that's just what I want from an adventure novel!
I took a class in college on the French Revolution, so I know that Orczy doesn't particularly cling to facts in this -- hundreds of heads weren't actually getting chopped off every single day, and so on. But the atmosphere of fear and antagonism was very, very real, and I think she got the emotional truths just right.
After I finished the book, I read the introduction in my MacMillan Collector's Library edition, and it annoyed me so much. The intro was written by Hilary Mantel, and it is snide, holier-than-thou, and seems to entirely miss the point of this book being about people using their wits and talents in the service of others. Mantel's whole attitude grated on me so much, I've deleted her books from my to-read lists. I was especially vexed by her missing what I believe Orczy's point was in the part where she repeatedly describes a Jewish man as being despised, degraded, cringing away from other people, and so on -- Orczy constantly talks about how the French people are despising them, reviling them, and behaving very racistly toward this Jewish man. I think she's making a point here about the horribleness of her villains, NOT trying to say that Jewish people are despicable, degraded, or animal-like.
Anyway, I definitely recommend this book, just not that introduction ;-)
Particularly Good Bits:
The rest is silence! -- silence and joy for those who had endured so much suffering, yet found at last a great and lasting happiness (p. 315). (Awww, it's a Hamlet quotation!)
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for some scenes of peril and violence.
This is my 17th book read and reviewed for my 3rd Classics Club list and my 13th read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021
Plus, it was just lovely to get to see actual photographs of her family! I've seen a couple of them before, but this had many more than I had ever encountered. If you're at all a fan of her books, this is definitely a great resource to pair with them. My only complaint is that I wanted there to just be more and more and more, hee.
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G. Great for all ages!
This was my 12th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021
Let's begin with the things I liked a lot. Oliver! I liked Oliver so much. He is everything I like in a guy -- helpful, kind, thoughtful, never pushy, respectful, relaxed, funny, playful, and great at chopping wood. He was definitely my favorite, and I basically liked him from the get-go.
Josie was also an interesting bundle of conflictedness. She's mourning her dad, she's trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life, she's convinced she's falling in love with a guy who lived two hundred years ago... Josie has a lot going on. She struggles, she flails, she rises, she sinks, she rises again. Half the time I wanted to hug her, and half the time I wanted to give her a stern talking-to. So I'd say she was a very realistic character in a lot of ways. But she tried my patience at times. Still, in the end, I liked her.
Elias, I just... was frustrated by. It bothered me how he convinces himself he's in love with a girl he's met once and can't stop obsessing over her, to the point that he pushes away everyone trying to help him and be kind to him. I get that he's had a really hard life, and I get that he's been emotionally abused in the past. But I found him clingy and obsessive. I was happy for him by the end, though.
Josie's best friend Faith was nice, and I liked how supportive she was of Josie, but I never felt like I really got to know her very well. Mostly, she was just a sounding board for Josie's thoughts.
SPOILERS: I was also frustrated by the lack of closure on the possible time-travel? It was talked about and played with, and I just wish there had been a definite "yeah, he totally met someone else" or something. This is a ME thing, though -- I demand closure and don't handle ambiguous endings and unresolved plot strings well. That's part of why I love specific mystery writers so much -- I know I can trust them to deliver definitive answers. Usually. END SPOILERS.
I do have a nit to pick with the author and editors, though, and that regards their sloppy historical inaccuracies. Coasters for drinks were a thing in the early 1900s, not the early 1800s. I'm quite confident no one writing in the 1820s would have used the phrase "had messed with his mind" (p. 133). 'Okay' comes from American slang of the late 1830s and was spelled as "OK" until well into the twentieth century, when 'okay' became the new spelling. Those were all used by someone writing in the 1820s, and I'm not cool with it. When I write and edit my books, I spend hours and hours and hours checking words, phrases, and names for things to see if they would have been in use in the year the particular book I'm writing is set. My editor does the same. I'm sure we miss a few things, but there are only two of us. This is a book published by a major publishing house and presumably passing the scrutiny of multiple editors and proofreaders. Tsk tsk. (There's also an anachronistic use of the term 'turducken,' which wasn't coined until the 1970s, but that gets a pass because of plot points later on, and because the concept of cooking animals inside other animals has been a thing since Medieval times, at least.)
Yes, that's nit-picky. Yes, those were minor things. Yes, it did bug me enough to write that whole paragraph up about it, though.
So, in the end, this was a fun, fast read. I liked how it wove emails and texts and letters and a novel-within-the-novel together, and it was never hard to follow who was saying what, so that's pretty impressive. It had a lot of great lines and some wonderful themes about grieving, support, loss, friendship, kindness, and real love versus imagined love. I especially liked how it showcased the dangers of wrapping all your emotions around a person you don't know, be they a person you met once or a fictional character (and it could extend to obsessions with celebrities too), while not caring for those real people in your real life. So I do recommend it, overall. Also, it's nominally Christian fiction, the kind where characters sometimes talk about praying.
Particularly Good Bits:
"I blame literature for her behavior. A lady who reads too many words eventually feels the need to voice some of her own" (p. 49).
Nobody knows what they're doing. We just put our best foot forward and give life a go (p. 58).
People who laugh at themselves make superb company (p. 115).
"I do believe literature holds the best of us... or perhaps it reflects the better versions of who we are" (p. 138).
...grief can't be hurried or pummelled with self-help. It's just there (p. 195).
We are moulded by our circumstances, but we are not our parents' mistakes. We are not the errors inflicted upon us (p. 269).
Lots of girls believe they'll be happier once they find Prince Charming, but marriage isn't a fairy godmother waving a wand to change a pumpkin into a carriage. It doesn't instantly transform people into better versions of themselves. Instead, it brings couples together and asks them to use love as a reason to become better (p. 296).
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for the use of the repeated use of the word 'bastard' in its literal meaning of 'an illegitimate child.' No actual bad language, no racy scenes, no violence. Some kissing.
This is the 11th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021
One of the joys of raising kids who read is that, eventually, they'll start recommending books to you! Which is what happened with this book. My kids read it, and the two sequels, and laughed sooooo hard over them. They began to quote them constantly. A couple of weeks ago, my son said to me, "Maybe you should just read the first book, Mom. Then you'd know what we're talking about." I think he was surprised when I said, "Okay!" You should have seen how ridiculously pleased all three of them were whenever they'd see me reading this book. They'd ask me what part I was at, and if I'd met such-and-such a character yet, and so on. It was pretty adorable.
This book is really funny. It has unexpected, quirky humor, which is my favorite kind. Too many books for kids this age rely on potty humor or rudeness to be funny, but this has genuine, clever humor to it. It made me laugh aloud too!
It's all about a couple of orphan girls who go on a Quest thanks to a magic gauntlet one of them gets stuck on their hand. With the aid of a somewhat inept young wizard and an unpredictable instructor, they set off to find out where they belong and fulfill their Quest before time runs out. They encounter everything from a giant robot to wolves made of sand on the way, and have a series of more or less successful escapes, thanks in part to a magical book that sometimes tells them what they need to know.
Particularly Good Bits:
The man smiled the smile of someone who didn't much care for smiling, felt smiling generally to be a nuisance, and whose facial muscles were so out of practice they seemed to have forgotten most of the required movements (p. 84).
"An archaeologist tried to kill us," said Hiro.
Jocelyn nodded. "They can get like that sometimes" (p. 229).
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for adventurous peril and lots of dangerous situations, including fending off zombie sharks. No bad language.
Cordy posted this at Any Merry Little Thought, and it looked like fun, so I thought I'd give it a whirl myself!
|(All photos are mine from my Instagram.)|
2) You must go to tea with Mrs. Jennings or Mrs. Bennet. Who would you rather go with?