Sunday, July 19, 2009

Farewell, Frank McCourt...

Frank McCourt, acclaimed author of Angela's Ashes, passed away today at the age of 78. What a sad day and tragic loss for the literary community...

Read more about his death and his literary legacy at NPR; find his Washington Post obituary here.

Find titles by McCourt here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Harry Potter!!

Hey folks, Lauren here. I saw Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince last night, and I LOVED it! Changes are inevitable in film adaptations, particularly in a series with the scope of HP, but overall I thought it was beautifully shot and really well done. A few minor complaints, of course, but I won't share them here for the good of those of you who haven't seen it yet. (And to those people, I say: go now and go repeatedly!)

Anyway, I now have Harry Potter on the brain, and as such, I thought I'd share my favorite books in the series. My ranking has been met with some disagreement, and my movie ranking is completely different, but here you have it...


1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Two words: Sirius Black.

I unabashedly adore Sirius Black, and I have to admit that I did not see that whole godfather thing coming. I loved that Harry finally found such a profound connection to his parents and their past, and the fact that it came in such an unexpected way made it even better. And who doesn't love a little time travel paradox?



2. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Okay, so we all know how this one ends, and for me, it wasn't easy to get through. Still, I loved it. I really enjoyed discovering the identity of the Half Blood Prince, and the development of the whole horcrux thing is so central to Voldemort. I also liked seeing a bit more depth to Draco Malfoy, and of course, Ron playing Quidditch.

But if you ask me, the best thing about this book is Snape. He's undoubtedly my favorite character in the series, in part because for so much of it, you never really know which side he's on. There's something so delicious about that, and either way it goes, he's such a fascinating guy. I confess that I wanted him to turn out to be a good guy in the end, and that perhaps made his actions in this installment all the more shocking and powerful.


3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

There were one or two things in the big finale that I wanted to see handled a bit differently. For instance, I do wish that Rowling had cut about 100 pages of Ron & Harry running around in the forest and fleshed out some of the action at the end--particularly where the Malfoys are concerned. On the whole, however, I really loved how she brought everything to a close in Deathly Hallows.

I had one personal addendum to the epilogue, though: in my mind, Luna Lovegood is totally married to Neville Longbottom and teaching Divination at Hogwart's.


4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

How can you not enjoy the Triwizard Tournament? And Mad Eye Moody's first appearance? And our first glimpse into the pensieve? And Cedric Diggory!!

And of course, that tragic and fantastic ending that brings Voldemort back to life. It's such a critical turning point for Harry, and one of our first experiences of the truly dark current that rides under the remaining novels.


5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Our introduction to Harry and Hogwarts and the world of wizardry. I found this one completely delightful, and it only ranks fifth on my list because compared to the others it's a bit slower and less dramatic. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the series of challenges facing the gang as they try and find the stone. And even here, Rowling has a talent for the surprising, twisty ending--and it's here as well that my love of Severus Snape begins.


6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

All right, this one would be much further up the list if I hadn't found it so devastating to get through. Harry faces trials--of both the adolescent and magical sort--in every installment of the series, but in this one, I felt as if he (and we as well) got very little relief.

There is, of course, the awesome exception of the Weasley twins' fireworks show, and the deliciously satisfying way that Dolores Umbridge meets her end. Those are but two small flickers of light in the otherwise darkest novel in the series until then. That's not to say I don't love this one too; I just felt the weight of it profoundly--and was heartbroken by the loss of Sirius.


7. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

I have to admit that, generally speaking, I found Chamber of Secrets relatively uneventful. Yeah, Harry's a parseltongue and Ginny's rescue is pretty great, but for some reason this one didn't strike a chord with me the way the others did.

Tom Riddle's journal is pretty cool though, as is the insight into Voldemort's former life at Hogwart's, and I was very drawn into Harry's struggle with his house identity.



All right, that's it! Are you with me, or did I get it totally wrong?? Do share--and while you're commenting, I'll be embarking on a massive re-read...

(Oh, and one final HP delight that you MUST check out if you haven't seen it already: Harry Potter and the Mysterious Ticking Noise.)