Last year, Pottermore collected and published in 3 separate e-books the supplemental texts J.K. Rowling had written about Hogwarts and the wizarding world and its people. Although I was curious about these e-books, I held out for as long as I could on purchasing them in hopes that physical copies would be printed and available at my library.
Last year, I didn’t see the point in purchasing these e-books since their content were (probably are) available for free on Pottermore. However, this year I succumbed to my curiousity and purchased all three e-books because of the convenience of having all that content in one place and not having to click around on a website to find it. (I’d still prefer a physical copy of them, though.)
I was driven to these e-books by my craving for more stories set in the Rowling’s wizarding world. Though these collections do not contain stories, my craving were satiated by the short pieces within them that provided facts about beings, individuals, places, and occurrences at Hogwarts and in the wizarding world.
In 2008, J.K. Rowling delivered a deeply affecting commencement speech at Harvard University. Now published for the first time in book form, Very Good Lives offers J.K. Rowling’s words of wisdom for anyone at a turning point in life, asking the profound and provocative questions: How can we embrace failure? And how can we use our imagination to better both ourselves and others?
Drawing from stories of her own post-graduate years, the world-famous author addresses some of life’s most important issues with acuity and emotional force. (Goodreads)
Toward the end of last year, I visited the library and unsure of what to get, I grabbed whatever caught my eye. Very Good Lives was one of the three books I left with.
Very Good Lives is the published copy of a speech J.K. Rowling gave at Harvard’s commencement in 2008. It’s not the first that I’ve encountered it. I watched a video of Rowling giving the speech a couple years ago on Brain Pickings. There were several other commencement speeches in that post, including one by Steve Jobs, and all were uplifting.
It’s the Harry Potter Book Tag!! Guess who’s happy? 😀
So there I was reading through blog posts one day when I found this tag on Summer’s blog. Her answers were hilarious and I delighted in reading them. I began to think to myself “Gosh, this would be a great tag to do” when I got to the end and realized that Summer tagged me to do it. Ahh!! This crazy Harry Potter fan was overjoyed (and silly for not checking her notifications feed). Thanks for the tag, Summer! Let’s get to it.
Lots of interesting bookish news was released last week. Here’s a round up:
Harper Lee’s new novel
Early last week it was announced that Harper Lee, author of the classic best seller, To Kill a Mockingbird, will release a sequel, Go Set a Watchman. The new novel is slated to be published on July 14 in both the U.S. and the U.K., but it’s already a best seller on Amazon.
The novel features an adult Scout who returns to Maycomb from New York City to visit her father, Atticus. There, she is “forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand both her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.” Apparently the novel was thought lost until it was discovered by Tonja Carter, Lee’s lawyer and friend, in 2014.
According to Lee, she completed the novel in the mid-1950s but set it aside since her editor was more interested in the flashbacks of Scout’s childhood. Her editor convinced her to write a novel from the point of view of young Scout, which became To Kill a Mockingbird.
I bought this book at Barnes & Noble thinking I read it back in high school. The book I recalled reading had a girl with flaming red hair, wielding a sword, and fighting a dragon that burnt off all her hair, which was never again as lustrous as it once was. After reading The Blue Sword, I realized that the book I was thinking of was The Hero and the Crown. As I mentioned in my reflection on Spindle’s End, The Hero and the Crown was the first book I read by Robin McKinley. Like Ursula Le Guin and J.K. Rowling, McKinley’s characters tend to stay with me for years. The details of the story may cloud over with memories but the characters never fade away.
At first, I did not expect any aspect of The Blue Sword to stand out to me. When I discovered it was not the book I thought it to be, I got upset and felt gypped and threw the book back in my bookcase. I didn’t bother to give it a chance. And how rude of me to do so, especially to Robin McKinley! A few months later, I saw The Blue Sword again while I was organizing my bookcase and decided to read it
A quick summary: (Here be spoilers!)
The Blue Sword is about a girl named Harry Crewe who moves to Ihistan, a military outpost in Daria, a land claimed by Homelanders, to live closer to her brother after their father died. She finds herself bored by the area but fascinated by its native inhabitants, the Damarians, or the Hillfolk, as they are referred to by the Homelanders. (The Hillfolk call the Homelanders Outlanders.) The Homelanders invaded and colonized Damar, a fabled land that is said to contain magic, to access the mines in its hills. Leaving the desert to the invading Homelanders, the Damarians retreated to the mountains that surround the desert. While some Damarians mingle with the Homelanders, others refuse to associate with them. Both, though, refuse to share much of their culture with the Homelanders, whom they see as obnoxious. The Homelanders instead speculate about what they do not know of the Damarians, who they think to be peculiar and secretive.
It was an okay read. I wasn’t overjoyed by it but I was hooked on the story as always. Well, I’m always hooked on anything J.K. Rowling writes. Of course, I will have to read The Casual Vacancy to prove this true. I love the Harry Potter series and I appreciate this installment, which is somewhat different from the previous two in that it deviates from including an appearance from Lord Voldemort. Instead, we are shown how much fear acts as a tool that aids Voldemort’s influence and power.
Fear is essential to Voldemort’s power. People fear him so much that they are afraid to say his name and instead refer to him as “He Who Must Not Be Named.” It’s as if by uttering his name he will immediately appear and wreck havoc on that unfortunate person’s life.
In this installment we learn what Harry fears. Naturally, we (and all the adults in the book) assume that Harry fears Voldemort. After all, Voldemort, though physically weakened, is powerful through influence and is immensely evil. Furthermore, he wants to kill Harry. But no; it’s not Voldemort. The next logical assumption would be the immediate threat, Sirius Black, since through much of the novel it is assumed that he broke out of Azkaban (the only wizard able to do such a thing) for the sole purpose of murdering Harry (completing his master’s wishes, supposedly). But no; not him either.
For some reason, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has never left an impression on me even when I was a young fan. Back then, I read it just so I could move on to the next book in the series. It was simply a passing note for me, an installment that needed to be read so I could understand what comes next.
Now a few years older, I’ve read it again and still it didn’t give me a POW! like the first book. However, instead of simply bypassing it, I am able to see the little breadcrumbs that Rowling drops to alert the reader of what’s to come.
This is one of the reasons why I love the Harry Potter series. All the books relate and everything ties into each other. We see Voldemort’s first horcrux – Tom Riddle’s diary – and by the end of the series, we understand that he murdered Moaning Myrtle (though she wasn’t moaning back then, bawling maybe) to create it. We also learn that a piece of Voldemort lives inside Harry Potter (an eighth* horcrux, which explains Harry’s partial resemblance to Riddle and his having powers similar to Voldemort: parseltongue). I don’t think this is mentioned again until the final book when that part of Harry is removed.
The important lesson in this installment is that it’s our choices that make us who we are, as Dumbledore advised Harry. This is the same as the lesson taught to Richard by Zeddicus Zul Zorander in The Wizard’s First Rule (a book I began but am unable to finish due to its circuitous nature and annoyingly love-struck characters). Dumbledore shares this lesson with Harry since Harry doubts his placement in Gryffindor; however, Dumbledore states that because Harry asked not to be placed in Slytherin, he made a choice that reflects his character and sets him apart from Voldemort. He exercised his freewill.
Returning to Hogwarts was the best idea I’ve had in months! (By the way, I initially typed Hogwarts with a lower-case h and Microsoft Word automatically changed it to upper-case; therefore Hogwarts is a real place. I shall visit it one day)
I’ve been busy these past months, what with the new job I started at the beginning of the year that popped up right on time to help me with my student loan bills (pesky, pesky things they are; my Evanesco spell simply doesn’t work on them; I need more practice. Pottermore, here I come). I decided to take a mini-vacation from work and read my all-time favorite novel in the entire world, in my 24 years, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the U.K.) by J.K. Rowling. I think this is the best book in the series because it is the first.
It’s this book that got me so hooked that I couldn’t manage to tear my eyes from the pages when I first picked up the novel in the library of my middle school. What made me decide to read Harry Potter? I haven’t the slightest clue. All I know is that I became transfixed on that first paragraph and was held captive my Rowling’s string of characters and twisting storyline until the end of the series and after.