Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Latest Three: Harry Potter Re-read Wonderfulness Part 5

The Latest Three is my reader's review blog series where I talk about the latest three books I've read and at least enjoyed to some degree. The policy is that if I feel the book wasn't totally pointless, which I usually do, then I discuss the things I liked most in hopes there will be something that intrigues you enough to pick it up yourself. But at the same time, I give honest commentary and discuss things I wasn't too fond of either so you can understand the best scope of the book in your endeavor to read lots of really great books! Obviously, these come in batches of three, but if you like my review style head over to Goodreads and follow me, Kateri Ransom. I post those as I read them.

(In regards to the "Harry Potter Re-read Wonderfulness" part of the blog post title, if you missed one of my previous posts, wherein there was Part 1 of this reader review series, the update is that I'll be re-reading and reviewing the entire HP series front to back, but reading a different YA/MG/Adult book in between, like I usually do. Because, like many of us bookish fiends, my TBR pile is too big to ignore for too long. You understand, I'm sure.)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J. K. Rowling
I've always said this book was one of my favorites, and I was more than thrilled, upon this re-reading since the very first time I read it, that the experience was only a reminder of that original one. Perhaps when I first read it, not knowing where exactly it was going and trying to make sense of the horcruxes/hallows/constant inter-changing and shifting of loyalty between the character's wands, I felt it did drag some here and there. But this time through, I found it to be such a thrill ride! One thing after another. Action-packed. And not quite Rowling's typical writing style. There's quite a bit I have to say about this one, so I'll try to keep it simple.
Also, please only read on if you have already read the books or seen the movie. ;)
1. The Memorials: In chapter 15, I was reminded of the two memorial bits to Harry's parents that take place in Godric's Hollow, and subsequently bummed they didn't include them in the movie. 
2. Bathilda Bagshot: Chapter 16 is SO MUCH SCARIER when you know what's going to happen. Or at least, it was for me. 
3. Ron's Revenge: Re-familiarizing myself with the scene where Ron kills the horcrux, which you probably know involved some nudity in the movie, made me do some thinking. I'm not going to get too into this one, but I definitely think changing it the way they did affected how those who've only seen the movies see Ron, and not in such a good way. Or at least, it featured him in a less complex/empathetic light than the books did. 
4. Ariana and Those Muggles: I found it interesting when Rowling took the opportunity to develop the theme of prejudice and hate crimes with the character Ariana. I'm referring to her back-story, concerning what happened with the group of Muggle boys. 
5. Darn Those Slytherins: I wish at least 1-2 Slytherins had chosen to stay and fight. I didn't quite like seeing the "evil" group portrayed as totally and determinedly evil. Think of how interesting it would have been if even one of them had stayed. 
6. Poor Harry: I was surprised to discover how many things had been taken away from Harry in the movie, like Luna having the answer as to finding the lost diadem and certain things he says to Voldemort in the end. 
7. Professor Badass-McGonagall: There was one thing I did like better in the movie. The way McGonagall furiously and ferociously takes down Snape in front of the entire school in the movie was just bad-ass. Considering I've watched the movie more times than I've read the book, it just conditioned me to expect no less amount of bad-ass-ness. Though in the book, she is plenty bad-ass for the lot of them.

My Name is Mina, David Almond
This batch of Latest Three, I read a MG!
Let me just start this book commentary by saying what a WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL book this is! The book cover as well as the -- very vague -- blurb on the back cover describe Mina as a lover of the night, seemingly giving the book description a lot of emphasis on that one particular thing. However, though there are several wonderful scenes in which Mina explores the wonder and mystery of the night through her new journal, I sort of feel this book should say My Name is Mina and I love sitting in my big tree, watching birds and writing poems and other ridiculous things...or something to that extent. Simply because I felt the novel centered more around her experience in that tree writing those fantastical musings and stories of hers. This book is told from the perspective and many "persons" (as in, first and third person narrative) of Mina McKee, a misfit and a middle-schooler. Almond does a beautiful job of getting into this unusual girl's head and pulling out every whimsical, philosophical, quirky, and endearing aspect of it. Mina is the kind of little girl I would have been drawn to as a kid, as I was drawn to my own "Mina-type" character in real life. Someone who stands out and stands for what it is they, not necessarily believe in, but just know. As I believe it is with all kids that age. I wanted to take Mina in my arms and hug her and love her and call her my little Sweetie Face. Anyway. Enough of this rambling. Here is what I thought of My Name is Mina.
1. OK. So. Literary Fiction: I know this can be a touchy way to classify a book amongst us intelligent YA bloggers, but just going off the definition alone that "literary fiction" is character based fiction,* I'd definitely put this book more under that description. There is very little plot to the book, but don't fear. This book IS NOT BORING. It is the opposite of boring, but only because of Mina's character, which is exactly the way good "literary" (character based) fiction should be, if you ask me. For a young reader, it's a great segue into a different realm of literature they very likely haven't yet experienced. 
2. The Religion Thing: There is some discussion about God in this book, but also about other religions as well. Even just the "after-world" or the "underworld" or the "any-world," Mina goes her head of course, but really, what difference does that make? It was refreshing to see this subject approached in such a comprehensive, thoughtful, and respectful way. 
3. It's a Memoir (Sort of): The book primarily consists of Mina writing stories about herself in the journal, and when she does so, she often uses first person or third person past tense, because she's cool like that. The result is surprisingly introspective, and I absolutely loved it! 
4. Quick (But in My Opinion, Quite Accurate) Comparison:  If Luna Lovegood were a MG book, she would be this one.

I will leave you with a list of words I believe capture the essence of this novel: nonsensical, William Blake, paradox, loss, mythology, birds, owls, trees, poetry, the Underworld, archaeopteryx, peeing, dreams, friends, lonely, Extraordinary Activity, A Single Sentence, glibbertysnark.

Crown of Midnight, Sarah J. Maas
It bummed me out a little bit at how long it took me to get to reading this book, but boy was I glad I did! First of all, I love Sarah Maas's writing. It reminds me of those paintings where the paint is so thick it forms on the canvas like little hills and clumps of vibrant color; it's got texture and movement. That's Sarah's writing. And her scene! I love how she just squeezes the life out of each one, and takes the time to revel in a moment, be it beautiful, visceral, or just plain freaky. This book, like the last one, started out slow, but it certainly does pick up. Here are my thoughts about Crown of Midnight.
(This is primarily for those who've read the first book. It's not too spoilery, but the concept here is that I'm trying to get those who weren't sure about the first book to pick up the second. Or those who, like me, are just taking too dang long!)
1. Escape from Endovier: If you're wondering about the time she tried to escape from Endovier, then you'll be excited to know you get a bigger bite out of that one in this book. 
2. Now that Dorian's Out of the Picture: Just kidding! He's not really out of the picture, but it was obvious at the end of the last one that Chaol will be coming into the romantic spotlight. However, if you're afraid Dorian won't play an interesting role in this book, don't fear. His character arc gets a major upgrade! 
3. More Adult Feel: One other thing I definitely love about Maas is that she does not undermine her teenage audience. There are darker, more "adult" -- whatever -- elements here, and she handles them admirably. 
4. About Celaena: It's hard to talk about this one without being too spoilery, but let's just say if Dorian gets an upgrade Celaena gets turned into f*ckin Optimus Prime, but that more refers to what happens at the end. Even then though, the brutal fact of this girl's life -- that she's an assassin and has been COMMITTING MURDER for a good chunk of her young existence really comes around and is developed poignantly throughout the book. I like the fact that Maas didn't just let a thing like that linger on without there being some sort of aftermath. The notion of the soul and what murder does to it is definitely a theme explored in this one, and not just through Celaena. 
5. "Misunderstanding" in YA Romance: As I've said, the book's pace picks up as it goes along, and after that last half, things go haywire. Let's just say that this book takes the typical "misunderstanding" between lovers in YA romance to a whole new, a whole new world actually.

*That particular definition is from the couple college courses I've taken on the subject. So I'm just gonna stick by it. But as always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it as well.

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