Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince

I’m re-reading the Harry Potter books with a good friend this year. This month is was time for the sixth book. I do have to put up a little disclaimer, I read it in Dutch. Commence the nostalgia!

Lately there have been a lot of new Harry Potter spinoffs, from a play to a movie based on a textbook. But what I’d like to see most (not including the marauders movie) is a TV series by the BBC. Especially the sixth book is the perfect source material for television. It has suspense, political messages that will ring a bell for any generation, a good hearted nature, the feeling of loss of innocence and compelling characters.

There’s not a lot of stories that handle flashbacks as well as this one. It’s not just Harry and Dumbledore that take a look in the past. It feels as if you are right there with them learning all about He Who Must Not Be Named came to be. The memories only add to the mystery of the man. You want to unravel his secrets, but at the same time you’re afaid of what you might find.

But it’s not Voldemort that scares me the most. One scene that really struck a core is one where Harry sees the man that everyone believes in crumble. The boy must be brave enough to keep his promise, to guide the one everyone seeks out for guidance. Maybe it’s this scene that is more heartbreaking than the ones that follow. Knowing he is the one inflicting pain, having to believe it’s for the greater good. Only to come to a different conclusion in the end. Although the book doesn’t linger on it, my mind wanders. It makes me think of the depressed, alzheimer or ill patients that can’t move at all. Where do you draw the line? This is just me reading into the novel way too much, but I love it when a book makes me do that.

In a way this is the perfect set-up for the finale. Malfoy and Snape’s storylines are phenomenal. It makes you see that people are not what you thought. Reading it again it surprises me how many times there is foreshadowing to such an extent that you are basically already read what happened, just without the information. During the second book you feel as if Dumbledore already knew about the Horcruxes and he admits he did always have his suspisions. But almost like a scientist he had to test his theory. The same can be said for Snape and why Dumbledore believes in him. It’s there, but not really. It’s so subtle that you wouldn’t pick it up if you didn’t know. Brilliant.

Jo is brilliant when she’s writing her action, her suspence, her foreshadowing and her worldbuidling. But her romance? Not even a little bit. There’s a romance in this that’s completely shoehorned in. While one couple gradually turns from friends to lovers, the other one goes from nothing to I don’t even know what in one second. All of a sudden Harry feels as if a beast awakens in him. This isn’t due to his connection to Voldemort or any other evil magic. No, it’s how Rowling describes the teenage desire. It’s so awkward that I really do have to say: Twilight is a better love story. There’s no buildup, no sweet moments beforehand. Not even a single butterfly floating around as you’re reading the blossoming romance. I’ve said before that as a reader I want to fall in love while the characters do. In this I was only disgusted. I forgot the romance was this bad, because I really didn’t want to think about it. I’ve never been a fan of this couple. It’s weird how Rowling can write such believable friendship but completely fails at love. Especially since her greatest message seems to be: love conquers all. I hope this wasn’t what Dumbledore meant when he said Harry possessed the greatest power of all – love. Because of he did.. Harry’d be screwed.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman has his own distinct writingstyle and yet every book I’ve ever read of him truly has its own prose and way of telling the story. Gaiman is the storyteller that brings his creations to the world, while a lot of writers have such a similiar style in all of their works that their creations seem to bring them to the world.

But no matter if you read about Snow White the queen or a boy discovering what lies at the end of the lane, there is always a sense of wonder in Gaiman’s books. His work is mostly about the line between childhood and adulthood, and that for most adults it means losing this wonder. Yet Neil Gaiman has never lost it and we should be grateful for that. He brings back that wonder to all his readers alongside the lines of Alice in Wonderland. In fact, he may do a better job if you ask me, because his prose is beautiful yet not too flashly.

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I planned on giving this 3,5 stars. Ursula Monkton reminded me a little too much of the other mother from Coraline. This was a little dissapointing for me because I praise Neil Gaiman for writing stories that always are typically his yet different than the other works I read before. Now having read more of his I did start to recognize some patterns and similarities in plot.

Throughout most of the book I kept waiting on something more to come. While every passage is filled with wonder it’s mostly near the end that it truly kicks in. But when it does: it hits you hard. This book made me think about memories and how they change with time and that two people won’t ever remember things exactly the same. A friend of mine experienced that an ending in a book changed her whole view on the whole of it. I did too, but with The Oceon at the End of the Lane instead. That ending alone deserves a rating of 5 stars.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a book by Neil Gaiman. This review first appeared on Goodreads in July 2016.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Do you ever hold off things you know you love? Like you’re saving them for god knows what, just so you can pick it up when you need it. I do this a lot actually and I really don’t know why. It happens to TV-shows, movies and books alike. For about a year The Rest of Us Just Lives Here fell into this category of saving-for-later. I’d picked it up on the shelves in the bookstore time after time after time, but always put it back. Why? I wish I could tell you. But I’m glad I did decide to read it.

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It’s easy wondering why I didn’t read this sooner now that I have finished it. Reading this only took me a day or so and it was wonderful reading a book back to back in such a short timespan again. Patrick Ness has a gift. Show don’t tell is the mantra of every writer, but yet it’s not easy to actually put that technique to use. Ness does it better than I’ve seen in a while in young adult literature. His prose and ideas are original. He manages to give each character dramatic weight and a ‘quirk’/problem, but it doesn’t feel over the top. That’s because of his wonderful writing.

When the characters get excited or something thrilling happens his sentences have no interpunction for a while so as a reader you hold your breath. At other times he also uses his writing to tell a story. It’s brilliant! That’s what I think about this book in general: brilliant. I’ve added it to my favorites. Not just because of the masterful way he manages to use words to like a tool for setting the mood, but also for being able to pull off this wonderful and original story. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like it (although at times it’s got a little John Green in there, but better and there’s also the depression of Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.. which both explains my love for this book. I feel like Patrick Ness nails what John Green is trying to tell with his novels, but never manages to truly get there for me). I want more of it. At times I put this book away for a second and thought about life, my life or the lives of others. There’s one scene in the concert hall that really struck me because of the time we live in right now.

I love the plottwists, even if I had fiery hunches that one would happen and I love tiny moments. Was the thing with the cops social commentary? If it was it’s so subtle, but brilliant. If it wasn’t I’m just one of those people who tries to really delve into books and make more of them than what they are.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a novel by Patrick Ness. This review was first published on Goodreads in August 2016.

The Color Purple

I read because of two reasons. The first one is because I like to emerge myself into a strange world. To run through the pages as you would on an adventure. The second reason is that I like to learn. It’s so valuable to read books where you come across thoughts that your own mind cannot conjure. I’ve been craving the second reason for a while now, which is why I am on hunt for diverse books about worlds I will never fully understand. I’m trying to read more about miniorities to learn about their way of thinking and how they vieuw the world. This includes books about black culture.

The Color Purple teaches anyone why feminism is so important. It makes it very clear that it isn’t (just) about activism, but that it is the embodiment of the idea that woman should be treated equally. This is what Celie has to learn, too. So does Albert. It shouldn’t matter if you’re like Miss Eleonor or if you’re like Celie: woman. black. queer. They both deserve the same.

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This book taught me anything I could have asked for and more. It showed me some history of black culture, but it also presented me the basics a woman, or a person, should demand for themselves. Sometimes happiness is not given, sometimes you will never find it, but there is no excuse not fighting for it. It was wonderful reading about all the characters growing and feeling like I was learning so much along with them.

The first time I picked it up I had to stop after 20 pages. I had been meaning to read this before bedtime, but I just couldn’t continue anymore. The start of the book hit me really hard. It’s graphic and made me feel ashamed of humanity. That may sound like overreacting, but I really did feel sort of dirty. Yet in the morning I woke and the first thing I grabbed was this book. I almost couldn’t put it down ever since.

The Color Purple is a book by Alice Walker. This review was first posted on Goodreads in April 2016.

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4)

Princesses in fairy tales were often portrayed as maidens waiting for their prince. Even the most adventurous and cunning fairy tale heroines might not pass today’s ‘strong female’ test. But in The Lunar Chronicles they all do. Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter all have moments of bravery. They make sacrafices, fight for the greater good and all bring their own skills to the table. And yet all the girls are different. You’ve got the sassy Scarlet, the socially awkward Cress (who has really come into her own since the last book), the practical Cinder, bubbly android Iko (who just like Thorne brights up any conversation) and the newest member to the team: the charming but dellusional Winter. Their badass moments are all done very well.

Each of the characters, Za’ev, Thorne, Kai and Jacin definitely included, have their own time to shine. You can see Marissa Meyer put a lot of thought in their qualities and strengths. While all the ladies are the strong females fairy tales have needed for a long time, none of their actions feel the same. Each character is very much their own, with their own view on the world and things to add to the table. You’d think that would be normal in a story, but sometimes in young adult novels some type of character can become a trope on their own. How many times have you felt you read a novel about yet another shy awkward girl (who loses her clumsiness while fighting) waiting for her prince to come? I think I’ve lost count.

In media a strong female sometimes means she constantly wears a mask. She keeps her fears hidden and finds it hard to show emotions. While Cinder can be like this, the other girls are usually not. They clearly have their flaws and Meyer knows this doesn’t take away from them being badass. In fact it’s their weaknesses that can make them strong, especially when they find so hard to overcome them. The best example for this has to be Winter. Yet these characters still feel like fairy tale persona’s. When an event in the novel mirrors that of the original story I always get a smile on my face. Meyer manages to twist the events and intertwines them into her story with verve. But don’t be mistaken and think she won’t bend the characters to her will. Upon reading I really had to get used to the fact that Winter is in fact a black woman in this. Probably because I take a little pride in the fact that with my pale skin and raven hair I could be the spitting image of Snow White. But it works in this. Although I have to say it’s ironic, because at first I imagined Levana as a black woman and then I read she was white.

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Winter is a book that has over 800 pages but it never feels like it is. Although the story progresses quite a lot there are no passages that seem to drag on and on, but all the characters do get enough space to grow and have their own badass moment. Sometimes things would even happen a little too fast for my liking. The speeches Cinder has are well written, but would not realistically get her the goal she has in mind. Although that mostly does happen in the book. People in power (and also those without power) stand behind her ideas too fast. Sure, Marissa does write that they have their suspicions, but in sake of the plot they overcome them very fast. I do think it’s more fun to read that way, but it does not help with the otherwise realistic portrayal of fairy tales.

Whether you’re a person that likes a thrilling plot or leans more towards character development, The Lunar Chronicles has something for all. The last book is a worthy ending to a wonderful series that I recommend without a doubt. This last part manages to tie most lose ends. Even with so many characters that all get to tell their own story it’s not losing control. However this last book is more of the end to the series overall than a good retelling of Snow White. While the nods to the original fairy tale are there without a doubt they are a little overshadowed with everything happening to the other characters. But in the end every character has its place. Even Levana has a moment in which you see a peak of her motivations, before she decides to be her usual ‘charming’ self and you lose all the respect she just gained within a minute. This last book toys with your emotions like Levana toys with minds. In the best way possible. I compared Cress to watching an Avengers movie. This time it’s much more like watching a mini series. One for which I do hope they air reruns many, many times.

Nimona

Even in the two hours it takes to read this from back to back, Nimona has to grow on you. And so she does. Just as lord Ballister you aren’t sure about her in the beginning. After all she comes barging in for no reason. But even when she’s making up schemes and robbing banks, she grows on you. Nimona feels like a story centered on characters, but the plot is equally as exciting. It’s not impossible to predict, but it’s the kind of prediction you want to happen because it’s just so dang cool.

Of course the moment where this really got good to me was when the LGBT storyline could no longer be ignored. There’s a turning point which makes everything click. From then on I felt my heart beat faster as I raced through the pages. Looking for a way that would make everything alright. Because these characters deserve it. Nimona is begging for a big hug. Near the end I wish I could give her one. Her darkest moments remind me of seeing loved ones turn to their own dark thoughts. To that point where they are in so deep that they can only lash out, not only to their friends but especially themselves. There’s a lot of moments where I want Nimona to stop being cross and to learn to accept herself as Ballister tries so hard to do.

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Nimona turns out to be a well fleshed out story. The only complains I have are silly, and actually make the story somewhat funny. It’s weird that this is a medival setting in which they have pizza and churros, but then again what would a magical world be without those divine foods? It doesn’t make sense in the world, but I know I’m being unreasonable here. My other complaint is Noelle’s handwriting. It’s a little thin, which made this hard to read. Not Homestucklevel of hard, just less pleasant on the eye. Aesthetically it’s fine, but I would have prefered a thicker font.

The end is bittersweet, but definitely not cheesy. As a writer and reader that appreciates good storytelling I think this was the best way to end this. But I won’t deny that I had a lump in my throat.