Archive | July, 2016

Happy birthday, Harry Potter!

31 Jul

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It’s Harry’s birthday today. If he were real, he’d be 36.

It is also the release day for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a two-part play that has just opened in London.

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The play is written by Jack Thorne from an original story by Thorne, J.K Rowling and John Tiffany.

Those if us on this side of the pond will have to wait for it to cross the Atlantic. We can, however,  look forward to a movie adaptation of Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which will be released on November 11.

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 It stars Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, the “author” of the book, which is an encyclopedia of the eponymous animals.

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The movie, Rowling’s screenwriting debut, is the first in a projected trilogy and brings the world of HP to the United States. According to the book, Scamander travelled the world in research of magical creatures beginning in  1918. His adventures culminated with the publication of his masterpiece in 1927. Here’s a trailer.

So, Potter fans, we have s few things to look forward to. Maybe this is Harry’s gift to us.

Happy Birthday, Neville Longbottom!

30 Jul

While the rest of the world is getting ready to celebrate Harry Potter’s birthday on the 31st, I am choosing to focus on Neville Longbottom, born on July 30th, one day before Harry, and who  COULD have been the Chosen One.

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives… the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies….

Dumbledore clearly points out that Neville was not physically marked by the Dark Lord and the stories clearly cast Harry in that role. But, where would Harry be without Neville? Probably dead at the hands of Voldemort.

As early as the first book, Neville, though a minor character, plays a big part. He tries to warn Harry about Malfoy’s plan to get them caught when they try to release Norbert. Later, he stands up to Harry Ron and Hermione when they try to sneak out to stop Professor Quirrell. The famous trio lost many points for Gryffindor, allowing Slytherin to win the house cup…until Dumbledore awarded Neville ten points for having the courage to do the right thing, putting Gryffindor’s point total past Slytherin’s.

But it is as a member of Dumbledore’s Army where Neville truly begins to shine. He was one of the first to sign up and surprised everyone by disarming Harry. He endured Bellatrix Lestrange’s torture with the Cruciatus Curse all the while encouraging Harry not to turn over the prophecy. In the absence of the three main characters, Neville takes on a leadership role and is the person who gets Harry back into Hogwarts.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog and the overlooked, so I wanted to take the time to say, “Happy Birthday, Neville Longbottom!”.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Book VS Movie

29 Jul

We had to turn in our laptops in June. They will be replaced in late August when we go back. Although I miss having a second computer at home for the summer, I will mostly miss it for the sticker I had on the front, which was given to me by a former colleague.

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I recently finished listening to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. 

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It took a little longer than I’d planned because I was listening in the car and I am not driving as much these days. It was great fun reconnecting with the Hogwarts gang and I noticed more humor in the books than I remembered. I also noticed more omissions in the movie adaptation. As I listened, I could visualize the movie in my head, which is why certain missing bits stood out.

The book opens on Harry’s birthday, while the movie begins with Dobby and  the imminent dinner party with the Masons. When Ron, Fred & George come to get Harry at the Dursleys’ house, the book mentions that Fred & George have to break into the cupboard to get Harry’s trunk, then carry it up the stairs. Not in the movie.

The first really big omission is what Harry sees in and hears in Borgin and Burkes. Rowling was ding some serious foreshadowing in the book, but Harry doesn’t really hear anything in the movie.

The book has several other significant things that the movie does not.

  1. The book’s Deathday Party is completely omitted, necessitating the movie to come up with a different way for Harry to encounter the frozen Mrs. Norris.
  2. Hermione saves Harry from the rogue bludger in the movie, but Fred & George restrain it in the book.
  3. The book is full of foreshadowing of Ginny’s role in the Chamber of Secrets, but none of this appears in the movie.
  4. The Valentine’s dwarves of the book are completely missing from the movie, which I think is a crying shame.

The Harry Potter Wiki has an extensive list of differences at the bottom the Chamber of Secrets page. 

I have Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on hold. I am #13 in line on 11 copies. Fortunately, I have a few other audiobooks I can listen to in the meantime.

Custard and Parasols

27 Jul

Instead of spending Monday night glued to my radio listening to the speeches at the Democratic Convention, I went to Powells to meet Gail Carriger.

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She is the author of the Finishing School series I finished in April.She was in town promoting her newest novel, Imprudence, the sequel to Prudence, and the second book in the Custard Protocol series.

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Unlike many author presentations, Carriger gave a very brief presentation, covering topics she is asked about a lot. She spent most of the time answering questions of the packed house. Through the wide range of questions, we got to know Gail Carriger’s sense of humor, writing routine and plans for the future.

I’ve been reading her series out-of-order. I started with the Finishing School series, the began The Custard Protocol.  Now, I have her first series, The Parasol Protectorate,  in my queue.  Each of these series is unique unto itself, but they are all set in the Steampunk world she created and there are some characters that overlap. I loved how Carriger explained that each of these repeating characters seem to be a little different in each series because are shown as perceived by protagonist of the series. I was impressed and that helped explain why the Lord Akeldama of Prudence is so different from the Lord Akeldama of The Finishing School.

Of course, I took my moment to get my books signed and chat for a few moments with Gail.

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When I got home, I learned I had missed some fabulous DNC speeches, but I didn’t mind. I could watch them online. I had enjoyed a marvelous evening and had a new book to read.

Lending a hand

26 Jul

My back was turned to the road, keeping the midday sun out of my eyes and Lucy trotted along the curb as though it were a balance beam. I heard the car behind me, so I pulled the leash, tugging her away from the road and onto the grassy parking strip . The driver of the white SUV and I made eye contact, letting each other know we would both make sure Lucy was safe. I pulled again on Lucy’s leash, getting her out of the way of whoever was about to emerge from the SUV. Her attention turned to a blade of grass as the SUV parked.

As Lucy took care of business, I  half watched  my neighbor get out, open the hatch and start unloading the groceries that filled the back. She pulled out the bags and package of paper towels while I tore a bag off the roll and performed the duties of a good neighbor and responsible citizen. Lucy and I turned to carry on with our afternoon walk as voice called out, “Could you give me a hand?”.

I turned to see the driver juggling the packages.

“Could you close the hatch?” she asked hopefully. “My hands are full.”

I smiled and nodded. “Sure, no problem.”

I tugged Lucy close to the SUV again and reached up, barely able to grab the hatch, but I got it and pulled it closed.

“Thanks,” she said.

“No problem,” I replied, smiling. She didn’t know how tall she just made me feel. At not quite 5 feet tall, I often rely upon the kindness of strangers to help me reach things that are too high for me. Finally, I had a chance to repay the favor.

We smiled at each other one last time, then, she walked off with her groceries.  I tugged on  Lucy’s leash once more and walked away in the other direction, my heart a little lighter.

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Books to save your life

25 Jul

My dad died a year ago today.

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I got a little weepy at my niece’s high school graduation when I read in the program that she had won an award from the local Masonic Lodge. My dad was a lifelong Mason and he would have been so proud to see her get that award. I like to think he was looking down on her that day.

 As a book lover, I turned to literature for some help. Shortly after his passing, I read H is for Hawk  by Helen Macdonald. Last Christmas, my twin sister gave me They left Us Everything, Plum Johnson’s memoir about coping with the houseful of mementos and memories her parents left after their deaths.

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Publisher’s Summary: After almost twenty years of caring for elderly parents—first for their senile father, and then for their cantankerous ninety-three-year old mother—author Plum Johnson and her three younger brothers have finally fallen to their middle-aged knees with conflicted feelings of grief and relief. Now they must empty and sell the beloved family home, twenty-three rooms bulging with history, antiques, and oxygen tanks. Plum thought: How tough will that be? I know how to buy garbage bags.

But the task turns out to be much harder and more rewarding than she ever imagined. Items from childhood trigger difficult memories of her eccentric family growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, but unearthing new facts about her parents helps her reconcile those relationships, with a more accepting perspective about who they were and what they valued.

They Left Us Everything
 is a funny, touching memoir about the importance of preserving family history to make sense of the past, and nurturing family bonds to safeguard the future.

I can think of many friends and colleagues, all middle-aged,  who might benefit from reading this book, who also have aging parents.

Earlier this year I read an excellent New Yorker article entitled “Can reading Make You Happier?” which was all about bibliotherapy. It turns out my local public library actually had the book mentioned in the article,  The Novel Cure  by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin.

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In my pursuit of this topic, I also came across this gem:

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There are many other similar books out there. I hope that you can find some solace, support and hope in whatever books you choose to read.

J’ai fait mon métier

24 Jul

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There is a line in Pilote de Guerre, one of my favorite Antoine de Saint-Exupéry novels, in which the pilot, in describing his mission, says, “J’ai fait mon métier.” It means, simply, “I did my job.” It is a statement of fact that sees no particular glory or heroism in doing what needs to be done.

And this sense of simply doing one’s job, a job which to the rest of us seems rather heroic, pervades Alan Furst’s A Hero of France.

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This is an adult novel that tells the story of Mathieu, a  French Resistance leader, over  five months in 1941. His Gallic acceptance of doing what must be done is marvelously contrasted to the delight in things that seem ordinary: the smell of potatoes fried in beef fat, the taste of black-market cheese, the feel of a cashmere sweater. This is my first Furst novel, but I think it won;t be my last!

Publisher’s Summary: Paris. 1941. The City of Light is dark and silent at night. But in Paris and in the farmhouses, barns, and churches of the French countryside, small groups of ordinary men and women are determined to take down the occupying forces of Adolf Hitler. Mathieu, a leader of the French Resistance, leads one such cell, helping downed British airmen escape back to England.

Alan Furst’s suspenseful, fast-paced thriller captures this dangerous time as no one ever has before. He brings Paris and occupied France to life, along with courageous citizens who outmaneuver collaborators, informers, blackmailers, and spies, risking everything to fulfill perilous clandestine missions. Aiding Mathieu as part of his covert network are Lisette, a seventeen-year-old student and courier; Max de Lyon, an arms dealer turned nightclub owner; Chantal, a woman of class and confidence; Daniel, a Jewish teacher fueled by revenge; Joëlle, who falls in love with Mathieu; and Annemarie, a willful aristocrat with deep roots in France, and a desire to act.

As the German military police heighten surveillance, Mathieu and his team face a new threat, dispatched by the Reich to destroy them all.

Shot through with the author’s trademark fine writing, breathtaking suspense, and intense scenes of seduction and passion, Alan Furst’s A Hero of France is at once one of the finest novels written about the French Resistance and the most gripping novel yet by the living master of the spy thriller.

 

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