Monday, September 27, 2010

The Boggart in the Wardrobe

So, I'm going to stop making promises about how often I'll be posting...they just don't work! This time it was a combination of work being too exhausting and my sister sending me the link to a Harry Potter trivia game and subsequently getting completely sucked into the site. Also, my Community DVD arrived and there's commentary on every episode! (Readers of my other blog should keep an eye out there, I'll probably be reviewing the DVD in the next couple days.) Enough excuses! On to the chapter synopsis...

Malfoy continues to be a whiny little baby, finally showing up in the middle of potions class several days later. He's a big jerk to Harry and Ron. Snape's a big jerk to the whole of Gryffindor, Neville in particular. After lunch (on their way to which Hermione seemingly disappears for a minute) it's time for their first Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson with Professor Lupin. All are excited when they discover it will be a practical lesson and Lupin brings them to the staff room to take care of a boggart. Everyone gets a turn but Hermione (who's, of course, disappointed) and Harry, who's hurt when Lupin steps in to keep him from facing the boggart. No one else noticed this though, so it's likely that a part of this was Harry being an oversensitive 13-year-old. (Yes, I know Lupin confesses to stopping Harry from facing the boggart later, I'm saying that Harry probably felt the sting a bit more than was strictly necessary.)

I find the following interesting: "...said Harry, accidentally beheading a dead caterpillar..." Why did Rowling choose to specify that the caterpillar was already dead? I don't have an answer to that question, but it made me think, once again, about how difficult it would be for a vegan to be a wizard. Boomslang skin. Caterpillars. Eye of Newt. Potions certainly aren't very animal friendly! It makes me wonder if there are witches or wizards out there working to vegan-ize popular potion recipes? I feel certain that such an attempt would not have gone over well in Snape's classroom.

Speaking of Snape, I can't help but be impressed by his knowledge. When Neville screws up his potion, Snape knows exactly what it was that Neville did incorrectly. How does he know that an excess of rat spleen and leech juice (there's another couple animal products) were what caused the potion to turn orange? Is it just teaching experience, or is it experimentation on his own? Those of us who can see the future, know that Snape was not averse to experimenting while a student himself, does he still remember all those failed experiments?

As for the rest of the chapter, the boggart stuff is fun, though I really don't see the harm of a boggart if you know it's there, but nothing really jumped out at me as worth discussion in the second half of the chapter.

My previous ramblings on wizard vegans proved to be somewhat controversial...provide your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Talons and Tea Leaves

Well, if any of my readers are still around, I'm back! August ended up being a string of health problems (two trips to the emergency room and a trip to my doctor) but I'm finally healthy again! Now, blogger is being really weird, so I'm going to get right into it.

It's the first day of lessons and the very first class of the day is Divination. Harry, Ron and Hermione find their way up to the Divination tower, which is in an area of the school they've never been to before. They start out reading tea leaves and Professor Trelawney sees the Grim in Harry's cup, a prediction of death. In their next class Professor McGonagall (and Hermione) scoffs and tells the class that Trelawney predicts the death of one student a year and a death is yet to occur. After lunch, they have Care of Magical Creatures with the Slytherins. Hagrid introduces the class to hippogriffs and Harry rides Buckbeak. Malfoy insults Buckbeak and is attacked. At the end of the day, the trio go see Hagrid in his hut, where they manage to cheer him up a bit before Hagrid realizes Harry shouldn't be out after dark and escorts them back up to the castle.

Unfortunately, I got sucked into the whole time aspect of Hermione and her classes and spent most of the time pretty distracted (So Harry and Ron actually sat through the class three times? Was the last time the time with Hermione there? If it hadn't been, would they remember a different version of what happened in class? How do the professors of her other classes know she was there? etc.) I most definitely have time travel issues...I want it to make sense. Generally I prefer sci-fi time travel to fantasy time travel I suppose; I much prefer when they try to explain it with science than magic!

Before my time-related distraction, I did manage to wonder who else is taking Arithmancy and Muggle-Studies with Hermione. Every 3rd year Gryffindor we know of (though I do wonder if there are a couple of nameless girls we never hear about) is in the Divination class. Yes, those classes are most likely with other houses (I'm pretty sure we find out later that Arithmancy is with Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff), but doesn't it seem weird that no other Gryffindor wanted to take those classes? I can tell you right now that if someone were to give me the option of taking Arithmancy, Muggle Studdies or Divination, Divination would be my last choice (of course, I'm a Ravenclaw). It seems odd.

Thoughts? Admonishments for my lack of posting? Anything interesting happen while I was away? Share in the comments!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Dementor

Alright, I am back! I'm not completely healed, but I'm better enough that pain is not the foremost thing on my mind. Though I do continue to rock a look very similar to this. Ah well, enough about my accident-prone self, let's get back to Harry!

Harry wants to talk to Ron and Hermione about what he overheard the Weasleys talking about the night before, but there's far too much going on to do it that morning. At the train station, Mr. Weasley pulls him aside and Harry reveals that he overheard the conversation the night before. Mr. Weasely asks Harry to promise he won't go looking for Sirius Black, to which Harry's all "duh".

On the train, the trio ends up in a compartment with the sleeping Professor Lupin, whom Hermione surmises must be the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Harry tells Ron and Hermione about Black being after him and they freak out. Hermione asks Harry to promise he won't go looking for Black at which point Harry is mildly insulted that everyone seems to think he's a giant moron. Harry's sneakoscope goes off and everyone assumes it's broken, they talk about Hogsmeade, Malfoy comes by and gets scared away by the sleeping Lupin, and the train goes dark while stopping in the middle of nowhere.

Neville and Ginny find their way to the compartment in the dark and Lupin wakes up just in time for a hooded figure to show up before Harry hears a scream and passes out. When he wakes up he finds out that the hooded figure was a dementor, an Azkaban guard, and that he was the only one to pass out. Lupin passes around some chocolate, which helps Harry feel better and they finally arrive at the school. Neville wastes no time telling Malfoy about Harry fainting (What the crap, Neville?!) and to make matters worse, Harry is taken upstairs to be fussed over by McGonagall and Madame Pomfrey. McGonagall also meets with Hermione and then the two head back downstairs to find they've missed the sorting. Dumbledore gives his usual speech, mentions the dementors and everyone eats then heads to the dormitories.

This chapter is full of foreshadowing and setups for later; the sneakoscope and Crookshanks both freaking out when Scabbers is nearby, the effect the dementors have on Harry (and Ginny), and all the don't-go-after-Black stuff; but most of that will be discussed later on.

A lot has been said about the dementors by others. Everyone knows that Rowling based the dementors off of her own bout with depression and that they are the manifestation of the emptiness one feels when dealing with that disease. I myself have fought depression in the past and I find the description pretty accurate. But my favorite thing about this chapter is the chocolate.

As you may know, chocolate releases endorphins, which are our body's natural stress and pain relief. It's pure genius to use magical healing properties of chocolate.

On a related note, Ron's list of sweets to be found at Honeydukes makes me extremely excited to head to Florida and try some of them out myself!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Why I'm not Posting...

I sprained my toe last Friday and until I can come home after a full work day and not have my primary thought be "owowowowowowowowowow!" I will not be posting. Mainly because I'm afraid that I wouldn't be able to concentrate on reading enough to have anything interesting to say. Now according to the doctor, I should be feeling better after a week or so, but if I'm not, I'll let you know! A big apology to the few people who yell at me when I don't post often enough (all of whom are related to me) and anyone else who feels put out when I don't post!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Leaky Cauldron

Harry spends much of the next couple weeks wandering around Diagon Alley, purchasing school supplies, doing homework and ogling broomsticks. Eventually, other Hogwarts students start showing up and finally, on the last day before term, Ron and Hermione appear. Scabbers is looking a bit worse for wear and Hermione wants to get an owl, so the trio head to a magical creatures store, where Scabbers is attacked by a cat that Hermione subsequently buys. That night Harry and Hermione join the Weasley's for dinner at the Leaky Cauldron. After dinner, Harry overhears Mr. and Mrs. Weasley arguing over whether Harry has the right to know that Sirius Black is after him. Harry's not really all that phased, it's not like Black's the first person to want to kill him after all, and Harry feels quite safe with Dumbledore around.

This might be one of my top three favorite chapters in the entire series; it certainly makes the top ten. Basically, I desperately want to stay in the Leaky Cauldron and wander around Diagon Alley all day for two weeks, it sounds like the best vacation ever! As I've said before (I think, though I can't seem to find it to link it right now) what keeps me coming back to Harry Potter is the wizarding world and how much I wish I could live there. That's one of the big reasons I so enjoy this chapter, the first half in particular. There's no real plot developments (yes we learn about the Firebolt and the Grim), it's mostly just Harry enjoying the world, and we get to come along for the ride! I'm going to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida with a bunch of fellow Potterheads this winter and the thing I look forward to most is meandering through Hogsmeade, exploring the shops and drinking butterbeer. This chapter is exactly what I'm hoping for from the trip.

Now that I've finished rhapsodizing, I do have a couple questions that came up as I was reading:
*What's the difference between a wizard and a warlock?
*Why can't you just pass through the entrance to Diagon Alley like Platform 9 3/4?
*How does Harry manage to eat a sundae every half hour without being violently sick?
*Why on earth would anyone give away a free sundae every half hour to the same person?
*Where is Mrs. Weasley's sense of humor?

My brain also went off on a more lengthy tangent when the trio went to the Magical Menagerie (pet store). I wondered if there are magical pet rescues where one could adopt magical creatures or whether there were magical creature mills (like puppy mills) turning out magical creatures to meet the high demand. Obviously, as a pet store, they don't seem to bother much about whether the witch or wizard purchasing the animal will be a good pet guardian, just that they can lay the money down to take it home. Also, is the witch working at the store a magical vet? Did she take other courses of study beyond Care of Magical Creatures (which doesn't exactly seem to focus on domesticated magical creatures) for her to be able to give care advice?

People had mixed feelings about my concerns about mandrake ethics, I'm curious to know your thoughts on other magical creatures. The domesticated ones in particular. Also, if anyone would like to take a crack at trying to come up with an answer to any of my other questions or just agree or disagree with my thoughts on the awesomeness of Diagon Alley, I'd love to hear from you in the comments section!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Knight Bus

Once again I must apologize for my somewhat prolonged absence. I unexpectedly developed a social like last week. Not to worry, it's unlikely to happen again soon. At any rate, when last we left Harry, he'd just stormed out of the Dursley's house... is common after any rash action, Harry soon realized he might have made a mistake. His Aunt and Uncle were likely pretty cheesed off and the Ministry of Magic was likely to expel him. Harry had just decided he may as well do a bit more magic to get to London so he could retrieve his money and begin life on the run, when he felt a presence nearby. He lit his wand and saw a huge black dog in the bushes across the way, but before panic could set in too badly, a purple triple-decker bus nearly ran him over.

The conductor of the bus, Stan, soon explains that the Knight Bus picks up stranded witches and wizards and takes them where they need to go. Harry climbs aboard and sees that instead of seats there are beds which slide around as the bus itself jumps from location to location with a loud bang. Stan is reading The Daily Prophet and Harry sees that the escaped prisoner he'd seen featured earlier that week on the Muggle news is in fact a wizard, Sirius Black. Stan tells him that Black was one of Voldemort's followers and he was sent to Azkaban for killing 13 people with one curse.

Eventually they arrive at the Leaky Cauldron, and Harry is surprised and nervous to find Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge waiting for him. Fudge tells Harry that Aunt Marge has been set to right and her memory erased, that the Dursley's have agreed to let him come back the following summer, and that Harry will be staying at the Leaky Cauldron for the last two weeks of the summer (though it should be about August 7th at this point and the Hogwarts Express departs on September 1st, so it should actually be 3 weeks, but who's counting?), just asking that Harry not stray into Muggle-London, but stick to Diagon Alley. After Fudge leaves, Tom takes Harry up to his room, where he's delighted to find Hedwig waiting for him. He falls right to sleep.

I've always wondered why the Knight Bus drives at all if it can just jump from one place to another. The only thing I can come up with is that perhaps it needs to reach a certain speed before it can make the jump (like a Delorean) and then it needs space to decelerate. It doesn't seem to have anything to do with the Statute of Secrecy, since stationary objects like buildings keep jumping out of the way.

To a lesser extant I wonder why they don't magically bolt the beds (and armchairs) to the floor to keep them from sliding around. You'd think that it might help with the illness many passengers seem to experience. While it seems likely that Stan (and Ernie) might not care enough to bother, I see no reason the passengers themselves shouldn't cast a quick charm on their furniture.

Still, I love the Knight Bus and Stan and Ernie, it's one of my favorite magical methods of travel. It's certainly the most interesting to read about, since we get to hear about more than just the way it makes Harry feel and provides time for conversation, which few if any do (an argument might be made for brooms).

How do you feel about the Knight Bus? Love it? Hate it? Would you want to take a ride? (Might make a better roller coaster than a Hippogriff anyway).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Aunt Marge's Big Mistake

At breakfast on Harry's birthday Harry and the Dursley's see a news story about an escaped prisoner by the name of Black. Harry then finds out that Vernon's sister, "Aunt" Marge is coming to stay for a week and that he'll have to pretend to be "normal" and attend St. Brutus' something or other. Harry uses this to blackmail Uncle Vernon into signing his Hogsmeade permission slip (if Harry behaves himself). Marge shows up and is more horrible than Vernon, Petunia and Dudley, which is amazing. Eventually, she ticks Harry off so much that he accidentally turns her into a human balloon. While the rest of the family is distracted, Harry grabs his stuff. After a final exchange with Uncle Vernon, Harry heads off into the night...

While in some ways, this could be a good opportunity to talk about the Trace again, there will be better ones in the future, so just know that this is another chapter that makes my head hurt the the wacky Trace rules.

A few years ago, I ran a church book club where we talked about the theological and biblical implications of Harry Potter. I'm someone who likes to get both sides of an issue, so I read both pro-Potter books and anti-Potter books. The guy who wrote one of the anti-Potter books seemed not to have read the books at all. He had all kinds of specious arguments that were easily refutable by anyway with the reading comprehension level of an 8-year-old. For some reason, it was his arguments regarding this book that really stuck in my mind, and this chapter was one of the biggest. You see, the author had a big problem with all the cursing in the books. You know, like when it says "Ron cursed" and when they call people "gits", which he had to look up. His biggest problem though was with the word "bitch" in this chapter, when Aunt Marge says, "You see it all the time with dogs. If there's something wrong with the bitch, there'll be something wrong with the pup." This argument drove me mad! Apparently, he could take the time to look up the word "git" but not the time to look up the word "bitch" and see that it was being used correctly. He completely lost me at that point. If anything, I would argue that seeing the correct usage of a word that has been co-opted to be insulting and degrading is a positive thing for children, giving parents a wonderful chance to teach their children about words and context.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Have you ever read a "review" or critique of a book or movie and wondered if the author had actually read or watched what they were talking about?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Owl Post

Hooray! Chamber of Secrets is finally over and we can move on to what I think is the best of the "non-death" books (by which of course I mean no one dies).

Harry's home for the holidays and apparently thinking about his life story while he does his homework, because, you know, who doesn't? He's able to ponder (and whine) a little more when he realizes it's his birthday, but before he can get too self-pitying, a bunch of owls arrive with gifts and letters. What a great opportunity to think about his past again! He gets a sneakoscope from Ron, who's in Egypt with his family, a broom-servicing kit from Hermione who's in France with her family, a biting book from Hagrid who's probably at Hogwarts, and an uncomfortable moment with his uncle from the Hogwarts administrators. All-in-all, a pretty great birthday.

I've already talked about how boring these recap chapters are, so I'm not going to do that again. Instead I'm going to talk about wizarding forms of communication. I've touched on related subjects in the past, like why isn't there a wizard internet and how floo powder is a pretty stupid way to travel, but we haven't really looked at the wizarding community's communication methods (or lack thereof).

Ron's phone call got me thinking about the fact that the wizarding methods for instantaneous communication are just not good. Here in the muggle world, we've got phones (cell, home, business), fax, email/IM, texting, etc. Basically, we're pretty much wired up (or are we now wirelessed up?). Sure these take money, and not everyone can afford such luxuries, but the vast majority of the Western world at least is reachable 24/7. (I'm not because I never remember to bring my cell phone with me anywhere, but that's not what we're talking about right now.)

Weirdly, the wizarding world doesn't really have anything comparable. Sure they have ways of instantaneous communication, but none of them are as accessible. Take the whole shoving your head in the fire using floo powder thing, if you're nowhere near a fireplace (and the fireplace has to be connected to the floo network) this method of communication is out. I can hear you thinking, "yeah, but if you don't have your phone on you, that method of communication is out" which is true, the difference being that there doesn't seem to be such a thing as a "mobile fireplace", basically making this like having a home phone. Then again, this is the early 1990's, perhaps they'd have something like that now. (Again, I should totally be a wizard inventor!)

The only other instantaneous method of communication I can think of is the patronus messenger. The way I understand the books, not everyone can do a patronus, and I would think endowing your patronus with the ability to speak would be even more difficult. Obviously, this method is not going to be for everyone.

It's no wonder Ron screwed up the phone call so badly! You'd think people who could do magic could come up with a quicker, easier, and more accessible way to get in touch with each other!

What do you think? Did I miss any methods from the books?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dobby's Reward

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley are in McGongall's office and are overcome by emotion upon seeing Ginny. Dumbledore is there too, smiling away. Harry tells them the whole story, somehow managing to leave Ginny and the diary out of it until he got to his defeat of the Basilisk. Dumbledore saves the day, asking how Voldemort had enchanted Ginny. Harry explains the diary, the Weasley's freak out and Dumbledore sends them for hot chocolate and tells McGonagall to order up a feast. He then awards Harry and Ron 400 house points and asks Ron to take Lockhart up to the hospital wing. He and Harry have another of their seemingly innocuous end-of-the-book-chats-that-will-end-up-being-one-of-the-most-important-plot-points-of-the-whole-series until Lucius Malfoy shows up (with Dobby) all pissy about Dumbledore coming back. Dumbledore and Harry tell Malfoy they know he set Ginny up and Malfoy storms off in a huff (nothing like a good huff to maintain one's dignity). Harry tricks Malfoy into freeing Dobby, who puts a magical smackdown on Malfoy. All the petrified people/cats/ghosts are healed, Hagrid is released from Azkaban, finals are canceled and the feast lasts all night. A month later they find themselves on the Hogwarts Express. Harry gives Ron and Hermione his phone number and heads off with the Dursleys.

Obviously the most important part of this chapter is Dumbledore and Harry's talk. There discussion of the differences and similarities between Harry and Voldemort are pivotal to Deathly Hallows. Dumbledore's explanation that a part of Voldemort is in Harry, well in hindsight it all seems kind of obvious where its leading doesn't it?

So, we're done with my least favorite book of the series. Monday we'll start on Prisoner of Azkaban!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Heir of Slytherin

Upon entering the Chamber of Secrets, Harry finds Ginny unconscious and unwakeable. (Hmm...spell check doesn't like that...un-wake-up-able? Better, now it just doesn't like "un".) Then Tom Riddle shows up and tells him not to bother trying to wake her up. Harry's a bit weirded out by the glowing 66-year-old who looks like a teenager and says he's a memory, but not quite enough. (I'm thinking there's some sort of spell at the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets that make you monumentally stupid if you're not the Heir of Slytherin.) Harry and Tom have a nice little chat about how Tom's evil and un-name-able and stuff and then Tom bad mouths Dumbledore. Well, he's not getting away with that! "He's not as gone as you might think!" Harry says. (that'll show him!) Well, with that kind of support, what could Dumbledore do but send a bird and a hat to help. Tom, understandably, finds this pretty hilarious and calls on the Basilisk to finish Harry off, but it turns out Dumbledore might just know what he's doing after all. Fawkes blinds the Basilisk and the hats exports a sword onto Harry's head, allowing him to kill the Basilisk. Unfortunately, the stupidity spell is still in effect and Harry manages to stab himself with a poisonous fang in the the process. Riddle taunts him as he dies, but Fawkes cries on the wound and heals him (pretty sure he heals the stupidity spell here too). Harry uses the Basilisk fang to stab the diary and Riddle fades or dies or whatever you want to call it. Ginny wakes up, the two of them join Ron and Lockhart and Fawkes flies them back to the bathroom and leads them to McGonagall's office...

This is obviously an important chapter in the canon of Harry Potter. We find out that Tom Marvolo Riddle is Lord Voldemort (and that he writes word jumbles!). We find out Phoenixes sing. We find out Moaning Myrtle has a crush on Harry. We learn Lockhart's completely lost his memory. And we learn that books can die.

In all seriousness, obviously this is a pivotal chapter in the series. Though we don't yet know it, we've just seen the first horcrux destroyed and plot-wise, that's about as important as you get. This is of course Rowling's true brilliance as a story-teller. She gives us a reasonably exciting climax, brings a large number of questions from earlier in the book to an answer and generally delivers a satisfying conclusion to the story (with the denouement to come of course) all while quietly laying the ground work for the last two books and the entire climax of the series. How many of us truly thought the diary would ever come up again except in passing? I know I didn't. It's these hidden set-ups and clues that keep us reading these books over and over.

I feel like I just petered out there, but I can't get the rest of the thoughts in my head to form coherent phrases. Perhaps someone else will have something to say about this chapter!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Chamber of Secrets

Harry and Ron had no idea how they were going to get to talk to Moaning Myrtle until Lockhart gave them the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, just before they reached her bathroom, McGonagall found them. Harry told her they wanted to see Hermione and tell her that the mandrakes would be ready that night. McGonagall got a bit emotional and told them to tell Madam Pomfrey she said it was okay. At Hermione's bedside, Harry noticed a piece of paper clutched in her hand. Upon extraction, the boys saw that it was a description of a Basilisk and everything fell into place. Between Hermione's clues and Aragog's hints, they realized that the monster was a Basilisk and the Chamber of Secrets must open into Moaning Myrtle's bathroom! They headed straight to the staff room to tell McGonagall, but before they could it was announced that Ginny had been taken by the monster into the Chamber of Secrets.

Harry and Ron eventually determine to tell Lockhart, who is suppose to be getting ready to mount a rescue, what they know, but when they reach his office they find him packing. It turns out none of his stories actually happened to him, he'd been stealing the stories from other witches and wizards and then erasing their memories. He's about to erase their memories as well, but they disarm him and take him to Moaning Myrtle. Upon request, she tells them the story of how and where she died. They find the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets and the three of them head in. Lockhart steals Ron's wand and attempts a memory charm, but it backfires, causing a cave-in and the loss of his own memory. With Ron and Lockhart trapped by the entrance, Harry moves ahead alone...

I have to start out by saying how much I LOVE that all the other teachers despise Lockhart as much as Harry and Ron do. It's a bit of a relief to know none of the staff witches fell for his "winning" smile.

As we know Hogwarts was founded "over one thousand years ago". At that time, indoor plumbing wasn't exactly available, so how exactly did Salazar Slytherin manage to build the entrance in the bathroom?

Imaginary Reader: The magical world is different from our world.

Me: Okay, true. Still it seems a bit weird that they're using candles still but have had plumbing for hundreds of years.

Imaginary Reader: Okay, so the room used to be something else.

Me: So, how did the etching of the snake get on the sink? Slytherin was the only one who knew where the entrance was, and was probably dead by the late 19th century, not having a Sorceror's Stone and all.

Imaginary Reader: ....magic?

Me: *sigh* I suppose that's what we're stuck with, but I don't like it.

As you can see, I've resorted to having conversations with myself, but if you leave me comments I can have conversations with you instead! Consider subscribing to my comment RSS feed! I've also added buttons so now you can share your favorite posts in a variety of web-by ways!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


We're getting to the end now, if I blog on Saturday I'll finish this week! This being my least favorite book in the series, I'm really looking forward to finishing up! This chapter, at least, is pretty straight forward!

Harry and Ron spend some time pondering Dumbledore and Hagrid's last statements. While their lost as to Dumbldore's meaning, Hagrid's "follow the spiders" is quite clear, they just can't seem to find any. Finally, Harry spots a couple spiders heading toward the Forbidden Forest, and the boys decide to follow them that night. They get Fang and head into the forest, following the path of the spiders until they come across Mr. Weasley's car, which has "gone wild". As they discuss this interesting turn of events, they're seized by giant spiders and brought to Aragog, the patriarch of the giant spider clan. He tells them he is not the monster in the Chamber (obviously, as he's not in a chamber), that the girl who died was killed in a bathroom he never saw, and that while he knows what is in the Chamber, he will not say its name, it is his enemy. Then he politely invites the boys to stay for dinner...okay, as dinner and the car swoops in to rescue them. When they get back to the dormitory, Harry realizes that the girl who died might just be Moaning Myrtle.

I'm now going to once again prove my extreme nerdiness* via math.

Math? What are you talking about? Are you going to count spider legs or something?

No, of course not, we have no idea how many spiders there are. Silly fictional reader of my blog! We're going to count Hogwarts staff. There are 12 classes offered at Hogwarts and therefore 12 teachers. There are 6 other staff members for a total of 18 adults. However, at this point in time, both Hagrid and Dumbledore are gone, so 16 adults. Even if you exclude N.E.W.T. students and O.W.L. courses, there are not enough adults to ensure that every class is escorted everywhere. When Snape escorts the Gryffindor second years to Herbology, who is escorting the Slytherins to their next class? And then when Sprout escorts the Gryffindors to Defense Against the Dark Arts, who is escorting the Hufflepuffs to their next class? For a while I argued (with myself) that the teacher for their next class must come get them, but that doesn't work because there still simply aren't enough staff! Perhaps Prefects and the Head Boy and Head Girl assume escorting duties, but then how do they (the N.E.W.T. students in particular) get to their next class? It simply doesn't add up.

In the end of course, none of that is all that important. It's not a key plot point and it gets the point of the terror the school is in across. At the same time, I can't help the way my brain works, and it does the math every time. Do you have any of these reading idiosychrasies? Something you know doesn't really matter but that you can't help but find annoying when it happens? Share your thoughts in the comments!

*Spell check does not like the word "nerdiness".

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cornelius Fudge

Okay, first of all, because I'm a big geek and I'd like to think my readers are as well, you much watch this Star Wars themed Improv Everywhere stunt if you haven't already, I'll wait.

*Dum Dum Dum Dum da-dum, da da-dum*

Done? On with the plot then.

Harry, Ron and Hermione spend a bunch of time discussing what Harry saw in the diary and end up deciding they'll ask Hagrid about it if there's another attack. Meanwhile they pick new classes for their 3rd year and Quiddich practice again picks up for Harry. Four months go by with no new attack and people start to feel safe again. Then, on the morning of the Gryffindor v. Hufflepuff game, Harry hears the murderous voice again. Hermione rushes off without much of an explanation, and the boys head down to the pitch. Before the game can get started though, Professor McGonagall shows up, cancelling the match and telling the students to return to their Houses. She then takes Harry and Ron to the hospital wing, where they discover Hermione and another girl have been petrified. Not knowing what else to do, the boys use Harry's invisibility cloak that night to go see Hagrid, intending to ask him about the monster, but before they can, Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge arrives to arrest Hagrid for no good reason and Lucious Malfoy tops off the best day ever by bringing by a suspension order for Dumbledore. Dumbledore leaves with a few enigmatic words surreptitiously directed toward where Harry and Ron stand hidden in the corner and Hagrid follows suit with a slightly more awkward, but equally enigmatic admonishment to follow the spiders...and feed Fang.

In this chapter we are introduced to another of Rowling's overall themes, politics and government. Let's face it, the politicians and many of the government officials we meet throughout the series are...well...jerks to put it mildly. In his very first introduction to us, Fudge is shown very clearly covering his own ass. He knows he doesn't have a leg to stand on when he comes to take Hagrid to Azkaban, but he "must be seen to be doing something". You can't get much more political than that can you? Rowling's opinion of politicians becomes more clear in future books, but we can already see that perhaps the Ministry of Magic isn't as amazing as it seemed when we first heard about it (remember how interested Harry was upon finding out there was such a thing on his boat trip with Hagrid?) I'm sure I'll have much more to say on this subject in future books. For now, tell me what you think about Fudge's introduction? Do you dislike him from the start, or are you willing to give him a chance at redemption?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Very Secret Diary

Harry and Ron visit Hermione everyday of the month she spends in the hospital. As the head back from one of these trips, they hear Filch making a commotion and discover the hallway where Mrs. Norris was attacked has flooded. They head into Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, who is upset because someone threw a book at her, an apparently blank, 50-year-old diary, which Harry decides to keep. When Hermione is discharged, they tell her about the diary and she, like Harry, wonders if it might have something to do with the last time the Chamber of Secrets was opened. Try as she might though, she can't get the diary to reveal what may be written in it.

A couple weeks later, Lockhart surprises the school with a Valentine's treat that includes dwarfs dressed as cupid to pass out valentines. One such dwarf finds Harry that afternoon and in his haste to get away, Harry's bag is ripped, spilling it's contents onto the floor. An ink bottle breaks and soaks everything, but the diary appears to be unharmed. That night in his room, Harry opens the diary and begins to write. The diary writes back. The owner of the diary, T.M. Riddle says he caught the person who opened the Chamber last time and takes Harry on a journey into his memory of catching none other than Hagrid with a monster!

There's not really much to say about this chapter. There are a lot of consequences to the events that occur here, but I'll be talking about those as we get to them in the next couple chapters. Also my bathroom flooded this morning while I was away (a water main break) and when I came back I discovered water stains on my bedroom ceiling and they property managers finally showed up to do something about it, so I'm going to see if they need me and if not I'm going to leave while they look into it. Really feeling for Filch with the flooded bathroom situation right now.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Polyjuice Potion

Left alone to wait for Dumbledore, Harry looks around the office. He puts on the Sorting Hat, who again affirms his assertion that Harry could have done well in Slytherin, but Harry cuts him short before he can finish his thought. Harry then notices Fawkes, who unfortunately bursts into flames, thoroughly freaking Harry out just as Dumbledore enters. Dumbledore explains about phoenixes and informs Harry he doesn't believe Harry to be the culprit (because he already knows who it is, of course) and then asks Harry if there's anything he should know, to which Harry answers no.

The Christmas holidays arrive and the trio put their plan to trap Malfoy into action. After Christmas dinner, the boys trick Crabbe and Goyle into taking a sleeping draught and steal a bit of their hair. They then join Hermione in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom and they all take the potion. The boys transform to look just like Crabbe and Goyle, but Hermione refuses to come out of her stall, so the boys head out to find the Slytherin common room on their own. As luck would have it, Malfoy finds them and takes to the common room, where they discover, much to their chagrin, that Malfoy has no idea who's opening the Chamber of Secrets. At the end of the hour they return to the bathroom, disheartened at finding they're no closer to the culprit, though at least Malfoy let slip some information Ron will be able to pass on to his dad about Lucius. They're anxious to tell Hermione what they learned, but discover that Hermione has accidentally changed into a cat and they hurried her off to the hospital wing.

Here's what I don't get about the Polyjuice Plan, say Malfoy had confessed, what exactly were they going to do about it? Several times in this chapter it's implied that when Malfoy confesses, everything will be resolved and he'll be in trouble. So the plan is to get the confession, then go tell Dumbledore or McGonagall that they had fraudulently gotten a dangerous book out of the Restricted Section, stolen potion ingredients, rendered two boy unconscious, stole their hair and shoes and locked them in a closet, taken an illicit potion and then coerced a confession out of Malfoy? It would then, of course, turn into a case of he said, they said and let's face it, the rivalry between Harry and Malfoy has certainly not gone unnoticed by the teachers, so are they really going to take the trio's word for it? I suppose they could dose everyone with Veritaserum to ferret out the truth, but still I imagine the trio would have all gotten in quite a lot of trouble as well. I suppose one could make an argument that the punishment would be worth it if the attacks stopped, but I still question whether or not any of them had fully thought out the consequences of their plan (obviously not or Hermione wouldn't have turned into a cat).

As always, your comments are appreciated!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Dueling Club

Well, I've had a crazy few weeks and I'm so sorry that this blog fell by the wayside during them. The good news is that the rest of my summer is looking pretty tame, so I'm hoping to be back to a regular schedule now, though I reserve the right to skip the occasional blog when there's a bad thunderstorm! Now, down to business.

Harry wakes in the Hospital Wing with his bones fully regrown and heads out to find Hermione and Ron, who, as it happens, are in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. Having heard about Colin, they've decided to move forward on the Polyjuice Potion and their plan is soon set in motion. Malfoy is staying at Hogwarts over Christmas, and they decide this will be the perfect time to interrogate him. First though, they need some ingredients from Snape's store cupboard. Harry creates a diversion by throwing one of the twins' fireworks into Goyle's potion and Hermione slips into Snape's office and retrieves what they need.

While the potion bubbles away in the bathroom for a couple weeks, notices are posted that there will be a Dueling Club at Hogwarts. Half the school turn out for the first lesson to find Lockhart and Snape will be teaching them. After a demonstration wherein Lockhart looks like a buffoon, the students are separated into pairs to practice disarming. Understandably, this turns into a jinxing free-for-all. Lockhart decides he should teach them how to block spells and choose Malfoy and Harry to demonstrate it this time. Malfoy sends a snake after Harry, who, thanks to Lockhart's "instructions" has no idea what to do to block the spell does the only thing he can think of and yells at the snake to stop, which much to his surprise, the snake does. Strangely, this seems to set off an epidemic of whispers from the watching students and strange looks from the teachers as Ron and Hermione pull Harry out of the class.

Harry soon learns that he was speaking Parsel-Tongue, a rare ability he shares with Salazar Slytherin. The next day Harry finds out that many of his classmates believe him to be the Heir of Slytherin, a misconception which is not helped by Harry's discovery of two more petrified bodies, Justin Finch-Fletchley and Nearly-Headless Nick. It's time for a visit to the headmaster...

For such a long chapter, there's not really much that actually happens, just set up for future chapters mostly. We are reminded about the Sorting Hat considering Slytherin for Harry, and the Polyjuice plan progresses, but to me the most striking thing happens during Dueling Club; Snape, however inadvertently, teaches Harry expelliarmus.

What does it mean that it is Snape, Harry's greatest nemesis (I'm open to debate on this point) is the one who first uses expelliarmus in the series? We know it soon becomes Harry's go-to spell. He'll use it against Lockhart in just a few chapters, and then in every subsequent book at the most crucial moments. It becomes his signature to the point that it almost gets him killed in Deathly Hallows. What is it about this spell at this moment, that Harry keys into? Would it have become such a huge part of Harry's spell-casting if he had learned it in a classroom? If it had been Lockhart who had cast it? I have no answers, but I would love to hear if anyone else has any ideas in the comments.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Rogue Bludger

Okay, well I didn't get a lot of comments about the summary, but those that did comment seemed to like it, so I think I'll stick with it, as they're kind of fun to write.

Harry, Ron and Hermione chose the perfect teacher to go to for access to the book they need, Lockhart doesn't even look at the note before signing it. Madam Pince retrieves Moste Potente Potions from the Restricted Section and the trio head straight to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. There Hermione determines that the Polyjuice Potion will take about a month to make and Ron is revolted to discover they need a "part of the person" they'll be changing into for the potion. They also find that they'll have to steal some ingredients from Snape.

That weekend is the first Quiddich match of the year, Gryffindor vs. Slytherin. Early in the game it becomes evident that a bludger has somehow been enchanted to attack Harry and only Harry. It breaks his arm, but he still manages to catch the Snitch and win the game. Lockhart attempts to heal the break, but only succeeds in removing all the bones from that arm. Madam Pomfrey is able to regrow the bones, but Harry will have to spend a pain-filled night in the hospital wing. He (amazingly) manages to fall asleep, only to be awakened by Dobby the House Elf, who confesses to having blocked Harry from getting on the train and enchanting the bludger. He also lets slip that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened in the past. Before Harry can get any more information from him, Dumbledore and McGonagall arrive with the petrified Colin Creevey. They check to see if he was able to get a picture of his attacker, but the camera film has melted. When McGonagall wonders aloud who is opening the Chamber, Dumbledore makes the enigmatic comment "The question is not who, the question is how.", effectively confusing the crap out of everyone.

I kind of hate this Quiddich game, I don't know what it is about it (maybe the lack of commentary?) but I find it a bit boring. I will point out to those who have been reading this blog from the beginning, that if this were Sorceror's Stone, we probably would have watched the bludger attack from Ron and Herminoe's point of view. What really bothers me in this chapter is the general incompetance of the teachers and staff:
a. Why didn't Madam Hooch notice the insane-o bludger and do something about it? Surely it can't be "legal" to have a bewitched ball in play?
b. Why is Lockhart the only teacher/staff member to go to Harry when he falls off his broom with a broken arm and passes out? (Lockhart's own incompetence is obvious and doesn't need pointing out).
c. Why doesn't Madam Hooch have some level of basic magical medical training so that she can mend bones, cuts, etc.? It's no secret that Quiddich is a dangerous game.
d. Since Madam Hooch is apparently absent such knowledge, or at the very least absent the motivation to use it when needed, why isn't Madam Pomfrey at the games? It's clearly stated that basically the entire school attends.

Yep, big time lapse on the part of pretty much every adult at the school here.

Of course, all this is designed to get us to the hospital wing, so that we can be hit with a whole bunch of revelations in the last few pages, the biggest of which is the discovery that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened before. I wonder if Harry will latch on to that in some way?

As always, comments are welcomed and encouraged!

*Note* I know a website with color versions of Mary Gran-Pre's chapter drawings and I was going to embed the one for this chapter in the post and wouldn't you know, it was the only one that wasn't there! I'm going to go back and do it on past posts while I add tags and chapter summaries, so keep an eye out for them.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Writing on the Wall

I was thinking about this blog over the weekend and I wondered if it would be helpful if I wrote a little chapter synopsis for each post? I've been working off the assumption that people who have read these books as many times as I have only need to see the chapter title to know what happens, but then sometimes the chapter titles are a bit oblique (like this one) and you might not realize everything that happens. So, what do you all think? Would you like a quick chapter recap before I get into things? Here's a sample of what I'm thinking:

Lured by Malfoy's oh-so-subtle cry, Filch turns up, takes one look at Mrs. Norris and decides that Harry and his pals have killed the cat. Dumbledore shows up and takes Filch, Mrs. Norris, and the trio to Lockhart's office (at Lockhart's insistance). Snape and McGonagall follow. After a long (and tedious to anyone listening to Lockhart) examination, Dumbledore announces that Mrs. Norris is not dead but petrified and can be cured. Due to lack of evidence and despite the best efforts of Snape and Filch, Harry and pals will not be punished.

The whole school is talking about the Chamber of Secrets and when Hermione can't find a copy of Hogwarts, A History in the school library, she asks Binns about the Chamber. He reluctantly tells the class the "myth" and assures them there is no such thing. It soon becomes evident that many students think Harry is Slytherin's heir, but the trio believe Malfoy the most likely candidate (surprise!) and hatch a plan involving much deceit and trickery to find out if they're correct. All they need is a really dumb teacher...

That one may actually be a bit long, but you get the idea. If people think it's a good idea, I'll probably go back and add synopses to past posts as well. Let me know what you think in the comments.

As for my comments on this chapter, I don't have too much to say. I will say that I find it kind of weird that Binns doesn't believe in the Chamber of Secrets. Surely he was there the last time it was opened? Any other teacher and I would say they were covering, but Binns doesn't really seem the type to care about faculty decisions. Though, I suppose his general apathy for school life could be the reasoning for him not knowing about the Chamber.

Other than that, this chapter is pretty straight forward. I will say that I desperately want Rowling to write Hogwarts, A History, I know I'm not alone in that.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Deathday Party

Due to Oliver Wood's obsession, Harry finds himself returning from Quiddich practice on rainy October morning, muddy and dripping. He runs into Nearly-Headless Nick who has once again been denied entrance to the Headless Hunt due to his, you know, nearly-headlessness. While they're talking, Filch comes across them and drags Harry into his office to punish him for the mess he's made. Before Filch can punish him though, Nick convinces Peeves to drop a Vanishing Cabinet over Filch's office, saving Harry from Filch's rage. As a thank you, Harry agrees to attend Nick's 500th Deathday Party. So Halloween finds Harry, Ron and Hermione heading down to the dungeon for the ghost's party instead of to the feast with the rest of the students. After brief conversations with various ghosts, including Moaning Myrtle and Nearly-Headless Nick, the trio heads upstairs, hoping to be able to at least get dessert, but before they can get upstairs, Harry hears a disembodied voice threatening to kill. They follow it to the second floor and find Mrs. Norris hanging stiffly from a torch bracket under the words "THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED. ENEMIES OF THE HEIR BEWARE". Before they can leave the area, the feast finishes and the rest of the school converges on the hall.

I have to admit that I knew what I was going to write about today before I even started reading this chapter, it's something that's bothered me for years. I'm definitely going to get to that, but I had another random thought while reading that I wanted to share first as well as quickly acknowledge that this is where the Vanishing Cabinet gets broken. (Consider it acknowledged!)

Why is Filch the one who's cleaning up the mud and guts? What is his job description? He's caretaker, I know, but in other things I've read caretaker is either making sure an empty house doesn't go to pot or making some minor repairs and overseeing servants. I mean, there are house-elves around who could clean up this stuff with a snap of their fingers, what's the point of Filch doing it? And if its one of those micro-managey I'll-do-it-myself kind of things, does he really have a right to get all pissy about how long it's going to take him to clean it? (That was the random thought, I'm really interested to hear what others have to say about this).

Okay, onto the thing that's been bugging me for years. In Order of the Phoenix, Sir Nicholas tells Harry that wizards become ghosts when they're afraid of what's out there. It's a choice that, by my understanding, is made consciously. It therefore really bugs me that at the Deathday Party the trio sees "a group of nuns" in addition to the Fat Friar. Without getting into personal beliefs about what might come after death, I wonder why so many people who had taken the veil/whatever monks take would fear what was to come. What is the point of taking vows of chastity, poverty and charity if you're too scared to find out if it was worth it? I mean, I'm sorry, but if you're going to become a ghost and refuse to "move on" regardless of where that might be, than you may as well have a little fun in life! (I'm also intrigued by the very idea of witches and wizards choosing such a vocation in the first place. Are their wizarding sects of Catholicism/Anglicism?) Again, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below!

Oh, one more random thought I almost forgot: Sir Nicholas is described (and portrayed in the film) as wearing a neck ruff, but he died in 1492 and ruffs didn't become standard/popular until the middle of the 16th century. Did Sir Nicholas somehow acquire the ruff after his death or was he just really fashion forward when he was alive?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mudbloods and Murmurs

Harry is woken early Saturday morning by Oliver Wood, excited to get started with Quiddich practice. Harry jots a quick note to Ron and meets the rest of the team in the locker room, where Oliver proceeds to drone on about strategy for what I assume is over an hour. When they finally head onto the pitch, the Slytherin team shows up, showing off their new brooms from Malfoy's dad. Ron and Hermione join them and after a pretty awesome zinger on her part, Malfoy calls Hermione a "mudblood", resulting in instant uproar. Ron attempts to curse Malfoy, but his broken wand causes the spell to backfire and it Ron who ends up spitting up slugs. The trio head to Hagrid's, where Harry and Hermione learn that "mudblood" is a horrible term for Muggle-borns. Eventually the slugs stop and they head back to the castle for lunch, where McGonagall finds them and tells Harry and Ron they'll do their detentions that night. Harry has to help Lockhart answer his fan mail, which might just be the worst detention Harry ever gets (possibly even worse than the one from Snape in Half-Blood Prince). Near midnight, Harry hears a voice threatening violence, but there doesn't seem to be anyone else around...

Finally a chapter with a little substance! Here we get a first look at one of the major themes of the series, discrimination. We already know from previous chapters (At Flourish and Blotts) that the Malfoys have a prejudice against Muggles, but it's in this chapter that the extent of that prejudice within the wizarding world begins to become clear. This discrimination is prevalent enough that a derogatory word for Muggle-borns is well-known throughout the community.

It's interesting to see the reactions of the other students when Malfoy uses the term "Mudblood", from the violent (Fred and George) to the verbal (Alicia) and the vengeful (Ron). One of the things I find most interesting about this, is how many people jumped to correct Malfoy/stand up for Hermione. What are the chances of that happening in the Muggle world? There's certainly discrimination here, and words that are used to wound. How many would come to the aid of a fellow student being called one of those words we all know?

These children's willingness to stand up for what's right will of course continue to play as we move through the series. It all starts right here. This is why these books should be read in schools and in homes. To teach our young people what it is to do the right thing. It's not always easy, but it's worth it in the end.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Gilderoy Lockhart

I want to start off this post with a big thank you to Lisa at Her Book Self for giving me the Great Blog Neighbor Award. I highly recommend checking out Lisa's blog, a fun mix of book reviews, interesting quotes, and personal entries. Recognition by one's peers always feels good and I appreciate it immensely. I fully intend to pass it on, but I want to take a bit more time to think about to whom I will give it.

Now on to today's chapter: The day after their grand entrance, Ron receives a howler from his mother, admonishing him for his thoughtlessness. After breakfast, Ron, Harry and Hermione head to Herbology, where they run into Lockhart who proceeds to act like a giant ass and make assumptions about Harry. In class muggle-born Justin Finch-Fletchley joins their group in repotting Mandrakes. After lunch first-year Colin Creevey introduces himself to Harry, whom he has come to idolize in the short time he's had to learn about the wizarding world. Lockhart shows up again and more ass-ery ensues. Then comes Lockhart's class, which is pretty much what you'd expect: a quiz about him and then a disastrous practical lesson involving Cornish Pixies.

I have two things I want to talk about, howlers (awesome!) and Mandrakes (horrifying).

I think Howlers are one of Rowling's best ideas. First of all, they make sense, by which I mean I can understand how they could work, unlike so many of her magical apparatuses. I do wonder if you buy a special Howler envelope or if you cast the spell on any random envelope and the spell turns it red. If you do have to buy a Howler, who sells them? For some reason, based on the three people we know to use them in the series, I'm more inclined to think that the spell changes the envelope rather than the envelope being necessary to the spell. Also, it'd be a bit weird to keep something like that around and if you didn't keep it around you'd have to go out and buy one and by the time you finished doing that you probably would have lost some of your steam.

On the other hand, I'm conflicted about Mandrakes. On the one hand, they obviously work. On the other hand, I'm a vegetarian, so the idea of chopping up living, sentient creatures is abhorrent to me. Think about how they're described, first as babies and later as adolescents and teens who try to sneak into each others pots. It's pretty gross. Then again, maybe there's no other way to de-petrify someone. Would it be fair to leave a person in a petrified state when you had a way to heal them? What about a cat? Or a ghost? It's interesting to me that no one seems to have any sort of moral dilemma about this. I'd actually love to hear how Hermione feels about it as someone who is socially active and was saved by the Mandrakes. I tend to think that I might have to start my own activism group: WWETMR perhaps (Witches and Wizards for the Ethical Treatment of Mandrake Root).

Oh, and while I'm on the subject, why isn't that something you can buy at the apothecary's? I'd imagine not everyone can afford to cultivate their own, what if they need to counter a curse? But if it is sold at the apothecary's, isn't it negligent of Dumbledore to wait 8 months to cure anyone?

Lot's of question marks in this post, the question marks aren't rhetorical. Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Whomping Willow

Summer vacation comes to an end and Harry and Weasleys pack up and head to King's Cross Station. Running late they quickly head through the barrier to Platform 9 3/4 in pairs. Harry and Ron are the last to go, but the barrier won't let them through. After a couple minutes of panic, they decide to use the car to get to school. They reach the school, just as the car starts to lose steam (gas? magic?). The car crashes into a tree that proceeds to beat the ever-loving poo out of it and them, breaking Ron's wand in the process. The car escapes into the forest and the boys head to the castle where they're intercepted by Snape. Snape gleefully leads the boys down to his office, informing them that they were seen by several muggles. They are soon joined by McGonagall and Dumbledore, who assign them detention and tell them they're going to inform their families. After a dinner of sandwiches, they head upstairs, where all of Gryffindor is waiting to celebrate their grand entrance.

I LOVE the Hogwarts Express. That symbolic journey between the real world and the magical world are generally some of my favorite chapters. This could certainly be one of the reasons that I don't like this chapter much.

I'm also rather intolerant of stupidity and this chapter's just chock-full of that. There are any number of ways that Harry and Ron could have gotten to Hogwarts without taking the car and the fact that they didn't think of any of them irks me. Maybe it's normal for 12-year-old boys to act on the first idea they come up with, I don't know, I've never been one. Even so, the idiocy of the idea in the first place is unbelievable.

I can understand why Rowling did things this way, the car, the willow and the barricade closing are all important later on, and she does make an effort to have the decision make sense: Ron wonders if his parents will be able to get through, Harry notices that they're being stared at, etc. but I need something more for this chapter to be reasonable to me.

What are your feelings on the Flying Ford Anglia problem?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

At Flourish and Blotts

So here's the thing about rereading Harry Potter, I know what's going to happen. Okay, that's obvious, but knowing what's going to happen means that I have favorite bits and ummm...un-favorite bits. Now, usually when I reread the series I zoom through all 7 books in about 2 weeks, so if I'm at an un-favorite part, I know that I'll be getting to a favorite part soon. When you're only reading a chapter at a time, then you know that the un-favorite part (like, you know, all of Chamber of Secrets) is going to last a while. It's making it a bit difficult. This was my 3rd attempt at this chapter since my last post and I finally made it all the way through.

Everyone receives their Hogwarts letters and a trip to Diagon Alley is quickly planned. Harry is "taught" how to use floo powder, but he has some problems and ends up at what is obviously a Dark Wizard shop. This is made even more clear when Malfoy and his dad show up to sell some of their goods. Harry eventually makes it out to the street where Hagrid finds him and guides him back to Diagon Alley. They soon find Hermione and the Weasleys. Shopping is done, ending with a trip to Flourish and Blotts, where Lockhart is signing his book. He notices Harry and pulls him up for a photo, announcing that he will be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts that year. After escaping, he and Ginny end up in an altercation with Malfoy, which culminates in a fist fight between Lucius Malfoy and Arthur Weasley.

Basically I find this chapter pretty boring. I know there's lots of stuff that comes up later in the series - the Hand of Glory, the Vanishing Cabinet, Harry teaching Mr. Weasley about telephones - but it's done in a way that feels pretty tedious by the umpteenth read (conservative estimate on how many times I've actually read this book: 8). Anyway, because of all that, I'm going to write a rambling post about the Floo Network.

It's stupid. Okay, it's a cheap and easy way for families to travel, except, you don't seem to be able to have more than one person go at a time. Obviously when the kids are really young you must be able to travel together because you couldn't have an infant traveling alone, but at what age do kids start to travel by themselves. Awfully young it would seem. How safe is that? Harry proves just how easy it is to get lost. How many kids do you think get lost in the floo system every year. Okay, sure. All the fireplaces go to other wizards, who could likely help a lost child get where they need to be, but not all wizards are good people. Imagine a child younger or stupider than Harry ending up at Borgin and Burkes!

Of course, the Floo Network does have it's uses, the whole head in the fireplace method of communication is pretty freaking cool, but as a method of family travel, I think it falls far short. My family would be taking the Knight Bus instead.

Not as long and rambley as I had intended, but my dinner smells done and I'm hungry. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Burrow

After an incredibly long and tiring day, it was absolutely lovely to come home and dive into a Weasley-centric chapter. Who doesn't love a good Weasley chapter?

This one starts with Ron, Fred and George showing up in the flying Ford Anglia to spring Harry from the Dursleys. I love when Fred and George are at the Dursleys, it's always excellent. This is obviously the most tame time, they just pull iron bars out of the window, pick the door lock, sneak downstairs, pick the cupboard lock, drag Harry's things upstairs and out the window and then yank Harry from Vernon's grasp as they fly away. Tame.

Seriously, I love the idea that Fred and George have taken the time to learn "Muggle ways" of mischief. I imagine their dad had a little something to do with that, not on purpose of course, but surely Arthur's obsession with Muggles filtered through to Fred and George, who then interpreted it the only way they could. Trouble.

Things get even better when they actually reach the Burrow. As I read, I'm just as fascinated as Harry with this wizard house. I day-dream about being able to flick my wand and do the dishes or create a 1-minute feast. It is interesting to note that the clock is different here. Obviously Rowling knew she wanted an interesting clock, she just hadn't quite figured out how to do it yet.

The garden de-gnoming is a fun slice of wizard life. I love that Molly describes it as "boring", I think it sounds pretty fun!

Finally we get to meet Mr. Weasley. What can I say about old Arthur? As Rowling has pointed out, he's the only decent father in the entire series. I fell in love with him the second he asked his sons how the flight went instead of punishing them.

What about you? What are your feelings about the Weasleys? Love them? Hate them? (If you hate them, I'd be interested to hear why....and I expect your last name is Malfoy.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dobby's Warning

There is a weird, somewhat annoying creature hanging out in Harry's room. He introduces himself as Dobby the House-Elf and he's there to convince Harry not to return to Hogwarts. Harry refuses, Dobby reveals that he's been stopping Harry's letter and then goes downstairs and drops the pudding on the floor. Shortly thereafter, and owl arrives with a letter for Harry (ruining Vernon's shot at selling the Masons his drills) which informs him that if he performs magic again he'll be expelled. Upon finding out that Harry isn't allowed to do magic outside of school, Vernon determines to lock Harry in his room and keep him from going back to Hogwarts. Harry's just resigned himself to his fate, when Ron appears at his window...

Love 'em or hate 'em, they're a huge part of the Harry Potter world for the rest of the series. Personally, I don't mind them. I've always had a soft spot for the "cutesy" characters my fellow geeks generally love to hate. I don't even mind Jar-Jar that much, though that could just be because the rest of the movie was so awful I didn't see the point in singling him out for derision.

At any rate, I like Dobby. I don't love him (I love Kreacher), but he doesn't make me want to beat him over the head like Winky does. That being said, I can definitely understand why some people dislike him so much.

First of all, there's the fact that he kinda came out of nowhere. So many other creatures were mentioned, at least in passing, in Philosopher's Stone, that it's a little jarring to discover a new sentient creature. A passing mention in Philosopher's Stone, might have helped (no idea where, obviously Malfoy would be the easiest way to get a mention in, but that might have then given away the game as to who Dobby's master was).

Then there's his Bob Dole-itis. "Dobby came to warn Harry Potter." "Dobby must..." "Dobby is..." blah blah blah. Then he occasionally throws in a first person reference, just to see if you're paying attention, "Sometimes they reminds me to do extra punishments." It's enough to drive anyone mad. I feel like this may have been toned down in later books though. That or I just got used to it.

Finally, at this point, he seems like a big old McGuffin. Useful for now, and then we'll ignore him. Obviously, this doesn't end up being the case at all, Dobby and the other house-elves are integral to the story, but Rowling certainly took her time paying it off!

I can't let this chapter go without mentioning the Dursley's. I can't help but wonder what Vernon's plan is. Harry's only 12, so are they going to let him out for public school? Home school him? (Yeah right) Really, Vernon, isn't your best option letting him go to school so you can get rid of him for 10 months? Especially now that you know he's not allowed to do magic when he's "home"? It seems pretty win-win to me. (Obviously that's the problem, Dursley doesn't mind losing as long as Harry does too, still, not the best laid plan.)

Let's hear from some of the Dobby-haters out there. What is it about him that bugs you? How about the Dobby fans? Why do you like him so much? I look forward to your answers!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Worst Birthday

After a restful weekend I'm ready and raring to start in on book two, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I'm hoping to move through this one at a pretty fast clip and I'll tell you why. I long ago removed the dust jackets from my copies and have the book displayed on a shelf full of other Potter stuff (a snitch, glasses, movies, etc.) and I've discovered that when you remove Chamber of Secrets, the red of Sorcerer's Stone and the purple of Prisoner of Azkaban clash horribly. I'm telling you. Go try it with your copies and see how long you'd want to have to see that on you shelf everyday! I would put up pictures if I had a decent camera, it's that bad.

So, now that I've whined about decor for half a page, let's talk about the chapter. There's not much to this one really. It's basically your standard "let me do a quick recap of the first book for you" all sequels are cursed with. I know that it's there for the people who missed the first one and came in in the middle, but for me, who's far too compulsive to ever start a series in the middle, it gets old fast. I wish publisher's would consider putting out editions for people like me, that skip over all that stuff. Rowling is better than most at making it interesting (maybe not here, but she gets better at it). I can remember the days when I was into The Baby-Sitter's Club and Sweet Valley Twins when I would just skip the chapter that gave me all the back story stuff and I never missed a thing. Perhaps now that ebooks are becoming more popular, it will be possible to have editions of books that cut all that junk out. Then again, if you were to cut out all that stuff from this chapter, it would go a little something like this:

Harry and Dursleys were eating breakfast. Dudley demanded that Harry pass him some bacon and Harry said, "You didn't say the magic word."
After Uncle Vernon finished freaking out about Harry saying magic (again) he reminded everyone of his big business meeting. He headed out, admonishing Harry to stay out of Aunt Petunia's way.
He was trying to do just that, quietly singing Happy Birthday to himself and feeling sorry for himself that no one had sent him any gifts. Perhaps Ron and Hermione didn't want to be his friend. Sure, they'd risked their lives just a month before to help him, but they could have easily had a change of heart.
Something's watching him from the hedge.
Dudley comes out to make fun of Harry's lack of friends on his birthday and Harry takes the bait, pretending to cast magic on the hedge. As punishment Petunia makes Harry do the gardening. When finally the day is over, Harry eats and heads upstairs, where someone is sitting on his bed!

That's it. Short chapter. How do you feel about the "previously in" recaps, required of sequels?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Man with Two Faces

This chapter is so chock-full of goodness, I almost don't know where to start! Almost.

One of the things that makes this chapter so wonderful, is that this is when we really get to see Rowling's genius for storytelling. By the time I read Philosopher's Stone for the first time, I'd read enough mysteries to know that the "bad guy" probably wouldn't be Snape, but I certainly wasn't expecting Quirrel! However, as Harry looks back at all the clues he had through the year, you quickly realize that sure enough, Rowling had been telling you who it was all along. Of course, by the second reading it's blatantly obvious and you don't know how you could have missed it! This ability of Rowling's to turn a sentence into a major plot development will continue throughout the series, but here's where we see it for the first time.

As interesting as the mystery is, for me it's everything that comes after the confrontation with Voldemort that I truly love. This is due, in large part, to Rowling's other forte, world building. You see, while I love the story of Good vs. Evil, it's the characters and places that keep me coming back, making the denouements some of my favorite parts of the series. All the worry and angst is over, and we just get to hang out with our friends in a magic castle. Who wouldn't want that?

This is also the point where I fall head over heels in love with Dumbledore. The way he talks to Harry, treating him like an adult (or so it seems at this point, of course knowing what we know from Order of the Phoenix, he could have done just a bit more) and promising not to lie is very endearing. Although, I will say, this time through I noticed the line "I do believe [Snape] worked so hard to protect you this year because he felt that would make him and your father even." and can't help but think that, at the very least, that wasn't the whole truth. Dumbledore knows how Snape felt about Lily and must realize that's a much stronger reason for Snape to want to keep Harry alive. I also wonder if Dumbledore is already grooming Harry for his future in light of the prophecy when he tells him "...death is but the next great adventure."

Dumbledore then solidifies his place in my heart by making sure that it's Neville's points that put Gryffindor over the edge for the House Championship. I'm getting all verklempt again just thinking about it.

There are so many other little moments to love in this chapter, the callback to the toilet seat joke, Dumbledore eating the jelly bean, the photo album Hagrid makes for Harry to name a few, that it would be impossible for me to mention them all here, so I'm going to ask you to do it. Is there something you love about this chapter you think I forgot? A way of looking at this chapter I might not have thought about? Share your ideas in the comments!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Through the Trapdoor

I see this chapter as a microcosm of the series as a whole. We start off the chapter with the mundane topic of exams, something pretty much everyone can relate to, much like each book starts off with Harry in the muggle world. Even the magic that is done is the exams seems a bit ordinary.

Juxtapose that banality with what happens when they go through the trapdoor (does anyone else see an Alice reference here?). Their lives are immediately put into danger when the Devil's Snare attacks and things get progressively more dangerous as they make their way through the chambers to find Snape. Similarly, the danger grows throughout the series, until you reach the bloodbath of Deathly Hallows.

We also get an advance look at the friendship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione as we see for the first time just how strong the bond between them is. Not only do Ron and Hermione accompany Harry into danger, they do it without thought. It's striking that here Ron doesn't even consult with Hermione before saying that they're going with Harry, much as Hermione doesn't consult with Ron at the end of Half Blood Prince before saying they're joining him in the Horcrux hung. Furthermore, we see just how far they are willing to take things when Ron sacrifices himself in the chess match. Both are aware from an early point how dangerous being friends with Harry can be, and neither one cares. The power of love is the overarching theme of the series, and Ron and Hermione exemplify it here.

Now, that I've gotten all the academic stuff out of the way, a few quick, fun points. I've found that it is physically impossible for me to read the Snape line "people will think you're up to something" without pausing between "you're" and "up", I couldn't even type it just now without pausing! I'd also be remiss if I didn't at least mention the first of the bookend "ARE YOU A WITCH OR AREN'T YOU?", consider it mentioned. Finally, I'm curious to know what everyone's favorite enchantment is? I'm partial to Snape's myself, which I imagine stems from my dad teaching me logic puzzles from a young age, I just find it frustrating that it doesn't give us a picture of the bottles so we could try to figure it out for ourselves before reading Hermione's answer!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Forbidden Forrest

Confession time again. I read this chapter a week ago, but I couldn't think of anything to write about it. Don't get me wrong, this is an important chapter, I just don't know what to say about it.

We now know Voldemort's around and that the Philosopher's Stone is really for him.

We meet the centaurs and learn how annoying they are.


Yep, boring I know, but I had to post something so I could move on. Tomorrow we'll head through the trap door and on Thursday we'll meet the man with two faces!

If you think I've missed some integral plot point in this chapter please let me know!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback

I don't like Norbert.

Before the rotten tomato throwing starts, let me explain.

To me, Norbert is nothing more than the biggest, most obvious McGuffin Rowling uses in the whole series. And it takes an entire chapter.

Think about it. What is the point of Norbert?
a. To get Harry into the forest.
b. To give Hagrid a reason to spill the beans about Fluffy to someone.
This is fine, I'm well-aware that McGuffins exist and I'm generally perfectly okay with them, but Norbert just grates on me and there's a couple reasons for that.

First of all, I really don't like dragons that much.


Please stop throwing food and let me finish!

I can see why some people find dragons appealing, and when they're done right I can really enjoy them (I love the dragons in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, for instance), but Norbert is down-right boring. She bites a hand, starts a small fire and ruins a teddy bear, big deal.

The second reason is that I truly don't understand why Hagrid let two first-years do his dirty work for him. Why couldn't Hagrid borrow the cloak to cover Norbert and carry him up to the tower himself?! He's an adult and a member of the Hogwarts staff, surely he's allowed to "wander the castle at night". Plus, Norbert is heavy! Hagrid is half-giant! No, probably better to let the 11-year-old boy and the 12-year-old girl carry the heavy, dangerous creature by themselves. I mean really, that's just stupid and a little bit mean! Besides, are you seriously telling me that Hagrid couldn't go to Dumbledore, tell him he made a mistake and apologize and that Dumbledore wouldn't help him? That's what they did in the movie and it made WAY more sense.

Finally, I think I'm just annoyed that Rowling just let's Norbert go, when she brings back so many other ostensible McGuffin's in later books as integral parts of the plot. She's mentioned again, specifically when Charlie tells Hagrid that she's a girl and having established the gender change I find it very surprising that she is not then one of the nesting dragons used for the Triwizard Tournament. I think that would make me like this whole thing a lot better.

So, that's my thoughts on Norbert. Rebuttals? (Do I dare hope) agreements?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nicholas Flamel

Guess what?! I came home from work with residual energy and managed to read and process an entire chapter! All the craziness at work is going to last about another week, so posts will probably continue to be sporadic until then, but I'll do my best, as we're getting so close to the end of Philosopher's Stone. This chapter isn't really a favorite of mine, though I did steal the title of my blog from it, so this post is likely to be brief.

Two major events happen in this chapter and the first is the discovery of who Nicholas Flamel is. Now, I know that coincidence is an important literary device, but this one really does drive me a little crazy, that Harry just happens to have the right chocolate frog on hand, and Hermione just happens to have the right book upstairs makes me give a little eye roll, but more than that, shouldn't Flamel have his own chocolate frog card? I mean, really you'd think being the only one to be able to make a Philosopher's Stone would warrant a little recognition. I suppose it's possible that he refused to sign a waiver for his likeness, but then it seems weird that they would mention him at all. At any rate, we finally know who Nicholas Flamel is and we can move along with the plot.

Oh wait, no plot, it's Quiddich time again. Now, I really like Quiddich, but this game, like the one before, is written in that weird space-time hopping way that Jo thankfully gave up for the next book, and therefore drives me nuts (though Neville taking on Crabbe and Goyle by himself gives me a serious happy). In addition to that, there's a lot of talk in this chapter about the House Championship and I get totally confused, because I don't understand why winning in Quiddich has anything to do with the House Championship. Does winning give you house points? That seems a bit unfair as there's also the Quiddich Cup, or is she using them interchangeably? Surely not, as she mentioned in "The Midnight Duel" that Gryffindor haven't won the Quiddich Cup "since Charlie left" and in this chapter everyone keeps talking about how they haven't won the House Championship in 7 years and if she were using them interchangeably at that point that would make Charlie 23 or 24, making Bill at least 24 which would mean he was 14 years older then Ginny who at some point in another book says that she's wanted to go to Hogwarts ever since Bill first went, but she wouldn't even have been born yet. This could be a big part of why I don't like this chapter, it's too confusing. Luckily Rowling mostly fixes this in later books too and seems to keep the Quiddich Cup and the House Championship more separate.

There is a final bit of plot after the game and it's Harry listening in as Snape threatens Quirrel. It's a pretty classic misdirect and I think I remember it working on me the first time I read it. Many of my least favorite scenes are ones where Harry is eavesdropping, I don't know if it's because it feels too passive for Harry or too lazy on Rowling's part or some combination of the two, but whenever there's a scene like this I pretty much skim it and move on.

How do you feel about this chapter? Anyone else get caught up in math and forget to enjoy the story?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Mirror of Erised

I've been absent for a week, and I apologize. I've come home from work exhausted all week, and I wanted to be able to give my full attention to this highly important chapter. Two events of obvious importance to the story occur in this chapter, and I will most certainly get to them, but one of the purposes of this blog is to give outlet to the random thoughts I have when reading and see if anyone else shares them, this time I wonder, do wizards have the internet?

Now, as this is happening in 1991, it's unlikely that they'd have anything comparable at this point, one would think if they did they'd use that to figure out who Nicholas Flamel is (apparently they don't even have a decent card catalog at Hogwarts), but by 1998, when the series ends, the internet was pretty well established in the Muggle world, and I wonder if the wizarding world had come up with anything comparable, not that it would have been all that helpful to the trio on the run either, it just seems like an ability they should have.

Okay, now the randomness is done, let's discuss events of importance shall we? As I said, there are two major plot points in this chapter, one more important to this story and one of vital importance to the series as a whole. I'll start with the former, the Mirror of Erised.

I find the mirror fascinating largely because I don't understand the reason for its existence. What is the overall point of the mirror? I suppose it might be handy for career or family planning, but then again, the heart's desire in those areas can be extremely fickle. It just seems like the risks outweigh any benefit that might come from the mirror (you know, unless some weird convergence of genius old wizard and strangely perceptive 11-year-old happened, but really, what's the chances of that?) Nope, I just don't get the point of it. Anyone feel differently? Share! Share!

The other major event in this chapter is Harry's receipt of the invisibility cloak. At this point, it seems like a handy way to skirt around rules and get Harry (and the others) out-of-bounds with little trouble, but of course it's much, much more than that. While I'm not going to discuss it's role as a Deathly Hallow now, I certainly couldn't let it's introduction go by without mention!

Big chapter, I do hope I've done it justice. Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I don't really have much to say about this chapter plot-wise. We all know how this game comes into play at the end of the story (pretty clever JK!) and how the kids completely misinterpret the whole Snape/broom incident. I may choose to discuss one or both of these at a later date, when the clues payoff.

What I do want to talk about briefly is the point of view jumping that occurs in this chapter. I've mentioned it before in other places in this book, but this is where it's most evident and where I noticed it for the first time. We're with Harry for all the stuff at the beginning of the chapter but as everyone heads down to the Quiddich field we end up with Hermione, Ron, Neville, Seamus and Dean ("the West Ham fan"). After a few sentences, we jump over to Harry and the rest of the team in the locker room. We stick with Harry, until Hagrid suddenly turns up in the stands and explains that he's been watching from his hut, but decided to come see it in person after a bit. Next thing you know, we're circling the field with Harry again where we spot the snitch and go pelting out of it before we get fouled, but wait! now we're with the spectators again and not happy about what Flint just did! We fly back up to Harry where we notice his brooms acting a bit funny, perhaps we should check and see if anyone in the stands has noticed...yep, Hagrid thinks Harry's broom acting funny. We'll stick with the spectators a bit while they save Harry's life and then hurry back up to Harry just in time to experience swallowing the snitch with him. I'm exhausted!

I know this was her first book and thank goodness she found a more Harry-centric style and stuck with it in future books, but really, did her editors not notice the jumpiness? Come on, this is before she was J. K. ROWLING (imagine her name intoned by James Earl Jones) and beyond such petty trifles as actual editing. No, this is her first book, where certainly the editor had far more sway than in later years. Do your job!

So, now I've gotten that off my chest and I promise not to mention it (in depth) again. Does this stuff bother anyone else? Have you noticed this before or have I just ruined this chapter for you? (Sorry!)