Harry Potter Blogsplosion Day 6: Sam’s Film Review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Please join me in welcoming back Sam Cushion for today’s film review.  Sam is an amazing musician who creates musical scores inspired by books!  He has most recently created an unofficial score for The Hunger Games.  To find out more about Sam, check out his website here

Prisoner of Azkaban is the first of the Potter films to have a new director, Alfonso Cuarón. Chris Columbus did however stay on as a producer.  With Cuarón in the directors seat, Prisoner of Azkaban breaks out of the “child’s film” mold that the first two films seemed to fit into.  Gone are the flashy special effects, and in their place are the amazing sets and scenery that leave the viewer in awe.  The cinematography also adds a more mature and art-film like quality to the film as well.  There is also an increased emphasis on the characters of the film. Cuarón manages to effectively capture the teens’ inner turmoil and isn’t afraid to dwell on the darker side of the third book.  This also helps add to the maturity level of the film.

The film is also more appealing to a larger audience because it’s considerably shorter, just under 2 hours and 10 minutes.  It does not bog down or bore the audience with an attempt to capture EVERY element of the book, like the first two films did.  Unfortunately, no film will ever match the quality of the book it is based on, but Cuarón’s selection on what parts of the book to include are very well-selected.  Cuarón managed to bring life back into what some thought was a dying franchise at the time.  He also was able to make it more enjoyable for an older audience by making it darker, scarier, and more mature.

The soundtrack for Prisoner of Azkaban is also nothing short of amazing!  The Potter films have seen several different composers over the years, but none as good as Williams.  You cannot deny the very high bar that was set by him in the first three films.  Composers who have followed luckily haven’t missed that bar, nor have they exceeded it.

The Prisoner of Azkaban is nothing but a brilliant film!  Perhaps that is due to the fact that it was the last film with John Williams as composer or the direction of the new director.  Nevertheless, Prisoner of Azkaban has been one of my favorites of the Harry Potter, books and the film doesn’t disappoint.  I really do wish I could be more critical of this film, but in all honesty I can’t think of anything that disappointed me.  All in all this remains one of my favorite in the Potter films since it was released in 2004.

4 out of 5 Stars

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Warner Brothers
PG, 141 Minutes

Harry Potter Blogsplosion Day 5: Sam’s Review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling + GIVEAWAY

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Please join me in welcoming guest reviewer Sam Cushion. Sam is an amazing musician who creates musical scores inspired by books!  He has most recently created an unofficial score for The Hunger Games.  To find out more about Sam, check out his website here.  Welcome to the Reflections of a Book Addict family Sam!!

I must first start by stating how honored I am to be able to be apart of this Harry Potter Blogsplosion!

After another dreadful summer spent at the Dursley’s it is time for Harry to embark on another year at Hogwarts. Before arriving to his third year at the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Harry learns of the escape of a prisoner from Azkaban, Sirius Black, who has supposedly escaped to find and kill Harry for spoiling Voldemort’s plans.  Due to Black’s escape the security at Hogwarts is heavily increased, with Dementors, to protect the students.  Adding to this, Harry begins to learn more about the dark arts under the tutelage of the new defense against the dark arts teacher, Remus Lupin.  All of these new stressors begin to stretch Harry to the breaking point, all the while he continues to experience an increasing threat from his arch nemesis Voldemort.  Everything comes to a head when Ron is attacked by a large black dog while out with Harry and Hermione, and is dragged into the Shrieking Shack while Harry and Hermione are attacked by the Whomping Willow.  As they contemplate what to do next, they can hear Ron’s screams echoing from the shack.  Will they be able to save him in time?  Will Harry be able to escape from Sirius Black?

When Azkaban was first released it was claiming to be Rowling’s strongest work yet. Each book was getting better and better, and I must say that I agreed.  At this point in the series, the plot of each book becomes so intricate, that it would be nearly impossible for me to tell you every single thing that happens.  From the time The Prisoner of Azkaban was released and even to today, it  has been one of my favorite of the Potter books. So many very important events occur that it is hard to know where to start. We are introduced to Remus Lupin, the new defense against the dark arts teacher, Hagrid becomes a teacher, Harry discovers his Godfather, his new Firebolt broom, the Marauder’s Map – I could go on forever!

Prisoner of Azkaban is a very critical part of the Potter saga because we begin to learn more about Harry’s parents and the world as it was under Voldemort’s reign.  Even though Voldemort is not in this book, his evil presence is never gone from our thoughts.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s friendship grows stronger and we begin to feel even more like they are slowly becoming Harry’s family.  Ron’s father even takes on the role of father figure to Harry.  Remus Lupin gains the trust and loyalty of readers as he guides Harry through some difficult situations, as well as shows Harry a glimpse of who his parents were.  Our fondness for Dumbledore grows even more as he, as always, believes undeniably in Harry.  Of course we cannot forget Hagrid, who appears to be the rock behind Harry’s actions.   Harry’s life seems as though it is starting to fill up with people who truly care about him.

Each time I read about Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the other students at Hogwarts in Prisoner Of Azkaban I am reminded of why this is among my favorites in the Potter series. So much more is revealed about each character, bringing them all to us in a new light.  Harry, being only thirteen, is maturing into a young man instead of the young boy from books one and two. He grows wiser, and tries more and more to understand his past as well as the future that is to come.  The emotions throughout the whole book turn from childishness to adolescence, revealing to the reader the person and wizard Harry is destined to be.  As a person who loved Harry’s character as a lost, ragged boy, I found this new fearless, intelligent young man evolving throughout the story creating a special place in my heart.

4 out of 5 stars

Scholastic (1999)
Hardcover 435 pages
 
Giveaway
 
One lucky winner will have the opportunity to win a copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Paperback) by J.K. Rowling.  For your chance to win simply leave a comment in the thread below.  Comments will be accepted through midnight of Saturday July 30, 2011.  Winner will be picked at random and announced on Sunday July 31, 2011.  Giveaway open to US & Canadian residents only. Good luck!!

Harry Potter Blogsplosion Day 4: Savanna’s Film Review of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Please join me in welcoming back gust reviewer Savanna New! Savanna is the co-producer of The Hunger Games Fireside Chat and is also an associate editor at Picktainment.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets just can’t seem to catch a break! As I mentioned yesterday in my review of the book, when forced to choose, most fans usually describe Chamber of Secretsas being their least favorite book in the Harry Potter series (at least, that’s been my experience).  It’s an astonishing work of literary genius, to be sure, but just doesn’t stand out as much among its brethren.  The movie adaptation, which I will be looking at today, constantly receives a lot of flak as well.  Last year, one of my co-associate editors at Picktainment, Adam Spunberg, surveyed hardcore fans, along with a few Picktainment staff members, and asked us all to rank the first seven Harry Potter films.  How did Chamber of Secrets fare?  Adam wrote, “Sporting just 2% of the first-place votes and 69% of the bottom half, Secrets ought to just take some gillyweed and sulk among the Merpeople.”  Ouch!

So, what is it about the film that draws such a muddy reception?  You would think the things that make the book less attractive to readers – a slightly formulaic plot structure that’s “too” similar to Sorcerer’s Stone and a lack of the powerful and intricately woven storylines that characterize Rowling’s subsequent works would fade away behind the veneer of movie magic.  And they do, to an extent.  The movie has its own set of problems, which I’ll lay out below; fortunately, though, there are also a lot of really wonderful aspects to this film, which should definitely not go unrecognized.

Magical Moments:

  • Richard Harris is absolutely moving in his final turn as Dumbledore, delivering his lines with the sort of wise gentleness and winking spirit that make the headmaster such a lovable character in the books.  My opinion may be an unpopular one, but I’ll probably always prefer Harris’s Dumbledore to Michael Gambon’s. I like my Dumbledore with a twinkle in his eye, not a harsh snarl on their lips.

  • Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy?  Yes, please!
  • The design and voicing of Dobby could have gone very, very wrong.  Thankfully for all of us, it didn’t.

  • Chamber of Secrets, the movie, follows the book almost too closely, if such a thing is possible (and I hate to say that it is, considering how much I disliked the “liberties” that Alfonso Cuarón took when directing Prisoner of Azkaban).   A lot of unnecessary shots and scenes are present, but as a fan it’s truly incredible to see things like the Burrow, floo powder, Howlers, the flying Ford Anglia, Polyjuice Potion, and mandrakes brought to life.  And I relish the Quidditch scenes, given that those subplots basically disappear from the later films.
  • Two words: Kenneth Branagh.  This movie is worth re-watching just for his hilarious performance as new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and wizarding world celebrity, Gilderoy Lockhart.

Squib Stuff:

  • When in doubt, blame the director.  I think that Chris Columbus – who also directed Sorcerer’s Stone – is the main reason why many fans don’t seem to care for Chamber of Secrets as much as the other Harry Potter films.  His style is just to cutesy, clean, and sparkly for some.   Both Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets have always felt a bit like children’s holiday movies to me, and the tone that they evoke is not representative of the series at all.
  • Many of the scary scenes just aren’t scary enough.  The moments featuring Harry alone in the dark corridors of Hogwarts are really well-done – and appropriately creepy – but whenever Ron and Hermione are around, the mood tends to lighten unnecessarily.  Add a dose of ill-placed, jaunty music, and it’s the Scooby-Doo Gang resurrected.
  • I love Shirley Henderson, but I will never understand why they cast a woman in her late 30s to play Moaning Myrtle, who died while she was a student at Hogwarts.  Ghosts don’t age, last time I checked.

Maybe it’s because I’m starting to already get a bit weepy at the thought of “it all ending” on July 15, but as I watched The Chamber of Secrets for the umpteenth time in preparation for this review, I found myself treasuring and savoring each moment with a fondness and nostalgia that I’ve never really felt before.  Chamber of Secrets will never be my favorite Harry Potter film (or book), yes, and it certainly has its flaws, but it’s one-eighth of the unforgettable journey that we’ve been a part of for the last ten years and will always have a firmly rooted place in my heart.

4 out of 5 Stars

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Warner Brothers
G, 161 Minutes

Harry Potter Blogsplosion Day 3: Savanna’s Review of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling + GIVEAWAY

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Please join me in welcoming Savanna New to the Reflections of a Book Addict family! Savanna is the co-producer of The Hunger Games Fireside Chat and is also an associate editor at Picktainment.

As is the case with most people, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has always been my “least favorite” of the Harry Potter books. It’s not that it’s a bad book; J.K. Rowling is obviously incapable of writing anything less than brilliant. It’s that Chamber of Secrets doesn’t quite pack the punch of the other six novels in the series and, as a result, seems to be easily forgotten and usually relegated to last place in any kind of Harry Potter books ranking (the same can be said of the film, which I’ll discuss tomorrow). While it’s true that Chamber of Secrets may be slightly formulaic and lack a bit of the depth and literary magic of, say, Goblet of Fire or Deathly Hallows, I actually think it’s one of the smartest books in the series, in terms of its overall role.

At the beginning of Chamber of Secrets, we’re reunited with Harry just before the start of his second year at Hogwarts. As in the opening of Sorcerer’s Stone, we find Harry once again trapped, chez Dursley, longing to escape. Fortunately for Harry, though, a few things have changed. In addition to having received a room upgrade (no more cupboard under the stairs!), our bespectacled protagonist is a year older, a year wiser, and – perhaps most importantly – has tasted freedom. Harry now has something to live for, which – while doing wonders for his self-esteem and morale – has also made his life with Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and Dudley even more of a nightmare. He knows now that he isn’t “one of them,” and that there’s a place where he belongs and people who genuinely care about him. He misses Hogwarts, so much so that it’s “like having a constant stomachache.”

Luckily, Harry doesn’t have to endure the torturous confines of number four, Privet Drive, much longer. After finding a house-elf in his bedroom (Dobby!) who warns him that he’ll be in mortal danger if he shows up at school (this won’t be the first warning Harry ignores), Ron, Fred, and George Weasley show up in a flying car and whisk the Boy Who Lived away to their home, the Burrow. Chamber of Secrets is “Riddled” (pun intended) with funny, clever, lighthearted moments like that (e.g. basically every scene involving Gilderoy Lockhart), but doesn’t shy away from the darker stuff either. The main storyline of Chamber of Secrets is incredibly creepy, in fact, and the book as a whole is definitely heavier than its predecessor, touching on more complex issues like racism.

Like Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets revolves around a mystery that eventually leads Harry, Ron, and Hermione into the subterranean bowels of Hogwarts. After a series of petrification incidents and threats against Muggle-born students – and thanks to the help of a bathroom-dwelling ghost, Voldemort’s old diary, and little Ginny Weasley, whose kidnapping spurs everyone into action – the trio uncovers the Chamber and the horrors it hides within.

Many have critiqued Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for being too similar to Sorcerer’s Stone. The plot structures are similar, yes, but I think it’s important for the second book in a series to never stray too far from the spirit and basic anatomy of the first – after all, that’s what people are coming back for. The first must capture and captivate, but it’s the second book whose job it is to really hook the reader and convince him or her that the author is more than just a one-hit wonder. It’s unfair to compare Chamber of Secrets to the later Harry Potter books because, in many ways, Chamber of Secrets can be viewed as an extension of Sorcerer’s Stone. There’s still a lot of world-building happening, and I like the fact that Rowling doesn’t bombard us with too many details at once or try to rush the introduction of new characters and new information.

I’ve never been adept at conclusions, so I’ll instead leave you with the following words of wisdom:

“Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”

– Arthur Weasley, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

4 out of 5 Stars

Scholastic (1999)
Hardcover 341 pages
 
Giveaway
 
One lucky winner will have the opportunity to win a copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Paperback) by J.K. Rowling.  For your chance to win simply leave a comment in the thread below.  Comments will be accepted through midnight of Saturday July 30, 2011.  Winner will be picked at random and announced on Sunday July 31, 2011.  Giveaway open to US & Canadian residents only. Good luck!!

Harry Potter Blogsplosion Day 2: Adam’s Film Review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

This is the first movie blog post for Kim’s Harry Potter Blogsplosion, so where better to start than with the first movie. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was an excellent movie, and it got viewers excited for the series of movies that would be made after this one. Starring (at the time unknowns) Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint as the trio of heroes Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger, this movie of wizards and witchcraft tells a story that people of all ages will love.

At age 11 , Harry Potter doesn’t really know about his past. He lives with his aunt, uncle, and cousin who all treat him like a piece of dirt. They force him to do all of the errands around the house, on top of making him live in a little cupboard underneath the stairs. On his cousin’s birthday and a trip to the zoo, Harry begins to realize that he has the powers to make things happen just by thinking about them.  There is no explanation for how this occurs; only that Harry can somehow cause physical changes in his environment by merely thinking about them hard enough. At the zoo he helps a python escape, while trapping his cousin in the snake’s cage.  After this event it is revealed that Harry is in fact a wizard, and is then invited to attend the prestigious Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Initially his aunt and uncle balk at the suggestion, but after some convincing by Hagrid, the groundskeeper of the school, they agree to let him go.  Hagrid takes Harry under his wing and informs Harry about some of his past and who his parents were. While on the train he meets two other new students, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, and the trio become fast friends. They then meet Draco Malfoy, who is less than pleasant to them. While at the school Harry and his friends learn more about Harry’s parents and learn more about the powers they hold and how truly powerful they can be. They learn of a break-in at a nearby wizarding bank, and they begin to try to solve the mystery themselves. Can they make any progress under the threat of expulsion after less than one year at school?

The movie itself is highly entertaining. The plot is highly imaginative and in my opinion really makes the book (written by J. K. Rowling) come to life. As I was watching the movie, I truly believed in magic and truly believed that there is a school in England where students learn witchcraft. The way the movie was filmed was very magical and very out of this world. The director, Christopher Columbus, shot the movie in a very interesting style. He made the real world of England very dark and dreary by including a lot of gray and dark tones. In contrast to that, Hogwarts was always shot in a very colorful and vibrant light, making it seem more magical. The colors really popped out and really reflected Harry’s attitude: clearly he wasn’t happy being treated the way he was in his ordinary “muggle” life, but really became his own person and more true to himself at Hogwarts.

The acting was top-notch, especially given that the majority of the cast was so young. I’m not saying that young actors aren’t good, but they were all relatively unknown before the movie was shot, and they were all able to carry this big movie with many high expectations beautifully. One performance in particular that impressed me was Emma Watson as Hermione Granger. She played the brainy side-kick to Ron and Harry very well, and really stole the scenes she was in. Also Alan Rickman as Professor Snape was a standout as well, as he adds the quality of a good mysterious character to the movie and really adds to the sense of the unknown and foreboding in the movie.

All and all, the movie was a highly entertaining piece of work. I was as entertained watching the movie as a 25-year-old as I was when I first saw it at 15. I really enjoyed the acting, the direction, and the amazing world of wizarding that came to life. Like always, I leave you with a question: do you believe in magic?

4 out of 5 stars

Until next time, happy viewing.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
Warner Brothers
G, 152 Minutes

Harry Potter Blogsplosion Day 1: #39 A Review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling + GIVEAWAY

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 Welcome to the wonderful wizarding world of Harry Potter.  Set in a series of 7 books that were originally labeled as “young adult fiction”, J.K. Rowling began what is widely known as one of the best and most universally acclaimed fiction series ever written.  We begin the incredible tale with a lonely boy that lives at number 4 Privet Drive, who unknowingly has magical powers.  We follow Harry through his first year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and become introduced to all of his friends and foes along the way.  With such an amazing start to an awesome series, it’s no wonder Rowling has achieved such success with this book and the rest of the series.
 
We begin Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with the mundane and depressing life of Harry Potter, who endures constant teasing by his heavyset cousin, Dudley.  Harry has experienced this, along with an almost constant stream of taunts and oppression by his aunt and uncle, with whom he now lives, for as long as he can remember.  He has no memories of his parents: only the knowledge that they died when he was very young in a car wreck and that he was brought up by his mother’s sister and her family.  He experiences a number of odd events and feelings that he can’t explain, and he has always felt different from other children in school.  His world then turns upside down one day when a letter personally addressed to him announces that he is in fact a wizard, and has been accepted into Hogwarts, a magical school that specifically caters to witches and wizards (how he gets the letter is a funny story indeed).  After some persuasion from the groundskeeper of Hogwarts, who pays Harry’s family a visit on a flying motorcycle, Harry’s Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon agree to send him to the school, partially glad to be rid of him and partially upset that their free labor has left their care.
 
At Hogwarts, Harry experiences a freedom he seldom knew existed.  He soon befriends Hermione Granger, a know-it-all that helps Harry to adjust to wizarding life, and Ron Weasley, a funny and slightly aloof housemate of Harry’s that comes from a large family of wizards and witches.  Together the three experience the ups and downs of wizarding life, but they come to find that not all is as it seems.  Tales of a break-in at the wizarding bank Gringott’s circulate around Hogwarts, and Harry, Hermione, and Ron come to find out that a three-headed dog is guarding a mysterious object that could have been stolen from the bank.  Can they solve the mystery before it’s too late?  Will Harry be able to adapt to his new life as a wizard?
 
One of the best features of this book is the fact that it is extremely accessible.  Rowling’s writing and tone appeal to all ages, and she makes the story of Harry Potter intriguing and extremely vivid and realistic.  I can’t tell you how excited I was to follow Harry as he was introduced to a magical world of wizards and witches that exists not too far from our own “muggle” lives.  Rowling takes care to tell us every detail of the wizarding world, down to how the new arrivals to Hogwarts travel via a special boat that crosses a lake under the power of magic.  It is so detailed and imaginative that you can’t help but be pulled in to it.  We learn about all the rules and regulations of Hogwarts at the same time as Harry, we are just as naive about the powers of magic as he is.  This is why this book is special: we become Harry and become extremely invested in his well-being.  I can safely say that reading this book was one of the best imaginative experiences I’ve had with a book, and it took little to no effort to see the wonderful world that Rowling has created.  Even if you don’t traditionally enjoy fantasy/adventure novels, this is one book that you cannot pass up.  I guarantee you’ll love it! 
 
4 out of 5 Stars
 
This is my eleventh completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge
 
Scholastic (1997)
Hardcover 309 pages
 
Giveaway
 

One lucky winner will have the opportunity to win a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Paperback) by J.K. Rowling.  For your chance to win simply leave a comment in the thread below.  Comments will be accepted through midnight of Saturday July 30, 2011.  Winner will be picked at random and announced on Sunday July 31, 2011.  Giveaway open to US & Canadian residents only. Good luck!!

Announcing: The Harry Potter Blogsplosion!!

Yes, you read that right…Reflections of a Book Addict is proud to announce The Harry Potter Blogsplosion!!! What is the Harry Potter Blogsplosion you ask?  Well, over the next two weeks there will be posts on all of the books, as well as all of the films.  Why dedicate two weeks to HP?  It is this blogs way of honoring the book series that has brought so much joy to millions of people around the world for the past 14 years.

Tomorrow kicks off the festivities with my review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first book in the series.  Make sure you check back daily as we have EIGHT giveaways!!  I’ve got some great guest bloggers and some amazing posts in the works.   I can’t wait to share with you!!

As a side note, make sure you check out The Potter Games website.  It’s something that I’m part of, and let me tell you if you’re a fan of The Hunger Games and the Harry Potter series then you’re going to want to be at your computers at 11pm on July 11th.  I’ve been sworn to secrecy about the rest so don’t try to get anything out of me!  You can try to find hints on the Facebook page and on the Twitter page but trust me, we participants crossed our hearts and swore an “Unbreakable Vow” before we spilt the secret.

Until the big reveal…..

Mischief Managed.

My Top Ten…Villains (Part II)

As promised yesterday, here are my top five villains!!!

5.) Aunt Reed from Jane Eyre

Aunt Reed makes the list for being cruel and cold-hearted to young Jane Eyre.  For those unfamiliar with Jane Eyre, Jane is orphaned at a young age and is adopted by her Aunt and Uncle Reed.  Uncle Reed dies shortly after and makes Aunt Reed promise him that she will take care of Jane and raise her as one of their own children.   Once he’s dead she does the exact opposite, allowing her son to physically beat Jane, locking her in “haunted” rooms in their home, and eventually sending her off to a school that has horrible conditions.  Aunt Reed also makes sure Jane will live a meager life by telling a rich uncle of hers that she’s dead.  She’s a horrible woman made worse by the fact that kind-hearted Jane forgives her before her death for all her misgivings.  (I don’t think she deserved to be forgiven after everything that happened, but it just goes to show you how kind a person Jane truly was).

(You can find my review here)

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4.) President Snow from The Hunger Games Series

President Snow is the leader of the Capitol and ruler of Panem in The Hunger Games series.  We get to see what a truly horrible man he is in Catching Fire and Mockingjay as his interaction with Katniss grows.  You come to learn that Snow is a truly evil person, poisoning those that got in his way during his rise to political glory.  He tricks Katniss and the rest of the districts into believing that District 13 was destroyed and that they need to continue the hunger games as punishment.  He is a master at deception and is always playing a game with the people around him, using them as pawns.  He gets what he deserves in the end, but it still doesn’t make up for all that he’s done during his ruling years.   

(You can find my reviews for here for Book One, Two, and Three)

3.) Silas – The DaVinci Code

Ah, religious fanaticism.  A member of the Catholic organization known as Opus Dei, Silas is an albino who practices corporal mortification (flogging one’s self) while repenting for one’s sins.  Depicted in Dan Brown’s The Davinci Code, Silas is driven by a desire to atone for his past and discover the secrets protected by the Priory of Scion.  Driven to live on the streets after murdering his father (who had murdered his mother out of shame for having an albino child), Silas is given a second chance at life after an earthquake frees him from prison.  Driven to devout religious belief, Silas is especially villanous because of the rhetoric he believes in.  He justifies his murders and attacks by believing that it is the will of Opus Dei for him to commit these atrocities.  His blind faith in this organization makes him especially dangerous in the novel, and he is a constant threat to Robert Langdon, the protagonist.  All in all, Silas has nothing to lose as he is fully indoctrinated to commit evil acts and will stop at nothing to please those who are superior to him in Opus Dei.

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2.) Mr. Burroughs – A Wolf at the Table

Augusten Burroughs is famous for writing heartbreakingly honest memoirs.  A Wolf at the Table mainly focused on his childhood and the relationship he had with his father.  Mr. Burroughs is the only actual “person” on my list, and for good reason.  The man was an alcoholic, beat his animals, and definitely partook in abusing his sons.  Augusten had a dog that would physically sleep on top of him to protect him from Mr. Burroughs while he slept at night.  His older brother John taught him how to shoot a gun just in case he needed it one day.  After reading this book it made me see how truly malicious some people can be in the world.  Mr. Burroughs shot straight to nearly the top of my list of villains because he preyed on his young sons and helpless wife.  To be that type of man you have to be truly evil.

(You can find my review here)

1.) Voldemort – The Harry Potter Series

While the rest of the characters on this list have aspirations to conquer those around them and bring evil into their lives, none have grander plans than Voldemort.  Not content to just conquer the magical world around him, Voldemort set his sights higher, aiming to control the human (aka Muggle) world as well.  In hiding for years after a failed attack on Harry Potter that left him on the cusp of death, he slowly rebuilds his strength until he makes a triumphant return and power grab to control the ruling body of the magical world.  As if this wasn’t enough, consider his name.  Anyone who is referred to as “He Who Must Not Be Named” because he/she is so evil that their name can’t be spoken must be #1 in my book.  All in all, Voldemort deserves the top spot in this top ten countdown because of the encompassing nature of his power and ambition.  He won’t let anything, including death, get in his way to kill Harry Potter and rule all.  Now that’s villanous!

Well my fellow readers, who makes your list?  Leave your comments below.

Until next time, happy reading!!

My Top Ten…Modern Classics (Part I)

I was having a conversation with Todd and Adam the other day about books published in the last 50 years and which ones might be considered classics in 50 years.  Before I go into which books I chose I first had to think about what makes a classic a classic:

  • The ability to draw people in whether through the story or characters.  Classics are classics because we reread them over and over again.  Take Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, To Kill A Mockingbird, etc; we re-read them continuously even though we know the outcome.
  • Teaching a lesson about life or society.  If a book can teach us a lesson and we learn from it, then that book and lesson will stick with us forever.
  • Relevance in changing times.  A classic is always relevent, despite changing social mores, technology advances, and even changes in language.  A classic continues to tell universal tales and life lessons that always hold true, no matter the circumstances.

Keeping some of those things in mind, here are the top ten books I think will become modern classics

 
Cover Image10.) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams (Published in 1955)

Williams offers the reader of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof tons in terms of themes and lessons to be learned.  He shows what greed and secrets can do to a family that has no trust in each other.  The play is filled with the theme of nihilism and mendacity, questioning whether or not life really does have meaning, and if it does have meaning what is it?  One of the main characters in the play, Big Daddy, is the representation of all of these themes and one more, that of facing death.  The dialogue and events make you really question what life is all about and how we should spend the time we’ve been given.  The above barely touches on the themes, motifs, and symbolism in the play.  It’s a play I’ve read over and over and over and one that I definitely see as a contender for being a modern classic.

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9.) Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (Published 1986-1987)

Surprised to see a graphic novel on the list?  Don’t be.  A lot of people think that graphic novels have nothing to offer due to small dialogue boxes and lots of illustrations, they’re wrong. Taking place during a time period spanning the 1940’s through the 1960’s, Watchmen offers us a glimpse into an alternate universe, one where superheros help us win wars, develop high-tech science experiments, and help keep the general peace.  The graphic novel has a lot of complex ideas about the deconstruction of the superhero and the existentialist movement.  It attacks the notion of putting all our faith in people we believe are going to save us, without knowing who they really are or what they are really capable of.  It attacks the notion of superheros and why we’re so enthralled by them. 
 
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8.) Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (Published in 1958)

 
Capote totally changed the world for women with his explosive novella about a woman who was an upscale classy prostitute.  Holly Golightly forever changed how women were looked at and what they were capable.  This novella shows that women could be just as free as men were sexually and that in some cases it actually empowered them.  It also showcased women’s independence from men.  They could have parties, male friends, drink, smoke, and have sex.  Gone was the idea of the stereotypical 1950’s housewife that greeted her husband at the door with a kiss and a cocktail.  Golightly was the epitome of what every women felt she COULD be.  With Capote’s help women everywhere were liberated and on came the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. 
 
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7.) The Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling (Published in 1997-2007)

 
What can I say about a book that inspired thousands of new readers across the globe?  J. K. Rowling’s story of a young boy who suddenly finds himself in the middle of a magical world in which he is a celebrity.  This boy, Harry Potter, lives in a world that is endless: full of dragons, spells, mystery, and the epic battle between good and evil.  Imagination has no limit, as this work showed everyone around the world that they could escape their own worlds if just for a few hours as they explored Hogwarts and lived vicariously through Harry as he soared through the air on his broomstick.  Rowling’s work is so universal and its themes are so basic at the core of her writing that it truly can be applied to and understood by all.  The spark and uptick in reading that this book created is testament to its status as a stalwart classic novels that will stand the test of time.
 
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6.) Night by Elie Wiesel (Published in 1960)

 
Although the horrors of the Holocaust are now widely known and reflected on in modern media, Wiesel’s gritty retelling of the grueling abuses he endured as a prisoner of Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps was an initial raw and clear look into the horrors of that time.  He is angry, hopeless, insightful, introverted, caring, and many other emotions as he struggles to survive physically and mentally in his tormented state.  Night is written simplistically, with little allegory or metaphor.  The reader simply draws conclusions from Wiesel’s writing, and in its stark state it tells a powerful story of the struggle of the human will to live and overcome obstacles.  Changing the way we learned about the Holocaust, Night paved the way for an outpouring of emotion that had remained unseen as the world struggled to right itself after the horrors Hitler performed.  Not just dry facts in a history book, Wiesel made the pain real because of his memoir.  Like Anne Frank, one could now associate a names and faces with the destruction of the Holocaust.  His work will always be remembered for making the Holocaust personable.
 
Join me tomorrow for my top five choices!!  Until then share your comments below and happy reading!!

My Top Ten….Books I Wish I Was A Character From (Part II)

As promised in yesterday’s post, here are my top five books I wish I was a character from!!

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5.) Robert Langdon – The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

Robert Langdon has to be one of the most brilliant characters ever created.  The amount of knowledge the man has is insane.  The best part about him is that he is completely normal!  He swims every morning, is a teacher, and lectures amongst other things.  His knowledge of symbols and their deeper meanings are astounding.  His abilities to put together puzzle after puzzle is admirable.  Of all the books that Dan Brown has written with Langdon as a character, Da Vinci Code is the one I chose to want to be from.  I’d love to be taken all through Europe on a quest for the holy grail.  Being a puzzle lover myself, I can only imagine what it would be like to get to take a crack at the codes that he gets to solve.  How cool would that be?

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4.) Elizabeth Bennet – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

With Pride and Prejudice being my all time favorite book is it really that shocking that I’d want to be Elizabeth Bennet??  Elizabeth is a woman after my own heart. She’s witty, passionate, fiercely loyal to those around her and isn’t afraid to speak her mind.  She is a bit of a modern woman stuck in old times.  Now, the real reason I want to be her?  Mr. Darcy of course!!! Is there any woman who has read Pride and Prejudice and NOT fallen in love with Mr. Darcy??  Mr. Darcy sees Elizabeth for who she really is and falls in love with her.  He sees that she’s not a cookie cutter woman who throws herself at a man simply so that she can have a house and income to survive on.  She turns down two marriage proposals, wanting to rather be penniless than to marry for anything but the strongest of true loves.  She gets just that in the end, and it’s for that reason I’d love to be her. 

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3.) Percy Jackson – The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson has quite an interesting family tree.  On a school trip to a museum he finds that not only is he the son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, but that he is under attack by evil forces which wish to destroy him and all the other children of Greek gods and goddesses.  Apart from the whole defending your life portion of being Percy Jackson, it would be incredibly awesome to wield his powers.  The ability to control water as if it was a living object under your command is incredible, and Percy finds that his powers don’t stop there.  He has a natural ability to lead and defend his friends, and he becomes a great warrior.  Who wouldn’t want to be this guy?  Additional perks would include having a bunch of other Greek god and goddess children as friends and spending Christmas with uncle Zeus.  Not too shabby, huh?

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2.) Charlie – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

I challenge you to find a child that grew up in America that does not know the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  From Gobstoppers to Three-Course dinner chewing gum, Dahl created a world of crazy candies and impossible sights and sounds.  Being Charlie would be like being a kid in a candy store, literally.  Imagine turning into a blueberry or being shrunken down to miniature size, driving a rootbeer-powered car, flying because of fizzy drink, or being able to lick wallpaper that tastes like candy.  These are all things Charlie got to see and do in the pages of one of my favorite children’s books.  The chocolate river, the oompa loompas, the candy that grows on trees: these are all things that I wish could be real.  Being Charlie, just even for a day, would allow me to indulge in that childhood dream, and would allow me to forget all my worries and cares.

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1.) Harry Potter – The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Magic?  Check.  Flying?  Check.  Witches and wizards?  Check.  A hidden world of adventure, danger, and unbelievable sights and sounds that can’t be explained?  Of course.  This is the world of a wizard known as Harry Potter.  Ever since I’ve read the first novel in the series, I’ve had a serious itching to play Quidditch.  I would also love to be able to change an inanimate object into an animal, and to send letters via my owl.  As Harry Potter, I would have the ability to do all of this and more.  Often people dream of magical worlds, but the world that Rowling creates is beyond anything I could imagine.  I honestly would love to be able to go to Hogwarts and get lost in the magical world.  It seems so honest and removed from the stress and trials of ordinary life.  To escape to this world would be the ultimate experience, and out of all the books that I wish I was a character from, this is my top one!

Well readers, what books do you want to jump in the pages of?  Why?  Do you agree with my choices? Disagree?  Let me know in the comments section below!