Character Study: Dumbledore’s Cruel Intentions

Dumbledore-Portrait-albus-dumbledore-2477491-593-582People have turned on Dumbledore, you guys. Since books six and seven of the Harry Potter series were released, articles and comments have gone from describing him as a lovable kook with serious skills, to an evil mastermind raising Harry for the slaughter like veal. I was recently reading the comments section on an article in which people were tearing apart every move he made, from sending Harry to the Dursleys to taking him horcrux hunting. These same commenters described Dumbledore as an irredeemable plotter even while calling him an author’s pet.

This got me thinking, what would Harry’s life have been like if Dumbledore had never become involved? I’m going to do a little inferring, and it’s bound to be riddled with spoilers. You have been warned.

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Random Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

That’s right friends and readers, I’ve got my teaching credential on lock which means I’M BACK. Reading books for fun and reviewing them for your pleasure.

One of the sweetest, most naturally developing love stories I have seen in YA Fiction.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han51GdayQh-uL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Lara Jean Song is the dreamy, sartorially adventurous middle sister in a tight-knit trio. The Song girls lost their mother unexpectedly years before, and have worked together to make life easier on their dad ever since. When uber-organized older sister Margot sets off for college in Scotland, it’s Lara Jean’s turn to take the lead running the household. At the same time, five of Lara Jean’s love letters are accidentally mailed to each of the five boys she once loved…including the popular boyfriend of an ex-friend and her older sister’s long-term love.

This is a book I normally would have avoided, the jacket is all mauve and it seemed terribly predictable. I bought it because I picked up a copy of Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds and Amazon told me the same readers enjoyed both. That definitely piqued my curiosity.

There are a lot of YA Romance standards in this book: the boy-next-door, the popular guy, the mean girl, a bargain to save face and incite jealousy; but none of the plot points are handled in a campy or obvious way. The story unfolds very naturally from the inciting event, and the heroine takes just as many steps back as she does steps forward (like we all do when we are learning and growing). It is a very realistic love story. One of its strongest points is the relationship between the three Song sisters and their father, and those relationships are given just as much screen-time as the romantic stuff. Each of the girls has a strong, distinct personality and an investment in their family as a unit.

This book really handles all of its characters fairly, the “mean girl” can be pretty darn mean, but she does have her reasons. Lara Jean is not by any means flawless or a Mary Sue, nor did she become catnip to boys overnight. Every part of this story, every lesson learned, feels real and earned. There are romantic gestures, but they are on a scale that feels possible with high school boys and organic to the characters as written.

If you enjoy novels with a strong family dynamic, sweet romance, characters coming of age, and a steady dose of humor…this one could be for you.

Chair Rating:

Sweet, upbeat, a family affair.

Sweet, upbeat, a family affair.

Don’t Touch It!

I think every book-lover, or movie-lover, or any-type-of-creative-property-lover has an ideal. That one something that is so close to the core of who you are that you turn into a feral dog at the thought of anyone toying with it in even the most minor of ways. It might be a classic car, one version of a song, a specific work of fiction…

TFioS Quote 2

Mine is Peter Pan. Many people know some version of the story: maybe the Disney animated film, maybe the Mary Martin play. I’ve met few who have actually read the novel, and only one who has admitted to a deep and abiding love for it.

I did not read J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan until I was an adult. About two years ago, in fact. Which is weird, because I checked the video of the play out of the library and watched the Disney VHS so much it drove my mother crazy. Peter Pan’s Flight is my favorite ride at Disneyland. I read all the time. Why did I never get around to the classic novel?

I felt its truth in my heart and my solar plexus and the backs of my eyes. It poked me right in things I felt that I could never articulate, and the (positive) adjective most commonly used to describe me is articulate.

So when I saw this:

I felt like this:

giphy (1)

It is not a feeling based in rational thought but, Joe Wright? I will cut you. Trust.

Lest you think I am a hater NerdGirl who will bear no departure from canon, know that I will openly admit to loving Hook and the 2003 Peter Pan live-action film. Those movies get it.

Random Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Things are getting out of hand.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

When we last saw our intrepid heroes the ley line was stronger than ever thanks to Adam’s efforts, Gansey and Blue had acknowledged both their mutual interest and the impossibility of acting on it, Ronan had begun to accept his power and nature, and Noah was still dead. Maura went missing, the Gray Man sacked up, and Persephone was helping Adam manage communications with Cabeswater. If the first novel in The Raven Cycle revved the engine and The Dream Thieves hit the gas, Blue Lily, Lily Blue drifts into some mud and gets its wheels spinning. The quintet at the center of The Raven Cycle is closing in on Glendower, but every step forward comes with another warning of grave danger. These warnings come from Persephone and Calla, Cabeswater, a giant hillbilly, a frequent employer of hit-men. The danger is real, and near, and as reality warps ever further the Raven Boys and Blue are stretched to their limits.

The focus shifts from Ronan back to Blue in this novel, though it checks in with everyone, and suffers for it a bit. Blue is just not terribly interesting as a character. Of all the characters in The Raven Cycle I find myself least interested in what happens to her and Colin Greenmantle. Both somehow remain more ideas of people than actual characters. During Blue’s angstier moments I found myself counting adverbs rather than experiencing the story. She had a few intriguing scenes, but none of them seemed to amount to anything. No payoff, yet.

In general, Blue Lily, Lily Blue has some really strong scenes. Spooky, eerie scenes. Scenes with intense sexual tension. Scenes of wonderment and terror. The novel is at its best when the quest for Glendower is moving forward. In these moments it is at its scariest and most profound.  Pretty much everything that takes place in a cave or involves Persephone is good reading.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue is not the strongest entry in The Raven Cycle thus far, but it has a strong finish and I’ll be back for what is sure to be a thrilling conclusion.

**Because I am the luckiest duck, I received an ARC of Blue Lily, Lily Blue directly from Maggie Stiefvater a full month before it came out. This in no way affected my review, other than allowing me to post it before the novel’s official release. I will be re-reading the copy I pre-ordered from Fountain Bookstore when it arrives for comparison. 

Chair Rating: 

I am sure it's here for a reason, but not totally I want to sit in it.

I am sure it’s here for a reason, but not at all sure I want to sit in it.

Random Review: The Dream Thieves

Maggie Stiefvater, an author you can trust.8472014340_f18884df4d_o

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

The second book in The Raven Cycle finds us back in Henrietta, Virginia with three Aglionby boys and one contrary girl. One of the boys has begun to flicker in and out of existence, another is sharing his existence with a supernatural forest. One of the boys is spending a lot of time pretending he doesn’t want the girl, while she pretends the same thing right back. The last boy sees all of this and then some. This motley crew continues the search for a dead Welsh king with the assistance of three psychics, a lot of money, brainpower, fast cars, charisma, the ability to manifest dreams, and the hindrance of a professional hitman on their tail.

This is Ronan’s story, and all the better for it. He is a fascinating character who seems to be composed of contradictions. He is religious and profane, violent and tender-hearted, distant but passionate. The Dream Thieves is the rare book that lives up to breathless blurbs touting a story that is “action-packed!” and “thrilling!” It really is those things. When I reviewed the first book in this quartet, I noted that it showed a lot of potential. The Raven Boys revved the engine of an exhilerating epic, roaring the promise of excitement and danger, and The Dream Thieves hit the gas. This book is explosive, emotionally complex, tactile, and sensitive. It is Maggie Stiefvater doing what she does best, unlike anyone else, on par with The Scorpio Races. All of the characters remain in play, weaving through each others’ stories as the plot winds tighter and tighter in anticipation of an explosive conclusion.

Just read it, you won’t be sorry.

Chair Rating: 

Strap in for the ride of your life.

Strap in for the ride of your life.