Library Haul

I finally went to the library!


And look at all the lovely new books I got!  They are Fear by Michael Grant, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Cathrynne M. Valente, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, and The Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence.

Now we’re going to play “Let’s see how many of these I can read and review by next Tuesday!

Wish me luck!


Potterview #3: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is where these books start to get really good. It’s darker, it’s more interesting, and we’re starting to leave behind the simple mystery plots and enter into the more complicated ones.

One reason I really like this book is the introduction of Sirius.  I really love Sirius as a character.  To Harry, he is both a good friend and a role model.  Like Harry, Sirius is a rebellious Gryffindor with a love for danger and adventure.  I love how Harry can relate to Sirius because he sees himself in Sirius.

I also really like Lupin as a character.  I like his calm intelligence and his willingness to take Harry under his wing.  He is, of course, discriminated against for being a werewolf, which is a great, subtle way for Rowling to introduce the concept of discrimination in the wizard world.  Wizards, as we see time and again in the books, are very discriminatory and quick to condemn.  Even though it may be detrimental to their children’s educations, the wizard world will not allow a werewolf to teach at Hogwarts.

On the subject of Sirius, this book is where we really see the emphasis Harry puts on his father figures. While sweet, this trope is a bit misogynistic. Throughout the course of the book, Harry strongly prioritizes his male role models. He has several father figures, while the only mother figure I can think of is Molly Weasley. This is probably subconscious on Rowling’s part, since it’s common in our society to prioritize male role models.

Some very dark concepts are played with in this book. The idea of Azkaban is, obviously, terrifying. The dementors, who can suck out all happy feelings and memories, are fantastic antagonists. The fact that Sirius is innocent makes the time he spent there seem even worse. I felt terrible for Sirius for the entire book.

As I reread the series, I am finding that I like Ron a lot less. In this book, especially, he’s horrible to Hermione. Hermione, being very bookish, has probably not had very many friends besides Ron and Harry. Added to that, she’s under a lot of stress from her extra classes. Ron really had no right to turn on her.

Overall, the book was great. On to Goblet of Fire!

Potterview #2: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, from what I have seen, is considered to be one of the worst books in the series. And yes, it’s one of the earlier books, so the plot is a simple mystery and not very deeply involved with the larger overarching story. But I thought it was better than Sorcerer’s Stone at least.

I liked the plot of this book a lot better than Sorcerer’s Stone’s. The mysterious monster and the Petrified victims were very creepy, and definitely grabbed my attention when I was a kid. When Hermione became a victim, and when Ginny was kidnapped, emotional incentive was added. I cared a lot more about the outcome of this book when I was a kid because characters I knew and liked had been threatened. And of course, the diary and the basilisk tie into the overarching Horcrux storyline.

The characters are also developing a bit more. Hermione is a particular standout. Her suggestion to brew Polyjuice Potion in the girls’ bathroom is a defining moment. We already know that it is uncharacteristic for her to suggest breaking rules, but this event teaches us that she’s willing to do so in order to protect others. It’s also nice to get more background on Hagrid and the reason he was expelled from Hogwarts.

I am, however, starting to notice some plot holes. Magic that is used in later books is not used here in cases where it would be applicable because Rowling has not come up with it yet. For example, Harry is suspected to be the Heir of Slytherin, and it causes him a lot of trouble. But couldn’t Dumbledore just use Veritaserum to find out whether or not he’s guilty?

I love seeing the books get darker and more complicated, and I’m excited for Prisoner of Azkaban.

Potterview Number 1: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I’m going to assume that everyone who likes books enough to follow a book review blog has already read the Harry Potter series. So I’ll be skipping the plot summary and diving right in!

The thing I noticed the most about this book was that it was very markedly a book for children. Most of the story is full of descriptions of Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, and comedic moments with the Dursleys. While it’s very whimsical and fun, the actual plot felt a bit thin.

The climax also felt a bit underwhelming. It was very exciting the first time I read it, of course. And the twist ending was very clever. But considering what I know about the stakes of the climaxes of the other books, it felt small.

On the upside, I loved seeing all the characters again. It felt good to see Harry full of awe and innocence, with no knowledge that within seven years, almost everybody he loved would be dead. Ron was funny, and I loved tiny, bossy Hermione. It was even fun to see Neville try to fight Malfoy, knowing that soon, he would fight Voldemort.

This review is short, but the book didn’t leave much of an impression. I love the whimsy of this book, and the world Rowling has created, and I don’t want to disrespect it. But compared to the others in the series, it was a bit dull and hard to get through. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, though!

NCIS vs. Elementary: A Comparison


Note: No, this is not a book review. I’m going to the library tomorrow, I promise.

Recently, I watched the pilot episodes of the crime procedurals NCIS and Elementary. I enjoyed both to a degree, but I would like to write a comparison to sort out my thoughts. I have not seen anything other than the pilot episode of these two shows, so if I am completely wrong about either, do not hesitate to tell me! (Spoilers for the episodes in the next two paragraphs).

The pilot of NCIS involves an attempted assassination on President Bush. A man dies shortly after eating with the president. Several agencies wish to investigate the body, with Agent Gibbs of NCIS and Secret Service Agent Caitlin Todd leading the investigation. They eventually discover a terrorist plot to poison the president’s dry-cleaning. Caitlin Todd quits the Secret Service and joins NCIS.

The pilot of Elementary introduces ex-drug addict Sherlock Holmes and his sober companion, Joan Watson. As it is Watson’s job to follow Holmes to his workplace, she follows him as he tries to solve the murder of a woman. She discovers that she enjoys being a consulting detective, and he discovers that it’s very helpful to have another perspective on his cases.

Both shows made me realize how much I missed the mystery genre. I love reading and watching clever people do clever things. This summer, I’ll probably read some Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes stories. That being said, I liked the plot of the Elementary pilot better. While it was fun to watch Agent Gibbs solve his mystery, the Elementary case was a lot more interesting. There was an emotional stake in the murder of a woman that wasn’t present in the terrorist plot. By the end of the episode, I really wanted the murderer to be punished. I was angry at him. It felt good to see him caught. The fact that the murderer was (spoiler) her husband, and that he had manipulated and taken advantage of a man who trusted him in order to murder his wife (end spoiler) was a bit more compelling than “Al-Qaeda did it.”

I think the Elementary pilot was better from a character standpoint as well. To be fair, NCIS is much longer than Elementary, and has more time to develop the characters. But Elementary made me care about Holmes and Watson almost immediately. I already want to know what happened to Holmes in London, and what drove Watson out of her medical practice. The NCIS characters, on the other hand, felt like a collection of random archetypes. I really didn’t care about any of them.

From a feminist perspective, Elementary is superior. Both shows are an example of the White Dude Super Detective trope (let’s be honest, if a coke-addicted black Holmes showed up at a crime scene and started licking the carpet, or an Arab Muslim Agent Gibbs had stolen an airplane, no one would let them anywhere near their cases). Both involve a brilliant man solving a case with a more average woman tagging along behind him. However, Watson has a much more active role than Todd. In fact, certain actions she takes lead directly to important information about the murderer. Also, from what I’ve heard about both shows, Todd’s relationship with Gibbs is very paternal, while Watson’s with Holmes is that of a partner. Todd looks up to Gibbs, but Watson is Holmes’ equal.

All in all, I did like both shows. But I’d say I’m more excited to continue watching Elementary.