Monday, June 17, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Goblet of Fire, Chapters 31-34

This week's chapters (Chapter 31, "The Third Task," Chapter 32, "Flesh, Blood and Bone," Chapter 33, "The Death Eaters," and Chapter 34, "Priori Incantatem") represent the turning point in this series where things begin to get dark, sad, and scary. (Spoilers begin in the next sentence.) Unforgivable curses are performed, Cedric Diggory is killed, and Voldemort rises once more. From here on, the series shifts from enjoying the novelties of the magical world to fighting the dangers dark magic represents, and the suspense and drama will only increase in the last three books.

My big issue with the way the third task ends is that the whole thing seems like way too much of an elaborate set-up. Voldemort doesn't strike me as particularly patient, and I can't imagine he couldn't have come up with some other way to get to Harry without having to wait for the entire tri-wizard tournament to be completed. Surely, "Moody" (whose true identity will be revealed in the final installment next week) could have turned anything into a portkey and sent Harry to the graveyard on any night of the week without having to involve any of the other champions. I've also always felt that Voldemort's victims coming out of his wand to protect Harry is too easy a way for Harry to escape death. I'll be curious to see whether Dumbledore's explanation at the end of the book makes better sense to me on this reading.

It did strike me, though, how scary Voldemort is. Rowling really does a nice job creating a believably terrifying villain. I always forget that he's supposed to have red eyes, and something about that just makes him really intimidating. Until this book, we have only had vague notions of the evilness of this character, but now he comes fully into focus as a truly formidable bad guy. There is something to be said for Harry standing up to face him.  I was pretty sure Harry was going to die in the graveyard scene, despite the fact that I've read the book before and knew he would survive! Voldemort's long rambling speech explaining to the Death Eaters where he's been all this time felt a little bit like an awkward info dump, but we needed to get that information somehow, and overall, even with that speech, he's scary to read about alone at night.

Despite the darkness, there are some really nice and fun moments in these chapters: Mrs. Weasley and Bill coming to stand in for Harry's family before the third task; Mrs. Weasley recalling her days at Hogwarts; Harry and Cedric setting aside their differences to claim victory for Hogwarts together; Harry laughing off Rita Skeeter's latest article about him, and Mrs. Weasley warming to Hermione only after confirming that she wasn't dating Harry. (Does she want Hermione for Ron, or Harry for Ginny? I wonder what her objection was...)

Chapter 34 ends on a cliffhanger (complete with an ellipsis!) and it's somewhat unsettling to know I'll have to wait a week for everyone to find out what has happened to Cedric. I'm not looking forward to Amos Diggory's reaction of grief, but I am eagerly anticipating Hermione's big reveal about Rita Skeeter and the unveiling of Barty Crouch, Jr. as the impostor masquerading as Alastor Moody. And then it's on to book five already!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Goblet of Fire, Chapters 28-30

I read three chapters last week: Chapter 28 ("The Madness of Mr Crouch"), Chapter 29 ("The Dream"), and Chapter 30 ("The Pensieve"). There are spoilers in this post for this book and the entire series.

These chapters were completely lost to my memory, and I may as well have been reading them for the first time. I had no recollection whatsoever of the hate mail Hermione receives after Rita Skeeter publishes lies about her in the newspaper. I had also forgotten the mystery surrounding Skeeter's ability to gain access to inside information at Hogwarts. I remember, of course, that she is an animagus, and I know that comes out before the end of this book. I just didn't remember that the question of how she got into Hogwarts went unanswered for so long. I also find myself really appreciating the role of poor journalism in this story. It resonates with a lot of what happens with the media in our current culture, and it also sets us up for the questions about who to trust and when that will come up in the last three books of the series. 

I also didn't remember Krum and Harry coming upon a deranged Barty Crouch, nor did I remember Harry letting himself into Dumbledore's office by guessing the password. I did remember Harry using the Pensieve, but what was in my mind was the movie version of events which somehow seemed more dramatic than the memories he experiences in the book, and I'd also forgotten that this is when we first learn exactly what has happened to Neville's parents. Similarly, I remembered Harry's vision of Voldemort and Wormtail, but not the fact that he passed out during Divination class. I was surprised too, that Harry actually did what an adult told him to do when he had this vision; so many times in this series, Harry does not go to Dumbledore when he should, so the fact that he heeds Sirius's warnings is encouraging.

The one plot line I am finding really superfluous at this point is the question of whether house elves should be freed. I recall liking Dobby well enough on my first read through the series, but this time, he is annoying to me in a very Jar Jar Binks-esque way. It definitely makes sense for Hermione to take up such a cause; it's just not that interesting to read about anymore, and it seems like the elves are mostly being used as a narrative device to add more tension and suspicion surrounding Barty Crouch.

Only two more sets of chapters before the end of this book! Though I definitely remember what happens in broad strokes, I'm really looking forward to discovering all the little details that have escaped me over the last 15+ years.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

My Unpopular Bookish Opinions

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is unpopular bookish opinions. I probably have more, but I stopped at ten for the purposes of this post.

I don't like fantasy.

There are a lot of fantasy books I have liked (Harry Potter, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Tom's Midnight Garden, The Little White Horse, The Owl Service, The Dark is Rising, etc.), so this is not true in all cases, but in general, given a choice between fantasy and any other genre, I will take the other genre. It takes me a lot of time to settle into a fantasy world, and often I have to read and re-read world-building details before they sink in. I feel much more comfortable in reality-based stories.

I'm not interested in the Read-Aloud Revival.

I think I might be the only homeschooling mom in America who doesn't think this podcast/brand has anything to offer. My review of The Read-Aloud Family pretty much explains why.

I hate sexual content in books.

Basically, if there are a lot of sex scenes in a book, I will either a) not pick it up (if I can find out ahead of time), b) skip over those scenes, or c) abandon the book. I especially hate sex in YA because a lot of adults read it, and adults reading about kids in sexual situations is just plain creepy. I wrote a more in-depth post about this last year.

Wonder undermines its own message. 

It's hard to explain why I hate Wonder without spoiling the ending of the book. But if the point of the story is that Auggie is a human being with inherit dignity despite his atypical outward appearance, then it is just as patronizing to be kind to him solely because he has some differences as it is to be cruel to him for that reason.

I don't think kids should just read whatever they want. 

This is the popular opinion among librarians and many parents, but it is not the policy in my household. My kids are still little, but they don't read anything that I haven't approved. They read whatever they want from the shelves to which they have access, and from among the library titles I borrow for them, but they do not blindly select their own reading materials. I largely read whatever I wanted as a kid, and that meant I got to college with a brain equipped for reading the Baby-sitters Club and not much else. 

I don't care for (most of) Brian Selznick's books.

I think Brian Selznick's illustrations for The Doll People series are brilliant, and I loved Baby Monkey, Private Eye. But I was not at all impressed by The Invention of Hugo Cabret or Wonderstruck. After a while, his technique of dramatically zooming in on scenes, characters, and objects just gets repetitive.

The Inquisitor's Tale is offensive. 

Every time I see a glowing review of this book, I have to hold myself back from writing a comment ranting about how grossly offensive it is to Catholics. I'm still so disappointed in the Newbery committee for giving it an honor. My essay-length review of the book is here.

I don't think it matters if you read to your kids every single day.

There are many memes and infographics out there about the benefits of reading to your kids for at least 20 minutes every single day, and I ignore every single one. I read to my kids when it suits us. Some weeks that's every day. Some weeks it's every other day. Some weeks it might be once. And all three of my kids love books, and the oldest one was a very early reader. It matters that you read to your kids regularly but there is no magic schedule that makes it more beneficial.

I enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye

I read this in college for an Independent Study course on young adult literature, and I really liked it. I didn't always like Holden, but Salinger is such a distinctive writer and his style really appealed to me. I think I like his works about the Glass family better than this book, but I don't have the deep-seated feelings of hatred toward it that I see a lot of people expressing online.

It doesn't bother me to own unread books.

The concept of trying to read everything I own would never have crossed my mind if not for seeing so many other people posting their goals related to getting through their unread stacks. I have read a good number of the books we own, but I love that I am also forever surrounded by unread options. Having too many unread books will never be a reason that I don't buy more.

Do you share any of my unpopular opinions?

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Goblet of Fire, Chapters 24-27


For this week's reading assignment, I read Chapter 24 ("Rita Skeeter's Scoop"), Chapter 25 ("The Egg and the Eye"), Chapter 26 ("The Second Task") and Chapter 27 ("Padfoot Returns") . This section of the book continues to solidify my estimation that this is the best book of the series so far. There are so many important things going on in these chapters.

First, everyone is still trying to help Harry cheat. While Harry rejects assistance from Bagman, however, his desire not to receive help comes from an aversion to taking help from Bagman specifically, not an aversion to cheating in general. Most of the people helping him cheat are doing it because they fear for his life, which does make sense, but the fact that Harry doesn't categorically oppose cheating bothers me a little bit. Personally, I still think the best way to help Harry is for the adults to figure out a way to get him out of the magical contract he didn't choose to enter into in the first place. But what kind of story would that be? There's a reason I'm not the author of this series.

I really love the scene where everyone tries to cheer up Hagrid after Rita Skeeter outs him as a giant. I especially enjoyed Dumbledore's line: "Really, Hagrid, if you are holding out for universal popularity, I'm afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time." I love how loyal Dumbledore is to all the unusual people he allows to teach at Hogwarts, and his little one-liners of wisdom always contain such truth. For all the flaws in his actions surrounding Harry throughout the series, Dumbledore does understand a lot about life.

Another thing that caught my attention and surprised me was that a scene I remembered from the movie - Neville giving Harry the gillyweed - does not appear in the book. It is Dobby, not Neville, who provides the gillyweed, and he does so at the absolute last minute. I think I actually like the movie's approach better in this instance, but because of Hermione's interest in justice for the house elves, it does make sense to involve Dobby.

I also really appreciate the way Rowling sets us up to feel deeply betrayed when Moody turns out to be an imposter. Throughout this series, it always feels safer for Harry when powerful and brave wizards are around. I always breathe a sigh of relief when Dumbledore appears, for example, and I have been having that same feeling about "Moody" in this book. The fact that I feel this way even knowing who he turns out to be really drives home just how shocking it is when his true identity is revealed. I had also forgotten that "Moody" managed to get the Marauders Map away from Harry, but that does make it more plausible for Harry not to realize that the Barty Crouch on the map is actually the man he knows as Moody.

Another little detail I noted struck me as a bit of subtle foreshadowing. When Ron suggests that Snape might be the one who put Harry's name in the Goblet of Fire, Hermione says, "we thought Snape was trying to kill Harry before, and it turns out he was saving Harry's life, remember?" This seems to be a reminder from Rowling not to over-simplify Snape's character and not to take his behavior at face value all the time. This mindset becomes very important in the last two books of the series. I like that Rowling is starting to set up the ambiguity surrounding him by having Hermione voice the possibility that he isn't purely evil.

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Read-at-Home-Mom Report: May 2019

May went by so quickly, but I did squeeze in quite a bit of reading. In addition to all the books listed below, I also read half of Middlemarch by George Eliot, which I'm looking forward to finishing in June, along with my re-read of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I slowed down quite a bit on picture books this month, too, which was a nice change of pace. Here's my report.


Books Read 

A Dream Within a Dream

by Patricia Maclachlan
Format: Digital ARC
Genre: Realistic fiction (middle grade)
Source: Edelweiss+
Review: On Goodreads ()


A Is for Elizabeth

by Rachel Vail
Format: Digital ARC
Genre: Realistic fiction (beginning chapter book)
Source: Edelweiss+
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)


The Doll People

by Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brian Selznick
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy (middle grade)
Source: Gift from my mom
Review: On the blog (⭐)


The Last Cruise

by Kate Christensen
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Literary fiction
Source: Public library
Review: On Instagram (⭐)


The Meanest Doll in the World

by Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brian Selznick
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy (middle grade)
Source: Gift from my mom
Review: On the blog (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It

by Jennifer Fulwiler
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Catholic memoir
Source: Personal collection
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Vile Bodies

by Evelyn Waugh
Format: Paperback
Genre: Literary fiction
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐)


Q's Legacy: A Delightful Account of a Lifelong Love Affair with Books

by Helene Hanff
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Memoir
Source: Inter-library loan
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Be Brave in the Scared: How I Learned to Trust God during the Most Difficult Days of My Life

by Mary Lenaburg
Format: Paperback
Genre: Catholic memoir
Source: Purchased from Amazon
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers

by Maxwell King
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Biography
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐)


The Nest

by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Literary fiction
Source: Public library (Libby app)
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Deadly Vows

by Jody Holford
Format: Digital ARC
Genre: Cozy mystery
Source: Netgalley
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐)


Life of Fred: Butterflies

by Stanley F. Schmidt
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Math textbook
Source: Inter-library loan
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


The World We Live In

by Lincoln Barnett
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Nonficton
Source: Personal collection
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Meet Me at the Museum

by Anne Youngson
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Literary fiction
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐)


The Runaway Dolls

by Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brian Selznick
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy (middle grade)
Source: Gift from my mom
Review: On the blog (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


The Doll People Set Sail

by Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brett Helquist 
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy (middle grade)
Source: Gift from my mom
Review: On the blog (⭐⭐⭐)


Filippo's Dome

by Anne Rockwell
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Nonfiction (juvenile chapter book)
Source: Personal collection
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)


The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street

by Helene Hanff
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Memoir/diary
Source: Inter-library loan
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐) 


Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos

by Donna Andrews
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cozy mystery
Source: Scribd
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


The Scent of Water

by Elizabeth Goudge
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Literary fiction
Source: Inter-library loan
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Friday's Tunnel

by John Verney
Format: Paperback review copy
Genre: Mystery/adventure
Source: Paul Dry Books, Inc.
Review: On the blog (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Little Fires Everywhere

by Celeste Ng
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Literary fiction
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads  (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


The Master Puppeteer

by Katherine Paterson
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Historical fiction (middle grade)
Source: Personal collection
Review: On the blog (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Inside the Ark

by Caryll Houselander
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Catholic short stories for kids
Source: Inter-library loan
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Crazy Rich Asians

Format: Paperback
Genre: Realistic fiction
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐)

Picture Books (with links to Goodreads reviews)


Blog Posts Published



Challenge Progress

  • Alphabet Soup: 2 read in May, 21 of 26 read total
  • Alphabet Soup Author Edition: 2 read in May, 21 of 26 read total
  • #CathLit: 0 read in May, 11 of 19 read total
  • Cloak and Dagger: 2 read in May, 26 of 55 read total
  • Craving for Cozies: 2 read in May, 18 of 51 read total
  • Library Love: 7 read in May, 39 of 60 read total
  • RMFAO Audiobooks: 3 read in May, 28 of 25 read total
  • Goodreads Goal: 39 read in May, 202 of 425 read total
I'll be linking up this post for It's Monday! What Are You Reading? with The Book Date and Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and for the May 2019 Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up Link-Up at Feed Your Fiction Addiction.