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The book this week, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, is making true on two of my “Fall To Do List” items, reading a book a week and reading all Harry Potter books before the next movie in November. Nothing better than multi-tasking!

As I have stated on this blog numerous times, I love everything Harry Potter. I never get bored with the books or the movies. (By the way, have you seen the new trailer for Harry Potter 7 – Part 1? It’s incredible!) So, I am really excited to reread the complete series for the first time in my adulthood.

Just as a side note, if you have not read the books (ha-like those people exist!) and are planning on reading them, don’t read this post. I’d be spoiling it for you!

For those of you who know nothing about Harry Potter, the gist of the first book is this: an orphaned eleven year old boy living in London finds out that he is a wizard and is accepted to a wizarding school called Hogwarts.  At Hogwarts, he makes some great friends, Ron and Hermione, and settles in to classes learning about the wizarding world. A few months into the term, he learns that his parents were killed by an evil wizard named Voldemort who actually tried to kill Harry as well, but something about Harry caused this very evil wizard to become extremely weakened, almost destroying Voldemort. While Harry is at school, he, along with Ron and Hermione, believe that Voldemort is trying to make a comeback. In the end, Harry saves the day and stops Voldemort from gaining access to an elixir that will make him immortal, thus bringing him back to power.

The story is the classic battle of good vs. evil. It is a little unbelievable that Harry and his comrades, only 11 years old, get past spells and puzzles meant for the most experienced of wizards, not to mention Harry defeating Voldemort.  Otherwise, the story is rich in storytelling details that make you want to drift into Harry Potter land. J.K. Rowling did such a phenomenal job immersing the readers into the story that I am always sorry when a HP book ends. For me, this is the true sign of a good book. If you have become such dear friends with the characters in the book that you hang on to the last pages because you don’t want that friendship to end.

Every time I read this book I pick up new details. Did you know that the Mirror of Erised’s inscription is actually a sentence spelled backwards?? It says “Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi“, which, if read backwards, says “I show not your face but your heart’s desire”. I have never thought to read it backwards, I just read the nonsense and kept reading. How clever to have the inscription on the mirror an almost mirror image! Speaking of the mirror, I get a little worked up every time Harry sees his family for the first time, even if it’s only an image of them.

Also, at the end of the book, when Harry asks Dumbledore why Voldemort wanted to kill him as a baby, Dumbledore tells him that Harry is too young to hear the answer. I really didn’t remember that question being asked or Dumbledore’s answer. But, now I know that Dumbledore is taking about the prophesy (heard in Book 5)!! I am amazed at how Rowling was starting to outline the big picture, even in the first book!

All in all, I was not disappointed with this book. I can’t wait to read the next one!

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Remember when I pledged to read a book a week? Well, the first book of that pledge is Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer. I don’t know how I feel about jumping on this band wagon. I have held off for so long. But, I am slightly interested in the story and more than slightly curious about the craze. So, I dusted off my copy (yes, I have the first and the second one, I just hadn’t gotten around to reading them yet!) and hoped for a good story.

One word sums up the book for me: disappointed. I think the idea to change some of the common details about the myth of vampires (sleep in coffins, bats, etc) and to make these vampires more like humans, was brilliant. Meyer made the likelihood of vampires in everyday life almost believable. However, I felt the writing style was very simple and I did not feel a connection with the characters or, with the exception of a few suspenseful scenes, with the story.

For me, the best comparison to the book is the Harry Potter series. Both are old ideas, magic and vampires, with a new spin. Both series are written for younger audiences and both have created a social and media frenzy.  And for my comparison, I think I will quote Stephen King:

“Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people… The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”

I kept waiting for more character or story development, but I never got it. I do have to remind myself that this is only the first of four books. Hopefully Meyer pulls out some character development and character history in a later book.

I also feel that Bella is a weak role model for all the young girls reading these books. Yes, it is seemingly romantic that Edward is dreamy and cares for her, but does he always have power over everything she does?  She gives in to him and allows him to run her life. Not only is this bad in theory, but it’s romanticised in this book. Girls need to be strong and stand up to 17 year old guys, and Bella does just the opposite.

Overall, I was underwhelmed. I will read the rest of the series and I do hope that I get more out of the next three books.  What about you? What did you think of this book?

Remember when I made a commitment to read a book a week this fall? Well, I have a qualifying question for you. Do audio books count as reading?  I had the opportunity to do large amounts of yard work this past weekend and I see much more yard work in my future and instead of listening to music or the buzz of a mosquito in my ear, I decided to try listening to an audio book.

Now, I have tried listening to audio books in the past, and I just couldn’t get into them. I found my mind wandering, requiring me to skip back many times to catch what the reader was saying. Or, I couldn’t stand the voice of the person reading the book. So, I gave up on audio books. But, with my new adventures in the outside world in front of me, I decided to give audio books another chance. Since I didn’t want to rent one from the library, transfer it to my computer, and then transfer it to my ipod, I decided to just go through itunes. I knew that I had to preview the voice before I even considered downloading the book. And do you know what I discovered about my listening preferences? I really enjoy a reader with an English accent over a boring old American.

After listening to about a dozen previews, I choose my book (I’ll fill you in on the details of the book in a later post), downloaded it, and headed out to the yard. And let me tell you, I have not been disappointed. I am actually looking forward to the next opportunity to listen to it! But, I do have to say, by listening to someone else read the book, I feel my role in the story is very inactive. The person reading the book has decided the pronunciation and tone of everything in the book. So instead of me trying to figure out “how exactly do you say that girl’s name?” or “was he really that mad?”, I just have to sit back and listen to someone else’s answer to those questions. In fact, those questions never even come up because I assume that the reader is correct in their inflections and tone.  Although there is still some imagination, I miss the entire imagination package that comes along with reading a book.

But, I want to know what you think. Does listening to an audio book count as reading? I have added a poll to the bottom of this post, so you can just quickly answer the question anonymously. What is your experience with audio books?

Lately, several of the books I’ve been reading have been made into movies.  Now, I have read all of the Harry Potter books and I own all of the released Harry Potter movies. I love Harry. And, while the movies have been different than the books, I have been completely satisfied with most of the movies.

But, I don’t know if it’s the caliber of books I’ve been reading or the quality of the movies, but I have been really disappointed with the movies of the following books.

**SPOILER ALERT** I won’t go into too much detail about the books, but if you are overly sensitive about someone ruining books/movies, don’t read it!

My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. I read this book a few months ago and I have been dying to watch the movie. The book was pretty good, really sad, but pretty good. It’s about a family with daughter is dying of Leukemia and another daughter who is essentially being used to keep her sister alive though bone marrow transplants, blood transfusions, etc. The book takes place when the sisters are 13 and 11 and the younger sister has had enough of being poked and prodded and sues her parents for medical emancipation, knowing that this will result in the death of her sister. Book Rating: 4/5

The movie was actually pretty good and stayed fairly close to the book until the end. Because the ending was so drastically different from the book, it made me kinda dislike the entire movie. And having Alec Baldwin play the young stud of a lawyer?? Come on.  Movie Rating: 3/5

Dear John, By Nicholas Sparks. Ahh, Nicholas Sparks. As my friend Courtney says, Nicholas Sparks is to adults what Lurlene McDaniel is to preteens. Couldn’t agree more. And I loved Lurlene McDaniel.  Anywho. This book was your typical Nicholas Sparks book, but a little better. Sad, yes. Overly sappy, a little. Unrealistic view on dating/relationships, yes. But, what this book did have is the growth of the relationship between the main character, John, and his father, who has undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome.  Book rating: 3/5

The movie changed several major parts of the book. And again, the ending. I guess it is really important for the last impression people have when they leave the movie theater is happy and uplifted. But, are these changes worth changing the entire message of the book? I guess my hopes were too high. Movie: 2.5/5

The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger.  I really enjoyed this book.  It took a little bit to get used to the way it was written. The author jumped around a little bit (understandable, he traveled through time!), but once I adjusted, I found that I really enjoyed her style of writing. It was so sweet and sad.  Although the circumstances of the main character was really unrealistic, the relationship between Henry and Clare, his wife, was really a true love story, with hardship, devotion, tragedy, joys, frustrations, and kindness.  Overall, I really enjoyed it. Book review: 4.5/5

I was really curious as to how they would work out all the details of this book in a movie. And, I was, for the most part, pleasantly surprised. They stuck to the main story lines and didn’t veer really far off in any direction. While I did enjoy the movie, I do not think I would have enjoyed it as much if I had not read the book. But who knows. Book Review: 4/5

Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I loved this book. I read it as a book club book with a couple of my friends and we were all just bursting with love for this book at our meeting. This book, a true story, was about Elizabeth Gilbert’s year of life discovery in Italy, India, and Indonesia.  I loved when she was in Italy because Matt and I had just been there and I could completely understand her enthrallment with the food. But, the real reason that we all loved this book so much was because it made us all want to search deep down in ourselves and find our true purpose in life. While it is unrealistic to take a year off from your entire life to travel the world, we can all evaluate what we are doing and compare that with what we want to be doing.  Excellent book. Book Review: 5/5

The movie comes out in a few weeks and I can’t wait. In my opinion, Julia Roberts is perfect to portray Elizabeth Gilbert!

The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold. I am currently reading this book.  I read it in high school, but only remember a few of the details. And, I don’t think I finished it in high school. So far, it is an excellent book, if you can get over the fact that it is mostly told from the perspective of a girl who was brutally murdered. She is watching her family deal with the events after her death and their search to find her killer. I’ll keep you updated and let you know how the book and the movie turn out!

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