Top 10 Tuesday: Olympic Edition!

Hi everyone!

Welcome to a special edition of Top 10 Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! I want to do something a little different this week to celebrate the Rio Olympics. Honestly, it basically has nothing to do with books.ūüėČ

I don’t know about you, but I am borderline obsessed with the Olympics. I love how it brings the world together to celebrate dedication, competition, and friendship. I watch basically any event. I love World Records, Olympic Records, record number of medals and first time medalists. I cheer for the USA in everything. I cry more when we win than when we lose.¬†Next to books, the Olympics are one of my favorite things:)

So this week I thought I would share some of my top moments from the Rio Summer Games (in no particular order).

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The Opening and Closing Ceremonies // I just love watching these events that bring the world together and showcase the host nation’s culture and people. One of my favorite parts of the Opening is when the countries come into the stadium.

gwenjorgensen_rio-olympics-triathlo_webfGwen Jorgensen winning the women’s triathlon // Such a neat moment to see her leave the competition in the dust and all the emotions on her face as she crosses the finish line for the gold.

watch-simone-biles-aly-raisman-floor-routines-olympicsUSA Gymnastics, especially Simone Biles and Aly Raisman winning gold and silver in gymnastics twice // They are such incredible gymnasts and such darling people. If only I could tumble like that ever in my life. Haha.

ATHLETICS-OLY-2016-RIOUSA sweeping the 100m Hurdles //¬†This was so cool! I ran 100m hurdles as a middle school track participant so it’s one of my favorites. Glad no one fell down and we pulled off the sweep!

usa-ashleigh-johnson-womens-water-polo-training-2016-rio-olympics-720x500Winning the gold medal in women’s water polo // I never really was into water polo before these Olympics. But wow is the USA team good! Our goalie is especially incredible–saving a penalty shot in the final?! Awesome!

kerri-walsh-jennings-becomes-the-oldest-female-medal-winner-in-beach-volleyball-theolympicstodayKerri Walsh-Jennings and April Ross win the bronze medal in beach volleyball // They are such classy women. I love both their stories, especially Kerri’s. What an incredible mom of 3 who loves this bronze as much as her¬†golds:)

michael-phelps_listicleUSA Swimming // I love watching swimming in the Olympics. So cool to see Katie Ledecky shatter her own world records, Simone Manuel winning the 100 free and medaling in several others, and of course I love watching Michael Phelps swim for more history. One of my favorite athletes to watch!

323425-944-566Watching Usain Bolt run for the triple-triple gold medal (100m, 200m, 4x100m) // Okay, he seriously is SO FAST. It’s unreal how easily he continues to win. There is no competition with him. We like to laugh about his dancing and posing too.

mo-farah-cropped_8jpwki02obxm12096gcdarqiiSeeing Mo Farah of the UK win his double-double in the 10000m and 5000m // I actually came to appreciate him more after seeing his story and hearing his interview after the race. A super classy guy who deserves every gold medal!

Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony

All the USA firsts // First women’s wrestling gold medal (Helen Maroulis), first time winning the men’s 1500m since 1908 (Matthew Centrowitz), first triathlon gold medal (Gwen Jorgensen), first women’s steeplechase medal (Emma Colburn), Allyson Felix becomes most decorated female runner in US history, Ashton Eaton defends decathlon gold medal, and a million more!

Brazil winning the men’s soccer goal in the perfect way // Watch this video of this moment. It makes me cry every single time. Such a perfect ending for the host nation!

I have to stop myself there. It’s really hard to narrow it down. There are a million more moments that deserve to be on a list like this.

What are some of your favorite Olympic moments?

[Harry Potter and the Cursed Child]: A Review

Hello fellow Potter fans!

I am so excited to share my thoughts on the new Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling and company. I feel like this review has been a long time coming. Now that we are finally settling in, I am reading more, and this one was the top of my list. I was so excited to read it and experience the next generation of Harry Potter stories. It did not disappoint.

Because this is a continuation of the incredible Harry Potter series, I thought I would review it in a similar way to how I am reviewing the original series as part of my Harry Potter Marathon 2016. And I want to hear what you think of The Cursed Child! Post your review link or just your thoughts in a comment below:)

If you have not yet read The Cursed Child…
 I would encourage you to read it before reading my (or any) review so you can have your own experience with this new story.

 

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My first experience with this book ‚Äď Reading The Cursed Child felt like coming home. It reminded me of all my first experiences reading new Harry Potter books–the anticipation of the release, the record breaking sales, the long and late-night reading sessions, and the satisfaction of a great story. It fits well into the Harry Potter canon and is true to the characters and stories of the original series. I was just so happy to read it. My nerdy little fangirl heart was so happy to have another new adventure with Harry and his friends.

What surprised me in this story ‚Äď It really is a quick read. I think the screenplay genre helped it read quicker. But I also wanted it to last longer.:) From the very first few scenes, I was surprised by the clever plot twists¬†including¬†Albus’s first experiences at Hogwarts, and Harry, Ron and Hermione’s careers. The way the characters go back in time to pivotal moments and then completely change or leave history to write itself is very interesting (I don’t want to say more here). Also, I love how they incorporate classic characters that have died–Snape is absolutely perfectly written in this story.

A few thoughts on genre ‚ÄstI wasn’t sure what to expect with the screenplay genre. Overall,¬†I enjoyed the change in presenting the story. However,¬†I also think seeing this production live is the best way to experience it¬†(just like watching rather than reading¬†Shakespeare plays is a more complete experience). Several times I missed how a character ended up on stage before they started speaking. Or I wasn’t sure exactly how they disarmed an enemy or overcame dementors because there are not a lot of stage directions. I also thought the lack of depth in the text made the villain a bit simplified. The idea of who the villain is surprised me¬†(I won’t share details here), but it lacked development or sufficient explanation for me. I think in a more traditional novel we could get more backstory. The screenplay genre leaves a lot open for interpretation for directors and actors performing the play (with some rather cheesy stage directions). I can only imagine how amazing that full experience would be–some of those stage directions, especially connected with Voldemort and time travel, sound amazingly scary and awesome.

Who I love most in this book ‚Äď I really loved Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy in this book. Their friendship is so genuine, and they learn so much through their adventures. I appreciated that their friendship built them up and that they didn’t fall in love with each other. It didn’t need to go that way, and I was glad to see them maintain their friendship without any weird romance. I also loved Snape’s brief scenes in the story because it is so true to his original character. And I really enjoyed seeing Harry, Ron and Hermione as grown ups and as parents. I grew up with those characters and now I am a parent as well. It was neat to see their struggles and efforts in parenting as I begin my own parenting journey. Most surprising, I actually really enjoyed seeing more of Draco Malfoy in this story. We get more backstory on his marriage and family life. I am glad to see Draco has a kind heart and loves his wife and child–but I also like that the old rivalries are hard to overcome.

How I see Harry changing¬†‚ÄstThis book is all about how Harry has changed from the Boy Who Lived to a father and Ministry of Magic official. I enjoy seeing him learning¬†to parent his children and especially the ways he learns to strengthen his relationship with Albus. We see Harry try many different tactics to heal his broken relationship with Albus, and I appreciate the way he has to work to understand Albus. Most of all, I love that Harry is still courageous and willing to do anything for those he loves. He may be older, but he is still our Harry.

What I learn from this book ‚Äď I love that The Cursed Child forwards the same messages that the original series¬†does. It shows the importance of true friendship in bringing out the best in ourselves and giving us people to fight for and fight with. It teaches that the right kinds of sacrifices are for those we love, not ourselves.¬†Family¬†relationships are strengthened through understanding each other both through loving each other and looking beyond our love for one another.¬†Each of us has light and darkness in us but we can always chose to change our path. And it shows that trying to live in or even to change the past cannot write the best future. It is moving forward from the past that sets us free.

How I would teach this book in a class ‚ÄstOh the beautiful possibilities for teaching The Cursed Child in a class! It would be fun to do some comparison essays.

  • First, I would have students compared the screenplay genre with one book from the original series and how the genres influence the story and action.It would be especially neat to compare reading the screenplay and seeing the play and how those two are similar and different.
  • Or, I could have students compare the same character in a single book (I think books 1, 4, or 7 would be interesting) with that same character in The Cursed Child. How does Harry change? Or Professor McGonagall? Or Cedric Diggory? Or Draco Malfoy?
  • We could also compare scenes that the character go back in time to visit. A discussion of time and history would be super intriguing from this book. How does time change our perceptions of others and of ourselves? If you could go back in time to fix a perceived wrong, would you do it and why? What do the characters learn about time and about history through their experiences in this book?
  • An essay about the way characters have both light and darkness and how they act on those different feelings would be neat–especially if connected with a discussion of the title and its¬†meaning. I was surprised by how the title fit into the story and the different ways the characters found themselves cursed–Harry, Albus, Scorpious, and more.

There are so many great one liners from this screenplay. Here are some of my favorites.

From Scorpious, who is about as big a bookworm as young Hermione.

“The world changes and we change with it. I am better off in this world. But the world is not better. And I don’t want that.”

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, page 193

From Dumbledore–still giving us wisdom after all this time.

“Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.”

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, page 258

From Professor McGonagall who is always keeping us in line and will always be at Hogwarts.

“Bravery doesn’t forgive stupidity. Always think. Think what’s possible.”

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, page 201

Perhaps my favorite line in the whole book came from Snape.

“Sometimes costs are made to be borne.

….

I didn’t just quote Dumbledore, did I?”

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, page 187

It’s hard to think about saying goodbye again to these stories and characters. But then I found out we get more in a short story collection from Rowling coming out this fall! Plus I have the “Fantastic Beasts” movie to look forward to and The Cursed Child coming to the USA (it’s totally bound to happen sooner than later). So there is plenty more Harry to come:)

Overall, I think this book fits well into the Harry Potter canon, and I really enjoyed reading more about Harry and the other characters I have come to love. Well worth it for the nerdy fan moments and the great story.

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Again, I would love to hear your thoughts about The Cursed Child! 
What did you think about this 8th Harry Potter story?

[Heidi]: A Review

Hi All!

I’m finally back with a new review here at Greenish Bookshelf. I have been reading Heidi by Johanna Spyri for several months, mostly on audio book. I finished it up on my Kindle right before we moved but I haven’t been able to review it until now.

Initial Thoughts:

  • This book started slow for me. I couldn’t really get into the story until the end of Heidi’s stay in Frankfort. Once she returned to the mountain, I got more into the story.
  • Peter was a frustrating character for me. It seemed obvious that he had a huge crush on Heidi but they were so young it just manifested itself as jealousy.:)
  • Can we just plan our trip to the Swiss Alps right now? I would love to see the majesty and the beauty of those mountains.
  • Also, I want to re-watch the movie adaptation of this book because I kept thinking certain events would happen that actually didn’t in the book.

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Heidi by Johanna Spyri follows the story of young Heidi–an orphan sent to live with her grandfather in a small hut on a mountain in the Swiss Alps. Heidi adores her mountain home, the goats she helps bring to pasture each morning, and especially her grandfather. Unexpectedly, Heidi is taken to Frankfort by her aunt to be the companion to Clara, an invalid girl needing a friend. The girls become close friends, but Heidi becomes so homesick that she is sent back to the mountain. There, she builds stronger bonds with her grandfather and friends. And she also finds ways to combine her two worlds by bringing her Frankfort family to the mountain.

Heidi is a darling little protagonist. She is always happy and sees the best in people no matter what. I love her relationship with her grandfather and how she changes him. Because of her kindness, grandfather is able to redeem himself from his past and returns to his village and to God. I love that Heidi learns to read and uses that gift to bless others-especially poor grandmother in her hut on the mountain. I think Heidi as a character is a great example of the incredible influence that children can have for good.¬† Heidi also has such a sweet influence on Clara–a girl who seems to have a dull and often lonely life until she meets Heidi.

I love what living on the mountain does for Clara. The richness of life–with the air, stars, flowers, and milk give Clara a new perspective. She is able to change her situation because she finds faith in herself on the mountain. That is truly a great lesson. What is also amazing about Clara is how kind she is despite her circumstances. She has a good relationship with her father and grandmother. And she easily takes to Heidi as well. Her positive attitude is admirable and something I want to emulate more.

Grandfather is my favorite character from this novel. He makes such an inspiring journey from the cold outcast at the start of the novel to loving grandfather and friend at the end. He certainly has experienced many hardships in his life and might be able to justify his seclusion from society. But I love that he lets Heidi bring him back to the world as his best self. I especially enjoyed his return to the village and his visit to the preacher to apologize and make things right. Some of my favorite scenes in the book are when he interacts with Clara when she visits the mountain. He takes care of her with such gentility and genuine love. It seems the mountain brings out the best in all the characters.

I was surprised to find this novel¬†more about¬†scenery than about action. I have read that this novel is Spyri’s most well known because of her beautiful description of the Swiss Alps. I was blown away by the descriptions of the absolutely¬†gorgeous countryside. I would be like Heidi and never want to leave. However, I think the book started slow for me because it lacked much action. Yes, I loved the landscape but more plot movement early¬†would make the novel easier to get into for me.

I also really enjoyed the strong themes of friendship, love, and religion in this novel. It is the friendship between Heidi and Clara that bring a whole group of people together to support one another. It is the love Heidi has for her grandfather that brings him back to society. It is the Frankfort grandmother and her wise advice about God that brings Heidi to strong faith.

Some of my favorite quotes come from Grandmother and Heidi about faith. I have looked as these often since reading and they bring peace to my faith as well.

“When you do not know what more to do you must go and tell everything to God.”

“I have been thinking all day what a happy thing it is that God does not give us what we ask for, even when we pray and pray and pray, if He knows there is something better for us.”

“We must go on praying for everything, for everything, so that God may know we do not forget that it all comes from Him.”

Heidi, pages 144, 195, 196

Overall, a darling children’s classic that I hope to read to my own children one day.

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This novel is the 10th novel I’ve finished for my list with The Classics Club! Check out my full list here. For more info on the club, click here.

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Top 10 Tuesday: Books Set in a Fictional World

Welcome back to Top 10 Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! I’m excited to be back this week¬†with TTT. ¬†It’s my favorite book blogger meme!

This week’s topic is Top Ten Books With X Setting (top ten books set near the beach, top ten book set in boarding school, top ten books set in England, etc).

I decided to feature books set in a fictional setting. To make it especially fun, I chose only books that have a setting (at least partially) outside of our world.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis // Narnia is one of my favorite fictional settings.

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien // Another of my favorite fictional settings is Middle Earth.

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne // The Hundred Acre Wood is a classic and darling setting.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum // Oz is a strange and fun setting for this classic story.

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie // One of the great classic children’s settings is Neverland.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll // Wonderland is a¬†classic and totally weird setting.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster // This is one of my favorite childhood books and a favorite little setting.

The Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale // Hale is a master world builder. I absolutely love the world of Bayern.

Princess Academy Series by Shannon Hale // Danland is another great world built by Hale.

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer // I recently discovered this fun series set in the Land of Stories where all fairy tales actually take place.

On my TBR: Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier // I am excited to experience this novel and it’s retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses.

What are some of your favorite fictional settings?

 

I’m back and still reading!

Hi Everyone!

Sorry for the 2 week hiatus. We have made the big move down to Texas and are settling in well. Our apartment is great, we are enjoying the humidity (it hasn’t been too bad!), and we are starting to navigate our way around better. Now I need to get to the library and register for my library card:)

I have been reading a bit during the chaos. But I am way behind on posting. Now I am excited to get blogging again. Here’s what you can expect here in the next few weeks…

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A Review of Heidi by Johanna Spyri

On my TBR right away…

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child // I can’t wait to experience this one. It’s actually a screenplay which should be interesting. I so want to see the play one day!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah // I am so excited to read this WWII novel.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford // My book group is reading this one for September and I am excited read it and skype into the discussion:)

What are you reading this month?

Top 10 Tuesday: I’d buy you right now!

Welcome back to Top 10 Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

First, sorry for being a bit MIA on the blog lately. We are in the middle of moving and a family reunion so its been busy! I am making good progress on Heidi and War and Peace–my two focus books until I get my new library card:)

I’m super excited (again!) about this week’s topic. I feel like the topics have been super good this summer. This week we are talking about¬†Ten Books You’d Buy Right This Second If Someone Handed You A Fully Loaded Gift Card. As this is a lifelong dream of mine, it was easy to put together a long list:) Enjoy!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling // Its been so crazy around here that I didn’t pre-order this!! I can’t wait to read it!

The Everstone Chronicles by Dawn Crandall // I have talked a lot about this series lately. I absolutely love it and can’t recommend it highly enough!

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown // My book group read this one this month and I got to read a few parts of it about embracing vulnerability and replacing scarcity with enough. I would love to own it and return to it often.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford // We are reading this next month in book group. I have had it on my TBR for a while, and I am excited to check it out!

Happily Ever After by Kiera Cass // This short story collection is the only thing I am missing in my Selection Series library.

The Butterfly and the Violin and A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron // I loved The Butterfly and the Violin, and can’t wait to read A Sparrow in Terezin. Such beautiful novels and covers well worth owning!

The Land of Stories Series by Chris Colfer // I own (and really enjoyed) book one. And the 5th book just came out. I need to read the rest of the series!

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George // This book really moved me when I read it last year. Such a beautiful tribute to books and to life.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes // I have not yet seen the movie (no spoilers, please!!) because I want to read the book first. Sounds like a beautifully tragic romance.

Go Forward With Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley¬†by Sheri Dew // This is the next biography of an LDS Church president on my list. I can’t wait to learn more about this great man.

And I am stopping myself there because, technically, I’m way over the limit of 10:)

What books would you buy right now?

Top 10 Tuesday: Now I want to ____.

Welcome back to Top 10 Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

I am super excited about this week’s theme. I feel like they just keep getting better this month! This week we are talking about: Top Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do or Learn About After Reading Them. I think this is such a fun idea! I have loved coming up with this list:) Enjoy!

Live in Regency era Great Britain and fall in love 

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Discover a magical world through a wardrobe, book, or milk.

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Travel through Europe–visiting the Swiss Alps, French countryside and British islands.

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Meet Death before I die.bookthief

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Learn to cook French food.

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Attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

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Form a best friend’s club complete with reunions and traveling clothes

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Attend a fabulous ball and dance with my future husband

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Visit another planet but not get stranded there

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Write my own book one day 

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One of my favorite topics to date!
What are some things you are doing (or hoping to do) because of books?

[The Wonderful Wizard of Oz]: A Review

Hi everyone!

I hope you are enjoying your summer as much as we are! To escape the endless packing (is that the worst, or what?!), we headed on a road trip this week to visit my grandparents. And¬†we enjoyed listening to¬†The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. I¬†remember this story based on the movie. I think I might have read this novel when I was a kid–but I didn’t remember the details. So we were excited to check it out.

Initial Thoughts:

  • This book reminds me¬†of the tone of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland¬†but with more of a coherent story running throughout. Fun fact, its considered the first¬†American fairy tale.
  • The movie does a good job of keeping the story happy and light. The book is a lot darker than we expected. In fact, we want to watch the movie again now (especially because my husband only saw it once when he was like 6 years old)!
  • Did you know there are 13 sequels to this book?!

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum follows the familiar story of Dorothy and her dog Toto who are transported to Oz by a tornado. Dorothy then goes on a quest to find the Wizard of Oz and get back to her Kansas home. Along the way, she meets a scarecrow looking for a brain, a tin man looking for a heart, and a lion looking for courage. Together, they overcome difficulties and obstacles to reach the Emerald City and speak with the wizard. But the wizard is not what they expect. And he demands for them to kill the Wicked Witch of the West before he helps them. Will he grant their requests? Can they defeat the witch? And can Dorothy really get back to Kansas?

I honestly am not sure which of the main characters is my favorite. I liked and disliked something about everyone. Dorothy was almost annoyingly naive but also brave in a new place. The scarecrow was both intelligent and stupid. The tin man worked hard for his friends but also didn’t go back and marry that girl. The lion was cowardly but also full of himself. Perhaps who I like more are the secondary characters. The Wizard is intriguing because he fears rebellion but creates peace. We really don’t get enough of the background on the Wicked Witch of the West–I want to know more about her and her past (hello, Wicked:) ). And I actually really enjoyed the complexities of the flying monkeys. I would have liked more development of some of these characters instead of some of the random plot twists.

Speaking of, the plot was interesting at the beginning but dragged at the end of the novel. I enjoyed the fairy tale style and fun encounters with different sorts of creatures. But we get to the Emerald City and defeat the Wicked Witch with another two thirds of the novel to go. But the action after that defeat is slow and random. It seemed like Baum just had a bunch of interesting ideas and underdeveloped them–the china town, the hammerheads, crazy spider monster in the forest. They aren’t related the rest of the story and we don’t see the characters really change. Glinda seems to be the only smart one at the last half of the book because she decides to give the cap back to the monkeys (finally!) and knows just how to get Dorothy home. The ending seemed far away for so long then quickly wrapped up–I would have liked more details with their visit to Glinda and Dorothy getting home to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry.¬†What surprised me most about the novel was the darkness of the story. I am familiar with the movie version of the events, but¬†did not expect the violence–cutting off heads of wolves, breaking crows necks, the tin man’s backstory. It was pretty intense!

What I liked best in the novel was the conversations and personalities connected with the search for the brain, heart, and courage. My husband and I talked a lot about the ways these items are desired and also possessed. The scarecrow wants brains because he only has straw in his head making him stumble along the road. But he thinks of some of their best ideas before he even gets the brains. The tin man desires a heart and always talks about how he doesn’t feel enough. Yet, he is very concerned about helping others and¬†shows his emotions¬†the most (always crying and rusting). The lion seeks courage and is scared by Dorothy in their first meeting (such a funny moment!). But he also has a ferocious roar and seeks to save his friends before his official “courage” comes. All three of these characters continually seek for what they want. They won’t accept anything less. But I think they had it all the time. And I think the Wizard of Oz knew it as well.

The title of this novel intrigues me because it puts the focus on the wizard–a character who we don’t get much interaction with in the book. But he really is at the center of the novel. The 4 main characters seek him to solve their problems. Then they must do him the favor of killing the Wicked Witch of the West in order for him to help them. And even after they discover his true identity, they want his help. While he isn’t the great sorcerer they expect, he is intriguing because he has built a beautiful city and a beautiful persona. Everyone loves the wizard! My favorite part of the book comes when he gives the scarecrow brains, tin man a heart, and lion courage because he tells them what really matters. Although they don’t really figure it out.ūüėČ

Some of my favorite quotes come from the wizard too.

Overall, this is a fun fairy tale that could be even better with more character development and less of the journey at the end.

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This novel is the 9th¬†novel I’ve finished¬†for my list with The Classics Club! Check out my full list here. For more info on the club, click here.

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Top 10 Tuesday: Outside the USA

Welcome back to a new week of Top 10 Tuesday hosted by¬†The Broke and the Bookish! This week‚Äôs topic is really neat:¬†Ten Books Set Outside The US. I thought this might be hard at first, but I found it to be quite easy! I am quite a big fan of British Lit and WWII Lit so it was easy to find a lot of my favorite books took place (at least in part) outside the USA. So I jsut couldn’t stop at 10 and went to about 13:) Enjoy!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak // One of my favorite books ever. I love this beautiful story set in WWII era Germany and narrated by mysterious Death. One day, I will review it here!

The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling // You know all about my love/obsession with Harry Potter. And all the magic happens in the UK. Love it! See my reviews of the first two books in my last post.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte // A recent favorite of mine set in 19th century England. A classic that I think everyone should read! My review here.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern // Okay, technically this does take place in part in the US. But it also takes place all over the world. And everyone should read it! My review here.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr // I love this beautiful story set it France and Germany during WWII. Such breathtaking language and incredible story-telling. My review here.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden // I read this pre-blog and was absolutely blown away. It’s an incredible story of life as a geisha–and shows the complexity and intrigue and love that can be found there.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery // I adore Anne Shirley and her story which takes place in beautiful Avonlea, Canada. How I want to go there one day! My review here.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George // This book is a beautiful tribute to books, love, and life. All taking place in Paris through the south of France. My review here.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer // I love this book for its unique form, time period, and LOCATION. How I long to visit the island of Guernsey now! My review here.

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson // One of my absolute favorite historical romances set in classic Jane-Austen-era England. My review here.

Anything by Jane Austen // I adore anything written by Austen and I love her English settings. Her style, wit, and skill always impress me. I especially recommend Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein // Such a compelling and fascinating story of two best friends fighting in WWII–set in England and France. My review here.

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron // Another gorgeous WWII novel set mainly in Poland concentration camps about finding beauty and love in the darkest of places. My review here.

And last but not least…

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy // I had to include this masterpiece of Russian literature set all over Russia and the war front against Napoleon. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it is truly a masterpiece. Follow my journey to finish it here.

I kept using the word beautiful in this post. I guess my favorite books are also beautiful.

What books do you think are beautiful and set outside the USA?

[Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets]: A Review

Hi all! Today I am back and so excited to review the second book in the amazing Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets.

This is part of my Harry Potter Marathon from June-December 2016. I will read and review one Harry Potter book each month. Check out my review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.¬†Please share your comments and read along with me!

I got some great feedback on my organization on my last Harry Potter review and have done a similar style of review this time. Enjoy!:)

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My first experience with this book РI got this book and Prisoner of Azkaban for Christmas when I was in elementary school. And I remember being so excited to read the next stories about Harry. I am lucky enough to be in the generation that grew up with Harry. So reading about his story was part of my growing up years too. I wanted to go to a boarding school and learn magic.And I loved reading about life at the Burrow. I wanted to live there so bad! I was a young, innocent child and found the story exciting and fun. In many ways, my first encounter with this book is like the story itself.

What surprised me this time – Like the first book, I was surprised by the¬†simplicity of this novel. The story is simple and easy to follow. There is a lot of action going on in a short amount of pages (the scenes in the chamber of secrets are not actually that long but we actually get a lot of details about what they are doing in the classroom [mandrakes, transforming bunnies, Lockhart’s antics]). The focus seems to be on the action rather than inner monologues of the characters, which I enjoyed. In fact, the innocence of the characters surprised me. Harry still is so naive and doesn’t understand the complexities of his relationship with Voldemort nor does he expect to meet Voldemort again; he doesn’t have the deep relationship with Dumbledore that defines the later books; and we only get glimpses of the love triangles to come.¬†And of course I loved the humor. Lockhart, Hagrid, Colin Creevy, Fred and George and more say such hilarious things that had me laughing out loud.

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A few thoughts on genre –¬†I have an awesome book group with some friends from my Master’s program that meets monthly, and we had a lovely chat about Harry Potter and genre this month. I wanted to share a few of our ideas. First, the genre of the Harry Potter series is hard to define. The first three books are more geared towards children–the stories are central to the novel and are more simple. Additionally, these books¬†lack the¬†complexity and darkness to come in later books. We don’t know the intricacies of Harry’s connection with Voldemort yet, nor of his quest to find horcruxes. And while Harry has faced Voldemort twice in two books, the darkness of those encounters is rather muted–a half-alive face on the back of Quirrell’s head and then a memory of Tom Riddle. I think this children’s/middle grade genre is fitting for these books when Harry is so young.

Who I love most in this book – Everyone is still so¬†simple in this book compared to what is to come. I love¬†Hermione for her ingenuity and love of books. Also for her ability to make an extremely complex potion over weeks and having it work properly. I love Ginny (yes, she is a bit ridiculous and weepy at times) but I love her because it’s our first real interaction with her and already I am remembering how much I love the Ginny in the books. I love Gilderoy Lockhart because he is so ridiculous and pompous. His Valentine’s Day “treats” are just hilarious! I love Moaning Myrtle because she is dramatic and hilarious at the same time–and she is perfect in the movies. I love Fred and George Weasley because they lighten any mood, are good a Quidditch (save Harry from the bludger for a while) and always make me laugh (their goofy songs and escorting Harry as the heir of Slytherin. Haha). Last but not least, I adore DOBBY! He means so well but makes such big messes of himself while trying to kill save Harry.

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How I see Harry changing¬†– I love seeing Harry more confident in this book. He has something to look forward to in returning to Hogwarts and starts making more friends (at least initially). Yet I noticed he was¬†still so innocent.¬†He doesn’t feel sorry for himself because of his connection with Voldemort. He doesn’t understand why it’s so bad he is a Parselmouth and never once thinks that Voldemort might be the heir of Slytherin (which was super obvious to me this time around).¬†I appreciate his¬†bravery and courage in saving Ginny and fighting battles with people far more learned and wise than himself.

What I learn from this book –¬†Choices define us. One of my favorite quotes from Dumbledore is below and speaks to this theme. Harry is almost obsessed with his fear of being in Slytherin in this book. But we learn that he can (and already has) define himself differently from Voldemort.¬†For most of this book, Harry cannot move on from his experience with the sorting hat. He feels like he might belong in Slytherin. I love that he pulls Godric Gryffindor’s sword out of the hat to defeat the basilisk. I think his conversation with Dumbledore afterwards is a good lesson in choosing how we will act even when we have doubts or fears about the future.¬†Tell people your trust about your fears.¬†Imagine if Harry had told Dumbledore about the mysterious voice and the parselmouth stuff when Dumbledore asked earlier in the book. And imagine if Ginny had actually told her parents and/or brothers about the diary earlier in the novel. We wouldn’t have much of the later action, but we would have wiser¬†charactersūüėČ Lastly,¬†Always confirm that you understand the truth. Hermione is a great example of this with her research about the basilisk and use of the mirror to avoid being killed. She does her research to understand what is attacking students. But Harry is a poor example of this idea because he just accepts Tom Riddle’s story about why Hagrid was expelled. He¬†doesn’t talk to Hagrid about it or anyone else. He just accepts a perceived truth which is later proven to be wrong. Their contrasting ways of understanding truth are compelling.

How I would teach this book in a class –¬†I think I better start drafting a real syllabus for my “Harry Potter as Literature 101” course :)¬†So many great possibilities here! I would have students¬†write about how different characters deal with fear (we have Ginny depressed and silent or Ernie Macmillian spreading rumors, or Hermione doing research). Another idea is to contrast the meeting Harry has with Tom Riddle with his encounter with Quirrell at the end of book 1–how are they similar or different?¬†We could also write about the contrasting ways Hermione and Ron change¬†in this book. Both are confronted with death (Hermione petrified by the basilisk and Ron almost loses his sister, Ginny), and we learn more about their backgrounds (scenes at the Burrow and at Diagon Alley). How¬†do these experiences and details change our perceptions of them? And we could write a big essay about understanding and connecting truth and memory in this book. So many examples to pull from–Lockhart and his books, Tom Riddle’s diary, Ginny and the Chamber of Secrets, history of Hogwarts and the myth of the Chamber of Secrets. Oh, that would be cool!

And, of course, a few of my favorite quotes, both classics and a few new favorites. I LOVE the quote from Ron about Hermione and the library. And Mr. Weasley’s quote is one I didn’t remember from previous readings–but love now:)

“I will only truly have left this school when none here are loyal to me. help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”

‚ÄúI seem to remember telling you both that I would have to expel you if you broke any more school rules,‚ÄĚ said Dumbledore. ‚Ķ. ‚ÄúWhich goes to show that the best of us must sometimes eat our words.‚ÄĚ

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, pages 264 & 330-331

Basically, everything that Lockhart says is ridiculous, hilarious, or almost profound. This is one of my favorites:

“Amazing! Amazing! This is just like magic!”

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, page 325

Loved this book more than ever this time around!

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Have you read The Chamber of Secrets recently? Post your link below!