Baxlala’s CBR5 Review #26: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

With this post, I will have made it to my goal for the year, which was half-Cannonball, but I’m still a bit disappointed in myself for this last post, as it’s something I’ve already written so it kind of feels like cheating? I don’t know. I’ve signed up for the full Cannonball next year and hope that, with the help of my 2014 motto (TRY HARDER), I will actually achieve it for the first time ever WOOHOO!

Anyway. HARRY POTTER! Like the three HP posts before it, it has been crossposted from The Harry Potter Medicinal Reread.

BLERP BLARP

Like Ashley, I have a very vivid memory of reading Goblet of Fire, much clearer than my memories of reading the first three (barring that first, life-altering moment in the library break room, of course). I’d been visiting a friend in North Carolina when the book came out and I bought it on my way to the airport so I could read it on my return flight home. I didn’t want the plane ride to end, even though I was wedged between the window and the very large man seated next to me, so caught up was I in this book. It might be my favorite. But then again, my favorite Harry Potter book really seems to depend on what mood I’m in. Or whatever one I happen to be reading at the time. Anyway.

(BONUS FACT THAT NO ONE CARES ABOUT: My NC friend and I met on the internet, brought together by our overwhelming love of The X-Files. Somehow, two summer before, I’d convinced my parents to drive us all to North Carolina from Ohio, so my friend and I could see The X-Files movie together. We saw it four times on opening day. I KNOW.)

CHAPTER 8: THE QUIDDITCH WORLD CUP

You guys, I have a confession to make: I hate Quidditch. Or, to put it more accurately, I hate READING about Quidditch. Luckily, despite the title, this chapter deals with more than just Quidditch. I just said Quidditch a lot. QUIDDITCH QUIDDITCH QUIDDITCH. (Did you know saying it three times in a row makes Oliver Wood appear?)

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Hey girl.

The Weasleys, Harry, and Hermione all have seats in the Top Box. They meet Winky, a house elf belonging (gross) to Barty Crouch. It turns out she knows Dobby, but she’s ashamed of him because he wants to be paid for his work now. SPOILER ALERT: this will be important later.

Harry buys them all Omnioculars, magical (duh) thingies (technical name) that can slow down and speed up the events viewed through them. (Later, during the mascot display, Ron shoves a handful of leprechaun gold at Harry to pay him back, not realizing that, being leprechaun gold, it will disappear later. Poor Won-Won.)

There’s a tense moment as the Malfoys enter the box. It’s especially icky when you consider that the last time Lucius and Arthur met, Lucius gave Arthur’s daughter a book that would possess her with the spirit of Voldemort himself. FUCKED UP. Lucius, of course, makes a crack about how the Weasleys were able to afford so many tickets to the match. (Also, and I don’t want to know why, but my brain really wants to write Luscious instead of Lucius.)

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Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #24 and #25: FABLES Volumes 1 & 2

It seems only right, as it’s been announced that FABLES will be ending at issue #150, that I should finally start my review of the series. Nothing like waiting til the last minute, yes? I’ve been meaning to review FABLES since my last go round of Cannonball and, in fact, did manage to at least review one collection last year, a Bigby-centric collection called Werewolves of the Heartland.

I wish I’d loved that collection more. I’m surprised I didn’t because, as I mentioned, it was Bigby-centric, but I suppose they can’t all be winners. Luckily, the first two FABLES collections, Legends in Exile and Animal Farm, are absolutely:

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Can’t stop thinking about DOCTOR WHO: blame the 50th Anniversary.

I came to comics late in life, thinking (wrongly, like so many people) that they were all superheroes and big-boobed-spandex-clad ladies. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I started reading comics and FABLES was one of the first.

FABLES hits all the marks for me. There’s an ongoing mystery, a smart-as-a-whip-takes-no-nonsense heroine, a tortured hero, still haunted by things he’s done in the past, an unlikely romance that sparks in the first collection and heats up throughout the rest. And, best of all, fairy tale characters, just, ALL OVER THE PLACE.

When ABC announced that Once Upon a Time was going to be a thing, I was of two minds. Part of me thought, “awesome, I love stuff about fairy tales, how cool!” but the other part of me, the larger, angrier part, just think-shouted, “WHAT THE FUCK WHY ISN’T IT FABLES?”

I did try Once Upon a Time for about half a season but it just didn’t hold the appeal for me that FABLES did. Probably because, the entire time I was watching it, I was just wishing it was FABLES. Oh well. Moving on, I guess.

Slight spoilers, ahoy.

Fables vol 1Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile

Our story takes place in a part of New York called Fabletown, where a bunch of fairy tale characters took refuge when their Homelands were invaded by the Adversary and his forces. The Fables have disguised themselves as normal New Yorkers, so the Mundys of the world can’t detect that there are immortal beings in their midst.

We’re introduced to some important Fables, namely Snow White, Fabletown’s deputy mayor, and Bigby (formerly the Big Bad Wolf), the town’s sheriff, when Rose Red (Snow White’s sister) is allegedly murdered. Bigby and Snow team up to find Rose Red’s killer. Prime suspects include Jack (of beanstalk fame), Rose Red’s longtime boyfriend, and Bluebeard, her secret fiance.

We also learn that Bigby has been nursing some hardcore unrequited love for the beautiful Snow White so, you know, YAY SHIPPING.

Fables vol 2

Fables, Vol. 2: Animal Farm

So last issue, we met the human Fables but you just know there are non-human ones, right? RIGHT? Well. There are. FYI. The three little pigs. The three bears. Three blind mice. Chicken Little. Yada yada. While the human Fables get to enjoy the conveniences of big city life, the non-human Fables have to live on The Farm, so as not to arouse suspicion in the Mundy world when someone sees a talking pig wandering around. The Farm seems nice enough, really, but some of the non-human Fables bristle at being told they HAVE to stay there.

Enter the revolution, which Snow White and Rose Red stumble right into. Shit gets real, you guys. Shit gets SUPER TOTALLY REAL.

Anyway, it’s hard to review these without giving too much away. You should probably just read them, OK? OK. Good talk.

Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #23: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

(This, as the ones before it, originally appeared as part of narfna‘s Harry Potter Medicinal Reread

Um. So this is kind of weird. Less reviewy, more…make-believey.)

The Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapters 8-9: Why So Sirius?

 

CrookshanksCHAPTER 8: FLIGHT OF THE FAT LADY

I caught two mice today. My Harmony said that I was a very clever cat indeed, which should be obvious to anyone with eyes and a brain but her classmates never seem that impressed. Of course, my Harmony has more brains than any of the other small ones here. Maybe that’s why she has so much schoolwork.

All the small ones seem to speak of is schoolwork, Kwiditch (which I believe is some kind of religion), and their professors, the taller humans who run this castle. There’s Trelawney, who some like and others make fun of, McGonagall, who is respected and feared in equal measure, and Lupin, who seems to be a favorite, though I can’t be sure about him. I smell something a bit…off…in him, yet he is always kind to me. Snape, however, is much hated and I can see why, since he chases me out of his office whenever he catches me. Sometimes he throws things. So sometimes I yak hairballs on his desk.

Still. None of them, not the students or the professors, seem to sense the growing danger that lurks in the castle. Inside the very room in which my Harmony’s friends sleep. Henry and the other one…the loud, orange one. The one with the rat.

The danger is so close tonight, hiding amongst the small ones, so I hurry into the commotion of the common room. Along the way, I kill a fat spider to present to my Harmony. She seems very pleased with it, though her friends less so.

The rat is sleeping, fat and happy, in the orange one’s bag. I wait for my moment and then pounce. The small ones start screaming and try to catch me, but I’m too fast for all but my Harmony. She grabs me and pulls me away from my prey.

“You keep that cat away from him!” the orange one yells. My Harmony yells right back, defends my nature. She is such a good master, but it doesn’t placate the orange one.

“That cat’s got it in for Scabbers!” he shouts.

He’s not wrong.

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Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #22: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

(This originally appeared as part of narfna‘s Harry Potter Medicinal Reread…IT’S SO FUN, YOU GUYS, YOU SHOULD READ IT.)

The Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 16-17: Snakes be Slytherin

Charlene mentioned that Chamber of Secrets is everyone’s least favorite Harry Potter book, which I would have completely agreed with before this reread. Now I’m not so sure. Ask me again when we’re done with all of them. Maybe I’ll still agree WHO KNOWS. I don’t have a time turner (spoiler alert) so I can’t say. I’m not sure WHY this one is my least favorite. I guess it’s just because one of them has to be. Honestly, picking a least favorite Harry Potter is kind of like picking your least favorite kind of chocolate chip cookie. I mean, they’re all delicious, right?

Maybe I’m a bit more lenient this time because this whole reread experiment has been so much fun. Also, it didn’t hurt that I got some action-packed chapters. Seriously, a lot happens. Like:

ALOTCHAPTER 16: THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

So, as we learned from Mr. Ron Weasley’s diary in the last post, Ron and Harry have discovered that Moaning Myrtle was the student who was killed when the Chamber of Secrets was opened fifty years prior. They haven’t yet talked to her about it, because as we ALSO learned in the last post, it’s really hard to sneak around Hogwarts when you have professors watching your every move.

Luckily, the mandrakes are ready, so Professor Sprout will soon be making them into a cure for the Petrified students. Ron’s psyched because that means Hermione will be awake soon, and she can, like always, just solve all of their problems for them. I’m terrified because these mandrakes have just grown from wee baby-like creatures into mature adults and now Professor Sprout is going to straight up sacrifice them just so a few kids can wake up from their long winter’s naps. One of the kids is Hermione, though, so I’ll allow it. You know. The mandrake murder.

Meanwhile, Ginny is spending her time freaking the fuck out and trying to tell Harry and Ron something REALLY IMPORTANT, but stupid Percy shows up and scares her off. Percy’s embarrassed about something, but as it’s unrelated to the Chamber of Secrets, we don’t really care. Ginny probably just walked in on him playing with his wand.

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Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #21: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling

I find myself rereading Harry Potter a lot. If I’ve had a bad day, one of the quickest cures is to start a Harry Potter reread. It’s a comforting world, even though so many bad things happen there. Harry’s parents are dead, after all, he’s been orphaned and forced to live with relatives who can’t stand him and, in fact, abuse him on a regular basis. And yet, JK Rowling has created a world of hope for us. No matter how bad things may get in Harry’s world, he’s still loved and he still loves others. It’s beautiful.

I love this series so much that I was absolutely delighted when Ashley (narfna) asked for volunteers to be part of a Harry Potter Medicinal Reread. In it, we’ve all been assigned specific chapters of each book, and in turn, recap and review each chapter. So far, I’ve written posts for Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, and Prisoner of Azkaban. My review for Sorcerer’s Stone is below and I’ll be posting the others STRAIGHT AWAY.

You can also, if you like Harry Potter and FUN, start here with the very first chapter. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this project as much as we’ve had writing it.

(Big thanks to Ashley for organizing such a fun project!)

The Sorcerer’s Stone, Chapters 3-5: YOUR MOM GOES TO HOGWARTS

I signed up for Ashley’s Harry Potter reread immediately because A) I will use any excuse to reread these books and B) I love hearing about how people discovered Harry Potter. How old they were. Who their favorite character was. Whether they fell in love right away, like I did, or if it took a couple of books for Rowling to reel them in.

I’d wager I came to Harry Potter a bit later in life than some of the other contributors here. I was in high school when they came out and, as luck would have it, working at a library at the time. One Saturday, I was the only one of my friends working and, during my lonely break, noticed that someone had left a book on the break room table. There was a picture of a bespectacled young boy on the front cover, riding a broomstick and trying to catch a golden ball with wings, and JUST BECAUSE, there was a unicorn running in the background.

“What the fuck?” I thought.

The children’s librarian happened to come in while I was staring at this strange book. She was an older woman, always fluttering about, her hands waving this way and that, adjusting her messy hair, her numerous layers of clothing, or the thick glasses that always seemed to be slipping down her nose. Had I already read Harry Potter at the time (and, you know, had Prisoner of Azkaban existed yet), I would have said she reminded me of Professor Trelawney.

I will be forever grateful to this librarian for pushing me to read this book. If she hadn’t, I would have missed out on the hours of enjoyment (and, sure, heartache) this series has given me and (maybe worst of all?) never would have gotten to experience this batshit project with you crazy nutbags.

(No offense.)

Ashley covered the first two chapters in the last post, chapters in which we meet some important characters and are given but a glimpse of the magical world we’re about to become immersed in. Even in the chapters I’m about to cover, we’re really only beginning to see what Rowling has in store for us.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

CHAPTER THREE: THE LETTERS FROM NO ONE

Harry is in mondo big trouble because he set that snake loose on Dudley and, you guys, I still get super pissed about how illogical the Dursleys are about blaming Harry for everything. Yes, I realize they’re supposed to be horrible people but COME ON how is it Harry’s fault that the glass disappeared?

(OK, YES, I realize it really IS his fault but he didn’t mean to and the Dursleys don’t want to believe in magic ANYWAY so why would they just assume Harry could make glass disappear DURSLEYS YOU MAKE NO SENSE AND YES I UNDERSTAND THAT IS THE POINT OF THE DURSLEYS WHY AM I SO MAD ABOUT THIS RIGHT NOW? I should calm down. I still have two chapters to go.)

Harry and Dudley are preparing to return to school, Dudley to a private school called Smeltings, where they wear actual knickerbockers and smack one another with sticks, and Harry to public school. You guys, I’m so excited for Harry that I can’t stand it. I just want him to be at Hogwarts already. I always want to skip over these setup chapters when I read these books because I just want to get to the Hogwarty goodness. It’s like when I used to read The Babysitter’s Club and I’d skim over the part in the beginning of every book that introduced all the girls. Kristy is a tomboy! Claudia has dyslexia and wears funky clothes! Dawn is from California! Mary Anne is SHY! Stacey has diabetes! With their powers combined, THEY ARE CAPTAIN BABYSITTER! (Just don’t feed Captain Babysitter any candy.)

captain planet

Softball! Fashion! Vegan! Braids! INSULIN!

Anyway, the important thing about this chapter is right in the chapter title. Harry gets a letter addressed not only to him, but to his cupboard. It was this exact detail that made me fall head over heels for this book:

Mr H Potter
The Cupboard Under the Stairs

Fuck. Stop being so damn perfect, Rowling, let the rest of humanity try to catch up.

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Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #20: Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal, by Jeanette Winterson

happy normalI keep reading the title to this memoir as, “why be normal when you can be happy?” which is just completely beside the point (SPOILER ALERT: I don’t have a point) but that’s what my brain wants the title to be. My brain likes to fix things and make them happier, I think, even if it means rewriting someone’s history. What? I don’t even know what I’m writing right now. My brain has taken over. Or left the building. One of those.

ANYWAY.

This book has been on my To Read list for ages and ages so, the last time I was at the library, I started searching through my Goodreads to figure out what to check out (I check out actual books like it’s 1995 WHAT OF IT) and as luck would have it, the library had this one. So that’s why I read it. Wow, good story, LET ME TELL IT AGAIN.

(This book has been…haha, JK LOL.)

ANYWAY.

I’d never heard of Jeanette Winterson before reading this, which is a Capital C Crime because she’s awesome and I even have a book of hers sitting on a shelf at home that I’ve never read STORY OF MY LIFE.

Isn’t there a word for that? Buying books that you never read and leaving them strewn about the house? Maybe not that last part, though there should be a word for that, too. I just reread all of FABLES and my husband expressed his exasperation that I kept leaving the books in piles around the house as I finished them because he doesn’t understand that I have a SYSTEM and I knew exactly where each book was and JUST DON’T MESS WITH MY SYSTEM OK.

ANYWAY.

So what is that word? For buying books you never read? Because I do that. A lot.

Winterson probably does it, too, because she loves books with all her heart (as one should) but for a better reason than most people…books saved her life. For real. Her mom was balls out nuts and didn’t allow books in the house (save a specific few) CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE so, to escape Mrs. Winterson’s Crazy, Jeanette would go to the library.

I felt for Winterson what I felt for poor Liesel in The Book Thief, but worse because Winterson is real and Liesel isn’t (so says conventional reality, though I prefer MY reality, where all fictional characters are alive and well and living in my brain YES even dead fictional characters, Lupin and Tonks just had their third child THANK YOU VERY MUCH).

ANYWAY.

Let’s see, have I even talked about this book yet? No? Sorry.

Winterson grew up in a small town near Manchester, England, with her adoptive mother and father. Her father was mostly absent, having suffered under his wife’s tyranny for many years, and having learnt that staying out of her way was the easiest way to survive. Unfortunately, this left Mrs. Winterson with nothing but time to punish and critique Jeanette, finding fault in nearly everything she did.

Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is based on her time growing up with Mrs. Winterson, so I presume she delves into The Crazy a bit more in that novel, but there are plenty of instances in this one. Mrs. Winterson used to lock Jeanette out of the house or in the coal cellar (wtf) and, just as damaging, withheld love from a little girl who needed it badly. You can imagine her reaction when she found out Jeanette was a lesbian (HINT: it was not good).

The memoir loosely follows Winterson’s journey to find her biological mother, but more to the point, focuses on how this loss of love early on in life affected her even as an adult. It’s touching and heart-wrenching and difficult and I have to agree with Winterson herself, who said that the world needs to hear more adoptive stories like hers.

A+ five stars!

Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #19: SICKENED, by Julie Gregory

Key accounts coverI read Sickened a hundred million years ago, you guys, that is how far behind I am on my reviews. HOWEVER. I remember quite a lot about it which I’m assuming means this book was pretty great. Right? That logic is sound?

Sickened is the memoir of a woman named Julie Gregory, whose childhood was stolen away by her mother and countless doctors, doctors who never realized that something was very, very wrong. Gregory’s mother suffered from a disease called Munchausen by Proxy, a form of child abuse in which a parent or caregiver pretends their child is ill, sometimes inducing illness themselves, in order to get attention from doctors.

(Remember Mischa Barton’s story in The Sixth Sense? THAT.)

mischaGregory was sick for most of her life. Her mother dragged her from doctor to doctor, hospital to hospital, insisting that she was deathly ill. Often her mother would withhold food or give her medicine she didn’t need. Gregory really WAS sick a lot of the time, but not because of any illness other than her mother’s.

Whenever I read stories like this, memoirs from people whose parents completely fucked up their childhoods, I reflect on how easy I’ve had it. How absolutely, just, NORMAL my own childhood was, and I send up a quick thank you to God, The Universe, or Whoever for giving me parents who weren’t suffering from mental illness or addiction, who took care of me and nurtured me not because OOPS they had a kid, but because they loved me and it was the right thing to do.

Sickened will infuriate you, as a parent (I mean, I can only assume, having no children of my own) and, hell, as a person. Even aside from the utter insanity that Gregory’s mother put her through, the ill effects on her health and psyche, her home life in general left much to be desired. But you’ll also be inspired, as Gregory was able to disengage herself from the destructive lives her parents were leading and she even gets the chance to save a young girl from the same fate, when she realizes her mother is doing to a foster child what she’d done to her. I don’t know what makes a person do to a child what Gregory’s mother did, but I am grateful that Gregory made it through and was able to write about it.