Tag Archives: JK Rowling

The Casual Vacancy


As you should know by now, I am a huge Harry Potter fan. Most people who know me think I’m a little weird due to my extreme love for this book series. Well, like most Potter fans, when I heard that the genius behind the story had written another book I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on whatever this new novel was going to be.

Then the press release came out. It was revealed that JK Rowling’s new novel was called The Casual Vacancy and would be about the ripples caused by the death of a man on the council of a small town in London. I remember staring at the official description in shock at how boring it sounded.

But this is JK Rowling we’re talking about. Surely anything written by her would be good. It couldn’t possibly be bad, right? Alas, yes, it could.

I bought this book when it came out on September 27 and only just finished it last week (part of why I posted no blogs, I was on a mission to finish this thing). For the first 150-200 pages I actually fell asleep every time I tried to read. I think the most I got through before battling sleep was 15 pages. That is not normal for me.

JK Rowling wrote the book from the perspective of nearly every character that featured and almost none of them were likable. It wasn’t just a matter of them being flawed, which they were, but I genuinely had difficulty caring what happened to most of them.

The plot (I use that term very loosely) gets more interesting the last 100 pages or so, which mainly means I no longer struggled to stay awake. It wasn’t until the last 20 pages where I actually felt invested and cared about the events taking place. And then it was depressing.

I am sure that there are some people who would enjoy this book, but I am not one of them. Most of my fellow Potter obsessed friends didn’t even finish the book. I think part of the problem is that the genre is so completely different from what made Rowling famous that it reached the wrong audience. If this book had had any name on it other than Rowling I wouldn’t have even considered purchasing it because it didn’t sound like anything I would ever enjoy reading. The writing itself was still great and there were even times when I could hear the writing voice I loved so much from Potter, but pretty words are not what keeps me turning the pages late into the night when I should be asleep.

I think it is pretty evident that my reading of The Casual Vacancy was a colossal disappointment, but I am still hesitant to give the blanket advise not to read it. Instead, what I would say is, if you read the description inside the jacket and it sounds like the type of book you would normally enjoy, give it a shot. If not, leave it be and just be content to reread Harry Potter.

Have you read (or attempted to read) The Casual Vacancy? What did you think? Did you find it as boring as me or do you think I’m crazy and that it is a fantastic read? Let me know in the comments.


The Olympics have begun!


Before I get into this post I feel I need to apologize for my very inconsistent blogging lately. I’m going to lay the blame on summer and the craziness that always seems to attach itself to the season. I’m trying to get back into a routine, but with several big events still to come for me there is a good probability that I will miss another post here and there. But enough of that, let’s talk about the Olympics!

This past Friday night the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic games aired. Talk about a frustrating night! If you’ve been following my blog, you know how excited I was for this event, and I almost missed it.

We were getting new cable and internet installed and the people who were supposed to install it were running late. Several hours late. Someone else was finally sent in and was able to get everything installed in record time, but we still missed about the first 15 minutes of the opening ceremonies.

I have no idea what kind of set up was given for the scene from Abraham Lincoln: Orc Hunter that we came in on, so I’m not entirely sure what it was supposed to represent. I had accidentally seen a few tweets from people who were watching it live earlier in the day who joked that it looked like Hobbiton, so all I could think of was the Shire and the fires of Mordor (eventually I will go back and watch the beginning). All joking aside, though, the scene was absolutely beautiful and I did really enjoy what I saw of it. And, of course, when I later learned that the grassy knoll they left out the entire time represented Glastonbury my nerd heart did a little jig.

I absolutely loved the section with the children and British literature. I squealed like a crazy person when Jo came out and read from Peter Pan and the gigantic Voldemort may have been the creepiest thing ever. But even aside from the Harry Potter moments, everything about this segment was fun and there were a ton of references that made me smile.

I’m not that big into music, especially music from before my childhood, so the digital journey section with all the music was not as exciting for me as it probably was for other people. I did, however, enjoy the dance numbers and I thought that the engineering of all the different components was quite impressive. The highlight for me, though, was when they slipped in the sound of the TARDIS during Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” We may not have gotten the Doctor lighting the torch, but at least we Whovians got some kind of a nod.

Which brings me to the torch lighting – how cool was that?! First of all, that was a really neat gesture to have the younger generation of athletes light it. And second, that was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. I can’t even imagine how amazing that looked in person. Well done, London!

And now we are well into the first week of the 2012 Olympic games and there have already been some incredible achievements. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings continue to dominate in beach volleyball as they fight for their third Olympic gold medal, there have been victories (and disappointments) over at the pool, and for the first time since the “Magnificent Seven” did it back in 1996 our female gymnastics team won the gold. Yes, there has been much to cheer over and we haven’t even reached the halfway mark. I can’t wait to see what is yet to come!

Have you been watching the Olympics? What did you think of the opening ceremonies? What have been the most exciting medal wins for you? Let me know in the comments.


A Cover Revealed


Several months ago I recorded a vlog discussing the announcement of JK Rowling’s new book, The Casual Vacancy. Earlier this week the book cover for the book was revealed

My initial reaction when I saw this was “blah,” but as I have looked at it more it has kind of grown on me. I like the sort of vintage feel to it and the simplicity. The box with the “X” in it I am assuming is meant to represent a ballot box since the book is about an election to fill a sudden vacancy on the parish council, so it seems like it is definitely paints an accurate picture of the story within which is good. I think that if I did not know what this book was and passed it at a bookstore I would do a double take and stop to look at it.

What do you think? Is it eye-catching or boring? Would it pique your interest? Let me know in the comments.

MASH-UP: Fairy Tales, Body Image, and More


Hey, hey, hey! It’s been a while since I gave you guys a mash-up of some awesome blog links, but don’t worry, I’ve got some really fantastic ones for you today. Check em out:

QUICK GIGGLE: Josh Groban sings Kanye West Tweets by Myndi Shafer: This may be the funniest video I have ever seen. Freaking hilarious!

Is There a Hulk Inside You? by Lisa Hall-Wilson: LOVE this post! Lisa takes a look at the Hulk as portrayed in The Avengers and the anger that rages inside of him, and relates it to real life. She also poses some very thought-provoking questions.

What’s the Point of Fairy Tales? by Marcy Kennedy: Does The Tales of Beedle the Bard meet the criteria of what makes a good fairy tale? Marcy takes a look at this question and you may be surprised at what she has to say.

Side-sleeping women celebrate ~ long awaited bust support by Natalie Hartford: This hilarious post looks at a product that is supposed to help support the top breast for women who sleep on their sides. Seriously. This is a real thing.

Body Image: Exploring Myths and Walking the Walk by August McLaughlin: This is a great post that looks at the very important issue of body image. August debunks 5 commonly held myths and gives 12 different things that can help you improve your body image. This is a post for women AND men.

MASH-UP: Men, TV, Odd Fashion, and More


I have lots to share with you guys today. First, in case you missed it, on Monday I did a guest post over at the always fabulous Natalie Hartford’s blog. I discuss the rather severe culture shock I faced when I was suddenly thrust into the realm of male sex after I started dating my husband. My innocent little self didn’t know how to handle the truth about boys.

Okay, and now I have a short little mash-up of awesome blogs for you to check out.

Meet Little Miss Took by Myndi Shafer: Myndi shares pictures of the newest addition to her family. Her little miss took is adorable. :)

Word Wisdom: Phrases I’ve Misinterpreted by Karen Rought: This post had me laughing so much as Karen shares five common phrases that never made sense to her because she was hearing them incorrectly. Something I am sure we can all relate to.

Farewell, Firefly: 5 TV shows gone too soon by Fabio Bueno: This post had me sold when I saw that the first show Fabio listed was Pushing Daises. I adored that show and was so sad when it went away.

The 6 Strangest Fashion Trends in History by Colin Falconer: This post is from last week, but I just saw it so it is getting included now. Colin found some hilarious fashion trends from the past, including a codpiece. Yep, you read that correctly.

And finally, here is my latest vlog. This week I give my reaction to the synopsis that was just released for JK Rowling’s new book, The Casual Vacancy, which will be released on September 27, 2012.


The Characters of Harry Potter: Harry


This is the last week in my “Characters of Harry Potter” series. I hope that you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. In case you have missed any of them, so far I have covered Ron, Hermione, and Neville. Even if you didn’t know from the title of this post, it would probably not be too hard to guess who I will be discussing today.


One of the things that I love so much about the Harry Potter series is that J.K Rowling was able to create such a large cast of characters that I got to know and love. There are so many that I absolutely adore and have probably referred to at some point in time as my favorite. But I can only have one actual favorite character. For me, that character is Harry.

I am very aware that I am in the minority with this opinion and, to be honest, I don’t care. Harry, just like every other character that Jo created, is flawed in many ways. There are times when I want to smack him or hide my head in shame at his behavior, but I still love him. From the moment we first meet him in the small cupboard under the stairs he took my heart in his neglected little hands and never let go.

I tend to have a bit of a bleeding heart for those who face injustice and, goodness, Harry faces more than his fair share of injustice. From neglect bordering on abuse at his home to constant scrutiny and judgement by his peers to the bullying of “Professor” Snape to countless false accusations by peers as well as authority figures, Harry is plagued by unfair situations. In spite of all this, however, he somehow manages to to keep a surprisingly level head and never stops in his quest to defeat evil.

Ironically, the book that seems to turn people away from Harry the most is one that makes me love him more than ever and is my second favorite in the series: Order of the Phoenix. The Harry in this book is often referred to as ALLCAPS!HARRY in the fandom. If you have read the book, it is not hard to ascertain why. After fifteen years of being bullied, ridiculed, and forced to face more life or death situations than most adults Harry is finally fed up. He is frustrated and angry, which tends to boil over from time to time in a speech written in all caps. Yes, he frequently directs that anger towards the wrong people; yes, he is a bit more rash than usual; yes, he whines and complains about things a good deal; but you know what? I probably would have done the same thing. In fact, I would have been way worse.

After everything he had been through – living with the Dursley’s, facing Voldemort in the back of his teacher’s head, everything in the Chamber of Secrets, the fiasco with Sirius, competing in the Triwizard Tournament, watching a friend be murdered in front of him, seeing Voldemort returned to a body, being forced to battle Voldemort in the certainty that he would not survive – he is left feeling abandoned, attacked by Dementors, and threatened with getting expelled from Hogwarts.

When he is finally rescued from the Dursley’s he finds out that he is being lied about and defamed by the government and the media. He barely escapes being expelled from Hogwarts only to arrive at the school that is supposed to be his safe haven and be faced with Dolores Umbridge. Just the mention of that woman’s name makes my blood pressure rise. She is evil and I am not ashamed to say that I hate her. So much. She makes Harry’s day to day life hell. I challenge anyone to have to deal with her the way Harry did and not get a little grumpy and whiney.

I could go on listing out all the things that Harry has to face, but I won’t – I think I have made my point. Any normal person forced to deal with all the things Harry is would lose their temper on occasion, too. The fact that he does makes Harry more human, more relatable.

It is so difficult for me to read through all of his struggles, but I do and I root for him with every fiber of my being. I join him in the rollercoaster of emotions that he feels throughout the entire series. When he finally makes it to the end of Deathly Hallows and begins to triumph I am barely able to contain my joy. After seven long books of struggle after struggle after struggle he is able to show everyone that he is capable, despite all of their doubts and cruelty.

No matter how many times I have read Deathly Hallows, I still sob through the scenes where people stand up for Harry. My absolute favorite scene is when they are in the Great Hall and Voldemort has told them that if they turn Harry over no one has to die. Pansy Parkinson stands up, points to Harry, and yells for someone to grab him. One by one the students at the Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff tables stand up and point their wands, not at Harry, but at Pansy. Harry is described as being “awestruck and overwhelmed” (490-491). Every time I read this scene I can’t help but cheer as tears run down my face. All the events and torment he has been through from the beginning of the series run through my mind and I feel just as awestruck and overwhelmed as he does. People finally realize they need to Support Harry Potter.

How do you feel about Harry? Do you find him whiney and annoying or do you understand where he is coming from? Let me know in the comments.

*Page numbers from the UK editions.

The Characters of Harry Potter: Neville


We are now halfway through my series looking at the characters of Harry Potter. So far we have looked at Harry’s ever faithful sidekicks, Ron and Hermione. Today we are going to look at a character who, though important and much loved, had a smaller role to play in the series than the members of the trio. Let’s dive right in.


Neville is, hands down, one of my favorite characters from Harry Potter. He is one of the characters who is there from beginning to end and shows more growth than the vast majority of those around him. I love to look at the Neville we meet in Philosopher’s Stone and compare him to the one we see in Deathly Hallows. The chasm between those two Nevilles is so great it is hard to believe that he was actually able to traverse it; such is the genius of J.K. Rowling.

When we first meet Neville he is a shy, timid boy who is constantly bullied by students as well as teachers (*cough* Snape *cough*). I was one of the lucky people to gain early access to J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore website, which included a great pool of exclusive content and backstory that she wrote up for us. One of my favorite tidbits that she revealed was in regards to Neville’s sorting. She said that he and Hermione were the closest in Harry’s year to cause a hatstall (rare instances when the hat takes more than 5 minutes to sort). She writes:

In Neville’s case, the Hat was determined to place him in Gryffindor: Neville, intimidated by that house’s reputation for bravery, requested a placing in Hufflepuff. Their silent wrangling resulted in triumph for the Hat.

I don’t know why, but I really loved this bit of information. It really illustrates how Neville thought of himself and tended to underestimate his abilities. (Note: I do not think that Gryffindor is in any way a better or more prestigious house than Hufflepuff. I am just pointing out that Neville underestimated his ability to be brave and to be a leader.) Yet even by the end of Philosopher’s Stone Neville took his first baby step on his road of growth when he stood up to Harry, Ron, and Hermione (198*). And that act won Gryffindor the House Cup (221).

When we first learn more of Neville’s sad backstory in Goblet of Fire and later in Order of the Phoenix, his character takes on a depth that I never saw coming. One of the most touching scenes in the entire series, to me, is when we see Neville visiting his parents in St. Mungo’s. I doubt Jo could have ever imagined the tidal wave of conspiracy theories that would be elicited from what was actually just a heartwrenching illustration of the Longbottom tragedy through a simple bubblegum wrapper. We had already been told that Neville’s parents had been tortured to the point of insanity, but it was not until this sad interaction between Neville and his mother that we truly understood what that meant. (Order of the Phoenix, 453-455)

When those who were responsible for his parent’s condition, namely Bellatrix Lestrange, break out of Azkaban it really hits Neville hard and this is where he begins his transformation in earnest. He goes from being one of the worst spellcasters in their DA meetings to “working harder than anyone else in the room” with”his plump face screwed up in concentration”. He improves so much that when Harry teaches them shield charms only Hermione masters it faster than him. (Order of the Phoenix, 488)

Through the remainder of Order of the Phoenix and then Half-Blood Prince Neville continues to become bolder and more confident so that by the time Harry and company return to Hogwarts in Deathly Hallows his transformation is complete. When we see him for the first time he has a “battered visage” and talks about torture and acts of rebellion against those doing the torturing as though it is nothing. We learn that shy, timid, mediocre Neville has become the leader of the rebellion in Harry’s absence to the point where the Death Eaters want him dead. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I cheered out loud for our round-faced Neville. (Deathly Hallows, 460-464)

His shining moment, of course, comes when everyone thinks that Harry is dead. Voldemort stands there with all of his Death Eaters presenting Harry’s dead body in triumph, and what does Neville do? He charges out of the group after Voldemort! Then facing Voldemort alone and unarmed he responds to Voldemort’s offer of switching sides with a resounding, “I’ll join you when hell freezes over. Dumbledore’s Army!” And then when Voldemort puts the Sorting Hat on his head and lights it on fire, Neville pulls out the sword of Gryffindor and kills the final Horcrux. (585-587) I have never had such a huge grin stretched across my face while simultaneously having tears streaming down my cheeks as I did through all of this. Even after reading this book at least 10 times, I still have the same emotional reaction as the first time. That is just how good it is.

To go from the Neville I just described in Deathly Hallows and look back at the way he started in Philosopher’s Stone is nothing short of shocking. The changes and growth that occur in him, and occur organically, are extraordinary and one of the biggest joys of the series to watch. There is just something about him that is so endearing I can’t help but love him. Neville Longbottom is an inspiration and I am so glad that Jo saw fit to introduce us to him.

What do you think? Did you enjoy the journey Neville took over the course of the series? What is your favorite thing about his character? Least favorite? Let me know in the comments.

*All pages numbers are from the UK editions.