Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Title: Count of Monte Cristo
Author: Alexandre Dumas
Length: 1462 pages (about 400 read in 2013)
Published in: 1844
Genre: fiction, classic
ISBN: 9780679601999
personal collection
Reason for Reading: A
bout 8 years ago, I read this book for a project at schools. It was an abridged edition and I didn’t read as I should’ve–I actually skipped the middle third and used Cliff’s Notes. But when I actually read the end, I decided it was my favorite book. So I reread it about a year later. To this day, I claim this is my favorite book of all time. But I thought I should read the unabridged version, just so I can say definitively that the abridged edition of COMC is my favorite book of all time (this is twice as long and clearly boring in parts).
Rating: N/A (as I’ve already said, the abridged version I’ve read is a 5/5, but this lengthy tome would be 0/5–I don’t think it’s fair to rate it, since, without it, I wouldn’t have my favorite book)

Summary (from Signet Classic):

For nineteen-year-old Edmond Dantes, life is sweet. Soon to be captain of his own ship, he is also about to be married to his true love, Mercedes. But suddenly everything turns sour. On the joyous day of his wedding he is arrested and–without a fair trial–condemned to solitary confinement in the miserable Chateau d’If! The charges? Faked! Edmond has been framed by a handful of powerful enemies. But why? While locked away, Edmond learns from another prisoner of a secret treasure hidden on the island of Monte Cristo. Edmond concocts a daring and audacious plan: escape and find the treasure! But it is years later–long after Edmond has transformed himself into the Count of Monte Cristo–that his plan for revenge begins to unfold. Disguised as the wealthy count, Edmond returns to his native land to find his enemies–and make them pay!

My Thoughts: I don’t want to sound like a broken record. But this was way too much! I prefer the watered-down Signet Classic edition I have. Although I did just realize something. In The Princess Bride (the movie, at least, can’t remember if it’s said in the book), the grandpa tells young Fred Savage’s character , “Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” when he describes the book. Now, aside from the giants and monsters, this perfectly describes COMC!! When I started reading this book last January (that’s 2012!), I was sort of breaking the book into chunks to discuss it. I wrote up two posts on here, to which I’ll give you the links. But that plan soon fell through, so it really is only for the beginning of the book. (I guess when I stopped was when it started getting boring!) So here’s: The Count of Monte Cristo {Section 1} and The Count of Monte Cristo {Section 2}. I think that’s pretty much where I’ll draw the line of the discussion.

The Count of Monte Cristo {Section 2}


I chose for this second portion of the book to focus on Dantes’ prison stint. Therefore, it takes place from Chapter 8, The Chateau d’If to Chapter 20, The Cemetery of the Chateau d’If.

a little sad I don't have this edition--so pretty, and I love the duel on the binding

Synopsis so far (continued from Section 1 post): Dantes has been sent to prison, even though Villefort had promised to keep him from that punishment–the readers, of course, were aware of this scheme from the beginning. Villefort does travel to Paris as a result of that letter, resulting in two important events: an audience with Louis XVIII, in which he receives a medal of honor; and a meeting with Noirtier, his father, to warn him of his Bonapartist actions. Meanwhile, Dantes is imprisoned at the Chateau d’If, a prison filled with Bonapartist supporters. Be earns a room in the dungeons with his attempts to break free, but this is the best thing for him. It is in the dungeons that Dantes becomes acquainted with his neighbor, Abbe Faria, who had dug tunnels to escape himself. The two men become quite close and it is Faria who helps Dantes see who has wronged him to help him achieve entrance to the prison. And Faria, known as the Mad Abbe to the guards, tells Dantes of a treasure worth millions–but Faria passes away, leaving Dantes the chance for escape and to seek the treasure.

And the scene is set…

The first time I read this book, it was for high school and I was so “busy”. I skipped a lot of the middle of the story, picking it back up later (and being really intrigued, leading to my re-read of the entire abridged book). It was during this section that I put down the book. I have to be honest: this part of the book isn’t too terribly interesting. I tried to make the summary of this part of the book as interesting as possible and trust me–what might seem good in the summary is really and truly the only interesting stuff over a 150-pages.

I haven’t read much French literature from the mid-1800s, such as this book. But I hear French authors from the time period, such as Dumas and Victor Hugo, LOVE to include a lot of context. I did read The Three Musketeers–which is very different from the 1990s Disney movie–and I found it soooo boring, probably for this reason, though I didn’t realize it at the time.

I found the chapter devoted to Villefort’s conversation with King Louis XVIII the most monotonous. Nothing in that chapter was relevant to the story. All it did was move Villefort higher up than he thought he’d achieve, which could give Dantes a better reason to cut him back down. But there was a whole lot of nothing happening while Dantes was in prison, too. I did forget when exactly Dantes found out who had misused him, but Faria, with very little to go on, helped him figure out who did it and why this all happened. However, there wasn’t any scheming to get back at them, either. Hardly any scheming at all–the only sort of scheme in prison was how to get break out of prison. And, let’s be honest, in 1820s prisons, there weren’t a whole lot of ways to break out.

You might be wondering why I’m talking only about how boring this section of the book is. Well, I’m not exactly trying to make everyone want to read it. I’m just sharing my own thoughts on the book. I can totally see why, as a sophomore in high school, I couldn’t really get past this part of the book. But I know that in the end, the story is great, so I’m “suffering” through that part. I could just skip it because I already have a general idea of the story–but that wouldn’t be a true re-read. I’m rediscovering the book, good and bad parts.

The Count of Monte Cristo {Section 1}


I have split up the book into uneven sections so I can discuss my re-read in parts. This first section ends with the completion of M. de Villefort’s examination of Dantes (Chapter 7, The Examination), which I think is a very significant moment in the story.

a little sad I don't have this edition--so pretty, and I love the duel on the binding

Synopsis so far: France, 1815. Nineteen-year-old Edmond Dantes is recently returned to port in Marseilles. His captain died at sea, leaving him, as first mate, in charge of the ship. He returns to his father, whom he dearly loves, and Mercedes, his young Catalane betrothed. While everything is looking up for Dantes, little does he know how his small successes in life have angered jealous men. Danglars, the supercargo of the ship soon to be captained by Dantes, feels he is better suited for a captaincy–or, at the very least, Dantes is not suited. And Fernand, cousin to Mercedes, wants her hand, extremely envious of the man she loves with all her heart. Set, at this stage of the story, in a France just recently rid of Napoleon (for the first time), these two men scheme to imprison Dantes for political affiliations due to the late captain’s last request for a docking at Elba and Dantes’ fulfillment of that request. Mercedes and Dantes are feasting their upcoming nuptials when Dantes is arrested. All would be for naught, if the deputy procureur who heard Dantes account–a staunch royalist–hadn’t been the son of a known Bonapartist to whom the letter Dantes carried was for. In the last scene this deputy procureur, M. de Villefort, tells Dantes he will have to imprisoned for a few days because of this situation, but he will attempt to free him as soon as possible; Dantes follows the guard from the house of M. de Villefort.

Now that the picture has been painted…

So far, there has been no tedious or boring part to the story. As soon as Dantes returns to port, two men who want what he will shortly have begin scheming to get those things. They are fairly warned by a long-time acquaintance of Dantes before they carry out their plot:

“…only people get out of prison,” said Caderousse, who, with what sense was left him, listened eagerly to the conversation, “and when they get out, and their names are Edmond Dantes, they revenge—–” (p37)

If a reader remembers any words from the beginning of the story, these are some of the most important. More than half of the book is dedicated to the vengeance to which Caderousse alludes in this single, drunken warning. I cannot remember how Dantes gets his revenge on Fernand and Danglars later in the book–one reason I have decided to re-read it–but wouldn’t it be interesting to find that the revenge on one is more severe than the revenge on the other. On one hand, it was Danglars who schemed up the whole thing. On the other hand, it was Fernand who got Mercedes, something I’m sure Dantes would have chosen over what Danglars got out of the plot.

I wonder what it is that caused Caderousse to hold his tongue when Dantes was arrested. Amidst the chaos of Dantes being escorted from his wedding feast, Caderousse confronts Danglars about the plotting the previous night:

“What is the meaning of all this?” inquired Caderousse frowningly, of Danglars, who had assumed an air of utter surprise.
“How can I tell you?” replied he; “I am, like yourself, utterly bewildered at all that is going on, not a word of which do I understand.”
Caderousse then looked around for Fernand, but he had disappeared.
The scene the previous night now came back to his mind with startling accuracy. The painful catastrophe he had just witnessed appeared effectually to have rent away the veil which the intoxication of the evening before had raised between himself and his memory. (p54)

Even though Danglars plays dumb to the whole plot, why did Caderousse not mention his suspicions to the authorities? Dantes was framed. True, he carried a letter to a Bonapartist conspirator, but his own political leanings and knowledge of what was in the letter were truly innocent. Because Caderousse did not bring forward the information that could easily have helped Dantes’ case, I feel that Dantes’ misery is, in part, his fault.

Danglars and Fernand–and Caderousse, depending on how you look at him and how he acts within the future parts of the story–are not the only men to wrong Dantes. The last man to cross Dantes is M. de Villefort, the deputy procureur who examined him upon his arrest. Had it not been for Villefort looking out for his career rather than actual justice, the rest of the story would have no purpose. Dantes’ imprisonment, which takes place in the first chapter of my next “section”, is all due to Villefort wanting to keep is royalist reputation clear of the besmirches of his Bonapartist father.

Quotes: These are quotes that I like.

“…so much the worse for those who fear wine for it is because they have some bad thoughts which they are afraid the liquor will extract from their hearts.” ~Caderousse, p36

Very advisable–those who have secrets are most afraid of liquor. (However inappropriate it might sound in the discussion of a serious classic, this reminds me of TV-show Seinfeld‘s character Elaine who opens “the vault” anytime she drinks Schnapps.)

“Man does not appear to me to be intended to enjoy felicity so unmixed; happiness is like the enchanted palaces we read of in our childhood, where fierce, fiery dragons defend the entrance and approach; and monsters of all shapes and kinds, requiring to be overcome ere victory is ours…” ~Dantes, p47

This last quote is very providential, as Dantes is describing that he worries because everything is so perfect for him at the moment. He wonders what will happen, because no person should have so easy and successful a life. I find myself feeling this way sometimes. There are no real hardships I have ever had to endure, and while there are small stressors to my life sometimes, I get anxious to know what is going to go wrong because I shouldn’t have such an easy life.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows {re-read}

TitleHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author: JK Rowling
Genre: YA fantasy
ISBN: 9780545010221
Length: 749 pages (I didn’t read the epilogue, this time around)
Published: 2007
Source: personal collection
Rating: 5/5
Challenges/Resolutions: Harry Potter Reading Marathon

Reason for Reading: I’m participating in Shannon’s Harry Potter Reading Marathon, and the book for December is Deathly Hallows.

Summary (from Goodreads):

As the novel begins, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are on the run from Lord Voldemort, whose minions of Death Eaters have not only taken control of the Minister of Magic but have begun to systematically – and forcibly – change the entire culture of the magic community: Muggle-born wizards, for example, are being rounded up and questioned, and all “blood traitors” are being imprisoned. But as Voldemort and his followers ruthlessly pursue the fugitive with the lightning bolt scar on his forehead, Potter finally uncovers the jaw-dropping truth of his existence.

My Thoughts: How weird is it that the last time I read this book, I listened to it on audiobook and finished it just a couple weeks earlier in December of 2010.

I don’t believe I have ever noticed how serious this book feels from the very beginning. The story (concerning Harry) starts, as usual, in the Dursley household. But the mood is immediately depressing and ominous. That being said, there isn’t really all that much in the book to be happy about. I guess it’s good that Bill and Fleur get married, even if the wedding turns into a nightmare. And it’s good that Lupin and Tonks have a baby, but then they die. The happy parts seem much happier the first time around–as a reread, the fact that practically every good thing has an equally bad thing that follows.

But rereading does shed light on other parts. For instance:

“I shall attend to the boy in person. There have been too many mistakes where Harry Potter is concerned. Some of them have been my own. That Potter lives is due more to my errors than to his triumphs.” (Voldemort, p6)

I did not realize how important Voldemort admitting he is fallible is in the story. Clearly he does not think Harry is better than himself–he admits that all three times he directly tried to kill him, he “accidentally” managed to live. I must not have really realized Voldemort said this the first two times I read/listened to the story. That is a big deal, for Voldemort to say he is not perfect. It must be hard to be the most powerful wizard in the world and not be perfect.

Oh, and then there’s Draco. It becomes pretty apparent in this final installment that he’s pretty much all talk and no action. Being associated with very powerful people, he boasted a big game when Voldemort returned. But then he told the Death Eaters that a-disguised-Harry wasn’t really Harry–why? And he couldn’t kill Dumbledore–why? Part of it is, I’m sure, that he can be very cowardly. But when he and his own family suffered at the hands of Voldemort and the Death Eaters, I guess he came to realize that dark power is good in theory, but dark magic in reality is not good.

Here are a few other things I found interesting:

  • Hermione explains the enchantment she placed upon her parents (p96-7), but she says she has never performed a Memory Charm later (p167). So what did she do to her parents? I guess they never really explained how many different kinds of Memory Charms there are, but Obliviate is the only one mentioned previously. Also, I find the scene in the movie when she wipes herself from her parents’ memories much more heartbreaking than her explanation of it in the book.
  • Ginny’s name is Ginevra (p141). Never caught that before. This was particularly interesting because I had been thinking, “What is Ginny short for?” the day before I got to that part of the book.
  • Hermione was getting on my nerves a little this time around. But she was seriously a broken record about Harry’s occlumency.
  • Harry, at some point in the woods, said that (essentially) he missed being fed, bedded, and having others in charge and telling him what to do. And, my first thought was, “Welcome to the real/adult world!”
  • The Muggle-born Register screams Jewish rosters in Nazi Europe. You know, all that “dirty blood” (totally being sarcastic there!)

As I mentioned, I didn’t read the epilogue this time around. Not just because I don’t like it–which is true, but it doesn’t ruin the book for me anymore (like the first time). But I just didn’t feel like reading it. I already know what it says and it’s not important to the story. The book ends just as well without the epilogue–a good, solid closure.

the Annotated Sense and Sensibility

TitleThe Annotated sense and Sensibility
Authors: Jane Austen; David Shapard (Ed.)
Genre: fiction (classic, with annotations)
ISBN: 9780307390769
Length: 709 pages
Published: 1811 (2011 for this specific edition)
Source: personal collection
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: Firstly, this year marks the 200th anniversary of the original publication of Sense and Sensibility, Austen’s first published work. Secondly, it just so happened that the annotated edition of this book was also released this year. Therefore, I had multiple reasons to read it!

Summary (from Goodreads):

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

My Thoughts: This is either my third or fourth reading of this book, but it was my first experience with the annotated edition. (I have read The Annotated P & P though.) Annotations aside, it never ceases to amaze me how much of my favorite books go forgotten by me between readings. I have this problem with Harry Potter, too. I know that the reason is because of the movies. Sense and Sensibility is a movie I watched many times before I read the book, but the rest of Austen’s books have movie versions I rarely watch, so the story stays truer in my mind.

As with The Annotated P & P, I really appreciated the notes. It cannot be easy deciding what deserves further explanation in some parts and what doesn’t. I think the biggest difference the notes made to me were in the area of Elinor and Lucy’s relationship. I had not really thought Lucy told Elinor of her engagement to Edward because she was marking her territory–it was a sort of, “Step off, bitch!” situation, according to Shapard. I, perhaps naively, simply thought that Lucy wanted to brag and boast, and picked Elinor to confide in because she was the more friendly sister of the two. I never contemplated why she chose that moment in time to tell of her secret. She easily could have been feeling him slipping away, not necessarily to anyone in particular, and therefore wanted to tell someone beside her sister so that she could further hold him to the engagement if he tried to squirm away.

Also, I was a little surprise as to how much time the ending took. Elinor and Edward get engaged with a couple chapters left, and then they’re married for almost a whole year before Marianne marries Colonel Brandon. I would not have realized that there was a whole year between those events if it hadn’t been for Shapard’s notes and timeline for the whole book.

I still have misgivings towards Willoughby. I feel much like Elinor in regards to him. I feel sorry for him, but he was quite in the wrong at the same time. The notations made me see a little clearer how much of his explanation to Elinor was to make himself look better than he was before revealing the whole story. So that makes me lean a little towards the “he’s just plain bad” side.

But I still love Mr. Palmer 🙂

“I did not know I contradicted anyone in calling your mother ill-bred.” (p310)

He’s very comical. (I love Hugh Laurie as Mr. Palmer in the 1995 movie.)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling

TitleHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Author: JK Rowling
Genre: fiction
ISBN: 9780439785969
Length: 652 pages
Published: 2005
Source: personal collection
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: The ongoing Harry Potter Reading Marathon hosted by Shannon at Giraffe Days.

Summary (from Goodreads):

After months of frenzied anticipation and wild speculation about the identity of the Half-Blood Prince, the numerous bombshells and incredible plot twists in the sixth, ever-darkening installment of J. K. Rowling’s bestselling Harry Potter saga will leave readers as shocked and stunned as they are utterly satisfied..

As the novel begins, a “grim mood” has fallen over the country. The minions of Lord Voldemort (a.k.a. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named) continue to grow as his evil spreads. The Ministry of Magic has stepped up security everywhere, and as Harry enters his sixth year at Hogwarts, he begins to see himself — and everyone around him — in a different, more discerning, light. With rumors swirling about Harry being the prophesied “Chosen One,” he begins taking private lessons from Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore.

As Dumbledore prepares Harry for his destined clash with Voldemort by revealing jaw-dropping insights into the Dark Lord’s past — who his parents were, what happened after he left Hogwarts, and more — Harry also struggles to uncover the identity of the Half-Blood Prince, the past owner of a potions textbook he now possesses that is filled with ingenious, potentially deadly, spells. But Harry’s life is suddenly changed forever when someone close to him is heinously murdered right before his eyes….

My Thoughts: Oddly enough, most of my thoughts are focused on the Ginny-Harry relationship. Before this reread (my 3rd of this particular book), I was 100% convinced that it was merely the films that didn’t do that relationship justice as far as the books did. But I have come to the realization that the films NOR the books did that relationship “justice”. I have never liked the fact that Harry and Ginny got together. I think that is because deep down I always felt that JK Rowling hadn’t written the first five books with that intention–she seriously did just add it in randomly to mix things up, I’m convinced. There were no feelings on Harry’s part until the sixth book, and it was only the first couple books where Ginny’s awkardness around Harry hinted at any feelings towards him.

Maybe it’s merely that I like the Harry-Hermione-Ron trio and don’t like ANYTHING to mess that up.

It bugs me that at the very end, Harry says to Ginny, “Sorry, I love you too much to let Voldemort use you against me,” in so many words. But then he turns right around to Hermione and Ron and says, “Well, okay. I guess I don’t love you that much and I’ll let you endanger yourselves for me yet again.” It’s just such a contradiction.

Discussion Questions:

1. What one big theme or scene or character really stuck out for you in this book? What was the most powerful?

2. Harry and Ginny: thoughts? Rowling said she wrote the epilogue of book 7 at the beginning, and it was always in her head that Harry and Ginny, and Ron and Hermione, would become couples. What did you think about how this played out in book 6?

3. The film: pass or fail? Favourite bits?

I’m not sure if you’d consider it a theme, but I really like Dumbledore’s training of Harry. Dumbledore somehow knows that he won’t be around much longer, so his passing on his knowledge to help Harry fight Voldemort was very imperative to this story. I don’t think Dumbledore was naive about his time being short. Voldemort would have to go through Dumbledore to get to Harry and both knew it, while Harry might not have realized it. Harry thought he would fight alongside Dumbledore, whereas Dumbledore knew Harry would have to go it alone.

I’ve already given my thoughts on the Harry-Ginny relationship. Knowing that Rowling had intended Harry and Ginny to be together in the end really upset me. (I hadn’t known this before.) I thought she was a better writer than that–her development of their relationship was awful. I think there should have been more about their feelings towards each other in the previous books–even just the intermittent mention of Ginny feeling awkward around Harry and something that makes it seem like Harry paid a bit of attention to Ginny.

It’s been a long time since I saw the sixth film. But from what I remember of the film and having just read the book, I think they are pretty similarly matched. Although I don’t remember Harry being so obsessed with catching Draco at something bad in the film as he was in he book. But, honestly his obsession in the book was a little overdrawn, so the lack of its full extent in the film fit right in with the faster pace of the story, for film’s sake.

BBW 2011 Read: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling

~~Banned Books Week (BBW) 2011 takes place September 24th-October 1st~~

TitleHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author: JK Rowling
Genre: YA fantasy
ISBN: 9780439139601
Length: 734 pages
Published: 2000
Source: personal collection
Rating: 5/5
Resolutions/Challenges: Harry Potter Reading Marathon 2011 hosted by Shannon at Giraffe Days
Here is Shannon’s post about Goblet of Fire.
Here are two more reviews: Lucybird’s Book Blog and Sky Ink.

Reason for Reading: I love Harry Potter 🙂

Summary (from back of book):

Harry Potter is midway through both his training as a wizard and his coming of age. Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup with Hermione, Ron, and the Weasleys. He wants to dream about Cho Change, his crush (and maybe do more than dream). He wants to find out about the mysterious event that’s supposed to take place at Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competitions that hasn’t happened for hundreds of years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen-year-old wizard. But unfortunately for Harry Potter, he’s not normal–even by wizarding standards.

And in his case, different can be deadly.

My Thoughts: I have begun to notice something with rereads. It is pretty impossible for me to write about my thoughts about it 😦 I have no problem in the Harry Potter instance with comparing it to the movie I’ve seen countless times since the last read. But to really think about the book on its own, is kind of hard. I don’t really know where to start when thinking about the book. All I have is a collection of random thoughts about the story. So here are some random thoughts.

  • This film is sooo different from the book it isn’t even funny. The timeline is all wrong and there is so much that is cut out. Yes, I still like the film and will continue watching it rather than trying to read the book that often. But, this is one when you honestly can’t take the movie’s word on.
  • I love that Ron and Hermione have their little altercation about what their relationship is. I actually am beginning to think that the movies display their growing relationship more than the books do with describing them. But I still get that vibe from the writing.
  • The first time I read this book was the first time while reading the series that I wished the focus strayed from Harry. Yeah, yeah, everyone loves Harry. And the books are all “Harry Potter and the…” But I wanted to see some more of someone else, especially Ron. Because I love Ron–he’s pretty goofy sometimes. But  I was getting sick of only Harry. Pretty sure that was due to the fact that Rowling had written that Ron was feeling overshadowed, again, but to a larger extent in this novel. She did a great job with that one!
  • There are a lot of politics in this book that I forgot about. I mean, the film GREATLY overlooks all of the crap with the Ministry that is going on. Especially with Bagman. And even Fudge being an idiot at the end is so underplayed in the film. Oh, and Hermione’s issue with the house elves and slavery. Have to admit that I honestly forgot about that!
  • In this book, Harry becomes more of an equal with Dumbledore. The ending alone shows the transition of Harry from the boy who looked up to Dumbledore for guidance and help to the young man who sought comradery and working side-by-side with Dumbledore.
  • The ending of this book is so much darker than the rest of the the book. Yeah, there is a lot of ominous foreshadowing throughout the story. But the ending is such good preparation for what’s to come. I feel the movie ending makes it seem like there’s not that much left in the story of Harry vs. Voldemort–like there could be only one more book. But the ending of the book is better at foretelling  just how much of a struggle there is left and how much more Harry must mature to finally end the Harry vs. Voldemort struggle.
  • I love that on page 417 (of my edition) Dumbledore finds the Room of Requirement as he is desperately searching for a bathroom 🙂
Memorable Quotes/Passages:
If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.
~~Sirius, p525
…we should exercise caution with our curiousity.
~~Dumbledore, p598
Here are Shannon’s questions for discussion about Goblet of Fire for those of us doing the Harry Potter Read-A-Long:

Discussion Questions:

1. What did you think of the movie adaptation of this book,and how well the changes they made worked?

2. What was your favourite scene in this book?

3. What are your thoughts and opinions on the heftier political aspects of this book?

1) While there were SOOO many changes the movie made to the book, I think they did a great job deciding what needed to be kept in and what could go. I mean, I watch the movie over and over (pretty much whenever it’s on TV) so obviously I don’t loathe it or anything. Let’s be honest, Hermione’s SPEW cause really isn’t imperative to the story. Both Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince were published before Goblet of Fire (the movie) was released. So it was easier, I think, for the movie-people to know what would be important for the story–SPEW never really comes up again, therefore, there was no real need for including it in the movie. Although I am a little sad that Dobby didn’t get his glory in this book. I mean, he did help Harry with that gillyweed bit. But we’ll never know that. Oddly enough, it made me a little sad to be reminded that Neville didn’t come up with the gillyweed–I really loved that in the movie he got some glory. Can’t have it both ways, I suppose!
2) I have to admit that my favorite scene is probably when Hermione calls Ron out about not asking her to the ball–she doesn’t like being treated like dirt until he needs someone. I love this scene in the movie, too. It’s funny because I actually have a couple of friends who are in the Hermione-Ron stage–they have been for years! 🙂 My girlfriend is often only paid any attention, in a more-than-a-friend manner, when my brother-in-law doesn’t have another girl in mind 😦 And I honestly think they will end up together–even if it takes 7 years (already been 5). Perhaps that similarity alone is a reason I like this scene so much.
Oh, and I really do love the ending where Dumbledore is pretty much telling Fudge he’s a frickin’ idiot 🙂 Put him in his place!!
3) I like that there are more politics in this book. I think all of the issues presented towards the end, about Fudge quieting something up because he wants to look good, really show the true colors of some politicians in reality. Plus, it just goes to show the younger adults in the book–Harry, Ron, and Hermione especially–that just because adults are adults doesn’t mean they are right or do the right thing. There will always be people out there who take that path that is easy over the path that is right. I think Dumbledore was very right in pointing that out in his amazing speech at the Leaving Feast. And I did enjoy that house elves and giants were added to this book, at least as far as magical creatures that aren’t wizards/witches go. Yeah, house elves were introduced in Chamber of Secrets. But the species wasn’t really talked about as a species, just Dobby and he is something special in his group.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (re-read)

“‘You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us?'”

TitleHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: JK Rowling
Genre: children/YA fiction (fantasy)
ISBN: 078073007998
Length: 435 pages
Published: 1999
Source: personal collection
Rating: re-read
Resolutions/Challenges: Harry Potter Read-a-Long

Reason for Reading: Not only is this my favorite book/movie of the Harry Potter series, but I am also participating in a HP read-a-long, reading a HP book a month until the end of the year (2011). Also, I hadn’t read this book since 2007 when the last HP book was released.

Summary (from Goodreads):

For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort.

Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter’s defeat of You-Know-Who was Black’s downfall as well; and the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, “He’s at Hogwarts . . . he’s at Hogwarts.”

Harry Potter isn’t safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.

My Thoughts: This has always been my favorite of the Harry Potter series. And I think it always will be. I have known since the series was being originally released that one reason I liked this book so much was that it doesn’t directly involve Voldemort. In a long series, I like a little variation. It’s nice not to know that Harry would fight Voledmort, win, and then another book would come out (since we knew there’d be seven books, that sort of gave away some endings in the middle books)–that this story is completely different from the regular flow of the other books in the series.

But I think I also realized another reason why I liked this one so much. Harry meets Lupin and Sirius, two of his father’s best friends. I think that this book holds the happiest moment for Harry in the series–finding out about Sirius and the (original) idea that he could leave the Dursleys and live as an actual wizard and be happy. I think it beats winning at Quidditch and destroying horcruxes in levels of happiness.

Oh, but I really do have to say something about what Snape says about James. Snape repeatedly mentions to Harry that he, too, is arrogant, just like James, “strutting around the castle” and whatnot. And then Harry blows up and gets upset that Snape would besmirch James’ name/memory. But I think this arrogance strikes true, to be honest. I love Harry, don’t get me wrong. But I think he can be arrogant. (I remember my initial reading of the series. I think I got to Goblet of Fire and starting thinking, “Gosh, I wish the books would focus more on Ron and/or Hermione for once” despite it being Harry Potter and the… series.) Especially the fact that Harry doesn’t know anything about how his father acted, it makes him seem a little arrogant to believe James wasn’t arrogant. Make sense? Oh, and I think Harry realizes this later in Order of the Phoenix, when he and Snape are working on Occlumency. When Harry accidentally sees some of James in Snape’s memories, he realizes some of what James was like from the view outside of his gang (forgive me if this is something that is emphasized more in the movie than the book, but I forget sometimes which has what). ANYWAYS, Harry can be arrogant and cavalier. But there obviously wouldn’t be a story without him.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

“Adventures are all very well in their place, he thought,
but there’s a lot to be said for regular meals and freedom from pain.”

Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: fantasy
ISBN: 9780061142024
Length: 248 pages
Published: 1999
Source: personal collection
Rating: n/a
Resolutions/Challenges: none

Reason for Reading: Been wanting to reread it lately to see exactly what the film changed about it. And I had forgotten about just how much was left out/added to the movie.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Stardust is an utterly charming fairy tale in the tradition of The Princess Bride and The Neverending Story. Neil Gaiman…tells the story of young Tristran Thorn and his adventures in the land of Faerie. One fateful night, Tristran promises his beloved that he will retrieve a fallen star for her from beyond the Wall that stands between their rural English town (called, appropriately, Wall) and the Faerie realm. No one ever ventures beyond the Wall except to attend an enchanted flea market that is held every nine years (and during which, unbeknownst to him, Tristran was conceived). But Tristran bravely sets out to fetch the fallen star and thus win the hand of his love. His adventures in the magical land will keep you turning pages as fast as you can–he and the star escape evil old witches, deadly clutching trees, goblin press-gangs, and the scheming sons of the dead Lord of Stormhold. The story is by turns thrillingly scary and very funny. You’ll love goofy, earnest Tristran and the talking animals, gnomes, magic trees, and other irresistible denizens of Faerie that he encounters in his travels. Stardust is a perfect read-aloud book, a brand-new fairy tale you’ll want to share with a kid, or maybe hoard for yourself. (If you read it to kids, watch out for a couple of spicy sex bits and one epithet.) –Therese Littleton

My Thoughts: It is so hard for me to decide how much  I like this book, because I’ve grown to love the movie so much. And this is an instance when great liberties were taken to create the movie. I think this has made me realize–even more than other rereads–I need to go about rereads differently. In the case of books I read once and then saw the movie countless times, I think I might just NOT review the book, especially to give it a rating. I’ll try very hard to read it as a completely different story, regarding the movie. Maybe I should even go so far as to try to look for similarities between the book and movie, so that the differences don’t take such a leading role in my mind.

After trying very hard to put from my mind the movie, I’ve decided I still really enjoy the book. Parts that get lots of attention in the film get little in the book and vice versa. But that doesn’t change the fact that Gaiman is amazing at creating worlds. (I love Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book, and Coraline.)

Quotes I Liked:

“…every lover is in his heart a madman, and in his head a minstrel.” (p78)


“Tristran and Yvaine were happy together. Not forever-after, for Time, the thief, eventually takes all things into his dusty storehouse, but they were happy as these things go, for a long while.” (p247)

I just liked how real that is. But it’s still happy and “romantic”.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling (reread)

“It’s our choices, Harry, that show what we really are…”

TitleHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Author: JK Rowling
Genre: children’s/YA fantasy
ISBN: 9780439064873
Length: 341 pages
Published: 1999
Source: personal collection
Rating: 5/5
Resolutions/Challenges: Harry Potter Reading Marathon 2011 hosted by Shannon at Giraffe Days (here is a link to her review post)
(Here’s a link to my post for HP & the Sorcerer’s Stone)

Reason(s) for Reading: I’m participating in a reading marathon (see above link) to finish a book a month until the end of 2011, so that’s one reason. Plus, it’s been about four years since I last read all of the HP books and I’ve missed them!

Summary (from Goodreads):

The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts Schools of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart; a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom; and the unwanted attention of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone—or something—starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects . . . Harry Potter himself?

My Thoughts: I’ve found it very hard when rereading the HP books to entirely forget the movies. It’s not that I compare the two anytime I read the book exactly. But there are some things that I just can’t not think about it. Take Chamber of Secrets for example. This is the book where we first learn that Ginny has a HUGE crush on Harry. And it only continues in further books. But the movies so greatly misrepresent their relationship. (Have you seen Deathly Hallows Part 2 when they’re together–no chemistry at all! And that’s supposed to be when their relationship is strongest…) Regardless, that relationship isn’t the only thing misrepresented. There are so many clues as to what Ginny did in Chamber of Secrets, but the movie hardly touches on them at all.

It’s been four years since I read this book and I don’t remember enjoying it as much last time as I did with this reading. There was something about it that I really liked. And, of course, it’s hard for me to pinpoint what I liked so much (I find this true for a lot of books, especially ones that I reread). Maybe all the small things that the movie left out just made me remember and enjoy the book more. This is the book when the HHR threesome becomes solid in their friendship. I realize they have their squabbles later on in the books, but they are steadfast friends. And, regardless of the fact that in this book they are 12 and I am almost 24, I still wouldn’t mind being in their group 🙂

I also really like that this book is a little more complicated than Sorcerer’s Stone. But it’s still pretty simple, to my 24 year old mind (helped, of course, by the fact that I’ve heard the story sooo many times). It takes me back to the time when I first read it (which was at least 10 years ago!)

Shannon’s Questions for Chamber of Secrets:

In the meantime, here’re some wee questions to ponder:

1. Did you find the main plot to be free of holes? I found some things to be rather conveniently glossed over, like how Ginny would have been able to command the monster in the Chamber of Secrets, though it doesn’t bother me too much.

2. Of the new characters introduced – Dobby, Colin Creevey, Gilderoy Lockhart, Moaning Myrtle, the flying car etc. – do you have a favourite and why? Were there any characters you wish we’d seen more of in later books? (I find myself wondering what the car’s up to and how it’s faring. :) )

3. I’ve been avoiding mentioning the movie, but here goes: was there anything in the movie that you felt was done better than the book, or that made you like this story more? I couldn’t help but picture Kenneth Branagh playing Gilderoy, he was so perfect at it, and Tom Riddle and Colin Creevey were just right too, but the rest I’ve more or less forgotten.

1) As for the first question, I don’t think I really picked up on anything that was glossed over. Something that did make me do a double-take and think for a moment was this: “The Dursleys were what wizards called Muggles (not a drop of magical blood in their veins).” It made me think, “So magic has to do with blood?” And I thought of the “pure-bloods” such as the Malfoys and Blacks. Now I remember enough from biology that genetic traits can sometimes be passed on or skipped–how there come to be Hermiones and Filchs 🙂 Of course my brain went right to the smallest detail: What about blood transfusions? Would a Muggle get some magical ability if it received the blood of a witch/wizard? Or, was Rowling simply using the drop of blood as a simple saying? I pick some crazy stuff to think about.

Oh, but it did seem strange that Harry got in trouble for Dobby’s Hover Charm. You’d think the Ministry would be smart enough to know who conjured a spell and who didn’t.

2) Of the new characters, I’m partial to Dobby. He  always had Harry’s best interest in heart, even if he went about a weird way of showing it. I like him simply as a result of trying to protect Harry to such pain to himself. And don’t get me started on how much loyalty to Harry he showed in later books, up until the very end 😕

3) Don’t even get me started on the movie. This is where the movies started to go wrong in their representation of two Weasleys. (Yes, I know the question was about if I liked anything more in the film than the book, but please allow me my small rant.) First off, Ginny. The movies have done a horrible job displaying her and Harry’s relationship. Even through the very last movie, Ginny and Harry never seemed to have what the books said they had. The films intersperse moments that are more awkward than endearing, and their such random moments, too. Then there’s Percy. The films suck (to put it lightly) at showing how much of a prick and brown-noser Percy can be. I realize Percy isn’t really all that important to the rest of the story. But there’s no excuse for a poor representation of the Ginny-Harry relationship!

But, I agree with Shannon that Kenneth Branagh couldn’t have been more perfect in his Gilderoy role!