Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows'

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows'

At long last, my re-read of the Harry Potter series comes to a close. It’s taken me a while to get this blog up, because I haven’t found an opportunity to sit down and dedicate a good chunk of time toward writing my overall thoughts on the experience of revisiting this truly sacred series.

Simply put, re-reading these books and listening to Mallory and Jason on Binge Mode throughout the whole journey has been the most enjoyable digestion of media I have experienced in a long time. I was already a huge Harry Potter fan coming into this, and I’m shocked at how much more I appreciate the series now than I did back in June when I started The Sorcerer’s Stone. I feel like my understanding of the material is greater than ever, especially regarding the core themes of love and choice.

Read More

Year-end 2018 stuff: Everything I read this year

Year-end 2018 stuff: Everything I read this year

I was able to get through many more books in 2018 than in the previous year. I managed to read 18 this year, although only a dozen were new books; the other third of my list is comprised of the first six books in the Harry Potter series, which I’m currently almost through re-reading. I’m very okay with this — re-reading the HP series was a conscious decision which has brought me incredible joy.

Read More

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince'

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince'

[crying face emoji] We sure are getting toward the end of this Harry Potter re-read here; today’s entry is about Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince, the penultimate installment in our seven-part saga. My re-read of the Harry Potter series is prompted by the podcast Binge Mode, in which Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion are deep-diving into each book one by one. Matching the format of their shows, I’ve been choosing a theme in each blog for each book. For Stone it was joy, for Chamber it was duty, for Prisoner it was kinship, for Goblet it was division, for Order it was growing pains, and now for Prince it will be passing the torch.

Unlike my relatively unpopular opinion about The Order of The Phoenix in my last blog — it was my favorite book when I ranked them before I started this revisitation of the series, while I think many Potter fans would rank that toward the bottom of the second half of the books (4-7) in their own lists — I widely agree with the common opinion that The Half-Blood Prince is one of the top entries in the saga.

In fact, Prince will move ahead of Order in my re-ranking when I finish the seventh book soon. This book is nearly perfect. J.K. Rowling’s craft is on display in so many different ways throughout this story, from the perfectly plotted piece-by-piece reveals of Tom Riddle’s past to the foreshadowing of Severus Snape’s ultimate role and true alliance in Albus Dumbledore’s death.

Read More

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix'

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix'

I had been doing a very good job of keeping up with writing these blog posts immediately after revisiting these books. This is super helpful, in general … having all my thoughts & emotions from the re-read fresh in my mind is critical to help accomplish what I’m trying to do with blogging about each Harry Potter book during this full-series re-read.

However, I now find myself writing about Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix several weeks after I finished reading it. All streaks must break, I guess. In my defense, Katie and I just moved from Brooklyn to Atlanta so we have been pretty pre-occupied over the past couple of months. The move went as smooth as it could have gone and we’re really happy with our new apartment and neighborhood so far.

Luckily for me I guess, Order was my favorite book heading into this re-read and my journey through it again only reinforced some of my feelings for it. I’m unsure if it will remain atop my list of favorite HP books after I get through Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows, but I was almost relieved to find out how well this book held up in revisiting it as an adult.

Read More

Just read: 'Boys Among Men' by Jonathan Abrams

Just read: 'Boys Among Men' by Jonathan Abrams

For my money, the NBA is currently about as interesting as it’s ever been. I definitely don’t watch as much professional basketball as I did while I was in college, high school or even younger than that, but I love loosely keeping up with the league and its current generation of fun young talent: Giannis Antetokounmpo with Milwaukee, Anthony Davis with New Orleans, Karl-Anthony Towns with Minnesota, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid with Philadelphia, even the he’s-only-25-years-old Brad Beal, of University of Florida fame, with Washington.

If the NBA hadn’t changed its rules in 2006, though, these players could potentially have much different careers right now. That was the year when the NBA began disallowing players to enter the league straight out of high school, requiring prospects to play one year of basketball elsewhere — either in college or professionally overseas — before entering the draft.

Read More

Just read: 'Sharp Objects' by Gillian Flynn

Just read: 'Sharp Objects' by Gillian Flynn

Next up on the reading list is Sharp Objects. I started this one for two reasons: I wanted to read the book before watching the much-acclaimed HBO miniseries, and I also joined an online book club that my friend Sarah started which chose this book first.

In short: This book is one intense ride! It deals a lot with psychological trauma and mental illnesses. I knew it would be a dark, psychological thriller, but large chunks of the novel can be harrowing at times. The main character in the story, Camille Preaker, is a journalist from Wind Gap, Missouri, who lives in Chicago and works for a low-circulation newspaper in the city. Her boss, Curry, assigns her to cover a story in her hometown regarding the murder of a young girl and a second girl who has gone missing.

Read More

Just read: 'The Martian' by Andy Weir

Just read: 'The Martian' by Andy Weir

The book is usually better than the movie. Since I haven't seen The Martian movie yet, I figured I'd better read the book first. The book is very good.

I think the general plot of The Martian is well known enough due to the popularity of the film adaptation -- astronaut gets stranded on Mars, must fight to survive, must make a load of potatoes. In essence, The Martian amounts to a series of obstacles that are overcome by insanely quick thinking from an insanely smart main character.

Read More

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire'

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire'

While I was excited to dig my teeth into The Sorcerer’s Stone, The Chamber of Secrets and The Prisoner of Azkaban once again, most of my highest-level excitement regarding this re-read of the Harry Potter series centered around revisiting books 4-7. Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire is the clear-cut turning point in the story of Harry, Ron and Hermione -- indeed, you can pinpoint the very page where the story takes a sharp turn into a darker, more serious tone and never looks back.

Goblet of Fire is not only the book where the stakes are permanently raised for our heroes, but also stands alone as a masterpiece for author J.K. Rowling, who pieces together an intricately woven tale that leads to one of the most satisfying revelations I’ve ever enjoyed from a plotting perspective. I’ve mentioned in my past blogs for the first three books in this series that Rowling consciously foreshadows pieces of the Harry v. Voldemort endgame as early as the first chapters of the first book. While Goblet of Fire does contain even more endgame foreshadowing, it’s also plotted like a whodunnit within its own pages.

Read More

Just read: 'It's Your Ship' by Captain Mike Abrashoff

Just read: 'It's Your Ship' by Captain Mike Abrashoff

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Since I was hired at DIRECTV in May 2015, and since DIRECTV was acquired by AT&T only a few short months after, the company has been through several departmental re-organizations. The running tally amounts to an average of one and a half or two re-orgs per year since I joined the company. But throughout all that shifting, my focus has remained mostly the same -- up until recently, I was responsible for digital content strategy with a focus on marketing and messaging in the effort to acquire new DIRECTV subscriptions.

With the most recent re-org, though, I earned a promotion and am now managing a team of 12 people with a slightly different focus. This is my first time in a management role, and I accordingly dove into It's Your Ship: Management Techniques From the Best Damn Ship in the Navy on my Kindle. It's a book I'd picked up a while ago and hadn't gotten into yet, but my promotion gave me a good excuse to highlight plenty of notes while going through this short read.

Read More

Just read: 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Just read: 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I took a lot of "Advanced Placement" classes during high school, which were great classes to take in a large public school such as the one I went to, where my graduating class consisted of about 1,100 students. Many of my AP classes offered closer student-teacher interaction, the type that should be the norm at every school, but proved to be an exception at Everglades High in Miramar, Fla. It was in AP classes that I learned calculus from Ms. Woerner, and began an early interest in psychology from Dr. Schear.

Read More

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban'

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban'

After my inability to pace along with Binge Mode while revisiting The Chamber of Secrets, I'm proud to report that I've gotten myself somewhat under control now. While revisiting Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban, I completed my listen of the book after two of Binge Mode's four episodes devoted to it were released! It's still pretty easy to blast through these audiobooks in 2-3 days because of how short they are, but this should become less of an issue now that we're moving into much longer book territory.

All that to say: These audiobooks really are as engrossing and incredible as I imagined they would be when I started The Sorcerer's Stone. I've already said it, but Jim Dale is a master narrator. Once I start one of these, I just can't put it down -- or take my earbuds out, I guess. I'm really happy I went the audiobook route for this journey and, again, would recommend it as highly as possible.

My overall sentiment for Stone was joy; for Chamber it was duty; and for Prisoner it's going to be kinship. Interestingly, since I think this word is most often associated with blood relatives or familial ties, I mean it in this case exclusively in its secondary meaning -- a sharing of characteristics or origins. I mean to use kinship here as a substitute for affinity, or brotherhood, or possibly friendship.

Read More

Just read: 'Gumption' by Nick Offerman

Just read: 'Gumption' by Nick Offerman

This is the current stopping point for me in a little mini-run of listening to audiobooks read by their comedian authors. in 2016-17, I read Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance, B.J. Novak's One More Thing, Tina Fey's Bossypants and Nick Offerman's Paddle Your Own Canoe. This year, I've done Rainn Wilson's The Bassoon King and most recently Amy Poehler's Yes Please, now wrapping up with Nick Offerman's second book, Gumption

The book's subtitle, Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America's Gutsiest Troublemakers, sums up very well what we're getting ourselves into with this read. Offerman hand-chooses a list of 21 people, all Americans, who he views as great in some way. He proceeds to write what amounts to a mini-biography of each person's life, delving most deeply into instances or characteristics that support his thesis of what makes this person great. In many cases, for the folks on Offerman's list who are alive, he was able to sit and do an interview with them for this book, and he describes these conversations with relish; throughout the read, it's clear that Offerman took a lot of joy in writing this book.

In most every chapter, Offerman also applies the greatness of the American currently in question to society in a broader sense.

Read More

Just read: 'Yes Please' by Amy Poehler

Just read: 'Yes Please' by Amy Poehler

First things first: Poehler is perhaps the least talented book writer of the bunch I've read so far, though it's tough to tell with Ansari since his book had a cowriter attached to it. Whatever shortcomings Yes Please has in terms of form or function -- which I'll get to -- are actually made up for a bit by the structure of the audiobook itself.

Poehler speaks directly to the listener at times and has special guests come into the booth to read portions of her book; in most cases, these were portions that were actually written by the special guests. Seth Meyers, Mike Schur (creator of Parks & Recreation) and Poehler's mother and father are guests that have extended portions, and Meyers reads an entire chapter that he wrote for the book. It's fun to hear Meyers and Schur with Poehler, cracking jokes and running through a list of alternative names that Schur considered for the Parks & Rec character Leslie Knope. The result is a feeling that you benefitted from choosing the audiobook medium, like you got a little something extra, which is nice.

Read More

Just read: 'The Bassoon King' by Rainn Wilson

Just read: 'The Bassoon King' by Rainn Wilson

Returning to my 2016 trend of listening to audiobooks read by by their comedian authors (Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance, B.J. Novak's One More Thing, Tina Fey's Bossypants and Nick Offerman's Paddle Your Own Canoe to date), I recently went through Rainn Wilson's The Bassoon King. This is a memoir that falls most in line with Fey's book out of that bunch, but stands out for how deeply it delves into religion, spirituality and fuck-ups.

Wilson grew up learning the ways of the Bahá'í faith, which is a religion that extolls the value and worthiness of all religions, and emphasizes the worth and equality of all people. Bahá'ís believe that there is one God, regardless of whatever name any specific religion assigns to that God. Wilson's walkthrough of the faith is holistic, and he references it in moments of storytelling about his own life to provide insight into his thought processes, or as a pillar to bounce retroactive thoughts off.

Read More

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets'

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets'

Only one book into the series, I've totally gone off the rails. Most of my everyday internal thoughts are imagined in the voice of Harry Potter audiobook narrator Jim Dale, whose Wikipedia page I looked up and learned that he was a pop star in the 1960s; this man is an 82-year-old living legend. The original plan to follow along with Binge Mode's Harry Potter podcast releases is shot, too -- I've finished The Chamber of Secrets before they've even released one episode on this installment of the series. Alas.

Having your mind inhabit the Harry Potter wizarding world is extremely good for the soul and brain. It's made me hungry not just to continue my Potter journey, but to start reading even more than I already have been this year -- I've been on a pretty good pace in 2018, by my own lackadaisical reading speed standards -- and I'm now thinking I'll get through at least 25ish books this year, which would be a real personal accomplishment for me. Three years ago, if you told me I'd ever be reading two books per months, I would have asked you how you managed to secure me a Time Turner. My soul is filled with joy when I'm in this world, and my brain is filled with the relaxed contentment of spending time in a fictional place, flexing the creative and imaginative muscles that much too regularly go unused for significant periods of time in the daily activities of working and living.

My overall sentiment for Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone was joy. Today's sentiment, for Chamber of Secrets, is duty. As I listened to Dale masterfully narrate me through Harry, Ron and Hermione’s inevitable path down through the sink and into the Chamber of Secrets, it became clear on this revisitation that these three second-year Hogwarts students never stood a chance. Not that they never stood a chance to solve the mystery of what lies within or how to gain entry into the Chamber, but that they never had a chance to not take on this dangerous voyage. It was, beyond any doubt, their duty to do this thing, otherwise Hogwarts would close and the Ministry of Magic would never find another qualified Auror candidate.

Read More

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone'

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone'

Inspired by this week's kickoff of Binge Mode: Harry Potter, I re-subscribed to Audible and listened to Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone this week. As I got through the approximately 8.5-hour audiobook in about 26 hours of real-life time, you could say I Binge Mode-ed it myself.

First, a bit about Binge Mode, which is becoming a highlight in my podcast feed. It's the only show I'm currently listening to from The Ringer's podcast network, and it has recently been featuring Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion dissecting a recently released movie or TV show each week. These weekly episodes often take on the same format: Mallory and Jason recap the plot of whatever they're discussing, then choose a main theme from the work, then go through and call out specific points to show how the media represents that theme. It's a pleasure to get this type of analysis for newly released films, because it's often much more thoughtful and put-together than the types of podcasts that release show from a more instant reaction-based point of view.

This week, though, they began their jaunt through the entire Wizarding World of Harry Potter. They're going through The Sorcerer's Stone this week with five hour-ish-long episodes all week, with the first four episodes splitting the book up into chapters and investigating the overarching themes in those chapters, and the final episode focusing on the movie. From the first episode, I knew I'd want to accompany this with a revisiting of the Harry Potter series myself.

Read More

Just read: 'The Vision: Little Worse Than A Man, Little Better Than A Beast' by Tom King

Just read: 'The Vision: Little Worse Than A Man, Little Better Than A Beast' by Tom King

Tom King's run writing The Vision for Marvel Comics lasted only 12 issues, collected into two trade paperbacks, but it made a mark in terms of critical and fan acclaim. After hearing enough about it online, I purchased both trade paperbacks -- the first six issues are collected in Little Worse Than A Man, while the back six are collected in Little Better Than A Beast -- during a big Marvel sale on comiXology last year, and I finally got around to reading them when it became a topic during a recent Do By Friday episode.

King enjoyed such positive acclaim with The Vision, along with previous successes, that he ultimately parlayed it into an exclusive contract with DC, where he's currently roughly halfway through a 100-issue run as the writer of Batman. Not a bad gig to jump to following a project that nobody had particularly high expectations for; The Vision was announced right around the time the character was playing a large role on-screen in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, so King's run could have easily been a quick, heavy-hitting action story to expand a bit on the history of Marvel's best-known A.I. character. No one would have blamed King and Marvel for going that route, or for taking Vision on a short journey that followed the events of Ultron

Read More

Just read: 'Friday Night Lights' by H. G. Bissinger

Just read: 'Friday Night Lights' by H. G. Bissinger

The position Friday Night Lights has assumed in the general pantheon of pop culture is pretty remarkable considering it started out as a simple inspiration to write about high school football. H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger's best-seller, written about the 1988 Permian Panthers football season, seems like a far-fetched project in retrospect. Bissinger, a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, was granted a leave from his day job only about a year after winning a Pulitzer Prize there for investigative reporting. His goal was to find a small town and write about big football.

Read More

Just read: 'The House on Pooh Corner' by A. A. Milne

Just read: 'The House on Pooh Corner' by A. A. Milne

After reading through the marathon that was The Stand, I decided to switch gears and get into a book that was a little more on the lighter side, so I downloaded The House on Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne for my Kindle.

Aside from the relief of reading something that dealt very minimally with an apocalyptic world or death in any capacity, the book is extremely enjoyable on its own and I would recommend it as a palette cleanser the next time you need one. It's short, at under 200 pages, and its 10 chapters mostly function isolated from one another so you can read a quick chapter each day, which is what I did.

Read More

Just read: 'The Stand' by Stephen King

Just read: 'The Stand' by Stephen King

The Stand is an objectively long book. It clocks in between 1,100 and 1,400 pages or so, depending on whether you purchase on hardcover, paperback, or mass market paperback. Since I had the defined goal of making my way through Stephen King's bibliography, I had my eye on The Stand from the get-go. I figure if I can make it through this book, I can theoretically make it through anything he's written.

The version of The Stand that I read was the complete / uncut edition, and I read it on my relatively new Kindle. The Kindle is new in the sense that The Stand was the first book I read on it, but not-so-new in the sense that I bought it two months before I started reading, and that the book took me about seven weeks to read on its own. This is a beast of a novel in terms of length and ambition (an aside: the uncut edition includes roughly 400 pages of story that King had to leave behind from the original version of the novel; his publisher at the time said the book was too long for their paperback printers), but I am pretty happy I read the this version. While there is certainly more beef in the novel than is absolutely necessary, I tend to enjoy long stories and the rich character development that usually comes with them.

Read More