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Monday, June 21, 2010

He's baaaaaack

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 1

A much thicker book and quite a different beginning, like the start of a movie with none of the stars.

However, after no Voldemort sightings in the Prisoner of Azkaban, our villain makes an appearance. And so does Peter the rat. Voldemort has an appropriate amount of distrust in Peter it seems. Another snake is on the scene and seems to be completely trustworthy and loyal to the Dark Lord.

Voldemort is not out to simply kill Harry it seems. Did I miss that fact before? Presumably, Voldemort needs a wizard to somehow regain his strength/life. And he wants Harry. Is this another case of stupid greedy villains trying to accomplish their ends in their perfectionistic ways? It might be. But maybe he needs another parselmouth to keep that gift alive.

The Riddle House was used for evil once before and it is again.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapter 2

The scar continues to act as an alarm for Harry, but this time in a different way. I don't think he lives anywhere near Little Hangleton.

The big question is how did he dream the scene in the Riddle House? The bigger question is what will he actually do with this information? He is always hesitant to reach out to his trusted leaders at Hogwarts. Now he's afraid to tell his friends. But he does have a new friend in Sirius Black. Even with Sirius he holds back some in his letter. But at least he's not keeping this all to himself.

Heading downstairs for breakfast? Must we endure the Dursleys again? Well, they can't be on all 734 pages.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A timely finish

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 21

Shame on Cornelius Fudge for looking for the politically expedient way out of this Sirius Black public relations nightmare. Just send him back to Azkaban no questions asked? How did he get this Minister of Magic job anyway?

Dumbledore, however, always knows what's really going on and is a man with a plan. The time travel rescue operation - a move that could have cost the headmaster his job - was some of the best sleight of hand you could imagine.

I said I wouldn't guess who Harry saw across the lake, but I did figure he thought he saw his dad. But I also figured that wasn't who he saw. I didn't realize it until he did. You would think after seeing the "Back to The Future" series more than once and various other shows and movies that incorporate time travel that I would have figured it out. I'm very disappointed in myself.

The time travel thing is one of the best sequences of the series so far. No wonder Hermione was so tired during the school year living 24-plus hours a day. Jack Bauer could have used that hourglass, then he wouldn't have always been "running out of time."

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 22

Snape for once is right, but he can't prove it. I would say poor guy, but he's really getting on my nerves.

He jumps to conclusions, yells at everyone and is always late to the party. And what's with this calling the students by their last names? Snape isn't the only one who does it. They're kids. Call them by their first names.

As prescient as Dumbledore always is, I'm sure that his telling Harry that the day will come whem he will be glad he saved Pettigrew's life will come true.

Harry's letter from Black and an owl for Ron was a nice spirit lifter at the end. Overall, not a happy ending, but something to hope for.

The climax to this story was a lot to digest, but it was a rewarding finish to a book that at times moved a bit slow. But apparently there is purpose in everything that happens at Hogwarts.

Now it's time to drink from "The Goblet of Fire."

You dirty rat

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 19

Becoming a rat was certainly an appropriate alter-ego for Peter Pettigrew. I figured he was the one lying all along.

The funny part during all of this serious goings-on of accusations of who is Voldemort's spy and who is not, is that Snape gets knocked out by his own students. And Hermione worrying about being in trouble now. It just made me laugh.

So, Peter was the lying spy, Sirius was framed and fortunately his happiness left him, Remus was fooled until he saw Peter on the Marauder's Map and figured it out, Snape as usual won't listen to anyone but himself, Ron argues in favor of Peter before thinking the situation through, Hermione is willing to see all sides before making a judgment and Harry does the valiant thing by sparing Peter's life. Nice job of keeping everyone in character.

And a cat, of all things, shall lead them home.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 20

Ah, laughing more at Snape's expense. Imagining him stubbing his toes and bumping his head all of the way through the tunnel is a funny sight. What did he do to make the others not like him? Maybe he just can't help it. When he comes to, he ought to try and get along with folks a little better. Maybe take time to hear their side of the story before jumping off cliffs to conclusions. But then he wouldn't be Snape.

Of course, if Snape had been awake maybe he could have prevented this whole werewolf fiasco. Just when it seems the bad guy is caught, something ridiculous happens and he gets away. I doubt there are enough pages left in the book to catch him again.

Harry is valiant again in trying to save Black from the Dementors. I wonder why Black didn't remain a dog and avoid even the chance of receiving the kiss of death? I guess it gives Harry another chance to be a hero.

So who does Harry see or at least think he sees across the lake? I won't venture a guess.

I just hope the next time I wake up from a nightmare, I'm not shouting "Expecto patronum!"

That might freak the family out.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Going to the dogs

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 17

Hogwarts sure is turning into a zoo.

Sirius Black can turn himself into a big dog, as I made reference to in earlier posts. Peter Pettigrew is a rat. Crookshanks ... I keep waiting for him to be somebody, but so far he's just a plain old cat. Seriously, who besides McGonagall would want to use their magical powers to morph into a cat? And Lupin is a werewolf.

I saw that coming. With a name like Lupin it made sense, because the latin word for wolf is lupus.

So two and a half of the trio (Ron has a broken leg you know) take out the vaunted Sirius Black? Didn't see that coming.

It also made sense that Lupin found his way to the Shrieking Shack. Harry needed help against the dark arts and Lupin is the first competent prof he's had. Plus, Lupin had taken an obvious interest in Harry.

And is there anything happening at Hogwarts that Lupin doesn't know about?

Rats, cats and dogs ... and werewolves ... Oh, my!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 18

Lupin continues to make a short story long, but the others don't help as they argue about the revelation that Scabbers is Pettigrew.

It's all very interesting to learn about Lupin's werewolfing and how Black, Pettigrew and James Potter tried to turn Hogwarts into Animal House. But even Black gets impatient.

Enter Snape, who can add eavesdropper to his resume the next time he tries for the Defense Against the Dark Arts position.

Snape, he just never gets along with the popular kids. Time for me to turn the page and see what part he will play and if Black gets to satisfy his murderous desires.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Triumph and tragedy

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 15

So the end is near for Buckbeak. Is there no justice for framed hippogriffs? More on this later.

Hermione is obviously ready for summer vacation. I don't condone violence, but I sure hope her face-slapping of Malfoy is in the movie. Next time she should wave her wand in his general direction and say something like, "Off with your tongue!"

Next, she forgets to go to Charms class, then walks out of Divination. Somebody buy her an ice cream cone. That's always the best chill pill.

Not sure what seeing Crookshanks and a big hairy dog is all about for Harry, but I've been keeping a watchful eye on that cat since it entered the story. You can't be too careful with cats.

And you can't be too careful when playing Slytherin for the Quidditch Cup. No surprise they chose dirty tactics over relying on skill. It was like they put all the goons on the ice at once. But fair play and talent won out.

When Malfoy grabbed Harry's broom I decided that Malfoy and Dudley must have been separated at birth.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 16

Finals week is always a mix of anxiety and anticipation. And if your name is Harry Potter there is always the unexpected.

When Trelawney is channeling Voldemort - knowingly or not - questions are raised. Why is he telling Harry? And what is Black breaking free from? Is he trapped inside Hogwarts somewhere? Has it been not that he can't get in past the dementors, but that he can't get past them to get out?

More likely, it's something I haven't thought of, but it's fun to speculate.

Two things we don't have to speculate on anymore is what happened to Scabbers and will Hagrid win the appeal for Buckbeak?

Scabbers lives - and by the way he was acting there seems to be some purpose to his disappearance - and Beaky dies. Chalk one up for the Malfoys. It's unclear why they cared, but I don't think they need a reason to be mean.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Good days and bad days

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 13

We just can't seem to have a day - or a chapter - at Hogwarts where all's well that ends well.

Team Gryffindor has a sterling practice with Harry riding the Firebolt. This new state-of-the-art broom has swept away past thoughts of past failures. Maybe Harry can clean up with some endorsement deals.

Ron is reminded of his lost and presumably dead rat, but at least it wasn't the Grim lurking in the shadows.

Harry has a zinger for Malfoy. Fist bumps all around.

Harry grabs the snitch and Gryffindor gets a must-win. This calls for more than fist bumps. Throw in some chest bumps this time, then off to the victory party.

The day ends peacefully with smiles. Then comes Harry's nightmare and Ron's supposed sighting of Sirius Black. Why would Sirius go to the wrong bed, then run away? Seems odd.

Fortunately, Nearly Headless Neville's mistake wasn't a fatal one.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 14

Harry should be using the map and cloak to get himself out of trouble, not into it. But boys will be boys, even if they are in wizard training. Fred and George are obviously a bad influence. It's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt.

There are nightmares and then there is your worst nightmare of being caught and interrogated by Snape. But while Snape has it in for Harry, he never has the goods on him completely. A lot of bark, but no bite so far.

Some good laughs at Malfoy and Snape's expense in this chapter, but those incidents probably only serve to lengthen their mean streaks toward Harry.

Bad news about Buckbeak it appears, so score one for the Malfoys unless Hagrid can win an appeal. It will take tragic or dangerous circumstances like this to put the trio back together again.

It's time to grow up and stop fighting.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Preparing for more trouble

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 11

We open with Harry feeling sad about never knowing his parents and angry about Sirius Black's betrayal. And you do get the same feeling like Hermione has that Harry - emboldened by his heroism in the first two books - wants to go looking for Black. Her book sense and common sense are coming together as she warns Harry not to play dog catcher.

Harry does get distracted a bit by Hagrid's wailing about the possible fate of Buckbeak. With the Malfoys rearing their ugly heads in conspiracy against Hagrid, our precocious detectives become lawyers as they dig through dusty books looking for precedent. With all the dust, that library would be no place for me. I would have a perpetually stuffy head, always feeling like I had just gotten out of bed in the morning.

Christmas morning is often full of surprises, but a Firebolt sure beats all. It would be like finding a Porsche in the driveway. Of course, Crookshanks ruins the party with another assassination attempt on Scabbers.

There are many things to appreciate about Dumbledore, but his appreciation of a good feast is high on the list. Of all the places I would want to see and experience at Hogwarts, it would be a feast in the Great Hall.

At least Harry got a good meal before the news that comes at the end of the chapter: The Firebolt is confiscated. It's for his own good, but nonetheless a bad ending to the day.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 12

Professor Lupin has turned out to be quite the friend and mentor to Harry. I hope he doesn't become a betrayer. At least he's not completely incompetent like his predecessor.

This boggart-dementor-Patronus thing that Harry is working on sounds quite exhausting. Finding a happy memory is not easy for Harry, and it seems like it takes an happy memory of lasting importance to make this work, not merely a pleasant and fleeting one.

So will a Dementor's Kiss end this business with Sirius Black? Will the Firebolt, now that we know it's clean of jinxes, lead Gryffindor to the elusive Quidditch Cup? And has Scabbers finally succumbed to the clutches of Crookshanks? Can't wait to find out.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

No secret is safe

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 10

Harry has become quite the unintentional eavesdropper. You almost get the feeling that there's a man behind the curtain orchestrating things. But this isn't Oz.

The map is like a magical GPS with satellite imagery, like watching an episode of "NCIS: Los Angeles" or "Enemy Of The State." Harry uses this magicnology just to buy candy, but ends up gaining more knowledge of his parents, himself, Black, etc.

What will Harry and his cohorts do with this knowledge? Somehow some of it will help them catch Black. After the first two books, that it is what I'm expecting. If the Dementors couldn't dement him in prison and let him escape, then how will they catch him? Only Harry will catch or kill him.

The logical conclusion is that Harry will use the map to catch Black. But logical conclusions don't always happen in the world of magic. Logically, Harry should have died in the first book. But this wouldn't be much of a series if that had happened.

Here's a logical idea. Cast one of those Secret-Keeper spells so Black can't find Harry. That's what I would do.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Is any place safe?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 8

The chapter opens with Malfoy's critique of Lupin's fashion sense, and if we hadn't figured it out yet, we see Malfoy's upside-down view of people. It's a view he no doubt learned from his arrogant father. But enough about Malfoy. He's hardly worth the breath.

Speaking of irritants, what about this Crookshanks creature. I'm not sure why anyone would want a good-for-nothing rat, but I'm with Ron on this one. Twice Ron calls it "that cat." I understand the sentiment. When Hermione defends the cat attack by saying, "Crookshanks doesn't understand it's wrong!" she displays a naive notion for the first time since she thought Lockhart knew what he was doing. That cat knows it's wrong. I know these things. I can't talk with them like Harry talks with snakes, but you can see it in their eyes and by the way they swish their tail. They know all right.

OK, OK, enough about cats.

The real question in this chapter is what became of the Fat Lady. It's never over till she sings, so she must be somewhere.

Is Peeves telling the truth about Sirius Black? He doesn't seem above lying, but I'm sure if he had news like this he would delight in telling Dumbledore.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 9

The subject of werewolves keeps coming up. Harry saw something dog-like just before the Knight Bus arrived. He saw something like it in the stands just before falling off his broom.

Astronomers know Sirius as the Dog Star in the constellation Canis Major. It is the brightest star in the heavens. Not sure if that relates at all, but names can mean things.

So poor Wood suffers a Quidditch loss, poor Harry ends up in the infirmary again and Harry's Nimbus 2000 is reduced to firewood.

The questions are mounting and adding to the confusion. Where is Sirius Black? Is Harry seeing a werewolf? What role does Lupin play?

And how soon before Crookshanks catches up to Scabbers?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

More clarity is good

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: The movie

No extended version this time. I was informed that one exists, and it's not that we don't have it, it's that we don't have it yet.

Because I am reading the books one after another things tend to run together, but this movie seemed easier to follow than the first.

I do like how the moviemakers jazz up some of the action scenes. When Vernon fell from Harry's window into the bushes, I LOL'd. The ride to Hogwarts in the car was far more death-defying. Harry hanging from the door called for something magical to happen, but Ron gets credit for the save. And the Mandrakes were larger and uglier than I imagined.

Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy was perfectly cast. He can sure play the evil character. He was awful in "The Patriot," and I'm told he's a great Captain Hook in "Peter Pan." I haven't watched that yet.

Lockhart in real life was just as phony as he was in print. Well played.

Dobby, well Dobby, was annoying as he should be. I would think Malfoy would be glad to be rid of him, but he probably enjoyed having someone else to be mean to.

Finally, the killer snake was about what I expected. But when Harry heard the voice it was difficult to understand. The English accents are difficult enough at times. But at least there aren't talking cats. That would give me shivers.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Classes and the classless Malfoy

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 5

Sir Percy needs to stop taking himself so seriously. That's no way to get others to take you seriously. Take Professor R.J. Lupin for instance. He obviously doesn't take himself too seriously, and as we learn in Chapter 7 he proves himself worthy to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts rather easily. He's quite the opposite of Gilderoy Lockhart, may he rest in peace wherever he is trying to regain his memory.

The ride to Hogwarts is going along quite nicely until a Dementor boards the train and Harry passes out. I'm sure that has meaning of some kind that has something to do with his scar or Voldemort or something else evil. And I'm sure we'll learn what it is in time.

I haven't a clue.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 6

It's easy to understand why the Divination class is so far away in the North Tower. The rest of the faculty certainly doesn't want to be around Sybill Trelawney having their fortune told every five minutes.

This reading of tea leaves sure sounds like an exact science. Sounds a lot looking at ink blots and telling the shrink what you see.

And to tell Harry that death is in his future? First of all, it's in everybody's future along with more taxes. Second, if you were going to predict the Grim, Harry is the obvious choice and everyone would believe it. The future is always best left unknown.

I agree with Hermione: "A lot of guesswork, if you ask me."

Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class was much better. I hope he gets his job back and that Malfoy is one day proven to be the spoiled brat that he is.

I do have one question for Hagrid: "Do the hippogriffs have large talons?" (Fans of "Napoleon Dynamite will understand.)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Chapter 7

Yeah, I'd like to see Malfoy hunt down Sirius Black. Why? So he can run away scared. He gets mouthier by the year.

Anyway, Lupin turns out to be a teacher who is more interested in his students than himself. What a refreshing change.

The long battle with the boggart (not sure how that's pronounced) was an interesting narrative, but I'm not sure why it's important. I suppose Trelawney could tell me.