Sunday Post #30: Post-Potter

Sunday PostI finished my re-read of the Harry Potter series late last night. I spent pretty much all day yesterday reading, which is something I haven’t done in a long time, and it felt great. I was reading on my Kindle, and I think I was about a fifth (or close to a fourth) of the way into Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when I picked up the book yesterday, and I just read it until I finished it. Every time I finish re-reading the books, I go into a little bit of a post-Potter funk and don’t quite know what to do with myself, so I re-read The Tales of Beedle the Bard. I find so much in those books each time I read them. I can say with certainty that they are my desert-island books. With Pottermore making some changes, I will be interesting to see what they come up with. They have discovered that most of the site’s users are not children, as they anticipated, but adults visiting the site for the extra encyclopedic information and backstory. As a result, they’ve decided to remove the games and interactive parts of the site and focus on the information. From what I understand, not everyone is happy about this, but since I was more interested in the new writing than brewing potions, fighting duels, or playing games, I’m welcoming the changes. I am a little sad they are dispensing with the House system. Proud Ravenclaw, here. Oh, and with that, I think they will be eliminating shopping for your wand. The part of the site I return to most often are the articles about wandlore. My wand is sycamore, phoenix feather core, 10¾ inches, hard.

I did go ahead and pick up This House is Haunted by John Boyne for the R. I. P. Challenge. I’m still trying to decide which other books to read, but that one’s been on my Kindle for a long time now, so I decided I would start with that one. It might perhaps be a mark of how much I love this reading challenge that I’m prioritizing it over my book club and other books I want to read as well.

I didn’t add any books to my to-read pile this week, which was probably smart. It’s too big already. I have a lot of books I need to go ahead and just finish, most of them re-reads for school.

I’ve been lamenting the sad fact this week in particular that my children don’t enjoy reading as much as I do. I have been fairly successful in matching my own students with books, but as much as I try, it doesn’t seem to work as well with my own children. I am a firm believer that it’s not true that people don’t like to read. I think sometimes they haven’t found what they like to read yet, and schools do a great deal of damage in this regard by not allowing students to choose their books, especially in the crucial years of middle school and early high school. If you’re going to lose a reader, I’ve noticed, you generally lose them right about 7th grade. Especially boys. I’m working on it, but if you have tips, please share.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme.

A Note on Slytherins


You learn a great deal about the other houses if you are NOT sorted into Gryffindor in Pottermore, and in fact, if you are sorted into Gryffindor, you are simply greeted by Percy Weasley and instructed to follow the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Because much of series seems to pit Gryffindors against Slytherins, and also because of Harry’s close shave with the Sorting Hat, we learn more about Slytherin than any other house aside from Gryffindor, and we also know more Slytherin students than we do students of any other house.

My husband was sorted into Slytherin on Pottermore. If we had all actually been Hogwarts students, we would have been an interesting family because we all would have been in different houses. It seems in the series that for the most part, families wind up sorted into the same house—witness the Weasleys and Malfoys. However, if anyone could reasonably be expected to be sorted into the same house, it would be twins, and we know Parvati and Padma Patil are sorted into different houses.

If you are sorted into Slytherin, you are greeted by prefect Gemma Farley. Interestingly enough, of the prefects on Pottermore, Gemma is the only girl who greets first years. We don’t know who her male counterpart is, and we don’t meet Gemma herself in the series. In fact, the only Slytherin prefects the trio ever mentions are Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson, who become prefects in Harry’s fifth year. We do learn in Snape’s memory that Lucius Malfoy was prefect when Snape was sorted into Slytherin, and we also know that Tom Riddle was not just prefect but also Head Boy. How much do you want to bet that Snape was probably a prefect, too? He was a good student: studious and intelligent.

Gemma Farley describes the Slytherin common room windows as being underwater, with a view of the lake. She notes that sometimes you can even see the giant squid swim by. The room, she says, has “the aura of a mysterious, underwater shipwreck.” She says that their ancient four-poster beds are shrouded in green hangings and the coverlets are woven with silver thread. The walls are covered with tapestries and portraits of famous Slytherins. The Head of House when Harry starts is, of course, Severus Snape. Oddly enough, Gemma doesn’t mention him at all. The other prefects all mention their head of house. Well, I can’t remember for certain if Percy Weasley does. I will have to check. After Snape becomes headmaster, Horace Slughorn is once again Head of Slytherin, as he had been before Snape’s arrival at Hogwarts. The house ghost is the Bloody Baron, actually the only scary ghost at Hogwarts, who sports silver bloodstains acquired when he murdered Helena Ravenclaw in a rage.

While Slytherin has turned out more dark wizards than any other house, which has given the house something of a notorious reputation, Gemma counters that the other houses have produced their share of dark wizards, too. She also mentions the anti-Muggle bias, and she acknowledges that it is somewhat true that Slytherins tend to come from pureblood families, but that it is not unusual to find Slytherins with one Muggle parent. While Gemma doesn’t come right out and say so, I think it’s safe to infer that Slytherin house has few Muggle-born students. Obviously, it has had half-blood students (Severus Snape and Tom Riddle being two examples). This raises an interesting question. What does the Sorting Hat do when a Muggle-born student with otherwise Slytherin traits comes to school? Surely, it has happened. Perhaps the student’s secondary characteristics are considered instead. Or, perhaps these students are sorted into Slytherin after all. Purebloods, as we have seen, are not automatically sorted into Slytherin, so perhaps blood status is not as important as other traits.

Gemma also shares that Merlin, the most famous wizard of all-time, was a Slytherin. Leaving aside the fact that Merlin, if he ever lived, likely lived before the founding of Hogwarts, it makes perfect sense that he was a Slytherin. He engineered Arthur’s birth for his own purposes, even though they were, depending on your point of view, noble. He also took Arthur away from his mother and had him fostered with Sir Ector. He has some wily, Slytherin traits, indeed.

Slytherins see themselves as cool and edgy and believe their house is superior to the other houses at Hogwarts. Gemma says that Slytherins have a sort of pack mentality, though she doesn’t use those words. If you are sorted into Slytherin, you can count on the loyalty of the other Slytherins. She indicates Ravenclaws often stab each other in the back as they clamber to earn the highest grades. Besides, she says, the Slytherin reputation can be valuable in that other students will think twice before messing with you. She also mentions that Slytherins are competitive because they care about the honor and traditions of their house.

Gemma claims that what Salazar Slytherin sought in his students was the seeds of greatness. Of course, we know as readers he also prized pureblood status (as he didn’t trust Muggles) and, as Dumbledore once put it, “a certain disregard for the rules.” While it might not always be apparent that Slytherins have the seeds of greatness *coughCrabbeandGoylecough*, Gemma says that if students were sorted into Slytherin, then they have potential. I think this is an interesting point because the Sorting Hat tells Harry: “You could be great, you know, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that.”

As the series unfolds, we learn that Slytherins are more complex than they appear to be at the outset. Their character traits, cunning, resourcefulness, and ambition, are not negative traits except when taken to excess. We also see several Slytherins act nobly. Severus Snape might be the most notable example, but certainly, others do their part for good. Horace Slughorn fights against Voldemort’s forces at the Battle of Hogwarts. Andromeda Black Tonks marries a Muggle-born wizard, Ted Tonks, and helps hide Harry from Voldemort.

In fact, Gemma grudgingly admits that perhaps Gryffindors and Slytherins, while old rivals, might have more in common than they’d like to admit. I would imagine that is one reason why we learn more about Slytherins than we do Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs when we read the series.

Finally, Gemma mentions that no outsider has entered the Slytherin common room in 700 years, which we know is untrue, but it raises an interesting question: who entered the common room 700 years ago and what happened to them?

All of the houses have virtues, but each has its vices as well, and in no other house is this mesh of virtue and vice more complicated than in Slytherin.

The following characters are known Slytherins:

  • Draco Malfoy
  • Vincent Crabbe
  • Gregory Goyle
  • Pansy Parkinson
  • Millicent Bulstrode
  • Marcus Flint
  • Adrian Pucey
  • Montague
  • Terence Higgs
  • Theodore Nott
  • Blaise Zabini
  • Daphne Greengrass (older sister of Draco Malfoy’s wife, Astoria Greengrass)
  • Tom Marvolo Riddle
  • Severus Snape
  • Avery
  • Mulciber
  • Evan Rosier
  • Lucius Malfoy
  • Narcissa Black Malfoy
  • Bellatrix Black Lestrange
  • Rodolphus Lestrange
  • Rabastan Lestrange
  • Regulus Black
  • The entire Black family except for Sirius
  • Horace Slughorn
  • Scabior
  • Dolores Umbridge (J. K. Rowling confirmed this after the fact, but really, was there any doubt?)

Characters I strongly suspect were Slytherins, but whose house has never been confirmed:

  • Rita Skeeter (I mean, come on.)
  • Ludo Bagman (He has the self-preservation of a Slytherin.)
  • Cornelius Fudge (Preserving his role as Minister and the appearance that he was competent at the expense of nearly everyone? Yeah.)
  • Albert Runcorn (He seems to be trusted by the Death Eaters at any rate, and loathed by Arthur Weasley. Seems fair enough.)
  • Rufus Scrimgeour (He is brave, no doubt, but he also throws out justice at the expense of wanting to be thought of as doing something about the Voldemort problem. Cf. Stan Shunpike.)
  • Amycus Carrow (Death Eater. Teaches Dark Arts to students.)
  • Alecto Carrow (Death Eater. Teaches pureblood mania, Muggle hatred in Muggle Studies.)
  • Yaxley (Death Eater.)
  • Caractacus Burke (Owns a Dark Arts shop in Knockturn Alley with Borgin.)
  • Borgin (Owns a Dark Arts shop in Knockturn Alley with Burke.)
  • Thorfinn Rowle (Death Eater.)
  • Walden Macnair (Death Eater.)
  • Jugson (Death Eater.)
  • Travers (Death Eater.)
  • Wilkes (Friend of Snape’s and Death Eater.)
  • Selwyn (Death Eater.)
  • Gibbon (Death Eater, accidentally killed by Rowle.)

Characters I DON”T think were Slytherin, despite later being somewhat Slytherin-y:

  • Barty Crouch, Sr. (He didn’t seem to lord his pureblood status enough for a Slytherin pureblood. I suspect Ravenclaw.)
  • Barty Crouch, Jr. (I think he was also a Ravenclaw. He got 12 O.W.L.s)
  • Gwenog Jones, Quidditch Player for the Holyhead Harpies and Slug Club member (Despite being in the Slug Club, my hunch is Gryffindor. Quite a few Gryffindors were in the Slug Club.)
  • Olive Hornby, who teased Moaning Myrtle about her glasses (Teasing is mean, but all the students engage in that sort of thing.)
  • Gilderoy Lockhart. (He is apparently a Ravenclaw. I don’t get it either. Of course, that is movie canon, but I wonder if, in this instance, Rowling didn’t give it her approval.)
  • Stan Shunpike (He was Imperiused and used by Death Eaters, but he never showed any Slytherin traits himself. More likely Hufflepuff, but I don’t think he made it to N.E.W.T. level at Hogwarts. One suspects he didn’t pass many of his O.W.L.’s.)
  • Pius Thicknesse (Though the puppet Minister of Magic under Voldemort’s control, Yaxley does say it took a lot of effort to Imperius him, so my guess is he doesn’t sympathize much with their world view when not under a curse.)
  • Igor Karkaroff (Not from Britain, likely went to Durmstrang.)
  • Antonin Dolohov (I suspect he also went to Durmstrang.)
  • Fenrir Greyback (I don’t think he was allowed to attend Hogwarts. Of course, I guess that depends on when he became a werewolf; much was made of the exception that Dumbledore allowed for Lupin to attend.)
  • Marvolo, Morfin, and Merope Gaunt (I think I remember that they never went to Hogwarts.)

Sunday Salon: An Early Review of Pottermore


Pottermore is J.K. Rowling’s new website. It officially opens in October, but in July, a one-week trivia competition was held that enabled the first million users who were able to answer the questions correctly to obtain entry as beta testers. Welcome letters were rolled out slowly to control the numbers of new members added and enable the site managers to keep up better with beta tester suggestions. Members of my immediate family—husband Steve, daughters Sarah and Maggie, and me—received their Pottermore welcome letters this week. We weren’t sure if Dylan would want to worry with it or not, so he doesn’t have a membership yet. After playing with the site for a while, here are my spoiler-free impressions.

The interface is charming, but as you might imagine, very dependent on flash. It works better in my Safari browser than my Firefox browser. Steve reports it clunky to use in Google Chrome, but I haven’t tried it in that browser. If you are finding the site hard to use, I would suggest trying a different browser. Of course, some of those issues should be worked out by October.

Once you are inside the story, you follow the plot of [amazon_link id=”1855493942″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone[/amazon_link] (or [amazon_link id=”054506967X” target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone[/amazon_link] for those Muggles who change to American English in the settings, I guess). You learn more about how Vernon and Petunia met and courted, and you learn more about Lily and Petunia’s relationship. My other advice is to mouse over and try to click on everything. You just never know what it will do.

Once Hagrid comes to give you your letter, you get to go to Diagon Alley, and it’s a real treat. Not all of the shops are unlocked. I imagine you access them as you reach the book where they are first mentioned. By far, the coolest part of the trip is buying your wand. You answer a series of questions, and then a wand chooses you. Mine is 10¾-inches, sycamore, phoenix-feather core, hard. I am a true Harry Potter geek because honestly, getting my wand made me a little teary! Once you have your wand, you have access to all kinds of new content on wand cores and woods as well as Mr. Ollivander. All of it easily some of the most fascinating information you can learn during the first book phase of Pottermore. All I will say about it is that I think the descriptions of my wand wood and core are an accurate reflection of my personality (and so are Steve’s, Maggie’s, and Sarah’s). It’s also fun to look up what it says about the wand woods and cores for other people in the series whose wand construction you know about (such as Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Draco, Voldemort, Bellatrix, etc.). Sarah, for instance, has the exact same wand wood and core as Cedric Diggory. In many ways, I think she is like him: humble, unassuming, a really nice person and yet a star in Hufflepuff house.

After you get your wand, the next big deal is being sorted into your house. Let’s just say it’s more interesting if you want to learn more information NOT to be sorted into Gryffindor. During the Sorting Ceremony, you answer a series of questions, and I will not share any of them with you. Rowling has said that no two people necessarily get the same set, but she feels supremely confident in the results. I have to say I think the four of us who took it were put in the houses where we should be. I am in Ravenclaw. Sarah and Maggie are in Hufflepuff. Maggie was a little surprised about that, but I’m not. She thinks she wanted Ravenclaw, but she’s not crazy about books and school to the extent I think Ravenclaws might be. Both Sarah and Maggie are incredibly smart, but the hallmark of their personality is the more Hufflepuff traits of sweetness and kindness they share. Steve is in Slytherin, which is no surprise as I have never seen a Sorting Hat quiz place him anywhere else. He is already strutting around like he owns the place. Typical. You learn some interesting information about Neville and Hermione’s sortings, and let’s just say if you’re a Neville fan, it will make you tear up. You also learn more about Flitwick and McGonagall’s sortings.

Once you are sorted, you are welcomed to your house common room by your prefect, who tells you the history of your house (unless you are in Gryffindor, in which case you are really just referred to the books). You learn the names of the prefect in the your house (or at least one of them), which is something you never learn in the books until the second book, and you learn about which famous witches and wizards were in your house. You also learn how each house sees itself. In the books, we get Gryffindor’s rather limited view of each house. You also learn how your house tends to feel about members of the other houses. It’s all very interesting.

As you progress through the site, you learn more about certain characters and objects. McGonagall’s backstory is revealed, and it’s perhaps one of the single most interesting things about Pottermore so far. You learn how to brew potions, but right now that feature is extremely buggy. I am hoping they work out some of the kinks soon. If it tests my patience, then I can’t imagine a child would stick with it! Some issues I’ve noticed is that it often acts as though you haven’t begun the process of brewing a potion, but it still ties up your cauldron, so you have to do the first steps over and over again until it recognizes that a potion has been brewed, all the while still using up the stores of your ingredients. I hope they will make the bottles easier to manage and that they will make heating a little easier. Points should be awarded differently depending on the difficulty of the potion. The easiest potion earns you the same amount as the harder ones, so I have taken to brewing the easier one, which is very Slytherin of me, but can you blame me? I am not looking forward to having to brew Polyjuice Potion in [amazon_link id=”0439064872″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets[/amazon_link] unless they work out the kinks!

As of right now, the houses seem fairly evenly divided in terms of numbers. Ravenclaw has nearly 1,000 members more than the next closest house, but a difference of less than 2,000 members divides the house with the most members and the house with the fewest out of nearly 100,000 members (as of this writing). I think that surprised me, but I’m not sure why. They always seemed evenly divided in the books, too. I do think the house placements are quite thoughtful and accurate, at least the members of my family’s placements were, so I can’t imagine it’s randomly sorting people.

Overall, I think it’s a brilliant site, and it promises to have something for everyone: games if that’s what you’re after, and new, exclusive information for those fans who have been looking for that encyclopedia. Waiting for new books to be added to Pottermore promises to replicate the wait for the books in print with the added bonus that new content can be added all the time. At any rate, it should keep Harry Potter fans busy.

The Sunday Salon

Booking Through Thursday: Anticipation

This week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt asks:

What’s the last book you were really EXCITED to read?

And, were you excited about it in advance? Or did the excitement bloom while you were reading it?

Are there any books you’re excited about right NOW?

I think the last book I was really excited to read was probably [amazon_link id=”0439023513″ target=”_blank” ]Mockingjay[/amazon_link] by Suzanne Collins (review), which I read last September (almost a year ago!). I had just finished the first two [amazon_link id=”0545265355″ target=”_blank” ]Hunger Games[/amazon_link] books, and I just couldn’t stop turning the pages. I suppose the last time I enjoyed a book so much might have been [amazon_link id=”0545139708″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows[/amazon_link]. I didn’t really have enough time to be excited about it in advance because by the time I became intrigued enough by Hunger Games to read it, the third novel had already been published. I bought it at the Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, and I remember carrying it around that day at the Decatur Book Festival, anticipating cracking it open when I went home later.

I am excited about some books coming out or in my to-read list. I really want to read [amazon_link id=”0312558171″ target=”_blank” ]The Ballad of Tom Dooley[/amazon_link] by Sharyn McCrumb. I’m also looking forward to the R.I.P. Challenge, when I plan to read Ransom Riggs’s [amazon_link id=”1594744769″ target=”_blank” ]Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children[/amazon_link]. I am excited for Katherine Howe’s next book (I read and reviewed [amazon_link id=”1401341330″ target=”_blank”]The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane[/amazon_link]). I follow her on Twitter, so I know she’s editing it right now. I’m also excited for the sequel to Deborah Harkness’s [amazon_link id=”0670022411″ target=”_blank” ]A Discovery of Witches[/amazon_link] (review). I’m also looking forward to [amazon_link id=”031262168X” target=”_blank” ]The Witch’s Daughter[/amazon_link] by Paula Brackston. It’s not a book, but I’m mad with anticipation over the unveiling of Pottermore. I managed to get a beta registration, and I’m waiting on tenterhooks for my welcome email saying I can officially get in the site.

photo credit: Lori Greig

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Trends I’d Like to See More/Less Of

Top Ten Tuesday

More, Please!

  1. Supporting indie bookstores. I don’t have a good one nearby, but if I did, I’d be there all the time. We used to have a really cute one called Coffee Buy the Book, but they closed (not shocking, but sad). Very cute little store, and really convenient to my house. There is an awfully cute one in Decatur called Little Shop of Stories, but dang, that’s far away clear on the other side of all that Atlanta traffic. Sigh. We always go when we hit the Decatur Book Festival, though.
  2. Great book blogs. The more the merrier! I love reading about other people reading.
  3. Including book bloggers and Goodreads members in ARC’s, galleys, and free books like other reviewers. I love to read, and I review every book I read. Sometimes it’s nice to get a free book. It doesn’t influence my reviews, but it does ease the strain on my pocketbook.
  4. Witches. I love books about witches. Keep writing them, writers! Witches are so cool, whether they are witches with real powers or just misunderstood women accused of witchcraft in historical fiction. You know, Salem was kind of kitschy with the witches, but I would totally live there if it were feasible. I loved it.
  5. Pottermore! It’s fun to once again be waiting on tenterhooks for new stuff from Jo! I scored an early registration. Have you tried to get one yet? I think you have four more chances!

No, Thanks!

  1. Vampires with no fangs. Vegetarian vampires? Really? I don’t mind scary vampires who actually suck blood and might be dangerous. But vampires would wouldn’t hurt a person because they suck animal blood? Meh. That’s weak. I understand it. You don’t want your hero to be evil. But sucking blood is evil! Make it a plot point, like Lestat and Louis, who wrestle with their consciences about being vampires (a little bit—Louis, more than Lestat).
  2. Harry Potter fanfic pr0n. Don’t get it, never will. Slash or straight or whatever, it’s not right, especially when students are paired with teachers.
  3. Overpriced Kindle books. Kindle books used to be reliably cheaper than paper books. Now publishers are driving up the prices. Having manufactured a Kindle book myself, I can tell you it involves almost no cost. I am all for supporting the authors, but somehow I don’t think they’re the ones profiting from the high cost of Kindle books.
  4. Amazon hate. I understand it. I think I know where it’s coming from. I know folks blame stores like Amazon for Borders closing (Borders made several mistakes that contributed). I know supporting independent stores or even chain brick-and-mortar stores is good. I would do more of it if I had one nearby, but I have to drive quite a ways to reach one, and I live in the suburbs of a large metropolitan area. If brick-and-mortar stores could offer me the same services as Amazon, I might be a more frequent customer. Amazon, however, offers me free shipping (most of the time), allows me to download books instantly on my Kindle, replaced my Kindle with no questions asked when I broke it, and gives me a small commission in gift certificates as an Amazon Associate (which helps me support my book habit). They have been good to me, and I’ve been doing business with them for about thirteen years or so.
  5. Book banning and censoring. You heard that Wesley Scroggins managed to have Kurt Vonnegut’s [amazon_link id=”0385333846″ target=”_blank” ]Slaughterhouse Five[/amazon_link] and Sarah Ockler’s [amazon_link id=”0316051586″ target=”_blank” ]Twenty Boy Summer[/amazon_link] removed from school curricula and libraries in Republic, Missouri, right? He is far from alone. I absolutely support a parent’s right to make decisions about what his/her own children read, but that parent has no right to tell me what my kids can read. Teachers always, always, always provide alternatives to individual students who cannot read a book either due to parental objections or their own. As Vonnegut himself said about censorship:

    And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

    So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.