harry potter

Top Ten Thursday: Book Re-reads

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I’m not good at a number of things, and one of them is re-reading books. Yes, re-reading is good as it helps you catch things you’ve missed the first time around, it helps you understand everything better, etc. etc. But my mind just rejects the idea, I don’t find any joy in reading something I’ve already read, the book simply isn’t as appealing to me the second time around. But, as with everything, there are a few exceptions. Here’s my list of 10 books I’m okay with re-reading at any time and place.

10 – Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

I forget in which school year I had to read this, but I’m fairly sure I re-read it a few times during that year already. I did enjoy the Adventures of Tom Sawyer as well, but it pales in comparison to its sequel and the story of the adventures Huckleberry Finn had. The most intriguing thing is how the book manages to dive into touching subjects such as racism, religion, and war, yet it manages to remain light and friendly. It’s both funny and scary, it’s for children and it’s for adults, and it’s simply put extraordinary. It’s pure classic and it’s something that everyone should read no matter at what age they decide to do so. But more importantly, everyone should be brave enough to pick it up least one more time for a re-read.

9 – George Orwell’s 1984

I don’t know when I read 1984 for the first time, but I do remember when I re-read it for the last time and that was 4 months ago. It’s one of the best literally pieces of work I’ve ever read and most definitely the best dystopian and political fiction book. It’s written in such a simple manner yet it’s structure and content is frightening complex. It was a brilliant read the first time around, but more so on the second and third read because you just can’t soak in all the fantastic bits and pieces in a single reading. It also happens it has one of my all-time favorite quotes “Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.”

8 – Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels

Is there anyone who didn’t enjoy this? It was likely one of my favorite reads during my school years, and those were quite low in numbers. All the voyages, all these fantastic and diverse places, the plethora of characters and events that follow his journey, they’re so well written you would think this is a diary of a real person’s travels and not actually a novel written as a parody for the traveler’s tales subgenre. If you have to pick a few books to take with you on a stranded island, this should definitely be one of your picks. That is, if you humor can stomach jokes on your own not-so-good situation. If you can’t appreciate a good book then this would be a bundle of gibberish for you, while for everyone else it should be something joyful no matter how many times you’re reading it at this point.

7 – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

It’s my understanding that at the initial release the book was considered quite controversial and had very mixed reviews. Yet the story lives to this day. In fact, it was so influential it actually spawned a whole genre of monster horror stories, movies, tv shows, plays, and illustrations. Some may have disliked the way the book was written or found it too awkward/weird, which I can somehow understand for the early 1800’s. But it’s clear that the story of a scientist who devotes himself to his work to a point where he not only bends but breaks the rules and uses unorthodox experiments to achieve his goals is quite intriguing. Or maybe it’s the rise of said work/creature/whatever which can no longer be controlled as it now has a mind of its own that’s intriguing? Maybe it’s a bit of both, I’m not fully sure myself, but I am sure I’m not tired of rereading it yet.

6 – Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment

Might be a controversial piece, it seems opinions are divided on it, people either hate it or love it, or they don’t even know it. There’s very little middle ground when it comes to Crime and Punishment. For myself, the story of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov is perhaps one of the best reads I’ve ever had. The moral dilemma of whether the end justifies the journey, of whether bad actions are acceptable if they’re meant to help achieve greater good, is still present and debatable to this day. Who is worthy and who isn’t, who gets to judge and decide, and does ridding the world of those deemed unworthy in order to help the worthy sound like something okay to do? Can we justify our bad actions with a simple it’s meant to help me provide greater good?

5 – Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde was one of the first writers I started appreciating, likely because his work was more available than the work of many others. Call it commercial if you will, but you knew there was always some book of his in the local libraries. The first time I read about the Picture of Dorian Grey was during an early age English class, though it was more of a summary and it was used for other purposes (not for lit reading). The summary itself sold it to me, it was a fascinating yet creepy tale. It was quirky. It was something different than what you’re used to hearing, and for some reason that was appealing to me. To this date I’ve read at least a dozen versions or editions of it and I still like each and everyone one of them.

4 – Dante Alighieri’s Inferno (The Divine Comedy)

I rarely find someone who loves Dante’s Divine Comedy, let alone someone who loves it as much as I do. The first time I read it was during High School, and I was meant to read just the Inferno part but I was hooked and I went on reading he whole thing. While I did some heavy reading during High School, I usually avoided the school readings because most of the books were ridiculous, horridly translated from their originals, or some were just bad books (I understand this may not be the case for everyone, the school reading lists vary from country to country and from generation to generation). Dante’s Divine Comedy, specifically Inferno, was a refreshing change and something I’ll forever cherish.

3 – JRR Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of Rings)

I don’t think I have come across anyone who doesn’t love, enjoy, or at least appreciate the work of Tolkien. I do know some people don’t like fantasy so they shrug it off or blurt out various things how the books aren’t that great, but I don’t think there’s a person among book lovers who does’t at least understand the importance of Tolkien’s work. He had a craft like no one else, he was master of the written worlds and he’ll forever remain as such. It doesn’t matter which of his books I would pick up but the details will always be as entertaining the 100th time as they were the 1st time around. Yet, my journey with his work started with the Fellowship of the Ring so I like it just a tad bit more than the rest of his stories.

2 – JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter)

The Harry Potter series was my very first series of books, and it was my introduction to the world of fantasy. Fantasy being my favorite genre, you can see why I could reread it any time, I consider it important because of the influence it has had on me. Out of the whole series though, Half-Blood Prince is my favorite. It’s the first book out of the series which I think goes beyond the children audience. But, more importantly, the revelations and information available in this book make it my favorite.

1 – GRR Martin’s A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire)

This is a more recent obsession of mine, as I only started reading the series about five years ago, around 2010/2011. The reason it finds itself at the top is of course the writing style and the many hidden details, foreshadowing, and double-meaning writings. When it comes to a Song of Ice and Fire, each sentence’s as important as the next, and every word brings something to the table. It doesn’t matter how many times you have read and analyzed the books, on your next reading you realize/discover something new. If we take and review the whole series I believe that we’ll find out Storm of Swords is firmly placed as the best book from the series and that’s why I’ve selected it from the published books.

The Clock Ticks Life Away

anniversary-1xTwo weeks ago, on the 1st of June, WordPress was kind enough to remind me that it has been two years since I registered with this account. Granted, I didn’t start blogging right away, mostly because back then I was unsure of the direction I want to steer my blog toward. Not that I am putting all my attention to a single element nowadays, but hopefully my writing is focused on fewer interests. And I most definitely did not keep up with my writing throughout those two years, there were frequent monthly breaks and one dark period of a long, six-month absence. But as much as our past is nowhere near perfect, sometimes we need to revisit it in order to move to the future, take a step back so we can jump forward.

I noticed one of my first ever posts getting attention lately, an old Harry Potter fan-fiction piece that was probably shared somewhere, and for a moment there I considered deleting it or fully rewriting it. It’s ridiculously short, poorly written, and overall it seems like I had put no thought to it when I wrote it. To sum it up, it’s an embarrassment. On the other hand, it shows just how much things have changed over a time span of two years — it made me feel better about some recent written works (which I have not shared here, not yet at least). There is just as good as there is bad in every experience that we go through, regardless of how we feel about certain things from the past they all contribute to who we are. At the end of the day we’re just a collection of short stories, books whose pages are filled with the tales of our lives. For a few of us, those stories may live on forever, should someone somewhere decide they’re of great importance. For the rest of us, those stories will eventually be forgotten. They’ll still be there, no one can take away your past, for better or for worse, but they won’t be the topic of discussion among our successors.

One could say that ultimately it’s all down to perception and attitude, since they would define whether whoever takes a peek in our life sees the good or the bad in our past. Would someone who reads that specific fan-fiction piece think of how bad a writer I have been, or think or how much my writing has improved since then? I do not believe leaving a note of any kind would lead the reader toward the good side of it, you can give directions to anyone but they can choose to ignore them, they might believe you’re trying to trick them and will go elsewhere instead, or they might go in the opposite direction just to spite you. You can try though, and you can hope. You can always try and hope for the better even if everything seems to be going bad. It might not be much, but often it’s the best you can do.

If I could, I’d list the changes that have taken place during this two-year period, but I honestly would not even know where to start from and it would be too big of a list. Lots of memories, lots of wasted time, lots of shared moments, lots of loneliness, lots of happiness, lots of sadness, lots of rewarding times, lots of painful moments — lots of this, yet lots of that. When you’re going on with your everyday business it seems like time is literally crawling, I’ve caught myself hoping time could move faster whenever I’m busy with work. Yet when I look back I wish time didn’t fly so fast, I wish there was a way we could turn time back. The idea is not to relive everything, but to go through those years with my current state of mind, so unfortunately unless someone has a time machine they’re not sharing with the rest of us, the truth is it isn’t going to happen.

What we can do instead, is take a glance at the stories from our past sometimes and remember who we were and how we got here. Remember what we’ve been through, remember the good and the bad times, and find a way to avoid making the same mistakes. Find a way to improve our lives because we owe ourselves that much. We owe it to who we were to put the effort of making our stories in the future greater than the ones our past tells. One way or the other, the clock is ticking. But time doesn’t matter, we are not slaves of some grand clockwork design. It’s all about the stories and making the new ones better than the old ones.

Happy belated two-year anniversary to the Phantom Child, I guess. Hopefully some better writing pieces of mine in the future will overshadow the bad ones from my past. I’ve found a plethora of fantastic blogs to follow here, I only wish I could read every single post you folks have shared and find a way for my blog’s content to match the greatness of yours. I’ve made quite a few friends through this blog, and a golden rule says never disappoint your friends. Hope you’re all enjoying your weekend!

Gratitude and Praise

Whoever said finding happiness in the little things in life is all that matter was completely right. It’s probably one of the only valuable life advice that you should follow. Don’t wait for life to bring you wonders, but go out there and find happiness, create happiness, and just be happiness.

It has been a long and very productive week, and I still have work to do. But work doesn’t even feel like work when one feels happy. Why do I feel happy this week? A lot of things. But let me share some!

1. I got a gift from friends in the USA earlier this week and what made it more exciting was the fact that I didn’t know what it is, nor did I know when it’ll arrive. I just knew it was shipped. I was expecting another package as well that week so I thought I’m going to pick up that one when I went to get it from the post. But I was wrong! What I found was a Hufflepuff Pennant sent to me from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! w00t! It has now found its way into my room and is putting a smile on my face every morning when I wake up.

2. I had a haircut on Tuesday! The temperatures are so high I could no longer deal with hair I had. It wasn’t long at all, but I still felt the need to get rid of it. So my hair now is barely existent – you can see on the photo above. It was probably just like 1 inch long before that, but it’s still more than I could deal with.

3. I made a bunch of ice-cream at home and there is now plenty to last for at least another week. One of them is vanilla with cherry pieces while the other one is pure chocolate. They both taste delicious and I take my daily dose to cool down from these hell-like temperatures we are having these days.

4. I finally got around to cleaning my desktop. I had so many files and folders on it I could barely see my wallpaper in the background. Needless to say that’s another shiny gift (though an Xmas one)! And it has a pretty golden mockingjay and the every joyful “MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR!” quote (Hunger Games, anyone)?

5. Free time. Yes, the bare fact that I’m sitting here at almost 11 pm and writing a blog post means a lot to me. I even have a new True Blood episode opened so I can catch more on the show after I’m done posting and catching up with all blogs I follow. I’m truly sorry I haven’t been posting as frequently as I wanted to originally, but this summer ended up keeping me more busy than I expected. Though fear not, I will try my best! 😀

Shadow, Shadow on the Wall

Photo by me, Zoki @ The Phantom Child

“Don’t depend on anyone, because even your shadow leaves you when you’re in darkness.” ~ Unknown, with whom I would like to disagree to some point. A pessimist would agree with the quote; an optimist would say if the shadow was once around it will show up sometime again; but a realist would be happy because the shadow was with him until that point, and as long as the world still exist as we know it, the shadow will be there tomorrow as well. You shouldn’t necessarily depend on other people, but I don’t see anything wrong in leaning on other people from time to time. That is, as long as you trust them to not let you fall.

Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” ~ Albus Dumbledore [or Harry Potter of J.K. Rowling if you will] Your shadow will show up again, and you will no longer be alone. Brighten up your day yourself – learn how to find light in the little things you find in life. You weren’t born alone in this world, you were born with a family, but you weren’t born together – meaning you’ll have to learn to let go, and keep on going alone. For the time being, you can lean on other people, but remember not to get ahead of yourself and lose your independence.

Your traits and freedom are your only treasures in life, cherish them.

The Unsung Peverell [Harry Potter Fanfiction]

This was done as an extra credit assignment for a class at HOL Virtual Hogwarts (hol.org.uk). The task was to write about a 4th Peverell brother. I’m Zoki Phantom at said site, and this was written in June 2012.

Although rather infamous and often omitted in the retelling of the Deathly Hallows story, the Peverells actually had a fourth brother. Grendel was his name, and he was the youngest out of the four. However, unlike his brothers, Grendel wasn’t very skilled in the arts of charms and he did not help build that bridge for crossing the river – this is probably why he was forgotten in the storytelling. Always being surpassed and humiliated by the greatness of his brothers, Grendel lived in their shadows and never grew up to his potential. He had a truly warm heart and a good mind, but the fact that he was always last created a fear in him that subsequently prevented him from succeeding in anything. In fact, Grendel was tremendously good at potion-making, way beyond his brothers were, but he never got the chance to prove himself. And in the end, what are “silly potions” compared to “magnificent charms” in the eyes of wizards and witches? Child’s play, that was what everyone told him he was doing.

Though Death wasn’t at all interested in his story, to him all that mattered was the fact that these brothers destroyed one of his best sources for taking souls and he was determined to repay them all, one way or another. Therefore he let the little Peverell request a gift just like his brothers did. Grendel had a hard time making his choice, until it finally hit him that he can use the opportunity to further improve his potion-making skills and hopefully finally prove himself in the eyes of his brothers. He asked for seeds that will grow into a unique herb with accommodating properties so that it would be able to substitute any known ingredient in any potion. His brothers laughed at his choice because they thought he could have asked for something much better.

When they finally separated from Death, they all went on their own ways. Grendel settled himself in a small town called Snowlog, located close to the river as he was just too eager to start working with his new herb. He waited patiently as the herb grew up, until it was finally ready for use. He first experimented with it in lower level potions like cure for boils, replacing it for another ingredient, and when he saw that not only did the herb made a perfect substitute but also made the potion stronger, he took his work on a higher level. From love potions to deadly poisonous potions, he created everything and all without the use of any rare ingredients that one could hardly find.

Soon he started his own business which later became one of the best known potions shops, and he himself became a famous potions master. Using the seeds from the grown up herb he managed to plant a whole garden with the same herb by the time his business blossomed. He never had any difficulties in his life ever again, except the fact that being so busy with his potion work he never found love and didn’t have offsprings to continue his work. After his death the garden withered and the shop was taken over by someone else and turned into a book store, covering up any possible trace of Grendel’s history.

However, his legend lived, at least for the people in the town of Snowlog, where the famous sign of the Deathly Hallows now had tiny black dots in the empty space between the cloak and the resurrection stone, representing the magic seeds that Grendel got as a gift from Death.