Monday, July 15, 2019

Let's Bust a Recap : The Last Founding Father

What? The blog lives? Yes, yes, I'm still reading over here. I've just been putting off this recap forever because this is the worst presidential biography I've read to date. Harlow Giles Unger makes Lynne Cheney look like a cool, unbiased historian. And considering that I described her book on Madison as "a gushing, teen girl's fan letter to her adored celebrity crush" that should really tell you something. I mean, when you make the claim that Adams, Jefferson, and Madison were "mere caretaker presidents" in the opening pages of your biography, do you really expect anybody to take you seriously?? I all but put confidence in anything Unger had to say. ("All but" was his favorite little catch phrase and you could find those two annoying words put together on almost every page of the book.)

But I digress. I'll try to share some pertinent details and keep this short. Otherwise we'll end up with an overlong ranty post about who should be allowed to write biographies interjected with bitter diatribes about money-grabbing publishers who put this nonsense out into the world. 

The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and A Nation's Call to Greatness by Harlow Giles Unger was published in 2009 by Da Capo Press. As far as a biography goes, it was emotional, overly dramatic, and poorly written. 

Monroe himself would be an interesting character to read about, and he deserves to have a well written, up-to-date biography written of his life, but unfortunately, as far as I can tell, the two best options to read a full account of his life are this one or Harry Ammon's stale 1971 offering. So here we are. 

Monroe was involved in every aspect of Revolutionary America, serving as soldier, congressman, senator, minister to France and Britain, governor of Virginia, secretary of state, and secretary of war before finally becoming America's fifth president. A pretty impressive resumé in and of itself. He was instrumental in the acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase, and his Monroe Doctrine is an enduring proclamation that still has relevant political implications today. Personally, he was hot tempered and a bit vain which made him unlikeable for me as a human being. He and Kitty seemed to have a good marriage and their younger daughter Maria was the first president's child to be married in the White House. 

However, as I have already stated, this particular biography of Monroe is laughably biased. He had not one bad thing to say about Monroe and spent all his energy defending the objectively less than stellar bits of Monroe's life. After asserting that Adams, Jefferson, and Madison were "caretaker presidents" until Monroe could step up and save the day, he later contradicts his own words by arguing for Monroe's sole authorship of the Monroe Doctrine (some historians have posited that John Quincy Adams actually authored it) by stating that "such assertions show little insight into the presidency itself and the type of man who aspires to and assumes that office; indeed, they denigrate the character, the intellect, the intensity, and the sense of power that drive American presidents." All this after trying to convince the reader that Madison was a completely impotent puppet of Monroe's for Madison's entire presidency. 

If you're looking for a good biography of Monroe, this certainly isn't it. However, it may be your best bet. I would love it if Noah Feldman or Joseph J. Ellis would undertake to write a biography on our nation's fifth president. Until then, I suggest reading this biography with a very big grain of salt. 

I am actually facing (with great trepidation) another of Unger's biographies on John Quincy Adams. It is on my list for this year (and I already own it), but I am considering switching it out for James Traub's 2016 biography of the sixth president of the United States. What do you think? Should I ditch Unger and go with Traub or stick with what I've got?

Friday, June 7, 2019

Let's Bust a Recap : Sisterchicks on the Loose!

When I decided to do the Modern Mrs Darcy 2019 Reading Challenge this year, "a book in the backlist of a favorite author" was the only category I didn't even have to think twice about filling. My two favorite living authors are Robin Jones Gunn and Francine Rivers and since I'm all caught up on Rivers' backlist, I knew I'd be filling this slot with one of the six Sisterchicks books I hadn't read yet. My sweet friend Amy completed my Sisterchicks collection for my birthday last year so I decided to go back to the beginning and read the very first book in the series. These are standalone books, but there are eight in total. 

It was also a no-brainer to take this book along with me on our vacation to Hawaii. Not only are several of Robin Jones Gunn's books set in Hawaii (not this one though), she lives on Maui. And all of Gunn's books are light and fun so this got thrown in my carryon quicker than you can bat your eye. I was definitely grateful to have it with me after finishing up the much heavier and darker Orphan Train (which I recapped last week). 
Sisterchicks on the Loose! was published in 2003 and follows the adventures of besties Sharon and Penny as they travel from the U.S. West Coast to the land of Penny's relatives: Finland. Between the chocolate and saunas and Penny's adventurous spirit, they get up to a lot of zany shenanigans for these two 40-something God-Lovers. 

What makes the Sisterchicks books so fun is that Robin creates these sweet novels from her own personal travel experiences with her real life Sisterchick friends. These books always keep me giggling while encouraging me closer to God with every turn of the page; not in a phony, cliché way but a real, life-giving natural way. I love them.

Sisterchicks in Sombreros is still probably my favorite of the series so far, but Sisterchicks on the Loose! has definitely furnished the most laughs. As always, no hesitation in recommending Robin Jones Gunn to all my girlfriends out there. Now that I've read the first three in the Sisterchicks series, I'll probably just keep going in order so Sisterchicks Down Under is up next. I can't wait to see what kind of mischief we'll get up to there.

Who are your favorite authors? What books do you turn to when you need a breather? Also, how many times did I type "sisterchicks" for this post? Because it felt excessive.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Let's Bust a Recap : Orphan Train

Happy Thursday, and wow! is May really over already? I mean, I know we still have tomorrow, but didn't we just ring in 2019 like, 2 seconds ago? Now we're almost halfway through the year?? At the pace I'm going, I've started to feel like I may have bit off more than I can chew with my book list this year, and the #bookstagram people are not helping. Did y'all know there are people who read like, 50 books a month? I mean, how? But let's skip my completely unnecessary anxiety over meeting my totally self-imposed reading goals and just get straight to the recap. 
The second book I read on our Hawaiian vacation (which I promise I will get around to blogging about someday) was Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. This book was published not so long ago (considering that a lot of the books I read and post about are much older) at the beginning of 2013, and I picked it up at The Book Shelter in December because my friend Karsch recommended it to me. Consequently, I chose this book to fill the "book recommended by someone with great taste" category for the 2019 Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge which is the second category I've been able to tick off so far this year (the first being "three books by the same author"—thank you, Harry Potter series). 

Orphan Train moves back and forth between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, linking 17-year-old foster kid Molly Ayer to 91-year-old Irish immigrant Vivian Daly as Molly helps Vivian clean out her attic for a community service project designed to keep Molly out of juvie. As Molly learns about Vivian's past, she discovers just how much they have in common. 

The historical aspects of this novel were fascinating as Kline highlighted the little known phenomenon of the orphan trains that were operational in the U.S. from 1854 to 1929, relocating approximately 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, abused, or homeless children from overcrowded cities along the east coast to more rural areas in the American Midwest. 

I was also intrigued by the way Kline wove together the unlikely topics of foster care, Native American culture, immigration, and the progress of technology and how it has affected our world. She connected people, places, events, and worldviews that I would never have expected to read about all in one novel, but she did it well. Everything was well-researched, interesting, believable, and highly readable. 

However, there were some pretty big negative elements in this novel for me. The first being regular profanity. While it's not unrealistic for 17 year olds to have the vocabulary of sailors on leave, I personally don't like seeing four letter words popping up all over the pages of the novel I'm reading. Secondly, there was one somewhat graphic scene of a 10 year old girl being molested that made me feel physically ill. By the time I had gotten to that point in the book, I was wondering why on earth my friend ever recommended this book to me. It seemed vulgar and depressing and like there was no light at the end of a very dark story.

BUT the ending was worth the read. The way Kline concluded this heartbreaking narrative had me in tears—the happy kind. If you can get over some foul language and foul situations, I would recommend Orphan Train. 

So tell me, what are some hard novels that were worth the payout for you? 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

A Word for Wednesday

"'Milton was right,' said my Teacher. 'The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words
 "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven." 
There is always something they insist on keeping even at the price of misery. 
There is always something they prefer to joy—that is, to reality. 
Ye see it easily enough in a spoiled child that would sooner miss its play and its supper 
than say it was sorry and be friends.'"

~from The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis~
Artwork : Charles Burton Barber

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Let's Bust a Recap : The Great Divorce

The Great Divorce was not on my list for this year. As you may or may not know, I'm a big fan of C.S. Lewis and have slowly been making my way through his work, trying to read at least one of his books each year. My choice for 2019 is actually The Problem of Pain (which I haven't gotten to yet), but my husband brought The Great Divorce on our recent trip to Hawaii (post on that coming soon!), and after he devoured it on our 2 hour flight from Orlando to Cleveland (no surprise—he reads so fast) he convinced me I should just go ahead and read it so we could discuss it together. (It took me like, 3 days to read it in contrast to his 2 hours.) Now that you know how I ended up reading this book, let me give you my quick take on it.

The Great Divorce is a theological "dream vision" written by C.S. Lewis in 1944 and 1945. It was first printed as a serial in an Anglican newspaper and published as a book shortly after the serial was concluded. In it, Lewis employs his formidable talent for fable and allegory to reflect on the Christian conceptions of Heaven and Hell. The writer finds himself in Hell boarding a bus bound for Heaven and recounts observations he makes and conversations he has with other passengers on the bus. 

All things considered, this is the first book I've read by Lewis that I didn't love. It was a bit weird and some of the potential theological implications could lead you down some strange paths. Keeping in mind, though, that this is a book about Heaven and Hell and we won't know what either are actually like until we're there, I can't exactly disagree with Lewis about anything in the book. It's an interesting allegory, and the biggest takeaway from The Great Divorce is not about the physical realms of Heaven and Hell. The thing that Lewis does so well in this book and what impacted me most in reading it were the issues he pointed out that keep us from living the abundant Christian life, the things we love or prize more than Christ. Each chapter depicts a different scenario or conversation that highlights a different trait: pride, self-reliance, intellect, idols, and so on. That's where the value of this book lies. It was challenging to think about the subtle things that can creep in and take God's rightful place as lord of my life. 

If you're looking to wade into the world of C.S. Lewis for the first time, this is not the book I'd hand you (grab Mere Christianity or lose yourself in Narnia), but I would say it's worth a read if you're already familiar with his work or if you're a fan of books like The Pilgrim's Progress. And if you do read it, let me know what you think. Next up in my journey through the work of C.S. Lewis: The Problem of Pain—unless my husband throws another wrench in my plans. 

Have you read The Great Divorce? What is your favorite book by C.S. Lewis? What book needs to go on my list for 2020? 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Seven Years

Happy Anniversary, babe!
You make me feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
Augustine Grace Photography

Friday, May 10, 2019

Let's Bust a Recap : Harry Potter

Okay, the Harry Potter series consumed my reading life for the first three months of 2019. Except for my daily quiet time in My Utmost for His Highest (by Oswald Chambers) and a quick break in February for As You Like It (because tradition), any spare reading minutes were devoted solely to Harry and all his misadventures. 
Because Harry Potter has become a worldwide household name and because I am so late to the game reading these books after 12 years since the last one was published and 22 years since the first one was published, I decided that instead of writing a recap for each book as I read it, I would just read the whole series and do less of a recap post and more of a thoughts and impressions post once I was done. As I was reading the series, I had a small group of friends (who will be referred to throughout this post as "the Potterheads") re-reading them with me and we had a group text going so what I'll be doing in this post is sharing some of the texts I sent them as I was reading the books along with whatever thoughts I have now that I've finished the series. 

So beware: spoilers abound.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's (or "Philosopher's" if you're British) Stone 
Published: 26 June 1997
(After getting five chapters in) I think literally ANY other option would have been better than leaving Harry with the Dursleys. Like, we could have dropped him on the doorstep of a complete stranger and that would have been better than the Dursleys. I love Hagrid. And the fact that the wizard bank is run by goblins because you'd be mad to try and rob it is my favorite thing ever. I'm already over some of the smaller details of things Harry needs for school and wizarding crap like that. Like, I-don't-care-at-all-can-we-please-not-go-into-it-all-the-time.

(After finishing the book) I ADORE Mrs. Weasley (when she helped Harry onto the train platform I almost started crying), and I am a fan of the Weasley family in general. The Quidditch chapter was my favorite, possibly of the whole book—what a nailbiter. QUIRRELL?? I did not see that coming. I was fairly confident that Snape was not a bad guy, but I wasn't expecting to meet Quirrell down there. And I have to say, after Book 1, I am not a Dumbledore fan. If Harry is old enough to take on Voldemort by himself then he's old enough to have his questions about Voldemort answered. First you leave him with the Dursleys then you let him face off against apparently the worst being in the universe to protect some stone that you just end up destroying anyway and then you can't even answer him when he wants to know why Voldemort wanted to kill him?? Nah. But I am 100% on Hagrid's train. When he gave Harry the scrapbook of his parents, I actually did cry.

If my goodreads account is accurate, I started this book on January 2nd and finished it on January 11th. This book was a lot slower than I was anticipating, but I will say that the very end of every single book in the series kept me up reading past midnight to finish so kudos to Rowling for strong endings. 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Published: 02 July 1998
When Ron tells Harry that "hearing voices no one else can hear isn't a good sign, even in the wizarding world", I laughed for three solid minutes. That is the funniest thing I've read in these books yet. 

(After finishing the book) I adore Ginny Weasley, and the fact that Riddle/Voldemort/Malfoy took advantage of her makes me loathe them with the deepest and most intense hatred I have possibly ever had for fictional characters. My love for the entire Weasley family has been cemented—Mrs. Weasley's howler was a riot. I was over Gilderoy Lockhart before we even really started talking about him, and his comeuppance at the end was highly satisfying. And speaking of the ending: Tom Riddle and his diary?? Horrid. I had no idea who it could be besides Voldemort and, even though that was technically correct, I was dumbfounded by the method. Rowling's good. But y'all, giant spiders and a basilisk?? This is why I don't think I'll like the movies. This is not a genre that works well on a visual medium for me. I can read about all this—fine—but I don't want to have nightmares about it! And I still don't really care about Dumbledore, but he did go up a few points in my book for the compassionate way he responded to Ginny at the end. Much love for that. Once again, the Quidditch chapter was my favorite—hanging off the edge of my seat for that—although Harry and Ron being rescued by the magical car was also fantastic. Dobby was awful, but I'm glad he's free of the hideous Malfoys, I guess. Also, Little Miss Smartypants turning herself into a cat was hilarious.

(After one of the Potterheads asked for my thoughts on Snape at the end of Book 2) Snape is a jerk and at this point I don't really care about him no matter what his history with Harry's mom is.

Now that I've finished the series, Book 2 remains my second favorite book of all of them. Great story, giant spiders, basilisk and all.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Published: 08 July 1999
(After finishing the book) Going into this one, I had a lot of people singing its praises and telling me this was the best book of the series. I enjoyed it but nothing really set this book apart from the first two books for me. At this point, the second book is probably my favorite so far. As far as the book itself: I loved Lupin. He was definitely my favorite character of the book and may be my new favorite character of the series. I suspected he was a werewolf literally from the time he was introduced on the train so that was not a shocking reveal for me. In fact, I figured out most of the major plot points before they were revealed. I'm sure some of that has to do with the fact that I have actually been living on Planet Earth for the past 20 years but nevertheless, I did find this book easier to figure out than the first two, both of which I did NOT see the ending coming. I suspected Sirius Black was not a bad guy pretty early on and when Harry, Ron, and Hermione overheard the conversation in the Three Broomsticks, I knew Black was alright and I suspected Pettigrew was no good. I had no idea he was Scabbers though! And Pettigrew is possibly the most despicable character yet—nothing worse than a coward. I have more respect for someone who's totally bad than a freaking turncoat like Pettigrew. Other highlights for me included Harry blowing up Aunt Marge and running away from the Dursleys (go Harry!), Hermione slapping Draco (I cheered out loud when that happened), and, of course, all the Quidditch stuff (Lee Jordan commentating is one of my favorite aspects of all the books). The dementors are creepy and I hate them. Trelawney was the new Gilderoy Lockhart for me (I could not roll my eyes any harder at her), and I'm loving McGonagall more and more (what a tough old bird). Loved Harry's patronus at the end and all the significance of that with his dad. Snape is the worst, and I still don't think Rowling has done a great job of showing why Dumbledore is so great or why the kids trust him so much. 

In retrospect, I think this book is a lot better than I gave it credit for, and at the time it came out, I'm sure it blew people's minds. But the wow factor was not there for me with this book because I was able to predict so much of it. Like I said above, I'm sure that has more to do with the fact that Harry Potter has been unavoidable if you've been living on Earth these past 20 years than my sleuthing abilities, but every other book ending caught me by surprise and this one did not. 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Published: 08 July 2000
*DISCLAIMER: At this point in the series, I started texting the Potterheads on a more regular basis instead of waiting until I was finished with a book and maxing out my text message lengths with all my thoughts.*

That was, by far, the best opening chapter of a Harry Potter book I've read yet.

The Weasleys trying to get in the Dursleys' boarded up fireplace—I'm dying.

IMMEDIATELY a fan of Mad-Eye Moody for turning Draco Malfoy into a ferret and roughing him up a bit in front of everybody. Excellent.

(After finishing the book) Cedric dies and Barty Crouch Jr. is Satan's minion?? Y'all. I can't. That was exhausting. As far as storytelling goes: Rowling is a freaking genius and that was phenomenal. As far as what's actually happening in the wizarding world: this is my least favorite book in the series thus far. By a longshot. I'm dreading what's to come. 

(After one of the Potterheads asked for my thoughts on Dumbledore at the end of Book 4) My respect for Dumbledore is growing. I didn't love the way Rowling casually slipped in some line about how he left Harry with the Dursleys because of some magical family protection from Voldemort as if that's supposed to make me totally fine with it.

Y'all, I was LOVING this book until Cedric died. Apart from my group message with the Potterheads, I texted my husband and said that if Cedric was actually dead, Book 4 would be my least favorite: guaranteed. And while Book 5 is probably my true least favorite, I'm still so mad that Cedric died. I got into a big debate with the Potterheads over whose death was sadder: Cedric's or Sirius' (Hint: I think Cedric; they all think Sirius). All told, except for Book 7, Book 4 went the fastest for me. I could not put it down. 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Published: 21 June 2003
*I did not realize there was a 3 year gap between the publication dates for Book 4 and Book 5. What did y'all even do??*

(After getting four chapters in) I am a fan of Tonks—she's hilarious. Percy is the dumbest most ungrateful little jerk alive and unless he's trying to get an angle on the ministry from the inside by going DEEP cover, he's dead to me. And I'm back to not liking Dumbledore. I would be just as upset as Harry, probably more so.

When Ron makes prefect and Mrs. Weasley is so happy and says "That's everyone in the family!" and George retorts, "What are Fred and I, next door neighbors?"—I lost it. Fred and George are the best!

(After finishing chapter 11) Well, Harry is finally back at Hogwarts and instead of taking his first opportunity to combat the rumors about him when Seamus innocently asks him what's gone on, he further alienates himself by throwing a hissy fit and insulting his roommate's mother. Yay, puberty. It's going to be a long year. 

I have no idea what to make of Luna Lovegood, but Dolores Umbridge is absolutely despicable. Like, worse than Voldemort. Also, Book 5 is proving the hardest to get through so far. I have almost zero desire to read it at all. AND this is the least amount of respect or affection I've had for Dumbledore since I started the series. Which is saying something since I haven't particularly cared for him from the beginning. 

What's that, Harry? You've just had the most terrifying vision of being a snake and attacking someone you love and you're having other snakelike feelings of intense hatred and the desire to attack people? Thanks for passing along the message in a timely manner and just stop worrying. I CAN'T WITH THESE ADULTS. This book is stressing me out. You are causing confusion and anger in a boy who deserves to know what's happening to himself and I am more over it than Harry. This is outrageous. 

(And when one of the Potterheads responded to that message with "All in due time") Oh don't give me that garbage. The LEAST any one of these adults could have done is validate Harry's experience as the truly horrifying event it was. 

Wow. I kindof hate Harry's dad right now.

Those bastards stunned McGonagall?? This book makes me rage!!

(After finishing the book) It. Is. Finished. I stayed up till 1:30 last night and I was a little disappointed that Umbridge didn't die in the forest but whatever I'm glad it's over. Also, I'm feeling completely vindicated in all my impressions and feelings about Dumbledore. If he can admit to Harry that he was wrong and handled everything poorly, why can't everyone else admit it, too?!

According to goodreads, I started this one on February 19th and didn't finish until March 11th. It just seemed to drag on. And on and on and on. I really did not feel motivated to keep going after Book 5, but that is exactly why I started the group text with the Potterheads in the first place. Accountability for the win. I will say, Book 5 contained one of my very favorite moments from the entire series: when Fred and George stick it to Umbridge and leave Hogwarts. I cheered out loud.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Published: 16 July 2005
(After getting 300 pages in) Well, we have fully hit the HP boy-girl drama and I am definitely not missing 16 today. Yikes. #raginghormones #poorchoices (The Potterheads loved that this was the first thing I texted them for Book 6—check that sarcasm font.)

(After finishing the book) Y'all. I stayed up till 2 in the morning finishing that dadgum book. Worst ending yet. I don't know if I even have the heart to keep going. I don't even know what more to text about it.

(After one of the Potterheads asked "But what about your favorite character? The one you love so much") If you are making a sarcastic reference to Dumbledore: withholding important and potentially helpful information to the very end. If you're talking seriously about Lupin: I'm happy for him and Tonks. I like that match.

(After more prompting from the Potterheads to expound on my feelings at the ending) I don't even know where to begin. Snape killing Dumbledore: I did not see that coming. Once again, I was frustrated with Dumbledore and his "I-know-everything-but-I'll-only-tell-you-what-I-think-you-need-to-know" attitude throughout the entire book. I feel like his Need-To-Know policy through the entire series has just caused a lot of unnecessary problems and drama. And because of it, I don't know how Harry's going to make it to the end without Dumbledore, but I also feel almost relieved that we're not going to have to rely on Dumbledore for only snatches of information at a time. This is the first book where I have felt any sympathy for Draco. I am very curious about R.A.B. All in all, I'm ready to end this series. Ever since the turn in Book 4 (when Cedric dies), it's been a dumpster fire and I hope the ending knocks it out of the park and makes up for all the pain we've gone through to get there. Mad props to Rowling though. Her attention to detail has been phenomenal. 

As you can see, I was less than motivated to keep going at the end of Book 6, but I'll be the first to tell you that my hopes were more than answered in Book 7.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Published: 21 July 2007
(After getting eight chapters in) Well I tore through the first 8 chapters of the Deathly Hallows yesterday. Darkest first chapter of all 7 books but definitely the most exciting beginning.

Ron leaves?! It's Percy all over again.

He's back, guys, he's back. Stop worrying; everything's going to be okay.


I never imagined I'd be sitting here crying because Dobby died but here I am.

Y'all. I still have like, 10 chapters to go so no spoilers, but 7 is the best book by far. All the little details are coming together and it is exciting as heck. Rowling is a master of her craft.

Okay. I'm taking a break for lunch. I just finished my second read-through of Snape's memories, and I have to say: I just don't like Dumbledore. I know it's just a story and he has all these strategic reasons for keeping his secrets and blah blah blah but no. Tell the truth, tell the truth, TELL THE FREAKING TRUTH.


(After finishing the book) I just feel so Mama Bear proud of Neville I can't even tell you. And when Mrs. Weasley killed Bellatrix I cheered out loud (through my tears).

Y'all. Book 7 was the actual best. I could not read it fast enough, and I was so impressed with the way Rowling brought all the details from Books 1-6 together in Book 7. This book made the entire series worth it to me, and after finishing it, I can now see myself reading Harry Potter again in the future. At no point during Books 1-6 did I think I would ever read them again, but Book 7 changed my mind. Neville chopping off Nagini's head is tied with Fred and George's departure from Hogwarts as my very favorite moments from the series. And I was actually bawling when Dobby died. If you've never read Harry Potter or never made it all the way to Book 7: I'm officially going on record to recommend them. There's a reason Rowling hit billionaire status by writing these books. At some point this summer, I'll be marathon-ing the movies with the Potterheads so I'm sure the movie version of this post will be forthcoming.

Now, I'm obviously not a Harry Potter aficionado by any stretch of the imagination, but we're going to end this post with some HP superlatives based on my vague impressions of the impact Harry Potter has had on my generation. I realize every single character in the book is probably loved and hated by people out in the world, but as an outsider looking in these past 20 years, it seems that certain characters are generally loved and others not so much.

My favorite character overall: Minerva McGonagall (with an honourable mention going to Remus Lupin)

Character with the best growth over the series: Neville Longbottom

Most despicable character: easily Dolores Umbridge

Most overrated character: Albus Dumbledore

Most underrated character: Luna Lovegood (with an honourable mention going to Aberforth Dumbledore—I wanted more Aberforth)

And finally, the lingering question I was left with after finishing the series was how Lily Evans ended up with James Potter. If Rowling ever wanted to explore that storyline further in a prequel to Harry Potter, I'd buy that book immediately.
Alright. Come at me with all your Harry Potter love, hate, questions, opinions, and anything else. I've read them all and I'm here for it.