Category Archives: Beyond the Potterverse

The Best YA novel

At, book editor Tina Jordan asks, What’s the best YA novel of all time?

She writes:

As the book editor for EW, I read a lot. I mean, a lot—at least a book a day. (It helps that I have a long commute—at least an hour each way on the train.) And what I’ve been finding of late is that I read more YA than anything else. Not because the books’ plot-propelled arcs make them satisfyingly swift reads (though I find that’s true), or because I don’t have the attention span or chops for “adult” books (please: can we dispense with the belief, once and for all, that YA is meant just for the under-21 set?). No, I’m reading a lot of YUA because I’m finding that some of the best, most innovative work in fiction these days is being done in the genre: gutsy topics, imaginative storylines, utterly fearless writing styoles (like blank verse).

Then Jordan goes on to say how flustered she became when someone asked her what was the best YA novel of all time. I find this question challenging too, because there are books that are great, that are considered great, and those that are no t necessarily “great,” but favorites. Especially because YA has become such a huge category spanning such a long period of time—from L.M. Montgomery to Madeleine L’Engle to Judy Blume to J.K. Rowling to John Green—and now includes the new NA (New Adult) category.

I do think the Harry Potter series is the best because of its many layers, its depth, its characterization and themes, its literary and alchemical scaffolding, its symbolism, and for all the reasons we here love it.

Starting tomorrow, EW is running a bracket game that asks this very question.

You might want to participate, but let’s discuss it here, too. Instead of just the best, let’s have categories.

1)      What do you think are the all time five best YA novels (and include a best, if you wish) and why?

2)      What do you feel are the most influential YA novels and why?

3)      What are your favorites and why?

4)      If you could only have ten YA novels (this includes series) to keep, what would they be?



The Many Lives of Mr Galbraith–Scooped!

What a week it’s been for the Potterverse. No sooner do we get back from donating our copies of The Casual Vacancy to the used bookstore, than we discover that the entire Harry Potter series was written under a pseudonym, and that the real author is a retired bank manager named Robert Q. Galbraith, O.B.E.

No—wait. That didn’t happen.

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Meanwhile, in Diagon Alley…

In case you every wondered what writers do all day–well…we write, mostly. Even when there’s boggarts in the closet and nargles in the pub, we still scramble around and find ways to write and edit and do other writerly, blog-type things. To put it another way, the Blogengamot has all found ways of keeping busy while the Pubs been undergoing its exorcisms (if that’s the word I want).

Let me introduce you, if I may, to one of those other projects, a joint venture between Mr Pond (speaking!) and Jenna, as well as remarkable people like Katherine Langrish, friend of the Pub. Revgeorge has also been known to wander in from time to time. It’s a blog and literary journal called Unsettling Wonderdevoted to folklore and fairy tale of all types, but especially the slightly stranger, lesser-known, more unexpected types.

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Mr. Pond on The Casual Vacancy Tonight

For those of you who’ve been hoping for more discussion of J. K. Rowling’s new book, you’re in luck!  The Hog’s Head’s very own Mr. Pond (a.k.a. John Patrick Pazdziora) will be appearing tonight as a participant in a round-table discussion on The Casual Vacancy for STV.  It’ll show on Scotland Tonight and be broadcast at 22:30 BST (London time), viewable online at the time and probably for a while after.  Here is a link to STV’s online t.v. guide.

So tune in, turn it up, and leave your comments and questions here!


Got Your Wands Ready?

Sony has very recently announced a partnership with J. K. Rowling for a new product called “Wonderbook: Book of Spells.” Here’s the relevant bit fro

m the news link:

“The PlayStation Move controller will work with the Wonderbook as a magic wand to cast spells in the Book of Spells. The demonstration video showed words appearing on the Wonderbook while the PlayStation Move controller turned into an on-screen wand, replacing the remote with a wood stick and directing the book to cause dragons to come alive on the page and light the book on fire. The pages became sooty, requiring the player to rub it away. A fire spell let the player draw pull from the book and draw it in the air using augmented reality, showing the fire on screen as the Move controller directed it into shapes. Finally, the book opened up into its own virtual world for practicing the newly learned fire spell, showing the augmented reality area as a small portal through which the player threw fireballs to destroy pests.

The game also turned the book into a pop-up theater that told the story of the discovery of the levitation spell used in the Harry Potter books. The book will have more looks into the world of Harry Potter, with each chapter culminating in a poem describing a failed Hogwart’s student, using their folly as an Aesop lesson.”

This might be even more interesting than practicing spells and engaging in Wizard Duels on Pottermore. How many of you might practice the old “flick and swish” with this new product, which is scheduled to come out in the Fall? Don’t forget about May-Eye Moody’s admonition: “Constant vigilance!”


Jack and Tollers

I wrote the following for an English class when I was college. The assignment was to write about a first meeting between two famous individuals. I chose Lewis and Tolkien because I grew up reading Narnia and I started reading Tolkien’s works at the time. This was a challenging assignment because not much was written on their first meeting so I scoured through several books to see what I could gather. The result is below. I made a few changes but most of the original paper is intact. Continue reading

Rowling’s New Book’s Title Released

On Hypable this morning, the title was announced as “A Casual Vacancy”, with a length of 480 pages and a release date of September 27 of this year.

The Little, Brown synopsis:

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

Obviously very different material from Harry Potter, though as Eric comments over at Hogwarts Professor, “I wonder how much we should make of the fact that the first book began with a boy named Harry who lived, and this one begins with a man named Barry who dies?”

The synopsis tells us a lot about the town but absolutely nothing about any living characters, suggesting that Rowling may be diverging from the tight third-person (limited omniscient) narrative voice she used in Harry Potter, or at least using multiple perspectives throughout. The situation has a lot of potential to get very political, although it could also be a comedy of manners–or both; neither would be far from Rowling’s tendencies or influences.

Any thoughts or prognostications? Now that we have a title and synopsis, will you be out to get a copy?

The Five Blessings of Reading

Retiring BYU book reviewer Richard H. Cracroft published, this past summer, a beautiful tribute to the power of reading, titled No Good Stopping Place. We (Revgeorge and I–he suggested I write this post) recommend the entire piece as a worthy read.

At the end of the article, the good Professor lists five blessings of reading. While counting the benefits of reading is not a new idea, Professor Cracroft’s list seems particularly insightful, covering the power of books to “enable us to live more lives than the one allotted” and to “see… solutions where we presently see only dilemmas”. He distills most of the usual benefits such as reduced stress and improved vocabulary into “books sweeten, nourish, brighten, and enrich our lives”, and though not every reader will identify with his #5, most will see some way in which books can aid the spiritual life.

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