On A Tangent

The ultimate site for a generation sidetracked by the fandom life


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Laney Reviews: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

So like many Harry Potter fans, I went out and bought my copy on Sunday and read through it all day yesterday. (I’ve specifically dropped in the “Read More” tag and hidden any spoilers so that if you haven’t read it, you get that magical first-time experience. If you have read it, I would LOVE to see a discussion in the comments! What did you think?)

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter, #8)Like so many Harry Potter fans, I was in middle school (the same age as Harry) when my English teacher first recommended the Harry Potter series to me. The first three books had been published in the previous years, and the fourth was about to come out. My best friend and I devoured them and analyzed them, lovingly, but critically. (I still think of The Goblet of Fire in a completely different way that I do the others.) The Harry Potter books are not, in my opinion, great works of fiction, but they ARE a delightfully fresh world the likes of which others have tried to duplicate and none have arguably succeeded.I am not blinded to their faults by my love of what they represent.

What made/makes Harry Potter such a global phenomenon is that it tells a very human story in a setting that is equal parts fantastic and horrifying. We empathize with Harry and revile Voldemort. We feel the bonds of friendship that are set against the bonds of self-interest.

The other important thing to remember about the original 7 Harry Potter stories is that they are entirely told on the perspective of Harry Potter, a boy who knows nothing of the wizarding world and to whom (like his innocent reader) everything is a new delight. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child turns that original narrative structure completely on its head to create something entirely new.

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There and Back Again: A Reader’s Journey

Okay, so the title is a bit misleading, because this isn’t about The Hobbit. Well, it’s about a hobbit, but not The Hobbit. You get the gist.

Confession: I, Leah, self-proclaimed fantasy fan and avid reader, have never read Lord of the Rings.

I will pause here to allow time for your gasps of horror and shocked swooning.

We good? Okay. So, that confession aside, I’ve also come to the conclusion that it’s high time I fixed that. Not least because, later this year, I’ll be traveling to Oxford (!!!!) and generally basking in the academic and literary glow where John Ronald Reuel Tolkien once walked.

As I read, I’ll be availing you all of my thoughts, commentary, and general impressions. I plan to take it at a pace of about 100 pages a week, and I’ll be posting which chapters I’m reading next in my weekly update on Fridays, so if any of you want to follow along, I’d enjoy the fellowship.

…eh? Eh? Okay, even I’ll admit that was a little bad.

I’ll be starting out with chapters 1-4 (A Long-Expected Party through A Short Cut to Mushrooms), so if you’re ready, bust out your swords (and your bows and your axes), and join on my travels through Middle Earth. It’s sure to be an incredible journey!


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Laney’s Top Ten Must Reads

When you come from a family of bibliophiles, deciding upon your top ten favorite books feels a little bit like Solomon’s Dilemma. I’ve read over 1300 books in my lifetime (at least that’s what I can remember and put on Goodreads…), so I had to put a lot of thought into my top ten list. I LOVE beautiful, rich, deep, complex language. If there’s one thing that threads throughout all of my top ten, it’s the beauty of language and the art of a story well-told.

As Leah mentioned in her Top 10 List, we decided to focus on the books that in some way shaped or transformed our lives. Ranking these ten books amongst themselves would be even more impossible than choosing them in the first place, so they are arranged in chronological order. They are all worth-while reads, even the ones that require tapping into your inner child (a practice which I heartily support doing on a regular basis!). Continue reading


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10 Books to Shape a Life: Leah Edition

As a reader, English-degree-holder, and aspiring publishing professional, I get asked one question a lot:

“What’s your favorite book?”

Which, frankly, kills me because do you know how many good books exist in the world? And even having read only a small fraction of them, that still equates to dozens of books that have made me laugh, cry, have existential crises, and wish I were a better writer. Narrowing it down to just one? Impossible.

But ten? Ten is more manageable. Don’t get me wrong — it still requires hours worth of scanning my Goodreads, combing my bookshelves, and flipping through page upon page of great writing. But it’s doable.

So, without further ado, here are, in no particular order, the ten books that shaped my life:

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Fandom Friday: Climb Ev’ry Mountain (Except That One, Because It’s Impossible)

To continue our theme of Sound of Music song titles…

I’ve been thinking recently about my own reading habits.  As a child, I was a voracious reader.  By the time I was ten, I was checking books out of the library ten at a time (that was the limit that the public library allowed for children), only to bring them back three days later.  I often look back on those days with a mixture of nostalgia and humor, imagining the Matilda-like image of my young, insatiable self.  Unfortunately, as I’ve aged, it has become harder and harder to maintain quite that speed of literary consumption.  At my lowest point, back in 2013, I only managed to read 18 books in an entire year.  But this year, as a semi-New Year’s resolution, I made myself a promise in two parts: 1) I was going to do a little bit of leisure reading every day and 2) I was finally going to finish all those books that had been sitting on my to-read shelf for years and years, collecting dust while I smothered under the weight of all my assigned reading.  (Never let it be said that being an English major is a walk in the park.)

The book that haunts my English-major nightmares.

To begin this journey, I started with the books that I had filed under my “currently-reading” shelf on Goodreads.  They were books that I had picked up at some point, then put down again for various reasons (schoolwork, only a limited number of books fit in my suitcase going abroad, etc.) and never finished, but couldn’t bring myself to put back on the to-read shelf, denying the progress I’d already made. Most of these books had been there for perhaps a year, maybe a bit more.  But there was one outlier in all this, the dark shadow at the back of my bookshelf, lurking, waiting: Dune. Continue reading


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Throwback Thursday: Appreciating Ella Enchanted

Look at how spunky she is! How could you not adore a face like that?

Look at how spunky she is! How could you not adore a face like that?

As a kid, I devoured every book in the mythology/folklore/fairy tale section of our school library and public library. I was utterly fascinated that no matter what culture about which you read, you always came back to the same types of instructive or amusing narratives. (Note: yes, I discovered you can actually major in college in this subject. It’s called International Affairs, and I have two degrees in it.) When I discovered a whole world of fictional chapter books on retold fairy tales (think Robin McKinley and the like), I was over the moon. But by far, my favorite was Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine.

I have read this book no less than 20 times in my life I’m sure, but in re-reading it for my book club pick this month, it occurred to me that it’s the first time that I have read it post-marriage. I love it just as incredibly as I loved it the first 19 times I read it, for entirely the same reasons. It’s the feeling that you have in greeting an old friend whom you know so well. It might not have held up perfectly well to our scrutiny as adults, but it didn’t make it any less delightful.

How many times do we watch/read/hear the Cinderella story, especially in the western media? Re-told in so many versions, the most recent of which is (amusingly) Disney retelling their own cartoon. We are inspired by the story of characters who overcome all odds, then thumb their noses at the people who kept them there.

But what I love best about Ella Enchanted is that it is NOT a story in which the only strife the character experiences is that placed upon her. Continue reading


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Fandom Friday: “You Killed My Father. Prepare to Die.”

When I was in 10th grade, I was dual-enrolled at the local community college, which meant one of my elective courses during the school day was left gloriously blank. Of course at the time, I was only 15 going on 16 (you know you just sang the Sound of Music in your head), which meant I could go absolutely no where until my dad collected me at the end of the day.

My best friend at the time, who for purposes of anonymity I will refer to as KC, was likewise dual-enrolled with a free period, and in a fit of extreme generosity, our very young and very likable geometry teacher let us camp in her room, which was her free period as well. Her room shared an office area with three other teachers/rooms and we were ecstatic to be encouraged by another teacher in the quad-pod to delve into her old VHS movie collections to bide our time. (Seriously, as an adult myself now, I glory at these teachers’ letting us into their private time when they had to deal with teenagers ALL DAY LONG. Where ever you are, wonderful teachers, I thank you!)

Best. Movie. Ever.

Best. Movie. Ever. (Leah’s note: Is this a kissing movie?)

First of all, as sheltered, bookish child, I had missed out on a lot of pop media in my day. KC, who was as pop-media savvy as I was naive, and I were quickly mowing through a variety of classic films, when the subject of The Princess Bride sprouted.

“What do you mean you’ve never seen The Princess Bride?!” KC exclaimed one day over popcorn and a movie, our feet propped up on the adjoining desks. The revelation was so overwhelming she actually stood up. “This is completely unacceptable. It’s my favorite movie ON THE PLANET. How in the world could you never have seen it?”   Continue reading