Review: James Potter and the Hall of Elders’ Crossing

As an English grammar Nazi with an interest in creative writing, I have always been leery of fan-fiction.  But since I’ve finally decided to dabble in it myself, I thought it might be a good idea to introduce myself to that world and check out some other fan-fiction writers.

I began with the first book in G. Norman Lippert’s James Potter series.  I may have spoiled myself by doing so because this book was so far above the caliber of what I expected from my journey.  It was well-written.

The prologue felt identical to the prologues from any of the Potter books in pacing and style.  (The prologue to the second book does, too, because I’ve already read that far into it to know.)  I was seriously impressed by those prologues.  After that, it does become obvious in ways I can’t really place that Lippert is not Rowling–but not in a bad way!  It’s still a good, solid story, just told by someone else.  Lippert has a firm enough grasp on the wizarding world that it really felt like I was back inside it again.  I felt like I was at Hogwarts.  And from time to time I did forget that I was not reading an official, canon sequel.

There were a few things that bothered me about this book, but never enough to quit reading.  I feel like Lippert’s handle of Rowling’s characters was not as strong as it could have been.  At times it was dead on, but at other times their actions and their words felt somehow off to me–probably just because they are not his characters and no one can write them quite like JKR can.  Lippert’s original characters and “original characters” (those official ones who didn’t appear much in the HP series) were unique and interesting, however!  There was one teacher in particular who returned to America at the end of the book and whom I hope we get to see more of.  I found that character particularly engaging.

That brings me to America.  It was interesting to see some of the Americanisms that Lippert brought into the world, though as a whole I don’t really feel like they added to or took away from the story that much.  Almost none of the major plot elements were affected at all by America’s presence at Hogwarts, and it just felt sort of tacked on and overdone in that regard, especially since one of the main characters is already American, which felt a bit distracting.  I realize this character was based on Lippert’s son, for whom he wrote the story, but constantly being reminded of America kept lifting me back out of Hogwarts.  That said, the character is charming.

There were definitely some logical inconsistencies and plot holes.  If a secret passage is brand new and no one has ever used it before, how do you know what happens when you go through it on one side or the other or even where it leads?  Unfortunately, one major part of the plot depended on an object that was memorably lost and subsequently destroyed in the HP books suddenly being recovered and given to a child as a Christmas present by two characters who would never have wanted this object placed in another person’s hands.  That destroyed a great deal of the believability for me.  It’s strange that the author missed this, since I can tell from so many other little details throughout this first book that he had read the original series very carefully and lovingly.

Grammar issues were minor and few, though considering it is the title of the book, it does bother me that the apostrophe in the word “Elders” never managed to figure out where it wanted to be.  I still don’t know if there was supposed to be one Elder or many.

Some really cool things Lippert did were introducing notable characters from history and fiction and creating an entirely new class.  This class purported to use science to explain how magic worked–basically it was the same as what I understand of alchemy, and he came to many of the same conclusions as I have about the way HP’s magic works, though with much greater detail.  I was really impressed by this.

I was also very impressed by Lippert’s view of the politics of this future wizarding world.  There’s a group called the Progressive Element loudly proclaiming (and rightly so) that history is written by the victors and they should be questioned.  This created several scenes that made me highly uncomfortable (in a good way, because the words stirred me to it) and even angry.  I found myself positively fuming a few times.  How dare this Progressive Element talk about my Harry Potter this way and diminish his and everyone’s sacrifices!?  Anyway, the book points out how it’s impossible to really know anyone’s motives.  Some of these people are probably well-meaning and misguided, while others are probably megalomaniacal racists.  We just don’t know.

On that note, though, there’s a certain direction this series is leading that I’m very displeased with because if it goes there, and I think it will, while it could be interesting in and of itself, it completely invalidates everything that happened in the books before it.  And that leaves me with a very hollow feeling.  I can’t say too much without giving spoilers, but it looks as though it is going to undo certain things that were done in the entire previous series, and I just can’t be cool with that.  That just isn’t what fan-fiction should do, in my opinion.

Overall, I enjoyed it and at this point I am intending to read the series through to its current end.

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Super Mathy Sleep

I had a nightmare last night, though it wasn’t exactly frightening; it was just terrible for its dark depressiveness.  I was 25 (but I’m not sure if I was actually me) and I met a 26-year-old (about whose appearance I can remember nothing but that he was dressed in a Superman costume every time I saw him…but that really detracts from the seriousness of the whole thing, so I am going to disregard that bit henceforth).  We fell in love almost immediately, and it was a deep, very passionate sort of love…well, he ended up being an alien from somewhere (I really should have seen it coming with the Superman costume).  The complicated thing about it all was that he was able to travel only between his planet and Earth, at intervals of 13 years.  While on his planet, he was immortal, whereas on Earth, he was immortal, as long as he did not stay here for more than a period of 3 consecutive 13-year intervals, or 39 years.  If he attempted to stay more than 39 years, he would die a sudden Earth death.  I got the impression that on his planet, inhabitants were one age and remained at such forever.  But at each return to Earth, he would begin life again as an infant.  There was a way that after remaining on Earth for 13 years, he could return to his home planet for another 13 of our Earth years, and then come back again, his age advanced 13 years from where it was when he left, for one more 13-year interval…but at the end of this time, he would be forced to give up his life forever, both on our planet, and on his own.

We loved each other so much that we decided to spend the next 13 years together; we were married immediately.  Life was fantastic for the duration of that time period.  We had a son, sometime in one of the final few years.  He was very young when his father left—probably only around 3 or 4 years old.  The years following his departure, however, were very dark, cold, and disparaging.  I was not able to hold a high-paying job, and I could barely make enough for the two of us to get by.  Somehow, we managed.  We had a ramshackle apartment somewhere in a foreboding area of New York.  My job (whatever it was) kept me out late at night, and one particular night, when my son was around 16, and had a part-time job of his own, I sauntered home down a dark street, closely following three giggling prostitutes, who must have been, by that point, about half my age (which was, oddly, older than I am now).  I glared disdainfully at their backs, judging them for what they were, and started walking faster so as to pass them and avoid a meeting altogether.  But as I stepped in front of them, one of them said, “Hey…you don’t look like you’re much better off than us.”

I stopped and turned to look at them.  “How could you tell?”

“Well, you’re a woman alone, wandering the streets of New York at this time of night. We’ve seen you before, you know.”

“I’ve seen you before, too,” I answered.

They asked me if I had a place to stay; they offered to allow me to stay with them.  They invited me to their apartment for a cup of coffee (what the heck??—I don’t even drink coffee), and for some reason, I obliged.  Their dwelling was much nicer than mine.  I phoned my son to tell him I would be a bit later than usual.  I spent a good part of the night talking with these girls, who all turned out to be quite warmhearted.  I’m not quite certain yet what it is that I learned from this talk with them—something about judging others before you know them, I would guess.  At any rate, the occurrence seemed to shed a new light on life.  There were others arguably worse off than I, who looked at life from a brighter perspective.  Why wasn’t I like that?

And then one night, perhaps a year or so later, I returned home from work to find my son and my husband seated together at the kitchen table.  He had come back.  I had never expected him to.  This would mean that he was sacrificing his immortal life for us, and for only such a short time.  He was 52 now, and I was 51.  Somehow, from that point forward, things got better.  He had money from somewhere, and saved us from our destitution.  And the passion returned.  But all the while, the threat of ever-encroaching darkness hung over our heads.  The dream abruptly ended this way.

I’m not even sure if any of that math works out because I cannot math when I’m awake, so I have no idea what those numbers were doing in my sleep.

A-dolt-ing

Well, this is peachy.  This morning I woke up twenty minutes after I was supposed to leave for work.  I didn’t get a shower and I feel gross.  I was forty minutes late at a time that is really not good for me to be late—when Napoleon is always calling or popping in to check up on me.  I yelled at my mom (whose only fault was in not waking me up—and that doesn’t even count as a fault; I’m just a bitch) and now I feel extremely bitchy.  I hope nobody walks in here today, at least not for a while.  9:45…I still have six hours and fifteen minutes before I get to leave. Fantastic.  Have I mentioned that I hate working weekends?  What the hell would they do if I was sick?  They’d have to hire somebody then.  What if I fucking died?  What the hell would they do??  “Nobody is indispensable,” Napoleon says.  Well, what am I, if they don’t have a replacement for me?

Yeah, I know.  I really suck at this whole “real world”/adult thing.

Okay, I’m in a little bit of a better spirit now.  I’ve cooled off some.  So I got my schedule yesterday.  I was worried I was going to have to take five classes to make up for the geography class I failed, but after some reading I found I am well on my way to getting my AA on time.  I checked all of my professors at RateMyProfessors.com before selecting anything, so I know they all have good reputations.

Oh, here’s something—Milo hung out with Kara, Jenna, and their crowd yesterday.  He was just naming the people who were there, and then he said, “And then Kara’s boyfriend came in,” and I had to act reserved, as though this wasn’t terrific news. So he went on and on and on about Kara’s boyfriend—“Kara is turning 19, but Chad is 24, and some 24-year-olds look like they’re close to our age, but this guy looks about 30.  He kind of reminded me of Craig”, which is a bit unsettling, because Craig had just popped into my head, too, “and he comes in, and he’s this short…stocky…24-year-old who looks like a 30-year-old…and I mean…I’ve seen Kara hit on hotter guys…she could have any guy she wanted…so…why this guy??”  I’m thinking, “STOP TALKING ABOUT FREAKING KARA ALREADY!!!” but there was no call to be upset at this point.  He didn’t say, “Kara’s date”…he said, “Kara’s boyfriend”.  Nifty.

…I feel evil.  And gross.  I want a shower.

Passing the Time

Conversation at work yesterday:

Me:  Hot funk, cool punk, even if it’s old junk, it’s still rock and roll to me.
Wendy:  Well, everything’s always rock and roll to you already because you’re always going like this– *bounces around hyperactive-ly*.

Jeez, this day is going by extremely S-L-O-W-L-Y.  I still have 35 minutes before I can get out of here.  I need a nap.

Milo is out with Kara again…I know I am not supposed to worry about them.  I told him I wouldn’t.  Or at least, that I would try not to.  And yet, here I am, worrying as usual.  I finally figured out what my problem is with the whole thing.  Two and a half years ago, four months before he moved to Maine, I asked him out, and he told me he did not want a relationship with me for a number of reasons–he was just getting over his relationship with Janey, and he was moving in four months, so he didn’t want something that was going to last.  And then a month later, he was dating the ex, who just sort of came out of nowhere.  Everyone told me he was such a dick for doing that, but I still always stuck by him, insisting that there had to be some good reason for it.  And now that we are in this same situation again, I have finally come up with the good reason.

Like he said, he didn’t want a long-term relationship; and he and the ex never intended to last more than those last three months.  It just sort of happened…what started out as three months ended up being two years, and nobody planned for that–it just happened.

So now, if he were to start dating Kara, even though he says he does not want a long-term relationship right now…if all they did was go on a few dates…what’s to say it wouldn’t end up being something long-term like with the ex?

Why do I always over-analyze everything?  Wait…I think I know the answer to that.  I suppose it is for the same reason that I am an eternal pessimist–so that something truly dreadful never takes me by surprise.  So to save myself the emotional destruction of a surprise attack, I choose to worry constantly instead.  Lovely.

…It does help to write it all out, though.  It’s very therapeutic.

Adulting

Well, I’m pretty sure Napoleon is going to fire me soon.  Very soon.  Yesterday (Saturday) was actually surprisingly busy at work–I think my last phone call was at 4:57.  Anyway, Napoleon called a few minutes after 4, I think to make sure I was still there and didn’t leave early or something because nothing was happening.  And then he came in without announcing himself, at about 4:45.  No reason, either, really, he just showed up, sent a fax, and went to talk to Cecilia.  At 4:45 when I was just staring at the computer screen, I had finally decided, “Well, I’ve been busy all day, nothing’s going to happen in the next 15 minutes–I’m going to read.”  So Napoleon walks in while I’m reading a book.  Wonderful.  And then he goes back and starts asking Cecilia if I do anything except answer the phones (even though he has already been told several times that I do a lot more than answer phones), and Cecilia said, “Oh, Ginny, of course,” and ran through a whole list of stuff, some of which I don’t think I do, but thanks anyway, Cecilia, and Napoleon said, “If she does all that, then why is she sitting out there reading a book?”  It’s only a matter of time.  I need to be on the lookout for a new job.

I used to babysit the kids next door.  I made $15/hour per kid, so $30/hour.  The neighbor goes out and parties a lot, so I was often getting in 20 hours a week at $30/hour–and I could do my homework at the same time.  I had $2,000 cash saved up in my dresser by the time I graduated high school.

But then high school was over, and my parents told me it was time to leave the nursery and join the adult world–no more babysitting for me.  In its place I was given a pointless minimum-wage job at Mom’s office (though she’s moved to a different location now) with a lot of down time, where I’m treated like a baby because Mom tells everyone cutesy stories about me when I was a kid.  My $2,000 has gone to textbooks and car payments.

My next-door neighbor could have paid my way through college and given me a head start in life.  But I have to be an adult instead.  C’est la vie.

It’s going to be a long day.  I didn’t even bring my book today, because I’m pretty sure Napoleon’s going to come in at some point to check up on me.  I really hate this stress!!  AAAGGHHHH!!!!  So I am just going to sit here…and look pretty.  Oh, lovely.  I hate work.  No–I hate stress.  I need work.  Unfortunately.  What I hate is the adult world.  Oh, god, why can’t I go back to Neverland?

“All your hard work will soon pay off.”

The above message was concealed in my fortune cookie today.

So…I CAN’T BELIEVE I ACTUALLY DID IT!!!!!!!!  OH…MY…GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!  WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I will report the facts as I can remember them–I believe this is the most comprehensive my memory of this will ever be.  After my disturbing revelation yesterday morning that I might, in fact, be a chicken, I resolved, once again, to tell him before the day was through.  This time, however, I was resolute in my resolution.  While he was in the shower, I was sitting on the couch, not really paying attention to Colbert, playing with the paper clip that I intended to have in hand when I did it (so as not to be quite so nervous).  I came up with a little mantra (“I am not a chicken; I’m not, I’m not!”) and repeated it over and over to myself as I waited.

Brother came out and asked, “Harry Potter?” as I am now reading the fifth book to him, and I said, “Not yet….”  Immediately, Brother understood.

“Are you going to follow him out to the garage?”

“I’m going to try,” I answered.

“Okay,” he said, “well, when you go out there, I’ll go sit in your room and wait with the book.”

“Okay,” I said, and smiled at him, because my little brother is so great.

Milo came out of the shower and sat on the couch next to me, and he was watching Colbert, and I was looking at the screen and reciting in my head, “I am not a chicken; I’m not, I’m not!!”  Brother came into the room again and said, “Could you guys go watch this in the garage?  I want to go to sleep” (because he sleeps on the couch).  I looked at Brother, amazed, once more, by his intelligence.  Milo, joking around, had Brother ask five times (“You have to ask politely,” he said) before finally saying, “Well, I’m tired, too, so I’m gonna go to bed anyway.”  I looked at Brother one more time, gave him a thumbs-up, and followed Milo to the garage.  I sort of hopped after him, I think with the intention of looking innocent and not as though I was about to drop a bomb.  I hopped into the garage, shutting the door behind me, and stood at attention.  He kind of looked at me funny (wonder why) and then I said seriously, “Can we talk?” and he said, “Sure”, so I moved over to the other side of the partition thing separating his bed from the rest of the garage, and he was at his bed, and I was just standing up, some feet away.

I said, “I have to do this before I lose one more day of self-respect,” and he said, “Okay,” and I said, “Don’t say anything until I’m finished,” and he said, “Okay.”  I took a deep breath, realized I did not have my paper clip, freaked out a little, and said, “I………………..have to tell you that I…………………………..”

At this point, I actually looked at the door, and looked at the path to the door, and thought, “I can still run away!  I haven’t said anything incriminating yet!!” and then immediately, I reminded myself, “I am not a chicken; I’m not, I’m not!!!!”  So, wishing I had my paper clip, and attempting to stick my hands into pockets that were only deep enough for fingertips, I finished…

“…am in love with you,” I said.  He started to say, “I know,” but mouthed it instead when he remembered he wasn’t supposed to speak, and nodded at the same time.  I said, “You knew?  Well, of course you knew.  I knew you knew.  But I just had to say it, you know?  I’ve wanted to for so long.”  He nodded.  “Okay, so yeah, I just wanted to say it, and–and I know that you’re not ready to be in a relationship again; I know that.  I’m not asking for that.  I just had to say it, you know?  You have no idea how hard it is to go that long without telling someone how you feel about them.  So…I think that’s all I wanted to say.”  The entire time I was speaking, I just wanted to stop and say, “I’m so sorry, I never should have told you this, it was wrong of me, stupid, stupid!”, but fortunately I realized that that would be a serious error on my part and kept silent.

I waited.  He sort of had his head down, looking at the floor, presumably thinking of what he could say that would be safe, and I silently freaked out again, wondering if I was supposed to wait or if I was just supposed to go to bed after that.  After an eternity, he said…

“I’ve sensed this coming.  I’ve really been expecting it for the past few weeks.”

“That doesn’t surprise me,” I said, “but I’ve wanted to say this every day for two years.”

“Well, the thing is, Ginny…I am not in touch with my emotions right now at all.”

“I know,” I said.

He went on.  “Honestly, I’m afraid to be in a relationship.”

“I know that, and I’m not asking for one,” I said.

“I know,” he said, “it’s just, the thing is, and this is the same thing I told Jenna, when I do get in a relationship, I worry constantly, about how it’s going to turn out.  That’s what I did with the ex, which, to be fair, is not a good comparison, because I started dating her before I knew her, and I was an idiot for that.  But it’s the same thing I did with Steph.  Things never work out for me, and it’s because I never stop worrying.  It’s probably 80% my fault.”

“It’s not you, it’s me,” I interjected.

“Yes,” he said, “exactly.”  I nodded.  “Deep down, Ginny, I know that you would probably be very good for me.  You have done so much for me over the past several months, and I wish that I could repay you in some way.  I don’t know if you’re letting me live here because you’re my friend, or because you are in love with me….”

“Maybe a little of both,” I said, not really even knowing.

“Maybe,” he said.  “I wish there was some way I could repay you.  I wish that I could give you…a heart.”

“Yeah….” I said.

He went on, “I’m just afraid of what it could turn into.”

“You need to learn how to not be afraid,” I said, and he said, “I know I do.”

There was a pause.  I wasn’t sure if the conversation was over or if it wasn’t.  “Well…I’m glad I finally said it,” I said.

“Me too, Ginny…me too,” he answered.  “It’s good that you are in touch with your emotions.”  And we were finally sitting down, which is good, because I was very weak at the knees by this point.  He said, “Now, what is going to happen when we go to Virginia and Janey and I drop you off?  How will you feel?  Are you going to be suspicious the whole time that something is going on between us?”

“No, no,” I said, “I know you don’t ever want to be back with Janey.”

He said, “Well, how will you feel when I’m hanging out with Kara, or, god forbid, with Jenna?  Are you going to be worrying and suspicious the whole time?”

I paused here, briefly, because worried and suspicious is how I always am. The wisest thing I could think to say was, “I’m trying not to let it bother me, because it’s immature to be that way.”

“That’s the problem,” he said.  “Everyone just focuses on this one thing, and you’re all suspicious of each other, and it turns into all these petty arguments, and I don’t want that.”

“Well, me neither, I don’t want to be like that,” I said.

There was another short silence.  I said, “Well, like I said, I’m just glad I finally said it, and I’m not asking you to date me or anything.”

And I looked at him, and he said, “It’s good to think about other things.”

“I know it is,” I said.

Another brief silence, and I stood up and said, “Okay, I’ll let you sleep now.”  He was looking at me very closely, apparently noticing that I was all shaky, because I get all shaky after I’ve just completed something terrifying, and said, “Oh, you’re not going to go to bed and–?”

“I am not going to go cry now, no,” I said, rolling my eyes and smiling just a bit.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” he said.

“Yes, I am good, and I am going to read Harry Potter to my brother.”

“Well…make sure he asks politely,” he said, in reference to earlier.  I just laughed and said, “Okay…good night, Milo.”

“Good night, Ginny,” he said, and after another long look into those remarkable eyes, I turned and walked out.

In the words of Andrew Lincoln’s character in Love Actually:  “Enough.  Enough, now.”

“There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

For some reason, this was the title of Napoleon’s meeting this morning.  (That’s my new boss.  He thinks he can fill Wayne’s shoes.  There’s no way.)  I don’t remember discussing fear at all–I didn’t hear the word brought up…so what was the meaning of that?  It’s just a bit creepy.  Well, anyway….

I cannot believe I still haven’t done it.  I finally gave myself permission–I’ve wanted to do it for the longest time–and now that I am able to at last, I can’t do it.  There is no excuse for it.  I don’t have some sort of instinct telling me not to do it now…everyone who knows the situation agrees that now would be a good time…even my fortune cookies are telling me to do it.  For crying out loud.  There is simply no excuse!  I keep saying it’s my guilty conscience, that I don’t want to place the burden of knowing on him….  Honestly, after all this time, I think I may just have to accept the fact that I am chicken.

…Nobody calls me chicken.

If I could have done it a long time ago, I would have.  I’ve wanted to do it since before he even moved to Maine!  There have been innumerable times since then that I have been alone with him that I would have done it if not for the fact that it would have been exceedingly selfish of me.  I think I have exercised the utmost self-control and courage over the past two and a half years in not telling him….

So why can’t I do it now?  What is stopping me?  What?

All I know is, it’s going to happen, and soon.