Harry Potter Hogsmeade

Favorite Harry Potter Book Covers

While laying in bed this morning contemplating what to write, the idea popped into my head to do a post on my favorite Harry Potter book covers. Yes, this is just an excuse to indulge in my Harry Potter fanaticism. I guess I will be rereading the seventh book soon as well. It’s about time too. The Harry Potter bug usually bites me once a year and infects me with a need to reread a Harry Potter novel, usually the first book. But for now I’ll focus on the covers.

Back in July, Bloomsbury announced that it will publish new covers for the UK edition of the Harry Potter books this September. Last year, Scholastic released new covers for the US edition of the books for its fifteenth anniversary. Here, I will compare the covers (the original vs. the most recent US and UK covers). I will highlight my favorites and will list the covers I like that were published in other countries.

When placed together, it’s easy to see the different elements the illustrators chose to emphasize. Kazu Kibuishi, who illustrated Scholastic’s 2013 covers (The illustration of Hogsmeade above is by Kibuishi.), always tries to place the focus on Harry, which makes sense because the story is about him. So Harry is always placed in the foreground sometimes as larger than the other characters or with a spotlight (glowing glasses). Jonny Duddle, the UK illustrator of Bloomsbury’s September 2014 books, emphasizes the obstacles Harry faces. Harry is usually drawn as a smaller figure in comparison to the other images in the scene to portray the enormity of the events he faces.

Mary Granpré, who designed the original US covers, maintains a cheerful/innocent tone that was probably perceived as more appealing to younger kids. Even as the book became more serious the covers still maintained a sense of innocence. The same goes for the original UK covers, which were designed by Thomas Taylor, Cliff Wright, Giles Greenfield, and Jason Cockcroft. Children’s literature has evolved much since the Harry Potter novels were first published and the evolution of the covers certainly show that. These days, it’s not surprising to see more serious, scary images on children’s book covers. So, without further ado…

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Scholastic’s August 2013 cover by Kazu Kibuishi.

I feel guilty for liking Kibuishi’s cover more than Mary Grandpré’s original. I get a bit sentimental over books and hate seeing the covers change sometimes but I do find this cover more appealing than the first. I like that it features Diagon Alley because it’s the presence of Diagon Alley that convinces us that a secret, magical world is waiting to be explored. I also like that the illustration consists mostly of blue, which gives it a mystical feel, and that Harry is placed in a spotlight, which is formed by Hagrid’s size. Hagrid is so big that, along with the crowd of people, even the buildings seem to shuffle around to give him space. Plus, the color around Harry and Hagrid is lighter, like a halo. Hedwig, perched on Harry’s shoulder, also helps.

The original UK cover by Thomas Taylor.

The original US cover by Mary Grandpré.

Harry’s face seems to have the same expression on both the original US and UK covers. This cover will always be a favorite simply because it is the first.

Bloomsbury’s September 2014 cover by Jonny Duddle.

This is my second choice because of Harry’s expression. He looks a bit puckish here. (Click the newer versions for a larger image.) Continue reading

5 Fun Ways to Say Boring


Expanding my vocabulary.

Originally posted on Just English:


[ahn-wee, ahn-wee]

ennuiNot all boredom is created equal: some of it is fleeting and circumstantial, and some of it teeters on existential crisis. Ennui tends toward the latter–or at least it used to. Derived from the French verb enuier meaning “to annoy,” its peak usage was in Victorian and Romantic literature to express a profound sense of weariness, even a spiritual emptiness or alienation from one’s surroundings and time. Nowadays it’s used at both ends of the boredom spectrum, but its deep literary history lends even the most shallow disinterest a grandiose air.



bromidicBromide is a chemical compound that was commonly used in sedatives in the 1800 and 1900s. It took on a figurative sense to mean a trite saying or verbal sedative, or a person who is platitudinous and boring, in the early 1900s with help of the U.S. humorist Frank…

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the Iron Throne

“A Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin

I've always liked this cover best.

I’ve always liked this cover best.

Reading a book for the first time is filled with moments of wonder. If the story is gripping, you spend most of the time wide-eyed, reading quickly, as if the words already set in the book could somehow escape you. Approaching that book a second time does not dim the wonder but neither does the wonder consume you as on the first read. Things you glazed over in your excitement to know what happens next begin to emerge.

Such was the case a few weeks ago when I read A Game of Thrones a second time. I was surprised at myself that I missed the blatant foreshadowing at the beginning of the story—the direwolf dead with the horn of a stag broken in its throat. Martin even referred back to that scene a few times thereafter and still I failed to notice it. I was too mesmerized then. Too curious and reading too quickly to pay much attention to details.

This isn’t surprising to anyone who has read the books in George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, or watched the television show on HBO. The story centers on various characters spread across the kingdoms of Westeros and its neighboring lands. It is filled with twists and numerous cliff-hangers that will keep you both hooked and frustrated with GRRM since the character perspectives tend to switch from chapter to chapter.

Although I knew the ending and what would happen to the characters later in the series, I still anticipated the turn of every page. Again, I found myself staying up late, wide awake, and reading quickly to satiate my curiosity and desire for a happy ending though I knew better. I did not expect this of myself. I thought my second time through would be much calmer, as it usually is, but I was wrong.

Spoilers abound beyond this point:

Bran thought about it. “Can a man be brave if he’s afraid?”
“That is the only time a man can be brave,” his father told him.

What hook me to the story are the characters. A Game of Thrones is a strong, character-driven novel. Although it begins with a situation that ends on an ominous note in the prologue, the story is mainly about the characters and what happens to them. Bran, the fifth child of all Ned Stark’s children, is the first character perspective we are introduced to. With him, we begin in innocence. Bran questions his world to learn about what’s occuring around him. If we had begun with an older character, we would instead find ourselves taking a stance—accepting or rejecting that character’s beliefs. I think GRRM wants us to form our own opinions on the story’s world and politics instead of simply taking on the opinions of characters. I think that’s why he begins with Bran since he hasn’t yet formed an opinion of his world, being so young. By beginning with Bran, I think we are being told to keep an open mind, which is needed to navigate these novels.

“Tyrion felt sorry for the boy. He had chosen a hard life…or perhaps he should say that a hard life had been chosen for him.”

“A bastard had to learn to notice things, to read the truth that people hid behind their eyes.”

Jon is another great character. I couldn’t help empathizing with him. Although as a bastard he is forced to face the harsh reality of life and is seldom deluded by fancies, he allowed the lore of the men of the Night’s Watch to trick him into committing his life to serving on the Wall. Though, he didn’t have much of a choice once Ned went south to serve as the king’s hand since Catelyn doesn’t want him around. Despite his decision, I do have high hopes for Jon. Like everyone who has read the books and seen the shows, I too believe that Jon is the son of Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen. There are many clues that point to this in AGoT not the least of which is Ned’s constant comparison of Rhaegar and Robert Baratheon, the two men who vied for Lyanna’s affections. Plus, Daenerys believes of her brother that he battled the Usurper (Robert) at the Trident and died there for the woman he loved. I wondered which woman she meant when I read that passage. I wondered if she meant Lyanna or Rhaegar’s wife, Princess Elia of Dorne (Elia Martell). But despite all that has happened to Jon (and will happen to him in the other books), I see him as a survivor. No matter what, he will prevail. I think his wolf signifies that. When found, Ghost was not with the other pups. I believe he was the first one born and his mother casted him away because he is albino. Thus, he is treated like a bastard. Of all the pups, Ghost was the only one that had already opened its eyes, which he had to do to survive. So like Ghost, Jon will do what he must to survive.

“Drogo had been more than her sun-and-stars; he had been the shield that kept her safe.”

I'm tempted to purchase this. I'm including it here because it helps to illustrate how Drogo overshadows here, among other things.

I’m tempted to purchase this. I’m including it here because it helps to illustrate how Drogo overshadows her, among other things.

Similarly, Daenerys will do what she must to reach the Iron Throne. I enjoyed watching Daenerys develop in this installment. She grows from a timid outcast in the shadow of her crazy brother Viserys to a queen confident and strong in her purpose. While rereading, I couldn’t help thinking of Janie from Their Eyes Were Watching God whenever I read Daenerys’ parts. I find them similar in how at first they seem to need a man to lead them to their goal but in the end they find their way on their own. They both escape abusive relationships, grow to trust themselves, and end up killing a man they loved. I wasn’t sure if Daenerys was meant to lead when I first met her but I knew Viserys wouldn’t make it to the Iron Throne or lead an army (or so I hoped). He was unraveling from the moment we met him. Also, I think the prediction made about Daenerys’ son was really about her, unless her son is somehow resurrected (I haven’t yet completed A Dance with Dragons to know if this does happen). Daenerys was not meant to exist in someone else’s shadow so I don’t think she was truly meant to have such a powerful son. And I think that’s why Khal Drogo had to die. Not only did he overshadow her, he was a form of security that she yielded to. The way I see it: Daenerys usurped Drogo by unintentionally killing him and taking over his khalasar. Then, like a phoenix, she was reborn from Drogo’s ashes with her dragons as Khalessi, Mother of Dragons, leader of her own tribe. You have to admire that transformation—from a weakling to a powerful being. It’s awesome.

It’s easy to become emotionally vested in these characters because they are so believable. They are motivated by their fears and desires and they act according to their nature and the circumstances they are placed in hence the need to keep an open mind. This is not a story with black and white figures, those who a totally evil and those who are totally good. So it is not easy to take sides. One might empathize with a character because of the character’s plight or because of the character’s purpose. For example Tyrion, who no matter what he does is never respected by his father and is often mistreated because he is a misshaped dwarf. There isn’t much to dislike about him in this book unless you can’t stand sarcasm and you have strong morals and dislike the thought of someone bedding whores. In this installment, Tyrion mostly looks out for his own neck since that’s what’s at stake. Otherwise, it seems that he’s not given much to do since he’s a smudge that his family, except his brother Jaime, tries to forget. Later in the series, one can debate the morality of some of his actions and whether they show him as a good person or not.

The same can be said for Arya (another character I admire). She begins this book innocent but by its end, her innocence is stolen when she witnesses the execution of her father. It’s easy to sympathize with her—she’s a young, small girl on her own in the vast and ruthless kingdom of Westeros, and she witnesses various cruelties. But does that validate her later murders? Is it right for her to take the lives of those who have done her wrong or is it okay because those men have helped to “corrupt” her? Again, another character driven by desire, fear, nature, and circumstance. Still, I can’t help liking Arya. She is passionate, strong willed, and a total bad-ass. I have high hopes for her becoming a ninja assassin.

This a great infographic that details the characters' relations.

This a great infographic that details the characters’ relations. Click to see bigger version.

Another thing with GRRM’s characters is that it’s hard to part ways with them. The books tend to stick when you read them and it’s hard to remove them from your mind. Many moons later, you might find yourself replaying episodes or cursing GRRM for killing off a favorite character, which is an annoyance. GRRM has no sympathy for his reader’s emotions. He will leave a favorite character of yours hanging in a precipitous situation and jump to another perspective, not returning to the endangered character until pages later. A warning label should be placed on his books: “Don’t get close to characters. They might die dreadfully.” He doesn’t seem to bat an eye when it comes to killing off a character. If the situation calls for the character to die, it’s possible that the character will.

…Unless GRRM decides to resurrect them later. This is a fantasy novel after all so there are some instances when a character returns. Although, the means by which they return makes me consider them as more of a high-functioning zombie.

Overall, my reread of A Game of Thrones was almost as great as the first time but nothing can beat the first hit. I’m glad to find that the story hadn’t staled and that the plot was just as consuming though I knew what would happen. I plan to work my way through the series again but I’m going to take it slow. Winds of Winter, the sixth book in the series, is slated to be released in 2017 so my plan is to stretch this reread over two years so I finish A Dance with Dragons as close to that release date as I can get. This is probably an impossible task but I’ll read slowly and take long breaks between books.

A Clash of Kings (book 2) —>

Quotes from the book:

“…the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.” [Ned]

“A ruler who hides behind paid executioners soon forgets what death is.” [Ned]

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.” [Tyrion to Jon]

“We all need to be mocked from time to time, Lord Mormont, lest we start to take ourselves too seriously.” [Tyrion]

“Know the men who follow you and let them know you. Don’t ask your men to die for a stranger.” [Ned]

“Minds are like swords, I do fear. The old ones go to rust.” [Grand Maester Pycelle]

“Folly and desperation are ofttimes hard to tell apart.” [Maester Luwin]

“A king should never sit easy.” [Aegon the Conqueror]

“The man who fears losing has already lost.” [Syrio Forel]

“There is no creature on earth half so terrifying as a truly just man.” [Varys]

“…love is the bane of honor, the death of duty…We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy.” [Maester Aemon]

It's easy to mistake him for someone real.
Princeton, NJ

Sharing My Instagram Pics: The “Newspaper Reader”

It's easy to mistake him for someone real. Princeton, NJ

It’s easy to mistake him for someone real.
Princeton, NJ

A friend of mine invited me to Princeton back in March and I was amazed at how quaint the area around the university is. I was expecting a bustling town but instead I found a sleepy one. Well, according to my standards. It was pretty quiet there. While touring the campus, we happened upon this gentleman taking a break from his day to read the daily news. He was quiet stiff. Upon closer look, I realized that he had forgotten his glasses at home and was straining his eyes to read.

So went my thoughts when I saw this 1975 sculpture by J. Seward Johnson Jr. called the “Newspaper Reader.” The man is reading The New York Times. I admire the details in this sculpture—the stitching in his shoes, the lines of his pants, the wrinkles around his eyes. It’s great. I thought it was a real guy before realizing that the newspapers’ pages weren’t moving.

According to Wikipedia, J. Seward Johnson Jr. “is an American artist known for his trompe l’oeil painted bronze statues. He is a grandson of Robert Wood Johnson I (co-founder of Johnson & Johnson) and Colonel Thomas Melville Dill of Bermuda.”

The following links provide more information on the sculpture.

“Tweet, Tweet” Social Media

I finally took the leap and created social media accounts for this blog. Zezee with Books is now on Facebook and Twitter.

I shied away from doing this at first because of the time it would take to manage them but I think I’ll be able to keep up now. I’m more committed this blog and commitment is imperative when it comes to social media, a commitment to provide a constant stream of information for viewers. Plus, these accounts will also make it possible to share tid-bits of information I find interesting but deem too short for a blog post, and also to follow other bloggers on their social media accounts.

So please click on one, or both, of the links above to follow me. I will greatly appreciate it! :)


“The Fault In Our Stars” by John Green

The Fault In Our Stars bookWhen my cousin told me he was reading The Fault In Our Stars I quickly copied him and did the same. I had avoided the book for a while though it’s blue cover beckoned at me from the shelves at Barnes & Noble. While I was curious to know what all the hype was about (it’s a bestseller and certain media outlets claim John Green knows what goes on in teenagers’ heads), I shied away from it because I was told the story is sad and I hate to cry (a silly reason). My cousin didn’t cry (so he says) but he enjoyed the story so I purchased the book.

Now, this is probably silly but I do love to smell and caress books. I guess that makes me a book-fondler or something. The Fault In Our Stars (TFIOS) has a smooth, thick jacket. I often rub and run my fingers across it while reading. My hands are sensitive to texture (which means I hate touching corduroy and velvet) so touching such a surface was all the more enjoyable. The pages are also thick, which I was a bit surprised to see since the paperbacks I’ve purchased are of a cheaper quality with thin leaves within that my highlighter sometimes bleed through. But TFIOS’s were of such great quality that I could easily cut myself on them. See, reading is dangerous. Anyways, on to the story.

TFIOS quote 3

I’ve tried many times to summarize this story but I’m unable to do so without falling short in some way. I think the best way to relay this story is to tell everything that happens. To simply state that it’s a story about a girl and a guy who both have cancer and falls in love but one dies is to fall short of the scope of it, the questions it raises, and the emotions it evokes. So instead of a summary (you can read one in one of the related articles below), I’ll jump right into my reflection.

I didn’t like it much. That was my initial reaction. And it’s not the story that I didn’t like. It was the dialogue. I simply could not get used to it. It did not ring true to me. Of course, it is possible that some teenagers do have such advanced philosophical conversations but it was not consistent throughout and often I disbelieved the characters’ diction. Sometimes they sound like teens and other times like middle-aged adults, which was confusing. What annoyed me was when they met Peter Van Houten and for some reason did not know what ontological means. From the conversations they have, I expected them to know.

At first I thought I was being too hard on the book. Maybe I’m not giving it much of a chance, I thought. After all, it did take a while for me to get in to the story but my cousin (and other reviewers) also had issue with the dialogue. It sounds more like John Green talking rather than the characters. But around chapter 21, it became a bit better. When Hazel spoke, it sounded like her rather than overtones of the author. I could feel her emotions through the pages and I could relate.

TFIOS quote 2

Apart from the dialogue, I found this story to be an okay read. I like that it’s not a love-at-first-sight story (well, maybe for Augustus) and that the characters take their relationship slow to develop something substantial. Of course, I love that they bond over a book—An Imperial Affliction. The inclusion of the book, which annoyingly ends in midsentence, is great in that it reveals what Hazel wants. She can invent her own ending since her letters to the author inquiring about the ending are unanswered. When she meets him, Peter Van Houten, she insists on learning the ending.

I like this moment in the book. It shows how desperate Hazel is to know what will become of her parents when she passes away. She needs reassurance and the author refuses to give her one. I find this similar to how some of us humans seek reassurance from God (data, fortune-tellers) on how our future, and those of whom we’re close to, will turn out. Hazel wants for the mother (in the fictional book) and the Tulip Man to be together after the daughter dies because that is what she hopes for her parents. She can handle the harsh truth that she will die but her love for her parents makes her hope for the best for their relationship after she passes.

Of the characters, Peter Van Houten was my favorite. When I realized this, I selfishly wondered what that says about me. Does it mean that I find oddballs and assholes appealing or that I too am somehow trying to numb some pain or erase a memory and I find familiarity in Peter Van Houten? The story perks up a bit when Van Houten is physically introduced. An ornery drunk was not what I was expecting but he does add some color to the story. I like that he is the opposite of what we expect. He isn’t some genius author but just a simple human being who wrote about his experience and is still suffering from it.

Another thing that stuck out was Hazel’s transformation. She blossoms as the story, and her relationship, progresses. We begin the story with her very dependent on her mother but by the story’s end, Hazel is independent and driving herself. And it’s all due to Augustus being in her life. He wakes her up. He lets her realize that she made cancer define her life and she should change that.

“Hazel Grace, like so many children before you—and I say this with great affection—you spend your Wish hastily, with little care for the consequences. The Grim Reaper was staring you in the face and the fear of dying with your Wish still in your proverbial pocket, ungranted, led you to rush toward the first Wish you could think of, and you, like so many others, chose the old and artificial pleasures of the theme park.”

—Although Augustus was trying impress Hazel with this soliloquy, I found it too preachy.

While Augustus is the opposite of Hazel, it was obvious that (SPOILER!!!) he would die. As a character, he was simply an impetus to get Hazel moving again, to help her find meaning in life. With him, she experiences love and has her first sexual encounter. Augustus was her equal, her soul mate, and it was sad to see him removed from the story. That said, I did not like Augustus’ character. Yes, he is a good person—friend, boyfriend, son—but I found it hard to connect with him, mainly because of the dialogue. I think another function of Augustus was to serve as the author’s direct voice in the text so I mostly heard, again, John Green and not the character, especially when he addresses Hazel with imperative sentences telling her how she should live her life.

TFIOS quote 1

Overall, TFIOS was a’ight. I didn’t find it a spectacular read as everyone claims it to be (my cousin didn’t either) but I do believe if the dialogue had fit the characters’ ages and remained consistent throughout, the story would be worthy of its hype. I didn’t cry while reading but there were some sad moments. This is the first book I’ve read by John Green and I plan to read his other works to get an idea of who he is as an author and his writing style. I am curious to know if the dialogue in his stories is always like that in TFIOS. Otherwise, I like him as an entertainer. I started watching his Vlogbrothers episodes on YouTube shortly before reading TFIOS and also his Mental Floss videos. They are both entertaining and Green (and his brother) talks very fast…or they probably just sped up the video. Anyways, cool dude.

Quote from the book:

“Sometimes you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books…which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.”

The related articles below reflect a variety of views. Some enjoyed the story immensely while others found it to be an okay read.

a word on life’s small moments from Anthony Lane

Anthony Lane quote

“We happen upon ourselves when nothing much happens to us, and we are transformed in the process”

—Anthony Lane, from his review of “Boyhood” that appeared in The New Yorker. Lane is a Brtitish journalist and film critic for The New Yorker. I enjoy reading his quip-filled reviews. He is quite entertaining.

Click here for more quotes.