Harry Potter Books Ranked

I’m sure most, if not all of us, are familiar with the Harry Potter series. They have taken the world by storm ever since Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone was published in 1997. It’s safe to say even if you love them all, there are probably some you love more than the others. Here, I have compiled my ranking of the novels ending with my all-time favorite. (Warning: spoilers ahead!)


7. The Chamber of Secrets. Starting the list at number seven is The Chamber of Secrets. I put this here because although it contains a multitude of catalysts for the rest of the series, I just don’t find myself drawn to it as much as I am to the others. It is chalked full of adventure and clues which I love, but I can’t see myself choosing it off the shelf first.


6. The Philosophers Stone (AKA The Sorcerers Stone). Next we have The Philosophers Stone, which, for obvious reasons, is a classic. This is the first in the series and the Harry Potter world would be nothing without it. There is something magical about meeting all the characters for the first time and learning about magic with them. That being said, the other books have more dynamic qualities surrounding the characters—and even Rowling’s writing—and so due to that, The Philosopher’s Stone comes in at number six on the list.


5. The Prisoner of Azkaban. The fifth novel on the list gives us further insight into the creatures of the Wizarding World. I love the symbolism of the patronus and it’s contrast with the dementors, and of course, meeting Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black for the first time. This book does follow the traditional pattern of time that I grew to love in the first two, but the excitement of switching that pattern up in the other novels ranks this one just a tad lower on my list.


4. The Half-Blood Prince. Now I know the order of this list is a little chaotic, but stay with me. The Half-Blood Prince is a staple in the series, with the discovery of the first horcrux and of course the death of Dumbledore. A lot happens in this book to set up the last one in the series, but, I placed it here on the list because I feel it has just a little less excitement and character growth than the following three books on the list. It is still full of enchantment and moves the plot effortlessly, however, I find myself gravitating towards these next three novels the most.


3. The Goblet of Fire. The next book on my list is a fan favorite. Almost everyone I know favors this book and I can see why. The Goblet of Fire is the fourth book in the series and at this point, most of the readers are in a routine where Harry goes to Hogwarts and something out of the ordinary happens throughout the school year. This book switches up the routine with the Tri-Wizard Tournament, which adds a new and exciting element to the traditional pace of the story. It is also the catalyst for the next three novels with the return of Voldemort and the first “real” death of the series (RIP Cedric Diggory). Overall, this book is full of adventure and excitement, making it a very fun read and great addition to the series.

2. The Order of the Phoenix. My second all-time favorite Harry Potter book tends to be a bit controversial, but there’s a few reasons why The Order of the Phoenix has always been one of my favorites. First, my favorite relationship throughout the novels is Sirius Black and Harry Potter’s. It’s the first time that Harry has a father figure and feels truly happy, and I love seeing that development between the third and fifth book. That being said, this makes his death in this novel all the more emotional. The first time I read it, it was entirely unexpected and 100% made me cry, making it very memorable for me. I also strongly dislike Umbridge, so a lot of different emotions came out of this—and I think that is the marking of a good book.


1. The Deathly Hallows. It may seem cliché for the last book in a series to be my number one pick, but in my opinion this novel ends the series perfectly and shows the most growth in all of the characters. Throughout the series, most of the audience grew with both the characters and Rowling. We saw them find their voices as she found hers. Every character was their most dynamic in this novel and it was heartwarming to experience. Even Neville Longbottom came out of his shell, which I’m sure we were all waiting for. It has emotional deaths, suspense, and a satisfying end with a look at the future. I don’t think the series could have ended any better.


This list was incredibly hard to make, I mean how do you rank literary genius? However, I went with my gut and thought about the novels I re-read constantly and am generally drawn to, and thus this list of rankings emerged. Feel free to comment your list and let us know what you think! If you’re interesting in purchasing any of these, you can find them all on Changing Hands’ website here.

Sharp Objects: Book-to-Miniseries

Book

Author: Gillian Flynn
Publisher: Broadway Books
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Pages: 272
Buy Local

Like any lover of books and cinema, I’m always excited to watch a film adaptation of a book I’ve finished reading. Most recently, I’ve been interested in the literary miniseries trend, where producers transform a book into several television episodes, often adding complexity to the story with additional characters and storylines. The HBO miniseries Sharp Objects, based on the book by Gillian Flynn, does exactly this.

Both the book and miniseries follow Camille Preaker, a mediocre reporter who is sent on an assignment to cover the murders of two preteen girls in her tiny hometown, Wind Gap. Camille’s editor, Curry, senses a compelling story is waiting to be uncovered in the southern town, but he also believes sending Camille to her hometown could be healing for her since she recently had a brief stay at a psych hospital after self-harming. Once in Wind Gap, Camille receives a chilling, unwelcoming greeting from her mother, meets her half-sister for the first time, and struggles to find any information on the case from townsfolk, the police, or the dapper detective from out of town. Amidst her own troublesome memory and trauma, Camille feels she must unravel the story of her town and her own past to make sense of this mystery.

While I think the miniseries was excellently cast, I think actress Patricia Clarkson (as Adora, Camille’s mother) was particularly accurate. From her appearance, to her mannerisms, costume, voice, and acting, Clarkson’s portrayal of Adora felt spot on. Clarkson captured the Adora I had imagined while reading the book, and it was amazing to see her acting on screen in this series.

While there were several changes made in the miniseries—including an additional storyline about Camille’s rehab roommate, a scene about Calhoun Day that created a toxic Southern Gothic atmosphere, and more town drama in general—I think the most substantial change between book and television was the removal of the first person narrator.

In Gillian Flynn’s novel, we receive all of our information through the mouth of Camille Preaker. On the other hand, in the HBO series, we lack this narration and are not limited to one perspective. I think this cinematic choice made Camille’s alcohol abuse much more apparent in the story. While there were certainly murmurs of alcoholism in the novel, the first person narration did not emphasize this self-medication issue as seriously as the miniseries did.

The choice to remove the first person narrator also makes it harder for the viewer to access Camille’s complex mental states. In the book, the reader gets to see Camille’s thoughts and trauma unveiled—or, at least, as unveiled as Camille is willing to let her thoughts be. In the miniseries, the viewer must rely on fairly chaotic flashbacks to Camille’s haunting memories to understand her mind instead. This reliance on flashbacks to explain Camille’s mind seems to downplay Camille’s sexual trauma, which was more apparent in the book. It also makes Camille’s mental illness more mysterious since the viewer is left to fill in his or her own conclusions.

Of course, most obviously, the miniseries’ removal of the first person narrator also allows the viewer more information to which Camille is not privy. For example, the miniseries provides much more insight into the out-of-town detective and Camille’s editor, making them both more likable characters.

Another (albeit less significant but still interesting) change was the miniseries’ inclusion of music. The soundtrack is entirely diegetic, so whenever a song is featured, it’s because a character turned on a radio, pulled out an old iPod, or started a record. In order to accomplish this feat and avoid creating a dull soundscape, the miniseries gave Alan (Adora’s husband and Camille’s stepfather) a strange obsession with music. In much of the series, the viewer finds Alan tinkering with his stereo system, turning a blind eye—and ear—to the more sinister things happening around him. The miniseries also gave Camille a cracked iPod, which belonged to her old roommate from her stay in the psychiatric hospital. These two additional items provide most of the soundtrack for the series.

In large part, I think the television series and original novel both use their literary and cinematic advantages to highlight the dangers of denial. Throughout this suspenseful story, we see both young and grown characters deny traumatic memories of rape, abuse, and bullying. We see Camille struggling to accept herself and denying vulnerability, pain, love, healing, and truth. We see a townswoman named Jackie who denies a horrible truth she has uncovered about a lifelong friend that she refuses to reveal. And we see the town denying the reality of the two murders as they place more importance on maintaining their own social reputation and standing.

I usually say the book is better than the film adaptation, but I think this HBO miniseries gave Sharp Objects a run for its money. All the same, I recommend starting with the book so you have the opportunity to see dreary, ominous Wind Gap through Camille’s own eyes first.

Miniseries

Network: HBO
No. of episodes: 8
Rating: TV–MA
Main actors: Amy Adams (as Camille Preaker), Patricia Clarkson (as Adora Crellin), Eliza Scanlen (as Amma Crellin)

An Unsettled Flying Sea: Reflection on a Poem by Frank O’Hara

In the late days of Tucson summer on a Sunday afternoon, I found myself overwhelmed by an excess of simultaneity. Calendars for work and school and my personal life needed further adjusting; a cross-town trip to find new eyeglass frames loomed; and I felt eager and anxious to start writing the weekly newsletter for my introductory English course section. I consulted my volume of Frank O’Hara’s poems for advice. Flipping the sturdy hardcover open, “Ode (to Joseph Leseur) on the Arrow that Flieth by Day” appeared.

As you’ll find in his poem, O’Hara’s agile and rapid mind departs from a quotidian Sunday radio broadcast described via an unlikely simile—“like dying after a party”—and arrives at the poem’s earth or sea cleaving conclusion a little over two dozen lines later. In between, we’re treated to an absurdist Mother’s Day greeting for Russia in the second stanza, what feels like an excerpt from an advertisement  (“Win a Dream Trip”) in the fifth stanza, the novelist Andre Gide’s name being dropped, and approval of a visit to listen to Aaron Copland’s Piano Fantasy (1957). I call this O’Hara’s cultured, joyous, caring grind—which isn’t a grind at all; it’s a slender-yet-sumptuous slice of the life of Frank O’Hara. Or in the life of any of us if we had the verbal skill and delighted in vulnerability as he did; I could only be pleased to write a poem or memoir or email that exuded such liveliness.

I considered “Ode (to Joseph Leseur) on the Arrow that Flieth by Day” in terms of departure and arrival, making this choice because the poem resembles a travelogue. O’Hara tells us very briefly what he’s experienced and the individuals he encountered along the way. No one can say how much of the voyage that is the “Ode” occurred in O’Hara’s mind alone, and the poem feels that much more confidential because of that. On reading it, I felt like he’d been kind enough to share some amusing and insightful asides with me, encouraging me to consider my to-do list as something other than a burden. 

Upon further musing, I realize O’Hara’s “Ode” transports me to the barely-breezy summer days when I began writing this reflective post, when there was less to coordinate and complete, if only because the temperature was often above 100 degrees. I picture myself after setting down the hardback volume of poems, feeling encouraged and comfortable with the uncertainties ahead, I walk outside. There, I lounge in the summer air next to the cacti and the cars, just beneath the sun. The four cats I live with are intrigued by me, ridiculous in my pink sandals, bemused by my exposed torso under the cactus sun, my eyeglasses already ready. 

I lounge and consider the heaviness that hangs over “Ode” like the sun hanging over me. That heaviness resides in the poem’s title, which comes from Psalm 91:5, where it is part of a memento mori—a reminder to remember your death. Death, if we can follow with O’Hara—if I can follow his joyous, caring grind so well—is the last thing among those contained by summer days. It can be touched without resistance, with a gentleness like saying “summer” or “our sea” or “hello.”


We would like to thank Nick Mueller for this guest blogger reflection.

Let it Snow: Book-to-Movie Adaptation

I remember falling in love with the novel Let it Snow during the peak of my John Green phase, at least 8 years ago. So, when I heard it was being made into a Netflix Original film, I actually screamed in excitement. I adore Christmas stories, so what could be better than three Christmas stories that are intertwined? Absolutely nothing. As with any book to movie adaptation, I was a bit nervous; however, despite minor differences, the film did not disappoint.


Let it Snow follows three different main stories, each one written by a different author; John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson. Each story is separate yet still connected at the same time, making it one of my favorite elements of the story.

The basic structure of the story consists of three different Christmas love stories, each at a different stage. One pair has been best friends for years, the other just met on the train, and the last is getting over a breakup. They are all trying to muddle through the world around them the best they can, and even with all the chaos around them, they may just find love.

With any book to movie adaptation, there were some changes implemented. I’m sure we can all agree that, generally speaking, this is our least favorite part about these projects. However, most of these changes were small, and the two major changes made the story even better. What changes? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Change 1: The first of these changes comes from the story of Julie and Stuart, known in the book as Jubilee and Stuart.


In the written version, Jubilee is on the train headed to Florida, but it gets stuck in Gracetown. She meets Stuart on the train and they spend the day together. Most of this stays consistent in the movie, except that Jubilee’s name becomes Julie, she is not headed to Florida, and Stuart is a famous musician.


Personally, I think this change allowed their story to come to life even more. Julie’s family plays a larger role in the movie and her character is more dynamic in some ways, and that makes her story with Stuart even more sweet.
She ends up on the train because she is trying to find a gift for her mother, not because she is being sent to Florida.
This was one of my favorite sub-stories in the novel and the changes they made in the movie made me love it even more.

Change 2: The other major change in the film is more notable and had a much larger impact on the plot. I mentioned that the novel follows three love stories, but the movie decided to add a fourth.

This one follows Addie’s best friend, Dorrie. Addie’s story follows her dealing with the hard part of a relationship—a breakup, or potential breakup in her case. This breakup is paralleled with the novel, but Dorrie’s story is not. She was given her own spotlight, as she struggles trying to figure out if the girl she likes reciprocates her feelings. This is an important adaption for a number of reasons.

The new representation of the LGBTQ+ community gives the film more nuance. Unlike the novel, the film also incorporates an initial stage of relationships that I am sure we are all familiar with: the “do they like me back” battle we have internally. Dorrie’s new storyline was funny, adorable, and wholesome—which is everything I loved about the book to begin with. I am not generally a fan of major changes in book-to-movie adaptations, but this is one I can most definitely get behind.

I can honestly say that I have watched the movie three times since it was released, and plan to keep re-watching.


You can find the movie on Netflix by searching “Let it Snow.” If you are interested in purchasing the book, you can buy it from Changing Hands’ website here. I hope you love them both as much as I do!

A Descent Into Madness with Edgar Allan Poe

Listen, if you’ve read my previous post, you’re probably thinking to yourself…is Poe the only thing she ever writes about? The answer is, no. Come on though, it’s October! Who better to usher us (“The Fall of the House of Usher” anyone?) through this season than literature’s resident psychopomp, Edgar Allan Poe?

In all seriousness, Poe’s work has captured the imaginations of generations of readers, which made me want to consider why these stories keep us coming back. What is it about Poe’s writing that continues to intrigue and even terrify us?

My answer: meticulously crafted work; that is how. Poe is a master of his art. His words are carefully chosen to render their chosen effect, guiding the reader down whatever dark hallway, or shadowed path he has carved out for them. So, I invite you to examine with me one of Poe’s most famous works, his poem “The Raven,” and appraise exactly how this wordsmith operates.

The Raven

In Poe’s “The Raven,” the unnamed speaker slowly follows his own obsessive preoccupation with death into madness, taking the audience along with him. The speaker is addressing a bird (who may be a figment of his imagination) with philosophical questions regarding the afterlife. The repetition of an automated response from this bird causes the speaker to become emotionally unstable, his own morbid and melancholy brooding leading him to infer meanings from this response which further his distress. 

One of the main devices which Poe uses to achieve this effect is repetition. During the course of the poem, certain words, sounds, and emotions are reiterated in different variations so as to mimic the mania building inside of the speaker. 

The tone of irrational fixation becomes clear in the second stanza of the poem: 

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor, 
Eagerly I wished the morrow; –vainly I had tried to borrow 
From my books surcease of sorrow–sorrow for the lost Lenore–
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore–
Nameless here for evermore. (7-12) 

Poe makes a point to state that it is “bleak December” (7). This information, in addition to the fact that the events are taking place at midnight, alludes to the end of something, a kind of death of the day or year.  The emphasis is again placed on death when the speaker notes that, “each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor” (8). This vivid, and none too subtle, metaphor drives home the melancholy tenor of the speaker’s thoughts. 

It is then stated that this somber mood is because of the loss of a loved one, a beautiful woman named Lenore (11). Within this brief stanza the idea of death is hinted at, or directly addressed, over and over again, leaving no doubt as to the singularity of thought in the speaker. 

This stanza is also an excellent example of the pointed word choices that Poe employs. The author states in his essay “The Philosophy of Composition,” that he is building atmosphere by “unusual, and some altogether novel effects, arising from an extension of the application of the principles of rhyme and alliteration” (Poe, 743). The stanza is comprised of a quatrain and a couplet;  the final two lines (couplet) rhyme with one another, as well as rhyming with the final line in the quatrain. This produces a musical quality that is emphasized further by the use of internal rhyme within the stanza. 

In the first and second lines the words “remember,” “December,” and “ember” all appear in close proximity (7-8). This is mirrored in the third and fourth lines by the words “morrow,” “borrow,” and “sorrow” (9-10). This sing-song hypnotic quality pulls the reader in, as the speaker himself is being pulled into his obsession. 

By employing the device of repetition in both the tone of the poem, as well as in creative technique, Poe is able to establish an impression of compulsive insanity. The speaker circles around and around the same thought, with each pass becoming more frenzied and unstable. A replication of the anxiety which fills Poe’s speaker is created in the audience by proxy. The reader is subjected to the same unceasing thoughts that the speaker himself experiences. At the end of Poe’s poem, the desired effect is produced, and both the speaker and the reader are exhausted; each being oddly satisfied with an abundance of sorrow and lunacy. 


Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Philosophy of Composition.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Robert S. Levine. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013.

Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Raven.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym, Robert S. Levine. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013.

Wendy Webb: The Queen of Northern Gothic

My favorite book is Jane Eyre, my second favorite being Pride and Prejudice—what can I say? I’m a classics lover.

But now, I have a third favorite book, and it’s all thanks to a magnificent new author on the scene: Wendy Webb. And spoiler alert, it’s not a classic that takes place in Regency Era England. I know, I didn’t think I could be swayed either.

But here we are.

Honestly, I am someone who has a very difficult time branching out and trying new authors. But, as with most good things in my life, I can thank my mom for this one. 

I’ve mentioned this before, but I lived on the gorgeous North Shore of Lake Superior in a quaint little city called Duluth. My second summer of living there, my parents came to visit and see what I kept raving about as “the most beautiful place in the whole world.” 

On one of our excursions, we visited the most charming little town of Grand Marais, and if you know my mom, we inevitably ended up at a bookstore. 

Not just any bookstore. A little Cape-Cod-style cottage painted in pastels that sat just a few hundred yards from the shore of the lake. Oh, and there was a donut shop right next door. I guess this is what they mean by location, location, location.

But I digress. 

In the local authors section (the best section!), she stumbled across a writer named Wendy Webb, someone who had made their debut within the last few years. Trusting the bookstore owner’s incessant praise, my mom purchased the first of many Wendy Webb books we would come to own. 

I remember being hesitant when my mom first suggested I read one of her books. See, Wendy Webb is a Northern Gothic writer—and gothic was not really a genre I tended to dive into. Remember my favorite books? But, I decided to give it a shot and cracked open her most recent novel, Daughters of the Lake. She was a local author after all. 

Best. Decision. Ever. 

While I typically think of mystery/gothic novels as being contrived, Webb was inventive and played with the well-loved framework brilliantly. Instead of being overly-predictable and cheesy, Webb created a believable world that left me guessing until the last chapter. Where I expected flat characters with flatter relationships, Webb breathed raw and wonderful life into every character that graced the pages of her novels. 

But fair warning, her ability to bring a story to life also left me with a fear of turning off the lights some nights. In the best way. 

In the end though, what I found so exciting was that each novel took place along the North Shore of Lake Superior, some even in Duluth—though under different names. It was like a world that she created just for me, because I could envision every town and building she spoke of, having been there myself. 

And so, maybe I’m romanticizing an author because she sets her books so beautifully along the shore I love most in the world—but maybe, just maybe, she really is all I say she is. 

I guess it’s up to you to decide. 


For more information about Wendy Webb, click here.

Wendy Webb’s Full Works: The Tale of Halcyon Crane, The Fate of Mercy Alban, The Vanishing, The End of Temperance Dare, Daughters of the Lake

A Thousand Lives: How Books Connect Us to Our World and Beyond

As readers, we live double lives—the first as individuals who exist within the confines of reality, the second as incessant travelers. 

My library, ever-growing and changing through the years, has taken me across different universes. From large-scale battles between humans and High Fae, to adventures with sword-bearing demigods, to life-altering cab rides with a driver carrying messages. The destinations and layovers are endless, yet the vehicle remains the same: books.

Fantasy writer George R.R. Martin once explained, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…The man who never reads lives only one.” But books do more than connect us to other fictional lives. They also connect us to our own lives in the real world.

Today, I’d like to share just a few small—but powerful—ways in which books have personally connected me to the world.

Exchanges

From lending out well-loved copies of Harry Potter in exchange for Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, to borrowing a roommate’s graphic novel collection of The Last Airbender in exchange for Brandon Sanderson’s original Mistborn trilogy, book exchanges have strengthened my relationships in incredible ways. In fact, I like to think that my roommate became a close confidant largely because of our shared evenings filled with animated book discussions.

Recently, I participated in an online book exchange that I stumbled upon on Instagram. I sat with a close friend of mine over frozen yogurt and scattered stationary as we wrote letters to our respective recipients. The experience was a firm reminder of how book reading can enrich existing friendships, as well as provide hope for a new one that is waiting to form.

Reminders of Strength

As a lover of literature, books have been more than a way to pass the time—they have smoothed things over for me both in turbulent times and in the chaos of travel; I imagine this rings true for all of you self-proclaimed book worms. 

Traveling has been embedded in my identity the very moment I stuffed my belongings into a bright red suitcase seven years ago. When my family and I left my small Philippine hometown to pursue a better life in the United States, the very act of traveling suddenly took the connotation of hard goodbyes and painful memories.

What helped me during the moving process itself was what came inside that bright red suitcase. Stuffed in its main compartment were bits from home: my grandmother’s rosary, printed photos from my childhood, pressed flowers from our home garden. And in the front pocket, situated there entirely for accessibility, was my copy of A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

Mariam and Laia’s story has always inspired me, but right then, it was different. It was a more immersive experience; I took all of my anxiety and dismay and allowed them to suspend momentarily. Instead, I dove deep into a story of turmoil paired with healing. As I folded myself into the uncomfortable airplane seat, I was able to draw irrevocable strength from the characters’ experiences of loss, pain, and ultimately, powerful recovery.

Sources of Comfort

Whenever I set out on a journey, I always ensure at least one thing makes it onto my agenda: a trip to a new bookstore.

My trip to San Francisco comes to mind most readily. As I explored City Lights Bookstore, I felt a keen and deep sense of belonging upon seeing titles that promised paths to different universes—titles that allowed me to brave the unfamiliar and terrifying in more accessible (yet still exhilarating) ways. In books, I found the stepping stones I needed towards courage.

So, although traveling—especially when it entails abandoning the familiar—is never a comforting experience, books have given me an avenue out of the uncertainty and discomfort: a way to ground myself in familiarity for when I inevitably travel again.

***

Through books, I have seen places of pure fantasy come to life; I have learned new ways to make closer bonds out of my friendships, to look at wrenching pain as a story of redemption, and to find comfort even in the most frightening places.

In reading, we get to live the only way we should: fully, completely, and—if we’re lucky—a thousand times.


Guest blog post courtesy of Arni Dizon.

A Letter from the Editor

Welcome to The Spellbinding Shelf, a book blog named in a sprightly first editorial meeting held right outside of a busy Fry’s Marketplace. (You know, inspiration can strike anywhere!)

We are here to share our love for books while each of us brings our unique reading preferences to the table—and the bookshelf. An Arizona State University student organization, we will also promote the local literary community here in the Valley of the Sun, interviewing local authors and advertising local events. You might even find us attending a local author meet-and-greet or poetry reading!

Of course, I can’t introduce this blog without thanking the peers that have helped me spearhead this project. I am incredibly grateful for my friends and fellow bloggers, Makenna Knighton (our Communications Coordinator) and Payton Kline (our Managing Editor). I admire their insight and creative spirits and am so pleased they have joined the team. I also want to take a moment to thank the wonderful Professor Tara Ison for supporting our project as our faculty advisor.

We hope you join us in our reading journey, searching for those books that make us laugh, shout, cry, learn, relearn, and challenge ourselves—those books that feed our minds, souls, and conversations.

Sincerely,

Rachel Hagerman, Editor-in-Chief