Game of Queens, India Edghill

Note: I received a review copy of Game of Queens from the publisher for review consideration. This has no bearing upon my super-intense vengeful emotions about Haman and their contribution to my enjoyment of the book; about which, see further remarks below.

In my 2014 book preview, my expressed wish for Game of Queens, a retelling of the story of Esther, was that it not use the word sex as a euphemism for genitalia. And it did not. It also turned out to feature Daniel, of lions-not-eating-him fame, being gay without his close friends fretting too much about it, and it managed the neat trick of vilifying not Esther nor Vashti nor Ahasuerus. Which, if you remember the Book of Esther in any detail, you will notice is really quite some trick.

Haman is vilified, as is right and just. When I was a wee tot, I had this amazing book called Behold Your Queen which was also a retelling of the Esther story (it did vilify poor old Vashti), and so the moment where Haman gets hanged upon his own gallows was one of the formative Revenge moments of my childhood.

Fun fact: Thinking about revenge activates the reward centers in your brain!

Although Game of Queens is subtitled A Novel of Vashti and Esther, it’s really Vashti’s book. In part this is because Esther’s story is already so familiar, and by the nature of her story, she’s a less dynamic character. Vashti’s the one who gets to change and grow, to realize that she can’t be Marie Antoinette all the time, and to learn to become a player in the politics of her country, instead of a pawn. She’s a fun character, and it’s surprisingly rare to have a book in which a ditzy girl gets to get to make shit happen.

Greatest book ever, Pulitzer Prize material? Okay, probably not. But I cherish the story of Esther, and what Edghill has produced here is a monumentally satisfying version of that story. Not only do we get a Vashti who finds a way to control her own destiny even after she’s set aside as Queen of All Persia, but there’s this whole subsidiary plot about getting REVENGE on Haman even before Haman comes up with the idea of killing all the Jews.

Final note: Apparently Martin Luther was ruhlly ruhlly not into the Book of Esther. It was probably too fun for him. He probably wanted to put the Book of Job in there twice, just to make everyone miserable. Cranky old jerk. (I’m glad the Reformation happened. Super important, historically. Major step forward for Europe. I’m just not such a fan of Martin Luther as a person.)

The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies, Martin Millar

Note: I received a copy of The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies from the publisher, Soft Skull Press, for review consideration.

Martin Millar writes books like classic British sitcoms, where there is a central organizing event (or several) around which the action is oriented, and the characters all have their separate and incompatible visions for what is to happen at this event, and everything goes magnificently to hell, and then in the end it all turns out okay, or doesn’t. Whether or not this works for you as a structure will most likely be the determining factor in whether you enjoy any Martin Millar book, ever — including his most recent novel, The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies.

The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies is set in ancient Athens, about midway through the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Athens and Sparta are holding a peace conference, and the city is preparing for the Dionysian festival at which new plays will be presented to the city. Demigods and immortals descend on the city to watch these events unfold (or sabotage them). Aristophanes struggles to get his pro-peace play Peace sorted out, and common-born Luxos does his best to jump-start his career as a poet.

Describing a Martin Millar novel — and this is a very good one — is tricky because all of the adjectives that come to mind come loaded with unwanted connotations. I always say sweet, or charming, and The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies is both sweet and charming, but that undersells its cleverness. Clever implies that there isn’t any heart, and there is because it is impossible not to fall for the sincerity of Millar’s characters (and the super simplicity of their motivations). Sincere misses how funny it is.

I’ll go with funny in the end, and also self-aware: Millar clearly recognizes a level of absurdity in writing a comic novel set in ancient Greece, and his book lets the audience in on the joke without getting too winky. The story has simple stakes, but Millar knows that the historical background was far from simple, and this also shows.

Martin Millar is one of my favorite authors in the sense that you know what one of his books is going to be, and it always is most satisfyingly that. The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies is as solid an introduction to his particular brand of madcap scheme-making story as any he’s written in the past.

Really important question tho: Do you like Athens or Sparta better? (The correct answer is “Athens, but”.)

Not a dumb American: Namibia edition

Have I told you about my project to read one good history about every African country? It is a project I have had in mind for a while, and I started it this year with my beloved Namibia. Because here is the thing about Namibia: We have been underappreciating it. Sort of a lot.

Let’s start with the basics real real quick. This is Namibia:

Namibia!

As you can see, it is the country north of South Africa on the west coast of the continent. It was colonized by the Germans, and then after World War I when German colonial holdings were being divvied up, South Africa took over governing it until it gained independence in 1990. It contains fewer people than the city of Houston (because a lot of it is desert). You have not been appreciating it enough, and I will tell you three reasons why you should.

1) Namibia is the first country to do what we are all going to have to do eventually unless we fix global warming much faster than we are currently fixing it, which is to run sewage water through treatments that render it once again potable. You wrinkle your nose because that sounds gross, but you will allllll be sorry you didn’t get used to this idea once it becomes inevitable. Namibia will have been used to it for years. Namibia is a forward-thinking genius pioneer of water reclamation!

2) Namibia has the freest press of any nation in Africa. You didn’t expect that, did you? Did you? You thought it was going to be Ghana or something! Ha, ha, joke’s on you, Ghana, the true truth is that it is NAMIBIA. Every year when Reporters without Borders does that thing where they rank countries based on how free their presses are, Namibia is always in the top twenty percent or so. You know who’s not in the top twenty percent? America, and we’re getting worse year over year, by a lot.

(I don’t know why I trash-talked Ghana just now. That was unnecessary. Sorry, Ghana. I am currently reading a big history of the Democratic Republic of Congo, but maybe my next country to read a big history of can be Ghana. To show that I bear it no ill will.)

(It’s just that I feel like sometimes people are all, “Ohhhh, Ghana, you’re the very shiniest African nation, all the other ones are terrible compared to you,” and I get jealous for Namibia, which is just way down in the south there doing its best and recycling water and having a free press and whatnot. Ghana just has more people! They have like ten times as many people, so of course they’re going to produce more writers and artists that get exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum. It’s not a referendum on Namibia, you know?)

3) Namibia is a total baller at conservation. See! You didn’t know that either! It is in their constitution. And this is very lucky for the biodiversity of the planet, because Namibia has crazy mammals, many of which are endemic to Namibia, and they work really really hard to preserve them. You know how we are all (when we remember to be) worried about black rhino populations? Well, Namibia has the largest herd of them in the whole world, and that is not by accident, friends! That is a successful plan implemented by Namibia to save the black rhinos.

Moreover (like that’s not enough, right? That’s what I’m saying! Namibia!), conservation efforts in Namibia benefit local populations. There is a nice New York Times article about it that you may read here, if you are curious. Essentially, the power to manage sustainability and ecotourism initiatives at the community level is given to the communities. So instead of the government applying a one-size-fits-all top-down version of conservation, it’s managed at the local level, and the communities derive economic benefits from it, which gives them a stake in continuing this work, rather than it just being “because the government said so.”

NAMIBIA.

The history of Namibia I read (Marion Wallace’s History of Namibia) was super informative, but rather dry. There really aren’t that many comprehensive histories of Namibia out there, and I’m pretty sure it’s because people don’t know what an awesome country it truly is. Please tell your friends. I want to spread the word.

Onward! The next book in my Africa project is David van Reybrouck’s Congo: The Epic History of a People, translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett. I am the queen of this reading project.

Into the Beautiful North, Luís Alberto Urrea

Well this was just a delight. It was such a delight that I was reading it, I wanted to propose it for podcast. We are supposed to propose books for podcast that we haven’t actually read yet, so I was considering perpetrating a teeny, tiny fraud* on Whiskey Jenny. But the book was such a delight, and we were stuck in a car in Agra because some VIP’s visit to the Taj Mahal had shut down the roads our driver needed to use to get us to Jaipur, that I could not resist reporting bits of it to her as I was reading.

Here is the elevator pitch, and I think you will find it hard to resist: After watching the film The Magnificent Seven, nineteen-year-old Nayeli conceives a plan to travel up to the United States with her three friends and bring back some men to protect her home village of Tres Camarones, all but empty of men and left at the mercy of any gangsters who might be passing through.

Already so charming, right? Just the premise? But Into the Beautiful North really won me not with its charming premise, but with its light heart. The experience of reading it reminded me of nothing so much as Where’d You Go, Bernadette, another book throughout which I was braced for flurries of catastrophic unkindnesses that never showed. That isn’t to say that Nayeli and her friends endure no setbacks and no hardships; but hardship is not the story Urrea is telling. The story he’s telling is about friendship and hope.

I’ve made a few forays into the brave new world of the YALSA Alex Awards, having heard about them from the marvelous Margaret H. Willison, and Into the Beautiful North has been the big winner so far. I approached this book with a fearful expectation of having my heart broken on behalf of Nayeli and her friends, and instead it gave me the metaphorical equivalent of a hug and a mug full of hot chocolate.

*Not really. I could not bring myself to perpetrate even the teeniest, tiniest fraud on Whiskey Jenny, who is so radiantly honest herself that the George Washington cherry tree story probably derived from her childhood.

The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black

The last sentence of Holly Black’s newest book sums up everything I loved about it. I can’t quote it here, because it’s got all the spoilers, but if you are the sort of person who reads the end, go check it out yourself. If I were in middle school I would draw hearts around it after writing it in the back of my school notebook. (I mean, I wouldn’t hundred-percent rule that out as a possibility now.)

Hazel and Ben (both named after famous rabbits) live in a town that the humans share with the faeries. For years and years, the two groups have kept an uneasy kind of peace: The humans leave the faerie folk alone, and the faerie folk confine most of their malice to the tourists who come through Fairfold. Except that suddenly, all of this has changed. The horned sleeping boy in his glass coffin has awoken, and the humans of Fairfold are under attack.

If you are one to pick nits, there are nits here to be picked. Not every part of the plot makes flawless sense, and if certain characters had just been more forthright with certain other characters, in areas where they had every reason to be, some things could have been resolved more swiftly and more simply. And if you are reading this book right after the quite tightly plotted and tricksy Curse Workers trilogy, the contrast might be marked.

I luckily did not mind about any of these things, having read the Curse Workers trilogy way back in December and several disappointed reviews of this book recently. Low expectations plus unexpected diversity in the cast of characters equals WIN.

Here’s something I loved: Hazel’s love interest is a faerie boy, once a changeling. His human mother, a Nigerian American woman of exceptional determination, got her original baby back from the faeries and decided to keep the changeling baby as well.

Besides mandatory family games on Sundays, his mother was the kind of parent who packed lunches in stacked bento boxes, who knew exactly how her kids were doing in every subject, who monitored television time to make sure homework got done. As far as she was concerned, Carter and Jack were headed for Ivy League colleges, ideally close enough to Fairfold that she could drive up and do their laundry on weekends. Nothing was supposed to get in the way of that.

I cannot, can never ever, resist the story of a changeling who wants to be good and normal and not wicked. See also Cuckoo Song and The Replacement. My love is predictable that way. Though Jack is not the focus of this story, nor is Hazel’s crush on him, his existence is one of many excellent, unusual ideas by Holly Black that kept Forest feeling fresh and unexpected.

Add to that another of Holly Black’s ferocious, warrior-girl heroines, and you get a book tailor-made to please my fickle heart. And that last sentence. So good.

Review: The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014, edited by Deborah Blum

Note: I received an advance ebook copy from the publisher for review consideration, through Netgalley.

I’ve read this collection for the past three years now, and every time, the editor has been careful to include science writing on a range of topics. If Deborah Blum’s collection is perhaps a trifle heavy on What Our Hubris Hath Wrought on the planet and its occupants (and a trifle light on SPACE and the things that happen IN SPACE), it’s very little surprise. At this point, the consensus is that global warming is at this point irreversible or close to it and we have all been remiss in not doing more to stop it, so we will really deserve it when we all drown in the rising oceans.

Given my druthers, I’d choose all science writing and no nature writing–sorry nature!–so I skimmed through a few of the essays that seemed inclined to wax lyrical about the sun shining down upon beaver dams and things. It’s not animals I object to, but long descriptive passages of things I can’t–having a very poor visual imagination–picture in my own head. Since my bias is against nature writing, I won’t complain about individual essays here; that feels churlish. Instead I want to highlight a few that I loved.

My favorite of all was Elizabeth Kolbert’s wonderful “The Lost World,” which taught me that humans did not always have a concept of extinction. As she points out, the idea of extinction of species only seems intuitive if you’ve grown up with it. In the olden days, when people in Europe had not even seen giraffes, they tended to think that strange animal bones meant strange animals out there somewhere in the world still. When a scientist called Georges Cuvier came along and said that he had found some bones of animals that no longer existed on the earth, it was a watershed in the way we comprehended the history of Earth’s fauna. But he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for that, and we have all forgotten who he is. (Lame.)

(Relatedly, I think we all owe Lamarck an apology for making fun of him all these years. In fact I think we should call epigenetics neo-Lamarckianism. That is what I’m going to call it from now on.)

For scariness and most convincing argument to turn vegetarian, the prize goes to Maryn McKenna’s “Imagining the Post-Antibiotic Future”. In it, she describes the way modern medicine will fall apart as more and more bacteria become resistant to our standard courses of antibiotics. I can’t do this one justice, so I’ll just quote from it:

Doctors routinely perform procedures that carry an extraordinary infection risk unless antibiotics are used. . . [Lack of working antibiotics] rules out intensive-care medicine, with its ventilators, catheters, and ports–but also something as prosaic as kidney dialysis, which mechanically filters the blood. Next to go: surgery, especially on sites that harbor large populations of bacteria such as the intestines and the urinary tract. . . And then implantable devices, because bacteria can form sticky films of infection on the devices’ surfaces that can be broken down only by antibiotics. . . . Without antibiotics, one out of every six recipients of new hip joints would die.

McKenna goes on to note that 80 percent of antibiotics used in the antibiotic-happy US are used in agriculture. Cut out our dependence on huge quantities of cheap meat, and the problem decreases dramatically. (Luckily, I am too broke to buy much meat, except when I’m eating out. Hooray, you’re welcome, America!)

The prize for insanest way the world might end has to belong to Corey S. Powell for “The Madness of the Planets,” which explores the instability of our solar system. For us to achieve the current state of equilibrium, Jupiter had to come swooping close to the sun, get pulled over to where it currently is by Saturn, and messed up poor old Mars for good. (Earth didn’t exist back then, but if it had, it would probably have been destroyed as Jupiter bashed about trying to get settled in.) Some scientist theorize that there used to be another enormous planet in our solar system, but that it got bumped out of orbit and went spinning madly away into outer darkness.

Nor is all of this limited to the distant past. If Mercury, always on the edge of instability, starts intruding on Venus’s orbit, Venus could collide with Earth and send us spinning off into a brand new (doomy for us) orbit. The odds of this are 1 percent over the next couple billion years.

I question Morbidelli to make sure I’m understanding him correctly. A 1 percent chance of disaster is surprisingly high odds in the cosmic-doomsday business. He sets down the phone for a moment and I hear him in the distance, double-checking with someone else in his office (“Do you know the probability that Mercury gets crazy?”). Then he’s back on the line: “Yes, 1 percent.” And he warns that the subtle divergences that would set the whole cataclysm in motion are like the weather, chaotic and impossible to forecast far in advance. They could be building up right now.

And last but not least, an essay on fire ants. As a southerner, I feel equal parts pity and schadenfreude for northern tourists discovering fire ants for the first time. Yes, the ants bite. Yes, for real. Justin Nobel’s “Ants Go Marching” was inspired by an ill-fated picnic in New Orleans’s City Park, in which he and his girlfriend sat in a big pile of fire ants. He set out to discover why these bastards are so tough and how people kill them.

How people kill them: Insane ways that involve fire and chemicals, apparently. Justin Nobel reports that only one person told him to use boiling water to get rid of them. What? Everyone I know uses boiling water! Or grits. Boiling water or grits (I’m suspicious of grits), and those are the only two ways I’ve ever seen anyone try to get rid of fire ants in their yard. Justin Nobel must have interviewed only lunatics for this piece.

Why they’re so tough: Hell if we know. The bad news is that they’re spreading north, and as they interbreed with this other type of ant, the hybrids thereby produced can withstand much higher temperatures. Watch out, other half of the country; fire ants are coming. And here’s the (to me) truly horrific news. Fire ants can build rafts. You can google it if you don’t believe me. They can build rafts made out of layers of their own larvae and float upon them for several days in case of flood. My skin is crawling to contemplate this. Let’s not think about it, actually.

The four essays I’ve highlighted are just a few of the many superb pieces of writing in this volume. Nicholas Carr talks about what our dependence on computers is doing to our brains; Virginia Hughes explores tragic personal ramifications of the service offered by 23 and Me; Fred Pearce considers the impact of TV soap operas on pregnancy rates; and Carl Zimmer gets into the wild and wacky world of animal cloning (and whether it’s worth trying to bring extinct species back to life when we can’t even take care of the species we have now). It’s a terrific, if sometimes rather depressing, collection of writing.

Revisiting Harry Potter: “Kill the snake?” “Kill the snake.”

Here is my main complaint with this section of the book, which I otherwise love very much: How’s Harry going to use the Cruciatus curse on the Carrow sibling who spits in McGonagall’s face? (I find the Carrows boring and have not bothered to learn their names.) He was unable to do this curse on Bellatrix Lestrange two seconds after she killed Sirius Black, but somehow he can manage to do it just because some Death Eater insults one of his teachers? Number one, that is bullshit. Number two,

don’t torture people. Torture is wrong, and Harry could have accomplished the same effect of punishing the Carrow sibling by just Stunning him/her. I wish McGonagall had said something, like, “Hey, do not torture that Carrow sibling, you war criminal.” I guess we’ll just have to assume that Luna mentions this incident to Hermione later, and Hermione fusses at Harry for us.

Okay. Now that I have gotten that out of the way I shall proceed with talking about Percy, who redeems himself by returning at last! I always knew he would. I knew it because of that time he splashed out in the water to come get Ron. All along Percy really loved his family. I admit that I was hoping Percy would come back, redeem himself, and die nobly in battle. That would take care of Weasley family deaths without one of the twins having to die, something I was deeply concerned about before the seventh book appeared. Instead Fred Weasley dies, and it was heartwrenching, especially when, oh God, especially when Percy is lying across Fred’s body so nothing else can happen to it, and he won’t let go–

The whole Battle of Hogwarts is a pretty great set piece. Although it goes on for a long time, and there’s a lot of events occurring, it doesn’t feel long at all. It feels frantic and disorganized in a really wonderful way. One second Professor Trelawney is throwing crystal balls on Fenrir Greyback’s head (woot), and the next second Neville Longbottom’s grandmother has come to fight alongside him because she hates evil and is proud of her wonderful grandson. The last Horcrux gets destroyed in the Room of Requirement, and Harry’s almost too busy to notice.

This is not the time or place, but sometime later I’d like us all to think about how great a spell Glisseo is. Have we seen that one before Hermione uses it to escape from some Death Eaters? It is awesome. I love slides. If I were a wizard, I’d never ever walk down stairs. I would always make them into slides. That is a much more fun way to get from one floor to another. Does it only work on straight staircases? Or if you are up several floors and you have a staircase with landings, will they turn into one big curvy slide?

Did anyone feel like it was kind of a cheat to have Dumbledore show up and explain everything at the end? As I recall, I thought that it should feel like a cheat, but I was so happy to have Dumbledore back again that I didn’t care. I wanted that chapter to keep going on and on forever, because I do not tire of Dumbledore telling Harry how to understand the world. This chapter also felt very — momentous in the scheme of things, just like, it felt like a chapter that JK Rowling had been waiting twenty years for us to read.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

And then Harry comes back to life and we are treated to the spectacle of Mrs. Weasley getting Bellatrix because Bellatrix threatens Ginny! That part! How she is all,

and kills Bellatrix LIKE A BOSS. You always see Mrs. Weasley when she’s mothering and taking care of everyone, and she is amazing at that, but I liked to see this from her as well. You knew Mrs. Weasley had this in her. When she says that Bellatrix will never touch their children again, I cried three tears from my eyes. Writing about it is making me sniffly.

Oh Neville

I know. This should have been a section all along. I’m sad that it wasn’t. I love Neville and he has wonderful moments in each of the books, because JK Rowling is a genius and she knew all along that Neville was going to save the motherfucking day. It says so much about Neville that Harry can hand over this task to Neville and trust that it’s going to get done.

“Just in case they’re — busy — and you get the chance–”

“Kill the snake?”

“Kill the snake,” Harry repeated…

But Neville seized his wrist as Harry made to move on.

“We’re all going to keep fighting, Harry. You know that?”

NEVILLE. To get an assignment like this and be all,

He not only kills the snake, he does it while he is also on fire. Neville you beautiful genius.

The Adulting of Harry Potter

I am on record as saying that I love it when Harry has a thoughtful moment and chooses what kind of person he’s going to be. He can be impulsive so it’s great to see him thinking matters over in a self-aware manner and making a choice. I love it that we get to see him deciding he doesn’t want to be Dumbledore and keep everything a secret from everyone. Although, I don’t really understand why everyone can’t just know about the Horcruxes by the time Harry gets to Hogwarts? There’s only two left, and since Voldemort is heading for Hogwarts right now, it seems like you’d want as many people on Horcrux duty as possible. Wouldn’t you?

For Harry’s final adulting trick, he names his kid after Severus Snape. That is — an amazing feat of grace and forgiveness. I hope that wherever Snape is right now, he appreciates the gesture.

On the other hand, won’t that be a really, really awkward conversation to have with the kid? “That’s right, son, when we ran out of your grandparents’ names, we went ahead and named you after the guy who was responsible for their deaths.” I would not want to be named after Severus Snape. That dude sucks. He did some helpful stuff, but he mostly was terrible and a bully. If I were Ginny I’d have put my foot down on that one. The world is full of names. Plus, if you’re going to name your child Albus (how cute is it that his nickname is Al?), you should give him a really super normal middle name. If he ever decides he’s tired of Albus as a name, he should have a backup plan.

Y’all! I am so sad the readalong is ending! I know we have a wrap-up post next week, but I will no longer have this forum in which to talk about the many, many feelings and thoughts I have about the Harry Potter books. What will I do with myself? What will happen next time I reread them and I have feelings to share? (I reread these books like once a year. Don’t judge.) Alice, thanks so much for hosting this readalong. It has been great.

Revisiting Harry Potter: I guess now we have to say nice things about Scrimgeour

I decided to do all Disney gifs for this post. Why? Because as usual this readalong is making me feel a lot of feelings, and most of my feelings for the first Deathly Hallows post are wrathful feelings. And Disney makes me feel happy feelings.

Exhibit A: Rita Goddamn Skeeter

How dare she. I get so angry when I read the excerpts from her rotten biography. Righteously angry! With much stomping around and wishing I had her here in my living room. You know what especially pisses me off? I will tell you. It’s when she calls his relationship with Harry “unnatural”.

Yeah, lady, we know what you’re implying with that. I hope Voldemort kills your mother.

(Oh God, I don’t hope Voldemort kills Rita Skeeter’s mother.)

Exhibit B: All these times JKR acts like she’s going to kill Hagrid

Hagrid launching himself off the motorcycle onto a Death Eater to save Harry is of course what would really happen. This is why Hagrid was top of my list for people who were not to die in the seventh book. In fact, this is the part of the book where, when I read it for the first time, I was writing stuff down as I went, and my notes for page 57 of the book (which is where it starts getting super tense with Hagrid and the Death Eaters) say:

I just flipped ahead a few pages to make sure that Hagrid was going to survive.  JK Rowling has a heart of stone and this ISN’T FUNNY.

Yeah, it’s not funny. I have enough emotions. I do not need them to be toyed with. But oh, when they get back to the Burrow, and everyone’s talking about loose lips and how they sink ships, and Harry takes a stand for trusting the people he loves. Once again with Harry making his moral choices. He decides he’s not going to be the guy who’s constantly suspicious of all his friends. He’s going to be like Dumbledore and not like Moody. That’s awesome, Harry. That’s the person you should want to be. Which brings me to:

Exhibit C: Lupin

When did he morph into such a mean jerk? He used to be so chill and calm and sensible, and now he’s all like,

in this book. Slamming Harry into walls and whatnot. Did it happen the instant he put a baby in Tonks, was that the moment? I appreciate that he was there to save George, but I hate it how he’s all “Kill people instead of disarming them!” and “Don’t trust your friends!” Ugh. My love for him started to die in these moments. Shut up Lupin. Go do something nice for your wife instead of looking grumpy and wrathful every time she speaks to you. Or if you can’t do that then, like, go tell your past self how to use a condom.

Not an Exhibit: Ron defending Ginny

Okay, I don’t know what Ginny’s birthday present for Harry was supposed to be ALTHOUGH I HAVE SOME IDEAS AND THEY ARE ALL BLOW JOBS, but I think it’s really sweet how Ron comes find Harry and tells him to knock it off. That’s nice because sometimes in the past Ron has been like awkward big brother sexual protector role, which I hated, and I like it that here he’s just saying, “Do not fuck with my little sister’s feelings.” Yay Ron. Harry shouldn’t fuck with Ginny’s feelings. You are correct.

Exhibit D: Scrimgeour crashing another Weasley party

What is with Scrimgeour’s perpetual crashing of Weasley parties to harass Harry? He can’t come on a different day than party day? First at Christmas and now Harry’s very sweet first-ever (right?) birthday party. And I’m all,

But it avails me nothing because here he is trying to bully Harry and Hermione and Ron. Spoiler alert, Scrimgeour, that has never worked. I feel like when you know three people who have faced down Voldemort and his army of Death Eaters and lived, you should probably come at them with bigger guns than just, like, your angry lion face and a whole lot of self-justification. I don’t actually have to say nice things about Scrimgeour and I’m not going to. Obviously it was not helpful to Harry for Scrimgeour to die without revealing his location, because the Death Eaters are at the Burrow in like twenty seconds.

Speaking of which, is there anyone who read “The Ministry is fallen. Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming,” and didn’t start going,

Because that’s what I always do.

And finally, Exhibit E: Voldemort

I know this is predictable. But really, Kreacher’s story about Voldemort “needing an elf” is just — man, Voldemort is an awful, awful person. I always think about how that could just as easily have been Dobby if Voldemort had gone to the Malfoys first. And the Malfoys might not have said “come back” and Dobby could have died right then and never have been free. Meanwhile I like it that Hermione’s not just carrying on and on about house-elves — finally, the people are paying attention to her. Word. I mean they should have been listening to her all along, but we’ll take what we can get.

Next up: The Ron-Harry-Hermione road trips that everyone hates!