Harry Potter Moment of the Week: The Perfect (and Not-So-Perfect) Actors in the Films

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a Thursday feature created by Leah of Uncorked Thoughts and hosted by Mimz of Lunar Rainbows which offers a weekly Harry Potter-related prompt. This week’s prompt is:

Which cast member do you think was a perfect fit for their character?

I might as well say it now: this will be a very vain post! But I love discussing Harry Potter more than almost anything so if you disagree with me I would love to hear why in the comments!

no muggles

I was honestly disappointed with much of the casting for the Harry Potter films.

  • Bellatrix Lestrange and Sirius Black are my two favorite characters from the series, and I felt they were both far classier in the books than they were portrayed in the films. I’m very curious about what the directors and casting directors thought about the Black family altogether, because it seemed to me like a penchant for letting anger go unchecked was what they observed in the characters and encouraged in the actors playing Blacks more than anything. Personally — besides in the case of Sirius’ slight psychosis in Prisoner of Azkaban — I always felt like cunning was their most unifying trait as a family, and I would have preferred actors who more naturally exude it.
  • Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson portrayed the Trio well, but I didn’t feel like they were perfect fits and could have been played by other actors.
  • Richard Harris was a very magical Dumbledore, and I do get the warm-and-fuzzies when I watch his portrayal, but he wasn’t as lively as the Dumbledore of the books; Michael Gambon, on the other hand, was very lively but also very angry. The argument could be made that it is mentioned several times in the books that Dumbledore rose to anger, such as when the dementors encroached on the Quidditch match during which Harry fell from his broom in Prisoner of Azkaban, but he seemed very at ease at other times in which Gambon’s Dumbledore may have exploded, such as when Fudge and Lucius Malfoy escort him and Hagrid from the grounds in Chamber of Secrets.

You can’t have it all! And each actor brought something unique to their enactment of the characters they assumed, which I respect. On the other hand, I think several actors were excellent fits for their characters:

  • Julie Walters was hilarious and wonderfully entertaining as the lovable Molly Weasley. She had a perfect, slightly frantic vibe and was over-indulgent of Harry in a way that had “mom” written all over it. ♥
  • It is impossible for me to separate the bearing, voice, and attitude of Alan Rickman’s Snape and the Snape of the books in my imagination — in my mind, he is Snape! (May he rest in peace.)
  • The same goes for Sean Biggerstaff as Oliver Wood. I hear his wonderful Scottish accent in my mind when I read Wood’s lines, and I giggle when I hear Wood tell McGonagall, “You can’t cancel Quidditch” in the film (Chamber of Secrets) because I can hear the stubbornness of the character who, in the books, repeated Quidditch strategies like mantras until his teammates could no longer stand it.
  • And speaking of McGonagall, thank goodness we had the inimitable Maggie Smith to grace our screens with her pointed hat stylishly askew — well, except in Deathly Hallows, when her hair was all unkempt, but who really would be on fleek while attempting to prevent imminent genocide?

But let’s not overlook twins James and Oliver Phelps as Fred and George Weasley. They did a phenomenal job playing the twins who seem to be able to read each other’s minds and finish one another’s sentences at all times — a skill my step-mother told me she shares with her twin sister, with whom she feels so “in tune” that sometimes they don’t even need to speak when they’re together, because they are so acutely aware of what the other is thinking and feeling.

Based on interviews I’ve seen with the Phelps twins, it seems these two are troublemakers in life, too. For instance, in an interview in 2010 at GamesCom in Germany, the interviewer misidentified them but they played along, reminiscent of how the Fred and George would tease their mother in the same way, and then asked, “Are you two twins in real life?” (yes, I cringed, too), to which Oliver responded, “No, it’s quite a weird story: we met at the audition process, didn’t we?” In another interview, they were asked if it’s difficult to play 18-year-olds at age 23; Oliver answered, “Not really, when you’re as immature as we are!” In yet another interview, James mentioned a chicken pox scar he has on the left side of his nose and how he tricked one of his castmembers into believing it was where he was shot by a farmer for trespassing as a child. The Phelps twins are natural pranksters.

fred & george - up to no good

The Weasley twins bring a Shakespearean level of comic relief to the books, and though the Phelps don’t have much screen-time in the films, they went above and beyond the call of duty in bringing the cheerful, mischievous spirit of the Weasley twins to the films, bringing laughter in even the darkest times.

george winking at harry-ginny

fred and george trolling madeye

The movies wouldn’t have been complete without the Phelps! I can’t imagine anyone else playing the Weasley twins.

fred and george dancing practice

What do you think? Who are your favorite casting choices in the Harry Potter films? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Book Shuffle: Women Who Slip Through Your Fingers Like Smoke

Book Shuffle is a monthly feature created by Shannon of Clockwork Bibliophile. On the 15th of each month, shuffle your music library (or choose “I’m Feeling Lucky” on Google Play Music, if you use it like I do) and connect a book with the first song that appears.

This month’s song is:

“Velvet” by a-ha

Her skin is like velvet
So I went to her home
Her place like a palace
With things you can’t own
Her skin is like velvet
And hear how she sings
Hear how she sings

“Velvet” was originally written by Savoy in 1996 and was covered by a-ha in 2000. In the cover, they replaced the guitars with sitars, adding to the soothing, otherworldly sound. They also gave it the strange and slightly disturbing music video above.

The music and lyrics remind me of:

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

What nobody knew about the docile girl from Osogbo was that her heart was too heavy, and that almost from birth she had felt its weight, a gravitational pull that invited her to her grave. Her heart was heavy because it was open, and so things filled it, and so things rushed out of it, but still the heart kept beating, tough and frighteningly powerful and meaning to shrug off the rest of her and continue on its own.

Helen Oyeyemi, Mr. Fox

It is arguable whether I’ve ever related to the emotions of a character more than I did with “the docile girl from Osogbo” in Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi. Like the girl sung about in “Velvet,” the women of Mr. Fox slip through your fingers like smoke when you reach out to touch them.

Book Review: Savage Kingdom by Benjamin Woolley

“And thy blush being turned to indignation, thou shalt wash, hast washed thy feet in the blood of those native unnatural Traitors, and now becomest a pure English Virgin; a new other Britain, in that new other World; and let all English say and pray, GOD BLESS VIRGINIA.”

Samuel Purchas, Purchas his Pilgramage (1623)

Savage Kingdom: The True Story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America by Benjamin Woolley


Four centuries ago, and fourteen years before the Mayflower, a group of men — led by a one-armed ex-pirate, an epileptic aristocrat, a reprobate cleric and a government spy — left London aboard a fleet of three ships to start a new life in America. They arrived in Virginia in the spring of 1607 and set about trying to create a settlement on a tiny island in the James River. Despite their shortcomings, and against the odds, they built Jamestown, a ramshackle outpost that laid the foundations of the British Empire and the United States of America.

Drawing on new discoveries, neglected sources and manuscript collections scattered across the world, Savage Kingdom challenges the textbook image of Jamestown as a mere money-making venture. It reveals a reckless, daring enterprise led by outcasts of the Old World who found themselves interlopers in a new one. It charts their journey into a beautiful landscape and a sophisticated culture that they found both ravishing and alien, which they yearned to possess but threatened to destroy. They called their new home a “savage kingdom,” but it was the savagery they had experienced in Europe that had driven them across the ocean and which they hoped to escape by building in America “one of the most glorious nations under the sun.”

An intimate story in an epic setting, Woolley shows how the land of Pocahontas came to be drawn into a new global order, reaching from London to the Orinoco Delta, from the warring kingdoms of Angola to the slave markets of Mexico, from the gates of the Ottoman Empire to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Savage Kingdom is not dry, like so many history books. Instead, littered with primary-source material that gives us an incredible window into the late 16th and early 17th centuries, it reads like a gripping story, and is a detailed play-by-play of the establishment of the State of Virginia. Who knew American history could make for an edge-of-your-seat read? (Maybe you did, but a childhood of mind-numbing U.S. history books had me thinking otherwise.)

It is easy, in learning history, to see only large-scale cause-and-effect — e.g., “Marie and Louis lived lavish lives and poured enormous amounts of money into decor and war, the Crown went bankrupt, the people were unfairly taxed; therefore, starving and impoverished, they became an angry mob, executed Marie and Louis, and initiated the French Revolution.” In reality, this view is too narrow; history is a confluence of events, and every detail plays a role — the whispered gossip, the words and works of the artists and critics, the legislative habits that become difficult to break. Woolley takes those details into account in Savage Kingdom, which gives us a look at events around the globe at the time of Jamestown’s inception. Above all, Savage Kingdom is a fascinating glimpse into life and politics in the early 1600s, particularly for English explorers and Spanish conquistadors, colonial settlers, British investors, and the indigenous peoples of the East Coast.

America has a long history of drawing the oddballs and outcasts, and of their persistence toward the goal of achieving social and economic mobility through hard work (“the American dream”), and this tradition began many years before the Mayflower landed in Plymouth. The settlers of Jamestown faced stunning adversities — often catalyzed by their own penchant for evil and destruction — but against all odds, managed to conquer them, just as they did the Powhatan‘s land. When I started the book, it was with respect for my country but disgust for the behavior of its pioneers; having finished it, my feelings toward the Virginia venture are now as varied as the opinions of all those involved. It is clear that an astounding amount of effort went into researching and writing this book, and it earns 4 out of 5 tobacco plants from me.

I believe that a book should challenge readers and push us outside our comfort zones to expand our world views. You can definitely expect this book to challenge you. It challenged me to empathize with the settlers of Virginia. The atrocities committed during America’s founding years is the stuff of nightmares, so I was also challenged to push myself through some of the more grotesque occurrences — it never grew boring, but it did occasionally become nauseating and stressful. It is a story that needs to be told, but I’m skeptical of the idea that the gory details need to be explicitly shared. That is absolutely a matter of opinion, and I can see and understand the other perspectives: that it wouldn’t be an authentic account otherwise, that to omit the injustices done would be a further injustice, that summarizing what occurred as opposed to laying it all out in detail opens the door to alterations of history. I absolutely respect those views, but it is nonetheless the gory details that prevent me from giving the book full marks.

Content Advisory: Several disturbing instances of torture and murder are described, which may be upsetting to some readers. The archaic language of Woolley’s primary sources is quoted very often, and Woolley’s own writing, while eloquent, may be equally difficult for a younger reader. Therefore, I give Savage Kingdom an R rating and would advise an educator to read it herself before recommending it to a young person, to ensure that young person has the maturity level necessary to appreciate it. And make sure that young person knows how to use a dictionary.

Featured Image: James Forte at Jamestowne 1607 by John Hull (1607)

The Sunday Post | Issue 4

The Sunday Post is a weekly feature hosted by Kimberly of Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s an opportunity to share news, recap the week, showcase books and things we have received, talk about what’s coming up next week, and anything else you’d like! In addition, I feature what I’m reading, playing, watching, and/or listening to, showcase new additions to my TBR shelf, and discuss any other general geekery that I want to share.


For the past several months I have been taking a long, unscheduled break from — well, everything! As I explain here, my infant son Oliver took over all my time, to the point that I wasn’t even reading (cue gasps of shock and horror from anyone who has ever met me). To be quite honest, I still have not figured out any semblance of routine beyond deciding to let his needs guide what I get up to at any given moment, and the only time I have for things like writing and blogging is that strange, liminal hour between the time he falls asleep and the time when my eyelids will no longer stay open. I’m playing it by ear and that’s perfectly alright with me!Read More »

Book-Traveling Thursdays: A Book Recommended to Everyone

Book-Traveling Thursdays is a weekly feature in which the blogger discusses a book related to the chosen theme for the week and examines the various covers of that book. Today is Read Across America Day, so this week’s theme is a book you would recommend to everyone.

According to a Gallup poll published in 2013, 94% of Americans have children or hope to have them someday. Despite that, our country takes a shockingly flippant attitude toward maternity and childcare. Midwifery is illegal in eleven states, cesarean sections — surgical births that can have dangerous consequences for the mother — and induced labors have been normalized due to the convenience for the healthcare provider, painkillers are pumped through the mother’s and baby’s systems in most spontaneous births, and while new parents are entitled to twelve weeks of maternity leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, there is no requirement that it be paid by their employer, forcing many women to go back to work shortly after giving birth, no matter their health. (I am so blessed to have already left work during my pregnancy, as my midwife had me on bedrest for a month after delivery, and I struggled to walk or sit comfortably for two.) Investigative reporter John Oliver gives a great report on our horrific attitude toward maternity leave in the clip below from his HBO show Last Week Tonight.

I had no idea how important proper maternity and delivery care is for mother and child until reading Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta by Ina May Gaskin while pregnant with my son. Gaskin is largely responsible for the revitalization of the tradition of midwifery and natural birth in America and teaches a new generation of midwives and doulas at the commune and midwifery center she began with her husband, the Farm. I desperately want to attend one of their workshops and become trained as a midwife’s assistant at the Farm after reading this book — I can only imagine how rewarding helping to deliver babies would be!

The dust jacket description alone will give you an understanding of just how important the information Gaskin provides in Birth Matters is:

In Birth Matters, America’s leading midwife, Ina May Gaskin, reminds us that the ways in which women experience birth have implications for us all. Renewing confidence in a woman’s natural ability to birth provides transformative possibilities for individual families, and for society at large.

A woman who gives birth in the US today is more likely to die in childbirth than her mother was. With one in three babies born via cesarean, the US ranks behind thirty-three other in neonatal mortality rates, and forty other nations in maternal mortality rates. Confidence in women’s bodies and women’s choices has been lost. Known around the world for her birthing practice’s exemplary low rates of intervention, morbidity, and mortality, Ina May Gaskin has gained an international reputation in obstetrics for demonstrating the magic key to safe birth: respect for the natural process. Birth Matters is a spirited manifesta showing us how to trust women, value birth, nurture families, and reconcile modern life with a process as old as our species.

Read More »

Book-Traveling Thursdays: A Book That Would Make a Brilliant Movie

Book-Traveling Thursdays is a weekly feature in which the blogger discusses a book related to the chosen theme for the week and examines the various covers of that book. The Oscars are this Sunday, so this week’s theme is a book that you would like to see as a movie.

I honestly am not much of a movie-viewer. I usually see only one or two movies a year, whether in the theatre or at home. It’s not that I don’t enjoy films — watching Alfred Hitchcock as a child gave me a love for cinematography and all its clever tricks — I just possess what you might call a “nervous energy,” and doing nothing but sitting for hours on end is unbearable to me. I’m the person who arrives 30 minutes early simply because I was already ready to leave and didn’t want to sit around waiting. I tell myself that when I’m older and I can appreciate “just sitting,” I’ll watch all the films I’ve been longing to see for many years.

Those few movies I do see each year are ones that I’m really thrilled to see, ones that I’ve been anticipating for months, and often they’re inspired by or adapted from video games and books. I find it thrilling to see the way others have imagined the universe!

A book I would absolutely love to see brought to life is A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan.

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

A Natural History of Dragons begins a series of “memoirs” by Isabella Camherst, Lady of Trent, a wealthy woman in the Victorian-esque nation of Scirland who shuns the repressive society into which she’s born and instead becomes the first female natural historian in her world, and the first person to recognize the study of dragons as its own scientific field. In her pursuit of knowledge, Lady Trent studies these beautiful but dangerous creatures in their natural habitats in an age when field research of dragons is almost unheard of and field research done by a woman unconscionable. She is a fiery, unapologetically female Indiana Jones relaying the adventures of her youth in her memoirs, and the adaptation would be a heart-pounding adventure/fantasy/period film. It would be fantastic! You can read my review of this wonderful book here.Read More »

What Are You Reading Wednesdays: The Weasley’s Magical Kitchen

What Are You Reading Wednesdays is a weekly bookish feature hosted by Andie of It’s a Reading Thing. There are three simple rules:

  1. State what you’re currently reading.
  2. Go to page 34 or 34% of your eBook and share a few sentences.
  3. Describe why or why not you would like to live in the world that exists within your book.

I’m rereading the Harry Potter series for the umpteenth time, but my first time since reading Deathly Hallows. It’s been a blast to read it aloud to my son, see all the foreshadowing for the events to come in the wizarding world, and rediscover Hogwarts as an adult, a place that felt far more real, made far more sense, and was far more appealing to me than the real world when I was younger.

Currently I’m deep into the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. In my hardcover 1999 edition, page 34 takes place in the Weasley’s kitchen shortly after their first bit of mischief with the flying Ford Anglia (though I think we can all safely assume it was not Fred and George’s first flight in the car!), while Molly dashes about angry-cooking breakfast. I have always thought the Burrow such a strange and wonderful place, and its peculiar kitchen especially.

The clock on the wall opposite him had only one hand and no numbers at all. Written around the edge were things like Time to make tea, Time to feed the chickens, and You’re late. Books were stacked three deep on the mantelpiece, books with titles like Charm Your Own Cheese, Enchantment in Baking, and One Minute Feasts — It’s Magic! And unless Harry’s ears were deceiving him, the old radio next to the sink had just announced that coming up was “Witching Hour, with the popular singing sorceress, Celestina Warbeck.”

Would I like to live in the wizarding world? Could anyone truly answer “no” to that question? Sure, there is the threat posed by dark magic and darker prejudices against Muggles and Muggle-born witches and wizards, but it’s still most likely a safer and saner world than our own. For example, when the Chamber of Secrets was opened in 1943, a Muggle-born girl died at Hogwarts. That same year, a comparable event occurred in the Muggle world: the Detroit race riots, in which 433 people were injured and 34 died.

On a brighter note than all that tragedy and bigotry, imagine how much easier life would be with magic at hand! Just recall Arthur Weasley’s reaction to Harry’s explanation of the telephone: “Fascinating! … Ingenious, really, how many ways Muggles have found of getting along without magic.” The Weasley’s self-cleaning kitchen with its cooking spellbooks and clock that locates family members proves even a housewife’s life would be infinitely improved with a little magic. Compared to magic, technology is downright impractical.

And of course, there’s Hogwarts, where owls deliver letters handwritten with feathered quills on parchment to students dressed in wizard’s robes sitting at their House table eating an unlimited amount of whatever food they choose in the mystical Great Hall where the ceiling is enchanted to look like the sky above; where students’ cleverness and hard work are rewarded through House points that add up mysteriously and culminate in the exciting House Cup; and where the stairs move and the hallways mysteriously change so frequently that even the Headmaster, who has been at Hogwarts in some capacity for a century, loses his way and discovers new rooms. Who wouldn’t want to go to Hogwarts?!