A Little Something to Hold You Over

I sympathize with those pining for arrival of the next Harry Potter book; the wait can be extremely difficult. You know the name of the thing, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and you can preorder it but it's going to be at least a trillion years until you can get your grubby little paws on the actual book. So what can you do in the meantime? Well some people are betting on exactly which characters Ms. Rowling is going to kill off, in fact according to the Guardian at year end Lord Valdemort was the favorite with Harry himself not that far behind. But betting can only take up so much of your time and it doesn't really take care of that itch to read good fantasy so what else can you do? As always I'll do my best to help you with a few suggestions.

Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain are a terrific series of books that use elements of Welsh mythology to create a wonderful and complicated world. In the first book, The Book of Three, a terrible lord called the Horned King wants to take over. Our hero, a lad called Taran, who has been earning his keep as an assistant pig keeper, (not even a full pig keeper!) is drawn into adventure when the pig, who can see the future, runs away. Taran has been desperate for adventure and he finds more than enough during his travels as his simple trip into the forest becomes much, much more. Over the course of the five book series we meet enchanting and saucy characters like the Princess Eilonway, who is prone to use sarcasm as her weapon of choice, and Gurgi, a shaggy creature who is always looking for crunchings and munchings and worries excessively about the state of his poor tender head. Not just a series of adventures, these books are also a coming of age story with Taran going from an unsatisfied boy to a strong young man. These were some of my very favorite books when I was growing up and the second book in the series, The Black Cauldron, was my first introduction to the idea of zombies, a trope I have embraced in the following years.

Cirque Du Freak by (and starring) Darren Shan is another excellent fantasy series, this time about a boy and couple of clans of vampires, one not so bad and one pretty determined to wreak as much destruction as possible. The first book starts off with a trio of friends reading a flyer for the Cirque Du Freak. Excited at the prospect of getting to see a performing spider and a wolfman, among others, they scrape up as much money as they can so they can all go to the show, but they don't have enough. Darren is elated when he wins a game they play to see who gets to go. The two friends love the show so much that they hide out after the performance, Darren planning to steal the spider that he loves so much while his buddy Steve wants to prove that one of the entertainers is a vampire because he wants to become a vampire himself. When Steve is bitten by one of the circus creatures Darren is given the opportunity to save him, but only by sacrificing himself. The series is twelve books long with Darren facing obstacle after obstacle in these thrilling and frightening books.

Observant fans of the HP series will surely have noted how much knitting goes on in the pages. If you're a knitter, or always wanted to be one, and can hang on until April, you'll very much want to get a copy of this book, Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter, written by Alison Hansel. The book has thirty patterns designed for every skill level from beginner to advanced. There is a pattern for most traditional knitted items, including sweaters, socks, hats, toys, scarves and mittens. The author and designer is also an ardent Potter fan and the owner of the blue blog - where blue is for knitting. If you scroll down the page you'll find lots of HP links on the right side, including this link to a pattern and photo of a Weasley sweater, based on the sweaters Molly Weasley knits for the kids every year. Don't know how to knit? You can find directions online and once you get the hang of it you can try this HP Wizard's Scarf from Lion Brand. The scarf is rated easy and the pattern is free, although free registration is required.

One-Sentence Review

Johnny "Quiver" Error has a one-sentence review of the Chinatown bus, the bus that runs from New York to Washington DC and costs $35 roundtrip. Johnny says, "Smelly, but a good deal and potentially frustrating so be sure to check your schedule online but buy the tickets in person from the first bus that comes along." Have you got a one-sentence review? Send it in to me and I'll run the best ones. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.