Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mini-Review of HP and the Deathly Hallows

As the novel begins, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are on the run from Lord Voldemort, whose minions of Death Eaters have not only taken control of the Minister of Magic but have begun to systematically - and forcibly - change the entire culture of the magic community: Muggle-born wizards, for example, are being rounded up and questioned, and all "blood traitors" are being imprisoned. But as Voldemort and his followers ruthlessly pursue the fugitive with the lightning bolt scar on his forehead, Potter finally uncovers the jaw-dropping truth of his existence.
 [from Goodreads]

Rating:  4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Muggles of all ages
High point:  The action and suspense
Reader maturity:  13+

 The first time I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it took me over a year to finish it. This time, it took 3 days (and would've been less than that, except that I had other things I needed to do). I could hardly stand to put it down! There's so much action and so many convoluted plot lines to follow! I really missed out the first time. I really love that Voldemort's demise was a group effort--that Harry, Dumbledore, Ron, Hermione AND Neville (and Crabbe, on accident) all destroyed a Horcrux and that so many people showed up to defend Hogwarts so that Harry would have a chance to finish his task.

I almost hate to admit it, but the movie really brought this book to life for me. Having seen the movie and having the Elder Wand and other Hallows mythology explained really helped me understand what was going on in the book. The Battle of Hogwarts is very confusing, with people running and shooting all over the place and chaos everywhere. Seeing the movie cleared up some of my confusion regarding the timeline, and rereading the book answered some of my questions about Snape and the ownership of the Elder Wand.

The one thing I don't like--and fortunately, it's self-contained so I don't ever have to read it again if I don't want to--is the Epilogue. It just seems so needless to me, and I don't like imagining our heroes as middle-aged parents.

My review can't possibly do this book justice, so I'll just say that's it's brilliant and that J. K. Rowling did a marvelous job providing a satisfying and unpredictable ending.

What did you think of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? If you've reread it, are your thoughts on it different than before you saw the movie/read the rest of the series? Were you pleased with the conclusion?

Title:  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author:  J. K. Rowling
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Year:  2007
Book Source:  Purchased

Friday, December 30, 2011

Mini-Review of HP and the Half-Blood Prince

The war against Voldemort is not going well; even Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.

And yet...

As in all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate — and lose a few eyebrows in the process. The Weasley twins expand their business. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.

So it's the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Here are Hogwarts, Harry will search for the full and complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort — and thereby find what may be his only vulnerability.
 [from Goodreads]

Rating:  4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Muggles of all ages
High point:  The action and suspense
Reader maturity:  13+

There was so much in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that I had forgotten! Unfortunately, I had already almost finished HP & the Deathly Hallows by the time I got around to writing this review, and the two are blurring together a little bit.

The events from HP & the Half-Blood Prince that stick out in my mind are Harry's "private lessons" with Dumbledore. Every time I read through the memories that Dumbledore collected, I'm plagued with more and more questions that are never answered. Those memories also serve, I believe, as an example of what can happen due to a single and, what may seem to be, insignificant, choice.

I wish Harry had taken Hermione's concerns about the Half-Blood Prince more seriously and investigated the Prince's identity further, though it wasn't out of character for him not to have done so. It also wasn't out of character for him to develop a crush on Ginny; in fact, I'm surprised it took him so long. However, I still find Ron and Hermione's relationship/feelings/mutual irritation-turned-affection/whatever it is to be unbelievable. I just don't see how someone as smart and brave as Hermione could fall for someone like Ron. I know he's not exactly stupid or cowardly, but he's...Ron. It stretches my imagination less to picture Hermione with Neville. And, of course, I always hoped a little bit (and not so secretly) that Harry and Hermione would end up together. Alas...

What did you think of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? If you've reread it, are your thoughts on it different than before you saw the movie/read the rest of the series? Were you rooting for Hermione and Ron or another couple?

Title:  Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Author:  J. K. Rowling
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Year:  2005
Book Source:  Purchased

Top 10 Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2012

I'm participating in Top 10 of 2011 Week. Today's topic is the Top 10 Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2012.

In alphabetical order...

(It was hard enough to whittle the selection to 10; how would I ever rank them?!)

Charmfall (Dark Elite #3) by Chloe NeillHigh school can be a battlefield, but for Lily Parker, surviving at St. Sophia’s School for Girls is a matter of life and death...

Protecting Chicago from the dark side can be an exhausting job, especially when you’re a junior. So when the girls of St. Sophia’s start gearing up for Sneak, their fall formal, Lily decides to join in on some good, old-fashioned party prep—even if it means not giving demons, vampires and the twisted magic users known as Reapers her undivided attention.

But when a Reaper infiltrates the school, Lily doesn’t forget what she’s sworn to protect. She reaches deep into herself to draw out her magic—and finds that it’s gone. And it turns out she’s not alone. A magical blackout has slammed through paranormal Chicago, and no one knows what—or who—caused it. But Lily knows getting back her magic is worth the risk of going behind enemy lines... (Goodreads)

Insurgent (Divergent #2) by Veronica RothOne choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so. (Goodreads)

Jessica Rules the Dark Side (Jessica #2) by Beth Fantaskey: It’s one thing to find out you’re a vampire princess. It’s a whole other thing to actually rule. Newly married Jessica Packwood is having a hard enough time feeling regal with her husband, Lucius, at her side. But when evidence in the murder of a powerful elder points to Lucius, sending him into solitary confinement, Jessica is suddenly on her own. Determined to clear her husband’s name, Jessica launches into a full-scale investigation, but hallucinations and nightmares of betrayal keep getting in her way. Jessica knows that with no blood to drink, Lucius’s time is running out. Can she figure out who the real killer is—and whom she can trust—before it’s too late? (Goodreads)

Pandemonium (Delirium #2) by Lauren Oliver:
I’m pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite. (Goodreads)

Rapture (Fallen #4) by Lauren KateThe sky is dark with wings...

In Rapture, the highly anticipated fourth and final novel in the FALLEN series, Luce and Daniel are together . . . but for how long? Can history be rewritten? Or are some punishments eternal? (Goodreads)


The Savage Grace (The Dark Divine #3) by Bree DespainA troubled soul. An impossible choice. A final battle.

Wrestling with the werewolf curse pulsing deep inside of her, Grace Divine was finally able to find her brother, but it nearly cost her everything.

With her boyfriend, Daniel, stuck in wolf form and Sirhan's death approaching, time is running out for Grace to stop Caleb Kalbi and his gang of demons. If she fails, her family and hometown will perish. Everything rests on Grace's shoulders.

Spell Bound (Hex Hall #3) by Rachel HawkinsJust as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.   

Can Sophie get her powers back before it’s too late? (Goodreads)

Spirit's Princess by Esther FriesnerHimiko the beloved daughter of a chieftain in third century Japan has always been special. The day she was born there was a devastating earthquake, and the tribe's shamaness had an amazing vision revealing the young girl's future—one day this privileged child will be the spiritual and tribal leader over all of the tribes. Book One revolves around the events of Himiko's early teen years—her shaman lessons, friendships, contact with other tribes, and journey to save her family after a series of tragic events. Once again, Esther Friesner masterfully weaves together history, myth, and mysticism in a tale of a princess whose path is far from traditional. (Goodreads) 

Timeless by Gail CarrigerAlexia Tarabotti, Lady Maccon, has settled into domestic bliss. Of course, being Alexia, such bliss involves integrating werewolves into London High society, living in a vampire's second best closet, and coping with a precocious toddler who is prone to turning supernatural willy-nilly. Even Ivy Tunstell's acting troupe's latest play, disastrous to say the least, cannot put a damper on Alexia's enjoyment of her new London lifestyle.

Until, that is, she receives a summons from Alexandria that cannot be ignored. With husband, child, and Tunstells in tow, Alexia boards a steamer to cross the Mediterranean. But Egypt may hold more mysteries than even the indomitable Lady Maccon can handle. What does the vampire Queen of the Alexandria Hive really want from her? Why is the God-Breaker Plague suddenly expanding? And how has Ivy Tunstell suddenly become the most popular actress in all the British Empire? (Goodreads)

The Traitor and the Tunnel (The Agency #3) by Y. S. LeeQueen Victoria has a little problem: there's a petty thief at work in Buckingham Palace. Charged with discretion, the Agency puts quickwitted Mary Quinn on the case, where she must pose as a domestic while fending off the attentions of a feckless Prince of Wales. But when the prince witnesses the murder of one of his friends in an opium den, the potential for scandal looms large. And Mary faces an even more unsettling possibility: the accused killer, a Chinese sailor imprisoned in the Tower of London, shares a name with her long-lost father. Meanwhile, engineer James Easton, Mary's onetime paramour, is at work shoring up the sewers beneath the palace, where an unexpected tunnel seems to be very much in use. Can Mary and James trust each other (and put their simmering feelings aside) long enough to solve the mystery and protect the Royal Family? Hoist on your waders for Mary's most personal case yet, where the stakes couldn't be higher - and she has everything to lose. (Goodreads) 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top 10 Characters in 2011

I'm participating in Top 10 of 2011 Week. Today's topic is the Top 10 Characters in 2011 (who also, coincidentally, happen to be from my Top 10 Books of 2011).

In alphabetical order...

(It was hard enough to whittle the selection to 10; how would I ever rank them?!)

Sophie -- Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins
Tris and Four -- Divergent by Veronica Roth

Todd and Viola -- Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
Chloe -- The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong

Nefertiti -- Sphinx's Princess by Esther Friesner
Katla and Jack -- Stork by Wendy Delsol
Megan (and Megan's mom) -- You Are So Undead to Me by Stacey Jay

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winner of the Midwinters Eve Giveaway Hop

Wondering who won the Midwinters Eve Giveaway?


 The winner of Stork is...Angela!

Congratulations! Check your email, and I'll have your book ordered ASAP. :-)

To everyone who entered, thank you so much for entering, following and spreading the word. The response absolutely floored me, and I'm so excited to get the chance to talk books with you. I hope to see you around!

Top 10 Book Boyfriends of 2011

I'm participating in Top 10 of 2011 Week. Today's topic is the Top 10 Book Boyfriends (based on books read) in 2011.

In alphabetical order...

(It was hard enough to whittle the selection to 10; how would I ever rank them?!)

Cal -- Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins
Four -- Divergent by Veronica Roth
Alec -- Fateful by Claudia Gray
Peeta -- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Lucius -- Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
Todd -- Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Derek -- The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong
Jerome -- Vixen by Jillian Larkin

Jack Snjosson -- Stork by Wendy Delsol
Ethan -- You Are So Undead to Me by Stacey Jay

Want to Read Wednesday: Juliet Immortal

The most tragic love story in history . . .

Juliet Capulet didn't take her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, a sacrifice made to ensure his own immortality. But what Romeo didn't anticipate was that Juliet would be granted eternity, as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light. For 700 years, she's fought Romeo for the souls of true lovers, struggling to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent. Until the day she meets someone she's forbidden to love, and Romeo, oh Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy that love.

[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2nds Challenge 2012

I'm planning on participating in the 2nds Challenge 2012.

2nds Challenge 2012

There are four levels to choose from, and I've decided to aim for A Few More Bites, which means I'll be reading at least 6 books that are the 2nd in a series or the 2nd time I've read a particular author.

These are the books I'm pretty sure will be part of the challenge. I'll add more once I have them in my possession.
  1. The Lost Saint by Bree Despain
  2. Sphinx's Queen by Esther Friesner
  3. The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
  4. Undead Much? by Stacey Jay
  5. Insurgent by Veronica Roth 
  6. Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
  7. My Soul to Save (Soul Screamers #2) by Rachel Vincent (added 3/10)
  8. Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery (added 3/22)
  9. Scribbler of Dreams by Mary E. Pearson (added 3/27)
  10. Delirium (Delirium #1) by Lauren Oliver (added 5/1)
  11. The Eternal Sea (Everlasting #2) by Angie Frazier (added 5/5)
  12. Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey (added 6/2)
  13. Being Nikki (Airhead #2) by Meg Cabot (added 7/31)
  14. Seeing Redd (The Looking Glass Wars #2) by Frank Beddor (added 11/6)

Mini-Review of HP and the Order of the Phoenix

There is a door at the end of a silent corridor, and it's haunting Harry Potter's dreams. Why else would he be waking in the middle of the night, screaming in terror?

Here are just a few of the things on Harry's mind:

• A Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher with a personality like poisoned honey
• A venomous, disgruntled house-elf
• Ron as Keeper of the Gryffindor Quidditch team
• The looming terror of the end-of-term Ordinary Wizarding Level exams

. . . and of course, the growing threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

In the richest installment yet of J.K. Rowling's seven-part story, Harry Potter is faced with the unreliability of the very government of the magical world and the impotence of the authorities at Hogwarts.

Despite this (or perhaps because of it), he finds depth and strength in his friends, beyond what even he knew; boundless loyalty; and unbearable sacrifice.

Though thick runs the plot (as well as the spine), readers will race through these pages and leave Hogwarts, like Harry, wishing only for the next train back.
 [from Goodreads]

Rating:  4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Muggles of all ages
High point:  The action and suspense
Reader maturity:  13+

After finishing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I can say that I'm truly, truly glad that I decided to put myself on a Harry Potter Hiatus.

The first time I read HP and the Order of the Phoenix, I was overwhelmingly irritated by Harry's woe-is-me, everybody-hates-me attitude, and while I had read and reread Years 1-4, after Year 5, I only read each book once, just so I wouldn't have to go through what I called Harry's Angsty Year again. Fortunately, my own life experiences have tempered the magnitude of Harry's angst, and I'm now able to see Hermione's soft heart shining through her outer shell, Ron's potential now that he's out from under the shadow of his brothers and Ginny's strength and unique way of dealing with Harry's attitude. On my first reading, all the nuances of tone and character were overshadowed by Harry, and I'm glad that I finally reread what is really an awesome book, possibly the best in the series so far.

The writing gets more complicated, as more storylines are being woven and juggled and foreshadowed, and knowing what happens in Years 6 and 7 only gives me more questions about Year 5. Why is Snape so horrible to Harry? I figured that, after he discovered what a horrible childhood Harry's had (so similar to his own) that he could show Harry a bit of compassion. That horrible childhood sets Harry apart from his father, James, by a mile. Also, I know what Snape...errr, does in memory of Lily, so it seems that, even though he hated James Potter, he would show Harry a bit more kindness in her memory as well. But he doesn't, which made me wonder how he would've treated Harry if Harry had been in Slytherin.

One of the things I love most about this novel is how Harry friends rally around him, even when he's being angsty and annoying and shouting at everyone. They're patient (but not too patient), and they're still there for him, even after his Angsty Year. Of course, they're also brave and true Gryffindors, willing to risk life and limb to fly to the Department of Mysteries because Harry feels strongly that they should go. They don't question or balk (well, Hermione does, but it's due to concerns about Harry's safety rather than her own).

So all in all, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is brilliance.

What did you think of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? If you've reread it, are your thoughts on it different than before you saw the movie/read the rest of the series? Have you ever read the series straight through? Did your family and friends wish you'd stop calling people "Muggles" and jinxing them under your breath?

Title:  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Author:  J. K. Rowling
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Year:  2003
Book Source:  Purchased

Top 10 Book Covers of 2011

I'm participating in Top 10 of 2011 Week. Today's topic is the Top 10 Book Covers of 2011.

In alphabetical order...

(It was hard enough to whittle the selection to 10; how would I ever rank them?!)

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Demonglass by Rachel Hawkin
Divergent by Veronica Roth
The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross
Hereafter by Tara Hudson
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Monday, December 26, 2011

Top 10 Books I've Read in 2011

I'm participating in Top 10 of 2011 Week. Today's topic is the Top 10 Book Covers of 2011.

In alphabetical order...

(It was hard enough to whittle the selection to 10; how would I ever rank them?!)

Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender
Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins
Divergent by Veronica Roth

Frost by Wendy Delsol
If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong

Sphinx's Princess by Esther Friesner
Stork by Wendy Delsol
You Are So Undead to Me by Stacey Jay