Sunday, September 30, 2012

Blog Overhaul!

As you can see, Lunar Rainbows has had a complete redesign courtesy of my cousin (or as I like to call her The Blog Queen): Giselle over at Xpresso Reads & Xpresso Designs  Isn't it awesome!?  I'm in love ♥  Thanks again Giselle!

And for anyone looking to spice up their blog: be sure to check out Giselle's amazing work over at Xpresso Designs.  She does everything from Headers, Buttons, Badges, Event Buttons or Banners, Meme Banners...even Facebook Cover Pages!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (1)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga's Reviews featuring our book haul for the week; either new books we've received or bought.

What goodies did I get this week?

Wow, the past week has been absolutely crazy for me what with the official launch of my new book blog Lunar Rainbows and the worldwide issue with domain switching over on google and blogger...*whew*   I've hardly had time to even read; but I'm never too busy to go out and get some new ones ;-)

This week I got my first 'official' arc since I launched my blog, and I'm pretty excited about it:

Baptism of Fire
Author: Stephanie Constante

The Synopsis:
Being the daughter of a dragon slayer was never easy, especially when Leito discovers a dragon child injured in her father’s fields. Knowing the fate that will befall him, she helps the boy to escape before the hunt is upon him.
Leito realizes years later that no good deed goes unpunished and after the village offers her up as a sacrifice for her father’s actions against dragons, Leito must utilize all her knowledge and strength to outwit the dragon that aims to kill her.

Dragons? I absolutely love dragons, I mean I have a dragon tattoo on my foot!  And I'm really curious about the whole 'dragon boy' bit.  The synopsis  has me dying to know how Leito's confrontation with the dragon will go.  I also happen to think the cover is super pretty ♥'s what I bought this week:
The Well of Ascension (Mistborn 2) by Brandon Sanderson & Half Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout

I just recently read Mistborn  and I absolutely LOVED it; 5-stars & an instant favorite!  Classic High Fantasy feel with a female heroine and a VERY unique, elaborate & just plain awesome magical system.

And I've heard nothing but good things about Jennifer L. Armentrout's Lux series (which I haven't read yet *gasp*), but I was instantly attracted to the cover of this one...and it's uber-intriguing premise.

What new books have you gotten this week?  Link me :)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Review: Mistborn

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Mistborn #1
Published July 31 2017 by Tor Books

Once, a hero arose to save the world. A young man with a mysterious heritage courageously challenged the darkness that strangled the land.

He failed.

For a thousand years since, the world has been a wasteland of ash and mist ruled by the immortal emperor known as the Lord Ruler. Every revolt has failed miserably.

Yet somehow, hope survives. Hope that dares to dream of ending the empire and even the Lord Ruler himself. A new kind of uprising is being planned, one built around the ultimate caper, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the determination of an unlikely heroine, a street urchin who must learn to master Allomancy, the power of a Mistborn.
Imagine a world where the bad guy wins. Where thousands of years have passed under the oppressive rule of an evil immortal and god-like tyrant. This is the world we are introduced to in Mistborn. The world is bleak, dreary and more often then not, cruel. The Lord Ruler, as he's known has ruled with an iron fist for what seems like an eternity. There is an elite sector of society that he allows to thrive but the rest; called the skaa are poor, oppressed, tortured slaves that must do the Lord Ruler's bidding. The skaa have long given up hope and live each day in fear and suffering. This is the world presented to us by Brandon Sanderson at the beginning of Mistborn. And believe me when I say Sanderson throws you into the thick of it things from the start. The first 50 pages or so almost felt a bit overwhelming because everything was happening so fast and I didn't fully understand how the world functions or the new terminology being thrown at me. But I think it was meant to feel that way. Because when the explanations do start coming(after about 50 pages or so), you can fully appreciate the depth of imaginings and intelligence that it took to make this story come together.

The story features the shared narrative of both protagonists Kelsier and Vin. But fear not, this is not done in the same vein as the trendy shared narratives featuring both sides of a romantic relationship that have seen an emergence in YA fiction of late. No this is done out of necessity to move the story along. Initially we meet Kelsier, a man hell-bent on revenge on the Lord Ruler and his final empire who begins causing trouble from the word go. But Kelsier is no simple trouble maker; he has a plan. And as he begins recruiting players to put his plan in motion, they discover Vin. Vin is a poor abused teenage skaa girl who has powers she doesn't fully understand; powers that lead to her discovery by Kelsier and his crew...powers that Kelsier knows because he has them too. You see, both Kelsier and Vin are Mistborn. A Mistborn has the ability to draw power from various metals by ingesting them and 'burning' them to release their inherent powers, each different metal granting a different power or ability. There are Mistings who can only 'burn' one of the 8 major metals and then there are Mistborns who can burn all 8 major metals separately or all at the same time! For example, burning Pewter enhances physical strength, while burning Tin enhances one's senses. It's much more detailed and nuanced than what I've hinted at in this review though. The magical system is unlike any I've ever read about, it's intricate, inventive and wholly unique. Truly it was remarkable to discover and behold, but that's not the half of it. This entire world functions on a highly developed system in which both the magic within the world and the infrastructure of the world itself run on METAL. You see the Lord Ruler also controls the distribution of metal amongst his people, thereby controlling the economy and the politics within with metal.

Now, while the magic and world building rightfully deserve to be praised, another highlight is the character evolution; especially Vin. Her progress from paranoid, terrified street urchin to fully fledged Mistborn is done to perfection. Nothing ever feels forced or rushed, and why should it, at around 650 pages there's more than enough time to do things thoroughly. We learn about her tragic history while she simultaneously begins to let go of her past, bit by bit and embrace who she is meant to become. I absolutely LOVED Vin! With everything she's been through, she managed to keep her will to survive and despite her bleak outlook on things, she's open to learning and harnessing her powers. With the help of Kelsier, and a host of varied and likable secondary characters they embark on an improbable and unlikely partnership. Kelsier himself is instantly endearing as he fills the role of Survivor, Rebel, Mentor and friend. Every scene he's in is compelling and he's able to bring a lightness and even humor in the darkest of times. And like I mentioned, the narratives go back and forth between Vin and Kelsier so each offers unique insight into their characters and how they perceive the other...and all this was flawlessly executed. I honestly can't say enough!

As I mentioned, the book is no quick read at over 600 pages, I never felt it dragged or went to any unnecessary detours or details. At one point about halfway through, Vin does succumb to an injury, and her Mistborn training did stall a bit, but at that moment she was also tasked with impersonating nobility to gather valuable information for Kelsier and their crew. And while I will admit I missed her Mistborn activities, it was a necessary deviation and one that provided it's own intrigue. We gain unique insight into how the nobility functions and we have an opportunity for a little bit of a romantic side-story to develop. I found everything about this world absorbing: the politics, the magic, the meetings with the crew to discuss the rebel crew's all had it's purpose and was written simply and with just enough detail to keep in interesting, but never too much where you feel sidetracked! The ending is satisfying and wraps the major plot point nicely, while leaving enough things unanswered for the story to continue. I am honestly at a loss as to how I am only discovering Brandon Sanderson now. I've already ordered the two sequels to Mistborn and I've definitely added his other novels to my 'to-read' list. HIGHLY recommended to any fans of adult high fantasy coming from a more current author, and fans of book such as Lord of the Rings.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: Matched

Matched by Ally Condie
Matched #1
Published November 30th, 2010 by Dutton

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe.

So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander.

But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.
I am not usually one to discuss book covers all that much, but I have to say that I absolutely love the cover for Matched. The shade of green, the iridescent bubble and a brunette in a gorgeous dress of matching green! But the cover is not only to-die for, it's also fairly representative of the reality of our heroine...but I'll get into that in a bit.

I definitely went into this book having no idea what to expect. Despite having most of my Goodreads friends give Matched a positive review...well there are some awful reviews about this one. People seem to either love it or hate it and I think the problem is from it being compared to; and even marketed as a Hunger Games-type of book. Matched, being a dystopian which takes place in a 'perfect'/imperfect society (like the Hunger Games) and it also features something of a love-triangle (like the Hunger Games). However, that is where the similarities end. I think people who went in expecting the constant adrenaline rush you get in the Hunger Games were likely the ones most upset about this book. In Matched, we find ourselves in a world where 'The Society' controls everything: where you work, who you love and when you die. In this world, most people seem perfectly content with leaving all of these decisions to 'The Society' because it is a way to be kept safe; to survive. Information is virtually inaccessible; on a need to know basis. You don't ask questions, people don't gossip; everyone just does what they are supposed to. Initially this gives the book an almost Utopian-feel. This world is too good to be true. Then you realize that with everything decided by probability and sorting; there is no creation in this world: no art, no writing, no imagining. They do what The Society tells them, learn what society chooses and obey. Period.

Then we have our main protagonist, Cassia. In the beginning, it was hard for me to get a read on her; she seemed so happy to believe everything she was fed by 'The Society'. Being a natural skeptic AND a fan of conspiracy theories, it took me a bit to wrap my head around the fact that Cassia is a product of her environment. She is still young, and when the story begins she never had any reason not to trust 'The Society'. However as the story progressed, I found myself liking Cassia more and more. I found it quite easy to relate to her and it was easy to sympathize with a character opening her eyes after a lifetime of being blind. Her inaction when it was necessary, her thoughts and her instincts all felt very natural and sympathetic to me. As the story progresses she becomes more and more strong, and the skills that were attributed to her early on allow her to gain unique insight into the disconcerting reality of her world.

The pacing really sets the tone for Matched. At first it is seems slow, but it really gives you a feel of how life is in this dystopian future. It sets the tone and gives the reader a chance to come to grips with this world and it's realities. The Society seems perfect, but as the story progresses, your sense of creeping dread builds with it. While it's never clear what happened before (to make The Society into what it currently is), it is clear that these people have been living this way very long, and so it takes time for the protagonist to realize things may not be as they appear. The writing style reflects this as well; many things are kept from Cassia (and everyone else) and so as you start reading; many things are kept from the reader. You get introduced to something new, and then get no explanation. It's a bit frustrating for someone like me who ALWAYS wants to know more, but you really get into Cassia's mind-frame this way and it keeps you wanting more. It's a slow burn, that just builds and builds...steady and purposeful.

Now let's talk about those boys! I've never been that big on the whole 'love-triangle' thing that is oh-so trendy right now in YA fiction. I usually know which boy I like within minutes and feel the whole 'deciding' thing is a waste of time: make up your mind already! This wasn't like that, even though it was a bit predictable and formulaic I still found myself hooked. Xander is immediately likeable. He's sweet, smart and confident. You can't not like Xander; he's the boy next door: all golden, smiling and strong. Not usually my type, but like I said: you can't not like Xander! *sigh* And then there's Ky. He didn't catch my attention right away; he was a slow burn for me like the book as a whole was. And, the way he talks to Cassia about writing, the things he creates. How their relationship grows with their love of words? That pretty much won me over for where the whole book was concerned. It's such a unique theme, and so very close to my heart personally. I loved how Ally Condie slowly wove poetry, writing and art into the romance, into the character's thoughts and feelings, into their lives; especially since both of those are also controlled by 'The Society' made the whole think reminiscent of old romances where so many things are taboo. HUGE plus for me right there and probably worth a full star bump in the rating.

Final thoughts: I liked the mystery of the green, blue and red tablets even though it drove me nuts at first to not know what they were all for. I definitely finished Matched wanting to know more...and running out to buy book 2. Even though it's not an action packed dystopian, and felt a bit slow at times, it still kept my interest. The romance was sweet, innocent, compelling and poetic. The mystery was simple enough but still satisfying

''Our time together feels like a storm, like wild wind and rain, like something too big to handle but too powerful to escape.''

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (1)

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by  Breaking the Spine which spotlights upcoming book releases that we're especially looking forward to!

Here's my pick this week:

Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor
Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2
Release Date: November 6th 2012
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war. This is not that world. Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it. In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life. While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope. But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?
I was so utterly blown away by the Gothic feel, enticing characters & imaginative world created by Laini Taylor in  Daughter of Smoke & Bone that I can hardly contain my excitement for Days of Blood and Starlight!  And let's be honest: how GORGEOUS is that cover?!  It's going to look amazing on my shelf right next to it's sibling ♥

What was your pick of the week? Let me know :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Review: City of Bones

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
The Mortal Instruments #1
Published March 27th 2017 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know...
I think at this point, that I may have been the only person left that hadn't read The Mortal Instruments series. The first book, City of Bones had indeed been on my 'to-read' shelf for a while now so it was high time I see for myself what the fuss was all about. I had read up on the series beforehand, and was familiar with the fact that the series started out as Harry Potter fan-fiction centralized around Ginny Weasley and Draco Malfoy,which I knew could either make or break the series for this hardcore HP fangirl.  Unfortunately for me, this ended up being quite the underwhelming read.

City of Bones features Clary or 'Clarissa' Fray as our protagonist who knows nothing about her true identity. Her past, her 'sight' and her true nature has been hidden from her. It takes one night out at a club for her whole life to change. It is a this club (Pandemonium) that Clary first encounters the 'Shadowhunters', warriors whose sole purpose is to rid the world of demons. Pandemonium is also the first time Clary meets Jace, a gorgeous, dangerous and mysterious boy...and a Shadowhunter is his own right. Overnight illusions begin to shatter around Clary and while she is barely managing to keep up, she begins to realize she is in more danger than she ever could have imagined.

I have to admit that City of Bones didn't start out all that great to me. The similarities between The Mortal Instruments and the Harry Potter Series were kind of hard to ignore. Jace reminded me too much of Draco...Valentine is very similar to Voldemort in personality and with regards to their personal histories...and I could go on. It was very clear to me who each character from The Mortal Instruments was based off of in HP. Even the Mortal Instruments themselves reek of Horcruxes. And it bothered me. I feel like even if I hadn't know about the whole fan-fiction thing, I would have noticed all of this anyway. I also felt that the intrigue was a bit transparent. Like I guessed every most plot twists miles before they actually panned out. Additionally, Clary herself was a less than impressive protagonist. I never warmed up to her and the fact that she was constantly apologizing to everyone drove me crazy. The minute she'd show some backbone,  she was apologizing for it five seconds after. Gah!

While City of Bones doesn't offer up anything staggeringly unique, it did sort of begin to grow on me about halfway in. The small excerpt we got from Jace's perspective warmed me up to him considerably. (For anyone who follows my reviews, it's no secret that I'm a sucker for a glimpse into the boy's mind within a female driven plot.) Clary eventually grew on me a bit more, I admired her bravery; especially considering she has yet to be trained up much in her abilities. By the ending I was definitely surprised by a few of the twists there. So while I'm not yet finding myself thinking about the plot I do when I'm really hooked, I'm still curious enough about what's coming next to keep going. Hopefully the next one will delve deeper into this intriguing, albeit flawed world.

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1
Published September 27 2011 by Little Brown Books

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
Wow. I barely know where to begin in attempting to review this book; everything I write down seems to pale in comparison to how beautifully this book was written, how utterly imaginative the plot and characters were and how completely touching the story as a whole was. I'm the type of reader/reviewer who's always jotting down notes as I read, usually just a memorable quote here and there...or a general observation to elaborate during the review. To put things into perspective, by the time I was about halfway through this book I already had pages of notes and quotes. And not just short one-phrase quotes; but entire paragraphs of truly delightful prose, the kind that paints a vivid picture in your mind...a pretty remarkable feat considering how other-worldly Daughter of Smoke and Bone is. Sadly, my laptop died as I was initially starting to write this review yesterday; which means all my saved quotes and thoughts on this book died along with it so, I'm going to start fresh and try my best to do Laini Taylor justice.

Like I mentioned, I've never read anything that comes even remotely close to Daughter of Smoke and Bone; it's so ineffably original. The story starts with our main protagonist Karou. Karou is a student studying Art in Prague and while that may not sound overly unique; Karou has a secret. Hers is a double life. You see, Karou was raised by demons, or rather chimera. (In this world chimera are sort of half or mixed breed humans/animals). Ever since she was a baby, these chimera have been her family; they have cared for her, raised her, protected her. While she still attended regular school while growing up, she also went home through a portal that links Brimstone's lair to our world. Now a young adult she has her own flat, but she still runs errands for Brimstone...very peculiar errands. Brimstone is in the business of collecting teeth; human and animal teeth which he trades for wishes...wishes that often come with a terrible price but wishes nonetheless. Karou travels our world seeking, trading and transporting teeth for Brimstone. She has never been told what Brimstone does with these teeth, or indeed why he collects them. And that's not the only secret that has been kept from Karou. She has no knowledge of her real family, or her past. She lives with the constant feeling that there is something missing...something she's missing...something else she ought to be doing...something important... but what? As Karou sets off on yet another errand, black hand-prints begin appearing on Brimstone's portal doors all over the world. People world-wid are reporting odd sightings , some claim to have seen unearthly beautiful beings take flight, there are whispers of angels... And an ancient other-worldly war between the two archaic races is about to come crashing down on Karou and turn her reality upside down.

As far as our hero goes, Karou is beyond awesome. This blue haired and black eyed artist who moonlights as a trader and transporter of illicit goods is trained in self defense, knows her way around with knives and walks fearlessly out to meet all kinds of seedy and quite frankly scary characters. I loved Karou pretty much from the first pages but she keeps getting better the more you discover about her. I especially loved her thoughts; her inner voice. She has an precise yet artful way of expressing her feelings . And having had such a unique upbringing and life gives her an incomparably colourful way of seeing things. While she is a bit innocent at first, as the story progresses and we learn more of the secrets about Karou's life, she becomes much more determined, complex and resourceful. She's like no other heroine I've encountered and hands down one of the best I've come across. As for the other characters in the book, they are rich and varied; humans, chimera and angels. But fear not, these angels aren't your usual pure benevolent angels; these are warrior angels as fierce and terrifying as the chimera might be. Worthy characters of mention or obviously Brimstone, Zuzana (who is awesome) Akiva *swoon* and Issa. The characters were all in perfect balance, flawed yet endearing. Some are easy to love, others are fun to hate. Each character feels authentic; complex and well...alive.

Where the storytelling is concerned I can only say it was above reproach. Laini Taylor has a style all her own. While there were some words I wasn't familiar with, for the most part, it's familiar words used in new and original words. It's descriptions I could have never imagined that fall into place perfectly. Never overly complicated or rambling, her style is direct, yet lyrical. The words are unusual, but fitting. In the beginning the world building fits in seamlessly, bit by bit as needed, never too heavy but never lacking. The intrigue is flawlessly done giving you just enough to get you fully immersed in this world and hooked. At about the halfway point, the romance factor really kicks in; and it is beautiful. It's complicated and poetic and the gave me chills on more than occasion. I also loved how the dual narration kicked in in specific places, giving us a complete picture for everyone involved. I have no other words, it was beautifully and masterfully done.

I have nothing but praise for this book; it has everything I look for in fiction: action, intrigue, romance, fantasy, a kick ass female lead, a swoon worthy love interest and an ending that will leave you begging for more. It's enchanting, odd, incredibly imaginative, and perfectly written.

Instantly added to my favorites bookshelf; highly recommended!

Friday, September 21, 2012

New Movie Trailer: The Hobbit!

Despite how conflicted I initially felt about Director Peter Jackson's choice to split ''The Hobbit'' into 3 films, (I mean, it's already a stretch to make such a tiny book into 2 movies...but now three?) I'm still beyond excited to see how it's going to look up on the big-screen. Peter Jackson supposedly took extra material from text J.R.R. Tolkien wrote after publishing The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings for a lot of us fans, this film will contain material we've never even read before (unless you've read all of Tolkien's extras, in which case, I envy you!) - like what Gandalf was up to when he left Bilbo & co...

Check out the new trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey right here:

I've always felt that The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by Jackson was by far one of the best book-to-film adaptations to come along in a long time.  What do YOU think?  Are you happy with the decision to split The Hobbit into 3 films?

Review: Darkfever (Fever #1)

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
Fever Series #1
Published October 1st 2006 by Dell

When MacKayla's sister was murdered, she left a single clue to her death, a cryptic message on Mac's cel phone. Journeying to Ireland in search of answers, Mac is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to master a power she had no idea she possessed - a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae.

As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister's death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho...while at the same time, the ruthless V'lane - an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women - closes in on her. As the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac's true mission becomes clear: to find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book - because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control both worlds in their hands.
I have been very anxious to get started with The Fever Series and see what all the fuss is about. It's now 5 past midnight and I just finished the last chapter of Darkfever. Since I am heading out tomorrow to pick up, book 2,  Bloodfever, I can honestly say I feel the need to know how the rest of the story will unfold. However, while I can say I enjoyed some parts of Darkfever, other parts were...well, I guess frustrating would be a good word. Or annoying. Or even a bit confusing at times.

Darkfever tells the story of MacKayla Lane or 'Mac' as she likes to be called and her discovery that she has the gift (or curse?) of being a sidhe-seer; a person who can see the Fae. It was very difficult for me to relate to Mac, especially during the first half of the book. She's a self described Barbie girl and she loves her perfect little life, with her perfect blonde hair and her perfect body. If you ask me, author Karen Marie Moning gave one too many descriptions on how perfect Mac looks; and how perfect Mac knows she is. It's just not the type of thing that endears me to a heroine...or any of her problems. At first, I was also kind off annoyed at how Mac refused to believe anything about the strange new world she is now a part of. To me the facts were staring her right in the face and she was being so obstinate about everything. Mac herself called it an 'ostrich-tendency' and I think that redeemed her a bit for me - hey, at least she has no illusions about herself of her ignorance. I'm not much for plastic Barbie girls but at least she wasn't going around oblivious to the fact that she is a Barbie girl, right? On the other hand, I admired Mac's determination, stubbornness and courage as the eventually came into focus. So yeah, to say I have mixed feelings here would be an understatement >.<

Moning's writing style is certainly interesting though. Darkfever is told in first person and as Mac relays her story she sometimes alludes to things to come; or hints at the outcome of a tense scene before beginning to tell it; it definitely works at keeping the reader's interest. And if you're an insanely curious type (like me), it might also drive you crazy sometimes too. I thought the Fae-lore was very original, even if it was confusing at times with the spelling versus pronunciation for certain terms, but you quickly get the hang of it all. As the story moves forward, things definitely get more engrossing. Mac 1.0 evolves into Mac 2.0 and I have to say Mac 2.0 kicks her earlier versions ass. I really enjoyed the progress she made as a character and look forward to see where it will go from here.

Darkfever is a decidedly adult book. Mac gets into some pretty racy situations right from the word go and the male characters like Barrons and V'lane are dark and overtly-sexual characters. The language and writing style follow the same theme as well, so, you've been warned!  This was my first adult paranormal experience so I wasn't sure what to expect. Despite my issues with some of Mac's less-endearing character traits,   I'm still anxious to see what's next for her and how the story will grow from here.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Friday, September 14, 2012

Review: The Magician's Nephew

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia #1 (chronological)
Published in 1955

The Adventure Begins. Narnia... where Talking Beasts walk... where a Witch waits... where a new world is about to be born. On a daring quest to save a life, two friends are hurled into another world, where an evil sorceress seeks to enslave them. But then the lion Aslan's song weaves itself into the fabric of a new land, a land that will be known as Narnia. And in Narnia, all things are possible...

Well isn't this a pleasant surprise! I should explain: I have been struggling for quite awhile with the Chronicles of Narnia Series. Having not gone to an English speaking school, I never read them growing up. I have to admit I discovered the film version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe first. After falling in love with that film, I attempted to read the series, starting with The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (which was the first Narnia book to be published), but at that time, I had a hard time with author C.S.Lewis' style. He tends to constantly insert the author’s voice, and I found it broke the fantasy bubble for me and kept taking me out of the story. This time around, I begun with 'The Magician's Nephew', reading the story chronologically instead of by order of release. It might be because this time, I don't have the film version to taint my opinion, but I very much enjoyed this book.

The Magician's Nephew is the tale of how Narnia came into being. It takes place many hundreds of years before the events of 'The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe'. I found that whole aspect of it to be really fascinating -especially since one of the main characters is the old Professor who takes in the Pevensie children in TLTW&TW (the one who owns the infamous wardrobe)! You get to see the creation of Narnia, meet Aslan, and see how the evil White Witch came to Narnia. The idea of witnessing a world just beginning.... hardly any people, few animals... seeing places with no names; all of this was really fascinating to me. Then again, I've always been a sucker for a good origins story.

The magic aspect of Narnia itself is a different kind of magic than I've grown accustomed to in fantasy stories, and I'm not sure how to explain it. It's kind of like it's the world itself that is magic; the magic exists in the very nature of Narnia: in it's water, in it's trees, in it's animals. I thought it was really fun to read about magic in different form the usual. The characters were all new, since this takes place before all The Pevensie children are even born, but I loved getting to know Digory and Polly.  Oh and the origin (or awakening) of Jadis was terrifying and amazing to witness. Eeep O.O

All things considered, I really enjoyed The Magician's Nephew. I have read up on The Chronicles of Narnia quite a bit, and I was looking out for the hints of sexism and christian subtext, and while both were there; maybe they weren't at their worst in this particular book...or maybe because I was ready for them it didn't bother me as much...I guess we'll see how the next books hold up :)

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: The Alchemyst

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott
Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #1
Published January 1st, 20107 by Delacorte Press

Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on 28 September 1330. Nearly seven hundred years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life. The records show that he died in 1418. But his tomb is empty and Nicholas Flamel lives. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects - the Book of Abraham the Mage. It's the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. And that's exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won't know what's happening until it's too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it. Sometimes legends are true. And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.
I had high hopes when I picked up The Alchemyst. At the time, I was fresh off the Harry Potter Series and had a bad case of 'Post-Potter Depression'. The idea of learning more about the intriguing and mythical 'Nicolas Flamel' (which I had heard of before HP) instantly captivated me, and the book blurb only added fuel to the fire. So promising.   Sadly, about halfway through I had to give up on this one. The story at hand really didn't match out with the favorable synopsis and to be honest, I found myself wondering what exactly I was reading more than once before I decided to give up.

I found the protagonists of The Alchemyst, Sophie and Josh to be very flat and one-dimensional. They spent most of the time confused or panicky and quite frankly, I found them annoying. You'd think that out of two protagonist, at least one would have captured my fancy. Yeah, I thought so too, but apparently not.

Also, considering the book series here is named after Nicholas Flamel, I was expecting a lot more of him front and center; not as an almost background character, which was the case here. Making him a titular character on the book cover almost seemed gimmicky. At the very least, if he was not to be the main character, he should have at least taken up the wise-advisor role. Which he didn't, not really. The man has obviously lived a very long life, so there would have been plenty of information or plot to fill this book with. Why mention him in the title if he's barely developed or even present in the book?

Every time I walk by The Alchemyst and the rest of the series in bookstores, I get a pang of regret. This had the potential of being an amazing series, and going by the blurb, I was so sure it would be more than just something to attract Potter-Heads. I still think Nicholas Flamel as a character could work wonderfully in the right series with the right plot, but sadly, this wasn't it for me.

My Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 
by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter #7)
Published July 21st, 2007 by Bloomsbury

Harry has been burdened with a dark, dangerous and seemingly impossible task: that of locating and destroying Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes. Never has Harry felt so alone, or faced a future so full of shadows. But Harry must somehow find within himself the strength to complete the task he has been given. He must leave the warmth, safety and companionship of The Burrow and follow without fear or hesitation the inexorable path laid out for him.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: the last book in this truly epic series. The final pieces of this complex and elaborate puzzle finally fall gracefully into place.  It's hard to rate this book without allowing myself a little retrospective on the Harry Potter Series as a whole. For anyone who has been following my previous reviews, you no doubt know that I am a HUGE (and obsessive) fan of the Potter series. The Harry Potter books are so much more than an excellent piece of fiction to me. Yes it's a brilliantly crafted 7-part series. Yes it is a interwoven, many-layered and detailed mystery/quest that captivates from book one and holds your interest till the very end. Yes it is a cultural phenomenon. But it is also so much more: it is about courage, and the real power of love. It is about standing up and fighting for what you believe in, even if you stand alone; even if it makes you an outcast, or a victim. It is about life and death, dark and light, faith and fear... This series will never cease to amaze me, to teach me and to touch me.
''Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.''
Now on to the book in question: Deathly Hallows. This is above all my favorite book in the series. No, let me correct that: this is my favorite book ever in life. After everything Harry has done, and been through, DH is the best possible ending for this epic tale. And yes, I say this despite some unresolved "loose-ends" like Umbridge and the Malfoys faith.  In this thrilling final installment, Harry has been set a most deadly and fearsome task. A task which could spell the end of Voldemort...or destroy Harry in the process. With Ron and Hermione in tow, Harry skips his 7th and final year at follow the road set in front of him by Dumbledore at the end of HBP. This book is different from the others in the sense that most of the action takes place outside of Hogwarts; our hero(s) are hunting Horcruxes. JKR's idea of Horcruxes is brilliant. Thinking back to the diary, the ring even and the locket...the power contained in them; the power of Voldemort...being able to possess...being able to try and kill (the locket when harry jumps in the lake for the sword) is a horrifying and thrilling prospect. But not only that: in Harry's case, being the secret horcrux (!)...while revolting in theory is quite useful. It gives Harry (and the reader) insider information into Voldermort's mind; his thoughts, his emotions, his weaknesses. It also has Harry ideally placed to know his enemy's mind. And this connection therefore (along with the pensive history of Riddle in HBP) keeps Harry aware of any huge decisions on the enemy's part! It's such a unique take on narratives. You get access to the villain, but through the hero(even thought Harry sees these glimpses as if he were Voldemort *shudder*). especially in DH we really see how useful, and ingenious the idea of Horcruxes really is.
''The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.''
J.K.Rowling really doesn't hold back in Deathly Hallows. All of the little pieces of information mentioned in passing in PS, CoS, PoA, GoF, OotP & HBP: do you remember all of those? Cause they're all gonna fit in here, perfectly in place, ready to blow your mind! Yeah. That's why I have re-read this series so many freaking times. I really am blown away when I think about the amount of information...and details...and plot...and world building that have gone into creating this legend; this magical world that I so enjoy getting lost in. I wish I could crawl into the pages of these books and live amongst the characters, and share their world with them. Now that I've finished reading the series *again*, I find myself wishing I had gotten early access to JKR`s new on-line creation 'PotterMore'; just to get all that extra information JK's been hoarding since Harry's 'conception'.
''Do not pity the dead Harry. Pity the living, and above all, those who live without love.''

*Mild Spoilers Ahead*

So many scenes in Deathly Hallows are amongst my favorite scenes in the series: Harry's birthday kiss from Ginny, Harry visiting Godric's Hollow, Voldemort's memory of the night he killed Harry's parents, Chapter 24:The Wandmaker ♥, the whole Breaking into Gringotts bit is absolutely legendary, the quest for Horcruxes (and Hallows) as a whole, Harry's evolution throughout the story here; from being lost and overwhelmed to putting it all together, the Prince's tale, Chapter 34:The Forest Again ♥ Chapter 35: King's Cross Station *happy dance*, and of course 'The Flaw in the Plan'...but my review is already growing long. So, I'll finish off with this: Harry Potter was a magical & wondrous series, and it's final installment is beyond what I had imagined when I first picked it up over 5 years ago.
''Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?''

Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter #6)
Published July 16th 2005 by Bloomsbury

It is the middle of the summer, but there is an unseasonal mist pressing against the windowpanes. Harry Potter is waiting nervously in his bedroom at the Dursleys' house in Privet Drive for a visit from Professor Dumbledore himself. One of the last times he saw the Headmaster was in a fierce one-to-one duel with Lord Voldemort, and Harry can't quite believe that Professor Dumbledore will actually appear at the Dursleys' of all places. Why is the Professor coming to visit him now? What is it that cannot wait until Harry returns to Hogwarts in a few weeks' time? Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts has already got off to an unusual start, as the worlds of Muggle and magic start to intertwine...
Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince, the 6th and second to last book in the series. This is the book I had been waiting for since I first started the series  The long awaited book where Harry and Dumbledore's relationship finally comes to the forefront. I'd been waiting for five books for Dumbledore to take up a more prominent role in Harry's magical education and while the basis of their time together wasn't exactly what I was expecting, it didn't disappoint in the least!  Harry & Dumbledore's quality time together will always have a very special place in my heart.  I'll try and summarize generally before going into plot details but it's hard for me not to go into spoilers right away: there is so much to discuss!

So Half-Blood Prince starts off fresh on the heels of OotP. Everyone in the wizarding community knows that Voldemort is back now. The Ministry for Magic has gotten rid of Fudge and taken an stronger stance against the dark forces that loom ever closer. Having now lost his godfather as well, Harry must come to grips with his loss, as well as the contents of the ominous prophecy regarding himself and Lord Voldemort. Right from the start, when Dumbledore goes to Privet Drive to fetch Harry, coming full circle from dropping him on that same doorstep some 15 years prior, I knew I was in for a treat. As Dumbledore goes from speaking to the Dursley' taking Harry to meet Slughorn (with good reason of course ;) ...and finally the touching and perfect scene when both Dumbledore and Harry speak outside the Burrow ♥ *sigh* It was perfection.   The writing in HBP is above reproach, it just flows effortlessly and the book reads in the same way. We are getting into the thick of the real plot now. The truth about Harry's destiny...and Voldemort's. And I loved learning every little detail of it right along with Harry. The scenes in Dumbledore's office with the pensive are among the most riveting in the whole series.

I did however find it a bit frustrating that Ron & Hermione are so reluctant to believe Harry's thoughts on Draco. As early as chapter 7, Harry told them what he suspects to be true about Draco...and for nearly the entire duration of the book they treat him as insane for even thinking it. I feel like at this point, they've known each other long enough and been through enough together to know that Harry's hunches are usually dead on. Sure he gets it wrong sometimes but the bottom line is, they should have considered Harry could have been right.  The guy has amazing instinct, period.

Another highlight in Half-Blood Prince for me is Ginny, the evolution of her character and consequentially her relationship with Harry. Can I just say how much I love Ginny?! She's fierce, brave, an incredibly skilled witch. She is also the least intimidated by Harry. He can be raging or sad to a point where Ron and Hermione would hesitate to approach him...but Ginny never hesitates...she can always get through to him. I've read people saying that they didn't see the love between Harry and Ginny coming... that you don't notice Ginny till book 6 so JKR is at fault for not putting Ginny in the forefront more or sooner. But I feel that these people forget the story is told through Harry's eyes. Harry has always cared for Ginny but I mean she hardly ever spoke in front of him; being so smitten with Harry. As early as OotP, Harry shares many glances, laughs and moments with Ginny. She kind of creeps up on the guy, slowly....from OotP onwards. Harry respects Ginny, he admires her skill as a witch, and on the Quidditch pitch when she replaces him as seeker. And in this book, he starts by inviting her with him on the train to Hogwarts. Then he sees her play chaser and she's brilliant. He loves her before realizing he does and so as readers, she creeps up on us a bit too the first time around...but upon re-reading the clues are there...and quite clear ;) I just loved seeing Harry fall for Ginny; she's much more worthy that Cho could ever dream of being!

And finally: Horcruxes! Half-Blood Prince is all about Horcruxes and I loved learning about them, how they came to be...every single pensive giving a clue for one or more of them. The concept is brilliant, hats off to Rowling for coming up with the whole idea. Seriously, how creepy was it to learn about Riddle's family, and younger Riddle?! *shudders* And yes the ending is beyond sad and I always tear up a few times during the final chapters. But it's fitting, it's what needed to happen and it sets the stage perfectly for the conclusion.

Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 
by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter #5)
Published June 21st 2013 by Bloomsbury

Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected...

The Order of the Phoenix is the 5th Harry Potter book and it's decidedly the biggest book of the series. My feelings about Order of the Phoenix have always been a bit more complex than is the case for other Harry Potter books; but then again OotP has a complex plot to match. Book 5 finds Harry dealing with the aftermath of watching Voldemort come back from the dead...and coping with the loss of Cedric. Only this time around there is an added twist; Harry is now considered a threat to the Ministry. And to top it all off Dumbledore won't even look at Harry let alone speak to him. He must come to grips with Voldemort's return, Harry must also get used to more frequent glimpses into Voldemort's feelings...and mind which tend to make Harry angry and moody. He feels guilty about a connection that exists between himself and Voldemort, a connection he has never fully understood.

Like I mentioned above, my feelings about Order of the Phoenix are complex. During my first readings, I always said this was my least favorite of the series, but upon re-reads my opinion has changed. There are so many things about OotP that I absolutely love. There are also some things that I used to hate; but that now I understand happened the way they did for a reason. OotP is a necessary step in the evolution of Harry's character. He gets invaluable lessons early on; lessons that are difficult, and sometimes unpleasant but that will serve him well. J.K.R really establishes how difficult a battle this is for Harry. How it feels to be completely isolated. To believe in a cause so much you're willing to be the martyr, to never waver when you really believe in something. Yes Umbridge is absolutely heinous and unbearable. But it shows how far the Ministry is willing to go to avoid the truth; and the lengths to which politician will go to remain in power (not something all that difficult to imagine)

I will say, I found the Grawp storyline to be a something of a drag. And a little bit pointless to be honest. There really is no reason for his storyline because as we all know,nothing major will come of it in later books. I feel like OotP had enough plot and information that we could have done without that whole detour. And of course, like most everyone it kills me to read about Sirius' faith at the end there. I have always adored Sirius's character and I feel that Harry deserved an adult family member to love him and protect him. But this re-read brought me to one conclusion: Sirius was always going to be ready and willing to jump in front of Harry and take the hit for him. It was only a matter of time before he would have met the same faith in another way, trying to save Harry...cause as we all know, there's always SOMEONE after Harry. Yes it is sad and cruel, but it was also inevitable. I've made my peace with it...doesn't mean I have to like it though.

The Harry from Order of the Phoenix is angry, bitter, confused, and isolated, but also realistic, determined and resolutely brave and compassionate. In some ways, I relate to Harry as a character so much more in OotP. Harry Potter will always be my favorite character in fiction. And despite being darker in this book, J.K. Rowling manages to have him ooze compassion...vulnerability...and love. Yes Dumbledore's favorite answer of love is probably what makes me read and re-read the Harry Potter series. JKR revealed many secrets at the end of this book, but she's not even close to done weaving her web :)

Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter #4)
Published September 28th 2002 by Bloomsbury

When the Quidditch World Cup is disrupted by Voldemort's rampaging supporters and the terrifying Dark Mark is resurrected, it is obvious to Harry that, far from failing, Voldemort is getting stronger. The ultimate symbol to the magic world of the evil Lord's return would be if the one and only survivor of his death curse, Harry Potter, could finally be beaten. So when Harry is entered for the Triwizard Tournament - a competition between three wizarding schools to find the ultimate magician - he knows that rather than win it, he just has to get through the trials alive.
Goblet of Fire is the middle book of the Harry Potter Series, and in many ways it is very unique from other previous offerings from. With it's first chapter, it sets the tone for a darker storyline by far than books 1 through 3 had ever been. If Rowling ever decides to write an adult book, she could definitely pull off some suuuuuper scary stuff. Chapter 1- The Riddle House still creeps me out, after multiple readings. It's the way JKR builds the suspense with the chapter. It's not like you can't guess where it's going...even just with the chapter's title. Even still, there's a mounting unease as the chapter progresses, the way you'd feel if you'd been dreading something for months only to slowly watch it unfold before your eyes. Eeep!

Goblet of Fire finds Harry in his fourth year at Hogwarts and he is now 14; not a little boy anymore, GoF starts off with a more confident Harry as he manages to get his uncle to agree to let him attend the Quidditch World Cup. Once there, Harry Ron & Hermione; and everyone else in attendance, will witness bizarre and unsettling events that set the tone for many events to come. Upon returning to Hogwarts, it becomes apparent how different this book will be. This year, Hogwarts will host and participate in the Triwizard Tournament. An epic tournament that pits 3 champions, from 3 Wizarding schools against each other for 3 extremely difficult, dangerous (and sometimes deadly) tasks. I loved reading about the different tasks, and getting to know students from different schools than Hogwarts; it really changes up the usual dynamics of a year in the life of Harry Potter.

GoF is like a huge puzzle with it's pieces all jumbled up....once you start to figure out one section of the picture, you still have a HUGE mess of other stuff to figure out. Upon my first few readings of the series, GoF was never one of my favorites of the series. Now I've come to realize that that's probably because the movie version is almost a completely different story and I let that version cloud my judgement.  Not only that but Dumbledore's portrayal in this particular film is so drastically different from the real Dumbledore - which is jarring, to say the least. o.O Considering the book on it's own, this is a very engaging and important chapter in Harry's story arc and the real Dumbledore is more impressive than even he's ever been thus far. I'm thinking specifically of the moment when Harry fully appreciates why people have always said Dumbledore was the only wizard Voldemort ever feared. during the rescue from imposter Moody at the end, when Dumbledore McGonagall and Snape burst in the office.
 '' ...the sense of power that radiated from Dumbledore as though he was giving off burning heat. (...) again he seemed to radiate that indefinable sense of power (...) the aura of power around him palpable, his eyes blazing.''
Goblet of Fire is absolutely brilliant in it's originality, plot and mystery - how cool is the introduction of the pensive?! I mean seriously, the colour description, the airy liquidy substance, the fact that it contains memories, and in this case Dumbledore's memories?! Awesome. The final chapters are well worth the wait (the book is huge compared to it's predecessors) and will leave every single reader ready to jump into book 5 as soon as they read the final word.

Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 
by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter #3)
Published July 1st, 2008 by Bloomsbury

For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort. Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter's defeat of You-Know-Who was Black's downfall as well; and the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, "He's at Hogwarts . . . he's at Hogwarts." Harry Potter isn't safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban has always been, in my opinion, one of the best books of the series. Even as far as the movies go, I feel that PoA is by far the best book to film adaptation out of all 8 movies. Yes, Harry Potter and Ron and Hermione are still fairly young in the third book, but I find they have matured quite a bit this time around. They're officially in their teens, and they've already had their fair share of adventures. This time around however, Harry has more to worry about than just Voldemort (as if that in itself weren't enough). Harry's Summer vacation at the Dursley's take a turn for the worse when Uncle Vernon's vile sister Marge comes to visit. She is completely horrible to Harry, and by comparison makes his Aunt & Uncle look almost human. After a disastrous visit ends abruptly (lol) Harry finds himself spending his last two weeks of Summer vacation in Diagon Alley. I always feel so happy about Harry being able to soak in his magical surroundings and do as he pleases...I mean how fun would it be to hang out in Diagon Alley?!

The writing here is above reproach. I read somewhere that JK Rowling said that when she had finished writing 'Half Blood Prince' she said she hadn't been that satisfied with a book since Prisoner of Azkaban, and to me, it shows: this is JKR at her best. There are so many new magical elements added in the mix this time : The Maurauder's Map, the discovery of the identity of the Maurauders themselves, the Dementors are absolute nightmares I've always found it so telling of Harry that his Boggart is NOT Voldemort, but a Dementor. Like Lupin says, Harry's worst fear, is fear itself. And Lupin is right; it is really brave ♥ , the Patronus charms are really cool, and always have me imagining what I think my own Patronus would be. I also really enjoy the visits the the wizarding village of Hogsmeade, the only all wizard settlement in London.

Now as for a few of the best elements of Prisoner of Azkaban; Remus Lupin & Sirius Black. Lupin is the first competent Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher we've ever been introduced to. But as a character, he's a little tragic. He also shares my birthday and that's pretty cool :) And after reading the book thinking one thing about Sirius Black, finding out the truth is staggering, and wonderful all at once. The 30 minutes Harry believes he'll be able to move in with Sirius...*sigh* and have something close to a home...and a family. Again it's tragic but beautiful.

As usual, PoA has the requisite Dumbledore & Harry heart to heart ending. And Dumbledore always contributes a hint at a key plot element that will come to play again later on in the story. There will come a time when Harry is grateful he saved Pettigrew's life... Re-reading is fun just because of those little hints. My first time through, I pretty much inhaled the series whole, so some of the little hints I had forgotten about. It's brilliant to see how it all fits together in the end...every little detail is woven into the plot for a reason. Not many authors accomplish such a feat, but J.K. Rowling does it seamlessly.

Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter #2)
Published June 2nd, 1999 by Bloomsbury

The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he's packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry's second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls' bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley's younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone--or something--starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects...Harry Potter himself.
'It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.'

Chamber of Secrets is the second book in the series, Harry Potter is now 12, and fresh off his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. Once again he finds himself stuck with the Dursleys, albeit only for the duration of Summer holiday. With the beginning of his second year fast approaching Harry receives an ominous warning. Terrible things are about the happen at Hogwarts and Harry above all else, is in grave danger. Despite this Harry returns to Hogwarts, not without great difficulty; but once he makes it back it soon becomes apparent that all is not well in his beloved school. Someone, or something is attacking students; causing them to become frozen. All the while Harry keeps hearing a strange disembodied voice throughout the castle, and following it always seems to end up with Harry at the wrong place at the wrong time. until he himself is the main suspect in this growing mystery.

Out of all the seven books in the series, Chamber of Secrets has never been a favorite of mine and I've never really been sure why that is. I think the main reason is because it almost reads like Philosopher's Stone, Part 2. The first part tends drags a bit,  some of the novelty from the first book has worn off, but at the same time,  the characters are still so young. In Philosopher's Stone, there is a whole world to build and the reader experiences it for the first time. In CoS, there is no need for as much 'world-building' but the characters don't evolve all that much. I mean what kid really does from age 11 to 12 anyways?!

Despite those minor details, The Chamber of Secrets is still perfection to me,as are all HP books. It's a sheer joy to visit The Burrow and spend quality time with The Weasleys of course ♥  It was fascinating to visit darker parts of Diagon Alley, and of course meeting Mr. Malfoy senior is a key plot point in the series.  Getting some background on the founding figures of Hogwarts was brilliant too and I loved how our golden trio figured out the Chamber of Secrets, despite it being so, well, secret.

 As usual, Dumbledore's 'end of the book' chat with Harry reveals some key information: 

'You can speak Parseltongue, Harry' said Dumbledore calmly, 'because Lord Voldemort- who is the last remaining descendant of Salazar Slytehrin- can speak Parseltongue. Unless I'm much mistaken, he transferred some of his powers to you the night he gave you that scar. Not something he intended to do, I'm sure...'

'Voldemort put a bit of himself in me?' Harry said, thunderstruck. 
'It certainly seems so.'

A simplistic explanation, to be sure but this is a HUGE clue on the upcoming plot development for the whole of the series. Of course, reading it the first time, you don't necessarily pick up on the subtext, that's why rereading this series is so rewarding.  
THAT's why I re-read Harry Potter and why I will be re-reading the series long into old age. J.K. Rowling had it all figured out, all planned out down to the most minor; and sometimes seemingly pointless details. And as I've mentioned, I absolutely love Harry Potter the character, and that holds true in Chamber of Secrets. He's relatable, courageous and has a bigger heart than most people in real life do.


Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter #1)
Published July 1st, 2018 by Bloomsbury

Harry Potter has never played a sport while flying on a broomstick. He's never worn a Cloak of Invisibility, befriended a giant, or helped hatch a dragon. All Harry knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry's room is a tiny cupboard under the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in ten years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to a wonderful place he never dreamed existed. There he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic around every corner, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him... if Harry can survive the encounter.
About once every year or two, I tend to get the urge re-read the Harry Potter Series; and not just because Harry Potter is my all time favorite protagonist, but because J.K. Rowling creates a universe that is so rich, so inviting that I find myself missing everything about the magical world she built. The characters are so rich and layered, that you just can't help but being swept away into the world with them as if the entire magic surrounding the series was actually a part of you.  And truly, it is.

Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone (I  refuse to refer to it as the Sorcerer's Stone) is the first book in the series and it is like no other book I have ever read. Rowling has the gift of 'painting glorious, sweeping 'word pictures' for her readers so you can virtually feel as though you've stepped into this new magical world right alongside with Harry; the ordinary, plain old Harry Potter, who didn't think there was anything special or different about him but that lightning shaped scar on his forehead, until the giant Hagrid comes barging in talking about wizards, and Hogwarts, and revelations about how Harry's parents really died. Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. In the blink of an eye his whole world has been turned upside down; and for the better at that! The reader gets to follow Harry on a magical journey filled with trolls and unicorns and centaurs...not to mention secrets, and danger...especially where Harry is concerned. This book really makes you feel like you're at Hogwarts, tagging along with Harry on all of his adventures. And I love knowing how Harry thinks, how he figures things out, what makes him tick. You can't not have faith in Harry because his heart, mostly always leads him in the right path.

The best part about re-reading the Harry Potter Series is catching all the little hints and clues that J.K. Rowling had already started setting up, laying the groundwork of so many pivotal plot twists in small bits and pieces here and there. The long discussion at the end of the book between Harry & Dumbledore is so telling; especially what Dumbledore refuses to divulge at the moment: Why Voldemort tried to kill Harry? Ahhh such a loaded question and one not fully appreciated in hindsight :) I also enjoy seeing how quickly and almost unconsciously Harry steps up, refusing to let anyone help Voldemort get the Philosopher's Stone. Already he realizes that he who must not be named must be all costs. An fantastic start to a phenomenal series.