Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3) – J.K. Rowling

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Source: Goodreads

Harry has never liked living with the Dursleys, but after his latest accident, he’s not even sure they will take him back. As the thirteen-year-old wizard heads back to Hogwarts for his third year, dark shapes are looming nearer, and Harry might not even be safe in his school’s enchanted halls. On top of that, mysterious figures from Harry’s past turn up, bringing with them new information about the night Voldemort was defeated. Will Harry survive the year? and if he does, will he be living on the streets?

This third book in the Harry Potter series is almost universally acknowledged as the favorite. Until I re-read it, I had nearly forgotten why. If I love the second book for showing us more of the castle and the characters, I adore the third book for introducing us to more of the wizarding world as a culture. There is so much history in these pages. Besides the glimpse in the first book, this is the first time we learn anything about Harry’s parents and their time at Hogwarts. This is the first time we hear about magic in other cultures, and we get to meet more magical creatures thanks to Hagrid.

Of course, the characters haven’t stopped developing. Hermione, Ron, and Harry all grow in so many ways in this book. They learn some hard truths about the world and about friendship and trust. If you’re a fan of this series, you already know that about 100 of the 10,000 Harry Potter references people make daily come from this book. It is one of those books that stays with you years after reading it, and even after you’ve forgotten most of the details like I did, it never really leaves you.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the beginning of the turning point in the books, from juvenile fiction to young adult. It only gets darker from here, but the light Harry finds in this book serves as a guide towards his ultimate destiny. I’m giving this book 5 stars because I can’t find a single thing wrong with it. There aren’t even any slow parts to speak of. Highly recommended.

HHC Rating: 5 stars

Follow along on my journey to the 8th story, The Cursed Child, with the links below!

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Book #2 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Book #4 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Book #5 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Book #6 – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Book #7 –  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Book #8 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Fantastic Beasts #1 – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay

The Arrangement (The Survivors' Club, #2) – Mary Balogh

Source: Goodreads

Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh, is blind, but you’d never know it by looking at him. With his uncanny ability to seemingly look right at you when he’s speaking, it’s no wonder people are confused. Nevertheless, he can’t see. And to his family, this makes him helpless. Helpless to live alone, helpless to run the estate, and above all, helpless to choose a suitable bride. It’s that last part that ends up causing Vincent to quite literally run for the hills.

Sophia Fry hardly ever goes by that name. Usually, she is ‘the mouse’ if any name is used at all. She’s content, if not exactly happy, to hide quietly in the corner and observe people while her cousin Henrietta commands the attention of everyone in the room.

When Vincent arrives at his old family home next door, Henrietta quickly decides to marry him. Sophia’s interruption of those plans can only cause trouble, but is it worth it to save Vincent from a horrible marriage? The consequences are even more dangerous than Sophia knows, and Vincent will soon realize he is the only person who can help her. The clock is ticking on their futures, but will they figure out the truth in time?

This second book in the Survivors’ Club series really got to me. Learning about Sophia’s past as she comes out her shell is a shining example of character building as it should be, and Vincent’s fight for independence is wonderfully and interestingly written. The way the characters are all interwoven between the books in the series is pretty fantastic. Mary Balogh should really be renamed Romance’s Fairy Godmother because of how her stories are woven together. The series she writes always flow so perfectly from one book to another, and it’s always sad when they end (or when you have to wait for the next book to come out!). No second book slump here! Just a good old fashioned romance with a dash of steamy. Highly recommended if you like romances full of intelligent, likable, complex characters.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – The Proposal
Book #3 – The Escape
Book #4 – Only Enchanting
Book #5 – Only A Promise
Book #6 – Only A Kiss
Book #7 – Only Beloved

Wicked Business (Lizzy & Diesel, #2) – Janet Evanovich

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via Goodreads

Baking queen and magical item detector Lizzy Tucker is back on the case of the missing SALIGIA stones with her pals Deisel, Carl, and Cat 7143. This time, they’re searching for the Luxuria stone, the stone of lust, before it falls into the hands of one of the quickly multiplying number of bad guys and helps bring about hell on earth.

The sequel to Janet Evanovich’s Wicked Appetite Wicked Business takes place in and around Boston in October, seemingly making it a great fall read. I was so looking forward to Lizzy and Deisel’s next adventure, however, this story left me with mixed feelings and a lot of questions.

After the first book introduced the chemistry between Lizzy and Deisel and we were told they couldn’t act on it without one or both of them losing their powers, I, as a reader, assumed the stone of lust would probably be the last stone they would locate. Until then, we would enjoy the building of their relationship. When they find the stone, something would happen and the consequences of that would mean one of them would have to save the world alone. All of this would, of course, happen while avoiding Wulf, who was established in the first book as a very creepy and evil dude whom we should definitely fear.

All of this, of course, was proven wrong by this second book’s very existence. First of all, they’re searching for the luxuria (lust) stone now? Not in another five books? Second of all, they basically act on their feelings and there are no consequences? Third, every character in this book seems a little thin, if not straight up wimpy. Lizzy is afraid of everything, Deisel isn’t even half of his usual suave self from the first book and his guest appearances in the Stephanie Plum holiday stories, and Wulf basically became a crybaby? Even the monkey isn’t as rude to everyone. Fourth, going back to the Wulf problem, he’s been waiting to ruin Lizzy, yet in this book he meets a girl and now we’re supposed to feel bad about everything that’s happening to/around him?

Fifth and finally, this book punches a bunch of holes in the series. If the luxuria stone is “broken” can Wulf even bring about hell on earth? Aren’t we safe from that now that the stone can’t be used for nefarious means? Does this mean the entire mission is over already? If the luxuria stone can be “broken”, can they all be? And if they can, is it possible they could be “fixed”? And of course, if Wulf is no longer the ultimate evil character, what is his role now in the series? Mildly annoying kind of bad guy? Or are we headed for a dreaded and surely very awkward love triangle? (PLEASE NO.)

This book just left me with too many questions. Overall the story was light and fun when I expected it to be a little more dangerous and, especially since they were searching for the stone of lust, sexy. Evanovich knows how to do sexy, and if you’ve ever read the Stephanie Plum series, you know this. Which is why I’m at such a loss with this book. I’m going to have to read the third book to see where she’s taking the story, but right now things don’t look too hot for Lizzy and Deisel. I probably wouldn’t recommend reading this one unless the third one turns out to be better; because this one definitely suffers from a second book slump at the very least.

HHC Rating: 2.5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Wicked Appetite
Book #3 – Wicked Charms

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2) – J.K. Rowling

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Source: Goodreads

Harry is back for his second year at Hogwarts School of Witcraft and Wizardry, or he will be if he can make it campus. Everything seems to be against him, from his aunt and uncle to his mode of transportation. Even the mysterious creature who warns him not to return to school at all. There are still evils for Harry to face at Hogwarts, but will he and his friends be up to the task?

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second book in J.K. Rowling’s worldwide best-selling Harry Potter series, and arguably one of my favorites if not my actual, outright favorite. My copy of the book has been read and re-read so much that only the last 5 chapters are still attached to the binding. It took me a little longer to read because of the condition of the book – I was babysitting, and you can’t read a book that’s falling apart while holding a baby in one arm – but I finished it!

There are so many great parts in this book. From my favorite quote,

“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
~Albus Dumbledore

to the introduction of some of my favorite characters (Ginny!), to delving a little deeper into Ron, Hermione, and even Draco’s characters, it is in this second book that we really begin to know them and their motives. The imagery is spectacular, the antics hilarious, and the magic real.

I can’t say I have any gripes about this book. Despite not having re-read the series in a while, I have seen the films a zillion times. The only thing that surprised me was part of the ending. The film has a sort of chase scene, but the book does not, and I’m still not sure which I like better. Overall it’s a masterpiece (and no second book slump!), and I recommend anyone to read it. On a side note, I’m listening to this playlist on 8tracks.com, and the song that just played as I typed that was from the film version of this book, so, that’s pretty awesome.

If you want to follow along with my re-read of Harry Potter as I journey to The Cursed Child, feel free to check out my reviews of the other books! I’ll update links as I post them. Happy reading!

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Book #3 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Book #4 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Book #5 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Book #6 – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Book #7 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Book #8 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

August Update – 2016 Goals Check-in

August Update

Hello Everyone!

I’m going to keep this short and sweet today. 🙂
My life has been a little crazy this summer, and it’s only getting crazier. I’m in two weddings at the end of the month/beginning of next on back-to-back weekends, and everything is catching up to me.

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day – not happening so far. Between work, family events, and getting everything ready for the weddings, I’m lucky if I have a few hours to sit and read, much less have an hour to sit down and write my reviews for Curio Street Reads. I was already late on my review for this week, and while my review for next week should go up on Tuesday, it probably won’t go up until afternoon instead of the normal 10am posting time. Unless by some miracle I gain an hour of quality time in which to write the review before then. Posting here should resume a more normal schedule in September, and I should be able to dive back into my novel around then as well.

Apply to Full Time Jobs – Also on hold until after the weddings. Having never been in a wedding before, I clearly did not realize how much work goes into them. It’s a little insane over here.

Apply to Grad School – I’m supposed to be studying for the GRE. But as I have zero time, I’ll have to pick this back up in September. Hopefully, I can take the test in October/November so I can get my application(s) in on time to be considered for a scholarship or fellowship or something that would help me pay for this degree.

 

Basically, everything is on hold until these weddings are over. I’m super excited for them! I love my friends and I am so happy they asked me to be a part of their special days. It makes my heart smile that they’ve found their people and are making it official.

At the same time, I can’t wait to get back to the grind and write some awesome stuff for you guys! Writing makes me crazy happy and fulfilled, and I miss doing it. See you in September!

Until Next Time,
Amanda

Eligible – Curtis Sittenfeld

EligiblePrideAndPrejudice

Source: Goodreads

Eligible is a retelling of Jane Austin’s Pride & Prejudice, and the fourth book in what is being called The Austen Project, wherein different authors are modernizing the classic tales.

In the case of Eligible, the Bennet family have been transplanted to Cincinnati, Ohio. Jane is a yogi and ‘Liz’ (She will always be a Lizzy to me. I can’t see her as a Liz.) writes for a feminist magazine, both in NYC. The other three girls live with their parents. Mary is working toward her third online masters degree, and Kitty and Lydia are obsessed with CrossFit. Chip Bingley and Darcy are doctors, and Bingley is somewhat of a celebrity after having appeared on The Bachelor Eligible. Jane and Lizzy return to Cincinnati for the summer because Mr. Bennet suffers a heart attack and Mrs. Bennet is too busy planning a fundraising luncheon that she is chairing for the first time to take care of him.

I’ve seen and heard this book mentioned a lot, and  I knew it was about a Bachlor-esque show, but it wasn’t until I picked it up that I realized it was a P&P retelling. As a lover of all things P&P, I dropped what I was reading and finished this is about a day and a half. I was, at varying parts, fangirling and cringing, depending on how far removed from the original we got.

There are a lot of feelings I have about this book, so we’re just going to run through a few and I’ll say Yay or Ugh depending on the thing in question:

  • Lydia being a generally awful person (Ugh, although it is mostly accurate to cannon)
  • Lydia NOT running off with Wickam (Mixed feelings, but mostly Yay because I actually like her love interest in this version and I can totally see cannon Lydia doing what she did if she were in present day)
  • Kitty being a real human character being with a life that doesn’t quite revolve around Lydia like it did in the original (SO MUCH YAY)
  • Kitty getting a love interest (EVEN MORE YAY)
  • The whole Lydia/Mary hatred (UGH)
  • Mary not getting a love interest (ALL OF THE UGH)

The book is done in a much more YA/Adult way than I have previously come across in P&P retellings. There wasn’t a big scandal really in this version, although depending on your view of the world, maybe it counts as a scandal to you.

Wickam in this version is Jasper Wick. Which is all fine and good except that if not for the actual description of him being blond I would have pictured him as Rufus Sewell (whom you may recall as having played Jasper in The Holiday as well as Count Adhemar in A Knight’s Tale. Not usually a nice character, but still the only face I picture when I hear the name Jasper. And the name is always read in my head in Kate Winslet’s voice). And maybe it was only because I was picturing Sewell that I thought it was super obvious how much of a bad dude he was from the start, but to be honest I think it really was just super obvious. Liz pining after him was upsetting, and the background between him and Darcy is not nearly as serious in this version as in most others. Actually, many of the characters were not connected in nearly so many ways as they usually are, with Catherine de Bourgh barely making a blip on the radar, and Mr. Collins being a first (albeit step-first) cousin.

So, there’s a lot that is different, and different can often be good. However, while I absolutely hated Lydia’s closed-mindedness, the ending that Mary received put me over the edge. Pardon my rant. ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** Did we somehow run out of original ways for someone to get a love interest? Why does Mary not get one? Why does she always have to end up alone? I won’t lie, I probably wouldn’t be making this much of a deal if Lydia ended up alone because I usually dislike her and she deserves a taste of her own medicine. But Kitty and Mary are so often forgotten or shoved to the side or made old maids that it just really bugs me. The fact that Kitty was redeemed in this version made me so happy, and then the last chapter got my hopes up that we would find someone for Mary, only to ruin everything. The Bennet sisters have always had titles: Jane is the pretty one, Lizzy is the witty one, Mary is the scholar and the musician, Kitty is the follower, and Lydia is the boy crazy one. The fact that Kitty wasn’t a total follower in Eligible led me to mistakenly believe that Mary wouldn’t suffer her usual fate. Unfortunately she did, and as usual, she was alone forever. WHY IS THE SUPER SMART GIRL ALWAYS LEFT ALONE??? I get that she can be annoying because she wants to play piano and sing all the time in most versions and she’s not a good singer. I get that her anecdotes of knowledge typically go over her family’s heads. But why can’t she get a love interest? It baffles me. I have always pictured Mary falling in love with a Darwin-esque scientist and them travelling the world together performing research. That is what I was hoping for. That, to me, is so quintessentially Mary that I become angry as well as hurt whenever it doesn’t pan out for her. Sometimes I wonder if I read P&P retellings just to find out if Mary and Kitty make it out any differently this time around.

But really, Eligible is well done. There are obviously things I would change, but that’s just me being picky about P&P. I had a hard time identifying with these versions of the Bennets, but for every person like me, I’m sure there is someone out there saying ‘Finally! A Bennet family I can identify with! Yay modernity!‘ So, I would probably recommend reading Eligible to anyone who is a fan of Pride and Prejudice simply because I’m very interested to hear what their thoughts are. In addition, anyone who likes contemporary romances will probably love this book. I am not one of them, but there’s nothing to say you won’t be.

HHC Rating: 3 Stars