Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5) – J.K. Rowling

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Source: Goodreads

Frustrated and lonely, Harry is stuck at number four, Privet Drive, for yet another summer. Making matters worse is the lack of news from the wizarding community. The Ministry of Magic and The Daily Prophet are refusing to allow the truth to be printed, the magical world is completely in the dark. Worst of all, Harry faces potential expulsion even before the school year begins. With the Dark Lord back on the loose and a scary new Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher watching their every move, it might just be time for the students of Hogwarts to take their futures into their own hands.

This fifth story in the Harry Potter series is a tough one to get through. At 870 pages, it’s the longest book, and the first 100-150 pages move as slow as molasses. Even worse, just about every character (except Hermione, who accomplished this feat in book four without much fuss) hits puberty. Harry becomes whiny, Ron sulks a lot, and Ginny starts dating. Of course, all of the adults continue to treat them like children and hoard information from them, with naturally disastrous consequences.

On the bright side, this book introduces what I like to call the silver trio. Much like Harry, Ron, and Hermione are often referred to as the golden trio, Ginny, Neville, and Luna quickly spring to mind as a second grouping, which I like to call the silver trio. Ginny finally becomes a real person in this book, as does Neville and many of the other secondary characters. Luna  Lovegood, aside from a brief mention of her family near the start of the fourth book, is really introduced here.  Luna, in a way that only Luna could possibly do, quickly becomes near-central to the main storyline. It always surprises me how seamlessly J.K. Rowling weaves Luna into the story, with her odd habits and strong opinions. Luna, so shamelessly herself, is easily one of my favorite characters of the books, and we don’t even meet her until more than halfway through the series!

While it is widely acknowledged that this book is really too long to be its best, it is difficult to find things that could be cut out. The only possibilities would be the cleaning scenes and the emotional roller coaster that is Harry’s thoughts in this book. However since these things really make up most of the story and establish multiple relationships that are important later on, they really have to be left in.

The new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is a nightmare. I actually had a teacher in highschool who closely resembled her in not just looks, and we subsequently warned anyone who would listen about “Umbridge”. I actually had an underclassman insist that I was wrong for an entire year because they were convinced another teacher should have the title. The next year they had a class with the real “Umbridge” and promptly apologized for doubting me. I am aggressively not sorry we gave her that nickname.

Personal stories aside, this book, although seriously massive and slow except for the last 100 pages, was pretty great. The character development is so on point it’s almost painful (because puberty). Everyone becomes so much more complex in this book and it’s wonderful. Definitely recommend.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Book #2 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Book #3 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Book #4 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Book #6 – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Book #7 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The Cursed Child – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4) – J.K. Rowling

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Source: Goodreads

Fourteen-year-old Harry Potter is ready for his fourth year at Hogwarts; preferably a quiet one where nothing goes wrong and no monsters try to attack the students. Unfortunately, this is Harry’s life we’re talking about, and things are never easy or simple where Harry is concerned. After a terror-filled night at the Quidditch World Cup, Harry finds himself thrown into hot water again as students arrive from other European wizarding schools to compete in a time-honored traditional trial by magic. Harry will need all of the help he can get to survive the challenges that face him in the coming year, but will it be enough?

This fourth book in J.K. Rowling’s best-selling series is a marked turning point from Juvenal Fiction to YA. The tone of the book becomes darker as Harry’s life becomes more dangerous, and all of the characters begin to hit the dreaded puberty.

I absolutely love how the characters were developed in this book. There were so many new people to introduce and examine because of the visiting schools, and we gain a much better picture of the overall state of the global wizarding community. It’s no surprise that at over 700 pages this is one of the longest books in the series. It’s a whopper of a book to be sure, but it reads very quickly. Rowling’s writing is so compelling that it is extremely hard to put the book down. I ended up finishing the last 300 pages in one sitting. Whoops. What is sleep, anyhow?

There is just so much about this book that I love, not the least of which is Hermione coming out of her shell and becoming a much bigger character. Ron kind of takes a back seat in this one as he spends much of the story grouchy and jealous of various people and happenings.

Hermione though, Hermione shines in this book. She’s in her element, studying anything and everything to help Harry out with his situation, and mediating between Harry and Ron, and just generally being the voice of reason in an otherwise crazy world.

“You can’t Apparate inside the Hogwarts grounds, how often do I have to tell you?”
~Hermione Granger

But that’s not all. No, this is the book where Hermione finds her passion(s). This is the part of the story when Hermione begins to take note of the world around her. She discovers boys, and she discovers human rights issues (which may sound a tad boring compared to the magical world, but I assure it is NOT), and with a little magic on her side, she finds the confidence to be herself and speak up for what she wants. Best of all, she’s not afraid to tell it like it is (I’m looking at you, Ron), and put people in their place (Also you, Rita Skeeter). It just makes me so happy to see the character of Hermione grow so much in one novel.

Not everything was cake and roses in this book, though. There is a lot of darkness and a lot of plot set-up for the final three books, which of course means a lot more Voldemort. As much as we wish Harry’s path wasn’t headed in that direction, the Dark Lord is a continual evil that plagues our young protagonist.

Overall, this is an amazing read. The first time I read this book, I was 8, and I was moving. To me, it was the darkest thing that had ever happened in my life. I was leaving all of my friends, and in the 90’s/ early 00’s, this basically meant that aside from long-distance calls on the landline or writing snail-mail, I was losing everyone I knew. Having something, like the Harry Potter series, that followed me from house to house and had characters that were going through turmoil like I was was remarkable in itself. The fact that they overcame their problems and made new friends with people from new schools helped me to overcome my fear of never having friends again and ultimately helped me adjust to a new town.

I highly recommend this book to literally everyone. Tissues required.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Book #2 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Book #3 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
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

The Cursed Child – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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

Wicked Charms (Lizzy & Diesel, #3) – Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton

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Source: Goodreads

Lizzy and Diesel’s third adventure takes to the high seas in search of the Avaritia Stone, the SALIGIA stone of greed. Besides boats and pirates and buried treasure, Lizzy is on the hunt for a publisher. Will she find everything she’s looking for?

After the second installment, I was very dubious going into this story, but the pirate theme had me pretty excited. There is so much historic potential in this series! However, I have a constant worry that she’s trying to build a love triangle by making Wulf more likable, the problem being that nobody likes him. Now, on top of all that, I’m worried about the series in general.Why has she brought in a co-author? Will Phoef Sutton be continuing on with the series? and HOW EXACTLY are you supposed to pronounce his name? Is it like loaf? or pho-eff? or is the pho like fuh?

Apparently, all of these are wrong according to Wikipedia, which says that it’s a nickname for Christopher, pronounced feef. How does that make sense? Also, you would think that the former executive producer of Cheers would be able to imbue the story with a bit more Boston/New England history, wouldn’t you? You would be wrong.

Some of my favorite things about Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series are the tidbits of New Jersey history that creep into the story. Since this series in based in Boston/Salem, and there is SO MUCH HISTORY TO WORK WITH THERE, why isn’t more of it included? We get maybe 3 pages of history per book and it’s always told in a super-quick and non-important seeming way. They are literally hunting stones that have been passed down through history, and they can’t spend more than 3/300 pages telling us about that history? Maybe some readers didn’t even notice, but it is quite possibly the most frustrating things about these books for a history lover like myself. Even the secret tunnels are rushed over, and they are SO IMPORTANT TO EVERYTHING.

The storyline itself felt extremely rushed, and the characters didn’t develop at all, except for Hatchett, who has suddenly gotten a lot nicer. Carl the monkey, thankfully, has gone back to his bird-flipping ways. But really, not a whole lot happens in this book. There are a whole bunch of new characters that may or may not be continuing on in the series, and it just all seemed like it was over in a day or two. I feel like in the other books it took them weeks to find everything. I’m just feeling really disappointed, okay? Not sure if I even want to give the next book a try or just give up on the series.

HHC Rating: 1.5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Wicked Appetite
Book #2 – Wicked Business

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

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

The Cursed Child – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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

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

Wicked Appetite (Lizzy & Diesel, #1) – Janet Evanovich

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via Goodreads

Lizzy’s special talent is cupcakes. She can make anything well (with the exception of gravy), but her cupcakes are something magical. Literally. Or at least that’s what the big blond stranger standing on her doorstep keeps telling her. He also insists that it isn’t her only talent. Lizzy is a finder, one of only two in the known world, and Diesel needs her help to find and contain the SALIGIA stones before someone uses them to bring about Hell on Earth. Oh yeah, and magic is real, there’s a vampire-looking guy stalking her, some guy dressed in tights trying to maim her, a cat named Cat, and a very rude monkey named Carl. Together, Lizzy, Diesel, Cat, and Carl might just save the world. Maybe. If Lizzy doesn’t die or lose her magical powers first.

I’ve been a fan of Janet Evanovich’s work for a few years now, ever since someone convinced me to read the Stephanie Plum series set in Trenton and the surrounding parts of New Jersey, my home state. The Lizzy and Diesel series takes place in the same universe, with the addition of magic. In fact, Diesel even makes a few appearances in Stephanie’s life in the holiday novellas!

Wicked Appetite is set in the Boston metropolitan area. Lizzy has just inherited a house in Marblehead from her great aunt and started working at a bakery in Salem. Everything is hunky-dory until Grimwolfe Grimoire and Diesel (no last name) pop into her life and shake things up. Suddenly her life is in danger, spells are being cast, and people are acting very weird. The book moves pretty quickly, and Evanovich’s dialogue is always snappy and entertaining. Evanovich is a master at making the reader feel at home in her books. Her descriptions are so realistic that I often imagine being able to drive to Massachusettes and, using only this book, find every location at which something takes place within its pages.

Wicked Appetite is a great introduction to the series, in which each book describes the search for a SALIGIA stone, an ancient artifact said to contain great powers and represent one of the seven deadly sins: Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath, and Sloth. Or, more precisely, Superbia, Avaritia, Luxuria, Invidia, Gula, Ira, and Acedia: SALIGIA. I would recommend Wicked Appetite to anyone excited to learn about a new city, looking for a little spontaneous romance in their life, or who enjoys witty banter. Wicked Appetite is right up your alley. Not recommended for anyone under the age of 12 or so, due to some adult themes.

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Wicked Business
Book #3 – Wicked Charms

Into the Wild (Warriors, #1) – Erin Hunter

Source: Goodreads 

Rusty is a house cat who dreams of living in the wild. He gets his wish when he wanders into the forest outside his family’s garden and meets Graypaw and the wild cats of ThunderClan. After leaving his life of boring contentment behind, Rusty, now known as Firepaw for his bright orange fur, enters a world where every hunt could be his last, and living means learning who to trust. Can he keep his friends safe? Or will the enemy find a way to destroy the clan he has grown to love?

Erin Hunter (a bunch of authors sharing one pseudonym) has created a world in which politics, religion, and loyalty can be tested and questioned. The characters, basically all felines, gain purr-sonality and distinguish themselves from each other pretty quickly in the story. Into The Wild is the first book of six, which make up the first sub-series (The Prophecies Begin) featuring the characters. As of September first, I believe there are five or six sub-series, each having six books, as well as a number of stand-alone novels.

I was disappointed with where the first book ended (spoiler: it’s a cliffhanger!), but since there are a ton more of them I’m not worried about being unable to find out what happens next. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the themes of clans, war, and monarchies, as well as cats in general. Some of the fight scenes are a little graphic for younger readers, but overall they are handled very well and are in good proportion to the rest of the book.

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles – Patricia C. Wrede

Source: Goodreads 

Cimorene is not your average princess. Her hair isn’t blond and she doesn’t swoon at the sight of handsome princes, and she certainly doesn’t sew, or dance, or sing, or any of the other hundred things a princess is supposed to do. So she runs away and volunteers to be a dragon’s princess. Her parents are appalled. Her fiance is confused. Cimorene couldn’t be happier. Until the wizards show up of course. Then Cimorene’s life gets so complicated that she gets exhausted just trying to explain it to people.

Patricia C. Wrede’s writing is some of the best I’ve ever read, and her characters are simply charming. The series is made up of four books: Dealing with Dragons, Searching for Dragons, Calling on Dragons, and Talking to Dragons.

Throughout Cimorene’s adventures in the Mountains or Morning and The Enchanted Forest, the reader is introduced to such people as a witch with nine cats (none of whom are black), a magician obsessed with magical theory, a flying blue donkey, a stone prince, a fire-witch who can’t actually use any of her magic, and a lot of dragons, wizards, and knights. Wrede’s world is so full it runs itself, and The Enchanted Forest Chronicles simply allows the reader to look inside for a little while. Rich with swords and magic and daring rescues, I could read this series over and over again and never get bored. This is easily one of my all time favorite series.

HHC Rating: 5 stars