Greenwitch (The Dark is Rising Sequence, #3) – Susan Cooper

 

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Photo by Amanda_HHC

 

 

Barnabus, Jane, and Simon are returning to the small town of Trewissick for a week away with their favorite great uncle – and to recover a priceless artifact the evil Dark has stolen from a museum. With them on their vacation is a mysterious young boy named Will Stanton. Unsure whether to trust Will with their secret or to forge ahead alone, the Drews will learn the difference between an outsider and an enemy as they race against the hourglass turned by mother nature herself to stop the Dark from rising.

 

This third installment in Cooper’s pentalogy is the shortest, yet the most chock-full of character development.  Barney comes into his own talents, Simon learns to tone down his temper, Jane finds her inner strength, and Will learns how to balance being a boy and an immortal. As the trio grows to a quartet, the bonds of the light grow stronger and the Dark is pushed back yet again. Cooper does an excellent job of taking a general storyline – darkness vs light – and creating it anew. With two books left in the series, I can’t wait to see where this series goes.

My favorite parts of this book involved Jane. Sure, she’s basically the only girl, but Cooper sets it up so this aspect gives her special access to knowledge and events that the boys are not privy to. This, combined with her open mind, allows for greater understanding of the implications of Will and Uncle Merry’s powers, and the truth about the fight against the Dark. While Barney and Simon only know that magic is playing a role in this fight, Jane can see and sense that this fight is bigger than four kids and an old man against a few unsavory people. Jane, without having it explained to her, understands that this is for all the marbles, and that while she isn’t the chosen one she’s still part of the fight. She actually reminds me of Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series in many ways. She’s smart, she’s brave, and she’s unafraid to be herself. She doesn’t always know why things happen the way they do, but she’s here for it, and her good heart – like in a Grimm’s fairytale, almost – leads her in the right direction.

 

 

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Over Sea, Under Stone
Book #2 – The Dark is Rising
Book #4 – The Grey King (Review Coming Soon!)
Book #5 – Silver on the Tree (Review Coming Soon!)

The Dark is Rising (The Dark is Rising Sequence, #2) – Susan Cooper

 

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Photo by Amanda_HHC

 

 

All Will Stanton wants for his birthday is snow; something that never arrives in time for Christmas or his birthday in the south of England. Until it does. But the freak snowstorm isn’t the only thing that’s arrived in the Thames Valley. A homeless wanderer, a dark rider, and a man with a very distinctive white beard are all laying in wait for Will’s birthday. With Christmas fast approaching there isn’t much time to worry about the forces of evil, and that’s probably for the best because Will has another mission to worry about: he must combine the six ancient signs for the Light before the Dark rises to power forever.

 

In this second installment of The Dark is Rising sequence, we head to a new part of the British Isles, with new characters and old (pun intended), and new mission.  Will Stanton is tasked with finding the second of the ‘things of the Light’, the first being the grail found by the Drew children in the first book. To complete his quest, Will has to gather the six signs, all made from different natural elements, to complete something called ‘the circle’. Along the way, the Dark seeks to trick and distract Will in many ways and test his loyalty to the Light. The danger factor in this book is definitely taken up a notch from the previous installment. Where the Drew children were chased by scary people with guns, Will is attacked by ravens, tortured with the simulated screams of his family among other emotional attacks, and chased down by horses and tornadoes. Oh, and everything takes place over the course of about two weeks, from Will’s birthday to Twelfth Night.

I’m still unsure if I like the time jumps in these books – days when nothing exciting happens are just skipped, but you don’t usually know there’s been a time jump for a few paragraphs – but the short time-spans of the novels is quite interesting. Most YA and MG books that are coming out today like to wrap everything up at the end of every book in a series, and leave the overarching storyline to be mostly a mystery. In this series, however, everything seems like tiny little steps towards facing the BIG BAD DARK ‘someday’. They finally explain in this one that there are four ‘things of the light’, and since there are five books, I assume we’ll find the other two things in Greenwitch and The Grey King, and then we’ll have our big fight scenes in Silver on the Tree. Just saying. It’s a lot more information than we had after Over Sea, Under Stone, which gave away nothing about the plot of the series except at the very very end when Barney is all like, ‘You know, I think Uncle Merry is a lot older than we think he is,” because Barney rules.

I’m going to try to finish the series and reviews for the books by the end of the year, despite the fact that I totally missed posting this last week. Grad school is hard, okay? I’m also starting to get sick and I’m starting a new job (more on that in the October Update post on Thursday), so there’s been a lot going on. Who knows if I’ll get to NaNoWriMo this year. So, this has been your chatty book review for the week. I’m going to go finish a rough draft of a paper now before getting five hours of sleep and then going to work training for eight hours before my four-hour class where said rough draft is due. You’ll find out on Thursday if I’ve survived. Until then, leave me a comment about your favorite use of timelines in a book series!

 

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Over Sea, Under Stone
Book #3 – Greenwitch
Book #4 – The Grey King (Review Coming Soon!)
Book #5 – Silver on the Tree (Review Coming Soon!)

Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark is Rising Sequence, #1) – Susan Cooper

 

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Photo by Amanda_HHC

 

 

Simon, Jane, and Barnabus Drew have just arrived in Cornwall for a summer holiday with their parents and great uncle when they discover a mysteriously hidden passageway to a long-forgotten attic in the house they are staying at. Among the relics and dust, they find what could only be a treasure map. In following the ancient clues, the Drews attract the attention of other treasure hunters, determined to get the prize for themselves in the name of an evil known only as the Dark. As Simon, Jane, and Barney unravel the secrets of the map, they realize the treasure is more important than they ever could have dreamed, and might even be related to the true history of King Arthur.

 

I was gifted The Dark is Rising Sequence as a Christmas present from my parents over a decade ago and loved them. When I set out to re-read all of my childhood favorites this year, I knew this series needed to be on my list. Cooper’s writing is simple enough that my young mind could comprehend it, but it is also complex enough to still make the story enjoyable as an adult.

Admittedly, I don’t remember much from my original reading of the book beyond that it had a theme about King Arthur and Merlin, and that I liked it, so re-reading these is nearly as entertaining as it was back then. I have always loved anything to do with King Arthur and Merlin (Guinevere and Lancelot not so much), so those themes in the story are my favorite. As a child, it was fun to read about people near my own age getting in on the adventures, rather than reading about yet another 16-year-old protagonist who needed to go save a princess or a kingdom or slay something. The Drews are not ‘special snowflakes’ in any sense. They make mistakes, and that is what allows the story to wander where it does and come to the conclusion Cooper had planned. The book does move a little slowly, and the characters’ minds wander so that we get more description than is strictly necessary. Most of these descriptions help build other characters in the reader’s mind, however, and for younger readers, it would make perfect sense that these descriptions would be needed. After all, we can’t all have ready-made villains in our heads to slap names on at the drop of a hat. What I am trying to say here is this: There is a lot of description, but it is not altogether unwelcome.

The scenery, seen through Cooper’s world-building, is wonderful. No matter where I picked up in the book, I could almost feel the Cornish winds whipping across the headlands and hear the sea slamming against the rocks of Kemare head as the tide rushes in. The characters each have their own personalities and accents, making each an interesting little nugget of eccentricities to mine for.

I have no idea where the rest of the series will take me, but I look forward to diving in!

 

HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars

P.S. The covers featured are from a reprint of the 1986 box set edition. The edition was printed in 2000, but as far as I can find, these covers are no longer available.

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – The Dark is Rising
Book #3 – Greenwitch 
Book #4 – The Grey King (Review Coming Soon!)
Book #5 – Silver on the Tree (Review Coming Soon!)

Peter Pan – J. M. Barrie

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Source: Goodreads

Peter Pan doesn’t want to grow up. He wants to fight pirates and indians (Native Americans), play with mermaids, and do cartwheels in the sky. The Lost Boys, however, need a mother, and Wendy Darling is just the girl for the job.

How it’s taken me nearly 25 years to read Peter Pan I’ll never quite know. Maybe I was scarred after reading Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid and worried I’d hate Peter and Wendy and Hook. After all, I grew up watching films like the Disney animated version of the classic, as well as Robin Williams’ Pan in Hook, and more recently Finding Neverland and NBC’s Peter Pan Live!  Not to mention the numerous other films, plays, and book series based on and around this original story. This book had a lot to live up to.

I decided to read it aloud to my cousin, who’s just turned one. Sure, he can’t understand any of it yet, but this is supposed to be a children’s book. Over the course of a week, reading a chapter or two a day, we sped through it. I have to say, it seems very short at around 200 pages, but as you read you realize what a wealth of information there is. This is one of those books that is written to build your imagination. It leaves bits out purposefully so the reader will fill them in themselves.

One huge thing I noticed was the narrator’s decision to call Neverland ‘The Neverland’, and explain that it’s different and yet somehow the same for everyone. I’ve always thought of Neverland as a specific place, like Treasure Island, or Narnia, that existed in our world or an alternate dimension. But that’s only partly true. When Tinkerbell is in distress, Peter calls out to all the boys and girls of the world and asks them to believe. But here’s the thing: They aren’t all in Neverland the way the Darlings and the Lost Boys are. The children who save Tinkerbell are at home, asleep in their beds, visiting the foggier version of Neverland in their dreams. If you watch the 2003 live action Peter Pan, you get an inkling that something like this is happening, but if you haven’t read the book it is easy to assume that Peter just has extra magical powers.

The next thing I noticed was how rude Peter and Tinkerbell are. She calls him a ‘silly ass’ at least five times, and Peter regulary forgets who people are or waits until just before they die to save them. Sure, it’s supposed to be part of his hero-complex, but it doesn’t seem like heroic behavior to me. By the end, I was glad that the Darlings made it home in one piece, as even that seemed at times too much to ask.

Truth be told, I’m not entirely sure why this is considered a children’s story unless it is meant as one of warning: don’t run away from home.

If there is a hero it is certainly Wendy, though even she lives with a kind of grief throughout the rest of her days. I always hated that Peter and Wendy didn’t end up together, but after reading the original story I’ve come to terms with the reality that they are what, 10? 12 years old? and in no position to be in love, but also that Peter is not a character one should be falling in love with. In fact, when it is Jane’s turn to fly, she doesn’t reason with Wendy that she’s in love with him. She reasons that he needs a mother. Because motherly love is the only kind a girl could have for the boy who never grows up. A mother’s love is universal, and everyone is deserving of it, no matter how unheroic, prideful, or childish they may be.

One thing I did enjoy in this particular edition was the glossary at the end of the book explaining J. M. Barrie’s completely inaccurate native Americans, as well as some other rather interesting tidbits. I thought it was very nice of them to explain why the characters were written as they are, especially since so much has changed in terms of standards of political correctness since the book’s original publication. I wish all reprintings of historical works included a historical explanation of the language and characters.

HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars

Only Beloved (The Survivors' Club, #7) – Mary Balogh

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Source: Goodreads

George, Duke of Stanbrook and the figurehead of the self-styled Survivors’ Club, is feeling lonely. All of his compatriots have found love and are building their lives back up. He worries that they won’t need him anymore and he’ll live alone at Penderris Hall for eternity. Then he lights upon an idea that could change everything.

Dora Debbins is perfectly happy being a small town music teacher. An established spinster, she finds joy in teaching the young of Inglebrook as well as Lord and Lady Darleigh the fine art of music. She gardens, and when her sister lived with her, would enjoy chatting and drinking tea on a rainy afternoon. Now that her sister has married, Dora feels lonely, and her mind keeps wandering back to the gentleman she met around the same time her sister met her now husband. It could never be, but a little daydreaming never hurt anyone. That is until her daydreams suddenly become reality and Dora is thrust into a marriage she never expected and a world she never imagined.

George and Dora! I couldn’t be happier. I’ve been wishing and hoping they would get together ever since book four when we met her. Dora is just too sweet for words, and I am simply elated that George is going to try and be happy again.

Bullheadedness aside, George got super complex in this book. Like woah. And there are so many plot twists. No one saw those coming. No. One. This book actually becomes quite dark in places. Much darker than the previous books. Dora’s lightness of personality becomes a metaphorical guiding light to George, who is stuck in this dark place of misery. It all feels terribly serious while you’re reading it. Tissues probably needed.

I’m incredibly sad that this series is ending, but also extremely excited for whatever Mary Balogh writes next. This book not only serves as George’s story, but it also wraps up the previous six stories. THERE’S EVEN AN EPILOGUE. I CRIED. HAPPY. TEARS. It’s beautiful. This is how a good book series should end.

HHC Rating: 5 stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – The Proposal
Book #2 – The Arrangement
Book #3 – The Escape
Book #4 – Only Enchanting
Book #5 – Only A Promise
Book #6 – Only A Kiss

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7) – J.K. Rowling

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Source: Goodreads

Harry James Potter is about to turn 17. He’ll finally be a full-fledged wizard, legally allowed to cast spells outside of school. He’s also leaving home for the last time. The magic that protects him at the Dursley’s ends the night of his birthday, and he’ll be free game for any dark wizards who wish him harm. With a whole list of things to do before he can even attempt to face-off with Lord Voldemort and stand a chance of surviving, Harry will make some of the toughest choices of his life.

This book. THIS BOOK. Oh my goodness. When I first read it (9 years ago) in 2007, it was July, and I had just finished my freshman year of high school. We always pre-ordered the Harry Potter books because if you didn’t it was sold out for like a month, and by then everyone had already told you what had happened. So, on the morning of July 21st (or it might even have been the 20th. They sometimes delivered a day early back then because there were just too many copies that had to be shipped out.) it just happened that no one was around except me when the UPS man arrived. I took the package and sprinted up to my room, where I closed the door, tore the book out of the box and immediately started reading. I didn’t even bother telling anyone it had come, because when the previous book arrived my mom and brother had started trading it back and forth to read it, and I had had to wait through an entire agonizing week of listening to them talk about it before I was allowed to read it. Their reasoning was that I read too slowly. So this was a combination of excitement, straight up selfishness, and maybe even a wish for revenge.

I hid the book under my pillows whenever anyone came into my room (thank goodness they always knocked so I had time to hide it), and I only left to use the bathroom or attend meals. It was summer. I didn’t have responsibilities. In the end, it took me about 36 hours to read the entire 759-page novel, and I don’t think I slept more than 3-4 hours. It was worth it. Not just because I loved the book, but also because the look on my brother’s face when I knocked on his bedroom door and handed him the book whilst saying, “Here you go, I just finished it.” when he didn’t even know it had arrived yet was PRICELESS.

Of course, I’ll have to argue about whether I read the whole book in 36 hours or not for the entire rest of my life, but who cares. I know I  did it, and that’s all that matters. And they thought I read too slowly. HA!

So, clearly, you can see how much I love this series. The first book came out in 1998 in the U.S.A., when I was just 6 years old, and my mom read them to us the next year, so we read books 1 & 2 back-to-back before eagerly awaiting the publication of book 3. For all intents and purposes, I learned to read with the Harry Potter books. Those 10 years of my life were incredibly magical because of them, and don’t even get me started on going to see the films. I was that child that immediately poked holes in all of the book/film differences the second we left the theater, to the point where my family banned me from speaking for the entire rest of the day after we saw the last three movies. I’m a pretty diehard fan.

Rereading this series has been pretty magical, too. There’s nothing like reading it for the first time, not knowing what’s coming, but reading it a second time is pretty amazingly wonderful also. I really appreciate all of the secondary characters a lot more now. Everyone is human to me, even Hannah Abbot who we hear about a total of maybe three times in the whole series. When I first read the books, and the films came out, I desperately wanted to be Hermione. To the point where I wanted to hate Emma Watson for getting the part, even though I was only 8 when the casting happened and was too young (and not anywhere near British enough) to try out. Hermione was smart, she was pretty (but not too pretty), and she had great friends. During my reread, though, I found that I identified a lot less with Hermione, and a lot more with Ginny. She’s quiet, she’s fierce, she’s determined, and yet she can still be silly in love sometimes, like when she sent Harry the singing valentine in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Her peaceful courage and undying loyalty are two of my favorite things about her, and I identify so hard with that. I’m even considering dying my hair red, though not exclusively because of my admiration for Ginevra Molly Weasley. I’ve been thinking about it a lot longer than I’ve been rereading the series.

Still, reading the first 300 pages of this book was agony. And trying to stop reading it is like wearing a Horcurx, or asking a dementor to please follow you around every second of the day while you wait to find out the fates of your favorite characters. It feels like there’s not a whole lot going on, and in the movie it doesn’t look like there’s a whole lot happening, but it is. Inside of you, the reader, and inside the characters. Everyone is rising to the challenge, marking off their to-do lists and gearing up for war. All 759 pages are needed because that’s how long it takes for you to be ready to fight the ultimate evil that is Lord Voldemort. That’s how long it takes for your courage to rise to the top, to stamp down your fears, and face the true evil head-on. And after countless deaths that you can still feel, echoing through the years, you are finally prepared for your destiny.

“That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of house-elves and children’s tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped.” pgs. 709-710 (US 2007 Edition)

So, yes. This book is wonderful, amazing, magical… everything you hoped and wished the final Harry Potter book would be. It is also heart-tearing, gut-wrenching, and exhaustingly sad, yet somehow we still love to read it.  This book, I am convinced, is why the series is so beloved to this day. Also, I blew off NaNoWriMo for a day in order to read the last 459 pages because I couldn’t take the waiting any longer. It was worth it.

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 #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 #8 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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

Only a Kiss (The Survivors' Club, #6) – Mary Balogh

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via Goodreads

Imogen, Lady Barclay, is adjusting slowly to living alone with her elderly female family members and their horde of stray animals. She is hoping to move into the dowager house as soon as the roof gets fixed, and is looking forward to starting a garden.

Percival Hayes, the Earl of Hardford and the new Lord Barclay, realizes that he will have to visit his estate in Cornwall eventually, but he never expects to find so many people and animals living there. Setting up an estate takes a lot more work than Percy realized, and before he can begin to decide what to do, things begin happening. Mysterious things that nobody will explain to him, and it is soon up to Percy and Imogen to solve the mystery of what or who is trying to run them off the estate.

I recently checked this out of my library so I could refresh my memory before writing this review, and also because my mom hadn’t read it yet. Wouldn’t you know it, but she lost the book. We haven’t lost a library book since I was maybe 6 or 8, so this is really quite frustrating. Not to mention that I hadn’t gotten around to writing this review yet, so now I have to go by memory.

This book has a lot of elements. Multiple houses and family members, not to mention an entire town full of people. This book easily wins the award for ‘biggest cast’ of the series. Also, there are a million stray animals and PIRATES. This book is not just a romance, but also a full-on mystery novel. It was very cool.The chemistry between Imogen and Percy was quite good. I tend to think of Imogen as a young and slightly more roughed up but less strict Professor McGonagall (from

The chemistry between Imogen and Percy was quite good. I tend to think of Imogen as a young and slightly more roughed up yet less strict Professor McGonagall (from Harry Potter). She’s delightful in a serious kind of way that just really makes her endearing and spunky at the same time.

Percy, for a character we are just meeting, is extremely well developed, and there were times when I felt we almost knew him better than Imogen. Not to mention that Percy is the only male lead who is not a member of the Survivors’ Club, which, thankfully, doesn’t seem to phase him that much.

Overall, I would recommend it, especially if you’ve been loving the series so far! As with all of Balogh’s books, this series just gets better and better.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – The Proposal
Book #2 – The Arrangement
Book #3 – The Escape
Book #4 – Only Enchanting
Book #5 – Only A Promise
Book #7 – Only Beloved