Category Archives: Middle Grade

InterWorld (InterWorld #1) – Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves

InterWorld (InterWorld #1) – Neil Gaiman & Michael ReavesTitle: InterWorld (InterWorld #1) by Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves
Publishing Info: April 29, 2008 by HarperCollins
Source: Library
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Children's & Middle Grade, Science Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 5, 2017
Related Posts: Fortunately, the Milk, Stardust, American Gods, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neverwhere

When Newbery Medal winner Neil Gaiman and Emmy Award winner Michael Reaves teamed up, they created the bestselling YA novel InterWorld.

InterWorld tells the story of Joey Harker, a very average kid who discovers that his world is only one of a trillion alternate earths. Some of these earths are ruled by magic. Some are ruled by science. All are at war.

Joey teams up with alternate versions of himself from an array of these worlds. Together, the army of Joeys must battle evil magicians Lord Dogknife and Lady Indigo to keep the balance of power between all the earths stable. Teens—and tweens and adults—who obsessively read the His Dark Materials and Harry Potter series will be riveted by InterWorld and its sequel, The Silver Dream.

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I had heard that this book felt a little young before I started but that was incredibly evident once I started getting into it. The main character is in high school but this read at a middle grade level and really felt quite young. I’ve actually read quite a few better middle grade books and ones that were better-written, which is sad since this is co-authored by Neil Gaiman and I’ve loved everything I’ve read from him (which by now is a a decent amount of his works). I’m not sure what percentage of the co-authoring Neil Gaiman did but I found it hard to really get into this book.

I’m a total sucker for parallel worlds and the like but INTERWORLD got a bit too deep into some strange science-fiction stuff that just ended up being too much for me. There was a lot of technical jargon, including interdimensional creatures (oh, we all know how much I love wacky creatures…) that was hard to keep up with. I felt that the book went way too overboard in introducing some of these concepts, especially since it’s the first book in a series and there would have been so much to build up to.

It’s also very much a blend of sci-fi and fantasy, and I have a bit of trouble combining the two when reading fanta-sci books. Despite the fact that sci-fi is a subgenre of fantasy, they just don’t really blend well for me. It did actually seem better accomplished than in other fanta-sci books that I’ve read but I feel like fanta-sci just allows a bit too much to spiral out of control. You’re allowing belief to be suspended from two different angles instead of just one and as a reader, I have a hard time letting go in two different directions and I wanted things to be a bit more grounded.

I would have loved to see this developed more slowly into a couple different books and not have all of this been in the first book. We could have gotten to know Joey, his family, his friends, and his world more before throwing him into this ability and concept. I could have used some more world-building to allow readers to get a grip on Walking and the InterWorld instead of just being thrown into it and having to catch up like Joey had. It was too much and too confusing, in my opinion.

I knew this one might not be a hit but I definitely won’t be continuing the series. I was hoping it might be just so-so for me and there would be an option to continue but this was a total miss for me. It was a short audiobook so it wasn’t too bad to get through but if it hadn’t been short, I probably wouldn’t have finished. I just really wasn’t interested and the tone was just too young for me, even as an occasional reader of middle grade books.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Fantasci. This was definitely a new step in fanta-sci for me with a mix between fantasy and science-fiction. Sadly, it’s something that I tend to have an issue with as I tend to want a book to be more fantasy or more sci-fi, but it was definitely interesting.
Left Me Wanting More: Maturity. This book just felt young, even more so than most middle grade books I’ve read. I just felt like it was sort of dumbed down and it really didn’t need to be.

Addiction Rating
Skip it

I should have listened to the advice when I was told to skip this one but I just had to know for myself! It wasn’t a very good read for me.

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BOOKS LIKE INTERWORLD

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE CITY OF EMBER

On the Same Page: Howl’s Moving Castle | On Reading Middle Grade

One of the things I really enjoy about reading books with Alyssa and Amy for our On the Same Page feature is the wide variety of books we read. We try to always choose books we’ll think we’ll enjoy but each one of us differs just a little bit in reading tastes so we also try to challenge ourselves at least one book a year to read a little bit outside of our comfort zone. For me, one of those “comfort zone” boundaries is middle grade. I really don’t read much middle grade at all outside of Harry Potter (which doesn’t count. It’s Harry Potter) and the books I grew up with and read as an actual middle-grader. I’ve seen a few that might look interesting but honestly, I will pick up YA over anything for the most part and adult over middle grade too.

So far for On the Same Page, we’ve read three middle grade books (The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, Peter and the Starcatchers, and Howl’s Moving Castle) and I’ve actually really enjoyed them all! It’s definitely renewed my faith in reading a middle grade book every now and then and helped me not to worry that I won’t connect with it because of the age level.

That being said, I have had a hard time adjusting sometimes. I think I really need to put myself in a middle grade reading mode and try to adjust for what I’m about to read. That’s really not a bad thing and I hope it doesn’t come off as negative, but the storytelling is just a totally different style and the focus is always different. Being an avid YA reader (and in adult stories as well), there’s almost always a romance. The middle grade that I’ve read of course focuses much more on the plot and also friendships, family, and finding one’s own confidence and personality. YA is so much more figuring out where a character wants to go in the world, the transition from child to adult, and often times that includes first love and romance. I don’t necessarily need a romance in a book BUT I usually do enjoy it and it tends to bring out another side of my emotions that helps me connect more personally.

I’m definitely always open to reading more middle grade but sometimes it’s hard to make it a priority. I’m really a YA girl at heart with some adult books mixed in but it’s hard for me to pick up a middle grade book and really just be in love with it. Aside from Harry Potter and Walk Two Moons (which I read as a kid so I probably already have that connection to it), I haven’t loved a middle grade book since I was that age. I’m still interested in trying more and I’m glad I have opportunities to read them with other people like we do with On the Same Page!

 Are you a middle grade reader? Or strictly YA/adult? If you do read middle grade, do you only forage into specific genres?

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Thanks again for checking out this month’s feature for On the Same Page! We had a blast reading HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE and sharing our thoughts with you! And don’t forget to check out Amy & Alyssa’s posts today too!

Alyssa (Books Take You Places) // Amy (Tripping Over Books)

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

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5) – J.K. RowlingTitle: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5) by J.K. Rowling
Publishing Info: June 21, 2003 by Scholastic Inc.
Source: Library
Genres: Children's & Middle Grade, Fantasy, Fantasy, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: September 28, 2014
Related Posts: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter #1), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2), The Hogwarts Library, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter #3), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #4), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter #6), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter #7), Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter #8)

    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...
Suspense, secrets and thrilling action from the pen of J.K. Rowling ensure an electrifying adventure that is impossible to put down.

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I think the most interesting thing about my Harry Potter re-reads so far has been how my rankings for the book has changed based on how I’ve developed as a person. There are just certain things I’ve connected with in some books, certain things that turn me off in others (though I still love them. I mean, I love ALL of them no matter what minor things I find) and all of the things I didn’t pick up on during my first thousand re-reads (yes, there’s always something new).

I was majorly excited to re-read HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX. From the time I did my last re-reads say… maybe ten years ago? This book was my second favorite (or third — it was kind of a toss-up with Goblet of Fire and Half-Blood Prince was still tops) so I was curious to see how this re-read would go. I totally changed my opinion of Prisoner of Azkaban, flipping it around from one of my least favorites to most of my most favorites so I was excited to see how one of my earlier favorites fared later on in my life.

I was a bit hesitant with all of the “angsty” comments I had seen about OotP — this is probably Harry’s moodiest book (well, he IS fifteen…) and yes, it was definitely more noticeable in the very beginning of this book. Sometimes it was annoying, sometimes it made me laugh, but most of the time it really didn’t bother me. In fact, if I hadn’t see all the angst memes on Pinterest and Tumblr and other forms of social media, I may not even have noticed… Who can say! But aside from Harry and Ron’s adventures with the Yule Ball in Goblet of Fire, I think OotP is the first book that really starts to deal with relationship issues, crushes, and serious jealousy so there’s quite a bit of teenage melodrama and it DID wear on me JUST a bit.

I feel like the story is much more government-related with Umbridge and the Ministry of Magic getting super involved so that’s not AS appealing to me as the hunt for and battles with Voldemort. It’s a different kind of action and one that generally feels more frustrating (as in, I feel frustrated for the characters) than a sort of exciting nervous-feeling to see what will happen next. [SPOILERS FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVEN’T READ THE SERIES COMING UP (yes, there are still some and I don’t want to spoil things for them!)] OotP was also the first book that dealt with a death that hit Harry really hard. He’s always dealt with his parents’ deaths, yes, but OotP not only shows Harry dealing with the aftermath of witnessing Cedric’s murder but also the first-hand account of Sirius’s untimely death during the epic battle in the Department of Mysteries. Things get HEAVY and there’s definitely a somber weight to the book because of those. Regarding Sirius’s death… It still didn’t hit me hard. I know it absolutely kills some people but I still didn’t find myself getting terribly choked up. It has nothing to do with how I feel about Sirius. SHEESH, I love the guy, but I feel like it’s almost an off-screen death. Everything just happens so fast and Harry is in disbelief/denial that it made me feel like it wasn’t real. I think even now I’m still in denial about it so for some reason it’s STILL just not hitting me that hard. [END SPOILERS]

So what’s the verdict? I still enjoyed OotP, of course, but I also don’t think it’s one of my favorites of the series anymore. I just feel like there isn’t as much mystery and sleuthing regarding Voldemort and his involvement in everything and the Ministry-centric plot doesn’t grab me as much as “evil villain” (although I DO hate Umbridge more than I do Voldemort. Fact).

Ranking after re-read of book #1: [1] // [6, 4, 5, 7, 3, 2]
Ranking after re-read of book #2: [1, 2] // [6, 4, 5, 7, 3]
Ranking after re-read of book #3: [3, 1, 2] // [6, 4, 5, 7]
Ranking after re-read of book #4: [4, 3, 1, 2] // [6, 5, 7]
Ranking after re-read of book #5: [4, 3, 1, 5, 2] // [6, 7]

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Cho Chang // Character Obsessions: Quidditch, Cedric, the DA, Harry.
Oh, let’s talk about Cho Chang. Do we have any Cho fans? Personally, I am not. She was Harry’s first big crush (an older woman! Go, Harry) but I could never really get on board with her. I don’t blame her for going to the Yule Ball with Cedric (who could?) but once she and Harry started dating in this book, she became so needy and whiny and clingy. Okay, okay, her boyfriend just died. I GET IT. So maybe don’t go out with someone else right away! Sorry, Harry. I don’t think it ever would have worked. She did like you but you were still a Cedric rebound and to add grieving on top of a budding relationship? Just not gonna happen.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Harry Potter re-reads. I’m still loving re-reading these on audio! This one was a bit longer so I was in a hurry to finish, but everything is still so magical!
Left Me Wanting More: Levity. I know there were light moments in this book, but it doesn’t even feel DARK, just heavy. The Ministry, Cedric’s death from the previous book, Umbridge, quidditch, and close calls (and more deaths). YIKES. I think this is the book with the most weight (and it’s the biggest so… haha. Literal weight too). Others may be darker, but this one hangs heavy in my heart.

Addiction Rating
Re-read it!

Well, of course. I think it’s a totally different experience re-reading these books as an adult! I have very different reactions to some events now. Some I see with eyes wide open. Others I can compare to something that’s happened to me that hadn’t when I first read it. It’s fun!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE HARRY POTTER

(Click the cover to see my review!)

        shadow and bone       throne of glass

Walk Two Moons – Sharon Creech

Walk Two Moons – Sharon CreechTitle: Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Publishing Info: May 19, 1994 by HarperCollins
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: May 17, 2014
Related Posts: The Boy on the Porch

    "How about a story? Spin us a yarn."
    Instantly, Phoebe Winterbottom came to mind. "I could tell you an extensively strange story," I warned.
    "Oh, good!" Gram said. "Delicious!"
    And that is how I happened to tell them about Phoebe, her disappearing mother, and the lunatic.
    As Sal entertains her grandparents with Phoebe's outrageous story, her own story begins to unfold — the story of a thirteen-year-old girl whose only wish is to be reunited with her missing mother.
    In her own award-winning style, Sharon Creech intricately weaves together two tales, one funny, one bittersweet, to create a heartwarming, compelling, and utterly moving story of love, loss, and the complexity of human emotion.

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Re-reads don’t always go well, especially when I’m hand-selecting books that gave me the feels even back when I was a pre-teen, so when I chose to re-read WALK TWO MOONS after 10+ years, of course I was a little nervous. This was one book I read as a kid and immediately fell in love with. It’s something that I kept recommending even as an adult, but obviously tastes change over the years and I wondered if this book still held its weight and significance in my life even as an adult so when the mood struck me one day to finally start my re-read, I knew it was time.

Thankfully, I had nothing to fear. I’ve actually only read one other book from Sharon Creech since my initial read of WALK TWO MOONS back in the day and it was beautiful but not phenomenal so I was a bit scared to re-read, wondering if the book would have lost its magic. The minute I started reading, I was reliving a piece of my childhood. The book brought me right back to where I had hoped it would.

Once again, I fell in love with Sal’s story. I think I connected with it in a whole different way, better understanding why her mother left and how the things in her life really affected her mental state. It’s even more heartbreaking reading it all over again — not only because I already knew the outcome, but because I just was better able to comprehend exactly how complicated Sal’s mother’s life was and how you don’t really understand things like that to their fullest extent when you’re only twelve. Sal knew that something was going on with her mother, but it was hard for her to see exactly how deep that ran, especially when her parents were trying to protect her and hide it from her.

The writing and story telling still felt as magical as when I first read it. I have to admit, I was a bit like Sal with my tendencies to hurry and rush because I was so excited to complete the re-read. I had actually forgotten the big plot points that are revealed in the end so it was exciting that the book was still new to me in that way as well. I cried ugly tears at the very end of this book. I knew how it ended and I had to prepare myself for it but it was a whole other ballgame when I came upon an incident I had forgotten about and I was SO shocked by it. I literally had to go upstairs and pull myself together. I wonder if it just brought so many feelings back from my childhood as well, and that’s why I felt everything in this book so strongly!

Re-read or not, I know that I can recommend this book to anyone now and feel confident that my feelings are still as they once were. I’m still in love with this book and it was so wonderful to reconnect with that point in my childhood again! It really was like coming home.

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a new featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Sal // Character Obsessions: Her mother, Phoebe, the lunatic. 
I was never the new girl like Sal until after I had read this book, but looking back, I feel so bad for her. She was ripped from her home at a really hard time in her life and she had to sort of figure everything out again. Personal lives aside, I still relate to Sal — more our personalities. It was funny to see her really affected by her more outspoken friends, but I realized I do that as well! Our friends really are a big part of our lives.
Phoebe // Character Obsessions: The lunatic, notes, her mother, the norm.
Oh, Phoebe. She inspired a whole story for Sal to tell her grandparents. She was quite a character for sure. I really identified with her in some ways though. It’s hard when things in your family are so structured and then they start to stray from the normal. Although she is a bit more dramatic!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Childhood reads. I’ve only reread a few books from my childhood but actually so far… they’ve gone REALLY well. I’m so, so happy that WALK TWO MOONS is still as great as I remember it.
Left Me Wanting More: Patience. I wanted to badly to eat this book up that I rushed through it. I think it’s easier to skip over things in middle grade books because the language is a bit simpler. I tried to make myself slow down but I just raced straight through it.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

Whether it’s a re-read or a first time read, I still highly recommend this book! If it wasn’t a part of your childhood, make it a part of your adult life.

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(Click the cover to see my review!)

       Eleanor & Park     Jellicoe Road

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls – Claire LeGrand

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls – Claire LeGrandTitle: The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand
Publishing Info: August 8, 2012 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Library
Genres: Children's & Middle Grade, Paranormal
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: May 14, 2014

    At the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, you will definitely learn your lesson. An atmospheric, heartfelt, and delightfully spooky novel for fans of Coraline, Splendors and Glooms, and The Mysterious Benedict Society.Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster—lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does, too.) But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out…different. Or they don’t come out at all. If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria—even if it means getting a little messy.

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I don’t read a ton of middle grade books, but when Alyssa, Amy and volunteered for the Kids Author Carnival this year at BEA and found out that it was being co-hosted by Claire LeGrand, we really wanted to read one of Claire’s books before the event! We featured the book just the other week for On the Same Page and all of us really enjoyed it!

What really struck me about the book first of all was how visually appealing it was. I just loved being able to picture everything that was going on and how Victoria’s life was slowly changing from the organized, structured ways that she had established and quickly spiraling out of control with the growing presence of Mrs. Cavendish, the owner of the orphanage in the neighborhood. It was slightly terrifying to witness how Victoria’s world was changing around her and how she had to figure out not only how NOT to get sucked in but how to change it back.

I also really loved the friendships in this book. Victoria’s only friend is Lawrence, an untidy boy who she doesn’t even consider a friend but a project. Victoria only takes him on as her project to teach him how to look smarter and act proper. Naturally when Lawrence mysteriously disappears, Victoria commits to getting him back and starts to realize that maybe they really were closer friends than she even admitted to herself. I really liked how easily their friendship developed, even without Victoria knowing it. I just really love great friendships in books and it was refreshing reading a middle grade book where obviously friendships are more prominent since the characters are too young to develop romantic relationships.

I was definitely hooked the whole book. Claire LeGrand left the perfect amount of suspense and mystery to keep the readers invested and I was desperate to figure out what exactly the deal was with Mrs. Cavendish and said home for boys and girls. The crazy things that were going on would be absolutely terrifying if I were actually experiencing them as an adult so I can’t even imagine how Victoria held it together! But she’s also a person very much driven by logic and reasoning so she probably didn’t really stand for all of the off-kilter events. It definitely had a Tim Burton sort of feel for me which really added to my reading experience!

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a new featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Victoria // Character Obsessions: Tidiness, order, being the top of her class. 
Victoria kind of reminded me of Hermione. She’s very careful, very smart, and places a lot of importance on structure, tidiness, and good grades. I really liked how her personality really grew and she matured a lot. I feel like usually we see characters with good personal relationships and they grow to mature in other ways, but Victoria was already very mature in respect to the adult world and instead her relationships really grew throughout the book.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Middle grade. I really don’t read a lot of middle grade, but every once in a while I read a really good one. Cavendish was a lot of fun and I think I really enjoy MGs with a darker side to pull the adult in me over.
Left Me Wanting More: Backstory. I really wanted to know even more about Mrs. Cavendish, how she was able to do what she did, and where she came from. I think that was one of the only things I was really missing from the story. I just wanted to know so many more details about her!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

This book was really fun and Claire LeGrand is a fantastic writer! I loved so many aspects of this book and it was a fun, quick, and dynamic read for me.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

       The Graveyard Book     HP1

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

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #4) – J.K. RowlingTitle: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #4) by J.K. Rowling
Publishing Info: July 8, 2000 by Scholastic Inc.
Source: Library
Genres: Children's & Middle Grade, Fantasy, Fantasy, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: May 7, 2014
Related Posts: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter #1), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2), The Hogwarts Library, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter #3), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter #6), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter #7), Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter #8)

    The summer holidays are dragging on and Harry Potter can't wait for the start of the school year. It is his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and there are spells to be learnt and (unluckily) Potions and Divination lessons to be attended. But Harry can't know that the atmosphere is darkening around him, and his worst enemy is preparing a fate that it seems will be inescapable ...With characteristic wit, fast-paced humour and marvellous emotional depth, J.K. Rowling has proved herself yet again to be a master story-teller.

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How is it that each time I re-read a Harry Potter book, I find myself amazed all over again? I know I said it before with the first three books, especially with my amazement of how much I enjoyed HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN when it used to be my least favorite book of the series, but honestly. J.K. Rowling really stepped everything up a notch with HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE. 

Sure, we stepped from defending the world from a supervillain in the first two books and magical school hijinks to personal vendettas and darker family history in book three, but GOBLET OF FIRE puts Harry in mortal peril preeeeeetty much all year. It’s not as apparent how much time passes int he movies, but Harry is literally involved in the Triwizard tournament all freaking year and pretty much his state in the mortal world depends on how well he can figure out these clues before it’s time to put him in front of another dangerous task that may or may not kill him.

Aside from upping the danger, things also get exponentially darker. Not only is Voldemort still involved, as always, but we learn more about the Death Eaters — his dedicated followers — but also the Unforgivable Curses and so much more about the dark years that preceded Voldemort’s decline. We’ve seen the bad guys punished in previous books and we knew about the awful deaths that occurred when Harry was just a baby, but Goblet of Fire… This book really takes a dive into the deep end of the dark. Bad things happen to good people in this book and there are just some really gut-wrenching moments that even when you know they’re coming still hit you hard.

This is another book whose movie really started to deviate a lot — not even necessarily changing events and specifics but we lose whole plot lines and characters. I’m not necessarily disappointed looking back because of course you can’t adapt everything in a book for a movie, but it’s kind of amazing when you see what has changed and what you totally forgot about. Here are just a few.

  • Ludo Bagman: Remember Ludo Bagman? He’s the head of Magical Games and Sports and once played Quidditch for the Wimbourne Wasps. If you haven’t read the books in a long time and you’ve been watching the movies, I’m sure you remember Ludo Bagman but you wouldn’t believe how much he is actually a part of the books!! He’s involved in so many scenes, from beginning to end!
  • S.P.E.W.: The Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare, for those who aren’t familiar, was Hermione’s attempt to free the house elves from their lifetimes of enslavement. However……. I was not sorry to see that go. Sorry, not sorry, Hermione. It was a bit much!
  • Winky: To go along with S.P.E.W., Winky was a house elf who also played a very significant part in the book. But again….. eh. Not sorry to see that go and be adapted in a different way! Oh, the movie spoils me in some ways.
  • Rita Skeeter’s “downfall”: I mean, we’re assuming here that you all have read the books if you’re reading my review, but I’ll try to remain mostly spoiler-free here, so Rita! I wish the movie had at least touched on what really happened to her at the end of the book and how Hermione really put her in her place!

My take from the audiobook re-read? This may be a new contender for my favorite Harry Potter book out of all seven. Then again, my current favorites are five and six, so there’s still time for that to change! We’ll have to see how those audiobooks go as well. HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE was just SO good. An amazing book to begin with and so much fun to re-read (for the countless time because I’ve honestly lost track)!

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a new featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Harry // Character Obsessions: Triwizard tournament, friends, Sirius, dark wizards, Quidditch.
Harry’s time in the 4th book is pretty much spent with the Triwizard Tournament.  Everything else sort of takes a backseat, naturally! It’s interesting to see Harry mature throughout the series and yet you still see how young he really is. He’s still a teenager and despite how maturely he handles the tournament… He really doesn’t. He doesn’t stay on task and his friends and teachers have to prod him along to make sure he won’t die in the tasks but he always handles things with Voldemort like such a badass. He’s a Gryffindor — brave, but not always motivated haha.
Hermione // Character Obsessions: S.P.E.W., helping Harry, Rita Skeeter.
I love Hermione but… I’m glad they took the whole house elf story line out for the movie! It really started to grate on my nerves because she’s just so obsessed with it.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Goblet of Fire. WOW. I forgot how much I loved this book. Obviously I love the whole series and I always knew I loved GoF but I forgot how awesome this book really was. Based on how my re-reads go with the rest of the books, this may jump in the front on my favorites list!
Left Me Wanting More: Of the series. I immediately wanted to start Order of the Phoenix. But this series will do that to you!

Addiction Rating
Re-Read it!

If you haven’t re-read Harry Potter in a long time (or *ahem* if you haven’t read it at all yet) I highly recommend you get on that soon! They just get better with time!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE HARRY POTTER

(Click the cover to see my review!)

       The Graveyard Book     The Night Circus

Son (The Giver Quartet #4) – Lois Lowry

Son (The Giver Quartet #4) – Lois LowryTitle: Son (The Giver Quartet #4) by Lois Lowry
Publishing Info: October 2, 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genres: Children's & Middle Grade, Dystopian
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 7, 2013
Related Posts: Messenger (The Giver Quartet #3)

    They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive? She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice.
    Son thrusts readers once again into the chilling world of the Newbery Medal winning book, The Giver, as well as Gathering Blue and Messenger where a new hero emerges. In this thrilling series finale, the startling and long-awaited conclusion to Lois Lowry’s epic tale culminates in a final clash between good and evil.

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SON was… an experience. But overall not a good one for me. I’ve raved plenty of times how much I’ve loved THE GIVER ever since I first read it in seventh grade and even re-reading as an adult about two years ago, that opinion still stands. I feel like it opened the doors to dystopians for me (and possibly others, even authors) but I think the doors should have closed after THE GIVER came out. The other three books in the series were not up to par in my personal opinion and SON was probably the worst of them all for me.

SON is the story of Claire, a girl who grew up in the same community in which first met Jonas in THE GIVER. She was chosen to be a birth mother for her profession and right away, I saw where this was going. I can’t remember if Claire was ever mentioned in THE GIVER, so maybe this plot had already been set up for me but considering that I can’t remember, it stands to reason that there was still quite a bit about her that I didn’t know. What I really wasn’t sure about was how much of Claire’s story I was supposed to be able to infer. Was it supposed to be obvious to me who her connections were and how she tied into this story? Or was this supposed to be a twist or a surprise when we found out exactly how she tied into the book? It was obvious to me from the beginning so I was just unclear whether it was supposed to be a twist or not. (Also omitting what that connection was so I don’t spoil it for other people who DON’T know.)

My biggest issue with SON is that it was SLOW. SON is basically broken up into three parts. The first section was my largest concern and the part I struggled with the most. Even listening to the audio at 2x speed didn’t help me get through it. We first meet Claire in the Community and the first third of the book seems to parallel the story of THE GIVER except from the point of view of a different and more removed character. It may have been nice to have that refresher of THE GIVER except for the fact that it all felt very slow and anti-climatic.

The second part of the book didn’t go much better for me either. It still felt incredibly slow and with one exception, it felt totally unnecessary for the plot. I feel like it was supposed to beautiful and poetic but instead it just felt dull and long for me. I was waiting in anticipation of when Claire’s story line would hop back in to the connection with THE GIVER once more, so I was mostly anxious and waiting for this section to be over. There were too many details that were not relevant to the plot at all that I actually skipped over a few, my interest not being held.

The last portion of the book was by far the best. Things finally start to become relevant again and connections are made. YAY! Except… It was just too little too late. The last third of the book switches POVs so we’re no longer hearing things surrounding Claire’s life (and maybe this was why the last section of the book worked so well for me) and I found myself wishing that the POVs had been reversed with the majority of the book here and the smaller portion focusing on Claire’s history.

Overall it was a really rough read for me. If I hadn’t been listening to the audio, I think it would have been difficult to finish, but I was also determined to finish this series that I’ve been more or less reading for over ten years now. Based on the reviews I’ve seen on Goodreads, the reactions to this book are very mixed so take my review with a grain of salt!

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Claire // Character Obsessions: Finding her child at all costs. That’s about it.
Claire felt very one-dimensional for me. I understand that the people from the Community are raised not to feel emotions, but Claire actually felt quite a bit after her complicated birthing situation. It wasn’t that her emotions weren’t varied because they truly were… But her focus was on ONE thing the whole book and it takes the whole book to get there. She didn’t deal with many other conflicts and when she did, they were resolved quickly or were easily explained away. I just didn’t connect with her at all and her naiveté, even after finding out so many horrors, continued to bother me the entire book.
Jonas // Character Obsessions: Being a good leader, watching after Gabe, carefully selecting when to use his gift.
I’m not sure how I feel about Jonas, even after writing my whole review. Obviously he’s gone through A LOT and he’s bound to change just as much, but he didn’t remotely feel like the Jonas I once knew as a 12-year-old. I guess that’s to be expected though. I really, really didn’t like that he and Kira (remember Kira from GATHERING BLUE?) are romantically linked. I wanted their stories to come together, absolutely, but it felt to forced for them to be a married couple when we see them again in SON.  I did like Jonas’s leadership skills and how he was able to communicate and connect with everyone so well.
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Kept Me Hooked On: A series I’ve been reading for fifteen years. I started this series when I was twelve years old (OMG, just realized that was perfect timing to read THE GIVER haha) and I’m glad that I finally finished it.
Left Me Wanting More: Of the characters we first met in THE GIVER. The biggest question I had from the WHOLE series was “What ever happened to Gabe?” and I KNEW that this question would be answered in SON. This book just had way too much Claire and not nearly enough Gabe.

Addiction Rating
Skip it

I know there are a lot of different reactions to this book, but mine was not a good one. I rarely tell people NOT to read a book but I couldn’t recommend this to someone. I didn’t enjoy it until almost the very end.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE SON

(Click the cover to see my review!)

          Eve   Wither

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter #1) – J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter #1) – J.K. RowlingTitle: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling
Publishing Info: September 1998 by Scholastic Inc.
Source: Library
Genres: Children's & Middle Grade, Fantasy, Fantasy, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: September 13, 2013 (re-read)
Related Posts: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2), The Hogwarts Library, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter #3), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #4), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter #6), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter #7), Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter #8)

    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.

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I’ve re-read the entire Harry Potter series countless times (seriously. I’ve lost count… Then again, I didn’t keep track when I first started all these re-reads) and before I started getting back into reading, whenever I needed a book, Harry Potter was my go-to. I’d finish the series and then just start all over again and for a while there, it was pretty much the only thing I read except for a few Meg Cabot books. I felt like it was time for a re-read because I really missed reading this series and I toiled over the fact that I’m falling further and further behind on my reading and wasn’t going to have time to do it. Lucky for me, I had plenty of friends who assured me that the audio was amazing and the perfect way to do my re-reads. And they were right.

It’s hard to review a book I’ve re-read countless times and that everyone already knows so well but I’m going to do my best! I will say that as a blogger, re-reading this series was kind of an entirely different experience. I was paying more attention to how the characters interacted and MUCH more attention to the world building which, BRAVO, JK Rowling because everything about this book is fantastic. Having more of a analytical approach to reading actually enhanced this experience for me because I was paying so much more attention to all of the details and the foreshadowing was that much more interesting as well.

I loved going through this discovery with Harry again for the first time. Obviously the movies have to cut things out and some minor things are switched around (like which character said what) for production, but Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone being the first book, this is definitely the closest book to movie adaptation of the series. One of the best parts about this movie series being so big as well (and also have watched the movies countless times too) is that listening to the audio was like watching the movie in my head. It’s great to be able to picture the characters in full. Usually when I read, I end up picking up on the author’s details of character descriptions (or sometimes I don’t… Oops) but I don’t usually see a specific face in my head. Since I don’t know the “person”, it’s hard for me to make up a face to match. I know the Harry Potter movies so well that it’s easy for me to picture each and every character as well as their mannerisms so it just makes the audiobook that much more lively for me.

I think the thing I was most impressed with was re-living all of the world building. In some fantasy books, the world building stops at the world and really, there can be some pretty amazing worlds out there. But JK Rowling right off the bat gets so detailed. She’s clearly thought every small thing out and plotted this whole world out for her readers which is really why I think these books are so amazing and almost feel real. We not only see the characters but we see their families, their friends, their teachers. We see Hogwarts but it also has ghosts, houses, rules, sports, classes, books, potions — all of which even have their OWN histories. There’s the wizarding world outside of Hogwarts with shops, communities, subdivisions, strategically placed wizards and squibs in the Muggle world. EVERYTHING IS THOUGHT OUT. Which is also why I really think this world is real and JK is just trying to BOLDLY TELL US that there really is magic out there!

Audiobook Impressions

Re-reading the Harry Potter series on audio is making me fall in love with it all over again and I’m SO happy that Jim Dale narrates these. I think I first fell in love with his narration on Pushing Daisies (I miss Ned the Piemaker… Sorry– focus, focus.) and was SO excited when I turned on the audio of The Night Circus to find out he was doing the narration for that too.
Okay, sorry. Sidetracked again… The narration of Harry Potter is wonderful. Jim Dale just has that narrator’s voice and it has a certain magic of its own. From the regality of Dumbledore to the peevishness of, well, Peeves (RIGHT? I totally forgot about Peeves after watching the movies for so many years), Jim Dale just totally nails the audio. If you’re looking for a good way to re-read Harry Potter (or read for the first time if you haven’t read it yet!), the audiobooks are totally the way to go!

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Harry Potter // Character Obsessions: Quidditch, learning magic, avoiding the Dursleys, suspecting Snape.
You know what… Harry has actually never been my favorite character. Yes, yes, I do like him, but he was just never quite my style. I fully appreciate every adventure that he’s been on, the hardships he goes through and okay… I guess in HP1, he is kind of a favorite. I mean, the main character and show-stealer SHOULD be a favorite, right? It’s just SO hard to separate this book from the others when I know the rest of the series back and forth.
Ron Weasley // Character Obsessions: Adventures, sarcasm, living up to his brothers.  
I think Ron was always a favorite. I can’t remember a time when his little quips, vivid blush, and natural awkwardness wasn’t endearing to me. I love the Weasleys as a family as well because they just warm my heart and each one of them just feels like they should be a part of my family (I wish). Anyway… In HP1, I love Ron for the way he pushes Harry into adventures and is truly the best friend and not just a best friend character. It’s an instant bond between Harry and Ron and I love seeing that friendship grow from the beginning all over again.
Hermione Granger // Character Obsessions: School, studying, answering questions, being a know-it-all, mastering spells.
Since I know where our Hermione ends up, it’s hard to feel irritation towards her like Harry and Ron did at first in this book… But I can appreciate how a know-it-all like Hermione would get on people’s nerves! As a kid, she doesn’t know how to control how she comes off to other people and that really hurts her reputation at first. I love how she, Ron, and Harry really became friends and how there was no doubt after that moment.
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Kept Me Hooked On: Re-reads. I’ve been dying to re-read Harry Potter for a while now so thank goodness for the audiobooks! I have NOT had any time whatsoever to fit in another re-read so this audio was PERFECT for me.
Left Me Wanting More: Wow, I actually sat here at the keyboard trying to come up with something and I can’t. Seriously, these books are too perfect, especially once you’ve fallen deeply in love with them and come back to revisit.

Addiction Rating
BUY IT! Of course.

Oh, COME ON, people. It’s Harry Potter. Just go buy this series. In multiple formats.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE HARRY POTTER

        The Night Circus        Shadow and Bone

The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles #1) – Rick Riordan

The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles #1) – Rick RiordanTitle: The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles #1) by Rick Riordan
Publishing Info: May 4, 2010 by Disney Hyperion
Genres: Children's & Middle Grade, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 7, 2013

    Since their mother's death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.
One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.
Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them —Set— has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe - a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.
  

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I was actually a little nervous going into THE RED PYRAMID as my first book for Classics Retold, not because of the size or the content, but because it’s really more of a middle grade book than young adult and I haven’t read anything that could be classified as middle grade since Harry Potter. THE RED PYRAMID kind of dances along the line of middle grade and young adult with our main characters Carter and Sadie Kane at 14 and 12-years-old (respectively). The only major difference I would say for the age range is that there’s only a touch of romance and it’s definitely not a main focus of the book, although Carter’s crush does end up playing a significant role.

Okay! Now that we have that all cleared up… Let’s talk about the content. So for Classics Retold, I’m hosting the Mythology portion and I chose Egyptian mythology specifically to read for the challenge/project. THE RED PYRAMID seemed like the natural choice as my first read because it was the only title I could come up with off the top of my head full of Egyptian mythology and not just a retelling of Cleopatra or Nefertiti (although I would love to read those as well)! Rick Riordan is no slouch when it comes to backing up his imagined situations with real Egyptian myths, gods, and legends. Besides the ones I already knew, I actually learned about quite a few more gods as well as how they came into being, according to their legends. I also trusted Riordan quite a bit in accepting their histories as true since it seemed that most of the backstories were the actual Egyptian legends and then the story that was happening in present time was the actual book’s plot involving those “characters”.

THE RED PYRAMID is actually quite a hefty book (the hardcover is listed at 516 pages and the audio was almost 15 hours… I usually listen to books that about 7, to give you an idea of my usual attention span) but it really didn’t feel terribly long! I did feel the length, but I was actually enjoying all of the content. I really, really enjoyed all of the connections to Egypt: the myths, the actual locations, the language… It all really fascinates me! I’ve always been incredibly interested in Egypt (maybe that’s why I watch The Mummy every time I pass it on TV…) and I think it would be amazing to see history as ancient as that still standing!

Rick Riordan, aside from great content, also created some really lovable characters. The banter between Carter and Sadie is hilarious. Carter is a bit more reserved, but Sadie (even at 12) is a bit rebellious and out-spoken so her comments to Carter as a typical, bratty younger sister really cracked me up! I really enjoyed watching their brother-sister relationship grow and change as they face some serious obstacles together.

I think the ending could have wrapped up juuuust a bit quicker but I really enjoyed the book overall! Will I be continuing the series? I’m not quite sure. While I really enjoyed THE RED PYRAMID, I’m already finding out that I get burned out on mythology really quickly if I read them back-to-back. Maybe I’ll try to revisit it in a few months!

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Carter Kane // Character Obsessions: Looking presentable, saving his dad, Zia.
I really liked Carter! He was a bit more conservative than Sadie because his father raised him to be just that — He obeyed orders and was ready for anything at a moment’s notice. I really admired his courage when things got tough and I don’t know why, but I’m always a sucker for an older brother/younger sister relationship in a book!
Sadie Kane // Character Obsessions: Mischief, her cat Muffin, making fun of Carter, her mother, Anubis.
I LOVED Sadie’s sass in this book. She had so many clever lines and really brought a strong sense of humor to the story. I also really enjoyed seeing her stubbornness give way to Carter’s organization and planning when it needed to. I think Sadie was my favorite character of the book! 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Egyptian Mythology. The mythology/legends in the book were great. It was well researched and a HUGE part of the book — Well, it WAS the book! Haha. I loved how the characters and the gods interacted. The book was sort of similar to how many mythology books/retellings go, but I didn’t mind in the least!
Left Me Wanting More: Is it stupid to say romance? I’ve just been reading YA so long and there’s always a main romance plot. That’s my only minor reservation with MG! I just love falling in love with characters via a romance!

Addiction Rating
Library read

While I really enjoyed this book, I’m not sure if it’s one I would need to own for my bookshelves! It was a top notch book including all kinds of Egyptian history and mythology but I’d probably just borrow this series from the library.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE THE RED PYRAMID

     Everneath      Of Poseidon

Messenger (The Giver #3) – Lois Lowry

Messenger (The Giver #3) – Lois LowryTitle: Messenger (The Giver Quartet #3) by Lois Lowry
Publishing Info: April 26, 2004 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Library
Genres: Children's & Middle Grade, Dystopian
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: November 4, 2012
Related Posts: Son (The Giver Quartet #4)

    Messenger is the masterful third novel in the Giver Quartet, which began with the dystopian bestseller The Giver, now a major motion picture.
Matty has lived in Village and flourished under the guidance of Seer, a blind man known for his special sight. Village once welcomed newcomers, but something sinister has seeped into Village and the people have voted to close it to outsiders. Matty has been invaluable as a messenger. Now he must risk everything to make one last journey through the treacherous forest with his only weapon, a power he unexpectedly discovers within himself.
  

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I have to admit — I went into MESSENGER quite skeptical. The Giver has been one of my favorite books since I was twelve (and that was thirteen years ago!), I reread THE GIVER last year (and still loved it) and then almost immediately after that, I read GATERHING BLUE and was pretty disappointed. Unfortunately, I felt the same kind of disappointment with MESSENGER.

All of these books are super quick reads (with the exception of my first time around reading THE GIVER, I finished each in a matter of hours in one day), but unfortunately I felt the same about MESSENGER as I had about GATHERING BLUE — the story was easy enough to follow and they both have very nice lessons (they are more for middle grade readers, I think) but I was just never quite as captivated as I had been when I first read Jonas’s story.

I thought Matty’s story in MESSENGER was actually a little bit more interesting that Kira in GB. It seemed a bit more magical as far as abilities go and I enjoyed the characters and the dynamics much more. Also, we got to see Jonas’s reappearance as an adult who is now the Leader of Matty’s Village. I really think that helped me make more of a connection to the book as well. I liked that this book felt a lot more like a continuation of a series instead of a companion since we see both Jonas and Kira from the previous books.

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Matty: Matty was actually a pretty interesting character now that I’m reflecting back on the book. His coming-of-age tale came extremely rapidly and we see him change and mature very quickly. I loved his understanding of his ability once he is finally faced with the ultimate hardships towards the culmination of events in the book. I was a bit annoyed with his immaturity at times, but that’s natural considering he was still a child. I really did come to like him a lot in the end.
Leader: Leader in this book is the Jonas we all got to know in THE GIVER and I absolutely loved seeing him back in this book, older, wiser, and in a leadership position. It was so interesting to see him tie back into the series.
Forest: The Forest isn’t quite a character, but in a way it is. It’s protective, it’s angry, it’s respectful, and it’s dynamic and changing. It also has quite the important role in the end of the book too and I felt like that really almost personified the Forest.

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Borrow it

I enjoyed getting back into this world but MESSENGER just didn’t deliver like I had hoped it would. Maybe I was just expecting too much, though.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE MESSENGER