Tag Archives: Middle Grade

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 // GoodreadsDate 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

Mini Reviews: The Hogwarts Library

I got the Hogwarts Library for Christmas from my dear friend Amy at Tripping Over Books and being able to read new (to me) Harry Potter books!? You know I immediately tore into them! The Hogwarts Library is a gorgeous collection of hardcover books of the “extra” Harry Potter books: FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM, QUIDDITCH THROUGH THE AGES, and THE TALES OF BEEDLE THE BARD. These books also happened to juuuust come at the right time to assist me in completing my Goodreads challenge because I needed a few short & quick reads to help me along!


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find themCompleted: December 23, 2013
Publishing Info: November 8th 2012 by Bloomsbury (Hogwarts Library Edition)
Source: Hardcover set gifted from Amy at Tripping Over Books
Genre: Fantasy (MG/YA)
Find It Online: Goodreads || Amazon || B&N

   “A copy of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them resides in almost every wizarding household in the country. Now Muggles too have the chance to discover where the Quintaped lives, what the Puffskein eats and why it is best not to leave milk out for a Knarl.
Proceeds from the sale of this book will go to Comic Relief, which means that the pounds and Galleons you exchange for it will do magic beyond the powers of any wizard. If you feel that this is insufficient reason to part with your money, I can only hope that passing wizards feel more charitable if they see you being attacked by a Manticore.  –– Albus Dumbledore
” –– From Goodreads

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FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM is hard to review. The beginning was actually… Kind of slow. There’s an explanation and foreword from Newt Scamander about different beasts, how they’re classified, and his adventures to track them all down, but a lot of it felt very textbook, which, well… This is a reference book for wizards! I shouldn’t be surprised haha.

Once I got past the foreword, it was actually a lot of fun reading about the different beasts! It was interesting to see which ones were classified as dangerous and which ones were “boring” (I love that JK Rowling even invented boring creatures haha). The book doesn’t really read like a book — it really is a frame of reference and so the beasts are merely listed and described.

I loved the “real writings” from Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The book is marked as Harry Potter’s official copy so there are occasional notes from the characters and that was honestly my favorite part haha! It’s something fun to zip through but doesn’t really read like a novel so don’t be surprised when you pick it up! Still fun to thumb through and check out all of the fun beasts and creatures from the series.


Quidditch Through the AgesCompleted: December 23, 2013
Publishing Info: November 8th 2012 by Bloomsbury (Hogwarts Library Edition)
Source: Hardcover set gifted from Amy at Tripping Over Books
Genre: Fantasy (MG/YA)
Find It Online: Goodreads || Amazon || B&N

   “If you have ever asked yourself where the Golden Snitch came from, how the Bludgers came into existence or why the Wigtown Wanderers have pictures of meat cleavers on their robes, you need Quidditch Through the Ages. This invaluable volume is consulted by young Quidditch fans on an almost daily basis.
    Proceeds from the sale of this book go to Comic Relief, who will use your money to continue improving and changing lives – work that is even more important and astonishing that the three and a half second capture of the Golden Snitch by Roderick Plumpton in 1921.
— Albus Dumbledore” –– From Goodreads

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QUIDDITCH THROUGH THE AGES was a bit more enjoyable for me. It’s still a sort of reference book but there are a lot of little stories too since we’re getting more info on Quidditch history. It’s not just pure reference and involves small anecdotes and facts about Quidditch itself and players throughout history.

One thing that always ceases to amaze me is how much detail J.K. Rowling puts into her worlds. These companion books are just further proof of that. She not only invents the sport of Quidditch, but also comes up with famous players, how the game was invented, rules, fouls, penalties, and so much more.

I think my favorite thing was learning more about the history of the sport, taking us back hundreds of years. The details are just incredible and this book flowed a lot more smoothly versus an index of beasts (see above). I almost wish there was another section that was a bit more reference like, listing a sort of Guiness Book for Quidditch — facts of longest game, best player, most fouls, shortest game — some of these facts were actually mentioned in the book, but I’d like to see them as a list (although I’m sure someone’s listed it on a website somewhere. If so, link me up)! 


The Tales of Beedle the BardCompleted: December 24, 2013
Publishing Info: November 8th 2012 by Bloomsbury (Hogwarts Library Edition)
Source: Hardcover set gifted from Amy at Tripping Over Books
Genre: Fantasy (MG/YA)
Find It Online: Goodreads || Amazon || B&N

   “The Tales of Beedle the Bard contains five richly diverse fairy tales, each with its own magical character, that will variously bring delight, laughter and the thrill of mortal peril.
    Essential and enjoyable reading for Muggles and wizards alike, The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a uniquely magical volume. With illuminating notes by Albus Dumbledore.
    Proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to Lumos, a charity working to transform the lives of disadvantaged children.” –– From Goodreads

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THE TALES OF BEEDLE THE BARD may be one of the most well-known of the companion books due to its heavy involvement in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It’s a collection of fairy tales/fables (although they know fairies so they don’t really call them “fairy tales”) from the wizarding world.

THE TALES OF BEEDLE THE BARD was much easier to read as a continuous novel. It’s an actual collection of stories, each with commentary from Albus Dumbledore after them, breaking down the true message and and possible information surrounding the retellings and modifications to the tale. The last tale in this collection is in fact the tale of the three brothers that Hermione shared in HP7.

I really enjoyed these short stories! They were a lot of fun to read and like usual, just add a deeper layer to the entire world. It was just more thing to make me feel like I was really in the wizarding world and perhaps, just maybe, it really could exist, hidden from Muggle eyes.

Mini Review: Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Mini Review: Fortunately, The Milk by Neil GaimanTitle: Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
Publishing Info: September 17, 2013 by HarperCollins
Source: Shelf Awareness
Genres: Children's & Middle Grade, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: October 27, 2013
Related Posts: Stardust, American Gods, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neverwhere, InterWorld (InterWorld #1)

    You know what it's like when your mum goes away on a business trip and Dad's in charge. She leaves a really, really long list of what he's got to do. And the most important thing is DON'T FORGET TO GET THE MILK. Unfortunately, Dad forgets. So the next morning, before breakfast, he has to go to the corner shop, and this is the story of why it takes him a very, very long time to get back. Featuring: Professor Steg (a time-travelling dinosaur), some green globby things, the Queen of the Pirates, the famed jewel that is the Eye of Splod, some wumpires, and a perfectly normal but very important carton of milk.

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I had actually passed my copy of this ARC along to Heidi from Bunbury in the Stacks when I was at BEA because I really don’t read middle grade/children’s and I hadn’t read any Neil Gaiman before, but after finished The Graveyard Book, I pretty much wanted to read more of Neil Gaiman’s books ASAP!

FORTUNATELY, THE MILK was a delightful little story. It’s quick, fun, and always engaging. The story begins with two children whose mother is out of the house so their father is taking care of them. They’ve run out of milk for their cereal and him for his tea, so he has to run to the store to get some more. On his way, he encounters aliens, dinosaurs, time travel, hot air balloons, and so much more, all the while, his kids skeptical of his outlandish story.

I had so much fun reading this and I loved the creativity involved in the various adventures and tribulations that the father has to go through. I don’t read a lot of children’s books, but this had me laughing out loud and I easily read it in one sitting. The illustrations were so cute too and definitely enhanced the story! It was an ARC so not all were filled in, but I loved how they gave me a better picture of how all of these fantastical creatures looked. They added a lot of whimsy to the book!

It was really fun to read, super quick, and perfect if you enjoy whimsy or want to read it to your kids! addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Children’s & Middle Grade. This was just a lot of fun and looking for more Neil Gaiman books, was a natural choice for a quick and easy read. I’m glad I picked up the ARC!
Left Me Wanting More: Time Travel! I love time travel and I loved how it was adapted into this book. It was super cute and everything about the book was just so much fun.

Addiction Rating
Library Read!

I know a lot of people probably won’t buy this since we’re mostly YA readers so I’ll recommend it as another “borrow from the library” read. It’s another fun book if you have kids to read it to and of course, fun for adults too!

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BOOKS LIKE FORTUNATELY, THE MILK

(Click the cover to see my review!)

          The Boy on the Porch   Harry Potter

The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book – Neil GaimanTitle: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Publishing Info: September 30, 2008 by HarperCollins
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: October 10, 2013
Related Posts: Fortunately, the Milk, Stardust, American Gods, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neverwhere, InterWorld (InterWorld #1)

    When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing the entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him - after all, he is the last remaining member of the family. A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod's life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man?

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When I asked for recommendations for audiobooks — especially one more geared toward Halloween & Spooky themes —  naturally Alyssa was more than happy to suggest Neil Gaiman to me, specifically steering me towards THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous because it was my first Neil Gaiman book EVER, which is kind of a big deal. I clearly had nothing to worry about because 1) Alyssa is a Super Librarian and is excellent at recommending books to people. 2) She already knows my reading taste and what I would like, and 3) I’m sure Neil Gaiman fans would agree with the simple statement that… It’s Neil Gaiman.

The thing I loved the most about THE GRAVEYARD BOOK was how delightful the macabre was. For Bod, the graveyard is his home. The dead are his friends and family and being dead is commonplace and everyday. His normal lessons include learning about creatures like ghouls and night gaunts as well as learning how to “fade”. Bod has the freedom of the graveyard which means he can travel wherever he’d like within in the confines of the graveyard. It was all perfectly normal to Bod and felt nice and comfortable to cozy up to a graveyard! I really loved seeing everything through Bod’s point of view and how really honestly delightful ghosts and spirits can be! (Since, you know… I’m a big old scaredy cat.)

I absolutely loved the different sides of the graveyard we get to see as well — It’s not just ghosts and spirits who surround Bod, but Silas who is quite the mystery and sort of falls into a category all on his own, ghouls, night gaunts, witches — and the danger of the living as well. Bod is in the graveyard for his own protection against one specific living person… The Man Jack. He’s also quite the interesting character and there is something so intriguingly dangerous and horrific about him that I was instantly drawn in to how he propelled Bod’s story and how their paths would ultimately have to cross again at some point in the future!

One thing I appreciated the most, I think, was how much of the book focused on Bod’s relationships. He finds a home with his new parents, Mr. & Mrs. Owens and with his guardian Silas. He learns how to make friends in two different ways with Scarlet and with Liza. He learns how to interact with people — even though most of them are not even living — and I really feel like his relationships pull him through the tough spots and he learns to rely on the people who care about him.

I know this was technically probably a children’s or MG novel, but it was so lovely and really all ages can easily enjoy it! I’d love to hear from people who have already read THE GRAVEYARD BOOK! It felt delightfully magical and just really, really special to me. It was about a boy who grew up in a graveyard so you expect it to be creepy, but it actually really warmed my heart. (And it was appropriately dark at times too!)

AUDIOBOOK IMPRESSIONS

I get it, guys! HIIIII. This was my first Neil Gaiman book EVER and naturally, I had to listen to the audio because I’ve heard how spectacular Neil is with narration and I really think it’s something extra special to listen to an author narrate their own books. I feel like it’s a much more personal experience because you get to hear exactly how they intended voices, pauses, tones, etc and it’s not left up to narrator to interpret, however fantastic they may be. I LOVED Neil Gaiman’s narration. Every word felt… gentle. Carefully calculated and spoken but so comforting and peaceful. It just felt really, really special to listen to and I was almost sad once it was over because I really could listen to him speak all day! He has such a wonderful voice and puts on such a lovely performance of his book. If you haven’t listened to one of his audiobooks, narrated by Neil himself, I HIGHLY suggest it!

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Nobody Owens // Character Obsessions: Freedom of the graveyard, making friends, learning lessons. Bod was simply adorable. We get to see him grow up from a baby — and I felt all the warm fuzzies as the “residents” of the graveyard decide to take him in and protect him — to a young boy to a teenager. I really liked that the book spanned over so much of Bod’s young life because we get to experience his lessons as he learns them and we really get to see his character grow and mature, leading us up to a perfectly bittersweet ending when he matures into a young man and has to question his place in the graveyard.
Silas // Character Obsessions: Missions, guarding Bod, overseeing the graveyard. Silas was… mysterious. And I LOVED IT. He was neither here, nor there. He was maybe human? Not a spirit. He didn’t belong with the living and he didn’t belong with the dead. He was important. And he was very, very respectable. He was definitely one of my favorite characters and incredibly interesting. I could read a whole book about Silas himself.
The Man Jack // Character Obsessions: Assignments, finding Bod. The Man Jack. WOW. He was so interesting and just a little bit bone-chilling. The story actually kicks off with him as he… well, no light way to say this — murders Bod’s family. Bod was supposed to be taken too, but he miraculously evades The Man Jack. It then becomes his mission for the rest of the book to ultimately make right what he messed up when Bod made it away. The BEST is how everything comes back together in the end of the book. He is absent for a while but you know he’ll be coming back into play (not really a spoiler… I mean, that’s the whole reason why Bod’s in the graveyard and can’t leave, ya know) so really the best was just how the whole end of the book came together. What it meant for Bod, what it meant for The Man Jack, and how it all went down. PERFECT narration from Neil Gaiman there. OOH. I got chills with his narration of Jack.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Macabre. This was a bit of a macabre and things that are normally dark & scary (graveyards, ghosts) and made to feel comforting, happy, and normal. I just loved the FEEL of this book.
Left Me Wanting More: Neil Gaiman! I can’t wait to read more Neil Gaiman and hopefully LISTEN to more audio because it was really so spectacular!

Addiction Rating
BUY THE AUDIO!

Read the book, because it really is so wonderful, but if you can, get the audio! It really was fantastic and I LOVED my drives, excited to turn it on again. I absolutely, positively cannot say enough about it and really loved it.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE THE GRAVEYARD BOOK

(Click the cover to see my review!)

          HP1          The Night Circus

The Boy on the Porch – Sharon Creech

The Boy on the Porch – Sharon CreechTitle: The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech
Publishing Info: September 3, 2013 by Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: September 25, 2013
Related Posts: Walk Two Moons

    When John and Marta found the boy on the porch, they were curious, naturally, as to why he was there-and they didn't expect him to stay, not at first, but he did stay, day after day, until it seemed as if he belonged, running and smiling and laughing his silent laugh, tapping and patting on every surface as he made his music, and painting-with water, with paint, with mud-those swirly swirls and swings and trees.
One day a young couple wakes to find a boy asleep on their porch. Unable to speak, the boy cannot explain his history. What kind of person would leave their child with strangers? All they know is that they have been chosen to care for this boy. And as their connection to him grows, they embrace his exuberant spirit and talents. The three of them blossom into an unlikely family, and John and Marta and the boy begin to see the world in brand-new ways. Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech delivers a poignant story of finding family when you least expect it.

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I fell in love with Sharon Creech’s book WALK TWO MOONS back when I was kid but then somehow never ended up picking up another one of her books. I still need to re-read it someday to relive that experience, but in the meantime, I came across THE BOY ON THE PORCH, both on Edelweiss and then was fortunate enough to pick up a physical ARC at BEA.

THE BOY ON THE PORCH is the story of two adults, John and Marta, and how their lives change infinitely after finding a young boy around six or seven years old left on their porch. The only thing they knew of him was from the note that he was left there and whoever had left him would eventually come back for him. With nothing else to do, they decide to take him in and care for him until his family (or so they assume) comes back for him. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and John and Marta wonder if anyone really will come back for the boy. He also does not speak and does  not write, but instead communicates through tapping, through music, and through painting. John and Marta grow incredibly fond of him and secretly worry that someone really will come back for him one day.

THE BOY ON THE PORCH was such a curious little story. The quirks of the boy — the fact that he does talk, is very artistic, and seems to be communicating with the animals on John and Marta’s farm — just fascinated me. My brain was racing a mile a minute trying to figure out what had happened to him. Why couldn’t he talk? Did he have some kind of special power that helped him talk to animals? Was he autistic? Was his development stunted from neglect? What did the tapping mean? And then I had all of the questions that surrounded his relationship with John and Marta. Was he meant to come to them? Was his family — or whoever left him — coming back for him? Would John and Marta get punished for keeping a child that isn’t theirs?

Above all, this book had my brain thinking and wondering. I was really intrigued with the plot and all of the characters really just warmed my heart. I loved the small town/farm feel and how well Sharon Creech described all of the settings. I felt like I could really picture it and I got an amazing over all feel for the book. The only thing I wasn’t totally sold on was the ending, just because I was hoping for a few more answers. I had so many questions about the boy and some were answered, some weren’t — but then again, maybe I was also overthinking things! For all you fans of WALK TWO MOONS, it’s definitely a bit of a younger feel so you can’t really compare there, but I loved reading Sharon Creech’s work all the same! addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Children’s & Middle Grade. This was probably somewhere in between children’s and middle grade and I don’t often read those… Usually they’re re-reads of books I read as a kid myself so to pick up a new one was interesting! It was nice for a quick read and I was glad to see that it still evokes a lot of feelings even as an adult.
Left Me Wanting More: Answers. I had a LOT of questions about this boy and where he came from. The end of the book wrapped up nicely and had a nice, heartwarming conclusion, but I still had so many things on my brain after I finished!

Addiction Rating
Library Read!

I know a lot of people probably won’t buy this since we’re mostly YA readers so I’ll recommend a hearty “borrow it from the library”! I think any age can pick this one up and enjoy it. The story tugs at your heart and I think it would actually be great for parents due to the really special story of John and Marta or great for parents to read or read to their kids.

book_recommendations1(Click the cover to see my review!)

          Eleanor & Park   Golden

Mini-Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2) – J.K. Rowling

Mini-Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2) – J.K. RowlingTitle: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2) by J.K. Rowling
Publishing Info: July 22, 1998 by Scholastic Inc.
Source: Library
Genres: Children's & Middle Grade, Fantasy, Fantasy, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: September 29, 2013
Related Posts: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter #1), 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)

    The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he's packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.
    And strike it does. For in Harry's second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockheart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls' bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley's younger sister, Ginny.
    But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone--or something--starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects...Harry Potter himself.
  

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I did a full review of HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCEROR’S STONE but I opened up a new draft to start my review for HP2 and… My mind went blank. It’s honestly so hard to write a full review of a book and a series that I’ve loved and cherished for half of my childhood and all of my adult life so far (it’s totally epic) so it’s hard to put THINGS down into words, ya know? I think I actually know the series TOO well to write a review because I really know how everything goes!

What I can say is that it’s interesting starting over from the beginning. I haven’t done that in MANY YEARS because before when I would re-read Harry Potter, I wouldn’t necessarily do it in order. Books four, five, six, and seven are my favorites so usually I would just pick those up and re-read out of order since really, I knew the series so well anyway. The first three books are the ones I’ve re-read the least but the first two are also the ones I think have the closest movie adaptations so with a few minor exceptions, I still knew exactly how it all went.

I’ll just briefly recap the things I loved about HP and the CoS here:

  • Rule-breaking Hermione with the Polyjuice potion! You go, girl.
  • The mild annoyance and mild hilarity that is Gilderoy Lockhart
  • Learning so much more about Tom Riddle (and there were more tidbits in the book than in the movie (which that’s usually the case, but I thought that was interesting!))
  • Watching that best friendship between Harry and Ron really start to develop into a bond that extended beyond Ron and to becoming almost a part of his family

I’m also not a Harry-Ginny shipper so I won’t even go there. Their relationship always felt weird to me for some reason — both books AND movies — so it’s cute to see Ginny acting all love struck around him, but doesn’t get me all mushy for the future.

So what was your favorite think about Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets versus HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone? Are you a fan of Harry and Ginny? Don’t you just LOVE Lucius Malfoy? (No, seriously. I love how evil he is and somehow I really just love him.) Are you a Dobby-love or a Dobby hater? Lockhart: Funny or annoying? Inquiring minds want to know!!

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 // GoodreadsDate 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 // GoodreadsDate 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 // GoodreadsDate 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