Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author: J.K. Rowling
Series: Harry Potter
Previous Books in the Series:
1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Date Started: September 13
Date Finished: September 21
Format: Hardcover from my shelf

It’s no longer safe for Harry at Hogwarts, so he and his best friends, Ron and Hermione, are on the run. Professor Dumbledore has given them clues about what they need to do to defeat the dark wizard, Lord Voldemort, once and for all, but it’s up to them to figure out what these hints and suggestions really mean. Their cross-country odyssey has them searching desperately for the answers, while evading capture or death at every turn. At the same time, their friendship, fortitude, and sense of right and wrong are tested in ways they never could have imagined. The ultimate battle between good and evil that closes out this final chapter of the epic series takes place where Harry’s Wizarding life began: at Hogwarts. The satisfying conclusion offers shocking last-minute twists, incredible acts of courage, powerful new forms of magic, and the resolution of many mysteries. Above all, this intense, cathartic book serves as a clear statement of the message at the heart of the Harry Potter series: that choice matters much more than destiny, and that love will always triumph over death.

How has it been 14 years already since this book’s release and yet, I am still brought to tears every time I read it? Granted, I haven’t read this volume as many times as the other six (maybe three or four?) but still…I still remember going to that midnight release party and running into one of my friends randomly and waiting line for three hours, getting home and reading it to almost four in the morning and writing in my journal every time someone died. But the fact that it’s been so many years since I’ve last read this book – the movie versions of this book have permanently glued themselves into my head and I’m still mad that scenes got cut – Dudley and Harry’s moment of closure (even though that is a deleted scene on the DVD extras), Kreacher’s character development, the whole bit with Percy Weasley, the TRUE fall out of the Bellatrix/Molly Weasley battle, and even the last scene before the epilogue back in the Headmaster’s office. But at the same time the movie did do some things better – Harry’s return to Hogwarts, Neville’s speech to Voldemort after Harry’s ‘defeat,’ etc.

Anyway, when I first finished reading this book 14 years ago, I wasn’t all that happy with it – I think this is where my fear of final books of beloved series originates – it felt…incomplete almost? Like all of this buildup to have the final battle between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort come down to Avada Kedavra and Expelliarmus? EH. However, now that I’ve read it multiple times, I actually really loved the ending. I loved it more than the movie version – I mean, really, Voldemort and Harry randomly Apparating through the corridors of Hogwarts was just downright weird.

And then there is Severus Snape who still confounds me to this day. There are those who say that Snape should not be celebrated even if he did turn out to be the best double agent ever, because he was still so cruel to Harry all those years. And that is true. But at the same time, here’s this character who does have a villainous backstory but who still was able to find…love and hold on to it even in the darkest of times, even when the person he loved wanted nothing to do with him. And who gave it all up in the end to protect the child of the woman he loved always. I just…gah. Like I said. CONFOUNDED.

Then there is my latest crackpot ‘small detail means more than it probably does’ theory. In the letter that Harry finds in Sirius’ bedroom at Grimmauld Place, Lily mentions a cat. Harry didn’t realize that they had a cat, and wonders what happened to it. And so did I. And my brain, being the weird thing that it is, began to connect some dots. I always found Crookshanks a strange character that shows up in book 3 just as it’s revealed that Wormtail has been hiding amongst them for the last few years. Crookshanks who didn’t like Wormtail, who seemed awfully close to Sirius whether he was in his human form or his dog form. What do you reckon if Crookshanks was the Potter’s cat?

Final Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. These stories were my childhood. I grew up with Harry Potter. His final adventure released just as I was a year away from graduating high school. The final film released my junior year of college. My first trip on airplane when I was 21 was down to Orlando to visit the Wizard World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. As always I’m sad to let this story go.

Bookshelf worthy? I really love the original covers, but I love the reprints too, I just wish they had been released in hardcover form as well as paperback.

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My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand

Title: My Contrary Mary
Authors: Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand & Jodi Meadows
Companion to:
1. My Lady Jane
2. My Plain Jane
3. My Calamity Jane
Date Started: September 5
Date Finished: September 20
Format: ebook from the digital library

Welcome to Renaissance France, a place of poison and plots, of beauties and beasts, of mice and . . . queens? Mary is the queen of Scotland and the jewel of the French court. Except when she’s a mouse. Yes, reader, Mary is an Eðian (shapeshifter) in a kingdom where Verities rule. It’s a secret that could cost her a head—or a tail. Luckily, Mary has a confidant in her betrothed, Francis. But after the king meets a suspicious end, things at the gilded court take a treacherous turn. Thrust onto the throne, Mary and Francis are forced to navigate a viper’s nest of conspiracies, traps, and treason. And if Mary’s secret is revealed, heads are bound to roll.

I’ll say this about the Lady Janies, they really do love taking historical figures and mixing them with paranormal and romance, don’t they? Because here we are again with My Contrary Mary and the Eðlons are back, and now Mary Queen of Scots is one of them! And I know that I was a little bit…frosty…in my last review of a Lady Janies book, but that was because I wasn’t too big a fan of the Wild Wild West. Mary Queen of Scots? Plot intrigue at court? That was more up my alley. And there were a few times that I thought I was watching the unscripted pilot for Reign (a TV show that needed another season!). I especially loved the humor of the story too. Every time Ari had one of her ‘visions’ I swear it was the plot to some TV show/movie…Titanic and Sailor Moon to name a few examples.

And then there was the character development! I’ll admit that I didn’t really like Mary, Francis or Ari at all when this book first started, but as it continued the characters grew on me and they really came into their own too. Mary realized that just because she’s been destined to be the Queen of her own country, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she knows everything about everything. Francis realized that he needed to stop being the boy hiding behind his mother’s skirts (sorry, Francis, but it’s true!) and take charge of his own life. And Ari…well, she finally realized who the people that mattered and who she needed to protect. Then there was Queen Elizabeth of England, who I wasn’t really expecting and I kind of want a spin off that focuses on her life and times (besides, it would really fit nicely into the arc that’s been created here and in My Lady Jane). Just a thought.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. I think the chapters at the end could have been pulled together into one, but other than that, I loved this book and how it flowed. I loved the sarcastic quips that were thrown in (there weren’t too many of those in the last one). And I loved how the characters developed over the course of the novel.

Bookshelf worthy? Support your local library!

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We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal

Title: We Free the Stars
Author: Hafsah Faizal
Sequel to: We Hunt the Flame
Date Started: August 26
Date Finished: September 12
Format: ebook from the digital library

After the battle on Sharr that closed We Hunt the Flame, Zafira and Nasir return to a ghostly Sultan’s Keep, low on resources and allies alike. The dark forest has fallen, but the kingdom teems with fear of the Lion of the Night’s return. As Nasir fights to command the dark power in his blood, Zafira fights against a very different darkness festering through her bond with the Jawarat.

Holy stars. This book was a beast. And do I know what happened for most of it? Absolutely not. Sentences really started blurring together. Names blended into the next. But I will tell you this, this was pretty much the most beautiful writing that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. And the parts that I did get the grasp of – like Zafira and Nasir’s slow burn romance? Whew. Douse me in some cold water. Were really well done, if a little bit dragged out.

So…what happened in this book…obviously Zafira and Nasir are still trying to bring magic back to Arawiya and are on they’re way when they got the Jawarat from the Sharr. But their victory came at a price. The Lion – a real nasty villain who’s motivations are still hazy to me even after reading this book – was released from his prison and has now set his sights on the Sultan’s Keep and the Sultan who he has been controlling for years. And Altair – who apparently is Nasir’s half-brother? – was left behind in their escape and has been captured by the Lion. More stuff happens – seriously a lot more stuff – but like I said it really started to blend together at one point.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Like I said this novel had beautiful prose. The characters were well written. And even the overall plot was good. It was just a lot to take in when you’re also trying to read two other books and do your job. I might come back to these books and reread them back to back again some day.

Bookshelf worthy? Support your local library!

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Any Way the Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Any Way the Wind Blows
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Series: Simon Snow
Previous Books in the Series:
1. Carry On
2. Wayward Son
Date Started: September 5
Date Finished: September 11
Format: Hardcover from my shelf

In Carry On, Simon Snow and his friends realized that everything they thought they understood about the world might be wrong. And in Wayward Son, they wondered whether everything they understood about themselves might be wrong.

In Any Way the Wind Blows, Simon and Baz and Penelope and Agatha have to decide how to move forward.

For Simon, that means deciding whether he still wants to be part of the World of Mages — and if he doesn’t, what does that mean for his relationship with Baz? Meanwhile Baz is bouncing between two family crises and not finding any time to talk to anyone about his newfound vampire knowledge. Penelope would love to help, but she’s smuggled a cursed American Normal into London, and now she isn’t sure what to do with him. And Agatha? Well, Agatha Wellbelove has had enough.

Okay, so I wasn’t too big a fan of Wayward Son. I found it messy and so mopey and angsty. Ugh. So when Any Way the Wind Blows was announced I was like do I really need to read this finale? Especially since I haven’t been too big a fan of these books – which really sucks since I liked the idea of them in Fangirl – but I thought, hey, I’ve already come this far. Might as well see how all of this ends. And let me tell you, I thought I had fallen right into the back end of Wayward Son again. Simon is still mopey, but this time back in England. Penelope is trying to figure out what the heck is going on with Shepard. Baz is trying to control a mopey Simon and trying to ignore that conversation that they had on the beach. And I was really getting close to just ending it right there, but then Simon gets the Mage’s inheritance and realizes that his whole plan of being Normal could be possible.

That moment that Baz gets handed the note from Simon that only says ‘I’m sorry’ was just… wow. Gut punching. And after that I really couldn’t put this book down. Throw in this guy trying to be the new Chosen One, Agatha falling for a magical vet, and Shepard’s curse actually being an engagement contract with a demon and WOW. I’m very glad that I stuck around to read the finale. Especially those final few chapters at the end when Simon… Shoot. I won’t spoil it. But bloody brilliant.

Final Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Simon really is a piece of work, and I can’t believe that Baz signed up for that hot mess. But at the same time I’m really glad that he did. I’m wondering if that conversation that Baz had with the vamp that’s going to marry his aunt is going to play into their relationship?? Hm…

Bookshelf worthy? Here’s my plea to the book publisher. Please republish Carry On in hardcover with the cover from the paperback. PLEASE?!

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Kissing Lessons by Sophie Jordan

Title: Kissing Lessons
Author: Sophie Jordan
Date Started: September 2
Date Finished: September 10
Format: ebook from the digital library

Wild, beautiful, and (as rumor has it) experienced, Hayden Vargas doesn’t have time for love or relationships. She’s learned the hard way that the only person you can count on is yourself, and she’s hell-bent on earning enough money to leave her small, judgy Texas town as fast as possible. So when nerdy Emmaline Martin offers to pay Hayden for lessons in seduction, the money is so easy, there must be a catch. Enter the catch: Emmaline’s older brother, popular, all-around nice guy™ Nolan Martin, who doesn’t want his sister’s reputation tarnished by the school’s resident bad girl.

But Hayden should know that looks can be deceiving. Nolan may seem like a golden boy, but like Hayden, he has a few secrets of his own. And the more he meddles in her lessons with Emmaline, the more these polar opposites clash—and the more sparks fly. Turns out Nolan may have some lessons to teach Hayden, but only if she’s willing to learn.

The summary for this book reminded me a lot of a fanfiction I read (which is still to this day one of my favorites), only this book was a little bit more PG-13. And Kissing Lessons was actually the best book to be reading when you’re smack dab in the middle of a fantasy/paranormal/historical fiction hole. It was light. It was funny. It was downright cute and I really didn’t want it to end. What you think I wouldn’t like in this book – POV jumps every chapter, standard high school BS – actually just played into the novel and made it really great. I loved seeing everything from the characters POV – especially because the break in chapters was timely and not just random. The high school drama wasn’t too over the top, although Emmaline was a little bit… I don’t know…reserved to the point of being annoying? for a second. But once she dyed her hair red she seemed to lighten up a little bit.

Hayden and Nolan were very hard to figure out. I mean, I get that Hayden pretends to be all hard and unfeeling with a whole Forget the World attitude because of what she’s dealing with with her mom, but I don’t know. I think when Emmaline ‘hired’ her it really opened her up a lot. And as for Nolan. Oh, man, this guy just stressed me out. He’s the golden child, and how hard he works to make sure everything is perfect just. Ugh. Dude. Again. Befriending Hayden was probably the best thing that happened to this guy.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Although I loved the book and how it was a nice break from magic and dragons and princesses, I didn’t really like the ending. There wasn’t a real satisfying conclusion. I mean, yeah, Nolan realizes he can’t control everything. Emmaline makes good on those lessons. And Hayden’s wall comes down, but…I mean, it would have been cooler if there had been some huge scene at Hayden’s house with Nolan and that guy that her mom was seeing. That would have been extremely satisfying.

Bookshelf worthy? Support your local library!

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Extras by Scott Westerfeld

Title: Extras
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Series: Uglies
Previous Books in the Series:
1. Uglies
2. Pretties
3. Specials
Date Started: August 21
Date Finished: September 5
Format: ebook from the digital library

Extras, the final book in the Uglies series, is set a couple of years after the “mind-rain,” a few earth-shattering months in which the whole world woke up. The cure has spread from city to city, and the pretty regime that kept humanity in a state of bubbleheadedness has ended. Boundless human creativity, new technologies, and old dangers have been unleashed upon the world. Culture is splintering, the cities becoming radically different from each other as each makes its own way into this strange and unpredictable future . . .

One of the features of the new world is that everyone has a “feed,” which is basically their own blog/myspace/tv channel. The ratings of your feed (combined with how much the city interface overhears people talking about you) determines your social status–so everyone knows at all times how famous they are.

So out of all of the books in the Uglies series, I was really looking forward to reading this one, because this one I definitely hadn’t read when this series originally came out. I wanted to know what happened next in the Uglies world and I liked the fact that Tally wasn’t really involved in this book…at first It’s been a few years since the ‘mind rain’ and Aya is trying to make herself famous, because despite things changing at the end of the last book, things really haven’t. Making a name for yourself gets you far in this new world, and Aya is trying her damndest to get there, her brother and his best friend already are and she doesn’t want to be left behind.

What she stumbles upon when she tracks this group called the Sly Girls isn’t what she expected to find. It’s end of the world level stuff that brings Tally back. And remember what I said in my review for Pretties? With all the pages spent doing something only to end up not mattering in the end? That was this book all over again. Just when I thought it was all leading to something, it didn’t. The end of the world level stuff? Just them figuring out that the Earth’s resources are finite and that they need a new plan. Well, that’s just not bubbly at all.

Final Rating: 2 out of 5 stars. This book really started out strong. It wasn’t so much about the looks, it was about what you did to keep your name out there. And then it just floundered, and back tracked and ugh.

Bookshelf worthy? Support your local library?

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The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

Title: The Blood of Olympus
Author: Rick Riordan
Series: The Heroes of Olympus
Previous Books in the Series:
1. The Lost Hero
2. The Son of Neptune
3. The Mark of Athena
4. The House of Hades
Date Started: August 28
Date Finished: September 4
Format: Hardcover from my shelf

Nico had warned them. Going through the House of Hades would stir the demigods’ worst memories. Their ghosts would become restless. Nico may actually become a ghost if he has to shadow-travel with Reyna and Coach Hedge one more time. But that might be better than the alternative: allowing someone else to die, as Hades foretold.

Jason’s ghost is his mother, who abandoned him when he was little. He may not know how he is going to prove himself as a leader, but he does know that he will not break promises like she did. He will complete his line of the prophecy: To storm or fire the world must fall.

Reyna fears the ghosts of her ancestors, who radiate anger. But she can’t allow them to distract her from getting the Athena Parthenos to Camp Half-Blood before war breaks out between the Romans and Greeks. Will she have enough strength to succeed, especially with a deadly hunter on her trail?

Leo fears that his plan won’t work, that his friends might interfere. But there is no other way. All of them know that one of the Seven has to die in order to defeat Gaea, the Earth Mother.

Piper must learn to give herself over to fear. Only then will she be able to do her part at the end: utter a single word.

I don’t know what’s going on, but I had no problems with the POV’s in this book like I did the previous ones. I fell back into the world of Camp Half-Blood/Jupiter with ease and the characters were just…easy to understand? If that makes any sense. Like everyone was going towards one end goal to make sure that Gaia didn’t rise and to get the Athena statue back to Camp Half-Blood to help the gods get a hold of their Roman/Greek forms. Like I said it flowed really nicely. And man, at first I was a little disappointed that Percy wasn’t in this a little bit more considering his was the story we were originally following in The Lightning Thief. But I get it, this one really followed the seven we’ve come to get to know over the last four books. And Nico’s character really had the best character development – this moody kid turned into someone who ended up caring for others, and the way he talked to Percy at the end of the book? Priceless!

But I still feel like this book followed the Percy Jackson series a little bit too closely. Jason taking on the fact that more minor gods and goddesses need recognition by the Big 12? Reminded me of the promise that Percy made to Hecate during The Last Olympian. And sometimes those scuffles just ended a little bit too easily considering how high the stakes were against them.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Despite the way the book flowed really well and the characters developed and worked together, I was still kind of disappointed in that ending. We go through all of this, to have Gaia rise because of a nosebleed? And then…boom? Eh…

Bookshelf worthy? Support your local library!

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The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman

Title: The Deck of Omens
Author: Christine Lynn Herman
Sequel to: The Devouring Gray
Date Started: August 25
Date Finished: September 2
Format: ebook from the digital library

Though the Beast is seemingly subdued for now, a new threat looms in Four Paths: a corruption seeping from the Gray into the forest. And with the other Founders preoccupied by their tangled alliances and fraying relationships, only May Hawthorne seems to realize the danger. But saving the town she loves means seeking aid from the person her family despises most–her and Justin’s father. May’s father isn’t the only newcomer in town–Isaac Sullivan’s older brother has also returned, seeking forgiveness for the role he played in Isaac’s troubled past. But Isaac isn’t ready to let go of his family’s history, especially when that history might hold the key that he and Violet Saunders need to destroy the Gray and the monster within it. Harper Carlisle isn’t ready to forgive, either. Two devastating betrayals have left her isolated from her family and uncertain who to trust. As the corruption becomes impossible to ignore, Harper must learn to control her newfound powers in order to protect Four Paths. But the only people who can help her do that are the ones who have hurt her the most. With the veil between the Gray and the town growing ever thinner, the Founder descendants must put their grievances with one another aside to stop the corruption and kill the Beast once and for all. But maybe the monster they truly need to slay has never been the Beast…

Well, I’m in the Halloween spirit now. This book was the perfect end of the summer early Fall read. It was spooky and twisty. But it might have been just a little bit too twisty. I reread the previous novel just so I could get a grasp on what happened before I dove into The Deck of Omens and was actually pleasantly surprised with how well Herman summed up what had happened in the last book. But even with that in mind it took me a few chapters to remember what the story was and how the characters interacted with each other. And this story really got twisted. Before The Gray was the town’s enemy; the Founding Families protected the town from The Gray and The Beast. But things have turned topsy-turvey and the Gray is now ‘leaking’ out into the Town and infecting the residents.

Trying to figure out that plot was a little bit of mind bender, but it was done really well. It was great to see the character dynamics expand in this novel. I loved watching Harper come into her own and stand up for herself, ditto for May especially against Augusta! If I hadn’t been reading that scene at work, I would have cheered out loud. Isaac and Violet’s friendship blooming into something more was a nice little twist, and was probably the cutest thing out of this dark and twisty book. As for Justin…man, I don’t know. I still don’t like his character all that much. I felt like he was just the ‘fodder’ character this time around too. Hm…

Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. An interesting conclusion to an interesting duology. I loved the concept of there being some mystical power in a town that the ‘Founding Families’ were sworn to protect and ended up…not. I’m still a little bit confused about the Beast and its origins, but, I’m not too concerned about it now.

Bookshelf worthy? Support your local library!

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Pride & Premeditation by Tirzah Price

Title: Pride and Premediatation
Author: Tirzah Price
Date Started: August 23
Date Finished: August 28
Format: Hardcover from book subscription box

When a scandalous murder shocks London high society, seventeen-year-old aspiring lawyer Lizzie Bennet seizes the opportunity to prove herself, despite the interference of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the stern young heir to the prestigious firm Pemberley Associates. Convinced the authorities have imprisoned the wrong person, Lizzie vows to solve the murder on her own. But as the case—and her feelings for Darcy—become more complicated, Lizzie discovers that her dream job could make her happy, but it might also get her killed.

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Go the Distance by Jen Calonita

Title: Go the Distance
Author: Jen Calonita
Series: Twisted Tales
Previous Books in the Series:
1. A Whole New World
2. Once Upon a Dream
3. As Old as Time
4. Reflection
5. Part of Your World
6. Mirror, Mirror
7. Conceal, Don’t Feel
8. Straight On Till Morning
9. So This is Love
10. Unbirthday
Date Started: August 17
Date Finished: August 26
Format: ebook from the digital library

What if Meg had to become a god? After Hercules proves he’s a true hero and regains his godship, all seems right in the world. That is, until Zeus tells Meg that she can’t be with Hercules because she’s, well, mortal. Luckily, Hera has a solution, offering Meg a chance to prove herself worthy of a spot on Mt. Olympus–as a god. All Meg has to do is complete a mysterious quest.

The mission? Oh, just to rescue her ex’s current wife from the Underworld. The ex-boyfriend she saved by selling her soul to Hades. The ex-boyfriend who immediately moved on to someone else while she was stuck in the Underworld. Can Meg put her past behind her and use her quick-wit to defeat monsters and gods alike, including the nefarious Hades? Will she finally figure out her place and contribution to the world? Or will her fear of commitment have her running away from an eternity of godhood with Herc?

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