Tag: magic

June 17, 2017

Review | The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

Review | The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. PearsonThe Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
Series: The Remnant Chronicles #1
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co., July 2014
Pages: 486
Format: Hardcover
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A princess must find her place in a reborn world.

She flees on her wedding day.

She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor's secret collection.

She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father.

She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.

The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can't abide. Like having to marry someone she's never met to secure a political alliance.

Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love.

All too often, fantasy books fall into a cookie cutter plot: girl runs away, boy chases her, magic happens, they save the day. The Kiss of Deception isn’t one of those books.

To start, the girl’s motive for running away is a good one. Princess Lia is moments away from an arranged marriage to a prince she’s never met and would rather not, thankyouverymuch. Her decision to run when the opportunity presents itself instead of dithering about whether or not she should (something I would do), won me over. She’s quick, decisive, but yet ultimately, a sheltered princess.

She’s quick, decisive, but yet, in the end, a sheltered princess. Her intent is good, but her experience outside the palace walls is limited. I liked that Pearson didn’t try to shield that side of her protagonist. Instead of expecting everyone to jump at her whim, Lia rolls up her sleeves and pitches in. A working, warrior princess is my kind of gal.

I’ve mentioned it before, and I will likely say it again, but I’m no fan of love triangles. However, in The Kiss of Deception, it worked. I would have been just fine without it, mind you, but Pearson’s treatment of the plot device fit it well into the story, instead of throwing it in to make a little more drama. It hooked me in and even now, I can’t wait for The Heart of Betrayal to arrive at the library SO I CAN FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED.

For me, that right there is why The Kiss of Deception is a winner. Sure, it had ups and downs. Sure, the narrative dragged a bit. But it’s that driving urge, that need to know what happened to these characters that I can’t help but cheer for, that will keep me hooked on this series long after I’ve finished.

4 Stars

Posted June 17, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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January 9, 2017

Review | The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Review | The Fate of the Tearling by Erika JohansenThe Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling, #3
Publisher: Harper, November 2016
Pages: 478
Format: Hardcover
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In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.
And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies - chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.
To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable - naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.
So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea - and the Tearling itself - will be revealed...
With The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen draws her unforgettable story full of magic and adventure to a thrilling close.

I have extremely mixed feeling about The Fate of the Tearling. One one hand, I loved it. On the other, well, let me explain.

In the first two books of the Tearling trilogy, Kelsea discovers that she is not just an ordinary girl – she’s the queen. As she grows into both herself and her reign, the Tearling faces an impending threat from Mortmesne, the terrifying country ruled by the Red Queen. Together with her second in command, the Mace, and her loyal guards, Kelsea takes the reins as she prepares her peaceful, utopian country for the fight of its life.

Kelsea herself goes through a tremendous transformation throughout the trilogy. She’s always a little rough, a little blunt, but she evolves from an uncertain girl into a strong young woman. That’s not to say she doesn’t have her insecurities; those moments of uncertainties are what reminds us of her humanity in Fate. It’s the moments she’s presented with an obvious choice in Fate that made me fall in love with her character even more.

Yet Johansen makes sure that Kelsea isn’t the end-all of the series. The side plots and more minor characters are powerful enough to carry the divided narrative of Fate, even occasionally making me wish they had more page time. Johansen made it clear that Fate isn’t just Kelsea’s story – it’s the Tearling’s.

I loved that Johansen makes room to tell the Tearling’s history, but as continued, I felt a little confused. Instead of the high fantasy I expected, Fate verged more into an alternate reality. There was talk of Boston, modern medicine, and other things common in today’s society, but unexpected in a world of swords, medieval battles and magic. The alternative timeline threw me, and I couldn’t quite get back on track.

That same disjointedness continued throughout the end of Fate. Instead of the ending I expected (even hoped for), Johansen threw us for a loop and closed out Kelsea’s story in an entirely unexpected way. Personally, I wasn’t a fan: it left me with more questions than answers, and I felt lost without certain plot closures. This unusual ending dropped my review from what could have been four or five stars to three.

What do you think of the ending? Did it fit the storyline? Or were you expecting the more traditional ending?

3 Stars

Posted January 9, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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January 2, 2017

Review | Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Review | Three Dark Crowns by Kendare BlakeThree Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Publisher: HarperTeen, September 2016
Pages: 398
Format: Hardcover
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When kingdom come, there will be one.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.
The last queen standing gets the crown. 

In Fennbirn, the island kingdom set apart from the rest of the world, the battle for the crown is a dangerous ritual. Every generation, a three sisters are born, destined to fight each other to the death for the honor of wearing the crown. But this year, with these sisters, things just aren’t going as planned.

The premise of Three Dark Crowns drew me in instantly. Hunger Games meets female Game of Thrones? Yes, please!

While the novel had all the necessary elements to create a YA fantasy battle of the royals, it dropped the ball. Why? The narration. Simply, it took too long for something to happen, and I found myself running out of both patience and sympathy for the three young women thrust into this destiny.

Despite each girl having her own unique brand of magic (nature, poison, and elements), their lives were remarkably similar. Each had friends who thought they were the absolute best, someone who hated them, and some twisted romance. Creating such similar plot lines did each character a major disservice: they quickly became hard to tell apart, and I started to not even try.

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Three Dark Crowns picked up in the last quarter of the book as each magical faction brought the sisters together at Beltane to showcase their talents. With tempers starting to run high, the pace of the narration finally began to turn. I loved the showcase sections, the love affairs brought to light or destroyed, and the way the sisters found unity with each other.

However, I didn’t realize Three Dark Crowns was a series. I had hoped for a stand alone novel and was looking forward to a neat tie-off in the end. Instead, the story concludes with a cliffhanger, one that I’m not entirely sure I want to read on to the finish.

3 Stars

Posted January 2, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 3, 2016

Review | The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Review | The Raven Boys by Maggie StiefvaterThe Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle, #1
Publisher: Scholastic Press, September 2012
Pages: 409
Format: Hardcover
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Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them--until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.
His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn't believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

Blue Sargent wants nothing to do the raven boys, the prized students of the local rich-kid academy who run through Henrietta, Virginia like it’s their playground. But when her amplifier gift (to improve the psychic gifts of those around her) brings her face-to-face with the spirit of a raven boy, Blue is hooked. Who is he? How can she save him? Despite herself, Blue is soon caught up in a world of intrigue, long-lost kings, mystical favors, and hidden magic.

The thing about Blue is she seems pretty normal for living in a house full of psychics. She may not bat an eye at the tarot card readings, the random mumblings of her mother’s best friend (who also lives there), or think to gather the names of the soon-to-be-dead weird, but at heart, she’s a typical teenage girl. One who wants to find her place, something we can all understand.

Except Blue has a secret or, rather a curse. If she kisses her true love, he’ll die, but the spirits don’t share how. To take precautions, she’s just not kissing anyone. It’s this combination of pragmatic and mysticism that makes Blue so enchanting. But don’t get me wrong – The Raven Boys isn’t about her.

The stars of the novel are, without a doubt, the four Raven Boys: Gansey, the get-along guy driven to discover the secret of Glendower; Ronan Lynch, the brawler haunted by a horrible secret; Adam Parrish, the local scholarship student trying to find a way to fit in; and Noah, the quiet, unassuming one. Their internal relationship dynamics are fascinating reading; add in Blue’s sensibility, and you’ve got quite the story.

The paranormal aspect brings The Raven Boys to a whole new level. When Blue sees Gansey’s spirit on the corpse road, she can’t stop thinking about him. And when she meets him in real life, her determination to protect him solidifies. The complexity of teenage angst and romance set against the paranormal history and the mystical quest to discover Glendower creates a world that I just didn’t want to leave.

4 Stars

Posted October 3, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 8, 2016

Review | Bay of Sighs by Nora Roberts

Review | Bay of Sighs by Nora RobertsBay of Sighs by Nora Roberts
Series: The Guardians Trilogy, #2
Publisher: Berkley, June 2016
Pages: 319
Format: Paperback
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The new Guardians Trilogy novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Stars of Fortune. 
To celebrate the rise of their new queen, three goddesses of the moon created three stars, one of fire, one of ice, one of water. But then they fell from the sky, putting the fate of all worlds in danger. And now three women and three men join forces to pick up the pieces…   Mermaid Annika is from the sea, and it is there she must return after her quest to find the stars. New to this world, her purity and beauty are nothing less than breathtaking, along with her graceful athleticism, as her five new friends discovered when they retrieved the fire star.   Now, through space and time, traveler Sawyer King has brought the guardians to the island of Capri, where the water star is hidden. And as he watches Annika in her element, he finds himself drawn to her joyful spirit. But Sawyer knows that if he allows her into his heart, no compass could ever guide him back to solid ground...   And in the darkness, their enemy broods. She lost one star to the guardians, but there is still time for blood to be spilled—the mermaid’s in the water and the traveler’s on the land. For she has forged a dangerous new weapon. Something deadly and unpredictable. Something human.

In the second installment of her Guardians Trilogy, Roberts returns to her defenders of the stars, the Guardians. Six people from different walks of life and corners of the earth converge to save the world in the ultimate battle of good against evil.

If you asked me to describe Annika, I could only come up with one word: helpful. Or, more that she wants to be helpful. Her intrinsic instinct to reach out and help any and every one she can should be endearing, and for a while, it was. Yet, when it became her standby action, it got a little annoying. Coupled with her endless optimism, it made it hard to get to know her, a mermaid who, in a deal with the sea witch, gave up her tail temporarily for legs.

There’s a huge story there, right? I would think the struggle to adapt would at least show through every once in a while, but instead, there’s the always helpful Annika, putting out flowers and setting the table. Instead of endearing her to me, it created this vast abyss that neither of us could cover.

I got along a little better with Sawyer, the man with the ability to bend time. Him, I understood – his motives, background, all of it were the more traditional character development, and made him a little more believable.

While Bay of Sighs had a little more oomph to it than Stars of Fortune, I still found myself wanting more character development, for everybody. All six of them. You got that right – there’s six main characters. And since each had such large, trademark personalities, it was hard to develop any of them. It was frustrating; like I was taking the journey, and they were there just to provide commentary.

That all said, the drama and action was much better in this installment. The villains were appropriately evil and (strangely) had more development than the heroes, but there you go. It was the battle scenes that saved Bay of Sighs from a lower rating.

3 Stars

Posted September 8, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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August 30, 2016

Review | The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman

Review | The Glass Casket by McCormick TemplemanThe Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman
Publisher: Delacorte Press, February 2014
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
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Death hasn't visited Rowan Rose since it took her mother when Rowan was only a little girl. But that changes one bleak morning, when five horses and their riders thunder into her village and through the forest, disappearing into the hills. Days later, the riders' bodies are found, and though no one can say for certain what happened in their final hours, their remains prove that whatever it was must have been brutal.   Rowan's village was once a tranquil place, but now things have changed. Something has followed the path those riders made and has come down from the hills, through the forest, and into the village. Beast or man, it has brought death to Rowan's door once again.   Only this time, its appetite is insatiable.A YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Pick
[STAR] "With stylish prose, richly developed characters and well-realized worldbuilding, Templeman plumbs archetypes of folklore to create a compelling blend of mythic elements and realistic teen experience."-Kirkus Reviews, Starred
[STAR] "This has both the stylish beauty of those [classic fairy] tales and the chilling darkness that makes them timeless."-The Bulletin, Starred
“The legion of Maggie Stiefvater fans out there ought to look this way.”-
Booklist

Rowan Rose dreams of becoming a scholar, a woman in her own right heading into the glorious capital city. But when vicious attacks by a mysterious monster begin in her village, Rowan finds herself caught in the mystery of her cousin’s gruesome murder, the complication of her best friend’s proposal, and the sudden responsibility to save the village.

The Glass Casket is one of those stunningly atmospheric tales that has the ability to pick you up from reality and plop you right in the middle of a fairy tale world. Templeman’s descriptive scenery created a world of magic and monsters, fairies and other magical creatures waiting in the night. Simply put, it was beautiful.

Unfortunately, the characters and story couldn’t meet the standards the scenery had set.

It took entirely too long to set up the story. Nothing happened after the opening scene (the bit referencing knights thundering up the hill) for fifty pages. Fifty pages. Fifty pages is a long time for set up with no action.

Once The Glass Casket picked up, I didn’t have the connection to the characters I wanted. Why? Because the setup was so long. I liked Rowan, her best friend Tom, and his brother Jude. But they weren’t enough to bring the story to life, and when Templeman mashed in different fairy tales elements, I just felt confused.

This mismash of fairy tale elements felt disjointed, like I was listening to an oddly-paired mashup of different Disney movies. I feel like The Glass Casket might have resounded more with me if we had stuck to only one or two fairy tales. It would have allowed for a little more depth into the story itself.

Despite this, The Glass Casket gets a three star rating. Yes. The atmosphere and setting was just that good.

3 Stars

Posted August 30, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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August 22, 2016

Review | The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

Review | The Crown’s Game by Evelyn SkyeThe Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown's Game, #1
, May 2016
Pages: 399
Format: Hardcover
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Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.
And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.
Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?
For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.
And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.
As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

I’ve had my eye out for this book since last November. I fell in love with the cover, the blurb, and after seeing pages of positive GoodReads reviews, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. When it finally arrived at the library last week, I was thrilled.

But as I turned the pages, my thrill turned sour, and at page 54, I marked The Crown’s Game dnf. Why? Well, there were a few reasons:

1. The slow beginning

And when I say the slow beginning, I mean the slooooowwwww beginning. I loved the depth of description when it came to the scenery and magic – Skye’s writing prowess really shows here. But when it came to her two main characters, Nikolai and Vika, Skye fell flat. They had no depth, no vibrancy to them that made me care about them. Granted, I put the book down after only 50 pages, but there should already be a character hook here.

2. This felt a little familiar…

Let’s get this out right now: I am in no way accusing Skye of plagiarism. It was more that The Crown’s Game felt like The Hunger Games set in 1800s Russia with magic instead of arrows.

3. I really hate violence against animals.

It’s one of my major pet peeves in books. Honestly, it may be the one thing that will make me put down a book and never pick it up again. Around page 50, when I was wallowing back and forth on putting this book in my return bag, Nikolai returns home from his first sighting of Vika to find his room filled with wild animals, including a tiger and vipers. His mentor, Galina, tells him he needs to kill them to get used to the sight of blood.

Um.

What? Seriously? Useless killing so he can get used to blood? No.

I liked the premise of The Crown’s Game. I loved the idea of it: a magical test of feats, set in Romanov Russia. I wasn’t too big of a fan of the idea of a love triangle, but I was willing to look past it. But after a slow start, lack of character development, and the out-of-the-blue animal violence? I’m done.

Posted August 22, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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July 29, 2016

Review | Daughters of Ruin by K.D. Castner

Review | Daughters of Ruin by K.D. CastnerDaughters of Ruin by K.D. Castner
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, April 2016
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
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Meet rumor with quiet, treason with cunning, and vicious with vicious.
Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren have lived together since they were children. They are called sisters. They are not. They are called equals. They are not. They are princesses. And they are enemies.
A brutal war ravaged their kingdoms, and Rhea’s father was the victor. As a gesture of peace, King Declan brought the daughters of his rivals to live under his protection—and his ever-watchful eye.
For ten years they have trained together as diplomats and warriors, raised to accept their thrones and unite their kingdoms in peace. But there is no peace among sisters, and all plans shatter when the palace is attacked. As their intended future lies in ashes, Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren must decide where their loyalties lie: to their nations, or to each other.
Alliances shift and the consequences are deadly in this stunning fantasy debut from K. D. Castner.

It was the era of the Sister Queens. A promise of peace and prosperity across all nations. Unfortunately, that’s not quite how it works out. Trained as warriors, fighting like enemies, the Daughters of Ruin are holding onto a fragile peace. But when war breaks out among the nations, the sister queens are caught in the middle of the drama – their own, and their nations.

I hate to say it, but I was really disappointed in Daughters of Ruin.

I loved the premise – four women, destroyed by war, brought together to repair the relationships between their nations and create a lasting peace. While I knew it wouldn’t quite work out that way, the vast amount of drama among the girls was so irritating.

Everyone hated Rhea, the daughter of the captor king and creator of the Sister Queens, seemingly just because she was Rhea. Everyone had the hots for the servant guy who helped them train (who was honestly just an arrogant ass). The forced arena battles only served to set the girls farther apart, but provided no other benefit to the story.

Castner rotates point-of-views between the four girls, which is okay – could potentially be fascinating.

  • Rhea’s was a typical narration.
  • Iren’s strangely simple. And brief. All her sentences were like this. Fragmented thoughts. Okay.
  • Cadis’s was strangely violent and rage-filled. But that fit her.
  • Suki’s drove me insane. You see, there were parenthensis (over parenthesis (and even (more (parenthesis (if you can believe it!!!))))). It was irritating. The disruptive narration portrayed the youngest girl as a selfish brat without redeeming qualities, only reinforced by her parenthesis. Please. No more.

The story was far-fetched and a bit ludicrous, especially as the drama ratcheted up near the end. I felt my patience dissipating as plot twist after plot twist was thrown out there. Daughters of Ruin had so much potential, but unfortunately couldn’t live up to it.

 

2 Stars

Posted July 29, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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July 4, 2016

Review | Thirty Nights with a Highland Husband by Melissa Mayhue

Review | Thirty Nights with a Highland Husband by Melissa MayhueThirty Nights with a Highland Husband by Melissa Mayhue
Series: Daughters of the Glen, #1
Publisher: Pocket Books, June 2007
Pages: 356
Format: Paperback
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SCOTLAND, 1272. Connor MacKiernan, a descendant of the Fae Prince, is a warrior who lives only for honor and duty. Though he's vowed never to marry, that's exactly what he must do to save his sister. Enter a little Faerie magic, and the search for a bride is on. DENVER, 2007. Caitlyn Coryell is having a really bad day -- she just discovered her fiance with another woman! Imagine her surprise when she puts on some sexy lingerie and an antique pendant and Connor appears in her bedroom, begging for her help. He offers a simple yet outrageous adventure: travel to his time, marry him, and return home.
But nothing's simple when Cate is trapped in the thirteenth century. The wedding's delayed, someone's trying to kill her, and in the middle of all this, she realizes she's falling in love with a man who can only be her husband for thirty nights.

A 13th century Highlander who’s sworn off women. A 21st century woman who just realized her engagement is a sham. In a tale of time travel, Faerie magic, and family ties, Thirty Nights with a Highland Husband is one couple’s journey to discover true love.

The premise was a little odd. I loved how the opening set up the root of Faerie magic in the coming romance, but the magic that brought Cait into the past with Connor was just a bit strange. If you’re willing to suspend a little disbelief and roll with it, however, it’s a good story.

I liked Cait. Her 21st century sensibilities didn’t always mix well with the 13th century society, forcing her character to develop even further. Connor didn’t really come alive until their romance really started to bloom. I wish he had more qualities other than his devotion to his family. Don’t get me wrong; it fit him well. But he needed more.

While I didn’t quite buy the premise of the story, I liked Cait and Connor’s relationship. They each had a piece the other needed, something that could heal the gaping wound in the other.

I wasn’t too sure about the timeline. In many of the time-traveling Scottish romances I’ve read, time is measured the same, but Mayhue’s Thirty Nights doesn’t follow along those lines. Once I got used to it though, I loved it. It gave Cait room to grow and develop in the 13th century, learning how to handle her problems in the 21st.

Thirty Nights has some misses, but some hits as well, bright moments that shine through. I didn’t quite buy into the premise – it felt too contrived – but the resulting romance made a good read. Best of all, Mayhue’s ending seals the deal. It’s one of the best happily ever afters I’ve come across in a long time.

3 Stars

Posted July 4, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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June 4, 2016

Through Diagon Alley | Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Through Diagon Alley | Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré
Series: Harry Potter, #6
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books, July 2005
Pages: 652
Format: Hardcover
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The war against Voldemort is not going well; even Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.
And yet... As in all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate — and lose a few eyebrows in the process. The Weasley twins expand their business. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.
So it's the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Here are Hogwarts, Harry will search for the full and complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort — and thereby find what may be his only vulnerability.

half blood prince

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back.

It’s the Wizarding world’s worst nightmare. Cornelius Fudge, disgraced and ashamed, has stepped down from his post as Minister of Magic as the magical world struggles to come to terms that the most evil Dark wizard of all time has seemingly returned from the dead.

With Voldemort’s return, Harry knows life will never be the same, even at Privet Drive. Yet he doesn’t know what to expect when he embarks from the Dursleys’ house with Dumbledore late that summer, especially when he finds a mysterious Potions book full of the writings of the Half-Blood Prince.

Without a doubt, Rowling’s world has gotten vastly darker compared to the relatively light story of Quirrell and his secret. The opening night scenes in the Muggle Prime Minister’s office sets the tone for Half Blood Prince, an atmosphere that lasts throughout the book, even to the sunny afternoon the narrative leaves off on. With the extra element of foreshadowing, the desire to get to the bottom of what’s going on drives Harry (and me) forward.

I loved how Rowling drops us right into the middle of the story. With five books behind us, there’s no need to recap the events; even so, the abrupt start to the story was jarring and captivating all at once.

As Harry and Dumbledore explore Voldemort’s history to learn more about his truth, I realized that Rowling was painting Voldemort as, for all intents and purposes, born evil. It made me wonder: Is he the only character that’s painted so black and white, or is this a depiction of humanity? Either you’re good or bad – no grey area available.

If we’re following that theory, then just how does Snape fit in? Throughout the books, Dumbledore has made an effort to show us and Harry that Snape is actually on the side of the angels. Is he truly a double agent (good cloaked in evil) or is he the only shade of grey?

On the lighter side of Half Blood Prince, I loved the romance between Lavendar and Ron (I choked on my tea when I came to the “Won-Won” part – you know what I mean). The drama between Ron and Hermione over Ron’s new relationship was just so…teenagey that it grounded the story down and gave a little relief from the great “good v evil” battle we all know is coming.

For years, I thought Order of the Phoenix was my favorite Harry Potter book, but after this read, I think Half Blood Prince takes the cake. The complexity of the search for Voldemort’s motives and means combined with the everyday teenage drama happening at high schools across the world is a subtle mixture, but one just right for setting up the grand final installment of the series.

5 Stars

Posted June 4, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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