Book Review: Rebels Divided

????????????????????Title: Rebels Divided
Author: Lance Erlick
Publisher: Finlee Augare Books
Release Date: June 2013
Length: 294 pages
Series?: Rebel #2
Genre: YA/Science Fiction/Dystopian
Format: e-book
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis

Rebels Divided was written as a standalone dystopian action story. It is also part of the Rebel series, three years later. [Read my review of Rebels #1, The Rebel Within, here.]

The first time he sees her, they meet as enemies and she doesn’t kill him. That’s worth something. Geo (19) is a rugged frontiersman who hungers to see more of the world than the impoverished Outland glen where he and his pa hide from local Rangers. To prove himself, Geo fights Union Mechanized Warriors and Outland Rangers to protect friends, neighbors, and refugees fleeing the Federal Union. Annabelle (19) is a tough yet fragile tomboy who lost her parents at age three to the Mech Warriors. Then she’s forced to become a Mech.

After the Second American Civil War, the nation divides into two ‘utopias’. The Federal Union enforces Harmony and an all-female society with the help of EggFusion Fertilization and Female Mechanized Warriors based near Knoxville. The Appalachian Outland promotes rugged individualism, but Thane Edwards holds a monopoly of power with his Rangers, loosely modeled on the legendary Texas Rangers. The Union’s Tenn-tucky governor and the Outland warlord conclude a secret deal, pledging Annabelle to the warlord to provide him heirs, and putting a bounty on Geo and his pa.

When Annabelle refuses the arranged marriage, Thane Edwards kidnaps her and her beloved sister. She escapes, but can’t find her sister without help. That’s when she tracks down Geo, a sworn enemy she feels connected to. While trying to survive, and pursued by their own and opposing military forces, Geo and Annabelle wrestle with attraction and mutual distrust as enemies. Yet, only together can they confront Edwards to rescue her kidnapped sister and gain justice for the murder of Geo’s pa. Time is running out.

Review

Annabelle has grown up in a world where females have weeded out the men and boys from their society and their lives. Her adopted mother, a Tenn-tucky state senator, still remembers the husband and son she sent into the Outlands to protect. Annabelle has grown up believing her brother George is a monstrosity of a boy. 

This novel picks up three years after the ending of The Rebel Within (read my review here). Annabelle is still paired with Dara in the Mechanized Female Warriors, and still is trying to evade and brush off the amazon’s advances. Her younger sister Janine has now joined their ranks, and they are sent on a mission into no man’s land, the strange common ground between the female Civ society and the male retreat of the Outlands.

Governor Battani is still pressing forward with her own political agenda, the mechs are amping up their border patrol and missions, and Senator Scott is still opposing Battani on many issues…until Battani gives Mama Scott an ultimatum she can’t refuse.

Annabelle and Janine are both captured in the Outland and held hostage, but Thane Edwards has underestimated Annabelle’s resourcefulness. She must impost her much-hated mech presence on the very thin hospitality of those trying to sustain a life during the hard times on the frontiers of the Outlands. She’s not leaving without her sister, even if it means taking a stand against the much feared and well-trained former mech Thane Edwards.

The novel’s chapters alternate between Annabelle’s world and a young Outland man’s world, until they eventually find each other in the Outland.

Annabelle and Geo are both betrayed by their people, fighting against both of their worlds to do the right thing, and forging something new of their quickly deteriorating civilizations before civil war can strike again and take its toll.

This is not a novel to be missed! While the first was hard for me to get through at times, this novel pretty much lays it all out on the table. The past of Annabelle is fully explained, the truth of George’s banishment is shown clearly, and shows the strength and willpower of young individuals, which is something I find quite lacking in today’s time.

Annabelle continues to grow as an individual, even deceiving Geo along the way for his help. She shows a softer side in this novel, as does her mech commander, Sam, which is totally out of place based on the hard-nosed character she was portrayed as in the first book. Geo is a character that grows throughout the novel in so many ways. He is a young man trying to be a man but is oppressed by the societal structures of the Outland and the cause his father has taken up to protect others. I loved Geo’s character; he has a heart to match Annabelle, even if he was unfocused at times.

I am intrigued to see how Annabelle and Geo will build a new Appalachia, in hand with their mother and Sam, and how their relationship will progress. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a third book!

About the Author

600388_10201010092153744_210253767_nRaised by a roaming aerospace engineer, Lance Erlick grew up in various parts of the United States and Europe, as well as traveling through Asia. He took to stories as his anchor, including the works of Asimov, Bradbury and Heinlein, and has been writing since age eleven. Growing up, he was inspired by his father’s engineering work on cutting-edge aerospace projects to look to the future.

Lance received his BS in political science and his Masters in business from Indiana University, before studying creative writing at Ball State, the University of Iowa, Northwestern University, and the University of Wisconsin.

Numerous detours along the way included solving business problems for companies ranging from automotive, to electronics, kitchen cabinets and boats. This involved significant professional writing, supplemented after hours by writing science fiction. Now a refugee from the business world, he is focused on writing.

Lance lives with his wife in the Chicago area, where he’s working on his next novel. He writes speculative fiction, science fiction, dystopian and young adult, and likes to explore the future implications of social and technological trends.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Book Review: Warrior’s Oath

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Warrior’s Oath

Title: Warrior’s Oath
Author: Jennifer Hines & Mindy Bigham
Publisher: Smashwords
Release Date: October 2013
Length:  264 pages
Series?: Sacred Promises #2
Genre: YA, supernatural, romance
Format: e-book
Source: Hines & Bigham
Challenge: n/a

Synopsis: 

With war raging between the last two ruling families, the Skye’s and the Fino’s, Abbey will be forced to step up and announce herself as the rightful queen to the world of Elementals sooner than expected. At which time, her chosen advisors will also be declared. Including the person whose oath she unknowingly accepted to stand by her side.

Beginning her journey by traveling to Iceland to meet Garik’s family, and ask their blessing to put him through the trials to be her First, brings forth an entire new world. She dives deeper into the world of a warrior and what it means to have a family.

After a vision of destruction Abbey must make a decision to save a school or let it fall to Fino’s army. Saving it will mark her identity, but letting it fall would mean the loss of many innocents. Either way, her life will never be the same after her decision.

Review

A rift had been forming between the last two ruling families, the Skye’ s and the Fino’s. Their desires for power were now strong enough that there was only room for one. 

Nathan has gone and done it now. He’s used the powers of his Chosen Mate bond and cornered Abbey into admitting some very serious feelings. Little did Abbey know that Kaleb had followed in her wake and overheard this whole conversation.

Kaleb has been missing for two months. Not one single word from him. Abbey cannot shimmer to him any more. Nevara is not being very helpful either. The bond with Nathan is wearing on her every day. It’s getting harder and harder to resist him, and Kaleb is showing no signs of manning up and standing by her side.

I was not a bystander. I would not stand there and do nothing while watching innocence fall. 

While Abbey’s personal life is falling apart, so is their world. Fino has disbanded the Knights of Noir Council, and is enlisting and drafting Warriors as his own soldiers. He’s even gone so far as to draft Warriors from one of the other sister schools of Maramec.

I knew I could not take the world by myself. 

Just as in Sacred Promises, Abbey must make some very tough decisions, but this time she must make them almost instantaneously. There is no time to wait, and no time to lose. She must gather her chosen warriors and advisors, and fully mark them as her own.

What had this day become? Was this what my future held, a life full of fighting and death where even the lines between family loyalties became blurred? 

Kaleb finally comes around after a very blunt conversation that Abbey has with Nevara, which leads to her extending the oath to him. Unfortunately for them both, it’s a drunken night filled with Elemental punch, and neither can remember what happened…but Nathan has a pretty good idea. He no longer shares the bond with Abbey, and it isn’t hard to deduce why.

Abbey rallies her Divine Order around her, and those who will stand by her, to protect the sister school at Machu Piccu against Fino and his red soldiers. But then he comes to attack her very own school – and there’s nowhere for them to be protectively hidden from his wrath. Indeed, there are some traitors in the midsts.

This book eventually lands Abbey, Kaleb and Nevara back in her tribe and a lot of her history and marriage are explained. Will the animosity of years gone by, bad blood, and scorned love prevail in order to save Kaleb?

Sometimes no matter how much you think you know someone, you honestly have no iota of a clue. 

Traitors do run rampant in this novel, and I totally didn’t see the ending coming. Garik’s sister, Rowan, has been taken by a traitor who was once near and dear to Abbey. I’m sure this is where the next book, The Divine Order, will open. It will be available sometime in the spring.

Despite the wonderful spin put on this book, I do feel like this book was more rushed than the first in the series, that some of the finesse from Sacred Promises was lost along the way just to get the storyline across, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made.

Find my review of Sacred Promises here.

About the Authors

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Jennifer Hines

Jennifer Hines is a wife, mother, and indie author. She loves reading, writing, and taking long road trips.

She enjoys reading and writing mostly fantasy, paranormal romance, romance, and basically anything with vampires (the sparkly and/or sexy kind and not so much the freaky and scary kind), shifters, or magic – YA through erotica. Her favorite books/series include The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead, Scanguards Vampires by Tina Folsom, and the Crossfire Novels by Sylvia Day.

Friend her on Goodreads to follow all of her reviews both requested and personal, and to see what she’s currently reading.

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Mindy Bigham

Mindy Bigham is a wife, a mother, and an indie author. She loves reading, writing, and vacationing anywhere there’s a beach.

She enjoys reading and writing mostly fantasy, paranormal romance, romance, and basically anything with vampires (the sparkly and/or sexy kind and not so much the freaky and scary kind), shifters, or magic – YA through erotica. Her favorite books/series include: The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead, Bloodlines Series by Michelle Mead, and The Breathless Trilogy by Maya Banks.

Friend her on Goodreads to follow all of her reviews both requested and personal, and to see what she’s currently reading.

Find the authors: Website| Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads – Hines | | Goodreads – Bigham

Book Review: Sacred Promises

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Sacred Promises

Title: Sacred Promises
Author: Jennifer Hines & Mindy Bigham
Publisher: Smashwords
Release Date: April 2013
Length:  292 pages
Series?: Sacred Promises #1
Genre: YA, supernatural, romance
Format: e-book
Source: Hines & Bigham
Challenge: n/a

Synopsis: 

Most children grow up in loving homes, with parents who tell them bedtime stories. Not Abbey. She spent her childhood training for a battle that always seemed too far away to ever become real. 

In a world of Elementals, now corrupted and misguided by the ruling families, a queen must rise up and make right the wrongs her people have had to suffer through in absence of a true leader. After spending her entire life secretly training with her guardian, eighteen-year-old Abbey must now join the Maramec Conservatory as a student, entering into a world where she will meet other Elementals, Mystics, Watchers, and Warriors. Being surrounded by the people she will someday rule over, she must keep her identity as future queen from being discovered, while managing to create friendships and deciding whom she can trust to stand by her side both now and as queen.

Review

Teenage Abbey has grown up in secrecy with her guardian, Nevara, who has taught her everything she could possibly need to become the queen. Nevara has prepped and trained Abbey for this moment: entering the Maramec Conservatory in the guise of a student, where she will study with other Elementals, Mystics, Watchers and Warriors. Nevara has versed Abbey on the school as much as possible, but the rest is up to Abbey.

Watchers and Warriors are housed together and known as the Knights of Noir, protectors of the people, and kept separate from Elemental, who have a range of abilities with one of the four elements and the very rare Mystics, gifted with sight and healing.

Abbey has to keep her identity a secret and her cards close. She must navigate the troubled waters of the Conservatory where so many students of different backgrounds converge – and avoid detection from students of the ruling families. Every 50 years a new queen is born with specific marking on her back, and in the last 200 years there hasn’t been a queen that’s surfaced – meaning only one thing: someone is finding the queens…and getting rid of them.

Seeing and living were two completely different things.

Abbey can’t afford to make enemies, but she can’t allow anyone in either. As her roommate soon spills all the gossip, Abbey finds she is the center of attention. Quickly she finds herself locked in stalemate with her mentor – fellow student Kaleb Storm, who has some unsavory rumors circulating about his past and his heritage. Kaleb takes his duties in the highest regard, yet there’s also something about Abbey…and someone else notices.

Soon Abbey is found in the middle of a love triangle, and things get ugly. One night could have ruined everything – her, her role, and the future of her citizens. Abbey’s new barrage of defenders are taking her safety seriously: she must have someone from her group with her at all times. This complicates things as Kaleb, and Abbey’s rescuer Garik, are also on the hunt. Kaleb and Garrik are both Knights of Noir, warriors meant to protect the people.

Abbey has to face some hard decisions. Does she tell Kaleb the truth? Does she tell her friends? Then comes a third guy into the picture, vying for Abbey’s heart – and he instinctively knows who she is, and that they are destined to be together. Nathan’s not making it easy on Abbey, as she struggles to stay true to Kaleb and out of the grips of the stalking wolf-changeling Darrian, who always seems to be one step ahead of Abbey’s posse of protectors. Meanwhile, Abbey learns the true identity of her guardian, who is connected to Kaleb.

This novel was so much more than I expected, and I was amazed at the range of change and growth in the main characters. Abbey struggles with many decisions throughout the novel, and the more problems that develop, the harder it is for her. Through the narration, readers are privy to the change in Abbey that reflect that she will be a kind, just, but strong queen. Abbey’s character is one who must come to terms with the fact that she’s not normal: she’s the queen in hiding, and while reading all I could think when I read narration from Abbey’s thoughts was how graceful she was in her attitude and mentality.

The novel was also unique in that a few chapters are denoted to be told from Kaleb’s point of view in first-person, so readers get insight into his thoughts and can understand his emotions. There is a chapter where this differentiation from the narration is crucial, so I applaud the authors’ use of this technique.

It is a wonderful, thrilling read and I could not put it down. I fell asleep with my Kindle several nights. The novel ends in somewhat of a lurch, but in a nice way, which I expect is going to open the conflict in the sequel, Warrior’s Oath. I’m looking forward to great things in Warrior’s Oath. I expect Hines and Bigham to deliver, and I am betting I won’t be disappointed.

About the Authors

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Jennifer Hines

Jennifer Hines is a wife, mother, and indie author. She loves reading, writing, and taking long road trips.

She enjoys reading and writing mostly fantasy, paranormal romance, romance, and basically anything with vampires (the sparkly and/or sexy kind and not so much the freaky and scary kind), shifters, or magic – YA through erotica. Her favorite books/series include The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead, Scanguards Vampires by Tina Folsom, and the Crossfire Novels by Sylvia Day.

Friend her on Goodreads to follow all of her reviews both requested and personal, and to see what she’s currently reading.

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Mindy Bigham

Mindy Bigham is a wife, a mother, and an indie author. She loves reading, writing, and vacationing anywhere there’s a beach.

She enjoys reading and writing mostly fantasy, paranormal romance, romance, and basically anything with vampires (the sparkly and/or sexy kind and not so much the freaky and scary kind), shifters, or magic – YA through erotica. Her favorite books/series include: The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead, Bloodlines Series by Michelle Mead, and The Breathless Trilogy by Maya Banks.

Friend her on Goodreads to follow all of her reviews both requested and personal, and to see what she’s currently reading.

Find the authors: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: The Snitch, Houdini and Me

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The Snitch, Houdini and Me: Humorous Tales of Death-Defying Childhood Misadventure (2010) by Johnny Virgil (JV Enterprises, 2010)

Genre: memoir, humor

I received a free digital copy of this book from the author through BookBloggers in return for an honest review. If you would like to know more about Johnny Virgil, check out his blog, 15  Minute Lunch.

Amazon describes Virgil’s memoir…

“Go Out and Play and Don’t Come Home until it’s Dark.”

Growing up in the 70’s wasn’t easy. No internet or smartphones, video games or HDTV — nothing but time to kill and the endless potential of a summer day. Only parental threats and a newly-developed sense of right and wrong could steer Johnny Virgil and his two younger brothers away from trouble…or directly into it.
 
Join Johnny on this hilarious and irreverent romp through his childhood as he recounts the stories that made him what he is today – an unimportant cog in a vast, corporate financial services machine. But he wasn’t always this way, and this book is proof.
Booby traps, severed deer legs, runaway bulldozers, young love and fresh cow pies — all this and more, brought to life by Johnny’s sometimes twisted, sometimes touching but always hilarious tales of suburban childhood. If you have kids of your own, these are the stories you don’t want them to read.  If you like to laugh even when it’s wrong and long to return to a more innocent yet treacherous time, this book will leave you wishing Johnny’s childhood had never ended.

When I signed up to review this book, I knew it was right up my ally. I grew up with three younger brothers, two older male cousins, two additional male kids of close family friends and tons of boys at my annual summer camp, which was a big prankfest. Talk about shenanigans! I was prepared for this book…or so I thought. I was amused at the stories Virgil shared, and felt that I was an observer of those events. I highly recommend this book!

If you are a mother, especially of boys or a daughter who was a tomboy, read this book. If you’re a boy (over the age of 21 so as not to get any “bright” ideas), read this book.

If you spent your childhood days growing up pre-2000, read this book. It will bring memories flooding back…and maybe provide some pointers or ideas you never dreamed of fulfilling to scare the beejezus out of that big kid bully.

If you ever feared being “in deep shit,” read this book. Warning: the farther in you read, the more adult the language becomes. There is a PG version available for Kindle readers.

This book is hilarious throughout, with never-ending shenanigans and covert missions, usually involving one of Johnny’s two younger brothers, The Snitch or Houdini, their neighbor Markie or best friend The Slug. Virgil shares some stories that could have been disastrously dangerous for his little band of boys. He is very keen to point out he doesn’t know how he survived childhood without killing himself, or someone else, at every opportunity. And he’s right: after reading some of the boys’ grand schemes, you will be surprised to know they usually escaped supreme and disastrous trouble usually unscathed, with only a few cuts.

Johnny and his gang didn’t have the best of everything from back in the day. They didn’t get what they wanted. They essentially had hand-me-down bikes that came home as a box of bike parts. Yeah. The kid down the street had a mouth-watering go-kart…so Johnny and the boys created their own version, and they were happy with it. Imagination and invention were the game plan.

Throughout this collection of stories, readers can watch Johnny grow up from the leader of two little brothers through that awkward teenage stage, learning about girls and dating, cars, and eventually a few excursions with the bottle. Included in the beginning chapters are drawings Johnny did as a child in grade school, and one or two photos.

Virgil shares a time when being a kid was OK, but when you cross the line there are consequences from your parents. Neighborhood kids with tag-along siblings, generally left to their own devices during summertime. Friendly-fire neighborhood gangs battling over turf, sometimes just on principle. The fear of getting in trouble. It’s something that’s rarely seen today, back when a pinky swear meant something.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic Press, 2007)

Genre: fiction, young adult (YA), fantasy, supernatural, mystery, suspense

Curriculum Building Ideas:

  • Language Arts: Reader’s Notebook, Literary Circles, Guided Reading Groups, Writer’s Workshop, Sequencing, Plot, Character Map/Analysis, Inferences/Predictions, Connections (Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World), Graphic Organizers, Book vs. Movie (i.e. Venn Diagram, Persuasive Essay), Reader’s Theatre, KWL Chart
  • Social Studies: design an issue of The Daily Prophet or The Quibbler – follow the attention of the media from the book, paying attention to the audiences of both literary sources; create a propoganda poster or pamphlet; studies of various types of government and policies
  • Math: “Design a Map” – based on information provided from the book of where Harry, Hermione and Ron travel

*Author’s Note: There have been numerous reviews of Harry Potter to date, and  Rowling has racked up many awards for her books.  I’m going to try to stay away from writing things that can be easily found in other reviews from years past. Note that I am now nearly 24 years old and this is my first time reading Harry Potter, which was published when I was in elementary school. I remember my mother reading them, and then my middle brother. I was into other genres, and for some reason I had an unfounded stigma toward Harry Potter. I have seen the first four movies; I didn’t really keep up with the latter movies. But I didn’t know what was going on because I missed out on so much that was in the books! I wish that I had read Harry Potter as I was growing up, instead of waiting – I feel that I’ve lost a lot of the magic in waiting, and also in seeing the movies before reading the books.

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Spoilers from Book 6 – Read at Your Own Risk!

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 

The final book of Harry Potter has come! It is bittersweet. I started prepping this post, and then started reading the book. And then I started debating whether or not to even post a review of the book. I was afraid that I was going to give too much away, because there was SO much I wanted to share about the book…and then I finished the book and was in even more of a dilemma. It was a hard decision.

The last book gave readers quite a shock. The title referred to Severus Snape, who had been playing the double agent role for The Order of the Phoenix and Lord Voldemort. He also made an Unbreakable Vow to protect Draco Malfoy…and he killed Dumbledore with the Killing Curse. Was it because Malfoy was there? Because that was Malfoy’s task from Voldemort, and he choked? I surmise we’ll have our answer in this last book.

Where will this leave Harry and the Order? And what about Hogwarts? When I finished Book 6, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I was overwhelmed with questions and anger and fear. And I hurt for Harry, for his loss and the loss of the Wizarding world. Rowling has spun a wonderful series, creating strong, relatable characters – and she also did a miraculous job as an author creating a bond between her readers and the characters she’s created.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part IRowling set us up in the last book to know that Harry plans to leave Hogwarts. Dumbledore gave Harry hope to defeat Voldemort – and the way to do it: Harry will need to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes that Voldemort has stored his soul within. He knows that there are seven pieces of Voldemort’s soul, and that his current body houses one piece, leaving six remaining. Harry destroyed Riddle’s diary with a basilisk fang in HP and the Chamber of Secrets. Dumbledore destroyed a second Horcrux piece – the Slytherin ring, accounting for his injured and shriveled hand in the last book. But there’s so much more to that story…The third known Horcrux was the locket Dumbledore and Harry set off to destroy in the last book, and it had been stolen – replaced with a replica and a note signed by R.A.B. Who is R.A.B.? Harry needs to find the remaining four, potentially five, Horcruxes.

This book opens during the summer, with Harry grounded at the Dursleys’. A plan has been hatched to safely transport Harry and also the Dursleys, as time is running out on the charm that protects him at the Dursleys. The moment he turns 17 or no longer calls the Durlseys house his home, the charm is broken and Voldemort will come a-knocking. The plan is somehow breached, with all the members of the Order being attacked by Death Eaters throwing around Killing Curses like candy at a hometown parade. Needless to say, the Order suffers some serious loss, with one going missing. However, the Order will suffer more down the line. Get the tissues handy.

This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal. 

Readers learn that once again, the Ministry is keeping Azkaban escapes hush-hush, and other internal problems such as Death Eaters still working within the Ministry and gaining intel. The Daily Prophet is also suspiciously quiet. And a teacher (whom we’ve never heard of before, but who’s apparently been at Hogwarts for years) has strangely resigned…after leaving Hogwarts. I’ll give you three guesses as to what’s happened to her.

DH1_Albus_Dumbledore's_signature_with_Deathly_Hallows_symbolRowling has never left any of her books without action, and this one is definitely jam-packed – and mortally dangerous for Harry. The Ministry has been compromised entirely, Snape is in power at Hogwarts, Dumbledore’s name and memory are being tarnished salaciously…and Muggles are fearing for their lives like never before. The annoying Rita Skeeter has taken full advantage of the situation of the Wizarding world, and published a book The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, using The History of Magic textbook ‘s author Bathilda Bagshot as a source. It does contain some questionable content, and has Harry heavily questioning his relationship with Dumbledore. This snowballs and leads them onto some interesting discoveries about the past, all while still on the run. They also discover a symbol in the book Dumbledore left Hermione, and also found it on a grave in Godric’s Hollow. It is the same symbol Luna’s father, Xeno Lovegood, Quibbler editor, wore to Bill and Fluer’s wedding…a symbol that Krum identified as Grindelwald’s mark, a mark of very Dark Arts and other sinister sentiments.

Through their journey to find the Horcurxes, Harry, Hermione and Ron traverse the dangers of the Ministry to steal back the Slytherin locket that Voldemort used for a Horcrux. It was quite a nail biter. They take turns wearing the locket, but it holds a great power over the wearer, causing the wearer to act strangely…. and restricts the wearer in certain ways, posing a very strong danger. It’s almost as if Voldemort can see the situation and control the locket.

Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.

They learn that a group of Hogwarts students, including Ginny and Luna, tried to steal the Gryffindor sword from Snape’s new headmaster office. So it’s transported to a “safe” place….but it was a fake! The real sword, which is determined to contain basilisk venom, can destroy the Horcurxes. Like the locket, they now need to find the sword.

The trio learn of items that could make the owner the Conquerer of Death. Harry already has one, one is destroyed, and Voldemort is fiery pursuit after the final object: an old, powerful wand with a bloody past. Given that Harry and Hermione are wanted by the Ministry, and Ron would probably be taken on false charges, they go to the one person who knows the meaning of the symbol: Xeno Lovegood. He relates the long-held belief of The Deathly Hallows, and the three objects. It all stems from a fairy tale of three brothers. Through the strange connection between Harry and Voldemort, he learns that a wandmaker, Gregorovitch, had the Elder Wand, but it was stolen long ago by Grindelwald, but the most recent owner is someone dear to Harry.

Harry becomes consumed by the story of The Deathly Hallows, certain that he is the descendant of the youngest brother. He wants to throw the search for the Horcurxes to the wind, thinking of the Deathly Hallows and the prophecy. He thinks having all the Deathly Hallows will ensure that he can defeat Voldemort. Ron and Hermione quickly need to snap him out of it.

This book is gripping. It reveals so many histories and connections of the past, and true loyalties of many. In this book much weighs on Harry, least of concern to him his life. Harry exudes selflessnes, kindness and quite a bit of logic and reasoning. Dumbledore’s Army has come back full force. All is explained and comes full circle, but it may leave readers with a slight pain in your hearts.

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Who will prevail in the end?

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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Chamber of Secrets – Book #2

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic Press, 1998)

Genre: Fiction, young adult (YA), fantasy, supernatural

Curriculum Building Ideas:

  • Language Arts: Reader’s Notebook, Literary Circles, Guided Reading Groups, Writer’s Workshop, Sequencing, Plot, Character Map/Analysis, Inferences/Predictions, Connections (Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World), Graphic Organizers, Book vs. Movie (i.e. Venn Diagram, Persuasive Essay), Reader’s Theatre
  • Social Studies: Scale Diagram of Hogwarts, Map of Hogwarts, Timeline of Hogwarts vs. Real World…
  • Math: “Design Hogwarts” – based on information provided from the book, students create floor plans, diagrams or models of what they think Hogwarts looks like; “Potions” – students measure and record ingredients for the science part of this lesson (below)…
  • Science: “Potions” – students use correct measurements of ingredients to predict reactions between chemicals, create a set number of reactions, and record the reaction and observations in their science journals…

*Author’s Note: There have been numerous reviews of Harry Potter to date, and  Rowling has racked up many awards for her books.  I’m going to try and stay away from writing things that can be easily found in other reviews from years past. Note that I am now nearly 24 years old and this is my first time reading Harry Potter, which was published when I was in elementary school. I remember my mother reading them, and then my middle brother. I was into other genres, and for some reason I had an unfounded stigma toward Harry Potter. I have seen the first four movies; I didn’t really keep up with the latter movies. But I didn’t know what was going on because I missed out on so much that was in the books! I wish that I had read Harry Potter as I was growing up, instead of waiting – I feel that I’ve lost a lot of the magic in waiting, and also in seeing the movies before reading the books. The basic premise of Harry Potter is about Harry Potter himself, and discovering who and what he is, where he came from and his quest to becoming what he’s destined to become – a great wizard, with a bond not seen before in the wizard world of magic (i.e. Voldemort).

The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir, beware.

We already know from the first book that Harry is going to encounter a scary, dangerous situation while at Hogwarts – and it is all about him. (Cue Voldemort.) After Voldemort’s quick and mysterious exit yet again, it’s no doubt that he will return at the worst possible moment and be behind it all. And, seeing as how he used a Hogwarts professor as a means to an end to get to Harry, who’s to say he won’t do the same thing again? Or will he, since he’s already played that card?

Each subsequent book in the series brings additional characters into the life of Harry Potter. And with them come more knowledge, more mystery and more story lines. Young Ginny, Ron’s little sister, comes to Hogwarts as first year…and she has a terrible crush on Harry. It’s quite cute if you’ve ever had a mad crush before. In the latter half of the book, we learn Ginny and Harry unknowingly share an item that belonged to the student who first opened the Chamber of Secrets so many years ago.

The new Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts is a pansy, to say the least. Gilderoy Lockhart is a pretentious narcissistic bully. How did he even become a professor at Hogwarts? Ohhh, that’s right! Buddy, old pal Voldemort scared any potential candidate away with the stunt he pulled the year before. The man flies off the handle any time some grubby first year even mentions Harry, has to make sure he’s getting the limelight…and yet, he can’t even seem to perform the easiest of magical spells. I smell a rat (or chicken) in mauve robes.

Harry really begins to question said chicken’s credibility when Hagrid makes negative comments about him, and Hagrid isn’t one to criticize professors. Interesting.

Another interesting thing is a new ghost who joins Peeves, Nearly Headless Nick and the Bloody Baron at Hogwarts – Moaning Myrtle. She haunts the girls’ bathroom…and every girl avoids her and her depressing antics. She is integral to discovering information about the Chamber of Secrets. My burning question: where was she last year? She just all of a sudden pops up in the second book, but you’ll find she’s been around for a while.

With new characters also comes new terminology…but this applies to those we already know.

  • Mudblood: It’s the worst of insults to someone of a non-magical background. It means someone who is born to Muggle, non-magic parents. Not so bad, right? Well, the insulting slur is that they have dirty, common blood and are not pure-blooded. There is definitely a hierarchical structure in the magic world, with the “pure breeds” at the forefront. Malfoy throws this highly inflammatory degradation in Hermione’s face, and this is the main premise behind the entirety of the Chamber of Secrets.
  • Squib: A dud. A person who is born “pure bred” to two magical parents, but isn’t magical. It’s highly embarrassing.

The run-down: Dobby makes a few surprise appearances, sharing some valuable and thought-provoking information. Harry and Ron get punished for some grievous infraction with Malfoy at the center. Harry is sequestered with Lockhart for punishment and he hears a chilling voice. Not only would the words uttered stop you in your tracks and send you running and screaming, but Lockhart can’t hear it. And neither can Ron and Hermione later…which lands them in an empty corridor with some bad juju and incriminating evidence: The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir, beware. 

Heir? What heir? And then we find out – the heir to Slytherin. Who the heck is that? … Oh, wait. Remember when Harry first came to Hogwarts, and had to get sorted into a house by the Sorting Hat? It wanted to put him in Slytherin. But…is it Harry?

And not only do Harry, Ron, Hermione and the usual professor gang see the threatening message, but the whole student body does so as well. Now the cat’s outta the bag! They are all bent out of shape trying to find out about the infamous Chamber of Secrets. Hermione has naturally gone on the Nancy Drew sleuthing streak, but comes up empty-handed. And in the meantime, we learn something interesting and embarrassing about Filch, which explains his apparent hatred of the students, and that the Chamber has already been opened.

Turns out Hogwarts was founded by four great witches and wizards – Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, Salazar Slytherin. They built the castle, and of course, Slytherin turned into a bad apple: he wanted only pure bloods to attend. He didn’t get his way, and he sealed the hidden so-called Chamber of Secrets until the true heir came to the school – to “unleash the horror within.” Horror, Professor? Yes, horror. This thing goes around petrifying any who cross its path. They can all be saved, but they could have died as one did before when the Chamber was opened.

Harry discovers a diary of a former student in Myrtle’s bathroom. And this diary is different. Harry meets the owner of the diary, and goes back in time to the night when the Chamber of Secrets was first opened and a Hogwarts student died. This stranger shows Harry who was expelled for opening the Chamber, which is someone Harry (and Dumbledore) trusts. And then it disappears….

And then, once again, Harry is caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. When Dumbledore asks Harry if anything is wrong, a million things fly through his mind (secret creepy voice only he can hear – that says he’ll be killed!, Malfoy being the heir…) …but he stupidly tells Dumbledore otherwise. WHAT!?! He could have saved you a lot of trouble!! Boys. Such tough things…

The attacks on students continue, and Daddy Malfoy brings down the hammer on Hogwarts. It’s a troubling time, but even more troubling without the headmaster, with your ally thrown in Azkaban and with your Nancy Drew petrified…but not before she finds the information Harry and Ron need to enter the Chamber of Secrets.

The most rewarding moment for me was when the professors ganged up (in professional style) on Lockhart to go do his thang in the Chamber of Secrets and save them all. They say and imply all the things that a reader wants to say. As it turns out, Lockhart is indeed a chicken…but Harry and Ron drag him down into the Chamber of Secrets.

And Harry discovers the real identity of this mysterious stranger who owns the magical diary.

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

The shared item between Harry and Ginny, a diary, crystallizes Rowling’s style: she sets up a mysterious scenario, with the main characters involved, and a few suspects as well as some hints of evidence. (And of course the worries of an expulsion.) All of these hints and suspicions build up the plot (and undoubtedly cause other side problems for the gang) and give small flickers of light in this dark big picture. But we never see the whole picture until the pitfall, which is quite unexpected…yet, not really. (We know that’s the natural course of the book.) And then all is revealed, and we get that “aha!” moment when the light bulb comes on. I have the sneaky suspicion this is going to be the formula for most of the rest of the series, which is something I’m not a fan of. But, seeing as how I couldn’t figure it all out on my own, it’s nice having it explained. 🙂

The diary plays on Ginny’s feelings for Harry, as well as her insecurities as a young, adolescent girl. I can relate to that, and I can see how she could have been taken advantage of because of this. Harry has grown in his bravery and his cunning, as well as battling even bigger internal conflicts. That moment in Dumbledore’s office exemplifies most of us – during hard times we are immensely torn, we weight the ramifications of our actions, and we question, Am I doing the right thing? The Harry-Ron-Hermione gang has become more confident as a whole. The interactions between various students, which reveal loyalties and animosities, is very real.

Overall, I enjoyed this book (as I did the first, and probably all to come), with the exception of the light bulb idea above. Rowling, give us some more options! If you’ve never read the Harry Potter series, I highly encourage you to do so. It is truly an enjoyable (and easy) read.

Check out what Harry, Ron and Hermione will run into in the next book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone… what’s left to say, really?

Book Cover (U.S.)
Book Cover (U.S.)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic Press, 1997)

Genre: Fiction, young adult (YA), fantasy, supernatural

I rated this book a 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. This is basically how I reviewed the book on Goodreads, with just a little extra fluff here.

Curriculum Building Ideas:

  • Language Arts: Reader’s Notebook, Literary Circles, Guided Reading Groups, Writer’s Workshop, Sequencing, Plot, Character Map/Analysis, Inferences/Predictions, Connections (Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World), Graphic Organizers, Book vs. Movie (i.e. Venn Diagram, Persuasive Essay), Reader’s Theatre
  • Social Studies: Scale Diagram of Hogwarts, Map of Hogwarts, Timeline of Hogwarts vs. Real World…
  • Science: “Making Potions” – using the correct measurements of ingredients to cause a reaction, what kind of reaction when mixing different ingredients…

There have been numerous reviews of Harry Potter to date, and  Rowling has racked up many awards for this novel.  I’m going to try and stay away from writing things that can be easily found in other reviews from years past. Note that I am now nearly 24 years old and this is my first time reading Harry Potter, which was published when I was in elementary school. I remember my mother reading them, and then my middle brother. I was into other genres, and for some reason I had an unfounded stigma toward Harry Potter. But I have seen the first four movies; I didn’t really keep up with the latter movies. I didn’t know what was going on because I missed out on so much that was in the books. I wish that I had read Harry Potter as I was growing up, instead of waiting – I feel that I’ve lost a lot of the magic in waiting, and also in seeing the movies before reading the books. The basic premise of Harry Potter is about Harry Potter himself, and discovering who and what he is, where he came from and his quest to becoming what he’s destined to become – a great wizard, with a bond not seen before in the wizard world of magic (i.e. Voldemort).

Harry Potter comes to live with his relatives, the Dursleys, on Privet Drive. They are a snobbish, rude lot (I would use stronger adjectives, but this is kid-friendly) who dote on their simpleton, bully of a son. Harry is treated horribly by the family, and I honestly don’t know why he stayed. I would have found myself on the doorsteps of the Child Protective Services agency.

Since this is a coming-of-age  novel, we know there is going to be a drastic change. This change comes in the form of a letter from Hogwarts School of Wizardry, where Harry is accepted. Harry has no clue what this is or that it even exists. He does not know the difference between those born with magical powers, and those born without magical powers (known as Muggles). And in that, he does not know that he is extremely famous in the world of magic, or why. Harry embarks on this journey to Hogwarts and magic, and meets a lot of new friends along the way.

Rowling creates a world that is easy to understand, especially for younger ages. I would recommend this book to any average reader of about age nine or ten. She uses language unique to the world she has created, and her writing style is easy to interpret. The story is developed with a strong plot, and a spattering of characters. All of the characters are interconnected and play integral roles in the plot and development of the main problem, and other minor problems (excluding characters briefly mentioned or those who simply have one line).

Rowling develops characters with dynamics  with realistic characteristics that we can relate to: Hermoine is extremely bossy, Ron is a worry rat, Hagrid is kind and gentle, Dumbledore is wise, etc. Some seem to have their own motives (Snape, Quirrell) that are not known to the reader, and those motives are the umph behind the plot and the problem. But in the end Harry and his gang have not got everything figured out quite like they and are in for a surprise. The first book in the Harry Potter saga ends with the conclusion of Harry’s first year at Hogwarts, and returning to Privet Drive and the dreaded Dursleys for the summer.