Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Wishes I’d Ask The Book Genie To Grant Me

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. We’d love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists. For the list of past topics and future schedule, click here.

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10 Wishes I’d Ask The Book Genie To Grant Me

I’m not going to be greedy today. I only have seven wishes.

 

Firstly, I want my dream library…in my dream house…to house all my other wishes.

Then I would like Jacky Faber to come to life and be my best friend.

And THEN I would like Jamie Fraser to come to life and be my husband.

 

The Harry Potter series

 

The Little House series

This Outlander-inspired ring from Hamilton & Young

 

one of these sets of these Outlander-inspired Da Mi Basia Mille cuffs from The Author’s Attic

Review + Giveaway: Family Magic

FamilyMagicBanner1-1024x690Welcome to my stop for Family Magic by Patti Larsen! This is a young adult paranormal that won 1st place in World’s Best Story contest and is published by Premiere. The tour runs August 3-31 with mostly reviews as well as author interviews and guest posts. Check out all of the other stops on the tour schedule.

Family-Magic-200x300Title: Family Magic
Author: Patti Larsen
Publisher: Premiere
Release Date: May 2015
Length: 466 pages
Series?: Hayle Coven #1
Genre: YA, Paranormal

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Her mom’s a witch. Her dad’s a demon. And she just wants to be ordinary.

Sydlynn Hayle’s life couldn’t be more complicated. Trying to please her coven, starting over in a new town, and fending off a bully cheerleader who hates her are just the beginning of her troubles. What to do when delicious football hero Brad Peters–boyfriend of her cheer nemesis–shows interest? If only the darkly yummy witch, Quaid Moromond, didn’t make it so difficult for her to focus on fitting in with the normal kids. Add to that her crazy grandmother’s constant escapes driving her family to the brink and Syd’s between a rock and a coven site. Forced to take on power she doesn’t want to protect a coven who blames her for everything, only she can save her family’s magic. If her family’s distrust doesn’t destroy her first.

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Sydlynn Hayle definitely lives a complicated life. She lives with her coven leader mother, younger demon sister Meira, a demon trapped in a cat’s body (best cat ever), and crazy grandmother. Her demon father lives in another plane. Oh, and her vampire uncle and cousin live in the basement cupboards. She wants no part of being a witch, part of the coven, or anything to do with her magic or demon. She fights hard against her mother, resisting as much as she can, but at school she is still an outcast and not the “normal” that she strives to be. It doesn’t help that she’s constantly having to start over. And then things just start getting all around strange, at home and at school.

At school, Syd has caught the eye of the bully cheerleader Alison, but also the eye of Alison’s boyfriend Brad, too. Alison is pure evil, but Brad tries being a kind friend. One day Syd turns the tables and befriends Alison. Meanwhile, a childhood friend of her mother’s returns to town with her family (the Moromonds) to join the coven and very strange things start happening. Syd starts noticing a black dog around town every time something bad happens. Her mother’s friend seems just like the mean girls she deals with at school. Quaid smirks at her at every opportunity, and gets her thinking about hard she’s trying to fit in.

The longer the Moromonds are around, the weirder and weirder it gets. Her grandmother suddenly begins escaping, which could level the entire town if given enough time. She butts heads with her mother at every opportunity, until she has to get over herself for the greater good of the coven that she’s wanted for so long to turn her back on.

The Players

I, Sydlynn Hayle, sixteen-year-old All-American girl, was a witch. Every single person in my life, much to my disappointment fell into that category. Lucky me. Except I spent my entire life wanting nothing more than to be normal, average, ordinary and just like everyone else.

Sydlynn Hayle – Syd wants no part in her magic or the coven, she wants to be released when she’s 18, and wants nothing more than a normal life, but she loves her mother and sister deeply that it is sometimes conflicting

In the ‘real world,’ Meira had to disguise her unusual coloring, her overlarge eyes and cute little horns peeking out of her silky black curls.

Meira Hayle – Meira is the 8-year-old sister of Syd, she clearly sports the visage of her demon heritage, she loves Syd very much and is generally a happy kid

She swept back the hood of her cloak, her long, thick and perfect black hair a flawless halo around her gorgeous face. Her eyes glowed with joy, cheeks flushed from the rush of energy from the coven.

Miriam Hayle – Miriam is the leader of a 100+ coven of witches, she is very strong and powerful and the head of the household in the normal world, struggles with her relationship with Syd

Ethpeal Hayle had once been an influential witch. An evil coven challenged our family. She stood against them alone, cutting herself off to protect the rest of us, but the fight scrambled her sanity.

“Gram” Ethpeal Hayle  – mischevious grandma, famous within the Purity coven, single-handedly defeated an evil coven, now thrives on chocolate and tequila

His chiseled face creased in a soft smile, gentle, even welcoming. My dad was a nice demon.

Haralthazar – goes by “Harry,” is Miriam’s husband and Syd and Meira’s father, he is Demon Lord of the Seventh Plane of Demonicon

His plush, silky fur stood on end, pushed-in nose glistened between eyes snapping anger, plume of tail thrashing against the patchwork quilt as he growled at me.

Sassafrass – a horrible demon teenager the elders punished by placing in a silver Persian cat’s body, called Sass for short

There are several other characters, members of the coven and the friends and enemies Syd makes at school that we meet along the way.

First Impressions

At first I was not too keen to pick up this book and read. It seemed to “out there” for me, considering I have a fine line when it comes to fantasy, paranormal and sci-fi. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go, so I was actually slightly dreading picking up the book.

Second Thoughts

And once I picked it up I literally could not put it down. I read it entirely in one setting.

Being part of a demon raising is way less exciting than it sounds.

That is the line that got me. I was hooked. Larsen did it all through her character’s voice. Syd’s voice – dripping teenager – is captivating and pulled me along with the story, which was very fast-paced. There wasn’t a moment of pause in the plot, but it wasn’t rushed either. It was paced perfectly and everything that happens happens for a reason.

As much as I suppressed my magic from day to day and refused to use it all, the draw of the coven and my attachment to it made it impossible to deny. 

Syd has always tried to deny and ignore her magic despite having to partake in bi-annual coven ceremonies. The trouble is she is also a powerful witch like her mother, and not training herself in how to use her magic properly proves to be catastrophic.

I found it very interesting the world that Larsen built. The witches can feel out one another and know when they are present in the normal world, and they can also have connections to one another or other life forms (such as Syd’s demon father) in other planes.

Syd’s relationship with her mother is an interesting explosion waiting to happen, and it often implodes in on Syd. She hates her mother for forcing her into the coven life, leaving her no real choices, and always blaming and accusing her.

Her sister, Meira, is always there to comfort Syd after these disastrous blow ups. I loved seeing the softer side of Syd with Meira, and later at school with Alison.

My favorite scenes were the ones when Syd was showing great strength of character. She has some precious moments with her mother, shows Alison a different way, has a few moments with Brad, and takes the time to think for herself in some sticky situations with greedy power-hungry traitors.

The book ends with an entire new world of possibilities opening up, and I already started making my own predictions. I am very interested to know what will happen in the future for the Hayle coven, and what other mischief Gram cooks up. I definitely recommend this to paranormal readers, and anyone in a reading slump.

***** About the Author *****

Patti is an award-winning author with a passion for the paranormal. Now with multiple series in happy publication, she lives in Canada with her patient husband and six demanding cats.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** Giveaway *****

5 paperback copies of Family Magic (US/CA) and a $25 Amazon gift card (INT)

Ends 9/6

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

THIS EVENT WAS ORGANIZED BY CBB BOOK PROMOTIONS.

Review + Giveaway: Citadel of the Sky

CitadelOfTheSky

Welcome to my tour stop for Citadel of the Sky by Chrysoula Tzavelas! This is an adult epic fantasy (clean and appropriate for YA readers) and the tour runs June 1-12 with reviews only. As you can see, I am one of the first stops on the tour, so I hope you enjoy and check out the rest of what’s to follow on the tour schedule.

CitadelOfTheSkyBookImageTitle: Citadel of the Sky
Author: Chrysoula Tzavelas
Publisher: dreamfarmer press
Release Date: May 2015
Length: 162 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Fantasy

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon 

Her (not very) Serene Highness Princess Tiana tries her best not to think about the dark lords ravaging her country or how the magic in her bloodline makes her family go mad. The descendant of a legendary hero, she prefers bringing the myths of old to life on the theater stage, not on the battlefield.

Then a rash of suspicious deaths strikes the Regents—trusted advisors, friends, and guides to her troubled royal family—and the Noble’s Council tries to cover it all up. Tiana is determined to get to the bottom of the murders and the conspiracy, even if that means making a dangerous pact with a telepathic demon trapped in a magical sword. But he may just be the edge she needs to save the people she loves.Cursed sword in hand, Tiana and her friends prepare to face the encroaching darkness­—and the ultimate truth about her and her family.

***** Review *****

Great-Uncle Jant’s Regent died of old age, and Cousin Cathay’s Regent was thrown from his horse, and Uncle Yithiere’s Regent had a heart attack, but it was all just bad luck until the King’s Regent died. It took more than bad luck to tear somebody’s arm off. It took a fiend, or a team of horses, or somebody really spiteful.

Those are some pretty powerful words, and the opening paragraph of the book. Citadel of the Sky is an intriguing mix of royalty, politics, history, conspiracy and suspicion. It also has an immense fantasy aspect.

Despite having these wonderful elements, I struggled getting started. The author could have done a better job front-loading readers with the basics of Tiana’s world, the phantasmagory and the creatures. All of the characters were quickly thrown at readers, and for a while it was hard to make the connections between them. I discovered that there was a characters list and a family tree in the back of the book. It would have helped me tremendously if I’d seen it before I started reading.

However, don’t be fooled. The plot is strong and filled with imagination. Tzavelas definitely put creativity to the test, and the action builds and then hits a crescendo and becomes very fast-paced.

The characters are what make the story worthwhile. They are interesting, complex, and for a royal family in the midst of troubled times, resilient. The royal family (the Blood) are blessed with magic, but a magic that leads to madness. It is all very psychological and readers get to see this first-hand. The characters work together to protect the Blood and to discover the inconsistencies in which they all grew up knowing as truth.

There is a fairly wide cast of characters, and the POV shifts between Tiana and Kiar. Like the rest of the royal family members and attendants, they each have a role throughout the book. I feel that those who were prominently featured will have bigger roles in the following installments. I enjoyed the deviation from the female character trope of strength and perfection in order for them to be interesting. Each female character has her own set of flaws, and these anomalies are what makes each one her own person and not a hazy, glossed over character in the background.

Tiana is the main character of the novel, but she is by far not the main focus. She is a young woman who resents being seen and treated as fragile, and she tries to act normal. Her counterpart, Kiar, is a very introverted character. On the exterior she is poised and in control, of course by doing those introverted things such as avoiding others and emotions, but on the inside she is consumed with self-doubt.

Tiana’s father, King Shonathan, just kind of drifts along throughout life trying to avoid any painful memories. Another royal cousin, Shanasee, has the greatest magical power of any of the royals. Despite having the most intense and powerful magic, Shanasee refuses to use it due to the horrific results of her actions while trying to end the previous magical threat to their kingdom.

We have Regents, who are our keepers, and we need them, because we can’t control ourselves, because we are mad, lost, cursed. 

The Regents are another complexity within the book and royal clan. They are in a strange area of gray, where they are not royal, they are not court attendants or followers, and they are not commoners. Instead, the Regents substantiate the royals as friend and relative. They also fall along the lines of a caregiver in many ways. Those selected as Regents grew up alongside the royals and they serve to help the royals control their magic.

After a time she heard, **Do not banish me from your hand. It would not help you. You will hear my voice, no matter how far you go.**

Now the sword sounded desperate, and she felt the barest twinge of pity. But she said, “Cathay is drawn to swords, and when I’m lost in the phantasmagory, I’m unpredictable.” She considered, and added, “Besides, you just stole my body. I don’t want you near me.” 

The middle of the book is where I was hooked – particularly Tiana’s budding relationship with the magical sword, Jinriki, sent to protect and teach Tiana. It can read Tiana’s mind, her thoughts, and also respond in kind. They get off to a rocky start, but their banter is crafted well and quite a draw.

**…In any case, you are my bearer now, and pretty princesses are far more likely to encounter unwanted suitors, in many forms than thieves.**

“What about wanted suitors?” 

**Do you desire suitors?**

“Well, yes!”

**Ah. That could be awkward.**

The ending fell slightly flat for me. Personally, I don’t typically like cliffhangers, and the book closed on a major cliffhanger that just wasn’t satisfying. I wanted things to be a little bit more clearly defined, but this makes me confident that the second installment will start off with a bang.

***** About the Author *****

As an Air Force kid, Chrysoula went to twelve schools in twelve years and spent a lot of time wondering what made people tick. Books, it turned out, helped with that question. These days she lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, which includes many small and demanding creatures who fight over her attention. Her first book, urban fantasy MATCHBOX GIRLS, was published in 2012 by the small press Candlemark & Gleam, followed annually by two more books in the same SENYAZA Series, all of which explore the impact of the supernatural on those who are— or who want to be— ordinary. Her next book, CITADEL OF THE SKY, is the first of a new series about the descendants of a Chosen One and the legacy of power and mental illness they’ve inherited. It’s also about Dark Lords and kicking butt in nice dresses.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** Giveaway *****

The author will be giving away $10 Gift Card to online bookseller of choice (INT) to three winners of the below Rafflecopter.  The giveaway ends June 16th.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

Book Review + Giveaway: This Crumbling Pageant

Title: This Crumbling Pageant
Author: Patricia Burroughs
Publisher: Story String Publisher
Release Date: May 2014
Length: 608 pages
Series?: The Fury Triad #1
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Dystopian(ish)
Format: e-book
Source: CBB Promotions

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

Synopsis

Persephone Fury is the Dark daughter, the one they hide.

England, 1811. Few are aware of a hidden magical England, a people not ruled by poor mad George, but the dying King Pellinore of the House of Pendragon.

The Furys are known for their music, their magic, and their historic role as kingmakers. When Fury ambitions demand a political marriage, Persephone is drugged and presented to Society – only to be abducted from the man she loves by the man she loathes.

But devious and ruthless, Persephone must defy ancient prophecy, embrace her Dark magic, and seize her own fate.

Be swept away into the first book of a dark fantasy series combining swashbuckling adventure, heart-pounding romance, and plot-twisting suspense.

Giveaway: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review

This book is something else. I was pushing myself to read this book – for a long time in the beginning the book drags. Burroughs is not one for giving things away – or really giving sly hints, which frustrated me. The narration was very lengthy and the descriptions very wordy, but it was written beautifully – in the way my sixth graders talk and reference the older time periods when we read things by Mark Twain and F. Scott Fitzgerald: They were much smarter than us…or they just sound like they are. I felt very limited in what knowledge I was gaining of the characters, plot and setting.

It wasn’t until the half-way mark that the plot started picking up speed and I felt that I was getting more of the picture revealed, and Burroughs did this purposefully. Things really started taking off, and I continuously kept re-evaluating my opinions of the characters and the predictions I was making because I started to realize that the perceptions that Persephone has grown up with for 18 years, what she held as true and valued, might not be what it appeared to be.

The novel begins with Persephone at a young age. She is born into the Fury family, who all seem to be blessed with magical musical talent. Some of the Fury siblings have various magical talents that prove beneficial and important in the novel.

Persephone is a twin, and long-cursed to have stolen her twin brother’s magic while in the womb. She lives with this nasty upset, and is always mindful of the rumors. Her twin, Dardanus, is very sweet, but truly lacks magical powers. He is, however, able to calm Persephone with a simple touch. An older sibling is also gifted as a Seer, which none take too seriously at first…until Persephone is rescued by a man with hair of flame, Sir Robin, who casts an approving eye on Persephone’s older and beautiful sister Electra. Robin’s rescue comes as a wonderful gift, and he becomes a close friend of the Fury family, and Persephone holds him in the highest regard, even if he is only a baronet.

This novel is set in a time when societal pressures and demands are the strongest of sway in matters and concerns of the utmost importance and the most banal and trivial. The Furys have never been ones to flaunt themselves at Court and to the Ton, but when they so deem they can throw a ball that will be remembered for a long time to come.

The novel shifts forward in time from young Persephone’s rescue to around her 17th year, when she is coming out to the Ton at her very own ball. There are some tidbits of the missing years thrown in, and two very important details that comes back to haunt the Fury family. All of these actions are put in motion at Persephone’s ball.

Persephone must maintain the proper social etiquette and follow the expectations of her family and her Crown, which is hard to do when her heart wants one thing and she is rigidly expected to do another. She has stronger powers than she, or anyone else, knows what to do with. Even though she has amazing magical ability, she is expected to follow the traditional gender role: go onto the marriage market, marry well politically, raise a family. But Persephone is most unique, and I knew right off that was not something that was up her alley. She is not a girl to daydream about wistful and silly girl things; she is a girl bent on seeking knowledge and learning.

…and then she gets kidnapped and plunged into a world of Dark magic…

She comes face to face with her brothers’ former tutor, who denied her knowledge and access to learning in his classroom. Needless to say, Persephone still carries this grudge around with her and this conflict between them is a driving force for most of the novel. Persephone’s carefully crafted world, the honorable aura that clings to all her family holds in high regard, is about to come crumbling down around her – and she must rely on a very unlikely source to go against all she’s known.

I am still not sure I have a firm grasp of the various terms Burroughs used: Fireborn, Earthborn, Magi, Quality and Ordinary. Persephone and her family live in a Magi world, a clone of Earth, just in magical, hidden form from ordinary humans. Her great ancestor, a lowly and uncommon man, ensured that the Magi people would be safe after Christians began their persecutions and witch hunts in England, and Bardan Fury was the man who made the king, the Pendragon lineage to take hold of this new and secret world. The Magi can go back and forth between the Magi world and the Ordinary world, but with a few magical stipulations. Quality kept being referred to as those of the upper classes in the novel, which is a strong societal structural characteristic throughout the book. I do not know how to explain Earthborn and Fireborn, except that Earthborn are Ordinary people with no magical powers. I was not clear if Fireborn was a Fury-only thing, or if it applied to all who live in the Magi world.

Overall, this was a very good read. I wish, wish, wish I could share more, but it will unravel all of the carefully crafted work that Burroughs has done with this novel. It is written beautifully, and if you can get through the first half that drags like I did, you will find a gem of a read in this book. For the longest, I could not understand the connection between the title and the book, until things set into motion in the latter half. Then it made perfect sense.

The book ends with a very surprising twist and ends on a cliffhanger and I am very intrigued to get my hands on the next installment in this series.

About the Author

Award-winning screenwriter and best selling novelist Patricia Burroughs loves dogs, books, movies, and football. A lifelong Anglophile, she treasures her frequent travels in the British Isles researching The Fury Triad, the epic fantasy that has taken over her life and heart. She and her high school sweetheart husband are living happily ever after in their hometown of Dallas, Texas.

Find the author: Website | Planet Pooks Website | Mailing ListFacebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: Through the Portal

12619949Title: Through the Portal
Author: Justin Dennis
Release Date: August 2011
Length: 252 pages
Series?: Through the Portal #1
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Fantasy
Format: e-book
Source: author

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

Synopsis

When Jem and Oliver accidentally fall through a portal to another world just before their first year of high school, they quickly discover that all is not well here. The first person they meet, a creepy old man named Atychis, almost gets them killed by a ferocious, fire-breathing dragon. They’re only narrowly saved when Sierra, a shy farm girl from a nearby town, uses illegal magic to help them escape. Allowed to stay with her family while they try to figure out a way back home, Jem and Oliver begin to learn of magic and the Regime that is oppressing it.

It isn’t until the Regime kills a woman that the three kids realize they have to do something to stop the Regime from taking over completely. After being framed for a crime they didn’t commit and banished from the town, Jem, Oliver, and Sierra take off on an adventure across this strange world in an attempt to defeat the Regime. New creatures and new kinds of magic are around every corner, but so are dangers that could have them wishing they were back safe at home. 

Through the Portal is the first book in a planned trilogy.

Review

I have mixed feelings about this book. What do I mean by that?

This was a difficult book for me to get through. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a wonderful and great story. This book was a very stick-it-to-the-man, defy-the-system type, which little ol’ scrappy me likes, but it was just too slow at the beginning, and about mid-way through it started slacking off again, and then again toward the end. I would fall asleep many nights with my Kindle in my hands, trying to get through a few more pages. The chapters were extraordinarily long for a piece of fiction. Perhaps that contributed to this feeling of “I’m never going to finish this book!”

Now, with that said: this is a book that could be made into the next big blockbuster. I would actually look forward to seeing this story play out on the big screen.

Oliver is a youth from a world of privilege. His parents have money enough, he has a younger sibling that adores him. His family has got it going on. Oliver is strong-willed and outspoken. Bold.

Jem is a troubled boy from the other side of the tracks. His parents died in a skydiving incident when he was a babe, and he has been raised by his ailing and blind grandmother ever since. He is very poor and knows that it wouldn’t matter if he disappeared: his grandmother wouldn’t even notice. 😦  Jem is that cowering kid in the corner, the exact opposite of Oliver.

Growing up, kids weeded out and picked on Jem because of his background. Oliver stood up for him, and they became fast friends. Oliver’s family would take Jem with them on trips, and he became an extension of their family.

This fact, the two main characters being foils of one another, immediately made me imagine all kinds of conflict to play out in this book. Fortunately, nothing compared with what I imagined, and their friendship remained intact.

I don’t know what type of time frame this book covers – it’s not very specific – and that’s something I was interested to know. Oliver and Jem fall through a portal at the bottom of Lake Sammamich (near Seattle) and wash ashore in a new world: Callisto. They are found by Atychis, a former Elder of the Argo region. Atychis is certifiable, and readers truly find out just how much so at the end of the book. They also have a run-in with the Red Dragon.

Jem and Oliver also meet Sierra and her older sister Rimaya, who’s dad is a stringent Regime follower. The Regime, under the power of Veroci, has little by little taken over almost all of Callisto and outlawed magic. And that’s where Jem, Oliver, Sierra, and Rimaya get into trouble.

The Terello family has graciously offered their home to Jem and Oliver, who help out on the farm. The boys are trying to come to grips with this new world, and what exactly is going on. They go to the local cafe to have some fizzies, and BAM! They are on “trial” for a major crime they didn’t commit. They see just how far the Regime will go to maintain control, and they flee.

Growing up in Argo, Sierra has been told all her life of legends: the legend of the Red Dragon, the Phoenix, the world of Kelados, the legend of 1000 Curses. The Regime has structured the world so that citizens remain in the region they were born into. There is no crossing the borders, for they have magnificently implemented the Legend of 1000 Curses: you cross the regional border into another region, you are cursed with 1000 curses, one of which is to grow a third leg. Obviously, Oliver and Jem see right through this ploy.

The three continue on throughout the world of Callisto, which is divided into six regions, pursued by Regime guards, all while trying to develop their magical skills. They come upon a scene that is very familiar to Oliver and Jem: a kid, Farouche, getting picked on by a gang of kids. Farouche turns out to be quiet a little inventor, and follows them in secret. The entire journey, people are constantly making unremarkable comments about Jem’s eyes being blue. It was starting to drive me crazy, because readers don’t find out why until the last quarter of the book.

Along the way, they have to make some serious choices about where they belong. They come face-to-face with Veroci himself after being betrayed by a second Elder, and end up in a land uninhabited by Regime outposts. They come to live a comfortable and safe life in the region of Luria, with an Elder who is honest, and hell-bent on defeating the Regime, but secretive. But the Red Dragon also lurks in the skies of Luria.

Jem and Sierra are a unique pair; she will stick by his side no matter what, even through her fears. Through an unfortunate set of events, Jem becomes convinced that Veroci is hoarding an army of Regime guards in the North Island, a place that is almost inhospitable, even though everyone else remains unconvinced.

The two also learn of a portal that goes to Kelados, and of course go looking for it, and are attacked by the Red Dragon…but Jem notices that the dragon has a rider. They are rescued and nursed back to health, but discover that Jem has a very unique quality about him. Scientists and doctors try again and again unsuccessfully to get him to exhibit the talents of his new quality. The determine he cannot bring these talents to fruitation, but Sierra knows they will. She jumps off the roof to test her theory, which proves correct. After this discovery, they set off for North Island…and encounter the Red Dragon and its rider.

I wish I could talk about the ending, but I can’t. My blabbermouth would give it away, but I will say that it is a fantastic ending! I will say this: Jem shares with Sierra that his parents’ bodies were never found, and I have a feeling they will show up in one of the sequential books.

I was impressed with the transformation of Jem, in particular, in this book. He starts off as only what I can imagine as the Coward of the County, and grows and develops beyond his previous limits. He sheds this outer skin, because before it seemed as if he was riding on Oliver’s coat tails. It would have been an interesting story if Oliver had stayed in Callisto, to see how things would have turned out.

2About the Author

Justin Dennis is from the rainy state of Washington but is going to college in sunny California. Soccer, which he used to play in high school, is his favorite sport, and he has in interest in creative writing, anthropology, and physics. He is a huge tech nerd who is obsessed with the newest and shiniest phones, tablets, and computers.

Writing occupies almost all of his time. The Through the Portal trilogy is his effort to inspire good morals in an entertaining and exciting way. Through fantasy, he believes that important real world lessons can be conveyed effectively.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

cover art
cover art

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 Half-Blood Prince

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic Press, 2005)

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: 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.

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SPOILERS from BOOK 4 & 5

We already know from previous books that Harry has had a couple throw-downs with Lord Voldemort, and being at Hogwarts is his protection. From the last book we now know he has a very dedicated group of people, The Order of the Phoenix, as well as dedicated friends. The Order is working to ultimately bring down Lord Voldemort and thwart his plans for takeover. Things got very dicey in the last book, and many Death Eaters are now in Azkaban, while others are out. As if Harry didn’t have enough hanging over his head, he hears the eery prophecy when it breaks at the Ministry of Magic. Interestingly enough, Voldemort thinks Harry’s retrieved it. I was sure that’s what this book was going to center around – the great prophecy….

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies … and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not … and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … 

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Snape makes the Unbreakable Vow

Despite having committed, dedicated friends who have his back, Harry has not told Ron or Hermione about the prophecy. Only he and Dumbledore know what the prophecy says, although there is much speculation flying around in The Daily Prophet, which has know quite quickly changed its tune from Harry Potter/Dumbledore hater to Harry is the “Chosen One.” Dumbledore urges Harry to tell Ron and Hermione, but still is reluctant. He does so, but leaves out the part about the prophecy possibly being about Neville, and how Voldemort chose Harry, thinking that’s who the prophecy intended (based on his very limited information). Dumbledore has also returned to school with a blackened, shriveled hand that he continually puts off explaining…as well as an interesting ring that was a Slytherin heirloom. Dumbledore also instructs Harry to carry his Invisibility Cloak with him at all times…

I noticed straight off in this book that Harry is exuding more thought processing than has been shown in previous books, and it’s due largely in part to the fact that Hermione and Ron aren’t as concerned with what Draco Malfoy is doing, where he’s going, and they don’t believe Harry when he admits that he believes Draco to be a Death Eater. And another very odd thing happens: Snape has been given the green light to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, a post he’s been pining to teach for over 15 years, and rejected each year. He is also firm in his belief that Sirius’ death is Snape’s fault, due to Snape taunting Sirius’ inability to really contribute to the Order, being holed up at 12 Grimmauld Place.

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Professor Slughorn returns to Hogwarts

Harry is taking private lessons with Dumbledore and learns some interesting history about Lord Voldemort. Through these lessons he learns nothing he really doesn’t already know about Voldemort’s character, but he does learn extremely valuable information regarding Voldemort’s past. Meanwhile, Dumbledore is not getting along well with the new Minister of Magic, who was previously the head of the Auror department at the Ministry. And for good reason to, as we find out. The new Potions Professor, Slughorn, is trying to collect student who have strong connections to powerful or famous wizards into an exclusive club….and Draco is quite trite that he’s not been invited to join and partake of all the activities.

During a Potions class, Harry is assigned a temporary book that has additional notes for potion-making and even some made-up charms, with a scribbling on the back cover that the book belongs to the Half-Blood Prince. There’s no indication who this Prince is, but I immediately thought it was Voldemort – given that he’s always lamented and cursed his Muggle father. Harry, however, thinks that the Half-Blood Prince is his own father, James. Hermione is irritated that Harry follow’s the Half-Blood Prince’s annotations and directions and is suddenly excelling in Potions class – even surpassing Hermione.

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Puzzled over the Half-Blood Prince

However, just as a rift occurred before between Ron and Hermione, another one does…over the same set of circumstances: matters of the heart. Ron and Hermione are secretly crushing on the other, but are at odds about it. Ron is quite mean to Hermione, who avoids being present like Ron’s carrying the Black Plague. And there’s another unsuspected crush going on for Harry, and he’s apt to keep it secret and quiet. And the icing on the cake for the first semester is Katie Bell being cursed by a mysterious necklace that she mysteriously came into possession of and needed to deliver to someone…at Hogwarts. The very same necklace Harry say Draco Malfoy looking at years before in Knockturn Alley. She gets sent to St. Mungo’s.

To show off his fame (by association), Slughorn invites many to a Christmas party. Draco is found trying to sneak in, and an odd moment is exchanged between him and Snape. Harry secretly follows them and overhears a conversation that is quite questionable – and once again brings the matter of Snape’s loyalties and trust to the forefront. This information is of course brushed off by Ron, Mr. Weasley and Remus at Christmas, when a very unexpected and unwelcome visitor (by everyone but Mrs. Weasley) shows up at the Burrow: Percy – with the Minister in tow! The Minister essentially wants Harry to make the Ministry look good, and he wants privileged information of Dumbledore’s comings and goings. He gets quite angry when Harry refuses:

He raised his right fist. There, shining white on the back of his cold hand, were the scars which Dolores Umbridge had forced him to carve into his own flesh: I must not tell lies.

“I don’t remember you rushing to my defense when I was trying to tell everyone Voldemort was back. The Ministry wasn’t so keen to be pals last year.”

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Harry’s homework task – collecting a memory

This is quite a risky move, given the power the Minister of Magic holds and Harry’s shaky past with the Ministry. Even riskier, Harry openly admits that his is “Dumbledore’s man, through and through.” He has definitely declared his allegiance.

Upon the return to Hogwarts, Harry begins religiously hunting for Malfoy on the Maurader’s Map, hoping to catch him up to something…but at times, Harry can’t find Malfoy on the map! How can he be leaving the grounds? Other revelations continue to pop up for the remainder of the book, setting Harry on edge and making him continually wonder and ponder – and possibly jump to conclusions. Dumbledore sets him what seems an impossible task, but it is the final piece of the puzzle explaining how Voldemort came to be what he is  – and the secret to possibly toppling his crudely-built empire of power.

This book will definitely leave you shocked, wondering and questioning just as Harry has always done. It will completely throw readers, and it leaves the fate of Hogwarts up in the air. I said of the last book that it was set apart from the rest of the series because it was setting some big things in motion – and this book has definitely shown a glimpse of that. I expect Rowling to go no-holds-barred for the final book of the series.

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 Deathly Hallows.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic Press, 2003)

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: 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. Also note that there are spoilers in this review toward the end.

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 and his minions.)

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. The fifth book of the series is the most volatile of the series so far. Remember how we thought Ron and Harry’s fight about the Triwizard Tournament was a big deal? That’s chump change compared to what’s going on in this installment of the series.

They want to turn you into someone nobody will believe. Fudge is behind it. 

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Fudge & Lucius Malfoy

Strange things are going on in the wizarding world – most notably, the Ministry of Magic’s rejection that Voldemort is back and on the prowl. They, and along with nearly daily articles in the Daily Prophet, insist Voldemort is dead, that Harry is an attention-seeking prat, AND that Dumbledore is senile! Indeed, the Ministry (namely, Minister Cornelius Fudge) has removed Dumbledore from every board or committee he sits on – even removed him from his position as Chief Warlock on the Wizengamot, The Wizard High Court. And then Dementors show up at Privet Drive, and Harry must use magic to defend himself and protect his cousin, Dudley. (Why he’d want to do that, I can’t imagine!) And…remember that time Dobby sent the cake flying and Harry accidentally blew up his “Aunt” Marge? Well, Cornelius Fudge is none the nice guy this time around. Harry must attend a hearing about his use of underage magic, in front of a Muggle no less! But Harry is not the only person with a wizarding background who lives near Privet Drive….

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The Original Order

Harry is not left to dread the coming day of his hearing. He is swooped up by a group of tight-knit wizards and witches, and taken to a special location: the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. The Order is a collection of witches and wizards assembled to monitor and investigate Lord Voldemort and foil his movements. Dumbledore heads the Order, and Harry learns that his parents, Sirius, Neville’s parents, and many others who died at the hand (or order, rather) of Voldemort. This time around, the Order has taken refuge in Sirius’ childhood home and it is safeguarded by having a Secret-Keeper (none other than Dumbledore himself). Mr. and Mrs. Weasley (and Bill and Charlie) are now members of the Order, with all their children and Hermione already in tow. Percy has had a serious row with his parents, and is cold-stoning them. Members of the Order have various tasks and duties, and it was the negligence of one assigned to be watching Harry on the particular night of August 2nd when the Dementors attacked that got Harry in this ruckus. Along the way, Harry expresses several emotions about Dumbledore and his friends for not revealing the Order sooner, or trusting him with information via owl. He does reconnect with Sirius, albeit Sirius’ grudge of being cooped up. (He is still a wanted man.) Harry learns some surprising information about Sirius’ family that I think will come into play in future books.

Poisonous toadstools don’t change their spots. 

At his hearing, Cornelius Fudge changes the location last-minute, trying to make Harry look bad in arriving late (which he does). Additionally, he has assembled the entire Wizengamot (of which he kicked Dumbledore off) to be present at the hearing. Dumbledore calmly unsettles Fudge, actually bringing him into a fit, over the laws and justification of Harry’s use of magic to ward off the Dementors. Harry impresses many of the Wizengamot that he could do so, but Fudge wants to get the whole thing over with without a proper trial. Dumbledore, of course, calls in a witness to testify on Harry’s behalf. The Council clears Harry of wrong-doing, but there is still a rather bitter, nasty taste left in Harry’s mouth about the whole ordeal, and especially the Ministry under Fudge’s direction.

If Luna was to be believed, the beasts had always been there but invisible; why, then, could Harry suddenly see them, and why could Ron not?

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Harry & Luna Lovegood

Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts and readers are introduced to a new character: Luna Lovegood. Luna is a fourth year with Ginny. She’s the quintessential “out-there” person (as perceived by others to be crazy), has an interest in Harry (in terms of his claims of Voldemort’s return), and she can see something no one else but Harry can see. But that’s not the strangest thing about returning to Hogwarts: Hagrid is nowhere to be found, and the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor is none other than the toady woman who sat in at Harry’s hearing, employed by the Ministry of Magic to bring Hogwarts under the Ministry’s thumb. Things are not the same at Hogwarts anymore.

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Delores Umbridge

Although it’s a benefit that Hermione and Ron have been selected as the Gryffindor Prefects, it doesn’t keep Harry from holding his tongue and telling the truth in a very tense and emotional argument between Harry and the new professor, Mrs. Umbridge, who criticizes Dumbledore openly and punishes those who talk out of turn by ignoring them like a five year-old. McGonagall herself tells Harry to watch his step around this woman, who additionally sparked a Red Scare by encouraging students to come forth with names of others who are supporting the idea that the Dark Lord has returned. Harry is indeed in a very tough spot, as some of his friends turn their back on him based on the Daily Prophet‘s writings, and the whole school is abuzz about his doings as well…and he’s too prideful to consult Dumbledore about any of this, as Dumbledore hasn’t sought him out to speak to him or would even look at him during his hearing. But it doesn’t end there. Cornelius Fudge is growing more paranoid by the day, convinced Dumbledore is preparing an army of wizards to go up against the Ministry…which explains Umbridge’s presence at Hogwarts. He’s pushing educational decrees into legislation, limiting the powers of Dumbledore at Hogwarts. But Fudge goes a step further, creating the very same inquisition at Hogwarts that Umbridge presented in her first class. Since she is not going to teach students, Hermione and Ron have cooked up the idea that Harry teach them! And they learn that Fudge has created the very thing he is afraid of…

With Harry’s volatile emotions and his anger with Dumbledore he begins experiencing some strange things that create tumult. A secret of Neville’s is revealed and Hermione finds a way to stick it to not only the horrible Umbridge, but also Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle and change public opinion of Harry and his revelation of the Dark Lord’s return…and in the process they lose the person they value the most.

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Of the series so far this book is set apart. Although Harry’s past at Hogwarts has been checkered with his run-ins with Voldemort and his followers, this one is setting some gargantuan ideas in motion that I think will come to fruition in later books. This book was quite a bit longer and Rowling did some fancy footwork, setting the stage so to speak. 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 Half-Blood Prince.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic Press, 2000)

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: 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. Also note that there are spoilers in this review toward the end.

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 and his minions.) 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.

The fourth book of the series doesn’t start out with Harry. Instead, we get a glimpse of the life of the Riddles – all who mysteriously die in the night of no determined cause. But each had a “look of terror on his or her face” and the long-time gardener overhears a plotting conversation and Harry awakes with his scar hurting. Oh boy.

Difference of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.

Harry is looking forward to the end of his summer and the Quidditch World Cup, between Ireland and Bulgaria. Mr. Weasley has scored the best seats in the house for the Weasley clan and Ron’s two friends. However, Harry takes note of some odd things Ron’s older brother Percy (now working at the Ministry of Magic) says about some peculiarities at the Ministry, as well as some other abnormal things about two heads of Ministry departments, Crouch and Bagman, and the odd disappearance of  Ministry woman in the last known location of You-Know-Who. Although the Quidditch match is quite rousing, something goes horribly wrong…

Death Eaters (Voldemort’s strongest supporters, cloaked and hooded) are storming the place seeking Muggle blood – and Harry, Ron and Hermione are in the wrong place at the wrong time when Voldemort’s Dark Mark is cast into the sky. Ministry officials are overwhelmingly suspicious of Harry, Ron and Hermione, until they find Crouch’s house-elf Winky standing in the spot where the Dark Mark was cast…with Harry’s wand! Crouch immediately dismisses the terrified Winky, but raises the question in everyone’s mind: Why did Crouch send Winky to save him a seat in the Top Box, where the Weasleys, Harry, Hermione, the Malfoys and other Ministry officials were seated, if he wasn’t going to show up for the Quidditch match? Harry knows he has to tell Sirius, still in hiding.

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The Goblet of Fire

Harry and Ron learn before setting off for Hogwarts that there won’t be any Quidditch matches or a Cup to be won – something quite different will be happening this school year. At the feast, Dumbledore explains all: a Triwizard Tournament!

A friendly competition between the three largest European schools of wizardry: Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang in which in the past the death toll mounted so high that the tournament was discontinued. YIKES!

The tournament has been restricted to wizards age seventeen and older so that unprepared wizards are not at risk. It will be judged by the three headmasters of the competing schools, as well as a few other objective judges including Crouch. One representative from each school (Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang) will be selected by the Goblet of Fire to be the “champion” of their school and compete in three tasks. Yet…Harry’s name is chosen as the fourth competitor! And he must compete – it’s the rules! No one believes him that he didn’t submit his name, and it sets a huge rift between Harry and Ron. A lot of anger lies between them, and Hermione is trying to bring them back together. Meanwhile, the whole school is angry at him, taunting him with ridiculous lies from a reporter’s article, flashing POTTER STINKS buttons. Everyone’s turned on Harry, and he’s definitely got the feeling of being and outcast. Sirius and the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Moody, are on alert: someone put Harry’s name in the Goblet of Fire – because they want him dead!

CONSTANT VIGILENCE!

"Mad-Eye" Moody
“Mad-Eye” Moody

Hogwarts gets a new, but rather old, Professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts. Indeed, “Mad-Eye” Moody is quite qualified: he used to work at the Ministry as an Auror (a Dark wizard catcher). Snape avoids Mad-Eye (as well as Drumstrang’s headmaster). He goes against Ministry restrictions for teaching: he wants students to be prepared for danger, and teaches students how to recognize the three Unforgivable Curses (one of which killed Harry’s parents), and how to combat them. And he also highly embarrasses Malfoy in quite a humorous way. He is obviously Harry’s secret champion, a fresh delight in the quite ugly and nastiness that is Snape.

They get a weird vibe from Durmstrang’s headmaster, Karkaroff. They’re on even higher alert when Karkaroff bursts into the dungeon during a Potions lesson. Harry fiddles and spills things to stay and overhear their conversation, with Karkaroff showing Snape something in great fear, who shushes him. And Harry finds Crouch himself ransacking Snape’s office from his magical map, which he hands over to Moody. If Crouch is so sick, as the Ministry and Percy Weasley are insisting, why is he sneaking into Hogwarts? Things are not adding up….

Hermione helps arrange for Harry to meet Sirius in late November in the Gryffindor common room. And boy does Sirius have a lot to say! He shares some scary information about Karkaroff, connecting him to Voldemort, and perhaps the reason Dumbledore wanted an Auror at Hogwarts…to keep Harry safe. Sirius is very strict in asking Harry to notify him of any strange happenings, which actually happens quite frequently.

Triwizard Tournament
Triwizard Tournament

Harry and Ron do make up; being boys, they leave things unsaid but Harry is more mindful of Ron and his feelings. The gang work together to help Harry complete the last two tasks. Harry gets in the good graces of Beauxbatons champion Fleur, and Karkaroff, is continually unfair in his judging marks for Harry’s tasks.

All the while, Hermione is hellbent on advocating for house-elves, who are basically slaves. But they’re delighted about their work, which Hermione doesn’t understand. Dobby and Mr. Crouch’s formerly employed Winky come to work at Hogwarts, and Winky reveals that Crouch has some rather dark secrets. Winky upholds that she won’t reveal them, and insists that Mr. Bagman is a bad man….but toward the end of the book we find out that Bagman and Crouch are kind of enemies and exactly what kind of secrets Winky has been keeping.

During Voldemort’s powerful time, Crouch was an avid prosecutor of his supporters – he was definitely on a manhunt. Harry gets the full experience of Crouch coldly sending his only child, his only son, to Azkaban without a trial, without an explanation as to how he got swept into the Dark Arts. Some insisted he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, which even Harry has been accused of…and which a young Bagman was also accused of. But his popularity as an England Quidditch player roused sympathy and support, which eliminated his connection with Voldemort. Crouch was none too happy that his peers let Bagman walk free. Indeed, throughout the entire book, play goes back and forth between Bagman and Crouch making readers think one is connected with Voldemort, who we learn some interesting information about. Harry also finds out who some of the other Death Eaters are, and is very surprised to find one of them is a professor at Hogwarts!

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Even Dumbledore was fooled…

During the final task, Harry saves Cedric’s butt a couple of times…and they find that Durmstrang’s champion is not what he seems. Harry is badly hurt, and he and Cedric make a monumental decision as to the outcome of the winning champion. And what they get is not at all what they expected, as Harry comes face to face with Voldemort again. And this time Voldemort’s out for blood – Harry’s – and death.

The ending is QUITE twisted – readers will definitely be thrown for a loop as all comes together and is explained. It is quite a lot, but brings Sirius to Harry’s side…and dually he reveals himself to Mrs. Weasley and Snape. Snape and Sirius unceremoniously agree to disagree over their tangled past at Dumbledore’s urging, and to help Harry and the wizarding world.

You are on the same side now. Time is short, and unless the few of us who know the truth stand united, there is no hope for any of us. 

Dumbledore sends Snape off on a covert task, that will be revealed in a later book. Sirius is sent to rally “the old gang.” Mr. Weasley is called upon to reach out to contacts in the Ministry who won’t turn a blind eye to the fact that Voldemort is back – and many within the Ministry who were cleared so many years ago are indeed still supporting the murderous Dark Lord.

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Durmstrang champion and Hermione

One thing of great note that’s different from the other books so far is that readers get more exposure to Harry’s inner thoughts – he wants to enter the Triwizard Tournament, he wants to cast an Unforgivable Curse on Snape, etc. This is probably due in large part to the volatile amount of anger Harry has, especially toward Ron, and feeling as if everyone at Hogwarts hates him.

Also of important note is the growing crush of Hermione and Ron. Ron is extremely jealous of Hermoine, how she spends her time and who she spends it with. It will be interesting to see if this continues throughout the series or if Hermione decides she’s had enough of Ron’s oafish ways.

No good sittin’ worryin’ abou’ it. What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does. 

Of the series so far, I think I enjoyed this book the most. It was quite a bit longer, but I loved the entire idea wrapped up in this book – Rowling did some thorough planning and dropped hints at just the right times. 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 Order of the Phoenix.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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Book #3 cover art

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (1999)

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).

spoiler-alert

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read the first two books, this may give some things away. Read at your own risk.

We already know from the first two books that the books is aligned with the school year at Hogwarts: it begins with Harry in the last few days or weeks of his summer stay with the Dursleys, and ends with him returning home on the train. We also know that through a little disobeying and curiosity that Harry (along with Ron and Hermione) will end up in some troubling situation, so far involving Voldemort. But Book #3 is a little different. Voldemort never makes an appearance, but  someone thought long dead does. This book involves a lot of history about Harry’s parents, James and Lily, and exposes the truth of their death and who really betrayed him.

Harry’s done it now: he’s on the run from the Dursleys AND the Ministry of Magic (he thinks). He is greeted in Diagon Alley by the Minister of Magic himself. He doesn’t care so much that Harry’s broken a law (performing magic in the Muggle world), he just wants Harry tucked away safe and sound in the Leaky Cauldron until school starts. Not long after the Weasleys follow suit, and Harry overhears a very scary conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. Sirius Black, Voldemort’s biggest supporter back in the day, imprisoned for 12 years in Azkaban for killing 13 people with one spell, is on the loose…and he’s coming for Harry!

Not only is Sirius after Harry, but so are other “death omens,” as always. On the train Harry runs into Dementors, vile life-sucking creatures, and is saved by a new professor. With Black on the loose, they are posted all over Hogwarts – and they keep coming after Harry, making him relive the death of his parents.

The new professor for the Defense Against the Dark Arts is truly a teacher, bringing new life to his students and much more applicable knowledge. He’s the best they’ve had, and he’s agreed to help Harry learn how to fight off the Dementors. But something odd happens once every month…he disappears for a while around the full moon.

Halloween night, Gryfindors are in for a shock when they return to the portrait hole and the Fat Lady has flown the coop, absolutely terrified – and the ravishes of the intruder’s anger left behind for all to see. None other than Sirius Black! The castle goes on lock down mode, with Black nowhere to be found.

There are some close calls for Harry and Ron (and Scabbers) as Sirius Black has snuck into the castle undetected again. Harry comes into possession of a special map, with secret passageways that he uses to travel from Hogwarts to the nearby wizarding town of Hogsmeade, using his Invisibility Cloak of course. But this map also shows people, and the direction they are going….

Unbeknownst to Harry and Ron, Hermione has been time traveling to take extra classes. She and Harry end up using it, at the hint from Dumbledore, to save two lives…and in turn, make Snape go a little mad. Needless to say his hatred of Harry is much more evident.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book since it explores and exposes the truth behind Harry’s parents’ deaths, we see Harry quite uplifted, and and we see yet again Dumbledore bending some rules and his amusement. Not to mention the whirlwind of  possibilities now that er, Scabbers, has escaped. 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 Goblet of Fire.