Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix – J.K.Rowling

 

“He felt as though his heart was going to explode with pleasure; he was flying again, flying away from Privet Drive as he’d been fantasising about all Summer, he was going home… for a few glorious moments, all his problems seemed to recede to nothing, insignificant in the vast, starry sky.”

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Blurb: “Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friend Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to School and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…”

It’s taken over a year but I have finally finished my re-read of Harry Potter (in the fancy new UK editions). It’s not the first time I’ve re-read the series and I have no doubt it won’t be the last. This is the fifth book in the series, so you can clearly tell I didn’t re-read the series in order. One thing I have discovered is that every time I pick up one of the Harry Potter books and read them again, I become even more disillusioned by the films. I understand that changes need to be made etc. when it comes to an adaptation, but I just feel like you miss out on so much if you haven’t read the source material.

Like I said, this is the fifth book in the Harry Potter series and the longest; reaching exactly 800 pages in this edition. What I really like about this book that following on from the events in Goblet of Fire, is that everything has the “calm before the storm” feeling. Horrible things are looming that people are trying their hardest to ignore, but for the most part there’s enough warmth and joy that it makes you feel like, for now, things are continuing as normal.  You have Fred and George up to their usual antics, new and exciting classes and creatures, contrasting with Harry’s negative battle with being left out of situations, being left with no information and no contact with his friends. This book is when he starts to internalise a lot of what he’s going through and becomes quite bitter. He gets upset, he gets angry (and not just over exams) and that only gets worse when the Ministry of Magic appoints Dolores Umbridge as the new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher. Her character is insufferable as she grows in power throughout the plot, but one thing I will say is that she is tame in the movie adaptation compared to this book. She gave me headaches. A lot.

A while ago, someone said to me that J.K.Rowling is a “good storyteller, but not a good writer.” At first I was utterly flabbergasted. I think everyone can agree that Harry Potter has been hugely successful and continues to be long since the last book was released. However, upon my overall re-read, I’ve learnt that the person who made those comments is right. Maybe it’s because I do a lot of editing, or maybe it’s because I’m a writer myself, but I found myself saying “I would have cut that”, “oh that’s oddly presented” although you cannot deny that the world she has created is something that will fall into the classics of the future.  She paved the way for stories about magic schools and child wizards.

There’s so many subplots in this book that just root you back into the world, despite not wanting to admit that certain people may be making their return, such as Quidditch, St Mungos hospital, the prefects and Hermione becoming essentially a House Elf Activist. And may this is because I love learning, but it was interesting to see the characters stressing over exams and how the actual exams took place.

Overall, it’s another solid addition to the series and where I feel Rowling starts to get stronger. It’s moved its way up into my top 3 Harry Potter books.
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The Girl In The Ice – Robert Bryndza

“Erika felt immediate guilt for passing judgement, for the two people standing expectantly in front of them were nothing more than terrified parents.”

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Blurb: “When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation. The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dip deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound and dumped in the water around London. As Erika inches closes to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

As you’ve probably noticed if you frequent my blog a lot, I read a certain type of book. But recently I’ve become disillusioned with reading Young Adult because it all feels like too much of the same. So apart from the books floundering on my TBR list and the new releases I know for a fact I want to read, I’m taking a little break.

After reading Gone Girl last year I was surprised by how interesting I find the mystery of crime fiction. Although, the genre is so vast that I didn’t really know where to start. Then I was sent this book.

Lee Kinny is a gardener at a museum who, when passing a frozen lake near his place of work, discovers a body trapped under the ice. DCI Erika Foster is brought in on a missing person investigation case which, thanks to Lee’s discovery, quickly becomes a murder investigation. The body is of Andrea Douglas Brown, the daughter of a rich and influential man who the chief of the police department says “can make and break careers.” There are no obvious suspects but as Erika and her team begin digging, they make some worrying findings.

I found this book so interesting to read. The fact that there are no obvious suspects very early on only made me even more hooked, wondering where this story could possibly go. With the addition of most of the police force urging for a conviction rather than trusting Erika’s hunches there’s just an added pressure as time starts running out; especially when you start getting some chapters from the killer’s point of view.

It’s so important in fiction to have a solid, believable protagonist and Erika Foster was just that. She held the story together so well and she just seemed to dominate every scene that she was in. I was rooting for her throughout this book. She was a fantastic main character.

This is the first in a series and definitely worth picking up if you’re into crime fiction.

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Fragile Things – Neil Gaiman

“There are so many fragile things, after all. People break so easily, and so do dreams and hearts.”

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Blurb: “Let me tell you stories of the months of the year, of ghosts and heartbreak, of dread and desire. Of after-hours drinking and unanswered phones, of good deeds and bad days, of trusting wolves and how to talk to girls. There are stories within stories, whispered in the quiet of the night, shouted above the roar of the day, and played out between lovers and enemies, strangers and friends. But all, all are fragile things made of just 26 letters arranged and rearranged to form tale and imaginings which will dazzle your senses, haunt your imagination and move you to the very depths of your souls.”

Whether you’ve read his works or not, you’ve most likely heard of Neil Gaiman. It was shortly after seeing the stop motion film Coraline that I learnt Neil Gaiman was responsible for this dark and creepy, yet intriguing story. I recently started delving into his other works: I listened to Neverwhere on audiobook because he is one of the rare authors who does his own audiobook readings.

Fragile Things is a collection of “short fictions and wonders” as there is a variety of prose, poems and other forms of writing. This book comes with an introduction in which Neil goes through each story and tells the reader how his ideas for each came about and why he decided to write them which is something I found really interesting as not many short story anthologies have that as an addition.

I had two favourites.
The first is called “October In The Chair” in which the months of the year are people. October has a beard the colours of autumn and tells the story of a boy called Runt who meets a dead boy called Dearly. I thought it was so clever and had me hooked. This story was a practice run for a book Neil would later release called The Graveyard Book.

The second is called “The Flints Of Memory Lane” which addresses the idea of how life is not story shaped. We can’t plan out exactly what happens and when, and we don’t get that desirable perfect ending. It’s a ghost story where nothing dramatic happens, nothing is resolved and life continues. I love the point Neil was trying to make by writing this story.

Neil Gaiman’s writing is the closest I think we’ll ever get to magic. He just has this remarkable way of coming up with new and inventive creations that blow you away and leave you wishing you could write anything even close to the standard he is at. I feel that even if the initial premise doesn’t interest you, as a reader you can still get enjoyment out of reading them and will come out of the experience with a changed mind.

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Rebel Of The Sands – Alwyn Hamilton

  “They said the only folk who belonged to Deadshot after dark were the ones who were up to no good. I wasn’t up to no good. Then again, I wasn’t exactly up to no bad, neither.”

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Blurb: “Dustwalk is an unforgiving, dead – end town. It’s not the place to be poor or orphaned or female. And yet Amani Al’Hiza must call it ‘home.’ Amani wants to escape and see the world she’s heard about in campfire stories. Then a foreigner with no name turns up, and with him she has the chance to run. But the desert plains are full of dangerous magic. The Sultan’s army is on the rise and Amani is soon caught at the heart of a fearless rebellion.

There is no denying that there was a lot of hype around this book leading up to the release. It seemed like everyone was talking about it and I was on the outside. Truthfully, I had no interest in this book. The initial premise was something that just didn’t seem like something I would invest my time in. When it was out in the world, I saw people who had been waiting months to read it, leaving their experiences disappointed and mixed. So that only put me off reading it even more.

But I took a trip to my local library and there was a copy of it on the shelves so I figured, why not see for myself why so many people had issues with it. Dear readers, I have never been more wrong about a book. In the simplest of words, I adored every single word from start to finish.

The story opens with the protagonist, Amani, taking part in a shooting competition while disguised as a boy. The prize is enough money to escape her miserable life in Dustwalk. Here she meets a boy she calls “foreigner” as his looks clearly show he is not from around the city. Through a series of events they end up escaping together.

Alwyn Hamilton provides various histories of the world and sets out the blueprints of how everything works from myths to realities. She does it in a way that is so elegant and so perfectly interwoven that every bit of information placed in front of you feels real. While the bulk of the story takes place in a barren desert land, it felt like I was there alongside the characters when reading. It just felt believable. I didn’t expect some aspects of this book to be so harsh and brutal but it just added to the rawness of the world Alywn has built up.

A lot of readers seemed to have issues with the middle section, finding it slow. I felt like there was enough transition between events to keep me interested in reading.

I contacted Alwyn while reading this book and learnt that it is the first in a trilogy. I’m not sure if this story can stretch that far, I see it more as a duology but I will be there when the next book comes out.
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The One With The Damaged Books

It’s no secret that I love books… A lot. I’ve been reading as much as I can ever since I was taught how to do it. Most of my childhood (and in fact my life now) was spent with my nose in a book. However, in my younger years, it seems I didn’t care for my bookish friends as well as I do now.

Proceed with caution!

Charlotte

How To Be A Woman – Caitlin Moran

“Would Jane Austen’s Characters have spent pages and pages discussing all the relationships in their social circle if they’d been a bit more in control of their own destinies? Would women fret themselves half to death over how they look, and who fancies them, if this wasn’t the main thing they were still judged on? Would we give so much of a shit about our thighs if we, as a sex, owned the majority of the world’s wealth, instead of men?”

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“It’s a good time to be a woman: we have the vote and the pill, and we haven’t been burnt as witches since 1727. However, a few nagging questions do remain… Why are we supposed to get Brazilians? Should we use Botox? Do men secretly hate us? And why does everyone ask you when you’re going to have a baby? Part memoir, part rant, Caitlin Moran answers the questions that every modern woman is asking.”
How To Be A Woman is a book that I have been eyeing up on various bookshelves for many years. I’ve physically picked it up a few times, declaring I would buy it, only to put it down again. The title alone exudes female empowerment and when Emma Watson announced the book as the April read for her feminist book club Our Shared Shelf it simply felt like the universe was telling me, at twenty-two years old, it is time to learn how to be a woman.

I didn’t know anything about Caitlin Moran except that her books tackle political issues and feminism. After research, I now know that Caitlin was a music journalist for Melody Music at the age of sixteen, hosted a Channel 4 music show and works for The Times. Also, she’s a novelist.

In this book, Caitlin puts across the fact that while the “traditional feminist issues” are important to talk about, the typical little things women go through day to day is just as important. At first I was taken aback by the comment as there are horrible things happening to woman around the world but as I continued reading, I started to understand the point she was making. The firsts, the things that see a girl turning into a woman are terrifying when they happen: first bra, first period, first time experiencing sexism and so on. This book is marketed as “part memoir, part rant” and it definitely lives up to that.

Throughout the book I tried relating my experiences to the things she was saying and I reached the sudden realisation that there are an alarming number of expectations and levels of judgement placed on girls becoming women and some of those continue in womanhood. For example, I was the first out of my friendship group to get her period, so I was plied with questions and the go-to person when my friends got theirs too. But when they found out I used sanitary towels and had no intention of using tampons, it was like I’d just told them I’d killed a man. Even now, there’s still judgement when people learn this about me. Another example is that I grew up being frequently asked if I had a boyfriend yet / when was I going to get a boyfriend. Secretly I was discovering my sexuality and seriously crushing on girls; later I would learn that I’m bisexual. Even when I skipped off to university, every time I came home or spoke to my dad on the phone he would ask if I had a boyfriend yet. When I would tell him I didn’t and pointed out that the reason I had gone to university was because I wanted to continue learning and become a better writer. He would then tell me most people find their “life-long partners” at University and suddenly I had a ticking relationship timer in front of me.

One big issue I had with this book is in the “I Am A Feminist” chapter, Caitlin helps the reader understand if they are a feminist by saying “do you have a vagina? Do you want to be in charge of it? If you answered yes to both then you’re a feminist.” While this book is very female orientated, I know a lot of male feminists and it just felt like an “us and them” divide was being created. Also it’s not inter-sectional feminism which is a big problem. This is white,middle-class feminism which caused me to leave the reading experience feeling quite disheartened.

This book gave me a lot of food for thought and Caitlin is harsh and honest in the way she attacks these topics and there’s some humour added in for an extra flair. She uses interesting but oddly fitting imagery such as referring to a woman’s reproductive system as a “hamster cage with tunnels going everywhere.”

What more could you possibly need in a book?

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