Friday, December 31, 2010

Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince

As we began our trip to see family two weeks ago, I was unsure of how much reading time I would get.  While I love to have my nose in a book, I also know how important it is to spend time with family and friends.  Lucky for me, and for my goal, I was able to find just enough time to finish The Half-Blood Prince.  My friend Amy was totally right about this series getting better as it goes along.  This installment in Harry Potter's story was much more interesting to me. 

I had a few guesses about the identity for the Half-Blood Prince, but of course, I was no where close.  Rowling is a master of plot twists, at least from my perspective.  Maybe you had it figured out long before I did.  I've admitted before that I tend to become absorbed in the story and not see what is coming up around the corner. 

I really enjoyed the scene at the beginning of the book when Dumbledore arrived at Privet Drive and attempted to teach the Dursleys some manners.  I loved when he said "I don't mean to be rude- yet, sadly, accidental rudeness occurs alarmingly often."  I also find this to be the case, though I try hard to avoid it in myself.  And then, "Shall we assume that you have invited me into your sitting room?"  The Dursleys have been horrible to Harry all his life and I rather enjoyed seeing them bested.  "You did not do as I asked.  You have never treated Harry as a son.  He has known nothing buy neglect and often cruelty at your hands.  The best that can be said is that he has at least escaped the appalling damage you have inflicted upon the unfortunate boy sitting between you."  Love it!

I loved when Harry pretended to give the Felix Felicis potion to Ron so that he would play well in the Quidditch match.  If he hadn't made sure that Hermione saw him slip (or pretend to slip) something into Ron's drink, it wouldn't have been nearly as effective.  Or as fun!

I like that Rowling uses the Pensive as an interesting way to convey information that Harry otherwise would not have known.  It is much more engaging than having Dumbledore just tell one story after another. 

And I know that it's not integral to the story, but I loved when Seamus was assigned to write the lines: "I am a wizard, not a baboon brandishing a stick."  It really made me laugh.

And of course, girl that I am, I enjoyed watching Harry realize that he is in love with Ginny.  Ron and Hermione were a little frustrating, but isn't that how young love is?  Poor Harry, constantly worried that Ron would hate him for fancying his sister.  I've loved all the new words that Harry Potter has brought into my vocabulary:  Fancy, Snogging, Blimey, Bloody, Bloke, and I was sure to wish everyone a "Happy Christmas" this year. 

The scene in the cave was horrible for Harry and for Dumbledore, but I loved at the end, when Harry was trying to get Dumbledore back to Hogwarts.  Harry says, "We're nearly there....I can Apparate us both back....Don't worry...."  And Dumbledore's response is "I am not worried Harry.  I am with you."  All this time Harry has been depending on Dumbledore to take care of him, to fix whatever might break and to know the right things to do.  Suddenly Dumbledore is needing to depend upon Harry and Harry finds that he is up to the task.  At the top of the tower, when everything is about to go wrong, Dumbledore protects Harry one last time by freezing him under his invisibility cloak so that he won't be hurt trying to save Dumbledore.  I was so sad to see Dumbledore killed and shocked to see that it was Snape who pronounced the final curse just as Dumbledore appeared to be pleading with him. 

As I finished this book very late at night, I couldn't wait to get up the next morning and start the final adventure.  And that's just what I did. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Wow!  Book 5 was a long one!  Lucky for me, it was also a good one.  A dear friend told me as I started this journey that the books do get better as they progress, and I will have to say that now I agree with her.  I still think maybe it could have been cut down a little, but last night I read for 3 hours without realizing how late it was getting. 

I think one of my favorite parts is when Hermione is trying to explain Cho's behavior to Harry who is utterly bewildered by the female thought process:

"That's what they should teach us here, he thought, turning over onto his side, how girls' brains'd be more useful than Divination anyway..."

What teenage boy (or grown man for that matter) doesn't wish for (and rightly so) a little better understanding of "The Feminine Mystique"?  And I love how very patient Hermione is in explaining to her very oblivious male friends what the girls around them are feeling.  I can't wait to see how it progresses.  I have been very carefully avoiding the trailers for "The Deathly Hallows", but I do have a hint that there is some pairing up at some point soon. 

I am enjoying these books, but I'm getting a little worried that I may have bitten off more than I can chew.  I have two more books to go and only a few weeks.  Normally that would be no problem for me.  The only problem is that the next few weeks will be filled with traveling to see family.  I'm pretty sure said family will be expecting some form of conversation and interaction.  Certainly there are times I would prefer to have my face hidden behind my book, but I don't know how often I'll be able to make that happen.  Wish me luck and quick reading! 

And before I go pick up Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I will leave you with one more quote I enjoyed: 

"There were still deep welts on [Ron's] forearms where the brain's tentacles had wrapped around him.  According to Madam Pomfrey, thoughts could leave deeper scarring than almost anything else..."

Now on to Book 6!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Book 4: DONE!

I am just tearing through these books!  And I have to admit, that makes me feel a little relieved.  I was a little worried I wouldn't be able to make my deadline, but I just might make it!  The Goblet of Fire was a good one, but it sure seemed long.  There was a lot going on and every time I thought we were nearing the end, I would look at all the pages remaining and realize there was more story coming. 

I know I've mentioned this before, but Rowling's plot twists seem to get me every time!  I kept thinking the bad guy, the false friend was one guy all through the story.  I thought, "Oh, I've got your number this time, Joanne.  You're not going to pull the rug out from under me."  But wouldn't you know it, I was way off.  I'm sure she set it up just that way and I walked right into her trap.  Then, I really enjoyed when she twisted the twist.  That was kind of fun.  And of course, I didn't see that one coming either. 

I can't wait to see what happens next...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Today I finished reading...

That means I have finished three of the seven books.  I think I just might make it!

So what do I think?  Well, they are interesting books and they do keep my attention, but I keep wanting to hit a fast forward button.  There is so much story, so many things happening at once.  I have to say that I know that every story needs at least one antagonist, but Professor Snape is really annoying me.  Why would one horrible person be allowed to get away with the way he treats some of the students in an otherwise nurturing environment?  Dumbledore must be able to see and yet he does nothing to put a stop to it.  It just bugs me.

I have stayed up late more than one night because I wanted to see what would happen next, so I suppose that means I'm enjoying the books.  My heart hasn't been taken "prisoner" yet, but I am having fun with the characters.  And now on to The Goblet of Fire...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

I have just finished reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling, the second book in the Harry Potter series.
I am enjoying the series, but for me, this book had a slow start.  I was at least halfway through before I felt much pull to get to the end.  When I sit down to read, I like the story, but I can't help but wish I could hurry it along a bit.  I was also struck by how much Dobby's character reminded me of Gollum from The Lord of the Rings.  Admittedly, I haven't read that series, but I have seen the films, and the two characters seemed very similar- they each referred to themselves in the third person, Dobby's description sounded much like what Gollum looked like in the films, and they were both annoying as heck.  That's right, Ladies and Gentlemen, I just said "heck."  I hope you aren't too shocked. 

Finally, I began to enjoy the storyline and I am very pleased with the plot twists we have had in this series so far.  I try very hard not to get ahead of the author and figure out what is going to happen, but I have been very surprised.  It's fun to be taken by surprise.  I can't wait to see what's around the next corner. 

The Prisoner of Azkaban is next!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

I'm on my way!  I have plunged into the Potter pool...

...and I think I'm liking the water so far.  I cannot count the number of friends and family who have badgered  told me that I need to read these books.  "You haven't read Harry Potter yet?"  "But you just have to read Harry Potter!"  "Why haven't you read Harry Potter?!?!"  Harry Potter fans (Pot Heads??) are very intense.  And very persuasive, so here I am.  Reading Harry Potter.  

A few friends warned me that the first couple of installments in Harry's world are a little slow, but that it picks up as the series progresses.  It's a good thing I had that warning, because I gotta tell ya': I'm not bewitched yet.  It didn't exactly have me at hello like a certain other Young Adult series which I will not name here for fear of offense to all those J. K. Rowling fans out there, but I am sticking with it.  By the end of the book, I was very interested to see what would happen and I was genuinely surprised by the twist at the end.  (Professor Quirrell?  Really??)

I am looking forward to starting Chamber of Secrets today and I think if I can keep up this pace, I will have no trouble getting through the series by year's end.  Stick with me as I stick with Harry.  I can't wait to see how it goes!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I Must Be Crazy

Well, Smart Girls.  We are fastly approaching the busiest season of the year.  Can you believe it's already November?  I sure can't, but I have a list a mile long of all the things I need to get done by the end of the year.  Crafts and baking and shopping...oh my!  And now I've just added something crazy to my already long list: my own reading challenge. 

As you may know, I belong to a WONDERFUL book club.  We have read some really wonderful books, but now that we are to such a busy time of year, we always take December off.  There is just so much to do that we take a break from book club.  So now I have 8 weeks.  Am I going to take 8 weeks off of reading?  Of course not!  I have planned a lovely little book binge for myself.

You see, I am one of those few readers who has not yet plunged into the Harry Potter pool.  I just haven't had time because I know that once I start, I will want to read straight through the entire series.  Well now I have 8 weeks and I'm going to knuckle down and do it.  I will be reading all 7 books in 8 weeks.  By New Year's Day, I will be finished, or I really will be staying up burning the midnight oil.  And I'm only giving my self until January 1st because our next book club meeting is January 7th and I will have to have finished our next book by then.  So yes, I have 8 books to read in 9 weeks.  Plus the one I was already reading before I started this crazy trek.  I can do it, right?  Right??

Wish me luck and check back to see how I'm coming along!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry

I have a great book club.  We've been reading together for about a year and a half now and it is a great group.  There are six of us ladies who attend every meeting and two or three more who come a little more sporadically.   We are smart, funny, interesting girls who read.  Our book club has made better and more active readers of us.  And you know one of my favorite things about our book club?  We actually read and discuss the books!  I have heard about other book clubs out there that pick a book, no one really reads it and then the "book club" meeting is really more of a social hour.  I have no problem with that.  If that's what you need, please do, but I really wanted a book club.  And that's just what we are.  

This months selection is: 

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.

It was actually my turn to pick the book and this one has been on my shelf for a long time, waiting to be read.  I just finished it last night, well actually it was more like 1 o'clock this morning.  I got to a certain point in the plot, and there was no putting it down until it was done.  

What did I think of it?  Well...that I'm not actually sure of.  When I first began it, I really liked it.  Then I got to an interesting plot twist and suddenly I loved it.  As I read further, I became engrossed in the characters and the plot.  I kept thinking "What is going to happen next?"  "Where is this leading?"  "No...they can't possibly be about to do what I think they are going to do?"  [The only problem with this blog is that you may not have read these books yet, and I really hate to be a spoiler, so I have to be careful what I say because I could really give away some big things here.]  

Suddenly, last night when I should have been putting the book away and going to sleep, something unbelievable happened in the storyline and I couldn't stop.  I couldn't look away.  I kept thinking, "Please don't do that."  "Please see the error of your ways and do something else."  Well, the characters just didn't listen to me and the story took a turn I would not have preferred.  

When I was finally finished, I felt...unsettled.  I wanted things to turn out differently, but it's not my book to write.  Last night I would have told you that I really did not like that book.  I wouldn't have recommended it to anyone.  This morning, I feel a little less disturbed and I think the book has grown on me a bit.  I still wouldn't say it was my favorite and I won't be hanging on to my copy to read again, but I think I'll find someone interesting to pass it on to.  Someone who can appreciate imperfect characters and an unexpected, non-fairy tale ending.  If that's you, I would suggest reserving a copy at the library.  Maybe you'll love never know. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

If I Stay

I heard about this book on another book blog and thought it looked interesting.  I had to see what it was all about.  It is a YA selection and for me, those can go either way.  About half the time, I am pleasantly surprised and really like the book, and the other half, well the word "junk" comes to mind.  Just because a book is written for a Young Adult audience does not mean it should be shallow and without substance.  This was certainly not one of those books. 

If I Stay by Gayle Forman is about a young girl who has just experienced a terrible automobile accident.  She then has to decide if she wants to live or die.  If she wants to stay or if she would rather go.  I can say no more- I refuse to ruin it for you.

It is simply and beautifully written.  It feels like the voice of a 17-year-old girl unsure of all the choices before her.  And reading it, I can almost see the author's outline of the story:  a main storyline with lots of tangents running off from each significant event.  But in a good way.  In a way that helps you imagine a 17-year-old girl telling you a story and breaking off at certain points to explain the significance and meaning behind it. 

I loved this book, but doing my best to avoid spoilers, it made me blubber like a huge baby.  Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm a huge cry baby.  I cry reading books, watching movie and TV shows, even some commercials find a sucker in me.  I'm a cryer and this book was a heartbreaker.  But I loved it.  Does that make any sense?  If you're anything like me, I think it will.  I have already recommended this and I only finished reading it last night.  Won't you pick it up and let me know what you think?

The Kind Diet

Months ago, I saw an episode of Oprah (I'm not a huge fan, but I'll watch when it's a topic I find interesting) and Alicia Silverstone was featured promoting her new book, "The Kind Diet."  I loved the episode and I couldn't wait to learn more.  I immediately put myself on the library waiting list for "The Kind Diet."  Along with everyone else in the Tucson area.  Oh, yeah, the list was really really long.  But I waited.  And I waited.  And I waited.  I watched as my name crawled toward the top of the list.  I thought I would never get there, but finally I could see some light at the end of the tunnel.  I was in the single digits- "You are now 9th of 389 holds on 15 copies."  And then I found out we were going to France for three months.  That was awesome, but I knew my name would come up and I would miss it.  So I removed my name and put it right back on the list.  The point is this: I've been waiting a LONG time to read this book and I was thrilled when I was able to bring it home. 

It is a book promoting the Vegan lifestyle and explaining how a plant-based diet is so much better for the planet, the animals and, probably most relevant for me, for yourself.  Don't get me wrong, I love the Earth and I try to be as green as I possibly can and, while I'm not a huge animal person, I have no interest in the suffering of other creatures.  It's just that the "this is so much better for your body" part is what spoke mostly loudly to me. 

From the book jacket:  [Alicia Silverstone] explains how meat, fish, milk, and cheese- the very goods we've been taught to regard  as the cornerstones of good nutrition- are actually the culprits behind escalating rates of disease and the cause of dire, potentially permanent damage to our ecology.... Whether your goal is to drop a few pounds, boost your energy and metabolism, or simply save the world, Alicia provides the encouragement, the information, and the tools you need to make the transition to a plant-based diet deliciously empowering.

I found the book interesting, easy to read and relatable.  It begins with all the reasons meat and dairy products are "nasty" to the Earth, the animals, and our bodies.  I didn't find it graphic like many things I've read about animal rights and the cruelty of the animal-food system, but it was clear enough.  The next section of the book explains how easy it can be to go from a meat eater to a vegan and beyond to a version of macrobiotics if the reader is interested.  Finally, the last section is filled with delicious-looking recipes.  I admit I haven't tried them yet, but I will.  Oh, I will. 

After reading this book, I can make no promises that I will become a vegan, but entering that lifestyle does appeal to me on more than one level.  I have found myself looking at my dinner plate with a very different perspective lately.  I have committed myself to serving more meat-free meals to my family and to reducing the amount of dairy I consume.  That last part will be a little easier since I've never really been a milk fan.  I want to be healthier.  I want my husband to be healthier.  And I especially want my children to grow up healthy and prepared to take care of those little bodies that I worked so hard to create within mine. 

I may have borrowed this book from my local library (I love my library!  If you aren't on excellent terms, nay, best friends with your local library, you don't know what you are missing!  Please get over there right away!), but I have already put it in my shopping cart.  I can't wait to have my own copy to re-read and to use in my kitchen.  Even if you aren't interested in going vegan, I would encourage you to pick this book up, give it a read and see what you learn.  You just never know...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

This summer we had the incredible experience of spending 3 months in the south of France.  It was great and I wouldn't have missed it for anything.  Unfortunately for me, we left the same day that "Twilight: Eclipse" was released in the theaters.  I really wanted to see it, but since I knew I would have to wait,  I also waited on reading this book:

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer is a short "novella" written from the perspective of Bree, one of the newborn vampires.  I had heard it would give extra insight into those newborn vampires that make such a big appearance in "Eclipse" and I thought it would be good to read just before seeing the film.  Well, since I had to wait to see the film, I waited to read the book. 

It's very short- like the author says, "a novella"-  and it gives a look into the newborn life.  I enjoyed it.  I think it makes a nice companion to the original Twilight books.  And I love that Meyer donated $1 from the sale of each book to the American Red Cross.  A win for everyone. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Last week was Banned Book Week as celebrated by the American Library Association.  One of the "Banned Books" that I kept hearing about was Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. 

This is an amazing book!  It is categorized as "Young Adult Fiction", but this is something everyone should read.  If you are in high school, if you ever been to high school, if you know anyone who is or has ever been in high school you most definitely should read this book.  Now is when I promise that I will try very hard to avoid spoilers.  It's not easy because I have so much I want to say about this book. 

I suspect the title is "Speak" because that is exactly what the main character, Melinda Sordino, can't do.  She can't speak.  Well, she can, but there are certain words she just can't get out.  She endures a horrible trauma before we meet her and the book details her first year of high school trying to deal with that trauma and all the additional typical pains of high school-dom.  You know what I'm talking about:  the constant fear of being the odd-girl out; of having no one with whom to eat lunch; of having a whole group of friends one minute and none the next.  

This book is for the girl in every one of us who didn't feel good enough- and it was all of us.  We all felt it, no matter our actual standing in the high school hierarchy.  This book tells that girl that it will all be okay and you can survive it.  But this book is also for that other girl inside of us- the one who couldn't see the pain in another girl's eyes as we laughed at her along with everyone else.  This book tells us that we have no idea what someone else has been through or why they are the way they are.  This book shows the need for compassion.

I loved this book.  I borrowed it from the library, but I have already ordered my own copy and one for someone else.  I will be reading it again and I'm sure I will recommend it over and over again.  This absolutely should be required reading in high school...or maybe even in middle school in preparation.

Now about the book banning thing- some jerk in Missouri thinks Speak is soft-core porn.  He threw a big fit at a school board meeting and demanded it be banned.  I'm not sure he ever read the book because when I read it, I kept waiting for it to get more graphic.  Guess what?  It never did.  The reader knows what happens, but it's never described.  Actually, I think this book is pretty tame as far as that goes.  I would have no problem giving this book to my 14-year-old step-daughter or to my own daughter when she enters high school. 

This is a book that should be read.  I hope you will read it and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

What This is All About...

If you've met me you know I love to read.  I've always been a reader.  Books gave me something to do on that long bus ride home from school every day when I was a kid.  Books have given me something to do while I sit in waiting rooms rather than thumbing through a two-year-old copy of Woman's Day magazine.  Books have helped me be much more willing to watch all those car shows and episodes of "Dirty Jobs" (although Mike Rowe is nice to look at).  I love books.

I love to read books.  I love to talk about books with my friends.  I love my book club.  I love the way a book feels in my hand (sorry, no Kindle or Nook for me).  And I love the smell of a book store or library.  I am a book nerd and I'm not one little bit embarrassed about it. 

Over the last two years, my book consumption has sharply increased.  I will admit that had something to do with a little franchise you may have heard of- Twilight.  Suddenly, I couldn't read enough.  I joined a book club (that is wonderful, by the way!).  I discovered a used book store in my library that sells books for $4 or less.  I spend way too much (time and money) on Amazon.  I am always reading something now.  

I was reading online recently about a woman setting a goal to read 144 books in a year and I thought, "Huh.  I wonder how many books I read this year?"  That is what this is all about.  I want to keep track of the books I've read, how many and what I thought about them.  I considered waiting for the New Year to start this, but why wait?  I want to start now.  And even thought I've read some great books this year, I probably won't go back and try to rehash them all.  I'm sure there will be a few that I feel the need to write about and I will probably put several of the more memorable ones in the list on the right, but a full report of this year I won't be able to make.  We'll just start from here and see how it goes. 

So these are my ramblings.  I hope you enjoy it.  I know I will!