Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy











From Goodreads: Harry Potter is midway through his training as a wizard and his coming of age. Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup. He wants to find out about the mysterious event that’s supposed to take place at Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competition that hasn’t happened for a hundred years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen-year-old wizard. But unfortunately for Harry Potter, he’s not normal – even by wizarding standards. And in his case, different can be deadly.

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Opening with a murder, death eaters terrorizing muggles, and then the advent of deadly games, this novel is the first to put a darker spin on these lovable MG/YA novels. And I love it. While I do love the first three novels in this series, this one takes a fun world and makes it darker, adding real threats and testing the reader’s emotions on a whole new level. Readers know from the getgo that something sinister is afoot and that the dark lord is well on his way to returning once again, a fear that has slowly been coming to fruition over the course of the last three novels.

Goblet of Fire is the first of the series to make me cry, and it’s also the first of the series to really focus on the death eaters, giving them enough substance to strike fear in the reader’s heart. Yet, the novel is not all dark, and Rowling’s creation of the Tri-Wizard tournament was a fantastic plotline that makes this novel one of my favorites in the series. The mystery behind how Harry’s name entered the cup, who within the castle would want Harry dead (aside from Snape and Malfoy), and how Harry and his friends discover the upcoming tasks in the tournament is always fun, no matter how many times I’ve read this, though if you’ve never read it, then you’re in for a really delightful read! I always walk away from these novels with new tidbits of information that I either didn’t originally notice or just plain forgot, and reliving it all with Harry and his friends is such a treat for me.

Of course, I have to wonder WHY anyone in their right mind would decide to have these games in the first place. The dangers are real, and it’s been 100 years since the last games for a reason–too many deaths. So why have them? And why do it now? Yes, Dumbledore gives the reasoning, but it’s clear to me that there’s more sinister reasons at work that Rowling subtly alludes to, but never states: the selfishness and yearning to protect oneself ultimately opens to the gateway for Voldemort’s return. And yet–it’s time. Up until now, Voldemort has only been a fear of the past, with whisperings and attempts, but no “serious” danger… but in this novel, Rowling finally brings these fears to the forefront, unleashing the terror of the dark lord on the wizarding world, and though terrible, it’s something I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time, because there are only so many times that “he who must not be named” can “almost” return before it becomes monotonous.

Of course, if we want to be petty, we could go right back to Prisoner of Azkaban and blame Ron for this entire thing. I mean, really now… if he’d just have turned over his rat the first time he was asked… ;)

Goblet of Fire is a fun read with dark undertones coming to fruition, and it’s superb. Yes, the movie is good, but you already know the book is much better, so if you haven’t read it yet, give yourself a treat and do. Five stars.

I own this beloved novel and entire series in both hardcover and audible.

Did you know that you can listen to this novel for FREE with a FREE TRIAL of Audible for 30 days? Try it today!

Kindle | Audible | Paperback | Hardcover

Have you read the short prequel to the Harry Potter series, yet?

And if you missed them, read my review of:

The Sorcerer’s Stone #1

The Chamber of Secrets #2

The Prisoner of Azkaban #3

The Order of the Pheonix #5

The Half-Blood Prince #6

The Deathly Hallows #7

For me, the magic of Harry Potter is a Christmastime story. The first time I ever read the series, the first time I ever watched the movies, I just felt like they were definitely Christmas stories, ones of magic and beauty, and I’ve held onto that feeling for years, possibly because the earlier movies tended to come out around the holidays, or perhaps because J.K. Rowling always included Christmas in some way in each novel, but regardless, Christmas means it’s time for Harry Potter once again. Or at least, it did. It used to be that every Christmas season, I’d rewatch all the movies (usually in one sitting), and if I had the time, I’d re-read the entire series as well leading up to the holiday. But it’s been years since I’ve done this due to life and some other personal things. This year, however, the pull of nostalgia for my teenage years and the feelings of happiness Harry Potter always brought to me came flooding back, and I decided that I’d once again re-read the entire series, re-watch every movie (including the extended versions of some that I’d never seen before), and oh my, the magic of Christmas lives once again. And with that, I decided that since I’m back into blogging after so many years away, and since I haven’t posted about Harry Potter since 2013, that this Christmas season, I’d go in order and re-review each book from the prequel to the final novel as we lead up to Christmas day, partially for myself, and partially to spread the joy and cheer of Harry Potter as I know it this Christmas. Enjoy!

 



From Goodreads: Harry Potter’s third year at Hogwarts is full of new dangers. A convicted murderer, Sirius Black, has broken out of Azkaban prison, and it seems he’s after Harry. Now Hogwarts is being patrolled by the dementors, the Azkaban guards who are hunting Sirius. But Harry can’t imagine that Sirius or, for that matter, the evil Lord Voldemort could be more frightening than the dementors themselves, who have the terrible power to fill anyone they come across with aching loneliness and despair. Meanwhile, life continues as usual at Hogwarts. A top-of-the-line broom takes Harry’s success at Quidditch, the sport of the Wizarding world, to new heights. A cute fourth-year student catches his eye. And he becomes close with the new Defense of the Dark Arts teacher, who was a childhood friend of his father. Yet despite the relative safety of life at Hogwarts and the best efforts of the dementors, the threat of Sirius Black grows ever closer. But if Harry has learned anything from his education in wizardry, it is that things are often not what they seem. Tragic revelations, heartwarming surprises, and high-stakes magical adventures await the boy wizard in this funny and poignant third installment of the beloved series.

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Rowling has, once again, written a gem that keeps adults just as entertained as it does the MG and YA age group for which it was written. The series transports me to another world that I am highly invested in, and Rowling sheet amount of detail and her ability to interlace the plot and twists throughout her ongoing series just amazes me. This is a series that I will continually come back to time and time again because it’s a classic. A must read.

This third installment in the amazing Harry Potter Series doesn’t deal so much with Voldemort and the threat of his return as much as it does with a more tangible threat–one of his followers escape from Azkaban, hunting down Harry to finish the dark lord’s work. Or so everyone thinks. I’m not going to talk much about this here, because you’ve either already read the book/watched the movie and know what happens, or you know nothing about it and need to read the series right now… I do not want to spoil anything for you. I just remember how absolutely floored I was the first time I read this novel and found out the truth, and how shocking and suspenseful it all was, which just adds to the fun of it all. And the of course, re-reading with foresight allows me to pick up on the plethora of clues Rowling dropped throughout, and oh my! All I’ll say is, damn Ron. If he’d only just given up his rat the first time he was asked…

Prisoner of Azkaban always has me questioning why the director chose to portray Snape and the factor of time in the manner that he does. The movie version doesn’t do either of these aspects true justice, and that just solidifies the view that most have when it comes to movies versus books—the books always do it better. Snape is definitely a lot nastier in this novel than he’s made out to be in the movie.  It’s like the escape of Sirius Black has made Snape into a crazed monster, which I guess it has, in a way, knowing what I know about Snape’s teenage years, but this novel is the first time his true colors really seem to be coming out.  While he was definitely a “meanie” in the first two books, Rowling takes his character to a whole new level in this novel, and I was appalled by his behavior!

I originally thought Snape’s antics on the big screen to be slightly humorous, and he’s one of my favorites in the movies, truth be told, but in the novels he’s completely awful and full of hate—no redeeming qualities can be seen in this book, and he really made me angry! I understand his prejudices against Harry, and I know his back-story from the text, but I didn’t ever see him as being such an awful person before now. And he is. I mean, I knew he was the resident sourpuss and that he was mean to students, but rereading his actions in this novel always reminds me that Snape is quite evil. The way he treats the students, all of them, really, is inexcusable.  Perhaps I’m seeing him in a new light as I’m now seasoned teacher myself, but regardless, Snape’s actions within this book made me livid. The way he talks to Hermoine, Ron, and Harry made me cringe; he’s just an unacceptable person—no matter how much you dislike a person, you just don’t treat them the way Snape treats Harry and his friends.  You just don’t.

Rowling definitely presents Snape in a different light than the directors in the movie, possibly because the directors didn’t want viewers to hate him to the extreme, but even so, I’m always floored by just how different the portrayal really is.

But, despite Snape’s actions, I adored this novel, especially the explanation and replaying of events through the unique time changes that are presented. Just in case you haven’t read the novels or seen the movies, I won’t go into too much detail here, but I personally felt that this novel does a much better job handling the time change than the movie does because I never felt like events were being repeated, whereas in the movie I thought this portion dragged on a little too long. Rowling keeps it short and sweet, though, in her novel, explaining it perfectly, and I highly enjoyed this aspect.  And, if you’ve only seen the movie and haven’t read the book, then you’re seriously missing out.  In this instance, it isn’t even a close second, the novel completely beats out the movie. No contest. Go read it. Five stars.

I own this beloved novel and entire series in both hardcover and audible.

Did you know that you can listen to this novel for FREE with a FREE TRIAL of Audible for 30 days? Try it today!

Kindle | Audible | Paperback | Hardcover

Have you read the short prequel to the Harry Potter series, yet?

And if you missed them, read my review of:

The Sorcerer’s Stone #1

The Chamber of Secrets #2

The Goblet of Fire #4

The Order of the Pheonix #5

The Half-Blood Prince #6

The Deathly Hallows #7

For me, the magic of Harry Potter is a Christmastime story. The first time I ever read the series, the first time I ever watched the movies, I just felt like they were definitely Christmas stories, ones of magic and beauty, and I’ve held onto that feeling for years, possibly because the earlier movies tended to come out around the holidays, or perhaps because J.K. Rowling always included Christmas in some way in each novel, but regardless, Christmas means it’s time for Harry Potter once again. Or at least, it did. It used to be that every Christmas season, I’d rewatch all the movies (usually in one sitting), and if I had the time, I’d re-read the entire series as well leading up to the holiday. But it’s been years since I’ve done this due to life and some other personal things. This year, however, the pull of nostalgia for my teenage years and the feelings of happiness Harry Potter always brought to me came flooding back, and I decided that I’d once again re-read the entire series, re-watch every movie (including the extended versions of some that I’d never seen before), and oh my, the magic of Christmas lives once again. And with that, I decided that since I’m back into blogging after so many years away, and since I haven’t posted about Harry Potter since 2013, that this Christmas season, I’d go in order and re-review each book from the prequel to the final novel as we lead up to Christmas day, partially for myself, and partially to spread the joy and cheer of Harry Potter as I know it this Christmas. Enjoy!

 



136251From Goodreads: Harry Potter is preparing to leave the Dursleys and Privet Drive for the last time. But the future that awaits him is full of danger, not only for him, but for anyone close to him — and Harry has already lost so much. Only by destroying Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes can Harry free himself and overcome the Dark Lord’s forces of evil.

In this dramatic conclusion to the Harry Potter series, Harry must leave his most loyal friends behind, and in a final perilous journey find the strength and the will to face his terrifying destiny: a deadly confrontation that is his alone to fight.

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The end. Finito. Terminé.  It is done, and I’m having a hard time accepting it.  The wonderful wizarding world of Harry Potter has so enraptured me that I have been able to think of little else while reading this amazing series.  While many of the novels themselves are on the long side, I still feel as if more could be said.  Spanning from around 300 pages at its shortest to over 850 pages at its longest, the series itself encompasses over 4000 pages that grip readers and bring them into this world through amazing themes, events, characters, and connections to the real world.  Likewise, it presents a fantasy world that allows our imaginations to run rampant, especially in regards to the question of “what if.”  What if it really did exist…

This seventh and final novel in the Harry Potter series is just as amazing and gripping as the first (and all those that come in-between).  Of course, it follows in its predecessors footsteps with its dark undertones as Harry, Hermoine, and Ron attempt to find the final horcruxs before their battle with Voldemort.  The wizarding world is in chaos, and people, both magical and muggle, are dying left and right…

From the very beginning, the novel strums our emotional cords as the magic surrounding Privet Drive is about to expire, sending the awful and repulsive Dursley family away once and for all as their safety is now in question.  Although these muggles are ones we love to hate, Rowling finally adds a piece of sentimentality in the form of Dudley, and readers just know that this is going to be an emotional read from beginning to end.  How can it not, as it dives deeper into the recess of good versus evil.

While absolutely amazing, the death toll in this novel will leave readers in a somber mood for days, because even though they are fictional characters, they have become a part of our lives just the same.  And while I wish Rowling didn’t do it—I’d love for this to have been all roses and butterflies—it just wouldn’t carry any validity or as much steam has Rowling not made these difficult decisions to kill off some of our most beloved characters.

And Snape?  While I still find his actions appalling, in this novel I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness for him, and rejoice in his ultimate decisions because we finally know the absolute truth behind the man we’ve hated for so long.  Just writing this review of such a riveting novel brings all the emotions to the forefront again, and I cannot say it enough: this series, this book, this world, is amazing.  Five stars.

5 stars

I own all these books and movies.



1From Goodreads: The war against Voldemort is not going well; even the Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.

And yet, as with all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate—and lose a few eyebrows in the process. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.

So it’s the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Here at Hogwarts, Harry will search for the full and complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort—and thereby find what may be his only vulnerability.

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is another amazing installment in the Harry Potter Series.  On the plus side, the wizarding world is once again standing behind Harry and Dumbledore, aware that they were telling the truth about the return of Voldemort.  On the negative side, however, many have met a premature death in the fight against pure evil.  These are dark times, and though it seems impossible, the events that unfold in this novel are even more ominous than those that came before it.

This is the first time readers are given a glimpse of the life that Tom Riddle led before becoming Lord Voldemort, beginning with his ill-conceived birth, and taking us through his time and actions in an orphanage, and his acceptance and studies at Hogwarts.  Finally, we are able to begin to put together the pieces that made Voldemort who he is today—a killer intent on ruling forever and riding the world of mudbloods—anyone who isn’t a pureblood witch or wizard.  I really enjoyed this backwards glance into the life of our foe, Voldemort, as the puzzle-pieces began to come together and it is impossible not to be curious about the life and times of someone so inherently evil.  Readers learn much about Voldemort’s heritage, and perhaps the most important detail comes to light in this novel in terms of his life: the horcruxes.  As the truth becomes clear concerning how Voldermort survived his backfiring curse the night he attempted to kill Harry, and with this knowledge, the race against time begins.

This is an extremely engaging novel and, though sinister in tone and ominous in nature, it is an amazing tale that will leave you glued to the pages; it will haunt you long after it’s over, especially as the unthinkable happens in this novel, an event that had me so aghast that the tissues by my side were not enough to do it justice.  It is the beginning of the end, and while I do not want this amazing world that Rowling has created to end, I am more than ready to see justice served.  Five stars.

5 starsI own all these novels and movies.



2From Goodreads: Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends 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…

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If there was only one thing I was allowed to say about this novel, it would be this: “I hate Umbridge!!!”

Unlike the first four novels in this series, I was less familiar with the many events that take place in this fifth installment as it’s the longest book and also the worst movie, in my opinion. The movie itself was excessively choppy and off kilter, as far as I’m concerned, so I didn’t watch it as much as the first four movies.  But, where the movie is stifling and inconsistent, the novel contains in-depth detail and really brings home the many atrocities and difficulties that Harry and his true friends face during their fifth year at Hogwarts, and re-reading this novel has given me a new appreciation for the storyline that the movie so vastly failed to portray.

As much as I hated everything that was happening to Hogwarts and Harry, especially as the entire wizarding world, it seems, stands against Harry, this novel has some great themes, especially for young adults struggling through their own identity crisis as they battle their way through high school.  And it really shows just how much people would rather look the other way than see the truth, or deal with anything unpleasant, which can again be equated to the real world as the entire bullying epidemic has come to the forefront.

What I found to be the most interesting aspect of this novel, however, was the way the Ministry of Magic attempted to control Hogwarts and its teachers, subjecting them to multiple unfair observations and write-ups, firing at will. This is not so different from the reforms happening in the real world, with states and the government attempting to flay teachers based on poor student performance without taking anything else into consideration. And though I really doubt tgat Rowling was thinking about education reform when she wrote this novel, I found that it still had a very heavy social commentary on education and the powers that be attempting to control it with little to no knowledge of teaching or how the system really works.  With the Ministry’s long reaching hands now up to its elbows in the running of Hogwarts, the system begins to crumble. A very interesting concept indeed.  Five stars.

5 starsI own all these novels and movies.



6From Goodreads: The summer holidays are dragging on and Harry Potter can’t wait for the start of the school year. It is his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and there are spells to be learnt, potions to be brewed and Divination lessons (sigh) to be attended. Harry is expecting these: however, other quite unexpected events are already on the march…

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This fourth installment in the awesome Harry Potter Series marks the start of a much darker tone, yet it is perhaps my favorite of the series to day.  It also is the last of the series that I am quite familiar with in movie form–so I am quite looking forward to reading books five, six, and seven since I am less familiar with all that happens in them.

This novel is so well written—the entire world created by Rowling is by far one of the best I’ve ever immersed myself in, and this is the first novel in the series to actually make me cry. While the others are extremely well written, I feel as if the first two novels are much lighter a fluffy, though they hold their own evils; they are in no way like this fourth novel, following the deaths of many, one of which is a very awesome character we’ve learned to love. Even the third novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, with it’s escaped prisoner on the prowl and dementors attempting to suck the life out of wizards and witches alike, didn’t feel nearly as dark or foreboding as this.

Opening with a murder, death eaters terrorizing muggles, and then the advent of deadly games, this novel is the first to put a darker spin on these lovable MG/YA novels. And I love it. While I do love the first three novels, this one takes a fun world and makes it darker, adding real threats and testing the reader’s emotions on a whole new level. It’s superb. Five stars.

5 starsI own all these novels and movies.



5From Goodreads: Harry Potter is lucky to reach the age of thirteen, since he has already survived the murderous attacks of the feared Dark Lord on more than one occasion. But his hopes for a quiet term concentrating on Quidditch are dashed when a maniacal mass-murderer escapes from Azkaban, pursued by the soul-sucking Dementors who guard the prison. It’s assumed that Hogwarts is the safest place for Harry to be. But is it a coincidence that he can feel eyes watching him in the dark, and should he be taking Professor Trelawney’s ghoulish predictions seriously?

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Rowling has, once again, written a gem that keeps adults just as entertained as it does the MG and YA age group for which it was written. This world is just… amazing.  The series transports me to another world that I am highly invested in, and Rowling sheet amount of detail and her ability to interlace the plot and twists throughout her ongoing series just amazes me.  This is a series that I will continually come back to time and time again because it’s a classic.  A must read.

This third installment in the amazing Harry Potter Series is actually extremely different from the movie, and I didn’t realize it–even though I’ve read these books once before (7 years ago, so apparently I’ve forgotten). I guess I need to watch the movie again, maybe I just didn’t see it before, but Snape is definitely a lot nastier in this novel than I’ve ever perceived him to be in the movie.  It’s like the escape of Sirius Black has made Snape into a crazed monster, which I guess it has, in a way, knowing what I know about Snape’s love for Lily Potter, but this is the first time his true colors seem to be coming out.  While he was definitely a “meanie” in the first two books, Rowling takes his character to a whole new level in this novel, and I was appalled by his behavior!

I originally thought Snape’s antics on the big screen to be slightly humorous, and he’s one of my favorites in the movies, truth be told, but in the novels he’s completely awful and full of hate—no redeeming qualities can be seen in this book, and he really made me angry! I understand his prejudices against Harry, and I know his back-story from the text, but I didn’t ever see him as being such an awful person before now. And he is.  I mean, I knew he was the resident sourpuss and that he was mean to students, but rereading his actions in this novel gave me a brand new perspective that I either hadn’t seen before, or had forgotten existed; Snape takes hatred to a new extreme.  The way he treats the students, all of them, really, is inexcusable.  Perhaps I’m seeing him in a new light as I’m now seasoned teacher myself, and I wasn’t when I first read the books, but regardless, Snape’s actions within this book made me livid. The way he talks to Hermoine, Ron, and Harry made me cringe; he’s just an unacceptable person—no matter how much you dislike a person, you just don’t treat them the way Snape treats Harry and his friends.  You just don’t.

Rowling definitely presents Snape in a different light than the directors in the movie, possibly because the directors didn’t want viewers to hate him to the extreme, but even so, I was floored by just how different the portrayal really is.  At least now I completely understand why some of my friends have always been so adamant about their hate for Snape.  Wow.  Just, wow.

But, despite Snape’s actions, I adored this novel, especially the explanation and replaying of events through the unique time changes that are presented.  Just in case you haven’t read the novels or seen the movies, I won’t go into too much detail here, but I personally felt that this novel does a much better job handling the time change than the movie does because I never felt like events were being repeated, whereas in the movie I thought this portion dragged on a little too long. Rowling keeps it short and sweet, though, in her novel, explaining it perfectly, and I highly enjoyed this aspect.  And, if you’ve only seen the movie and haven’t read the book, then you’re seriously missing out.  In this instance, it isn’t even a close second, the novel completely beats out the movie. No contest. Go read it. Five stars.

5 stars

I own all these novels and movies.



et cetera
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