Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy











16160797From Goodreads: A brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel’s suicide.

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, thelegendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

Introducing Cormoran Strike, this is the acclaimed first crime novel by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

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As I was reading this novel, I couldn’t help but think of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  In my mind, Cormoran Strike is Eddie Valiant (i.e. Bob Hoskins), living in his office, drinking his life away, and not doing very much of anything.  But here’s the thing: I didn’t like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and I didn’t care for The Cuckoo’s Calling much, either.  For one thing, the novel is extremely long (500 pages long), and not much happened to keep my interest.

Strike has no money and no place to live, so he’s staying at his office. He hires a temp secretary who really likes the job and decides stays a while, even though she might not get paid much (this is a side story that, in my mind, really had nothing to do with anything). A model throws herself from her balcony, and her brother hires Strike to investigate. What ensues is an investigation that is long, long, long, without much of anything happening. Strike interviews many people—some who are suspects, and some who aren’t—but no one seems to know what really happened, and the police want to close the case. Yep. That’s about it.

I just wasn’t interested throughout much of the novel, which is a shame because I absolutely adored the Harry Potter Series.  However, this adult fiction novel just didn’t do anything for me.  I didn’t care about any of the characters, especially the model who died; her hang-ups and “whoa is me” attitude about being adopted actually put a very bad taste in my mouth, mainly because I’m adopted and I’m so tired of people making adoption out to be such a terrible thing.  It’s not, yet books and movies continue to depict it as a crushing “event” that will ruin the child’s psyche and make him/her dysfunctional in the world, and I have to disagree.  Adoption doesn’t do that.  Bad parenting does, as is evidenced by her crazy adoptive parents.  Where was the screening process here?

But, I will hold my rant.  All in all, this novel just wasn’t all that interesting.  But neither was Who Framed Roger Rabbit… so, different strokes for different folks.  I’m thinking that if you enjoyed that movie, you may like this novel; it’s just not for me. Two stars.

2 stars

I borrowed this novel from the library.

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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.



15881From Goodreads: The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockheart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girl’s bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble beings, and someone–or something–starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects…Harry Potter himself.

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This second book in the famous Harry Potter series is just as riveting and captivating as the first, solidifying in my mind that Rowling is an absolutely amazing author.

Truth be told, I actually have found that I don’t usually like fantasy novels all that much, but the world that Rowling creates for Harry Potter actually makes me feel right at home, and I can easily connect with the characters.  This might have something to do with the fact that I watched the movies first, so I have visuals and such imprinted in my brain, but even so, this fantastical world is easy to follow and become a part of, in my personal opinion.  The story jumps right off the page, wrapping readers up in the awesomeness that is Hogwarts and beyond.

One aspect I really love about this novel is its continuous detail.  From the wizards to their families, potions, spells, and backstory, there is just so much detail that it blows my mind.  Rowling is complete in her descriptions and creation of this world, and the fact that it exists right alongside the human world (which opens the doors for that giddy wishful thinking that maybe, just maybe, it all exists) brings a spark of wonder and jubilation to all.

Dobby is an awesome addition in this novel, and I really liked the introduction of the House Elf.  His abilities and class within the wizarding world is also a bit of a social commentary on our very own society and the way society has treated others, such as slavery, and even the way society treats people today.

And of course, I love the ingenious way that Rowling found to bring Voldemort back into the picture.  The idea of the journal was ingenious, and I am amazed how Rowling is able to bring everything together, from book one to two, and how she’ll be able to keep this up in the next five books as well.  Amazing.

Another aspect that I adore about both novel and movie is that, I feel, the movie got it right, from the big to the small, the casting and characters were perfect, in my mind. Professor Lockhart was even more annoying in the book than in the movie, and I loved Rowling’s portrayal of him. Potter is, as always, a wonderful role model, and this novel is an all-around feel good story with many happenings to keep it all interesting.  From Dobby and his mischievous antics to a Quidditch match gone awry, from spiders trying to eat people to a snake with the same powers as Medusa, the novel kept me glued to the pages and in this for the long haul. Of course, the characters are even more defined in the novel than they are on the big screen, making it impossible for readers not to connect with them on some level; I loved every minute of this. Book still beats movie, but it’s another close call. Five stars.

5 stars

I own all these novels and movies.



3From Goodreads: Harry Potter has never played a sport while flying on a broomstick. He’s never worn a Cloak of Invisibility, befriended a giant, or helped hatch a dragon. All Harry knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry’s room is a tiny cupboard under the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in ten years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to a wonderful place he never dreamed existed. There he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic around every corner, but a great destiny that’s been waiting for him… if Harry can survive the encounter.

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This is my second time reading this series, and I must say, it only gets better with age.  I initially waited until all the Harry Potter books were out before reading them the first time because I didn’t want to have to wait in between them all, so to tide myself over, I watched the movies many a time.  And you know, I’m glad I did it this way because I’m actually one of those people who doesn’t have an active imagination and I have no pictures of what characters look like in my brain as I read.  None.  An author can tell me exactly how they look and how they sound, but unless I stop reading and try to draw them (and I’m not artistic in the least), there really isn’t much there in terms of my imagination.  It’s like a blurry shell for me.  And that’s why I loved watching the movies first, because I now have an exact image of what each character looks like, and I can see them doing everything the text says, and it’s amazing.  It’s also amazing because these books are so wonderful—I was a teenager when they first came out, and so I’ve pretty much grown up with Harry Potter over the years, and to sit here and reread the entire series as an adult bring back much nostalgia.

The Dursley’s are awful, just awful, but I enjoyed reading about them in the beginning of this novel.  It took a great many more pages than I initially thought it would to get Harry from the Dursely’s to Hogwarts, but I loved it from the beginning.  But, even having read this once before, do you know what I didn’t ever realize?  Neville is actually in this book a whole lot more than the movie portrayed, and I never knew it!  I mean, I always knew he was an important character (and it’s been seven years since I last read these books, so don’t judge me), but I guess I either forgot or never really internalized how much he’s really in this novel.  It’s not just a group of three friends, but actually four, though Neville gets angry at some points and disappears from the text, only to reappear later.  This was eye opening to me, and now I wish there was more of him in the movies as well because he does actually play a huge part.  But, regardless, both the movie and the book did a phenomenal job creating a story that I just can’t get out of my head.  Which is better?  The movie or the book?  Well, that’s actually a hard one to answer.  I think the book wins because it’s got so much more information, but the movie is a close second.  Five stars.

5 stars

I own this entire series and all the movies.



9658936From Goodreads: The Harry Potter prequel is an 800-word story written by J. K. Rowling, and was published online on 11 June 2008. Set about three years before the birth of Harry Potter, the story recounts an adventure experienced by Sirius Black and James Potter.

At the bottom of the card, JKR wrote: “From the prequel I am NOT working on – but that was fun!”

There is no official ‘cover’ for this short story, seeing as it was penned (By JKR) on an A5 card for the auction by bookseller Waterstone’s, in aid of two reading charities, Dyslexia Action and English Pen. It was auctioned off for £25,000.

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I really liked this very short (800 words short) glimpse into the antics of James Potter and Sirius Black, but as it’s so short, it really leaves more questions than answers.  Who were the three men on broomsticks?  I can only assume, since this is approximately three years prior to Harry’s birth, that they were Death Eaters. Perhaps?  And, what’s to happen to the muggle policemen after it’s all said and done?  Ultimately this is a teasing glimpse into the world before Harry Potter, but it’s not enough to give satisfaction. I would LOVE a series that actually follows James Potter’s life prior to Harry’s birth, maybe showing the dark times of Voldemort’s reign… perhaps one day.

You can read this very short prequel here: http://www.mugglenet.com/potterprequel.shtml (it will take you about 3 minutes).  Enjoy.

3 starsI read this prequel online.



41899From Goodreads: A copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them resides on almost every wizarding household in the country. Now, for a limited period only, Muggles too have the chance to discover where the Quintaped lives, what the Puffskein eats, and why it is best not to leave milk out for a Knarl.

Proceeds from the sale of this book will go to improving and saving the lives of children around the world, which means that the dollars and Galleons you exchange for it will do magic beyond the powers of any wizard. If you feel that this is insufficient reason to part with your money, I can only hope most sincerely that passing wizards feel more charitable if they ever see you being attacked by a Manticore.

-Albus Dumbledore

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I think this is a good read for the hardcore fan, and it boggles my mind that Rowling can be this detailed about her world. It’s phenomenal, really, and I must give her kudos for extending her amazing Harry Potter series as far as writing the textbooks as well!  Brilliant! And there are so many interesting beasts in this world… Unfortunately for me, this text also reads very much like a textbook, which is the point, of course, but doesn’t really interest me.  I liked how there are little notes here and there written by Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and I liked learning about the animals and the questions behind whether certain beasts were really beasts, but overall, it was a bit boring, in my opinion.  However, it has sparked my interest in re-reading the wonderful Harry Potter novels, and watching the movies all over again…

Here’s my question, though.  I’m hard-pressed to understand how a movie will be made out this textbook.  I picked up this little novella when I heard the news the Rowling was making another movie, but I just don’t see how it will be a movie as opposed to showing visuals of the encyclopedia like book.  Thoughts?

Two stars.

2 stars

I was given a copy of this novella by a student.



et cetera
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