Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

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. 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. Enjoy!


From 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.


As a precursor to Harry Potter and all its goodness, J.K. Rowling wrote this very short teaser, as it were, to give readers young and old a small glimpse into the antics of James Potter and Sirius Black, Harry’s father and godfather, before Harry himself was even a thought. And a glimpse it is because it is so short that it does leave more questions than answers, but also allows the mind to come alive and fill in the gaps, especially for anyone familiar with Harry Potter in any of its forms. This short 800-word glimpse is so well done! Written with the same love and attention readers have come to know, Rowling’s description of the muggle cops scuttling out of the car like crabs in a slender alleyway and attempting to accost James and Sirius is comical and brought audible giggle’s from my depths as I re-read this fantastical, yet brief, tale. Sirius and James were always described by the characters in the Harry Potter series as being cheeky, and here, readers get to see it first hand as they speak with the muggle cops about names, which warmly reminded me of Fred and George Weasley and their nonsense responses when facing trouble.  Of course, readers are left to wonder who the three men on broomsticks were, perhaps Death Eaters, or perhaps someone less nefarious, like friends catching up as part of a game, but the main thing is, we’ll never really know, unless by some fantastic design Rowling decides to take up her pen again and write the prequel series she so adamantly states will never happen. Five stars and a huge want of more.

You can read this very short prequel at MuggleNet for FREE, though some words are a little hard to discern, as this is literally written in Rowling’s cursive handwriting. Enjoy.


Dancing with DeceptionFrom Goodreads: How far would you go to keep your nightmares a secret?

Wendy has been struggling with vivid, chilling nightmares that leave her exhausted and horrified. What will Wendy do to protect her secret when she discovers her nightmares are real? Death is coming and he’s coming for her.

Read the chilling prequel novella to the paranormal romance, Dancing with Death.


I’m sorry to say that this prequel didn’t spark my interest like I had hoped. For me, it moved too quickly, jumping years in a short span of time, and I felt like too much was left unexplained or unsaid. I realize this is a prequel that is supposed to just give readers a taste, but in terms of fluidity, I just didn’t feel like there was enough to make me connect with the characters or really get into the story. There is a lot of repetition, and the fact that Wendy refuses to tell anyone what’s happening to her, not even her besties, irked me.  I tend to be a lover of trust and less of secrets, so Wendy’s choices just weren’t to my liking.  There seems to be a lot of love for the first full novel, however, so I’m certainly not writing off the series, I just didn’t care for the prequel all that much.  Two stars.

2 stars

I picked up this novella from Amazon during a FREE promotion.

Kindle | Nook

ShadowsFrom Goodreads: The last thing Dawson Black expected was Bethany Williams. As a Luxen, an alien life form on Earth, human girls are…well, fun. But since the Luxen have to keep their true identities a secret, falling for one would be insane.

Dangerous. Tempting. Undeniable.

Bethany can’t deny the immediate connection between her and Dawson. And even though boys aren’t a complication she wants, she can’t stay away from him. Still, whenever they lock eyes, she’s drawn in.

Captivated. Lured. Loved.

Dawson is keeping a secret that will change her existence…and put her life in jeopardy. But even he can’t stop risking everything for one human girl. Or from a fate that is as unavoidable as love itself.


I picked up this novella after reading Obsidian, because Shadows is the prequel and I was curious to know more about Dawson and Bethany’s ill-fated relationship. I have to say, had I known there was a prequel available before reading Obsidian, I would have read it first, but as things turned out, I ended up reading the first full novel prior to reading this prequel.  That being said, I already knew the outcome going in, and yet, I almost feel like reading these stories backwards made me care even more about the characters than had I read them in the correct order.  Would I recommend reading Shadows after Obsidian?  Well, yes, I think I would, because even though I knew the ending going in, I had a healthy respect for all the characters and knew so much about them that I already loved the story before I even started reading.

And just like Obsidian, Shadows is an extremely well written novella.  Armentrout ties the novella and novel together seamlessly, giving the characters I loved, like Daemon and Dee face time, even though this isn’t their novella.  She also gives readers more background information about the Thompson triplets, characters readers tentatively meet in Obsidian, but don’t obtain much information about them as they’re extremely minute.

I will say that knowing the ending of Shadows was hard, especially as I’d gone and fell in love with the characters right away.  It killed me to know bad things were going to happen to them, and yet, I also feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel here.  Based on the wording that Armentrout uses at the very end of this novella, I’m not 100% sold on the idea that what the DOD said happened really happened, so I do have hope as I go into Onyx, book two in the series.  Likewise, I’m very curious about this bond that seems to keep happening between the aliens and their human lovers… having seen what happens to Dawson and Bethany, I am worried for our characters Daemon and Katy as they seem to be in a similar situation at the end of Obsidian.  Which is another reason I’m not 100% sold on the end of Dawson and Bethany…

To be quite honest, it doesn’t really matter what order your read these two books in—Obsidian before Shadows, or Shadows before Obsidian… they’re both beautifully written and captivating, and you should read them both.  Four stars.

4 stars

I purchased this novella from Amazon:

Kindle | Nook

Bitter Sweet LoveFrom Goodreads: In a sizzling prequel novella to her new series THE DARK ELEMENTS, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout draws readers into the extraordinary, irresistible world of Wardens and demons.

Dez wasn’t just Jasmine’s crush. A gargoyle Warden like Jas, he helped her come to terms with her destiny—fending off demons and maintaining balance between good and evil. He was her everything…right until the moment he disappeared without a trace. It didn’t help that Jas’s father had just announced that she and Dez would one day be mated. Hard not to take that personally.

And now he’s back, three years older, ten times hotter, ready to pick up exactly where they left off. But Jas isn’t taking that risk again. Dez has seven days to meet all her conditions and earn back her trust. Seven days filled with terrifying danger and sweet temptation. Seven days to win her heart—or shatter it all over again…


While this novella takes place four years prior to events in White Hot Kiss, focusing on two minute characters, it was still an amazing read!! Getting to know Jas and learn about the mating rituals/roles within the Warden’s clan was interesting; something that is briefly touched on in White Hot Kiss, but not expounded upon since Layla has no chance of taking a mate–not since her kiss is fatal to all except a demon.

In the beginning of Bitter Sweet Love, I was riled up and on Jas’ side–Dez disappeared for three years without a word and there was no way that I thought she should take him back. But, as the story evolved, and as Armentrout so beautifully described their seven day adventures, my walls, along with Jas’ came crashing down. And you know, Dez actually had a pretty good reason for leaving—even a bit romantic in a way, if one chooses to look at it that way (though he still could have called…).

At the end of this extremely well written novella we do meet 13 year old Layla, timid, taciturn, and shy as can be. And we meet Zayne, and even Roth–it’s was great to see their interactions and realize that the clan knew of Roth’s curiosity even four years before he ever approached Layla, and that actually makes me even madder at the Wardens!! But, for all intents and purposes, the entire situation was extremely well played. Bitter Sweet Love is a great novella, and if you’re interested at all in Gargoyles, Demons, swoonworthy boys, kisses that will melt your heart, and some kick butt fight scenes, then you should definitely pick up this prequel, regardless of whether you’ve read White Hot Kiss or not. It’s intense and oh so amazing. Four stars.

4 starsI purchased this novella from Amazon:

Kindle | Nook


Pick up your copy of White Hot Kiss today!!

 Amazon | Kindle | Barnes and Noble

White Hot Kiss

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.


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: (it will take you about 3 minutes).  Enjoy.

3 starsI read this prequel online.

18043896From Goodreads: Nidad Reik, the last mundane king of Verneece has fallen to the treachery of the sorcerers who once served him. Now the usurpers have gathered from the four corners of the kingdom to divide the spoils of victory. Among those in attendance are the Puppeteer and his ward, the Fortune Teller; the Sword Prince and his latest trollop; the Lady of Perfumes and her guards and lovers; finally, there is the fearsome Stonegrinder, master of earth and stone. The night is filled with feasting, entertainment .and gaming. In the wee hours of a long, winter night there is also murder.

The survivors look upon each other with suspicion of treachery. Who committed the murders and why? Or is there an outside agency moving against them to lay claim to their victory?


“Set in the Blackstone universe, the history of Verneece before the coming of Queen Spiral is revealed” in this novella by Jason Beineke, a prequel to the Blackstone series.  This imaginative fantasy series expounds on sorcery and world dominance, but for those of you who haven’t yet read the masterful Blackstone novels, then I highly suggest you begin with this novella, especially if you’re intrigued by world building, sorcery, and fantasy—this series is not one to be missed!

Complete with engaging characters able to bend the elements and wills of others, readers are introduced to a band of strong and able sorcerers come to divide the spoils of the conquered Verneece.  Although a tad vulgar and disturbing in places—drinking wine from a skull makes me shudder—this novella truly sets the scene for the murders and betrayal that takes place between the pages, and continues throughout the series, as the gifted magicians begin to suspect and fight amongst themselves.  Showing the vast corruption that pervaded the land prior to the seizing of power by Queen Spiral, a vicious queen readers will get to know in more depth in Drawing the Circle, this novella gives readers a taste of what is to come with its imaginative world, deceptive characters, and jarring situations.  It’s a great read that I enjoyed very much, though I do wish it was longer.  However, a longer read would defeat the purpose, as this novella is meant to whet the appetite for more, and that is exactly what it does.  Had the characters been a little more pleasant, I do believe their plight and overall fate would have left me feeling bereft.  As it is, however, these vile characters gain no sympathy from me.  Three stars.

3 stars

et cetera
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