Notebook Collection, part 7

This is the second half of my attempt to get caught up on posting about the newest additions to my notebook collection (which is really more of an obsession than a collection).

If anyone is interested in the previous posts as my smattering of notebooks became a collection and has grown:
Post #1
Post #2
Post #3
Post #4
Post #5
Post #6

notebook 5b

The story of this first notebook is a little sad. I recently read the entire Harry Potter series for the first time. Of course that opens up a whole new world of fandom merchandise to be interested in, which for me means notebooks. Though I prefer to shop for notebooks at stores, rather than online, I came across this one on Amazon (or maybe my husband did). It is not simply due to the fact that it’s from the series I’d recently read that I really liked it; it was also due to the overall look and style, being made to look like the Hogwarts letter from the very first book/movie. The seal has a magnet in it and keeps the notebook closed, and the cover is faux leather. And the best part is, like a LoTR notebook I got last year, what you see here is actually a book cover, inside which is a plain notebook with a cardboard front and back cover that can be removed when it’s filled, allowing this cover to be used again!

notebook 5a

Unfortunately, when the notebook arrived, it had a large sticker around the bottom of the cover. And when I peeled the sticker off, a lot of the adhesive was left behind and small bits of coating on the cover were removed with the sticker. I cleaned most of the adhesive off with Goo Gone, but the damage was done. Plus, the Goo Gone got into the material a bit and just would not come off, no matter what I used on it (trying to be careful not to further ruin the parts where the coating had come off). As you can tell from the bottom picture, it’s not too noticeable, especially if you don’t know where to look. I did contact the company that manufactures them, though, and strongly recommended that they do not put STICKERS directly on their notebooks.


notebook 6a

Let me mention now that, though I did like the Harry Potter series, I didn’t love it to the degree that this post may make it seem. But while either waiting for the other notebook to arrive or possibly while dealing with the sticker issue (I don’t remember the timing), I saw a boxnotebook 6b set at the mall that included the notebook shown to the left, a pen modeled after Harry’s wand from the movie, and the mug shown here too. I have a thing about mugs that appeal to me in some way too (though have far less mugs than I do notebooks), so it seemed perfect for me. I’ve used the mug many times (especially during the winter and early spring when I was still reading the HP books and it was cold outside).


notebook 7

This was an online purchase around the same time as the letter notebook. I stopped myself there, though, because I’m sure I could find so many notebooks in the the vast supply online (compared to in stores that I visit now and then) that I loved that it would bankrupt my family, if I didn’t put a tiny limit on it.

I love the nautical theme on this notebook with a leather-type cover. The anchor actually hangs along the spine, but I wanted to make sure it could be seen in the picture. And the wheel is at the end of a long piece of leather that wraps around the book to keep it closed.

While the outside has this adventure & travel feel to it, inside there is actually a 3-ring binder contraption, with plastic dividers that can be used to organize whatever you use the notebook pages for.


notebook 8aI’ve said it before, but I always love a good bargain on a notebook. My husband basically goes to every Goodwill store he passes, looking for uncommon board game deals (which he finds pretty often, actually). When I go with him, I generally look at the books for the same reason. Notebooks are much less notebook 8bcommon to find, for probably obvious reasons. But we did see this one, and though I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, my husband is. So he decided I should have this, and for $1, it’s not worth putting up an argument. I do like the style of artwork on it, so I’m not complaining. Besides, with how many notebooks that I have that are almost too pretty to use, it’s nice to have some that don’t give me that feeling.


While I’ve done a decent job this year in not buying a ton of notebooks (compared to before that), when my husband and I go on trips, we tend to find notebooks that I just have to have (I say “we” because he buys them for me, or pushes me to buy ones he can see I really like, at least as often as I decide to buy them myself). At the time of this posting, we’re on a week-long anniversary trip, so it’s very possible I’ll have more to share soon!

Do you collect anything related to reading or writing? Feel free to share!

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Book #7
by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: YA fantasy

HP 7

Continuing with my first ever reading of the Harry Potter books, I’ve just finished the final book. As a reminder, my reviews will likely contain spoilers, as I’m not too worried about avoiding that, with as long as these have been out, and as well known as they are.

This is the hardest review yet, for me. I was so caught up in the book by the last half that I was excited to give it 5 stars. But then I thought back over the entire thing, and looked at the notes I’d written earlier on, and realized that there were some disappointing things that really were worth an entire star detraction. Rather than try to organize my thoughts in a way that flows well, I’m going to do bullet points for this review.

What I liked/loved

  • Dudley’s appreciation of Harry, which is touching, yet not overdone or out of character for him
  • 7 Harrys
  • Luna in general, but esp that she could see through Harry’s disguise at the wedding
  • Godric Hollow’s wizards’ monument to the Potters and the graffiti on the sign
  • Ron’s chance to save the day
  • The fruition of the DA was better than I could have hoped for
  • Harry getting to see his parents again, and 3 out of 4 of the Marauders (Sirius was one of my favorites before he died, after all)
  • Neville’s triumph
  • The final defeat of Voldemort, of course, and the knowledge that these people are finally free from his destruction
  • I felt the epilogue was pointless at first, but after a few days to let it rest, I appreciate being able to see how the characters moved on, that Hogwarts was restored, and that Neville was a teacher there

What I disliked

  • The middle really dragged with all of the moving around to camp, and a few little things happened that really didn’t advance the plot much, if at all
  • The Deathly Hallows seemed so out of place, like a tack-on to another otherwise solid-feeling plot, and ended up barely having any point (despite me liking Harry’s use of the stone, as I mentioned above)
    • It’s really hard for me to buy that the invisibility cloak is infallible…except where it needed to not be for the plots of past books (especially since, from my recollections, none of the times I can think of that someone did, or seemed to, see through it were necessary to the plot)
  • Lupin’s and Tonks’s deaths should really have been “on-screen.” I know everyone loves Dobby, but I think they were at least as important to the series and should have been given a bigger send-off.
  • The Battle of Hogwarts and most of the climaxes and falling action that occurred between them were exciting, except for one thing–there was just so much talking during all of it! After the battle we get pages of exposition about Snape, then an entire chapter of Dumbledore explaining things to Harry (some of which we already know or could easily have deduced from previous information). Then there’s rising action to the final stand-off with Voldemort…during which they talk…a lot. I wish Rowling had figured out a way to include more of this much sooner than during/between the epic battle and final stand-off.

Overall, I did like the book a LOT more than I didn’t, and probably a lot more than it looks like here. But it generally takes more words to explain a problem I had than to share the things I liked. I do think the book was longer than it needed to be, and wonder if that was on purpose–the previous books had gotten so long, Rowling and/or the publishers felt she couldn’t go back at this point. I don’t know. But as this is the final book in the series, I can say now that I do understand why it is so loved. I am already looking forward to starting back at the first book some day and reading through the series again with an understanding of how things play out, to find those things that I missed the first time around.

Find out more about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Book #6
by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: YA fantasy

HP 6

Continuing with my first ever reading of the Harry Potter books, I’ve just finished #6. As a reminder, my reviews will likely contain spoilers, as I’m not too worried about avoiding that, with as long as these have been out, and as well known as they are.

Well…I don’t even know where to start with my review of this book. Normally, I take a few notes while reading–just things I want to make sure I remember when I’m writing the review–things I really liked or things I didn’t like. I didn’t write any notes for half of this book, because I was just so caught up in the ride. So suffice it to say: I liked it.

I enjoyed seeing Harry as team captain, really liked the luck potion fake-out, and even liked that the Gryffindor team was able to win without Harry (because of the common Harry-is-best-at-everything complaint some people have with this series). The romance with Ginny was expected, but I think that’s only because of spoilers I’ve seen over the last few years. Harry suddenly being jealous of her relationship with Dean and daydreaming about her being with him, with no indication that he liked her that way before, was actually pretty abrupt. I’m curious, though I’ll never know, about how I would have felt if I hadn’t been anticipating it, because it came out of left field in this book.

The formula throughout this series of Harry suspecting something and not being able to get anyone (except maybe his friends, but not even them this time) to believe him is getting a little tiring. It’s even worse if he turns out to have been correct about everything, so it leaves little mystery for us.

The ending was a bit unpleasant, not just because of the obvious, but because of the realization of how very different the next book is going to be. After 6 books that covered a year of school (with more and more shown of the summer each year), knowing we won’t be going back to Hogwarts was as sad for me as it was for the characters. I also felt really let-down by the explanation of the Half-Blood Prince, which was fairly anticlimactic.

The one biggest issue I had was not a fault of the book’s. Back when this book first came out, my husband showed me the video of some guy driving by a bookstore yelling, “Snape kills Dumbledore!” at a crowd of people waiting in line to buy the new book, or walking way after buying it. Even though my memory isn’t what it used to be, this has stayed in my mind for 14 years, even when I never had any plans to read the book. So it’s also tainted my thoughts, expectations, and theories as I’ve read the entire series. Because of that, and who Snape has been shown to be up until and through this book, I did truly expect there to be more to it than there was when it actually happened. But there wasn’t.

In my reading and book blogging over the last 10 months, I am making sure to continue with series at a decent pace, but have never read 2 books from one series back-to-back. However, when I finished this book, I just knew I had to keep going. So I’ve already started on book #7. That’s probably as much of a testament to how much this series has sucked me in as anything. In a similar fashion to how a lot of questions and mysteries are tied up at the end of each HP book, I’m expecting a lot of tying-up of things left a mystery (or misunderstood, etc.) throughout the rest of the series, at the end of Deathly Hallows.

Find out more about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Book #5
by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: YA fantasy

HP5

Continuing with my first ever reading of the Harry Potter books, I’ve just finished #5. As a reminder, my reviews will likely contain spoilers, as I’m not too worried about avoiding that, with as long as these have been out, and as well known as they are.

There was so much to love about this book, and yet, a few things that really detracted for me. I’ll start with what I liked.

First of all, George and Fred are my heroes! Their roles in the story has grown throughout the books, starting out as just some background troublemakers. But in this book, their mischief found a target, and it was brilliant. After so long of Umbridge being one of the most despised characters I’ve ever read/seen, the culmination of George and Fred sticking it to her was almost worth it (but not really). Not to mention Peeves taking up the call.

I liked seeing Lupin again and loved seeing so much of Sirius. In my review of the previous book, I mentioned how much I liked him being around so much in that one, and his role was even bigger in this one. He’s become my favorite character, which I think may be as much because of what he’s able to be to Harry as anything. Of course, that just made it all the worse at the end. I am frustrated about the fact that Hermione actually did question if it could be a trap, only for them to take the word of the house elf and walk into the trap anyway. But I’m not sure if my frustration about his death is just because I liked him or if I’m legitimately bugged by what seems like a spot of weak plotting/characterization.

I also really liked the progression of the D.A. and Harry trying to explain that a lot of what he’d done in the past was luck. Yet they were aware that, luck or not, he still had more practice with these spells than anyone else. I was glad to see Neville have some good moments in this book, while still having plenty of struggles, poor kid.

There were some other smaller things that happened that I found particularly interesting, like Ron being made prefect and the reminder that Petunia would have at least a little knowledge of magic. Hermione’s drive for house elf freedom can die any time, in my opinion. But who knows, maybe it’ll have a purpose at some point in the last couple of books.

The biggest downside to this book is Umbridge herself, and how much power she was given by the end of the book, only to not really have a great resolution to it. And really, it’s not Umbridge, at least not solely, but the Ministry, and how much power they were able to wield with apparently no one to keep them in check. Because of how long the book was, this whole thing just seemed to drag on and on.

As for the book length…I have never been one for long books. I’ve never read anything longer than 550 pages, and that length is not common for me. But of course, I didn’t come this far to not finish the series. After reading it, though, I can see a few side plots that could have been cut out. Of course, I don’t know that these side plots won’t be more important in the later books, so maybe I’m wrong.

Things are getting real now, and there are only 2 books left. I’m so nervous about what other bad things will happen as this series finishes up (not to mention about spoilers I’ve heard out of context).

Find out more about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

TBR Book Tag

I saw this tag over on A Rambling Reviewer and quickly decided I wanted to play along. Since starting to post reviews on my blog back in July and soon after starting to build an official TBR list, I actually take a lot of joy in organizing it. So answering questions about it and the books on it, was right up my alley. Diving right in:

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
For starters, I keep a list on Goodreads. I feel a little weird sharing this, but I actually go a step further and have a spreadsheet with my TBR as well. This is so that I can manipulate it a lot more than I can on Goodreads–make notes about how I can get ahold of the book (library, borrow from someone, I own it, etc.), who recommended the book to me, keep track of series I’m in the middle of, things like that.

Is your TBR mostly print or e-books?
I generally read print books when I can, and the majority of the books on my TBR will be borrowed from the library as print books.

A book that’s been on your TBR list the longest?
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – I put this on 4 years ago when I first joined Goodreads, but back then, I wasn’t reading regularly. My husband has been recommending it for a long time, and I’m finally planning to read it within the next month.

A book you recently added to your TBR?
What You Wish For by Katherine Center – Releasing in July, I was recently invited to read the ARC for this book because I had read and enjoyed her previous book, Things You Save in a Fire.

A book in your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – The synopsis is interesting enough, but it was an impulse-add because of the cover.

A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?
There are no books on my TBR that I don’t plan to ever read. Some I know will be there a while, but to avoid anxiety over feeling like I’ll never read all the books I want to, I don’t add a book if I’m not sure, at least at the time, that I want to read it. If I realize later that I don’t really care about it anymore, I’ll remove it.

An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?
Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman – This book releases in June, and I’m part of the blog tour for it at that time. It’ll be the first time I’ve done something like that, which is fun!

A book on your TBR that basically everyone’s read but you?
Harry Potter books – I’ve actually finished the first 4 books now, so I have 3 more to go now. Before last July, I hadn’t read or watched any Harry Potter, even though it’s…everywhere even now. (And by the way, now that I have some context, it is impossible to avoid spoilers. They’re everywhere!)

A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?
I don’t get a lot of direct recommendations, though my mom and sister have been very excited about some they’ve recommended. However, I think one that fits this bill better would be The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. After I put it on my TBR, it won the Goodreads Choice Award in the mystery & thriller category, which presumably means that a lot of readers recommend it.

A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?
It’s strange to look for a book for this question in my TBR, because logically I think that if I was dying to read it, I’ve already have read it. But realistically, I have all sorts of reasons to hold off on even books I’m really excited about. So I’ll go with North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I’ve seen the mini-series several times and love it, so I have a feeling I will get swept up in the book.

How many books are on your Goodreads shelf?
It depends on which one you mean, so I’ll just say I have 66 books on my TBR, with 22 in my “maybe add later” list on my spreadsheet, which includes books that my library doesn’t have and I’m not ready to buy, or just books that I’m not 100% sold on (so I guess I sort of have books I don’t intend to read, but not on the official TBR, and I’m not certain I won’t read them).

How does your TBR look? Answer these questions on your own blog and feel free to link your post in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Difficult Reviews to Write

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s topic is “The Last Ten Books That Gave Me a Book Hangover.” I kinda get what that means, but it doesn’t really happen to me much. The most I could really say that about are books that ended up being my favorites, and listing the last 10 of those would be rehashing other posts I’ve made in the last few months. So I twisted the topic a bit. Sometimes the books that I love the most give me a hangover in the sense that I put off writing the review, because I don’t know how to put into words what I want to say. But there are other reasons that writing a review seems like a far more daunting task than normal. So my topic today is reviews (of those I’ve posted on this blog, the book review part of which only goes back to last July) that were the hardest for me to write, for various reasons. Here is my list in chronological order, starting with my very first book review on this blog:

1. Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren
Just by virtue of being the first book review I’ve written since school days, this was a difficult one to write. It was also written by a friend, so I wanted to make sure to be honest and kind. I wish I’d liked it more, but I’ve always had a different taste in literature than her, which I think influenced my view of the story. I’ve written a couple reviews since then that I knew the author was going to read, and am about to write another. It hasn’t gotten easier so far. (See my review for this book here.)

2. The Oath by Frank E. Peretti
This has been my favorite book for probably 15-20 years. I’ve read it many times. After reading it again for the first time in at least 10 years, I had a very difficult time putting what I liked about it into words. I don’t know if that’s because it was all too familiar, or if everything I liked had melded together over the years, or what. It turned out to be a fairly short review (compared to most of my others).  (See my review for this book here.)

3. Tilly by Frank E. Peretti
Same author, very different problem. I read this book for the first time last year, and it is incredibly short. It’s really hard to say much in a review without giving away what I thought was meant to be a mystery in the book (though it’s flat-out stated in the synopsis on Goodreads…I honestly don’t get it). But just in case, I skirted around it, and there just wasn’t much else to say. (See my review for this book here.)

4. Strands of Truth by Colleen Coble
As it turns out, I’m a pretty picky reader. If a book has 95% 4 and 5 stars on a review platform, I will usually be one of the 2 stars. I don’t really know why…maybe it’s that I have a harder time getting past things that others can ignore to see the positives. Maybe writing has ruined me for reading. Maybe I just have all the wrong personal preferences for books these days. Whatever it is, this is one example of a book that many others lauded, but I had a lot of problems with. I remember starting to write this review and having so much I wanted to say, I didn’t know how to organize it to even start, or how to make sure the review didn’t turn into a rant. (See my review for this book here.)

5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
When I read this last year, for the first time ever, and without having seen the movies either, I considered not even writing a review. Everyone has already read it, right? They already know way more about it than I do. What am I going to say that thousands of others haven’t? I did write it, but it took some time. (See my review of this book here.)

6. Stealthy Steps by Vikki Kestell
The main reason this review was difficult to write is that my mom had strongly recommended it to me and was really anxious to see what I thought about it. I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t like it a ton either. I wanted to be careful not to write the review in any way that would make it seem like I was speaking negatively of her opinion or taste. (See my review of this book here.)

7. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
I don’t think it’s at all uncommon to have a difficult time reviewing a book that is about such a dark subject. If you say you liked it, it might seem like you’re being flippant about the subject. If you say you didn’t, it might seem like you’re heartless. I’ve written a few reviews with the same trouble, so hopefully I’m getting some practice at getting it right.  (See my review of this book here.)

8. Holes by Louis Sachar
The biggest issue with this one is that I saw the movie before I read the book, and I loved the movie. It can be difficult to separate them in my mind when writing a review. Even though the movie was very close to the book, there are some differences, and the book had a bit more depth to it. But in the end, I had to be willing to allow some comparison in my review. (See my review of this book here.)

9. I Want to Punch You in the Face But I Love Jesus by Sherri Lynn
Have you ever recommended a book (or substitute “movie or TV show” here) to someone and just wanted to be able to say, “Just read it! I promise it’s good!” without having to give reasons. This is that book for me. It was hilarious, relatable, and made me hate Patty Michelle Sinclair just a tiny bit less (well, maybe not).  (See my review of this book here.)

Pithea cover, Kindle

10. Blessed Are the Misfits by Brant Hansen
I finished this book 5 days ago, and I haven’t even started on the review. I never wait that long. I think part of it was because I knew I had plenty of time before it would be posted, but I’m also having a difficult time putting what I thought about it into words. I can say what I learned most from it, but that seems like a bit more soul-baring than I’m comfortable with. I can give some examples of Brant’s incredible humor, but I can’t tell his stories like he can. Hopefully by Friday, when this review will go up, I’ll have figured out something to say.

What books have you struggled to write a review for? Do you have a list of book hangovers to share? Link your TTT so I can check it out!

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Book #4
by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: YA fantasy

HP4

Continuing with my first ever reading of the Harry Potter books, I’ve now read #4. As a reminder, my reviews will likely contain spoilers, as I’m not too worried about avoiding that, with as long as these have been out, and as well known as they are.

This was my favorite in the series so far! I feel like I’m finally starting to understand the draw of this series in general. I was really into the story and characters and enjoyed trying to figure out who was behind everything this time (besides the obvious who was actually pulling the strings). I had my theories, but was definitely surprised more than once near the end.

I don’t want to go too far before mentioning one of my favorite things of the whole book. It was a short scene, and near the beginning of the book, but I had to silently cheer when Arthur Weasley pushed the Dursleys to say goodbye to Harry. Though Harry is used to the way they treated him (and, by extension, so are we), Arthur couldn’t understand why they would be okay with letting him leave for the summer without saying goodbye. That’s just a glimpse into why he is such a good father, and a good man in general. Then later, when Molly & Bill Weasley showed up to be Harry’s surrogate family, I cheered again. I love that family! (And I just watched the movie as well, and was incredibly disappointed that both of these scenes were missing.)

I was very happy to see Sirius playing such a large role in this book. I had assumed that he would disappear after the previous book, or at least just turn up in tiny bits. I like that Harry has a familial connection (even if it is not by blood) in this surrogate father/uncle.

One of the things that detracted from the book a little was the continued way that Harry so often lucked into things. In the end, it was really due to the villain pulling strings, but Harry doesn’t solve much for the tournament on his own. Things keep getting handed to him. It doesn’t actually bother me that much, though I can’t say for sure why, but I can see why it would cause others to strongly dislike the book, or even the series, since it happens a lot. It just seemed particularly pronounced in this book.

Overall, many of the issues I had with previous books with writing and style either weren’t present in this book, or I just didn’t notice. I was pretty engrossed in the story. I thought it would take me weeks to get through this one that was a large jump up in page length, but a combination of having some extra time over the weekend and just really wanting to keep coming back to it got me through it in less time than I expected. I’m looking forward to the next one!

Find out more about Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Top Ten Tuesday: Side Characters I Love

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s topic is a freebie about love. I was going to skip this week, but then I hit on an idea. For my list this week, I’m listing 10 side/minor characters in novels that I loved. It’s easy to list main characters that I like, especially in books that I rated high. But something I always find fascinating is when I like a side character at least much as I like the main character(s). Even if the book ends up being one that I don’t love, I’ll always feel connected to that character. Here is my list in no particular order, because I couldn’t quite order them:

1. Levi Cobb from The Oath by Frank E. Peretti
He’s the town crackpot…talks to inanimate objects, preaches at everyone who comes to his garage, and talks about dragons. But really, he knows a lot more than people realize and is the only one in town with any real sense. And then he saves the day! (See my review for this book here.)

2. Dale of Priceless by Joel & Luke Smallbone
With his own troubled past to fuel him, Dale prods the main character to do the right thing. I don’t know if I would have loved Dale as much as I do if I hadn’t seen the movie before reading the book, as he was very well-portrayed by David Koechner. But even if that’s the reason, it doesn’t change the fact that he’s my favorite character in the book. (See my review for this book here.)

3. Matthew Cuthbert of Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Anne herself is a lovable character, but I really identified with her adoptive…father? Uncle? To be honest, I’m not real clear on how that whole thing worked. But this older gentleman is shyer than me, and that’s truly saying something. Yet, to watch how he fell in love with this little girl I really think I think was a huge part of what made me fall in love with the book.  (See my review for this book here.)

4. Walagash of The End of the Magi by Patrick W. Carr
The way Walagash treated Myrad, the MC, in a culture where people took care of their own and didn’t have much love for strangers, endeared him to me early on in this book. And as the story went on, he became like a father to Myrad, and I loved him more and more. (See my review for this book here.)

5 & 6. Berdon Wulf and Arcturus of The Summoner Trilogy by Taran Matharu
I tried to decide between these two, but I gave up and decided to include them both. Berdon is the MC’s adoptive father and provides much-needed strength and stability throughout the trilogy, when he can anyway. Maybe it’s because he’s a blacksmith like my own dad, or maybe it’s because the MC’s dad in my own book is also a blacksmith, but I really liked Berdon.

Arcturus is the kind and fair mentor who takes Fletcher, who is brand new to this magical world, under his wing somewhat. Even more, there’s a question about a familial connection that I won’t say any more about, because it ventures into spoiler territory. There’s a reason that the prequel to the series focuses on Arcturus, and I’m looking forward to reading it. (See my review for the first book in the trilogy here.)

7. Dr. John Francis of Thr3e by Ted Dekker
Dr. Francis was a professor (I think of theology), and the book starts with him and Kevin (the MC) discussing the nature of evil in man. As the story unfolds and the FBI agent is trying to understand what on earth is happening to/with Kevin, the professor helps her work through some questions. And he ended up playing a huge role in the climax that I really loved, which made it all the worse that the professor had no part in the climax in the movie version. (See my review of this book here.)

8. Arthur Weasley of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
I just finished reading this, so it’s fresh in my mind. While the HP books have a lot of interesting and lovable side characters, I found myself mentally cheering for the Weasley patriarch when he was so appalled by the way the Dursleys treated Harry near the beginning of the book. While the reader (and Harry) may accept their terrible behavior (because what else can we do about it?), Arthur gets to say to them what we wish we could.

9. Zander Cruz of Stealthy Steps by Vikki Kestell
Christians in fiction (in any medium) are often represented as overly preachy or as more depraved than the non-Christians. This associate pastor was a realistic example of Christians–he loved God and loved people, had a difficult past, and still struggled with his sinful nature as a pastor. Sadly, his status as my favorite character in the book slipped in the 2nd installment of the series, but I’m hoping to see him re-instated in the last 2 books. (See my review of this book here.)

 

Pithea cover, Kindle

10. Jonathan of Pithea by Kristi Drillien
I ran out of ideas after 9, so I decided to include one from my own book. Yes, I like all of my characters because I created them. But contrary to what some might think, I do have favorites. Jonathan is one of them. He becomes a good friend to the MC when she needs one most and is not afraid to call her out when she does something stupid. (See more about this book here.)

What side characters did you fall in love with? Link your own TTT post in the comments so I can see what you did with this week’s freebie!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Reads from 2019

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is a look back at our favorite books from the past year. First, a quick explanation about my reader-self. I used to read like crazy as a kid, teenager, and maybe the first few years out of high school. I don’t really know when it dropped off, but for most of my adult life, I’ve finished maybe 15 books total.

In the summer this year, I decided that I wanted, and in many ways needed to get back into reading. So I dove in, started building a TBR list that grew scarily fast, started posting reviews on my blog, and haven’t regretted it for one second. I re-discovered my love for reading almost immediately, and enjoy keeping track of what I’ve read, how I felt about it, and what I plan to read.

The following list starts with my favorite 4-star reads from this year, then some 4.5-stars, and finally the only books I gave 5 stars to this year. I’m not including re-reads and am lumping series into 1 entry (even if I haven’t finished the series yet).

10. The Summoner Trilogy by Taran Matharu
I enjoyed this trilogy pretty early on. The Harry Potter meets Pokemon vibe was just too fun. Even with the heavy race and class politics and the inescapable brutal war that was looming, I enjoyed all 3 books in this trilogy. There’s a prequel that is billed as book #4, and I have plans to read it some time in the first half of 2020. (See my full review for the first book in the trilogy here.)

9. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
I’m currently almost halfway through my first reading of this series (finished with #3). Though I can tell I don’t love it as much as the majority of the rest of the world, I have been enjoying it for the most part. It’s possible that what makes it even more fun, though, is following each book with my first viewing of the movie, alongside my husband. It’s interesting to me that only 1 of the 3 I’ve read so far got 4 stars from me–the others were 3.5. And yet, when considering books to add to this list, I did decide that Harry Potter as a whole (so far) was worth putting on the list. (See full reviews for the books I’ve read so far here: book #1, book #2, book #3)

8. Fatal Strike by DiAnn Mills
This is the first of 2 ARCs on this list. This book was exactly what I wanted it to be, and considering that it seems like a majority of the ARCs I read this year were busts, I was happy to be able to give this suspenseful romance a higher rating. (See my full review here.)

7. The End of the Magi by Patrick W. Carr
This was another ARC and really surprised me. I loved the idea of reading a book about the advent of Christ from the perspective of the magi that visited Him not long after his birth. This is one that really stuck with me for a while after I read it (probably partly because it was the Christmas season and I saw & heard related things everywhere). (See my full review here.)

6. The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal
I keep recommending this book to people. It was fun and engaging, and I know I will re-read it plenty of times in the future. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which I think is important to understand, in order to enjoy the book. Also, it’s billed as horror, but it’s not really scary, which doesn’t bother me personally, but may others. (See my full review here.)

5. The Martian by Andy Weir
I’d seen the movie years ago, and more recently a friend strongly suggested that I read the book too. I was so glad that I did, because for as good as the movie was, the book allowed me to feel even more connected to Whatney. Like my friend, I would really suggest that those who’ve seen the movie read the book too. (See my full review here.)

4. Priceless by Joel & Luke Smallbone
Another one where I’ve seen the movie, and didn’t even know it was a book until I happened to see it at a bargain store this summer. With some all-too-real situations and flawed characters, this book is brimming with emotion and depth. I’ll admit that the ending was maybe a bit too easy for the real world, but that’s what fiction is for. (See my full review here.)

3. Lock In by John Scalzi
This was probably my biggest surprise of the year. I remember seeing this book sitting around years ago when my husband was reading it. I thought at the time that I should probably read it, because it was in the same genre as my writing, and even had parallels to my world-building. But being sci-fi, I kinda thought it would be dry and technical (yes, I judged it with a very limited understanding of the literary sci-fi genre). When I finally did read it, I loved it! (See my full review here.)

2. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
I actually knew nothing about this book or series before reading it. I’ve heard about it practically all my life, but mostly just in name, not with any kind of understanding of what it’s about. I fell in love pretty early in the book though, and by the end, I knew I had to read as much of this series as I could get my hands on, which I’ll be continuing with soon. (See my full review here.)

1. Illusion by Frank E. Peretti
I’ve had a lot to say about this book and author recently and don’t want to start repeating myself. This was definitely my favorite book from this year. It was really nice to get a fresh reminder of why Frank Peretti is my all-time favorite author. I’m already looking forward to the next time I read this book. (See my full review here.)

Have you read any of these? What were some of your favorite reads this year?

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Book #3
by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: YA fantasy

HP3

Continuing with my first ever reading of the Harry Potter books, I’ve now read #3. As a reminder, my reviews will likely contain spoilers, as I’m not too worried about avoiding that, with as long as these have been out, and as well known as they are.

It actually took me some time after finishing this book to decide how I felt about it. I realized that this was because it was not terribly exciting or cohesive throughout. I did find myself wanting to push to finish it, but that was as much because I wanted to find out if some of my theories were correct or not. Certain things that were going on seemed really obvious to me, and I wanted to know how they panned out.

I was not surprised to find out that Sirius Black was not evil like he was made out to be. I was, however, both surprised and disappointed to find out that Sirius Black, Harry’s dad, and a couple of other guys were the Fred & George Weasley of their time. I had not pictured Harry’s dad that way, and while I’m sure it’s not uncommon for “hooligans” to grow up and be respectable adults, it was strange to think of Harry’s dad as a bully, and to think of Snape as a victim.

Hermione’s arc was disappointing, as she was barely in this book except to anger Ron and then disappear for a while. And the reveal at the end about how she was going to so many classes at the same time was a bit unrealistic. Not because it’s time travel, but because I have a difficult time believing they’d let her time travel for school. And then later, there are some inconsistencies with the time travel that bugged me.

Harry himself was hit-or-miss for me. I know he’d done some things in the previous books that he wasn’t supposed to be doing, but when he snuck out to go to Hogsmeade in this book, it felt more outright defiant to me. I did enjoy the Quidditch scenes though, and laughed out loud at McGonagall’s reactions in the final match.

By some point in the 2nd half of the book, I realized how irritated all of the dashes in the book were making me, and to a lesser degree, ellipses. They were just so peppered throughout, for interrupted speech, faltering speech, and just…well, anything they’re normally used for. I use both of these punctuation types myself, and normally, it’s pretty innocuous. So for me to have noticed it so much, there must have been quite a lot of it.

Overall, I didn’t dislike the book, but didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the previous one. Still, I’m looking forward to seeing where the series goes from here.

Find out more about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!