Book Reviews

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

When I sat and thought about it, I realized there wasn’t really a whole lot of things that actually happened in this book. There are a few hugely important events, but all in all, the majority of the story is background information and series of suspicions and small occurrences that lead to the important events. That being said, I actually really liked this book. It felt like things were happening all the time even though it was only thoughts or history being presented.

The story opens with Dumbledore escorting Harry to the Weasleys’ house. They take a detour on the way and end up visiting Professor Slughorn, a man Dumbledore is attempting to get to teach at Hogwarts that year. Through Harry’s efforts, Professor Slughorn agrees to come to the school. Harry is rather baffled why Dumbledore seems to express such importance on Slughorn going to Hogwarts, but this is later discovered by Harry. At the Weasleys’ you learn of Bill and Fleur’s engagement and upcoming wedding and the gang prepares for another year at school. When they visit Diagon Alley for supplies, they are saddened by the number of closed shops and the scared feeling from the crowd because of Voldemort’s return and current mayhem. They also visit Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, the joke shop run by Fred and George. When they return to school, Harry begins to take lessons with Dumbledore on the history of Voldemort in order to better understand his enemy. They start back at the very beginning with Voldemort’s parents and later with him in the orphanage before he comes to Hogwarts. Later, Harry discovers that Slughorn was plays a key role in an important aspect of Voldemort’s rise of power – a memory that Harry has to persuade off the new potions teacher. The leads to the discovery and belief that Voldemort created Horcruxes, objects that hold a piece of his soul that allows him to remain alive even if his body is dead. Throughout this whole time, Harry is also balancing his lessons with being the Quidditch captain, a budding relationship with Ginny, and chasing Draco Malfoy around. Harry believes Malfoy to be a Deatheater and up to something at the school. He employs Dobby and another house elf to follow Draco and figure out what he is up to. Harry believes he is behind the two near death experiences of two students, but cannot prove it. All he knows is that Draco disappears into the Room of Requirement for long periods of time. What he is truly doing is discovered at the end of the book, proving Harry right. Furthermore, Harry is accidentally given a book in potions class that has been written in and modified by someone who identifies themselves as the Half-Blood Prince. Throughout the book, Harry uses this modified potions book to excel in his potions class and get close to Slughorn. The modified book as provides new spells written in the margins that have varying effects. Hermione is convinced the book is written by a dark wizard, but Harry insists on continuing to read it and learn the new jinxes. The end result of this study is a brutal surprise that leaves Harry reeling from what he has done.

The book covers a lot of information.The majority of the time, Harry is in high emotional states, usually angry or frustrated that no one will believe him about Malfoy. There is a lot of stress from being the Quidditch captain and his growing relationship with Ginny is interesting to see. There is a funny sort of way the author describes Harry’s coming to realize his feelings for Ginny that I found rather amusing. The growing relationship between Hermione and Ron is also fraught with emotional turmoil as Ron dates Lavender. The struggle between the boys and Hermione about the Half-Blood Prince’s book gets somewhat old, but at least the boys come up with different reasons why Harry should keep reading it each time the subject is brought up. Most interesting was probably the history on Voldemort. You learn a lot about him that you didn’t know before and can see how everyone noticed something was wrong but didn’t stop him before he left Hogwarts. Also, the Horcruxes were an interesting item that helps explain a lot about Voldemort and provides for a more complex story line in the future.

Overall, I think the book was great and showed a fairly good depth of character that was missing in the earliest books. You get to see more emotion from all the characters and the result is just a deeper feeling book that pulls you in. The book didn’t feel like it dragged along in places, but kept the pace going continually through the book. Again, this is not the best book for young children, but probably middle school age or higher is my suggestion.

My rating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.29.16 PM

Book Reviews, Random Thoughts

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter


I started this book with the hope it would be a great crime/suspense novel. As I was reading, the violence level began to rise, especially toward women. I wanted to see if the book got better or if I just had a weak stomach (I am an abuse survivor and often times reading violent novels brings back some issues). As I trolled through a few reviews on Amazon I realized the book was only going to get worse, not better and I have decided for my better interests not to continue. I am only posting this to explain that sometimes, you just shouldn’t read a book you know will bring you down. I hope it helps someone that fells like they need to finish a book just because they started it.

2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle


I was actually quite surprised by this book. It was written in language on the modern end of old English. The phrasing and some of the vocabulary are old and interesting, but for the most part the language and phrasing are very common, probably intended for the general public to be able to read and understand it.

The book is also written in a series of events, I guess you could call them. They are not short stories exactly, but each chapter is its own event. The combination of all the stories and the order they are in create the story of Robin Hood – it is not one stream-lined novel. For example, one chapter is about how Robin Hood meets Little John and another is how he meets Will Scarlet. There is also a chapter on the archery match that Robin Hood participates in for the Queen. The rest are simply stories of their life in the woods and how they robbed different people. The methods they used were different for each chapter and were interesting to read about. One particularly interesting chapter was when Robin Hood and Little John challenged each other to see which would be a better day – spending one as a beggar or one as a wandering friar. Little John’s chapter followed his day as a wandering friar and the next chapter followed Robin Hood’s day as a beggar. These are the kind of stories that fill the many chaptered novel of life in Sherwood Forest.

The thing that stood out the most to me was how much Hollywood has taken this original story of Robin Hood and changed it. There is no Maid Marion in the book at all. Robin Hood (SPOILER ALERT) actually dies at the end, which is pretty much unheard of. You also see him during three different rulers – King Harry, King Henry, and King John. There is actually very little between Robin Hood and Prince John, they only really become enemies at the very end when Robin decides to leave the King’s service. It does talk a little about how much he was favored by King Henry. There were a few stories where he interacted with King Harry. And there was an animosity between Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham, but it is not a key part of the story line. Also, Robin Hood and his band are very clearly thieves and con artists, nice ones and they donated to the poor, but definitely thieves.

I’d recommend this to anyone who likes adventures stories, stories about merry old England, or likes the history of Robin Hood. It is definitely not for everyone, but the book is appropriate for almost any age. The language will annoy some people and the pieced together story line will be hard for some people to understand and follow. However, the story moves along and can be put down and picked up again easily. I’d probably read it again if I was bored and looking for something to read, but that probably won’t be for a good while.

My rating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.29.30 PM


2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder


This book written from the point of view of a seven year old, so it was a little too young for me to connect with the characters. The story follows young Laura Ingalls through about two years living on a settlement in the middle of the woods. All her highs and lows and the joys of living you only can see through a child’s eyes. You see the simple life that people lived and how the appreciated the simplest of gifts and play. There were no X-boxes, and the best gifts you got for Christmas were a new dress or doll – not both usually. It gives you a new respect for what is truly important in life.

You do learn a lot about frontier life and what it took to survive. The book covers storing food, making butter, drying fruits and vegetables, canning, and storing meats. It also discusses the different dangers surrounding the settlers, such as bears and severe weather. Also, they cover collecting sap and making syrup. The book further emphasizes how much the settlers relied on each other and how they would help each other to prepare for the cold winter months. Furthermore, you learn how the settlers had to plan each week out so that everything got done – Cleaning on Monday, butter on Tuesday, Baking on Friday, Bathing on Saturday, etc. Everything they did was for a specific purpose that would help them survive. Faith and religion are also strongly reinforced and held in high respect.

It is a great story for learning about frontier living, but it is written for much younger readers. I did enjoy the information I learned and would be interested in reading the other books in the future to learn more about frontier life. The book does help you to look at your current life in a new way and to appreciate what you have.

My rating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.29.30 PM

2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving


I chose to read this book because it always pops up around Halloween and I felt like reading it. Usually, I am pleasantly surprised by classics and I fall in love with them. However, it was not the case with this book. After reading it, I chose to place it in my reading challenge as “a book with bad reviews”. After I read it, I looked it up on Goodreads and Amazon and I was not surprised to find that others did not like it as well.

My biggest issue was the story line – there really wasn’t one. The story opens with Icabod Crane moving to Sleepy Hollow to teach and starting to woo a wealthy heiress. There are other suitors that are also vying for her attention. The story discusses two or three times he meets with her and ends when he is chased by the headless horseman and disappears. That’s it. That’s the whole story. There really isn’t any emotional depth to the characters, actually you don’t know much about anyone except Ichabod. The book talks a lot about how superstitious he is and how he studies the various myths and legends of ghosts and witches, thus leading to him being so utterly terrified by the headless horseman. Also, I usually love the language used in classics, but in this book it didn’t work as well. There wasn’t a large range of vocabulary and the sentences and phrases were all set up similarly which did not help the story in any way.

I do have to say that as an audiobook, the narrator, James Mio, did a phenomenal job. He added a lot of emotion to his voice and stressed different words and phrases to add emphasis, as well as drawing out different areas to create suspense. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t recommend this book, which is rare for me. For as much drama and action the narrator added, it was really dry and boring.

My rating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.29.50 PM