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Top Ten Tuesday – Expectations

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Top Ten Tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Recently Read Books I Loved Less/More Than I Thought I Would 

 

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1. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. 

Me before reading: Why was everyone raving about this short illustrated book with a monster?! Why is everyone crying? It can’t even be that sad. 

*reads* 

Me after reading: Oh. That’s why. 

It’s fantastic!

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2. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I almost didn’t buy this book because of the format. I have never liked books that have weird formats, but Illuminae turned that whole opinion upside down. It was one of my favorite 2016 reads.

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3. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows. 

I received this book in both Owlcrate and Uppercase and it wasn’t even a book that sounded good. I did not want to read it, but I decided to take a break in between heavy books and I had SO MUCH FUN. This book was hilarious!

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4. Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman.

I don’t care much for the Unwind Dystology because it’s so far fetched, but I needed to read a book that won the National Book Award and I thought this would fit the category. I am SO glad I read it because it was absolutely amazing and one of the best books I’ve read that deals with mental illness. No wonder it won so many awards. 

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5. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. 

I had no expectations when I didn’t know who Joe Hill was, but when I first began the book and realized his face on the back looked familiar and discovered he was Stephen King’s son, I had lower expectations. “No way this guy can out-write his dad.” Or “it’ll be just like his dad’s horror.” “I mean, really? Horror?” And then Joe Hill proved me wrong and gave me an absolutely terrifying book that wasn’t anything like a Stephen King novel. 

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1. Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine. 

So I guess I just can’t do librarian stories. I don’t like The Librarians movie or TV Show. I didn’t like The Invisible Library. And I didn’t like this one. I don’t know why, I just didn’t connect with anything.

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2. The Gunslinger (Dark Tower 1) by Stephen King. 

This is a beloved favorite of many, if not most, Stephen King fans. And while it was good, it didn’t knock my socks off. I read up to book three and I still don’t have my socks knocked off, but I’m going to continue. If I know anything about King it’s that his writing improves as he goes along. 

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3. Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke. 

I love the way the author writes. I didn’t care much for her other series, but I thought maybe this book could be the one that ties together her amazing writing with a plot that was different. And… the plot wasn’t very good so it was another miss for me. Maybe next book!

4. The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry. 

I jumped with joy after getting this book in an Owlcrate because I’d been dying to read it and I didn’t want to spend hardcover money on it. The cover was gorgeous and the plot seemed amazing. But something fell flat and it was just a Meh kind of book for me.

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5. The Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes. 

I’ve heard this series be compared to Game of Thrones. The YA version! Awesome fantasy! Must Read! To me, a good fantasy has superb writing. I mean, that’s what I read fantasy for. And many well written fantasies have been YA, so a YA version of Game of Thrones sounded awesome. The book is like the fantasy version of [insert teen show with tons of relationship drama]. It’s fun, it’s addicting, but it’s not well written and compelling serious fantasy AT ALL. I mean, it’s like Game of Thrones in that people are fighting over power of the continent, but Game of Thrones isn’t the only fantasy to do that, so why even compare the two? I like the series, but it isn’t anything like I thought it would be. It’s not a game changer. It’s not a revolutionary book in the genre. It’s no Sarah J Maas fantasy…

 

Review – Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

 

Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1)

By Kendare Blake

SummaryEvery generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

Source: I received a hardcover in an Owlcrate box.

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Review:

I loved getting this book when I opened up one of my previous Owlcrate boxes. I loved Anna Dressed in Blood by the same author and I knew that she would weave and dark and unforgettable tale of three would-be queens. I did not read the synopsis before jumping in, so I only knew what I could discern from the title and cover, which is how I prefer to read if I’m in the mood to not necessarily know what I’m getting.

Essentially, the island has a queen. The queen has triplets. Only one of them can be crowned queen. To take the throne, she must kill her sisters and take the throne. Every generation. Each potential queen has an ability and possesses a certain strain of magic. In Three Dark Crowns, Katharine was a poisoner queen. She could ingest poisons with no real ill effect, but her power was weak and virtually nonexistent. She was, however, adept at poisoning and poison mixing. Having been subjected to rigorous training, she was shy and had no real confidence. Arsinoe was said to be a naturalist, which meant she should be able to control plants and animals. Instead, her power was also weak and close to nonexistent, though her best friend Jules was a very powerful naturalist and controlled a wild cat. Mirabella was the only real talented would-be queen. She was an elemental and could control the elements, generating storms and controlling fire. The other two were much weaker, but as long as they could put on a show, they’d get the opportunity to be courted and could kill their other sisters and win the crown. 

The sisters were separated early in life and did not know each other aside from intelligence gathered by their supporters. Each sister was essentially trained and raised by those adept in their skills and guided each one. However, there was also a game of politics being played. No one wanted their queen to lose, even if their powers weren’t really strong.

I loved the premise of the book, especially as I got to meet the characters. None of them really wanted to be vicious and kill their siblings, it was simply what was always done and what was expected of them. Generations of poisoner queens had been in the lead, so naturally, the poisoner family of the Arron’s wanted Katharine to take the throne as the next poisoner queen to keep everyone in the lead and in the same position. Between politics and temples backing certain queens and not others, who knew what could happen to any of the queens.

As the story went on, I felt like i got to know and like all the sisters, so even I wasn’t sure who should win. Mirabella certainly had the most power, but she also had dreams, memories even, of her sisters and was less inclined to murder them. The temple attempted to take matters into their own hands. There was drama, mystery, romance, and violence in the book and I was on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen to each of the three possible queens.

I definitely recommend the book and I can’t wait for the sequel. It was a good choice for Owlcrate and I don’t know that I would have necessarily picked it up otherwise!

Star 4

Review – Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

 

Vassa in the Night

By Sarah Porter

Summary: In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling away again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair…

Source: I received a hardcover in an Owlcrate box.

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Review:

What the hell did I just read?

Vassa in the Night has to be one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. I mean, I think I enjoyed it, but I don’t even really know? How can I possibly explain this correctly?

There’s magic in Vassa’s world. There’s a convenience store that spins/dances and is the only thing open at night and they behead shoplifters and place the heads in the parking lot on poles. Also the nights are longer, but they last the same length of time, it’s just the hours pass more slowly. Also Vassa’s father left and she lived with her stepmother and half sister and stepsister and her dad left to become a dog. And Vassa has a wooden doll that she feeds and it talks.

So. Yeah. The book is super weird. 

But the story was well told. It was a bit confusing, especially because even the things I mentioned above are revealed in a nonchalant type of way so your brain has no choice to be like “wait, what?” Because the rest of the story reads like a normal novel, it’s not the type of story that sweeps you away into some fantasy land. But as weird as it sounds, I kind of loved how unique it all was and how the author just threw those things in without making a big deal out of it.

The book is supposed to be a retelling of Wassalissa the Beautiful, a Russian folk tale. I do not know if it comes close or does it justice or anything like that, but the story was interesting.

If you’re easily put off by confusing books or world-building that isn’t super upfront and obvious, then this book is NOT for you. But if you have an open mind and want something a little weird, it’s definitely fun. It’s seriously perfect for those moments when you kind of get sick of so many similar plots and you just want a book to take you on an adventure you haven’t been on and can’t guess where it goes. Because there’s no way on earth you can predict what will happen next in this book. I promise. I’m giving it four stars just for being absolutely one of a kind and unlike anything else I’ve ever read. 

Side note: I believe the story is easier to understand if you’re familiar with the original tale, so if it’s super confusing, I suggest trying to read that before giving up on this book. 

Star 4

Feature and Follow Friday – Books Change You

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Feature and Follow Friday
Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read
This week’s prompt:

What was the first book that moved you? Scared you, made you cry, disturbed your view of the world?

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Having been a reader literally my entire life, it’s difficult to even remember the first novel I fell in love with. 

I think part of me loves A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle because Meg was plain jane and sort of the outcast and wasn’t particularly good at things and I felt like I identified with that growing up. I was always a tad shy, awkward, and the constant new girl since we moved around so much.

As an older kid, books like Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The Giver by Lois Lowry introduced me to the dystopia genre and let me know that it’s not always right to listen to the rules. You have to think for yourself. Are these rules worth following? Am I doing what is right? At the same time, we also read Night by Elie Wiesel, so it really hammered those points home. Do not just mindlessly listen to the rules.

As an adult, I remember Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver really making me look back at who I was in high school. I was so awkward and afraid of being uncool, but did anyone know that? Was I a follower or a mean girl when my friends were? Did I laugh at the less fortunate? It was really eye opening and slightly uncomfortable.

IT by Stephen King terrified me. The movie scared me as a kid, but the book was still scary, even knowing the gist of the story, as an adult.

After being married, reading The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks made me cry because it forced me to think about a life in which I didn’t have my husband. It forced me to look into the future and the reality that one of us may forget our own life story. It was sad on so many levels. 

And of course, reading the Bible as an adult definitely disturbed my world view and I had to pick up other text about religion, from atheistic in perspective to historical fact, in order to better understand what I believed.  

Review – Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Tell Me Three Things

By Julie Buxbaum

SummaryEverything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?
Julie Buxbaum mixes comedy and tragedy, love and loss, pain and elation, in her debut YA novel filled with characters who will come to feel like friends.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy. 

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Review:

I’ve been eyeing Tell Me Three Things for awhile, but hardcovers are expensive and I almost never fork out book money on hardcover YA contemporaries because I read them so quickly. And to be honest, I love waffles and I wasn’t quite sure if I only noticed it because of the waffles on the cover. I mean, that’s not a great a reason to pick up a book. I’ve been burned before by enticing covers. But when the kindle version went on sale over the holidays, I snatched it up. I’ve been in the mood for a nice contemporary that wasn’t totally dark or sad, so I finally picked it up and read it.

Tell Me Three Things was so good. I absolutely loved it. I flew through the book in an evening because I just couldn’t put it down without knowing who SN was. (See what I mean about how quickly I read contemporaries?)

Jessie’s life was completely upside down. Her mom died, her dad got remarried, they moved across the country, and Jessie ended up in an LA private school with a bunch of rich teenagers. And that was pretty much just the first paragraph. I hated being the new girl, so her situation was something I totally got. And while I fortunately have both my parents, I did have to deal with step parents and step siblings as a teenager, too, so I even understood that. It’s tough, and it’s even tougher when you have to also deal with grief. I knew I was settling into a book that hooked me.

After a rough first couple of days at her new school, Jessie received an email from SomebodyNoboby (SN for short) who offered to help her navigate the wilds of her high school. It was just the rope she needed to help keep her afloat. Here was a guy who really got her, but who was he? She took the help and ended up having some pretty meaningful conversations and he gave her some great pointers.

With SN’s help, Jessie was able to make some friends. She started working a project with a guy in her class and started to develop a bit of crush on him, but she was also desperately trying to figure out who SN was. She started a job and ended up working side by side with a guy dating one of the girls who was mean to Jessie, which created some drama for her. It was a complicated mess she was trying to navigate, while also trying to manage her home life. Her new home was huge, came with a flamboyant stepbrother who refused to talk to her in school, but was at least opening up a bit at home, a “helper” who made all of the food and made Jessie a bit uncomfortable, and a stepmom who was practically a stranger. The LA lifestyle was an alien world and Jessie was trying to figure it all out and still maintain her friendships back in Chicago.

I can’t really give anything away, but I loved the book so much. I loved the build up to the big reveal, the complicated boy drama, and the coming of age, figuring out who you are and how to be a better friend and forgive your parents. It was cute, but with just enough seriousness to balance it all out. 

I loved the end so much I reread it a few times just to experience the moment one more time! 

I definitely recommend Tell Me Three Things to fans of YA Contemporary. The book is every bit as delicious as the heart shaped waffles on the front. 

Star 4

Top Ten Tuesday – Valentine

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Top Ten Tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

All About Romance

 

Top Ten Insta Love Situations I Can’t Help But Love

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I know people hate insta-love, but I love the classic moment of meeting when you realize that you’re making a connection with someone. 

1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. The classic “who is THAT” moment in Twilight is one of my favorites. I mean, that moment of eye contact is so swoonworthy. 

2. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. Even though I’m NOT on Team Adam, the moment he touched her in the shower just because he could and Juliette was amazed.. I loved that scene!

3. Mara Dyer series by Michelle Hodkin. I mean, who wouldn’t do a double take when some troublemaking British boy with an unkempt tie gives you his attention?

4. Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas. From the first glare, even though they hated each other, Rowan made me think Chaol who?

5. Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. The moment Vampire Bill sauntered into Sam’s restaurant and stared at Sookie… I’m not a Bill fan, but it was such a great moment.

6. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. At first, I was bummed that book two didn’t feature Cinder prominently, but the moment Scarlet and Wolf met.. I was hooked. I loved their beginning.

 

An Adventure – Harry Potter Reread

After completing my 2016 challenges and setting up reviews to take me into the new year, I decided to take the time to do a full reread of the Harry Potter series. It was the first time I was rereading.. I read books 1-3 as a kid, and then later, 1-7 as an adult. I’ve never actually read the series more than once as a whole! Partly, I’m just not much of a re reader, but also, being a blogger makes it hard to take the time to reread something longer because I need to have reviews scheduled.

However, I’m really glad I took the time. The movies are great, but they miss so much.. so many details! It was nice to get back into the series and savor all of the details. Also, I never read the books from any other perspective other than just experiencing the story. It’s a lot different knowing what happens and being able to analyze it all. Also, I’m a Slytherin, which makes for an interesting reading experience.

I’ve decided to document some of my thoughts during each book.

 

Reread Thoughts:

 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 

In book 1, I realized how short sighted Harry could be. At first, I felt really bad for him because of all he endured at the Dursley’s, but it was clear that Dumbledore had a point when he decided to stick Harry there. The fame could’ve easily turned him into an awful person. Even with a ton of hardship and perspective, he still had his faults. All of his actions were based on his point of view, but he never stopped to think about how he appeared to other people. He completely disregarded and offended Draco and, if you look at it from Draco’s point of view, it was a really awful slight. The famous Harry Potter just treated him like dirt.. and he didn’t even really deserve it. He did later, he really did bully Harry, but that short exchange is what started the whole thing. If Harry was nicer, he could’ve avoided an enemy. Of course, I am a little more defensive when it comes to Draco because I know that he’s ultimately not evil and neither is Snape. And in the beginning, Harry seemed to associate people who didn’t like him with evil.. and that’s kind of a problem. I’m glad he has Ron and Hermione to help balance him out.

 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

 In book 2, I realize I totally forgot Ginny’s role in the diary from Tom Riddle. It’s been a really long time since I’ve even seen the Chamber of Secrets movie. I feel like Harry’s insistence that Snape and all of Slytherin is evil is completely over the top. So far, the only house involved in anything is Gryffindor. Obviously, we know why and we know that stuff just happens to Harry and it’s not like he wills it, but just imagine how it looks to everyone else! It’s kind of unfair. It was interesting to see Harry struggle with his fame and find things he is good at.

 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

In book 3, I had forgotten just how much I absolutely love Professor Lupin. He was such a great teacher and person and remains one of my favorite characters. I also enjoyed the whole dementor thing and the existence of Sirius Black. I also liked that we got to know Snape a little more and realize that Harry’s father perhaps wasn’t the amazing person Harry thought he was if he bullied Snape. I’m still completely bothered by how Harry can continue to be a jerk to Malfoy, yet act like it’s so unfair that Malfoy treats him like crap. It’s a two way street and yet Harry just walks around like he’s the victim. I understand why Snape hates him. Unless you’re in Harry’s head or his friend, it’s probably really easy to assume he’s full of himself.. he certainly acts like it at times. 

 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I stopped at this book as a kid. Honestly, I just didn’t know when it would end and I didn’t want to get stuck in another Harry Potter is good at everything and solves another mystery while also becoming champion of everything. It wasn’t until later, as an adult, when I discovered that Harry would struggle, lose people he cared about, and not always come out on top. To me, that’s what makes fiction interesting. So I read this one in full as an adult. I think Goblet of Fire is a bit too long, but I just wasn’t into the whole Triwizard Tournament or the Quidditch match. This is the one book where I feel like the things that attract people to the fandom differ from what attracts me. However, there are some of my favorite moments, like S.P.E.W. and Dobby and the more complicated plot involving He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. 

 

 

And here come my favorites… I love 5-7 so much!

 

 

 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 

 This is where the series starts to really improve in my opinion. Harry struggled a lot in this book and I think that’s what I needed him to do. His life was chaos. He spent his summer feeling isolated. He returned to school and few of his classmates believed You-Know-Who was back. The Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts butted heads throughout the entire book because of the issue of whether or not Voldemort was back. Dumbledore backed Harry, but the Minister felt threatened by Dumbledore and it turned into the worst situation. And this was the book that introduced Umbridge, perhaps the worst sort of person in the entire series. She makes me cringe in ways that Voldemort and even Bellatrix don’t do for me! She’s the evil we see everyday and I think that’s what makes her such a great evil character. We really got to see some parallels in this book about government interference. 

I love meeting all of the characters in this book. The Order of Phoenix was made up of some pretty unique characters. Harry got to see the Black home with Sirius and meet Kreacher, the disgruntled House Elf. I also loved meeting Luna Lovegood, the quirky Ravenclaw that could also see Thestrals. 

In my opinion, this book is the one that sets the series apart and gets super serious. It crosses out of fun middle grade adventure territory and becomes a serious piece of literature. I can’t wait to crack the next book open.

 

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

I love this one! Book 6 is intensely serious. Harry struggled with feelings for Ginny (which always seemed forced and weird to me, though I know that’s an unpopular opinion), watched Ron struggle with whatever it was that was happening between him and Hermione, and people were getting hurt at Hogwarts (but what else is new?) Harry was very suspicious of Malfoy, which was kind of annoying, even if we did figure out that he WAS indeed up to something. My one complaint is that Harry kept on being validated. His obsession with trying to catch Snape and/or Malfoy doing something dark was awful, but he wasn’t wrong. At least Dumbledore attempted to keep him on his toes. A lot about Voldemort was revealed and I enjoyed the darker side of things. This book is one of my favorites.

I love that Harry had some issues with his friends and had to make decisions alone. I love that he screws up and makes wrong decisions. And I love how the plot thickened and we got so much history of Voldemort.

 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

This book is perhaps the darkest of them all and the one that ends it all. Harry did not return to Hogwarts, as Dumbledore gave him a mission and Ron and Hermione accompanied him. Without Dumbledore’s guidance, Harry struggled to complete the tasks, but ultimately persevered. I absolutely loved when Dudley said to Harry that he wasn’t a waste of space, which was quite touching after everything that happened while Harry lived with the Dursleys. 

I forget how much material is in the final book. The mention of horcruxes is briefly mentioned in the last book and then the final book, but it’s something I remember so clearly. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows isn’t much longer than the past couple of books, but I feel like it contains so much. Between the deaths, the Deathly Hallows, the epic battle, and the final understanding of some wizarding lore and quests for power, the final book really is pretty epic. 

I love this series and I love how it ends, at least until the epilogue. I still can’t help but cringe a little bit at the neat bow at the end with everyone paired off and the names of all of the children. However, I know I’m weird and most people like to have concrete where-are-they-now endings. 

Other things of note: I did not miss the way the memory of James Potter compared to Draco’s introduction to Harry in book one, the way he scoffed at Slytherin the same way Draco scoffed at Hufflepuff. Harry didn’t like Draco’s attitude and it completely set them up to be enemies the entire series, but his father had similar stuck up attitudes. I never noticed that before, perhaps because I was focused on the great revelation that Snape was not Voldemort’s wingman and hadn’t been for a long time. Harry is a humble and quite talented wizard, but his tendency to relax the rules really did make him seem like his father in a lot of ways, which explains how awful Snape was to him. (And I really don’t think Snape was very awful, just a tad stubborn and rude). 

Also, I can’t seem to get through the final movies or this book without crying. 

 

————— 

I’m really glad I decided to reread the series. It worked out perfectly, with me finishing on Christmas and ready to start reading books for 2017. I had plenty of time, having met my 2016 goals back before Thanksgiving.

I know a lot of people end up rereading the series often, even annually, but I can’t imagine reading it so often. I’m not much a re reader, so I’m happy to have experienced the series just a couple of times now. I do hope to reread other favorites because I enjoy it, perhaps even more so the second time around.

Also, the movies are fairly good, but I was amazed at how different some of the scenes were, aside from the material cut from the movies, like almost every amazingly hilarious Dobby scene. Since I’ve only read through most of the books once before, the movies kind of end up replacing my memories of events and it’s incredible how many details I’d forgotten were different.