Monday, January 31, 2011

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

The war against Voldemort is not going well; even Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.

And yet...

As in all wars, life goes on. The Weasley twins expand their business. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate -- and lose a few eyebrows in the process. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.

So it's the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Here at Hogwarts, Harry will search for the full and complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort -- and thereby find what may be his only vulnerability.

Ladies and Gentlemen-- I think I have a new favorite. With the exception of HP5, these books just keep getting better and better.

I think it's funny that shy, little Ginny Weasley is suddenly a hot commodity at Hogwarts. And she also suddenly has a fire to match her hair. I've always been a fan of her though. I am pleased at the turn of events in a particular relationship status of hers. I just want to say... FINALLY. Am I the only one who felt that way? (P.S. I'm pretty sure I just love the entire Weasley family.)

I thought this was the most complex book of the series so far. I enjoyed reading about Harry's lessons with Dumbledore and learning more about Tom Riddle (aka Lord Voldemort)'s history. There were so many important things in the book that they seemed to have simply left out of the movie.

I actually remember going to see The Half Blood Prince movie with my husband when it was in theaters. I kept leaning over to him and asking if he had any clue what was going on. :) Last night when we were talking about it, he even confessed that he didn't even remember going to the movie. The things I remembered thinking were this-- I don't get it. Is Snape good or bad then? Why is the Half Blood Prince called that? There were many more questions I had that I can't talk about without revealing too much. The book just seemed to make so much more sense to me than the movie and it answered all of my questions.

Again, I have the thought though, Why have I not read these before now??

On a different note, today is the final day of the Potter-Thon hosted by Lori at Pure Imagination. I can't believe I actually read 6 of the 7 books. I wanted to get through all of them, but once I dove into them and got sucked into the complex, thought-provoking story, I am surprised I read as many as I did! I know some of you are dying for a review of something other than Harry Potter, but I wanted to say thank you for sticking it out with me this month. I have tons of great books to review in the coming weeks, but don't be surprised to see the final Harry Potter review sooner, rather than later.

Happy Reading!

Friday, January 28, 2011

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

There is a door at the end of a silent corridor. And it's haunting Harry Potter's dreams. Why else would he be waking in the middle of the night, screaming in terror?
Harry has a lot on his mind for this, his fifth year at Hogwarts: a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher with a personality like poisoned honey; a big surprise on the Gryffindor Quidditch team; and the looming terror of the Ordinary Wizarding Level exams. But all these things pale next to the growing threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named--a threat that neither the magical government nor the authorities at Hogwarts can stop.
As the grasp of darkness tightens, Harry must discover the true depth and strength of his friends, the importance of boundless loyalty, and the shocking price of unbearable sacrifice.
His fate depends on them all.

I'm not really sure what I want to say here. I'm wondering if, when these came out, there was such a tremendous HP fever that few noticed how incredibly boring this book was. I've been trying to get through it for over a week--which may be a record for me-- and I ended up reading two other books while I was reading this.

I don't think the problem is that I am burnt out on HP. I had a movie marathon and watched the six movies that are out on DVD this last weekend. I was certain that I had never seen the fifth movie.... until I started watching it. I remebered that I hated the movie too, and I must have blocked it out at some point. It honestly was even a struggle to watch the 2+ hour movie.

I hated the character of Professor Umbridge (which I think is the point, but still...) I was bummed that one of my very favorite people died. And because of certain things that took place in book 4, it seemed like Harry was angry at everyone for much of this book, which it explains in this long, drawn out story. What happened to sweet, little Harry Potter? Can he come back now?? I miss him.

The bright spots in the book were Dumbledore's Army and this conversation between Hermione, Ron, and Harry:

"Don't you understand how Cho's feeling at the moment? she asked.
"No," said Harry and Ron together.
Hermione sighed and laid down her quill.
"Well, obviously, she's feeling very sad, because of Cedric dying. Then I expect she's feeling confused because she liked Cedric and now she likes Harry, and she can't work out who she likes best. Then she'll be feeling guilty, thinking it's an insult to Cedric's memory to be kissing Harry at all, and she'll be worrying about what everyone else might say about her if she starts going out with Harry. And she probably can't work out what her feelings toward Harry are anyway, because he was the one who was with Cedric when Cedric died, so that's all mixed up and painful. Oh, and she's afraid she's going to be thrown off the Ravenclaw Quidditch team because she's been flying so badly."
A sightly stunned silence greeted the end of this speech, then Ron said, "One person can't feel all that at once, they'd explode."

I laughed and laughed. This was the silver lining for me. And the conversation took place about halfway through, so it was exactly what I needed to keep me reading. Something light in a doom and gloom sort of story.

It just goes to show you--Bigger is not always better. I'm glad to see the next book is about half the size of this monster. Perhaps the author ran out of steam??

(I never would have made it through this book either without the book on CD, so a big thank you to my mother-in-law for loaning it to me!)

Can't wait to read the next one! (I hear it's tied with the seventh for the best in the series!)

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Under Construction

Hey all! I wanted to let you know that Reading for Refuge is going to be changing in the next few weeks. There may be some kinks along the way, but I am excited to update the look and feel of my blog. Remember, most change is good. But if you hate it or are having any problems navigating, let me know! I want it to appeal to my readers, so I'd love feedback on anything you'd like to see changed, or things you don't want to change.

Please be patient with me! I'm not very tech-savvy, so it may take a bit. I will still be posting reviews as changes are happening, so keep checking back! Thanks!

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

Release Date: February 8, 2011

The small town of Cryer’s Cross is rocked by tragedy when an unassuming freshman disappears without a trace. Kendall Fletcher wasn’t that friendly with the missing girl, but the angst wreaks havoc on her OCD-addled brain.

When a second student goes missing—someone close to Kendall’s heart—the community is in an uproar. Caught in a downward spiral of fear and anxiety, Kendall’s not sure she can hold it together. When she starts hearing the voices of the missing, calling out to her and pleading for help, she fears she’s losing her grip on reality. But when she finds messages scratched in a desk at school—messages that could only be from the missing student who used to sit there—Kendall decides that crazy or not, she’d never forgive herself if she didn’t act on her suspicions.

Something’s not right in Cryer’s Cross—and Kendall’s about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried.

This book was creepy. Seriously creepy. Who thinks up these crazy stories??

I actually enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. But then, I always love a good, chilling story. This is a short one-only 240 pages-but I thought the storyline flowed well. I didn't particularly care for how the story was written and the short, stilted sentences that were often used. However, I liked Kendall and Jacian's characters. In my opinion, they more than made up for the awkward writing style.

I liked the solid buildup of the story. Kendall's best friend Nico disappears and over the weeks he's missing, she develops a friendship with the most unlikely person. But then, as she's trying to come to terms with Nico's disappearance, she begins to notice writing on the desk Nico sat at during school. Not only that, but when she touches the writing, she hears his voice asking for help. Begging her to save him.

But, at the most crucial point--the climax-- the story kind of fizzled out for me. I kept thinking, "Really? That's it?? That was like, one page." However, the story was redeemed with the explanation of what really happened. It was, well, creepy.

If you are a fan of scary books, this is one to check out. It wasn't so much scare-your-pants-off as it was disturbing. I know I'll have this one on my mind for a while.

Happy Reading!

**I received this egalley from the publisher.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vixen Giveaway!

I am dying to read this! :) I've always had a fascination with the Roarin' 20s. Liz over at That's What Liz Read is hosting this awesome giveaway of Vixen by Jillian Larkin. You can check it out HERE.

Happy Reading!

Friday, January 21, 2011


I have two words for you:


C'mon people. If you are going to ruin a book for me, at least give me a heads up.


I Heart Amazon

I literally could die of excitement.


I just pre-ordered 3 books from Amazon with gift cards! (I love *free* books!) When they are released later this year, I will be getting:

  • Illusions by Aprilynne Pike-- I am so excited for this book! It's the final book in a trilogy I am totally in love with. The first book is called Wings, and the second book is called Spells. Read my review of Wings HERE and my review of Spells HERE. If you haven't read these, get on it! You're missing out.
  • Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer-- I LOVED Nightshade (the first book in this series). It came out the end of last year and made it onto my list of Top Ten Favorites of 2010. (Wings and Spells were on that list too, as was the next book I'm going to mention.) Read my review of Nightshade HERE.
  • Crossed by Ally Condie-- Matched is the first book in this series, and is another book that I absolutely loved. You can read my review of Matched HERE.
I CAN NOT wait to get these. So excited. If you've heard of any amazing books--either being released soon, or already released-- let me know. I'd love to know what you are dying to read! Plus, I always love recommendations.

Happy Reading!

***EDIT: My friend just informed me that there are going to be FOUR books in the Wings series. I don't know how I feel about this. I was all geared up for the conclusion and now I have to wait ANOTHER year for it. :( I'm glad there will be more story though. Anyway, just thought I'd let you all know!

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Release Date: February 1st, 2011

A stunning novel, set in an alternate present in Portland, Maine.

Love has been declared a dangerous disease, and the government forces everyone who reaches eighteen to have a procedure called "the Cure," in Lauren Oliver's stunning second novel, DELIRIUM.

Lena Haloway is very much looking forward to being cured and living a safe, predictable life.She will be evaluated by the government, which will choose her husband for her. But then she meets Alex, a boy from the Wilds who is living under the government's radar, and she falls in love, threatening both their lives.

In this world, affection is prohibited. Touching and hugging are suspicious behaviors, even among family members. But despite government obtrusiveness, people find ways to connect and to be together... And after meeting Alex, Lena understands that an emotional connection to another person is something she's always been missing--and now it's something she won't live without.

It's way past my bedtime, but I just finished this book and I had to get my thoughts out. I'm afraid if I wait until morning, I won't say all that I want to.

This was one of the most heart-wrenching, beautiful novels I've read in quite a while. I have read Ms. Oliver's book Before I Fall and I did not care for it. I'll leave it at that. Because of that experience, I was wary to read this, even though it sounded like a fascinating story. The story actually reminded me of a cross between two books-- one I liked: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld and one I LOVED: Matched by Ally Condie. The concept of love as a disease- it was thought-provoking.

This was yet another novel in which the government has gone a little haywire and taken far more control than they should, up to the point of actually doing brain surgery to "cure" citizens of love, passion, desire, and pain. As I read, I kept thinking what a sad existence that would be. To be evaluated by people who know nothing about you, have a mate assigned to you based on the answers given during the evaluation, having half of your brain cut out to become an emotionless shell, and live your life in a dazed sort of unfeeling stupor. Never feeling attachment to anyone or anything, and never missing anything from the eighteen blissfully "uncured" years you experienced--if you can even remember them.

Lena never questioned the system. After her mother failed to be cured three separate times, and committed suicide to avoid undergoing a fourth surgery, Lena counted down the days until she would be "cured" forever of the disease that claimed her mother's life. The summer before her eighteenth birthday, Lena meets Alex and a chain of experiences forces Lena to question everything she's ever been taught. I really liked Lena's character and how she evolved so much by the end of the book. I was impressed with Lena's character development. In the beginning of the book, I was undecided about her. I really wanted her to be a strong main character and I didn't see that for her at first. By the last page, I loved Lena. I loved her fight and her fire. I thought her growth was well written and realistic. 

I liked Alex from the very beginning of this book. From the first moment Lena saw him standing on the observation deck laughing, I knew I would love this book. I just knew it. He was so confident. Not in a pompous, obnoxious way, but in a calm, cool, and collected natural way. I knew he would be the one to change Lena's mind. And I was right.

This book, this story- it broke my heart. How could people think they were doing the right thing? By the last page, I was in tears. I don't know that it really could have ended in a more devastatingly fitting way. I think you'd be crazy NOT to read this book. I think this is one I'm going to have to permanently add to my bookshelf. Yes, it was that good. And I'm sure it's one I'll have on my mind for weeks to come.

A HUGE thank you to HarperCollins for this fantastic book!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

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

After attending the Quidditch World Cup, where Voldemort's followers, the Death Eaters, cause a riot, Harry heads to Hogwarts for his fourth year of wizard study. There, Headmaster Dumbledore announces that instead of the usual interhouse Quidditch matches, Hogwarts will host the Triwizard Tournament. This competition between the great wizard schools of Europe has not been held for centuries because of the high death toll. The magic Goblet of Fire chooses one champion to represent each school, but somehow Harry is also chosen, even though he is underage and Hogwarts already has a champion. Sirius Black, Harry's godfather, suspects that this is another plot against Harry's life. As Voldemort is returning to his full power, and complex and deadly schemes are in motion, few people are who they seem to be, and even Dumbledore's protection may not be enough to keep Harry safe this time.

I think the books in this series keep getting better and better. Why have I not read these until now??

This book was full of the action, adventure, and jilted lovers that the first three books either lacked or just hinted at. I thought the challenges of the Triwizard Tournament were better than I even expected them to be. This book, for me, was reminiscent of The Sorcerer's Stone in that aspect. The storyline is shifting to appeal to a slightly older audience now, halfway through the series, which I really like. I like that this series is geared to grow with a younger audience--that each time a book came out, Harry was a little bit older and a little bit wiser-- and so was the reading audience.

I also like that, even in my mid-twenties AND almost 15 years after the fact, I can feel that same attachment to these characters that millions around the world have felt. I was reading somewhere recently that this series has been translated into almost 70 different languages. So, I know for a fact (and also because of all you HP crazies out there) that I am not the first--nor will I be the last-- to dread the end. I worry about how everything could be tied up with a neat little bow by the end of the last novel. It took four books for Voldemort to return. How on earth is everything going to be wrapped up in three more?? Granted, I still have over 2,000 pages to read in the series, but still! And I wonder how many more people will die before the end...What's the count at now?? There was so much death in this book.

On to Book 5. And what I'm sure will be an even darker story.
Wish me luck. (I'll be biting my nails the whole time...)
Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

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

For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort.

Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter's defeat of You-Know-Who was Black's downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, "He's at Hogwarts...he's at Hogwarts."

Harry Potter isn't safe, not even within the walls of the magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.

Dun, dun, dun...! (And the plot thickens...)

I actually finished this on Monday... Please forgive me for the late review. My 3-year-old niece has been staying with me and she, along with my 3-year-old and 3-month-old sons, has been cutting in on my blogging time. My house has been chaotic!! (It's been a good thing though, until...) My 3-year-old son, Ben, broke his arm yesterday. That, combined with, well, all of the above, has left my blog in a sad state. Again, please forgive me and get ready for a stellar review... Or something suspiciously like it.

Harry Potter is now 13/14 years old. Practically an old man. PLUS, he has more tales to tell and more near death experiences than your average Grandpa. I'll be amazed if Harry lives to see the end of the seventh book. Seriously. Who ISN'T trying to kill him??

I LOVED this book. The first two were just okay for me. But, I stuck it out (this is a CHALLENGE, is it not?) and I'm so glad I did. Hello? Have you heard all the hype surrounding these books? It must be about something OTHER than the first two books. Right?

I can officially say that I remember absolutely nothing from this movie or any of the rest from here on out (except the people who die... Dun, dun, dun!) so they all get to be new experiences for me now. So, that said, this is my favorite book so far. I thought it was fantastic. It was a more exciting story, now that Harry is a bit older. It also seemed like Rowling came into her own finally and is really TELLING the story instead of just describing something that happened.

I've always loved Ron and Hermione. I think they are two of my favorite supporting characters ever written. I think their interactions with each other and with Harry are brilliant. I am excited to continue on in this series and find out how they all end up.

I've said this in my last two posts-- read these (Stacy)! Give in. And stick it out through the first two books. They were okay, but this book was really good. So worth picking up. (And Stacy, I bet your library in the middle of nowhere has THESE.)  :D

The month isn't even halfway through-- you still have time to do the Potter-Thon!!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Bk. 2) by J.K. Rowling

Harry's on summer break after completing his first year at the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, and his aunt, uncle, and cousin are as mean as ever, trying at every turn to keep him from fulfilling his destiny as a wizard. Their efforts to prevent his return to Hogwarts are aided by an unknown force: a mysterious elf who shows up and warns Harry that he must never return to the school. Before departing, the elf performs a bit of mischievous magic that is blamed on Harry. As a result, Harry not only gets a stern warning from Hogwarts for using magic in the "real" world; he is also locked away by his aunt and uncle in a tiny closet beneath the stairs.

Harry is eventually rescued by his classmates and friends, the redheaded Weasleys, but getting back to Hogwarts still proves to be a challenge. When he finally does get there, his troubles quickly multiply. Someone has opened the door to the Chamber of Secrets, releasing a deadly monster with the power to kill. Several classmates turn up petrified, and in addition to trying to puzzle out who the culprit is, Harry finds himself a prime suspect. The truth lies down the end of a trail marked by a magical diary with invisible ink, a ghost who hides inside a toilet, a flying car, a pompous new teacher with a talent for hyperbole, and some ghastly giant spiders. When one of Harry's friends is imprisoned and another is turned to stone, Harry is forced to once again confront his archenemy, the Dark Wizard Voldemort, who has a whole new bag of nasty tricks up his sleeve.

I'm a HUGE Harry Potter MOVIE fan. (Don't give me that look.) But to be honest, I had no idea what this book was about. I must have blocked it out at some point. So, this was kind of new for me. Which is nice, because I thought I knew what was going on with Harry Potter, but I obviously don't because I couldn't recall a single thing about the Chamber of Secrets. What is this Chamber? Who is the heir of Slytherin? It can't be Harry...right? How does Voldemort play into this book? WHAT IS GOING ON!?!?!?

I liked this book. I forgot about Moaing Myrtle, who I think is pretty funny. I completely forgot about Lockhart. I forgot about Tom Riddle. I think the only things I remembered were the flying car and Dobby. And they are both in, what? The first chapter?

Anyway, this book was a new adventure for me. I liked that, especially since it's been around for about half of my life. How can anything that old (and hyped up) be new? :)

Don't be a Harry Potter hater.
(I thought I was. I remember saying at one point that I would NEVER read these books.)
You still have plenty of time! Read the series with me!

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Bk. 1) by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley--a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all of that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry--and anyone who reads about him--will find unforgettable.

For it's there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him...if Harry can survive the encounter.

I really think I left my brain in 2010. Just forewarning you.

I think I've seen this movie at least 10 times (although it's been a REALLY long time since I've seen it) but this is the first time I've ever read the book. And I call myself a reader?? I know. Anyway, I liked it, about as much as you can like a first book in a series. When it's a planned series--and not just a stand alone book that did really well so the author decided to do a sequel-- it always seems like half the book is boring descriptions. I hate that. Just get on with the story.

I did have a bit of an embarassing lapse when I was trying to figure out what in the world Nicolas Flamel had to do with the story. I kept thinking, I swear he's looking in the mirror in the end of the movie! He's looking in the mirror! Why isn't the book ending?? but I totally forgot about (DUH!) THE SORCERER'S STONE. Oh wait, what's this book called??? Harry Potter and the WHAT? Oh yes, that would be the Sorcerer's Stone. I told you. I struggle. I blame it on 2010.

Anyway, since I'm the last person on earth to jump on this bandwagon, I'm sure I don't need to tell you to read these. You've probably already beat me to the punch.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

January Potter-Thon

I love this video. So funny. Thought it'd be a fun way to kick off my Potter-Thon in 2011. Enjoy!