Review of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling

Harry_Potter_and_the_Sorcerer's_Stone

The year was 1998.  Bill Clinton was president and was about to go through the toughest year of his presidency thanks to a bunch of petty Republicans, who didn’t like his policies and the fact that he was able to do things that none of their presidents, including their hero, Ronald Reagan, could do (i.e. balance the budget and create a surplus).  Not that I was aware of any of this at the time.  All I cared about was watching 7th Heaven, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Sabrina the Teenaged Witch.  Oh, and passing math.  I was very concerned with passing math.  And eventually history.  But that was a different part of 1998.

At this point in time, I hated reading.  Hated it.  All the books they made us read in school were boring as hell and would continue to be straight through high school and I hadn’t yet discovered romance novels (being 11, I’m sure my dad would have had a coronary if he found me with one of those books), so it came as a total surprise when I picked up my brother’s copy of HP1.  Back then, Jimmy was the reader, devouring Matt Christopher and Wishbone books.  All I did was watch television and listen to music.  Anyway, my mom bought HP1 for my brother, thinking that it would be the perfect thing, but he couldn’t get through the first two chapters, declaring it “boring,” which to be honest, they are.  But, I just loved it.  (Really, why my mom thought Jimmy would like a supernaturally themed book, is beyond me as he has never been into that type of thing.  I, on the other hand, have always loved paranormal shit.)

I recently decided I would re-read the entire series, something that I have never done, despite the fact that I would re-read the most recent books before a new one was released.  So, let’s start from the very beginning (as it is a very good place to start, after all).  If you’ve lived in some sort of cave for nearly 20 years, here’s the plot (boiled down to its most simplest form): Harry Potter, an 11 year old boy living in England, learns he’s a wizard, attends the coolest school known to man, becomes best friends with Ron and Hermione, and fights against the evil wizard, Lord Voldemort.  (Only a Brit would create a villain named Lord Voldemort.)

Re-reading HP1 as an “adult” is an interesting thing.  Part of the charm of the Harry Potter series as a child, is imagining yourself as part of Harry’s crew, running around with him, Ron, and Hermione, having adventures and saving the day, but once you’re an adult, it is harder to do this.  At times, I found myself wondering what the professors were doing.  Were any of them hooking up?  Did they have families outside of Hogwarts?  What was it like to worry about hundreds of students in a world where anything was possible?

I also found myself wondering how any of them could have thought their “obstacle course” (really that’s what it was) would keep out the most powerful dark wizard of all time, let alone a group of 11 year olds.  The hardest one being the logic problem that reminded me of LSAT problems and had my eye twitching, thinking of the possibility of actually taking the LSAT at some point in the future.  Those logic problems are total nightmares.  Anyway.

Having read the other books in the series, I wonder just how much J.K. had planned out before writing this one because knowing what happens later on in the series, I can spot things in this first book that wouldn’t have been important when I read it back in 1998.  Things like Snape having gone to school with Lily and James or Neville being raised by his grandmother.  I doubt I would have even thought about why these things were significant at the time or why they were even included in the book at all.

One thing that bugged me about this book was the idea of Snape trying to stop Quirrell from getting the Sorcerer’s Stone.  How is it that Voldemort, living as a parasite on the back of Quirrell’s head not know that his most loyal servant was actually working against him the entire time?  Did he not remember this when he finally became whole again in book 4?  How was Snape able to return to the Death Eaters in book 5 after doing what he did in book 1?  Voldie is not the forgiving type, so he would never take someone like Snape back had he remembered any of what happened in this book.

Obviously, this wouldn’t be a problem had I not read the other books or seen the movies, but at this point, I’ve done that all.  It is hard for me not to give the book side eye over that part.

Overall, it is still a good book.  Rowling’s prose in this book is not as good as it is in the later books, but that’s natural.  No one who writes would ever believe that another author’s writing could stay the same from the first book to the last and even as good a writer as Rowling is, this is still true.  There were passages that I had to read more than once because Rowling head hopped.  One moment we’re in Harry’s mind and the next, for a few seconds, we’re in Ron’s.  The first time I noticed this was in the scene with the first Quidditch match when Harry’s broom is cursed.  It took me a minute to realize what was going on here.  It was rather jarring.

I will say that this series is still my favorite, and I am a series fiend, glomming JD Robb, Kay Hooper, and Jill Shalvis books like no one’s business.  If you haven’t read this series and you’re under 40, what are you waiting for?  What hole have you spent your life living in to have not even been tempted to check out these books?  Do it.  You won’t regret it.

4 Stars

The Fiction Vixen–Back from the Dead…Again

Hi, all.  I know I’ve been gone for a REALLY long time, yet again, and there are not enough words in the English language to come close to apologizing for leaving you high and dry for a second time.  The truth is that I’ve been dealing with a lot of stuff in my non-internet life and am now (hopefully) done with all of it.

Anyway, I haven’t done much reading at all since the last post I made back in early January, so I don’t even have much to say on that front.  I have read the newest J.D. Robb as well as the new Karen Rose, both of which I’ll hopefully have reviews of in the next few weeks.   Currently, I am doing a re-read of the Harry Potter series, starting with book 1 and making my way to the final book.  It is probably going to take me a long while to get through all 7 books as I am not a fast reader and I just don’t have the time to sit and read for hours on end the way I did when the last several books were released (always great getting those books during summer vacation as a kid).

It has been a long time since I tried to read all 7 books in a row and I’m not sure I can do it because if we’re being honest, those books get extremely depressing starting around book 4.  I just started book 1 last night and will be working on reading it tonight in between Jeopardy and Criminal Minds.  I’m also thinking of either doing a live read (where I’ll blog my reactions) or reviewing each book once I’ve finished it.  I have reviewed the last book on one of my old blogs (fairly certain it was on my old Blogger page), but since I’m not even sure if that is still out there in the interwebs I’ll post a new one when I get to it.  I’m also thinking of doing an interview with my 10 year old cousin (if I can get him on the phone long enough to do it), since he’s already read the first three books in the series and I would love to get an actual kid’s opinion on the series.

If anyone is actually still reading this, thank you for hanging in there. :)

Review of “Magic Found” by Misha McKenzie

magic foundI don’t think that I have ever had a harder time trying to come up with a grade for a book than I am having on this book.  It is definitely a middle of the road type of book, so definitely less than 4 stars, but it is also better than other books I’ve read.  I’m torn between giving it 2.5 and 3 stars, but I’m leaning more towards the 2.5.  Let’s get down to the nitty gritty and hopefully I’ll be able to make up my mind by the time I’m done.

Marissa Spencer’s world has been turned upside down since waking up one morning with magical powers. She has no idea where they came from and controlling them has not been easy. To make matters worse, these new abilities seem to have brought with them a mysterious evil force that torments her dreams and tracks her down dark alleys. With the help of her sexy PI boss, Jack Slade—whom Marissa has always had a crush on—she will have to fight a battle for power that began before she was born. Along the way, she’ll discover a family she didn’t know she had, an inheritance she may not want, a strength she never knew was within her, and a love she’d only dreamed of.

This description doesn’t really tell you a lot, which is a bit ironic because the author definitely has a problem when it comes to telling instead of showing.  This was actually once of my biggest problems with the book–so much of it was simply told to me and not shown.  For instance, there is a scene early on in which Marissa is attacked and instead of having this scene in Marissa’s POV, we get Jack telling us that something was wrong and we don’t even get there until the entire thing is over.  I don’t know if we were not supposed to know that Marissa has powers, although the word magic is in the title, so I’m a little perplexed as to why we couldn’t get that scene from her POV.

The next problem I had was that there was a whole lot of info-dumping going on.  I don’t know how many people actively think about things that happened to them in the past, but Marissa and Jack sure do.  I don’t need to have everything told to me all at once.  I’m a delayed gratification kind of girl.  All at once just doesn’t cut it for me.

Finally, there is no character development whatsoever.  Each character behaved in the way the scenes needed them to behave and once that scene was over they reverted to their former behaviors.  It was maddening, especially when it came to Aiden, Marissa’s long lost relative.  He had real reason not to trust anyone and I had a lot of hope for him, especially when he was first introduced.  I thought that he was going to be this badass character, who was able to handle himself.  Unfortunately, I just didn’t get this from him.  He whined a lot about his new powers, and I do get this, but at some point, the whining needed to stop.  The sad thing is that none of these characters were at all complex and with their backstories, they really could have been.


This is obviously the author’s first book (or one of her first books) and it suffers from a lot of new author mistakes.  I really wish she waited to write this until she had some more experience writing because the plot was good.  If a more experienced writer had written this, it would have been awesome.  I would love to see what someone like Nora Roberts could do with a book like this.  I wish I could have liked this book more and I want to know what happens in the next books, but I don’t think I will.  I don’t like to be disappointed and unless someone else was going to write then, that’s exactly how I will feel as I read them.

2 Stars

Review of “The Importance of Being Alice” by Katie MacAlister

AliceHave you ever started reading a book and knew immediately that you weren’t going to like it?  That was my experience with The Importance of Being Alice.  The premise of the book was that Alice, upon being dumped by her douchebag sort of fiance, decides to go on the vacation the two had planned and winds up sharing a shabby cabin with said douchebag’s friend.  (Since the plot could be summed up in one sentence, I felt no need to include the entire thing.)

Part of my problem with the book stems from the fact that the ARC I received was almost unreadable–I’ve seriously seen pirated e-books that have better formatting.  Even with this, I would have been able to continue reading if a single one of the characters was at all likable, which unfortunately was not the case.  Elliot was alright, but he’s the type of curmudgeonly character that I want to take to the back and shoot.  Compared to the rest of his family, however, Elliot was a boon.  His mother would fit in with the Real Housewives women and his younger brother was a total teenage stereotype.  Then, there are the characters we don’t meet, but are told about: one of his sisters ran off with the wife of the local minister and his other sister is involved with Alice’s ex.  Nice people, he’s surrounded by there.

My biggest problem is that both Alice and Elliot are too stupid to live.  You’re probably wondering how I know this, stopping so early in the story, but there are times when you can just tell.  Case in point, they both decided to get on the decrepit boat on which they’d booked passage.  I don’t care how expensive the tickets were, but if the Titanic post-sinking is in better condition then the vessel I am supposed to be getting on, I would run in the opposite direction.

DNF.

The Importance of Being Alice is available for pre-order from Amazon, BN, and Kobo.

Review of “Steam Me Up, Rawley” by Angela Quarles

Steam Me Up, RawleyI honestly did not think I would like this book as much as I did.  First, I’ve never really read anything that could be considered steam punk; the only time I ever tried it before I couldn’t get past the first page because I felt like I needed a special dictionary to understand half of what was written.  Second, I absolutely hate the title.  Steam Me Up, Rawley?  Really?  Did the hero’s name need to be in the title?  I would have much preferred it if it was just called Steam Me Up.  All I can say is that I’m glad that I didn’t let the title stop me from reading this.

Jack the Ripper might be in town. But is marriage more terrifying?

In an alternate Deep South in 1890, society reporter Adele de la Pointe wants to make her own way in the world, despite her family’s pressure to become a society wife. Hoping to ruin herself as a matrimonial prospect, she seizes the opportunity to cover the recent Jack the Ripper-style murders for the newspaper, but her father’s dashing new intern suggests a more terrifying headline—marriage.

Dr. Phillip Rawley’s most daring exploit has been arriving at his new home in America in a hot air balloon. A tolerable sacrifice, if it means he can secure the hand of his new employer’s daughter in a marriage of convenience. But Adele works, she’s spirited, and she has an armored pet monkey running her errands. Not only does she not match his notions of a proper lady, she stirs up feelings he’d rather keep in tight control.

With Adele hunting down a headline and Dr. Rawley trying to protect and pursue her, a serial killer is spreading panic throughout Mobile, Alabama. Can Adele and Rawley find the murderer, face their fears, and discover true love?

One of the things that I really enjoyed was learning the ins and outs of Quarles’s Mobile, which was richly drawn and made me wish that people actually had walked around with “shoulder pets” during the 19th Century.  While I wouldn’t want to find people walking around with parakeets or monkeys on their shoulders today, this seems like something that Gilded Era rich people would have done.  (Really, it seems like something that if Paris Hilton started doing a decade ago all the status hungry people in Long Island–not to mention my neighborhood back home–would have jumped all over.  It is that type of ridiculous thing over which the rest of the world would look on and shake their heads.)  There were a few times where Adele’s monkey, whose name I blanking on for some reason, seemed to be heading into plot moppet territory, but on the whole, I liked this addition to the book.

What I really liked about SMUR (hmm, I don’t like this abbreviation, but I can’t think of anything better and I don’t want to keep typing up the whole title) was that both Adele and Phillip (Rawley of the title) were complex characters.  Adele, especially appealed to me.  She wasn’t the typical historical romance heroine, although I have no idea what the typical steam punk heroine is like.  I liked that she was adamantly against the idea of marriage because she understood that as a married woman she would have to stop doing the things she wanted to do.  (In the end, I was a little upset to find that this wasn’t the real reason she didn’t want to get married, but not upset enough for me to downgrade my rating.)

The one thing that I wasn’t crazy about was Adele’s father.  For the majority of the book he seemed to be a rather cruel man, especially when it came to Phillip and the deal they struck to bring the young doctor to Mobile from England.  There was something that he held over Phillip’s head to make sure that he would marry Adele (which I will not spoil) and I didn’t feel as if this was addressed properly.  There sure as hell wasn’t any groveling on his part and I didn’t understand his sudden change of heart at the end of the novel.  It felt to me as if he knew that Adele and Phillip would be married and only agreed to do what was right once he realized he would be getting what he wanted.

4 Stars

Steam Me Up, Rawley is available for pre-order on Amazon, BN, and Kobo.  It will be published on January 14th and is the first book in the Mint Juleps and Monocle Chronicles series.

Review of “Temptation Has Green Eyes” by Lynne Connolly

Temptation Has Green EyesI really wanted to like this book.  Lynne Connolly has been on my radar for a long time, but for some reason I never tried one of her books before.  When I got an ARC of Temptation Has Green Eyes from Netgalley, I was excited.  This book has everything I want in a romance novel, so it was a guaranteed win, right?  Wrong.  There’s an overarching conspiracy involving Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, and to make it even more…tempting…it even takes place in a time period that I haven’t seen very much in romance novels.  Both are big plusses in my book, but for some reason it just didn’t work.  Beware: spoilers below!!!

 

Here’s the synopsis:

There’s more to love than meets the eye…

The daughter of a wealthy merchant, Sophia Russell has no interest in marriage, especially after a recent humiliation—and especially not to Maximilian, Marquess of Devereaux. But it’s the only way to save herself from fortune hunters—and those who wish to seize a powerful connection she prefers to keep secret—even from her future husband…

Marrying Sophia is the only way Max can regain the wealth his father squandered on an extravagant country palace. And while Max and his bride are civil, theirs is clearly a marriage of convenience—until a family enemy takes a questionable interest in Sophia—one that may lead all the way to the throne. Forced to become allies in a battle they hadn’t foreseen, the newlyweds soon grow closer—and discover a love, and a passion, they never expected…

Honestly, based on this, I’m not even sure what made me want to read this book.  It sounds just like every other historical romance that I read in the last year.  If only.  This book was NOTHING like anything else I read last year, but not in a good way.

First, there is the hero, Max.  I couldn’t stand him.  He wants people to think of him as a good guy because he wants to give his mother her “palace” back and because he abhors men who use violence on women, but he seemed rather smarmy at times.  For instance, on the night he and Sophia decide to marry, he thinks about how Sophia’s ex is a creep because he tried to force himself on her, which is a good thing to think considering, but ruins it by forcing a kiss on Sophia.

[W]hen he touched her, she clamped her lips together.  He was in no mind to force her.

Her body stiffened so much…but he wanted to taste her.  Sweet, so sweet, that even a closed-mouth kiss pushed his arousal up another notch.

How is it that he could go from not wanting to force her to kiss him to doing so anyway?  In this instance, it isn’t the thought that counts, but the action.  He knows that she’s been sexually assaulted in the past, but still decides to (1) kiss her and (2) continue when it is obvious that she does not want to be kissed.  Is this supposed to make me like him?  I don’t get it.  If this was the only time, Max displayed this type of behavior, I could probably overlook it, but it isn’t, so I can’t.

The second problem I had was with Sophia’s father, who supposedly loves her, but treats her like a child–no, worse, a prisoner.  The book starts out with her father selling her to Max as part of a deal.  Sure, this was done a lot in the time this book takes place, but it isn’t something that I want to see.  Maybe I’m jaded by all of the families in Julia Quinn and Candace Camp novels that give their daughters the freedom to choose their suitors.  I don’t know.  It just didn’t sit right with me and for a little while, it seemed as if it didn’t sit right with Max either–but just for a little while.

Not long after this, we find him ordering Sophia to marry Max and punishing her when she refuses:

He ordered her to stay in her room and had her fed on bread and water.  That hadn’t happened since Sophia’s childhood.

He also had her maid remove her books and writing materials, except for a copy of The Bible.  ‘To give you a chance to reflect on your decision and pray for the correct outcome,’ the note he sent told her.

This is nothing more than a set-up for brainwashing.  Remove anything she likes and give her enough time, so she’ll do what you want.  Lovely person.

Last, there is Sophia.  I really really wanted to like her, but I just couldn’t do it.  I had such high hopes for her, too, since she did stand up to her father when he first ordered her to marry Max, but she quickly gives in.  I don’t blame her for this because of how her father treated her.  The reason I can’t like her is that she has no clue what she wants.  It’s obvious that she is attracted to Max, but she pushes him away.  She doesn’t want to have sex with Max and she hated the experience the first time they slept together, but she also wants him to come to her at night.  I know that it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, but this is ridiculous.

I got about four chapters into the book before deciding to give it up and I fear that the only reason I read that far is because it was an ARC.

No Stars

Temptation Has Green Eyes will be published on February 3, 2015 and is available for pre-order on Amazon, BN, Kobo, and iBooks. 

Review of “Someone Like Her” by Sandra Owens

someone like herI literally finished this book in a day.  I can’t tell you the last time that happened.  Someone Like Her is the second book in the K2 series, which I’d never heard of until browsing on Netgalley over the weekend.  At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it because I tend to be VERY picky when it comes to romantic suspense and I normally hate anything that has to do with the Navy SEALS.  Those heroes are always way too alpha for me and while Jake has several alpha moments, he doesn’t go alphole.  I actually really liked him and his heroine, Maria.  Here’s the plot synopsis, via Netgalley:

Known to the K2 Special Services team as Romeo, ex-Navy SEAL Jake Buchanan may spend his downtime living up to his nickname, but there’s one woman who sets his heart racing like no one else can: Maria Kincaid. Unfortunately, his boss—her brother—has made it crystal clear that she’s off-limits. Jake doesn’t do commitment, while Maria is the type of woman who deserves a promise of forever. Yet Maria finds herself drawn to Jake, the man who stares at her with a desire she wishes he’d act on.

Still haunted by her horrific childhood, Maria goes searching for the father she’s never met—and stumbles into a nightmarish experience. With her life in grave danger, she reaches out to Jake, her brother’s second-in-command. Jake figures he can help Maria without giving in to temptation. But some things are easier said than done.

One of the things I really liked about this book was how devoted Jake was to both Maria and her brother, Logan.  Jake is a really good guy, who is torn between his feelings for Maria and his loyalty to her brother, who has made it crystal clear that Maria is off limits to the Romeo (Jake’s nickname within K2) of their group.  (I honestly don’t get the modern connotation to the name Romeo considering the namesake was in love with one woman and sacrificed everything to be with her.  Here and in many places, Romeo is the name chosen to depict a player and that just doesn’t make any literary sense.)

I also enjoyed the chemistry between the lead characters, which was so hot that it fairly smoldered–and, omg the sex scenes were the hottest I’ve read in a while.

I didn’t like everything, however.  This book’s biggest problem was that the beginning of the narrative feels like it is picking up in the middle of the story.  We start with Maria showing up at some man’s door (based on the cover copy, I figured him to be the long-lost father) and running into a teenaged girl, who was obviously being abused by this man.  Almost immediately, we cut away to Jake, who is in bed with some woman when he gets a phone call from Maria, asking him for his help and begging him not to tell her brother.

During this exchange and several others throughout the book I felt as if I was missing something, as if my copy of the book was unfinished, but considering the book is coming out on the 6th, I doubt this is the case.  It almost felt as if the author skipped writing some scenes, planning to go back and fill them in, but forgetting to do so.  It was really weird.

Also, I hated the excessive use of the word clinched.  First, it was used way too often (I get that we all have words that we love to use–mine is actually–but this was ridiculous).  Second, that word does not mean what the author thinks it means.  Every single time it was used, it was used erroneously to mean clenched.  Jake would clinch the steering wheel or Maria would clinch Jake’s man-bits.  You cannot clinch either of these things (and the second, I’m not sure even clenched would be right).  What can you clinch?  The World Series.  What can’t you clinch?  Anything in this book.  This drove me batty.  I am a big proponent of using the right words for a situation (as should we all) and this was in no way the right word.  Sigh.

Despite this, as I said, I really liked Someone Like Her and will definitely be looking for the next book in the series, which I hope is Jamie’s, aka Saint, book.

3.5 Stars.