Monthly Archives: December 2016

Review of All Harry Potter Companion Books by J.K. Rowling

Welcome to Saturday Shorts, where we review short stories, novellas, and middle-grade book. Today we are wrapping up both the year and our Harry Potter read-along with a review of all the short Harry Potter books written by Rowling.

Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them: 5 stars

fantastic-beastsI can’t help but giggle every time I read this, especially that intro page. “Write in your own book, Hermione,” Ron says as if he’s not doing the same exact thing while using Harry’s books.

Besides the humorous comments tossed here and there, plus the comical drawings, this is wonderful all on its own.

I really adore JK Rowling’s imagination as she comes up with unique creatures based on myths and her own brilliant mind. Read this book before you go see the movie, I’m betting it’ll help you identify some of the creatures Newt Scamander comes into contact with.

quiddich-through-the-agesQuidditch Through The Ages: 3 stars

Though this is a lovely addition to the Hogwarts library trio and full of good information on Quidditch, I find I’m more of Hermione’s mind on this book. It just didn’t interest me like the others did.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it and you won’t either. The history behind how the sport was created is fabulous and it’s nice to see how it has changed throughout time. JK Rowling never ceases to amaze me on what she creates.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard: 5 stars

tales-of-beedle-the-bardWe all know JK Rowling is an excellent storyteller – all seven original Harry Potter books are filled with fascinating creatures, remarkable world-building, characters we learn to both treasure and loathe, and pure, enjoyable magic at its finest. Now she provides us with a short book full of wizarding-world fairy tales that are all extraordinary in their own rights.

I loved the childlike feel of each of these stories, especially as a lot of them feature princesses and kings, reminiscent of our own fairy tales. My personal favorite is Babbity Rabbity because it not only teaches a moral but it makes for great fun. I feel like I’d tell these to my own children later. I also love the Three Brothers because it was the one mentioned in the last book and therefore, connected with me the most because of the references.

I did enjoy the commentary by Dumbledore, as it offered unique insights into how he felt and brought up some things fans would recognize (like the name Brutus Malfoy). However, I enjoyed the stories themselves a lot more.

Regardless, it is clear that JK Rowling is an absolute genius and we could all learn something from her and her tales.

pottermore-presents-1Pottermore Presents: Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies – 5 stars

I enjoyed this set of background information a lot more than the other two because it divulged things I didn’t already know.

Hearing about the short histories behind Lupin, McGonagall, Trelawney, and even Kettleburn is fascinating. Who knew that the transfiguration teacher had a history of heartbreak? Or that poor Kettleburn retired from Hogwarts with only a couple limbs? When I first read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, especially the scene where Hagrid is introduced as the new Care of Magical Creatures teacher, I was under the impression that when Dumbledore said, “he wishes to spend time with his remaining limbs” he actually meant his family. I don’t know why I assumed that but I did. Now I get it.

Anyway, this is a short, entertaining read with some sadness mixed in. But still good of course!

pottermore-presents-2Pottermore Presents: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists – 4 stars

Lots of fun facts regarding the Ministry in this set of background information. I’m wondering if it has anything to do with the Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them film (which by the way, I can’t wait to see).

I wish there would have been more info on the pre-life of Peeves. He’s such a funny character who causes lots of trouble for Harry and well, everyone really.

This is enjoyable, just like the other two.

Pottermore Presents: Hogwarts – An Incomplete & Unreliable Guide – 3 stars

pottermore-presents-3This is a nice collection of information on the secrets of Hogwarts castle. I found I liked the simple details that Rowling includes, however, I wish there would have been more information on things I didn’t already know. It frequently becomes repetitive, especially to those who have read Harry Potter so much and know the lore about a lot of Hogwarts stuff. But I did like the author explaining her thoughts on certain things (like the lake with its merpeople, and the original plot line within the Chamber of Secrets book) while she was actually writing the book. I think that’s my favorite part about this, when she divulges her first initial thought processes.

Our reviews in this series…


The Midnight Circle by Jaylene Jacobus

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

midnight-circleTitle: The Midnight Circle
AuthorJaylene Jacobus
SeriesMidnight Series, Book 01
Publish Date: April 22, 2016
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Source: Wordslinger

Publisher’s Description: Clara Winters, a non-practicing witch, has been living the life of an old woman in the body of a twenty-two-year-old ever since fated to everlasting life in 1919. With the unexpected death of her beloved aunt, the easy life on her southern plantation is over. Grief awakens hiding ghosts—in the form of age-old magic and thirsty vampires.

Long ago, powerful magic entangled and stole Clara’s great love, Wesley Russell, when he became a vampire. Wesley rises from banishment, forcing Clara to resist the temptation of a renewed life together by reminding him of the consequences that come to those who defy the spell of the Midnight Circle.

Mysterious mountain visions and guidance from her deceased aunt lead Clara on a journey to friendship and love, reintroducing her to the passions of youth. But as evil lurks and the Circle shows signs of unraveling, Clara becomes desperate to escape the spell without harming those she holds dear.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Luna_Lovebooks_100Luna Lovebooks says…

Likes: For being a romance and a vampire novel this is a surprisingly clean read! Every once and a while it is refreshing to read a romance that shows the beauty of love all on its own without sexual content. Love is the central theme in this book whether it is familial, friendly, or romantic. The bonds between characters are well written.

badge3v4Dislikes: While the book is eloquently written, it has a very slow pace that often had my mind wandering to other books. The writing style just didn’t sit well with me.

Rating: This really is a beautiful book, but I can’t overlook the slow pace, and for that reason, I give it three roses.

Other recommendations…

If you love vampire romance, check out these reads: The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause, Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost, and The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Sea Spell by Jennifer Donnelly

In the final installment of the Waterfire saga, the merls are split up as they face the worst of their demons. As the battle lines are drawn, the girls will have to come together in order to ensure the survival of merpeople everywhere.

sea-spellTitleSea Spell
AuthorJennifer Donnelly
SeriesWaterfire Saga, Book 04
Publish Date: June 14, 2016 Disney Hyperion
Genre: YA Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: At the end of Dark Tide, Book 3 in the Waterfire Saga, Astrid leaves her mermaid friends to confront her ancestor, Orfeo, the evil force behind the rise of the monster Abbadon.

Orfeo possesses one of the six talismans that the merls need in order to keep the monster locked up forever. But without the ability to songcast, how will Astrid be able to defeat the most powerful mage in history?

Meanwhile, Serafina and her Black Fins train goblin troops for battle against her uncle Vallerio’s death riders.

Will Sera ever see her beloved home–and her beloved Mahdi–again, or will the Volneros take over the mer realms while Orfeo takes on the gods themselves? Nothing less than the fate of the underwater world is at stake in this breathtaking finale.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Luna_Lovebooks_100Luna Lovebooks says…

Likes: One aspect that I have loved throughout this series is the relationship between the girls. I feel that people often underestimate the power of friendships, so it is nice to see a series where romantic relationships take the back burner. The final battle was fierce, and I must admit, I never saw most of the events unfolding as they did. The epilogue leaves room for the world to expand and I certainly hope Donnelly does so!

Dislikes: Unfortunately, some of the events in this story are pretty predictable. I saw Astrid’s betrayal from a mile away. Things always seem to fall in the favor of the girls as well, making things too neat. I do feel that the prose needed a little work. Some of the scenes that I feel should be important were just summarized from other characters POVs. For example, Baby’s death should have been emotional, but I just didn’t feel it from Madame Monon’s retelling of events. I also feel I was cheated during the scene with Lucia’s malignos.

badge5v4Overall, though, this was a really good conclusion to a great addition to the mermaid genre. I give it 5 bubbles!

Our reviews in this series…

  • Deep Blue, Book 01
  • Rogue Wave, Book 02
  • Dark Tide, Book 03

Other recommendations…

Emerge by Tobie Easton, Lucy (Daughters of the Sea, #3) by Kathryn Lasky, A Place of Stone and Shadow by Jane Nickerson.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, et. al.

In this screenplay, we reunite with a grown-up Harry Potter, his family, and the rest of the Hogwarts gang as Harry goes through being a parent, his son has to figure out who he is beyond his dad’s legacy, and a new enemy emerges with a sinister plot up her sleeve.

cursed-childTitleHarry Potter and the Cursed Child
AuthorJ.K. Rowling, et. al.
SeriesHarry Potter, Book 08
Publish Date: July 31, 2016
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionBased on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on 30th July 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

I finally got the chance to read this! I’ve had it since July but I wanted to reread all seven books before I read it.

I enjoyed the majority of this. Some of the time changes threw me for a loop (as in three years pass within seconds of reading it). I’m certain if I were to actually see the play for myself, I’d understand it a lot better. Not that it was hard to read the script. It’s just a very big jump from novelization to screenplay and although I understood it, I do wish I could have seen it live to get a better feel for things.

badge5v4However, that story is remarkable! Time turners are brought back in a bad way and Harry’s son Albus gets a taste of what Marty McFly went through when he tried to mess with time. You get to see all kinds of characters in new light as different changes are made to affect them. But things work out in the end.

I really loved the character of Scorpius, who is Draco Malfoy’s son. He has the best lines and I simply adored him and his humor, plus his unexpected and unyielding friendship to Albus.

Agent_Annie_100Agent Annie says…

I don’t think this Harry Potter book was nearly as good as the original series. I know that it is supposed to be watched on a stage, which makes for a different style of writing, but I didn’t think the actual story was as well done as previous.

I did enjoy “meeting” some favorite characters again, but I didn’t like how Rowling wrote Professor McGonagal. I thought Rowling made her weak and uninformed. I also thought she made Ron the same way. Their dialog was really a lot of “Huh? What’s going on, what do we do?” This didn’t feel true to the characters in the original series. Thinking about this further, I wonder if JK Rowling enjoyed simply exploring alternative ways she could have ended the original series.

badge3v4I also can’t imagine actually performing this play. The scene changes seem so fast, just a couple pages in some cases and the sets were quite elaborate. There is one scene which re-creates the first meeting of Hagrid and Harry on his 11th birthday. What a nightmare to try and do on stage. I haven’t actually read any reviews of the production, but based on what I read in the book, I’m not sure I would want to attend the play.

I give the book a 3. As a fan, it’s fun to delve back into the characters and see the what if’s, but I thought it lacked the depth that her previous work has.

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

The Cursed Child is an interesting read, so much so that I feel I’m still digesting it a week after reading. It certainly feels different than the books, though I don’t think the themes are any darker.

I like the characters quite a lot, both the familiar and the new. Albus and Scorpius are good kids, despite the fact that their boyhood adventures didn’t turn out as well for them as they did for Harry. I think it’s excellent that this book attempts to show a better side of Slytherin; but in the end, Scorpius seems much more like a Huffle Puff to me. I didn’t really get a sense of why he was in Slytherin.

It’s wonderful to see what Harry, Ron, Hermonie, and Ginny are up to as adults, having invested so much emotion in their childhoods.

Cursed Child deals a lot with time travel, almost to the point of being confusing. Since this is a screenplay and not a book, and thus there is no exposition, the reader has to pay close attention in order to follow all the alternate timelines. It’s very interesting, however, to see how little actions affect the current timeline. I enjoy that part of time travel stories.

Perhaps the only thing that felt disappointing to me was the backstory of the antagonist (yes, I’m being vague because if you haven’t read the book yet, I don’t want to spoil anything). While it makes a great counterpoint to Harry’s relationship with Albus, it feels to me as if it came out of the blue, as if it wasn’t something that had been planned. Rowling does an amazing job, even with the new movie, Fantastic Beasts, of demonstrating how much of her world is planned out and connected; nothing feels like a last minute-decision—except for this antagonist. That being said, I should trust that it’s my perception, not the writing, that is the issue. But I just can’t shake the feeling that the antagonist doesn’t quite fit the world.

badge4v4Overall, I think I will never love book eight as I have loved the first seven, but I did enjoy it. I really want to see The Cursed Child as a play. Being in the Midwest United States, I’m sure it will be a long time before that happens. If I’m lucky, something like Fathom Events might carry it, eventually. Or perhaps Pottermore will make it a dramatized audiobook; that would be a lot of fun. Otherwise, it will be likely be years before I get to see the play as it is intended, and I think that would add a lot to my experience of the story.

Our reviews in this series…

A Girl In Time by John Birmingham

The ancient and the modern collide in this fun time travel adventure. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would do as well as Cady in Victorian London or in Ancient Rome!

This review is of a purchased copy; however, the author is a client of Jen Edits, which is an affiliate of this site.

a-girl-in-timeTitleA Girl In Time
AuthorJohn Birmingham
Series: stand alone (so far)
Publish Date: December 9, 2016
Genre: Time-travel fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: The past is another country. A dangerous one.

On the eve of a huge, breakout success, a poor but brilliant young game developer is pulled out of her world, and time itself, by a cowboy desperately searching for the daughter he lost two hundred years ago.

Cady McCall is ready to be rich and famous. She’s sacrificed everything, putting her work ahead of family and friends. Now with mad success and huge wealth so close she can taste it, her life is blown apart by Deputy Marshal John ‘Titanic’ Smith, the man who rescues her from two muggers, only to carry her off into history. Lost on the seas of time, Smith is desperate to get home to his family in 1876, and now Cady is lost along with him, facing danger and finding love in Victorian London, Ancient Rome and in the near-future America of President for Life Donald Trump.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Percy_Procrastinator_100Percy Procrastinator says…

This book surprised and delighted me in all the right ways. We get a glimpse into Cady’s life and how she’s on the verge of a big payout. I waited to find out what she would do with the money, but had to keep waiting because her adventures start before she can get the big payday.

The book divides itself into three parts. Part I is about the present and Victorian London. I think this is the slowest part, but it’s needed to set the scene and those to come. The author does a great job exploring and showing us Victorian London and how foreign someone from the present would find it. The smells would be offal (pun most definitely intended). For a modern woman to go back, though, it would have to be scary. It’s why I can forgive Cady not being as strong as I hoped she would be, because other worries come crashing down. Once that is complete, we move forward to Part II.

Part II is an alternate history of the present. Without getting too political, it posits that everything bad that Trump said he would do has been implemented in a few short years, and that’s where Cady finds herself. The author cleverly switches points of view here so that now we are following Smith, who needs explanation as to what is happening. That was a good choice as it gave the author the ability to explain some changes to us in a natural way and keep the story going. I was happy that Cady was able to gain her strength back and do what she needed to do and was more of the driving force.

Part III sees our travelers in Roman times and the author switches as needed between the two main characters. This works well for me and the story. Now, both of them are in a world that is foreign to them and they have to work together if they ever want to get back home.

badge5v4Through it all, there are a few sidebars about the time travel and a bigger picture with time travel. These don’t come together as well, as many things are left hanging about an aspect of it, but hopefully, we will learn more in another book. Between that and a few quibbles I had with the characters, I would give this a four and a half stars but will round up to five. A good read and I look forward to reading more.

This review is of a purchased copy; however, the author is a client of Jen Edits, which is an affiliate of this site.

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