Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Never lets you down

Rereading this for the first time after twenty years (I’m not a huge rereader), I can say that there were scenes I’d very much forgotten, and other scenes that have stuck with me, but mostly because of the film. I now have Robbie Coltrane’s Hagrid permanently in my head every time he appears. Which isn’t necessary a bad thing, but does show how much film can affect reading. Of course, all the other main characters have their images in my mind because of the film, too. Although Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry actually didn’t deviate so much from the cover images, anyway.

Some particular scenes that were now easier to visualise because of the film were when Harry spoke to the snake at the zoo and “helped” him escape. Yet I can’t believe I had totally forgotten exactly how Hagrid found Harry! Oh, and the pig’s tail – how on Earth could I forget that? Less important scenes, of course, I really forgot about Vernon’s obsession with drills. But little things like that just disappear so quickly when you get into the bulk of the story – Harry.

It’s hard to imagine the shy boy wearing over-sized hand-me-downs turning into the trainee wizard that defeats Voldemort once again… And how that pale skinny boy next to him at the fitting turns into a school bully with a lineage that openly supported Voldemort, claiming they were “brainwashed” or something similar.

We’ve got a book with quite a cast of characters, who’ve become our neighbours and friends throughout the years. Yet when rereading it’s easy to see what enticed us into the pages in the first place – a complex but fun story that, despite the bullying, is so easy to understand and connect with. There is so much going on here, yet it’s so easy to read! It doesn’t matter if you’re a child or adult, because the story is so engaging, you just don’t get bored.

But back to the bullying for a moment – it actually shocked me a little how much of it there is. Dursley uses Harry as his favourite punchbag… Kids are like that, but it is somewhat frightening it being so visual like that.

Good and bad aside, you just can’t help but love it anyway. A three-headed dog, that sleeps to music. Trying to save Hagrid from his pet dragon (and the consequences of obtaining the egg in the first place). Wizard’s Chess, life size! It’s like these kids were born to get into trouble, and are adept at doing it, without too much trouble, all with Dumbledore’s sly encouragement (he did, after all, give Harry his father’s invisibility cloak).

Really, many have said other things, and I guess I could go on forever. But, best stop here, and ready myself for the next adventure.

Final rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

Join or Die by J. Adrian Ruth

The race to save Otherworld

This book is initially set in the human realm, before Alex suddenly receives a visitor who tells him that his absentee father is a “Creature”, the various monsters out of myths and legends, and that he most likely will transform into one, too.

So there Alex is, a half breed with a human mother, suddenly taken away to a private boarding school for Creatures in another realm, Otherworld, leaving behind his best friend, Carlos, his mother, and everything he’s ever known. Worse than that, he’s told that he’s the Scion Heir (leader of all the Creatures), being a descendant of the original Scion, and that he’ll eventually have to battle the other Heir to become the leader of all.

Luckily, he somehow manages to find his place in this new world, making new friends who gradually form a part of his Ciorcal (Celtic for “circle”), the group that will support, protect, and guide him, if and when he does fulfil his destiny.

In the meantime, however, he has no idea what Creature he himself is going to be, and has to face off a Creature who has been killing off all of the Heirs. Along with some other hijinks with his Ciorcal, it’s a fight for survival he hadn’t been warned of or planned for.

I must say that the beginning didn’t thrill me quite so much, but the last part of the book made up for that and was pretty good. I can only assume that this is because this is quite obviously the author’s first book, with it having at times too much information, then at others not enough. There are still quite a few typos in this book, but I’m guessing that that is because it is, at the time of ARC release, still not fully edited.

However, despite its similarities to other Paranormal schools, it has enough differences in it to make it a new take on the idea, somewhat familiar yet with unique elements.

Hopefully the sequel, once it’s finally released, will further develop the ideas here and, after reading the preview, it looks like we will find out more about the current Scion and the ongoing war against him.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Valkyrie’s Oath by Arizona Tape

Well…

My ambiguous title is due to my mixed impressions. I was so confused when I started the book that I hated the first couple of chapters. Well, hate might be a bit strong, but I disliked it. Even up to the point of the MC becoming attracted to a new teacher. Eurgh! It just wasn’t for me at that moment.

But then, something happened. I left it a day and, when I restarted, I just had to read further. I went from “dislike” to “intrigue”. I don’t believe that it had anything to do with the writing per se, just that I’d come from reading a book with a completely different style. Besides, I usually like this author’s works, so maybe coming back with a fresh head meant that I could actually invest myself in this story.

Although I do believe that the beginning didn’t help any. I haven’t read any of the sister series, although that shouldn’t have an effect, as the first book wasn’t published that long before this one. But it felt like being thrown into the deep end without a lifesaver ring, no explanations, surrounded by laughing, warring, teenagers.

So, as I said, maybe that was it – the complete change of pace and style from the book I’d just finished. Although I would have been happy with a few more explanations, once I did finally get into the book, everything was fine!

I should have expected that ending, really. A cliffhanger, but none of Bryn’s supposed “friends” really felt like friends, anyway, especially with their attitude. At least one felt more like a hanger on. Considering how she’s an heir, you can expect that she’d have a hoard of frenemies in place of real friends, those who pretend to look after her but are really just waiting for her to slip up.

Anyway, my complete turnaround meant that I was invested in the story by the end, quite happily so, which came as a real surprise to me. So soon on with the next it is!

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Second Time’s a Curse by Laura Greenwood

Even more magical kittens!

Well, yes, what should we expect from a cursed witch who produces kittens with every spell? More kittens, of course! Wow, I’m not really sure how’s she’s going to have space for all of them if this keeps on happening!

Mona is slowly coming to terms with the fact that she has more than one love interest, partly buoyed by her best friend (and what doesn’t help is that one of the love interests happen to be said best friend’s twin brother…). Yet she has other things on her mind, namely this damned curse! Yet, despite the curse, she doesn’t want to do anything that might jeopardise the lives of her kittens, even if she’s frustrated that she keeps on producing them. I mean, they’re all seriously cute and all that, but a dorm room is only so big!

So, her friends pool together to try and find a fix for this wretched curse, in a less-than-legal manner, which, of course, doesn’t quite go to plan, or solve the problem of the curse itself.

Things not quite going to plan appears to be the name of the game, as serious trouble falls upon them once again. Well, there’s no “I told you so” in there, but there appears to be no clean way out of things this time.

Just as fun as the first book, with just as much cuteness, awkwardness, and trouble, this series is turning out to be fantastic so far! I just wish that the characters could see past the end of their noses sometimes…

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

First Time’s a Charm by Laura Greenwood

Lots of squee moments!!

The basis of my review for this book can probably be summarised so:

1. Cute kittens!!
2. Harry Potter references!!!
3. MORE cute kittens!!1! Squeeeee!!!11!!

OK, ahem, I’ll calm down a bit now, and try to write my thoughts in a more orderly manner.

This is the first book in a new series, which is roughly based in the broader Paranormal Council Universe. Of course, the whole paranormal school/college/university trope has been used a lot, but I’m lucky to not have read too much of it (aside from Harry Potter, but this was quite gleefully filled with HP references. And, of course, those cute kittens). Ooops, got a bit distracted again but, for me personally, this does bring something new to the table.

We have a young, eighteen-year-old witch, who has been relatively brilliant at magic, until one day, she isn’t. She’s been cursed to reproduce kittens with every spell. Except, she is completely clueless as to what’s going on with her magic. But, despite not really being a cat lover, falls completely in love with these balls of fur that keep appearing with every spell.

You have the class bitch, a “harem” of potential boyfriends, and a brilliant and quirky best friend. Plus, yes, those cute kittens…! Tell me – what more could you ask for?!

A nice, good, fun read, with plenty of mishaps and shenanigans. Considering the language used, it fits quite easily into the young-adult genre, yet I’m not so sure the sequels will be, if our young witch is going to get her men…!

Final rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

*I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*