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

The Time of Jacob’s Trouble by Donna VanLiere

Not what I was expecting

I would absolutely love to say that I wasn’t the intended audience for this book, but unfortunately I would be wrong. The author’s intent is that everyone reads it, no matter their background, to better understand Revelations and the end of times, and by so doing come to Christ…

As soon as I opened the first pages of the book, and saw which Bible each character was reading, I should have walked away right then. Seriously, being a non-Christian, I couldn’t care less! So it soon became obvious that it wasn’t what I hoped for – a literary exploration of some Biblical ideas. Why can’t someone write something like that without being religiously involved?!

I really tried to see the story amongst the pages, to appreciate the limited amount of actual storyline, trying to ignore the postscript telling you nearly every page to refer to the Biblical explanation of the events that were happening. Some of it did actually have me hooked, but some of the rest was droning, repetitive, and just uninteresting. For the rest, the truth is the overly pushy nature of all the Christian stuff just got to me.

Put it this way, the book actually ends at page 185/63%. The other 37% is entirely dedicated to explaining the Bible (and why am I nice enough to capitalise that word?!) and, oh, that’s where it’s revealed what the author’s true intentions were with this story. After the first couple of pages of the last part, I just skipped the rest. The story was done, there was a cliffhanger waiting for the next, and the rest was just uninteresting babble.

So, as I said, this book was entirely not for me. I’m not a Christian, I don’t want to be preached at. And for that reason, despite what could be good about this author’s works, their purely Evangelistic aim of this book has put me off reading anything else of theirs. Despite all that, well, I didn’t dislike it completely, which surprises me no end. Yet that is still not enough to encourage me to read the sequels. It would need to be far sturdier, and lose all the Biblical and preachy stuff, for me to even consider it.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

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

Burn the Dark by S.A. Hunt

Poor Start to Near-Epic Finish

This book started off with a bunch of bad sayings, that made no sense whatsoever. Well, it was a review copy, so may have been updated by the time the book was released, but there is nothing more off putting (well, perhaps there is) than a bunch of author-created nonsensical sayings.

But, once I got into the book, despite the horror edge to the story, I actually quite enjoyed it. A few laughs, a few gory moments. A few excellent characters to top it off, with a few interweaving storylines.

The witches themselves are devious. And there is just something not right about that house… Yet Robin manages to go back to where she grew up and find out more about her past than she could have wished for, gaining a handful of trusty sidekicks along the way.

I might not understand much about the background or culture (typical Brit trying to watch US TV dramas and failing to get the context), but all in all it wasn’t bad at all.

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.*

Devils Glen by Matthew Speak

Darkness descends

I took my time getting around to this book, so long in fact that Kindle Scout has now died and gone. But, no matter, I still own a copy of the book, so I have to read and review it at some point, don’t I…?

Anyway, this book was darker than I normally like to get in to. I was lucky that I didn’t have nightmares afterwards! But, I plodded on.

The beginning almost made me want to throw it at the wall, as it was so so boring!! The chapters were disjointed and unrelated. Some of the prologue material was repeated in the first couple of chapters. But then came glimmers of brilliance, that started to make the story interesting, so I persevered further. Plenty of creepy stuff to be had, but the main gore of the story didn’t happen until towards the end, like it came out of nowhere! Suddenly, blatant blood and gore, like the book is catching up or something for missing out on it sooner!

And, as it so happens, just around the point of the major bloody action is when the book was starting to get really interesting and it started pulling all together. Although there are still a heap of unanswered questions. Maybe the next book will resolve that, but I’m tentative as to whether I should pick it up or not.

My rating for this flew between two and five stars, depending on how the book was running, so I think I’ve chosen a fairly nice middle ground.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free copy of this book via the, now defunct, Kindle Scout program, and am voluntarily leaving a review.*