Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

hp1origby J.K. Rowling
Children’s / YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel: June 26, 1997

1999 – Some dull party that my introverted best friend and I were avoiding by sitting on the couch in a corner.

“He doesn’t look like a wizard,” I told her when she handed over her copy. “Just read it,” she assured me with a knowing smile.

I read it in 2 days. I immediately read the next two books in the series. Then I began the agonizing wait for book 4.

It’s pretty much impossible to be unbiased about these books! They were my childhood—I grew up on them—they cemented my love of the fantastical and the heroic. Rowling captured my imagination and didn’t let me go.

hp1ukI’d never read about a world like this one before (and for a twelve-year-old I’d read a lot of books). Harry, Ron and Hermione were exploring a world I desperately wanted to be a part of! That combined with keeping the books a secret (witchcraft was definitely taboo in my house) and obsessing over what was going to happen in the next books gives this series some of my favorite memories.

Going back and rereading the first one is always the most charming—they are all so young, and so different from what they grow up to be. Harry’s first thought when he puts on the Invisibility Cloak is, “I’ll go to the library!” I mean, really? It’s the restricted section, but still!

Rowling’s trademark sense of humor is already here, the foundation for the series is here, and it never gets old reliving the Firsts over and over. The first letter, the first Hogwarts Express journey, first meetings between characters, first glimpses of Diagon Alley and Hogwarts. All of these and more are beautifully depicted in the illustrated edition as well. (Can’t wait to collect all of these!)

24490481This is a classic, and definitely a foundation for anyone reading Middle Grade or YA fantasy. The movies may be fun, but they don’t come close to the experience of reading these books!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket – A trio of orphans begin a long and arduous struggle (13 books long) to protect themselves and their fortune from their nefarious uncle with the dubious assistance of inept foster guardians.
  • How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell – Hiccup is the disgraced son of his tribe’s chief. He isn’t a warrior. He is, however, the first person who will attempt to tame and train their worst enemy: a dragon. This story is adorable and has illustrations too!
  • The Lost Years of Merlin by T.A. Barron – A 5-book series chronicling the early years of Merlin’s life as he discovers his powers. This first book is a bit cliched but the remainder of the series is awesome! Note: They are being republished under new titles. This one is Merlin: The Lost Years.
  • Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce – Four teens are brought together at a magic school to learn to master their abilities. Sandry’s gift is with weaving and light, Briar’s with plants, Daja’s with metal, Tris’ with weather. As they become friends they must also learn fast because their new home is threatened.
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke – Meggie is an avid reader who learns her father is able to read aloud and bring characters from books into our world–and accidentally transport humans into novels.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

29056083by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling
YA Fantasy
3 of 5 stars

This was both a hard book to read and a hard book to review. I avoided most of the hype about the play because pfff, I couldn’t afford to go to London, tickets are impossible to get anyway – and then this bound version of the script was announced. And I still avoided the hype because…it’s not canon, right? Not really? But then it came out and I bought it on release day because dammit I couldn’t resist the magic of nostalgia! Did it live up to my mostly-resisted hype?


I guess if I can’t shriek “yes” the answer is “no” – but again, I am just so conflicted! There’s nothing wrong with the story. There’s nothing wrong with the writing. It’s just…did I imagine Harry working for the government? Being kind of an ass? Did I imagine such a…realistic future for the beloved characters? Of course not! After all the drama and trauma and horror of the series, the whole point was imagining a happily ever after for the ones left alive! (Or you know…a somewhat somber version of that). But this play puts a wrecking ball through that idea.

This story centers around Harry’s tense relationship with his Slytherin-sorted middle child, Albus (the cute one from the HP7 epilogue). Albus doesn’t like being famous Harry Potter’s very average son. Harry doesn’t like that Albus is pretty much a puzzle to him (he doesn’t share all Harry’s own likes and prejudices). Enter time-travel, for reasons to bring back the old crew in bizarre ways.

Sure, the play centers on coming of age and parenting and finding yourself, but a few platitudes aside, it’s basically some of the stranger fan-fiction theories thrown together. Certain events that hold weight in the previous 7 books seem cheapened in this play. Most of the characters wouldn’t be recognizable from their actions alone. We’re told how we should really feel about side characters from the original series. Everything seemed disjointed and I’m not sure if seeing it on stage would help this or not.

A few moments tugged at my heart, but for the most part I just couldn’t figure out what I was reading. The mood and the messages were all over the place to me. I’m hoping this is something I can revisit later to enjoy it more, because I was underwhelmed this time. Again, the writers didn’t make the choices I would have made, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad–and I couldn’t really tell you what I was expecting! It just wasn’t this. I think I’ve waffled on this enough now!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – The play strongly reminded me of this story! (A fanfiction story from a novel–pretty meta). Simon and Baz are roommates who have hated each other for 6 years. But now it’s finally time for Simon to face the Insidious Humdrum and fulfill his Chosen One destiny. Baz is pretending he doesn’t care about anything–the Humdrum, finishing school, or the fact that he’s been in love with Simon for years and may want to do something about that. See my review here.
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Cath and her twin sister Wren write Simon Snow fan-fiction (see Carry On) but now they are off to college and Wren declares they aren’t rooming together, and she isn’t writing anymore. Cath isn’t sure how to cope–so she writes some more, and tries to ignore the cute boy trying to ask her out. This is an adorable story!
  • Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar – I love this story! Carolina’s family spends a summer on her estranged grandfather’s sheep farm as they prep it for sale. Her grandfather, Serge, has dementia, and is going to move into an assisted-living home. Serge tells Carolina that “the bees will bring back the rain” and at first she thinks he’s confused and telling random stories about a magical tree in the desert. But then bees begin following her around too, and she wonders if Serge has been telling the truth all along. See my review here.
  • Passenger by Alexandra Bracken – If you want more time-travel, look no further! This lovingly researched book will take you from New York City all over the world from the 1700s to the 1900s as Etta searches for an astrolabe so her grandfather will give her mother back. See my review here.

What’s new this month

Still quiet for me on the new release front, except for these two gems!

272459107/12 – The Shadow Hour – by Melissa Grey

The sequel to the adventurous and charming debut novel The Girl at Midnight, we find out what Echo does with her new-found knowledge about her true identity. I’m looking forward to more crackling dialogue and tension-filled interactions between these amazing characters! I enjoyed the first book so much because of these characters. There’s an amazing sibling dynamic, LGBT romance, and intriguing mythology. Jump into this series now!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

290560837/31 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – by J.K. Rowling

Could there be any release more momentous?! This copy of the stage play’s script allows everyone to access the newest tale about the boy wizard-or in this case, the Boy Who Lived all grown-up. I’ll be honest, Harry becoming a government employee is not the future I imagined, but I have faith in Rowling and I’m sure this will be a fun, moving addition to the series. At least now I don’t have to save up $4,000 to see it in London!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

What to read again:

That’s right, this month’s re-read is epic:


Remember these? The hottest book series of the last few decades? Something that brought readers out of the shadows and into launch parties, religious debates, and fanfiction? The books that made one single mom on welfare richer than anyone can reasonably comprehend? The books that spawned multiple theme parks, a huge movie franchise, and funds charities for orphans? Yeah, those books. My childhood.

These are some of my favorite memories from growing up—staying up until four in the morning reading with my best friend, hours of conversations, years of anticipation between installments—epic in every sense of the word.

This series is what I refer to for my “What to Read Again” posts and this summer I am finally revisiting them! After a 3-year hiatus (possibly longer??) I’m diving back into my childhood and I am super excited! I’m doing this for pure enjoyment, but you all may want to re-visit these because the bound script of the play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child comes out at the end of July and it takes some time to read 7 books in addition to whatever new gems are sitting on top of your TBR. So start now and enjoy!


Career of Evil

Career of Evilby Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
3 of 5 stars
Book 3 in a continuing series

Although I enjoyed this installment for the most part, it’s my least favorite in this suspenseful crime noir series. Detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant, Robin Ellacott, have a severed leg on their hands, and their third high-profile murder case together. This one manages to unnerve the unflappable Strike, and Robin is determined to hide her fear. The leg was addressed to her.

As they begin their investigation into three grisly men from Strike’s past, Robin tries to cope with the additional stress of her upcoming wedding to Matthew, who is still displeased with her low-paying, dangerous job.

There are elements of the things I loved in The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm—Strike and Robin’s banter, the author’s acute sense of humor and observation, and the feeling of an old, black-and-white detective show. Unfortunately, this time around the humor isn’t enough to lighten the black mood of the increasingly dark plot, and the pacing alternately speeds through important events or crawls like molasses through mundane details. It’s a cat-and-mouse game with a slightly overweight, confused cat. I’m already looking forward to the next book in spite of all that, but I’m a little wary. Still, as someone who doesn’t read many mystery/thriller novels, it’s a nice diversion.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Career of Evil is available on Goodreads and on Powell’s store website here. Powell’s has several locations in Oregon, and is one of the largest independent bookstores in the country. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie – Like so many people, this was my introduction to the acclaimed mystery author. It’s addictive and highly enjoyable, but if Hercule Poirot isn’t to your taste, I suggest her stories featuring Tommy and Tuppence or perhaps Miss Marple. All of them have a string of cases that are impossible to solve independently.
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – The heart of detective noir, Sherlock Holmes stories obviously have an older tone but still possess a good sense of humor and suspense. This is one of the creepier tales in the collection and a good evening’s read.
  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe – Before Sherlock Holmes there was C. Auguste Dupin. Poe created the detective genre and its tropes, only to be eclipsed by a more famous investigator a few years later, but this is still worth a read and very creepy.
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Set in small-town Missouri, this novel chronicles the turbulent relationship of Nick and Amy Dunne. We begin with Amy’s disappearance and possibly murder as Nick tries to piece together what happened to his wife without letting on to the public that he doesn’t miss her that much. This has an addictive plot, excellent writing, and a fantastic ending. (You can judge that statement after you’ve read it).

What’s new this month

You can now search my book reviews by author – additional organization, hurrah!

Also: It’s the best time of the year for books! Here are a few I’m looking forward to this month:

10/1 – The Anatomy of Curiosity – by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna YovanoffAnatomy of Curiosity

This collection of short stories gives insight into the creative process behind writing. These three women have been critique partners for years, and not only do you get a sample of their work, you can see how they work together. For anyone who wonders “How does a writer puts those words on the page, anyway?” or writers who want to pick up some tips, I have a feeling this will be fun and informative.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

Carry On10/6 – Carry On – by Rainbow Rowell

This is so weirdly meta, I cannot wait! Rowell’s best-seller, Fangirl, followed introvert fanfiction writer/college student Cath. Cath’s popular serialized novel “Carry On” was set in the same world as the Simon Snow series (a Harry Potter-esque series within the Fangirl universe) with the main characters Simon and Baz in a gay relationship instead. Rowell has said she isn’t writing this novel as Cath or as Gemma (the fictional writer of the Simon Snow series) so I don’t really know what to expect. But it’s real fiction of fictional fanfiction with a touch of Harry Potter satire and that is just cool.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

10/13 – Ice Like Fire – by Sara RaaschIce Like Fire

The sequel to the wildly popular Snow Like Ashes is finally here, with beautiful cover art and the promise of more political intrigue and relational drama between Meira, Theron, and Mather. The rumored chasm of magic is discovered, and the three have very different ideas as to how to use it to best serve the kingdom of Winter and the world. The first book had some rough patches, but I’m hoping this one will iron those out. I have a feeling the battle over natural resources might mirror situations in our own lives.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

Career of Evil10/20 – Career of Evil – by Robert Galbraith

The third installment in the crime noir series following detective Cormoran Strike and his idealistic assistant Robin Ellacott promises more intrigue, nefarious schemes, and interpersonal drama. These novels are like watching an old detective show–in atmosphere, not in cheesy dialogue–and I can’t wait to see where Strike ends up next! Robin is starting to come into her own as she develops her sleuthing powers, and the tension between her and her fiance is mounting as she puts off getting “a real job.” Although you could probably read these as standalone mystery novels, I’d recommend reading the previous books (The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm) first.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

10/13 – The Rose Society – by Marie LuThe Rose Society

The much-anticipated sequel to The Young Elites follows Adelina as she plots revenge against her numerous enemies. Full confession, I just read the first book a few days ago! It deserves its amazing reviews and Adelina is a unique heroine among the YA crowd. I fell in love with it – this is a fantastic series and I can’t wait to follow Adelina’s journey further. By a stroke of luck, I found an ARC in the wild, so I’ll have a review ready quite soon!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

Newt's Emerald10/13 – Newt’s Emerald – by Garth Nix

Originally a Kindle exclusive, the hardcover version of this alternate England story comes out in the US this month! Lady Truthful (“Newt” to her friends) goes to London to track down her family’s missing emerald. Of course she discovers there’s more to the mysterious crime–and her disguise as a boy is precarious at best. This looks really fun and a bit different from his other work, so I can’t wait to check it out. Plus the dust jacket is beautiful!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

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