Sunday, July 17, 2005

Book 51: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

TITLE: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
AUTHOR: J.K. Rowling
STARTED: July 16, 2005
FINISHED: July 16, 2005
PAGES: 652
GENRE: Fantasy

FIRST SENTENCE: It was nearing midnight and the Prime Minister was sitting alone in his office, reading a long memo that was slipping through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning behind.

SUMMARY: [From] The war against Voldemort is not going well; even Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.

And yet...

As in all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate - and lose a few eyebrows in the process. The Weasley twins expand their business. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.

So it's the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Here at Hogwarts, Harry will search for the full and complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort - and thereby find what may be his only vulnerability.

REASON FOR READING: Do you even have to ask?

THOUGHTS: Wow! What a ride.

This book was just as good as all the others, but I could not help but think that it was inherently different. Yes, this book is darker. Yes, this book starts the summation process. Yes, this book shows the remarkable growth of the characters that have been with us for years. But, this book also took a different angle on the world of Harry Potter. Since it's the sixth book, Rowling does not have to continue to introduce the magical realm and the characters to us. There are new things, but they are not the focal point of the story. This book was all about character relationships, in every sense. In some ways I felt as if this was more of a book about high schoolers than about Hogwarters. I felt as if I was getting smacked upside the head with "this-is-what-romance-is-like-as-a-teena
ger." It was still good, just different.

Also, I could not help but think that Rowling was influenced by the movies, particularly the last one. I could see the film shots in my head. Then again, I am a media major. The dialog, however, would be perfect for the three actors they've cast. I can't wait to see what the film does with this book.

As for the plot twist (the one the critics called heartbreaking) as much as it made me unhappy I think it was necessary. The fact that I was listening to a sorrowful sound from the "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" soundtrack made my tears flow even more freely.

And, thank goodness Harry's witty is getting snarkier. It makes me like him more.

MISCELLANEOUS: I have a hard time not picturing my red-headed little brother as Ron. This sometimes made reading this book really awkward.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Keep, duh.
RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

CR: Carnal Gift by Pamela Clare
RN: Who knows? I have a birthday coming up and my reading may be delayed.

Book 50: Wicked

TITLE: Wicked
AUTHOR: Shannon Drake
STARTED: July 14, 2005
FINISHED: July 15, 2005
PAGES: 376
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: There was nothing to do but run.

SUMMARY: [From] The Earl was known as a beast.

Camille Montgomery is aware of the wicked man's reputation. But as an expert in antiquities, she also knows his family's Egyptian artifacts are the finest in England. The problem is, her wayward stepfather knows this, too - and he's determined to steal them. So when he's caught in the act of robbing the so-called Beast of Carlyle, Camille must swallow her fear and boldly confront the man whose mask is said to hide a face too loathsome to behold.

The Earl of Carlyle has lived in the shadows ever since the suspicious death of his parents. But he's never stopped trying to unravel the mystery behind what he suspects to have been their murder. And now that the lovely Camille has stumbled into his life, he has the perfect pawn for his deadly game of vengeance and deceit. But in laying his ruthless trap, will he risk losing his own heart?

REASON FOR READING: There was hint of something about Egypt written on the back.

THOUGHTS: Not bad, not great. The plot held great promise but it did not fully meet my expectations. I think that was because the author was trying to include too many characters. She could have cut out three of the small characters and this would have been a better book. However, I also think the book could have been longer. The author needed more time to draw out the story and explain certain details. The book felt rushed. The author could have created a great tension that would have yielded in a stronger and more enjoyable story.

MISCELLANEOUS: What is it with me buying books that have corsets on the cover?

RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

CR: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
RN: I don't know yet, nothing could live up to Harry Potter.

Book 49: The Flame and the Flower

TITLE: The Flame and the Flower
AUTHOR: Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
STARTED: July 4, 2005
FINISHED: July 13, 2005
PAGES: 484
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Somewhere in the world, time no doubt whistled by on taut and widespread wings, but here in the English countryside it plodded slowly, painfully, as if it trod the rutted road that stretched across the moors on blistered feet.

SUMMARY: [From] The Flower

Doomed to a life of unending toil, Heather Simmons fears for her innocence - until a shocking, desperate act forces her to flee... and to seek refuge in the arms of a virile and dangerous stranger.

The Flame

A lusty adventurer married to the sea, Captain Brandon Birmingham courts scorn and peril when he abducts the beautiful fugitive from the tumultuous London dockside. But no power on Earth can compel him to relinquish his exquisite prize. For he is determined to make the sapphire-eyed prize. For he is determined to make the sapphire-eyed lovely his woman...and to carry her off to far, uncharted realms of sensuous, passionate love.

REASON FOR READING: I needed a "W" author.

THOUGHTS: I don't know if I liked this book because it was actually good or just because it was better than the last book I read. However, I can see what it is considered a "landmark" and "beloved" novel in the romance genre. I've always liked Woodiwiss and this book only enhances my opinion of her writing. There was chemistry (boy! was there chemistry). The plot was inventive and was perfectly split between the romance and the actual storyline. The one problem I have is that the female lead, Heather, goes from hating her husband to loving him with no real explanation of why. Overall, however, this was a good read.

MISCELLANEOUS: I hate it when the "stunning female" looks ugly on the cover.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): I haven't decided yet.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: Wicked by Shannon Drake
RN: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Book 48: Until You

TITLE: Until You
AUTHOR: Bertrice Small
STARTED: June 30, 2005
FINISHED: July 4, 2005
PAGES: 461
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: "You are absolutely mad," Sir Thomas Bolton said to his cousin Rosamund as they rode across the border in Scotland.

SUMMARY: [From] The beautiful Rosamund Bolton is determined to live her own life. Now that she has claimed her inheritance, the magnificent Friarsgate estate, and rejected her latest suitor, she has decided to travel to the court of her dear friend, Queen Margaret, in Scotland. It is against this lavish and unpredictable backdrop that she will meet the man who will forever change her destiny.

REASON FOR READING: I needed a "U" title for my alphabet list.

THOUGHTS: This book was not worth the read. I've read Small's Beloved and it didn't become worth the read until page 200 when a specific character entered the plot. I kept on thinking that the same thing would happen with Until You. I was wrong. There was nothing redeeming about this book. The dialouge was not only flat, it was too explanatory. I hate it when characters verbally express their feelings. It's just something that drives me nuts. To top it off, they two talkative characters (that were supposedly the focal point of this romance) had absolutely no chemistry.

I also felt as if Small was trying to combine three separate novels. The text had no flow and just seemed taped together with loose connections.


KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): After I'm done cringing, I'll probably give this to Mel in a book box.
RATING: 2/10 [Awful]

CR: The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
RN: Wicked by Shannon Drake

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Book 47: The Shadow of the Wind

TITLE: The Shadow of the Wind
AUTHOR: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
STARTED: June 23, 2005
FINISHED: June 29, 2005
PAGES: 487
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetary of Forgotten Books for the first time.

SUMMARY: [From] Barcelona, 1945 - Just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes one day to find that he can no longer remember his mother's face. To console his only child, Daniel's widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona's guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel's father coaxes him to choose a book from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the book he selects, a novel called The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax's work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last of Carax's books in existence. Before Daniel knows it, his seemingly innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona's darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness, and doomed love, and before long he realizes that if he doesn't find out the truth about Julian Carax, he and those closest to him will suffer horribly.

REASON FOR READING: I needed a Z for my author list.

THOUGHTS: I picked this book up in the airport before my trip to Berlin in March. I just now got around to reading it. I don't know what I waited to long to read this. The book's plot was both well-written and interesting. I sort of guessed the "final twist" way at the beginning but that did not alter my enjoyment of the book.

Daniel was a great character. I always enjoy flawed characters and he was no exception. The way he related to the other characters was extremely interesting. It always seemed as if he was keeping them at a distance even though he truly loved them. It was great to read about his as he grew from a child to a man.

Also, the one-liners were amazing.

MISCELLANEOUS: A fiction book about books. I wish there were more like it.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Keep but allow the roomies to read.
RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

CR: Until You by Bertrice Small
RN: Probably something short.