nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Kristy’s Big Day

Nostalgic Reads

Kristy's Big DayTitle: Kristy’s Big Day

Author: Ann M. Martin

Series: The Baby-Sitters Club #6

Blurb: Kristy’s mom is getting married, and Kristy’s a bridesmaid. The only trouble is, fourteen little kids are coming to the wedding, and they all need a baby-sitter. Here comes the Baby-sitters Club!

Stacey, Claudia, Mary Anne, Dawn and Kristy think they can handle fourteen little kids. But that’s before they spend five days changing diapers, stopping fights, solving mix-ups, righting wrongs…and getting sick and tired of baby-sitting!

One things for sure: This is a crazy way to have a wedding. But it’s a great way to have lots of fun!

Review: This book is so stressful! A wedding to plan where the date gets moved up to only two and a half weeks away! Lots of family coming into town. FOURTEEN LITTLE KIDS TO DEAL WITH!!!

I don’t think I would have made it.

I’ve been through having to reschedule and change plans around a wedding, which is what happens here. They have a date which is several months away, but between a work related trip plus a house getting sold way faster than expected, the date gets moved up dramatically. There’s so much to do! All that needs to get done much, much sooner! Fortunately, they have a lot of family and friends to help out, including the Baby-Sitters Club!

It’s Kristy’s idea to offer the BSC as a solution to having so many kids around. The adults don’t want the kids getting in the way of all the wedding plans, so Kristy offers the BSC for the entire week. All day long. Fourteen kids spread out between five sitters. It works out so well because they are all so good with them. And organized! They split them into groups by age and assign a sitter to each group. They come up with activities both for the groups individually and separately. It’s not easy and there are always going to be ups and downs when children are involved, but still – it’s relatively painless.

Kristy spends the first part of the book sad that she is leaving the only home she has ever known. She likes her house, her room, being so close to her friends. With the chaos of all the kids around, she does forget about some of that, and likes her new, larger room at Watson’s house once she gets situated. She even comes up with a beautiful wedding present for them – a family tree showing their two families becoming one.

I like that this book shares this particular struggle. I didn’t go through this, but I had a few friends growing up who were children of divorce and saw their parent(s) get remarried. It’s always a tricky situation, and I’m glad that books like this one might help them feel a bit better about it.

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Chapter 2

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Chapter 2 – Spinner’s End

Another chapter outside of Harry’s point of view! We don’t usually get two of these right up front! I particularly like this chapter because it deals with one of my favorite characters in the whole series: Severus Snape. Now, to be clear, I do NOT think Snape is a good person. He’s a terrible teacher who belittles his students. I do, however, find him fascinating as a character. There are lots of complex layers to this guy, and this chapter shows a few of them. Plus, the fact that he was played in the films by one of my all-time favorite actors doesn’t hurt either (RIP Alan Rickman, gods above, I miss him!).

We start out in a very run down neighborhood next to a dirty river next to an old mill. Two hooded figures appear and head into town, one of them very determined and the other trying to stop the first. The second one is very jumpy and actually kills a fox because she heard a sound and was afraid it was an Auror.

The first woman is named Narcissa, the second is named Bella, and it’s pretty clear that this is none other than Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange, who we have learned are sisters as well as cousins to Sirius. Narcissa is on the verge of hysteria and is heading into this town to find someone who can help her with something. Bellatrix is not happy about any of this. She keeps trying to stop Narcissa from entering the dirty Muggle town and she definitely doesn’t want Narcissa to seek out the person she is looking for.

“Cissy, you must not do this, you can’t trust him –”

“The Dark Lord trusts him, doesn’t he?”

“The Dark Lord is . . . I believe . . . mistaken,” Bella panted, and her eyes gleamed momentarily under her hood as she looked around to check that they were indeed alone. “In any case, we were told not to speak of the plan to anyone. This is a betrayal of the Dark Lord’s –”

“Let go, Bella!” snarled Narcissa, and she drew a wand from beneath her cloak, holding it threateningly in the other’s face. Bella merely laughed.

“Cissy, your own sister? You wouldn’t –”

Yeah, it turns out that she will. Narcissa shoots what is probably a Stinging Hex at her sister and keeps walking to a street called Spinner’s End down to the last house on the street. Before Bella can stop her, Narcissa knocks on the door. The door opens to reveal . . . Snape. This is his house, although it is clear from the threadbare conditions that he doesn’t spend a great deal of time there. He greets the sisters and lets them in. Another thing that’s clear: he and Bellatrix do not like each other AT ALL.

After they are seated (except for Bella, who chooses to stand), Narcissa asks to make sure they’re alone. They are, except for Wormtail, who is just outside the room behind a hidden door, which Snape blasts open. It seems Wormtail just enjoys eavesdropping, maybe left over from so much time spent as a rat. Snape sends him off to fetch drinks. He and Wormtail don’t particularly like each other either. Wormtail was sent to “assist” Snape and resents being treated like a servant instead. He brings out the wine and then scurries away, Snape slamming the door behind him.

Narcissa accepts the glass of wine. Snape raises his and toasts the Dark Lord, which the sisters do as well in response. Narcissa begins to talk to Snape, but he stops her, casting a spell towards the door Wormtail just left through. You hear a yelp and then footsteps running away. Snape apologizes and asks Narcissa to continue. She begins by admitting that she shouldn’t be there and were told not to say anything. Bellatrix jumps on this, saying that it proves that Narcissa should keep her mouth shut, especially in front of Snape, because she absolutely does not trust him.

“Narcissa, I think we ought to hear what Bellatrix is bursting to say; it will save tedious interruptions. Well, continue, Bellatrix,” said Snape. “Why is it that you do not trust me?”

“A hundred reasons!” she said loudly, striding out from behind the sofa to slam her glass upon the table. “Where to start!” Where were you when the Dark Lord fell? Why did you never make any attempt to find him when he vanished? What have you been doing all these years that you’ve lived in Dumbledore’s pocket? Why did you stop the Dark Lord procuring the Sorcerer’s Stone? Why did you not return at once when the Dark Lord was reborn? Where were you a few weeks ago when we battled to retrieve the prophecy for the Dark Lord? And why, Snape, is Harry Potter still alive, when you have had him at your mercy for five years?”

Jeez, Bella! Do you feel better now that you have all that off your chest? None of this fazes Snape. He tells her that he will definitely answer all her questions, but also, does she really think that Voldemort didn’t have the same questions for him? And does she really think that Snape would still be here if Voldemort wasn’t satisfied with his answers? Does she really think that Snape was able to fool her hero?

Which is actually funny because, yes, Snape did fool Voldemort. But that’s neither here nor there. Bellatrix doesn’t know that.

First question: where was Snape when the Dark Lord fell? He was at Hogwarts, right where Voldemort told him to be, assigned to spy on Dumbledore.

Second question: why didn’t he find Voldemort when he vanished? He thought Voldemort was gone, just like Lucius, Avery, and many others did. Voldemort has chosen to forgive those who doubted.

Third question: why did he stay at Hogwarts if Voldemort was gone and he no longer needed to be a spy? Why not stay at Hogwarts? He had a good job and Dumbledore’s protection to keep him out of jail. What’s more, Voldemort himself is very happy that Snape stayed because it meant he could go back to spying once he returned.

Fourth question: why did Snape prevent Voldemort from stealing the Sorcerer’s Stone? Simple. Voldemort wasn’t sure Snape was still loyal and, as such, did not reveal himself. Snape only saw Quirrell trying to steal the Stone and, yes, tried to stop him. According to Snape, if Voldemort had trusted him, he would have returned to power three years ago. Think about that for a second. Would have made the first book in this series a whole lot different, wouldn’t it!

Fifth question: why didn’t Snape return when Voldemort was reborn? He did not return immediately . . .

“Correct. I returned two hours later. I returned on Dumbledore’s orders.”

“On Dumbledore’s –?” she began, in tones of outrage.

“Think!” said Snape, impatient again. “Think! By waiting two hours, just two hours, I ensured that I could remain at Hogwarts as a spy! By allowing Dumbledore to think that I was only returning to the Dark Lord’s side because I was ordered to, I have been able to pass information on Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix ever since! Consider, Bellatrix: The Dark Mark had been growing stronger for months. I knew he must be about to return, all the Death Eaters knew! I had plenty of time to think about what I wanted to do, to plan my next move, to escape like Karkaroff, didn’t I?

“The Dark Lord’s initial displeasure at my lateness vanished entirely, I assure you, when I explained that I remained faithful, although Dumbledore thought I was his man. Yes, the Dark Lord thought that I had left him forever, but he was wrong.”

See, this is what makes Snape such a fascinating character. Even here, even listening to him spell it out bluntly before two of Voldemort’s faithful followers, we still don’t know for sure what side he’s on. He could be telling the absolute truth. He could be lying his face off. No way to know for sure.

I also love his little stab at Bellatrix when she demands what information he’s brought, and he says that he reported directly to Voldemort and it isn’t any of his business if Voldemort decides not to share it with her.

Sixth question: why didn’t Snape fight with them at the Ministry? See, Bells, this is why you aren’t in charge of planning things. Don’t you think the Order would have noticed if all of a sudden Snape started fighting against them? Voldemort wants his spy in place and ordered Snape to stay out of it.

Seventh and final question: why has Snape not taken out Harry Potter? You know, for a Slytherin, Bellatrix has no sense of subtlety whatsoever. Imagine. Voldemort is believed to be gone. Snape is under Dumbledore’s protection, which is keeping him out of jail. Sure, let’s go ahead and murder Dumbledore’s favorite student. That’s a good idea! Also, and this is new, when Harry first survived Voldemort’s attack as a baby, there were rumors that Harry was a powerful Dark wizard and that was how he did it. The Death Eaters wondered if Harry would rise up to be their new master one day.

Of course that didn’t happen, and isn’t likely to, but they didn’t know any better at the time. Snape can’t stand Harry and has tried to get him thrown out of school on numerous occasions, but can’t do any more than that with Dumbledore keeping such a close watch. Bellatrix is still skeptical. If Snape is loyal to Voldemort, how has he been so good at fooling Dumbledore all these years?

“I have played my part well,” said Snape. “And you overlook Dumbledore’s greatest weakness: He has to believe the best of people. I spun him a tale of deepest remorse when I joined his staff, fresh from my Death Eater days, and he embraced me with open arms — though, as I say, never allowing me nearer the Dark Arts than he could help. Dumbledore has been a great wizard — oh yes, he has,” (for Bellatrix had made a scathing noise), “the Dark Lord acknowledges it. I am pleased to say, however, that Dumbledore is growing old. The duel with the Dark Lord last month shook him. He has since sustained a serious injury because his reactions are slower than they once were. But through all these years, he has never stopped trusting Severus Snape, and therein lies my great value to the Dark Lord.”

Bellatrix is flummoxed for the moment, so Snape turns to Narcissa for her to continue her request. Narcissa didn’t know where else to turn since Lucius is in prison. Voldemort has a plan, but has forbidden her to speak of it. Bellatrix leaps on this to convince her to keep her mouth shut, but turns out Snape also knows about the plan. He doesn’t think he can change Voldemort’s mind though, and it would be foolish in the extreme to try.

Narcissa starts to cry. Whatever this plan is, it involves Draco, her only son. Bellatrix thinks Draco should be proud for this assignment, but Narcissa knows that it is only because Draco is young and doesn’t know the dangers involved. She frets that sending Draco into peril is vengeance for Lucius failing in his attempt to retrieve the prophesy. There is no way for Draco to succeed in this mission. Voldemort’s intent is for Draco to die trying. He is furious that the prophesy slipped through his hands.

Snape can’t risk Voldemort’s wrath and can’t get him to change his mind, but he can do his best to help Draco and protect him. Bellatrix sneers that sure, Snape may try, but that is meaningless. Narcissa falls at his feet and asks him to make the Unbreakable Vow. At first Bellatrix starts to laugh, but stops when Snape agrees. He kneels on the ground across from Narcissa and asks for Bellatrix to be their Bonder.

The Vow is spoken over their clasped hands, red flames encircling them. Snape swears to do the following: to watch over Draco as he attempts his task, to do his best to protect Draco from harm, and if necessary, if Draco should fail, to carry out the task Draco has been ordered to do. This last one in particular surprises Bellatrix, but the spell has been cast, and Snape is now bound to this responsibility. She can’t argue with that!

So where has Harry Potter been through all this? See you next time for Chapter 3!

Blog Tours · Books I've Read

BLOG TOUR: Pharaoh’s Star by Olivia Hardy Ray

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Today, I am very happy to share a very mysterious, spooky read – Pharaoh’s Star by Olivia Hardy Ray. This had so many twists and turns! Thanks to RABT Book Tours for hosting and giving me a spot on the tour!

About the Book

PharaohsStar_1_BTitle: Pharaoh’s Star

Author: Olivia Hardy Ray

Genre: Mystery/Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Publisher: Chattercreek

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Find it: Amazon, GoodReads, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks

Blurb: Nick and Jenna Dowling buy a second home in Upstate New York but this dream of a lifetime turns out to be anything but relaxing when a strange and mystical experience on a dark, forgotten back road leads Nick on a frantic search for answers about the reality of his identity. Frantic to explain his mysterious amnesia, Jenna Dowling calls upon a therapist for her husband, while Nick befriends an alien abduction expert. Each desperately searches for the truth, but in the end, it is not the truth that sets them free.

 

Review: This one is so difficult to classify, because I don’t think I’ve read anything like this before. There were so many questions that you had to keep reading. Who is this man? Is he Nick Dowling? Is he Robbie Nichols? Is he Sanford Hinkley? Is he someone else entirely?

I enjoyed the setting of the Catskills mountains, especially the old road with the cabin at the end. You know that something has happened there, even if you never fully know all the details, and it sets an eerie tone that lasts throughout the book. It is a thriller in every sense of the word. At the same time, the story is extremely intimate. Nick is struggling to find his identity, since he doesn’t remember anything at all about his childhood, and is starting to believe that he may have been abducted by aliens and experimented on. Jenna, his wife, is a psychologist and very grounded in the real world. She has to deal with the fact that her husband may be having a complete breakdown, while at the same time wondering if she even knows him at all.

The plot twists keep you guessing all the way through the book right until the end, which is why it is so hard to put down. I needed to know the answers! It was an absolute roller coaster all the way through!

GoodReads rating: 4 stars

About the Author

author

Olivia Hardy Ray is the pen name for Vera Jane Cook, who is the author of Dancing Backward in Paradise, 2007 winner of the Indie Excellence Award for notable new fiction and an Eric Hoffer Award for publishing excellence, also in 2007. Dancing Backward in Paradise received a 5 Star Review from ForeWord Clarion. The Story of Sassy Sweetwater was a finalist for the ForeWord Clarion Book of the Year Award and the recipient of a five star review from ForeWord Clarion. Where the Wildflowers Grow was her third southern fiction novel and is receiving 5 star reviews from Amazon.com. Her latest southern fiction novel just released is Pleasant Day. Her woman’s fiction novel is Lies a River Deep and the soon to be released ‘Kismet’. Under her pen name she is also the author of Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem, and Pharaoh’s Star. The sequel to Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem is Annabel Horton and the Black Witch of Pau. That novel will be released this summer. Jane, as she is called by friends and family, writes in the genres she loves: southern fiction, women’s fiction, mystery and fantasy paranormal fiction. She lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her spouse, her Basenji/Chihuahua mix, Roxie, her Dachshund, Karly, her Chihuahua, Peanut, and her two pussycats, Sassy and Sweetie Pie.

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Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Chapter 1

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Chapter 1 – The Other Minister

I’ve decided to start including the chapter titles in these, which I hadn’t done before, just because some of them are either very funny or very poignant. Or both, as the case may be.

Also, welcome to Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince everyone! I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for five books now!

This book opens not with Harry, but with the Muggle Prime Minister in a chapter that I actually find quite interesting. You always assumed that the Ministry of Magic had to have some sort of contact with the Muggle authorities and/or government, but here we actually get a chance to see it in action.

The Prime Minister, who we never learn his name, is in his office late at night waiting for a call from another country. He’s had a rough week. His political opponents are pointing out all these horrible things that have been happening all over the country, things like a large bridge that collapsed, two very nasty murders, freakish weather, and one of his Junior Ministers, Herbert Chorley, acting bizarre and leaving to spend time with his family.

“A grim mood has gripped the country,” the opponent had concluded, barely concealing his own broad grin.

And unfortunately, this was perfectly true. The Prime Minister felt it himself; people really did seem more miserable than usual. Even the weather was dismal; all this chilly mist in the middle of July . . . It wasn’t right, it wasn’t normal . . .

He’s right. This isn’t normal. Not at all. He stands up to stretch and look out the window when he hears a cough behind him. He knows this cough. He’s heard it before and it never is good news. In the far corner of the room is a painting of an ugly little man in an old-fashioned silver wig. This man starts to speak, telling the Prime Minister that Fudge has requested to meet with him and that it’s urgent. The Prime Minister doesn’t want to meet right now and tries to use an upcoming telephone call as an excuse, but the painting tells him that the call will be rearranged, that the President calling will forget and instead call him the next night. Finally, the Prime Minister decides to just get it over with and says he will meet.

Fudge steps out of the fireplace using the Floo Network, which is apparently connected to the Prime Minister’s office. He looks terrible and says that he has had a bad week, mentioning all this issues the Prime Minister had been worrying about: the bridge, the murders, the weird weather. Fudge cops an attitude and says that surely the Prime Minister realized that magic was involved, didn’t he? This is why the Prime Minister doesn’t like Fudge — his arrogant air of superiority.

He remembers the first time he met Fudge, right after he took office. He was standing there, so happy to finally have achieved such a triumph, when he heard the portrait cough. Fudge had appeared in the fireplace and explained everything about the Ministry of Magic and all the ways that they ensure that the non-magical community doesn’t hear about them. He also tells the Prime Minister that it is very unlikely that he will see him much. When the Prime Minister seems skeptical, Fudge turns his teacup into a gerbil.

“But,” said the Prime Minister breathlessly, watching his teacup chewing on the corner of his next speech, “but why — why has nobody told me –?”

“The Minister of Magic only reveals him or herself to the Muggle Prime Minister of the day,” said Fudge, poking his wand back inside his jacket. “We find it the best way to maintain secrecy.”

“But then,” bleated the Prime Minister, “why hasn’t a former Prime Minister warned me –?”

At this, Fudge had actually laughed.

“My dear Prime Minister, are you ever going to tell anybody?”

That’s a fair point. The Prime Minister tries to make himself forget about Fudge’s appearance. He gives the gerbil to his niece and tries to have the portrait removed from his office. Yeah, that doesn’t work – the portrait is permanently affixed to the wall. Numerous people try to get rid of it, including carpenters and an art historian, so the Prime Minister just tries to ignore its presence as much as possible.

Despite Fudge’s assurances that he wouldn’t be around much, he showed up three years ago to warn the Prime Minister about Sirius’s escape, which if we remember, was actually mentioned back in Prisoner of Azkaban. The Daily Prophet quotes Fudge as saying that he got a lot of heat from the magical population for alerting the Muggle authorites, but that Sirius Black was a threat to everyone and they needed to be warned. Fudge also used that time to explain to the Prime Minister all about Voldemort and Harry Potter and the whole story.

The next year, Fudge appears again to tell the Prime Minister about the problems at the Quidditch World Cup, but that the situation was handled. Oh and also they are importing three foreign dragons and a sphinx. Two years after THAT, Fudge comes back to tell him about the mass breakout at Azkaban.

So much for hardly ever seeing him.

Back in the present day, Fudge tells him that the issues the Prime Minister is dealing with are also related to the magical world.

“We have the same concerns,” Fudge interrupted. “The Brockdale Bridge didn’t wear out. That wasn’t really a hurricane. Those murders were not the work of Muggles. And Herbert Chorley’s family would be safer without him. We are currently making arrangements to have him transferred to St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. The move should be effected tonight.”

Fudge also has to admit that Voldemort is indeed back and that his followers are behind all these problems. Voldemort had threatened Fudge with a mass Muggle killing unless he stepped aside, which obviously Fudge didn’t do, so Death Eaters destroyed the bridge. The Prime Minister is furious that this problem was actually Fudge’s fault, but then concedes that he wouldn’t have stood down due to blackmail like that. Every Auror is working to find Voldemort and his Death Eaters, but this is also one of the most powerful wizards of all time. He’s not going to be easy to catch.

Also, those freak hurricanes? Not weather. Death Eater attacks, possibly aided by giants.

One of the murders? Amelia Bones, from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and one of the witches who stood up for Harry at his trial last year. She’s dead now. The other murder was Emmeline Vance, one of the members of the Order.

The unseasonable chilly mist? Dementors, now completely outside Ministry control. Creating feelings of hopelessness and unhappiness all over the country. The mist means that they’re breeding. I so don’t want to know how they do that.

The Prime Minister is horrified and demands that Fudge do something. He’s the Minister of Magic after all! This is his responsibility! Here’s the thing though. Fudge isn’t the Minister anymore. The wizarding world is not happy at all about being intentionally misled about Voldemort’s return and all the fallout that happened after. They screamed for him to resign. The new minister, Rufus Scrimgeour, arrives shortly to introduce himself.

The Prime Minister’s first, foolish thought was that Rufus Scrimgeour looked rather like an old lion. There were streaks of gray in his mane of tawny hair and his bushy eyebrows; he had keen yellowish eyes behind a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles and a certain rangy, loping grace even though he walked with a slight limp. There was an immediate impression of shrewdness and toughness; the Prime Minister thought he understood why the Wizarding community preferred Scrimgeour to Fudge as a leader in these dangerous times.

After a brief introduction, Scrimgeour says they need to talk about the Prime Minister’s security, starting with the new secretary outside. The Prime Minister doesn’t want to get rid of his new secretary, as he’s so efficient he does twice the work of everyone else. That’s because the new secretary is a wizard, and not just any wizard — Kingsley Shacklebolt! He has been put there for the Prime Minister’s protection.

The next item of business is the Junior Minister, Herbert Chorley, who apparently just randomly started behaving like a duck in public. This was due to a badly performed Imperius Curse. Someone tried to use him to get to the Prime Minister, but it “addled his brains” instead. He is being examined by Healers and has tried to strangle several of them. Clearly he is dangerous at the moment, but will be treated at St. Mungo’s. They don’t know if he will recover or not.

Scrimgeour gets up to leave and says that he will keep the Prime Minister posted, or at least send Fudge, who is acting as an advisor. At this point, it has all been too much for the Prime Minister. He catches them both before they disappear into the Floo.

“But for heaven’s sake — you’re wizards! You can do magic! Surely you can sort out — well — anything!”

Scrimgeour turned slowly on the spot and exchanged an incredulous look with Fudge, who really did manage a smile this time as he said kindly, “The trouble is, the other side can do magic too, Prime Minister.”

Touché, Fudge.

That’s it for Chapter 1. See you next time for Chapter 2!

Books I've Read

REVIEW: Winning Westeros

Brooks_jkt.inddTitle: Winning Westeros: How Game of Thrones Explains Modern Military Conflict

Editors: Max Brooks, John Amble, M.L. Cavenaugh, Jaym Gates

Pages: 304

Genre: Non-fiction, Historical fiction, Fantasy

Edition Read: ebook ARC from NetGalley

Blurb: Set in the fictitious world of Westeros, the hit television series Game of Thrones chronicles the bitter and violent struggle between the realm’s noble dynasties for control of the Seven Kingdoms. But this beloved fantasy drama has just as much to say about the successful strategies and real-life warfare waged in our own time and place. Winning Westeros brings together more than thirty of today’s top military and strategic experts, including generals and admirals, policy advisors, counterinsurgency tacticians, science fiction and fantasy writers, and ground‑level military officers to explain the strategy and art of war by way of the Game of Thrones saga.

Each chapter of Winning Westeros provides a relatable, outside‑the‑box way to simplify and clarify the complexities of modern military conflict. A chapter on the doomed butcher’s boy whom Arya Stark befriends by World War Z author Max Brooks poignantly reminds us of the cruel fate that civilians face during times of war. Another chapter on Jaqen H’ghar and the faceless men of Bravos explores the pivotal roles that stealth and intelligence play in battle. Whether considering the diplomatic prowess of Tyrion Lannister, the defiant leadership style of Daenerys Targaryen, the Battle of the Bastards and the importance of reserves, Brienne of Tarth and the increased role of women in combat, or dragons as weapons of mass destruction, Winning Westeros gives fans of Game of Thrones and aspiring military minds alike an inspiring and entertaining means of understanding the many facets of modern warfare. It is a book as captivating and enthralling as Game of Thrones itself.

Review: This book is something that I would not normally have picked up to read. I am a fan of Game of Thrones, but definitely the books more than the television show. I only watched part of season 1 and couldn’t really take the blood and gore. But I saw this on NetGalley right around the time everyone was talking about the show’s finale, so I figured I’d give it a go. It would at least be interesting.

It was very interesting! I learned a lot! This is a collection of essays that uses both real world examples and other fictional examples to really go into detail of what makes the Game of Thrones world seems so real. I am not as knowledgeable about history as I should be, so seeing something that I am familiar with compared to World War I, World War II, the Gulf War, and other real-life military engagements was fascinating. I particularly thought it was interesting (and funny) how they compared Daenerys’s dragons to the emergence of airplanes in modern military history. Hey, it’s the reason why there aren’t a lot of walled cities anywhere anymore – they don’t stop airplanes! They don’t stop dragons all that much either.

Like any collection of essays, some were hit and miss. I definitely enjoyed some more than others – some were very, very dry, but others incredibly interesting. Some of my favorites were “The Source of Tyrion Lanister’s Unlikely Survival and Success” by Joe Byerly, “Game of Pwns: Baelish and Varys as Drivers of Modern Conflict” by Nina A. Kollars, and “From Brienne of Tarth to Lyanna Mormont: Shifting Attitudes about Women in Combat” by Kelsey Cipolla.

If you are a history buff, this would definitely be up your alley. Lots of interesting facts and details that I know I never thought about before. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, maybe give this as go as well, just to see how these stories are not as fantastical or far-fetched as you might think.

GoodReads rating: 3 stars

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 38

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In Chapter 38, Harry needs to figure out what to do with all this new information. Let’s go!

Minister Fudge is definitely eating some humble pie! A statement from the Ministry appears in the paper, not only confirming that Voldemort has returned, but also that the dementors of Azkaban have revolted and left the Ministry. Because what Voldemort needed was more reasons to be scary. After spending months denying rumors about Voldy’s return and maligning those (like Dumbledore and Harry) who were speaking truth to power, the wizard public are not taking it well. Who can blame them?

Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville and Luna are all hanging out in the hospital wing. Ginny, Luna and Neville are just visiting, having their injuries mended quickly by Madam Pomfrey. Ron has also recovered, although he still has deep welts on his arms from the attack of the brains. Hermione is still a patient, but is on the mend.

She winced slightly and put a hand to her ribs. The curse Dolohov had used on her, though less effective than it would have been had he been able to say the incantation aloud, had nevertheless caused, in Madam Pomfrey’s words, “quite enough damage to be going on with.” Hermione was having to take ten different types of potion every day and although she was improving greatly, was already bored with the hospital wing.

Thank goodness Dolohov was silenced. Hermione probably would have died otherwise!

They find it ironic that suddenly the Daily Prophet is back to calling Harry “the Boy Who Lived” and speaking highly of Dumbledore, who was of course reinstated as headmaster. Hermione asks what else is going on at school, since she is stuck in bed. Flitwick was able to clean up Fred and George’s swamp. It only took the charms professor mere seconds to do it, although he left a tiny patch of it roped off, just because he thinks it’s a pretty impressive bit of magic. A tiny bit of whimsy to remember Fred and George, who are now at their shop and doing pretty well.

The only one who isn’t too happy about things is Filch. He thought Umbridge was the best thing to happen to Hogwarts in ages. He was finally going to be able to whip students! Speaking of Umbridge, she is also in the hospital wing but doesn’t speak much. Dumbledore walked into the Forbidden Forest and came out with Umbridge. The centaurs must have more respect for him, although they will still not let Firenze back. Firenze will stay at Hogwarts, co-teaching Divination with Professor Trelawney, who has been reinstated.

Ron thinks that Trelawney should be sacked, but Hermione has had a slight change of heart since they know that real prophesies exist. Harry doesn’t want to talk about the prophesy, especially since he hasn’t told them that he knows exactly what that prophesy said. Instead he leaves to go visit Hagrid, who is also back. On his way down, he runs into Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle. Malfoy is not particularly happy about the fact that, oh yeah, his father was arrested.

“You’re going to pay,” said Malfoy in a voice barely louder than a whisper. “I’m going to make you pay for what you’ve done to my father.”

“Well, I’m terrified now,” said Harry sarcastically. “I s’pose Lord Voldemort’s just a warm-up act compared to you three — what’s the matter?” he said, for Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle had all looked stricken at the sound of the name. “He’s your dad’s mate, isn’t he? Not scared of him, are you?”

“You think you’re such a big man, Potter,” said Malfoy, advancing now, Crabbe and Goyle flanking him. “You wait. I’ll have you. You can’t land my father in prison –”

“I thought I just had,” said Harry.

Harry may be broken inside, but he hasn’t lost his sass!

Malfoy is sure that his father and the other Death Eaters will be out of Azkaban soon enough, with no dementors to stop them. Harry knows this, but says that at least everyone now knows “what scumbags they are.” Malfoy goes for his wand, but Harry is faster. They are interrupted by Snape, who of course blames Harry and is about to take points away from Gryffindor, except there are no points left. Well, then, we should add some more . . . according to Professor McGonagall!

Yes!!! Minerva is back, baby!! She is walking with a cane, but she’s still a badass! She awards Harry and his fellow Gryffindors fifty points each for alerting the world to Voldemort’s return, as well as fifty points to Ravenclaw for Luna’s involvement. This leaves Gryffindor with a decent amount of points, even with Snape taking away ten for their little dust up in the hallway.

Harry runs outside before anything else can happen and heads to Hagrid’s. The visit with Hagrid is awkward at best, mostly because Hagrid doesn’t really know what to say about Sirius and Harry really isn’t ready to talk about it. At least everyone now knows that Harry was telling the truth. That’s something anyway. But Harry can’t talk to anyone about this, not really. Soon, he tells Hagrid that he needs to visit Ron and Hermione in the hospital wing (despite just coming from there) and takes a walk by himself.

Perhaps the reason he wanted to be alone was because he had felt isolated from everybody since his talk with Dumbledore. An invisible barrier separated him from the rest of the world. He was — he had always been — a marked man. It was just that he had never really understood what that meant . . .

And yet sitting here on the edge of the lake, with the terrible weight of grief dragging at him, with the loss of Sirius so raw and fresh inside, he could not muster any great sense of fear. It was sunny and the grounds around him were full of laughing people, and even though he felt as distant from them as though he belonged to a different race, it was still very hard to believe as he sat here that his life must include, or end in, murder . . .

So many emotions, and yet still feeling so numb. So much has happened, it’s almost impossible to process. Again, this is a fifteen year old boy. Harry has been referred to as “a man” several times now, but really, he’s still a child. Still a kid.

The term at Hogwarts ends and Harry gets ready to return to Privet Drive. It’s not any easier even though he understands why he has to be there. Umbridge also leave Hogwarts, chased out by Peeves, to the laughter of all. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer person. The one thing Harry doesn’t want to do is attend the end-of-term feast. He doesn’t want to hear Dumbledore talk about what happened or deal with the stares. Instead he stays in the dorm to pack. At the bottom of his trunk he finds a package. It was given to him by Sirius at the beginning of the year, right before he left for school. Inside is a mirror with a small note from Sirius explaining that this is a two-way mirror. Sirius has the other one and it can be used to talk between the two.

This is so heartbreaking. Harry at first thinks that maybe it will still work. He tries to summon Sirius in the mirror, but nothing happens. Also, Sirius didn’t have the mirror with him at the Ministry, so it wouldn’t have worked anyway. Sirius is dead. He isn’t a ghost . . . or wait . . . is he?

Harry runs downstairs looking for one of the Hogwarts ghosts. There are dozens of them — why can’t he find one? He finally runs into Nearly-Headless Nick, who at first doesn’t want to talk to Harry about this, but also has been sort of expecting it. I’ll bet Nick has had this same conversation with other students who have lost a loved one. It’s still not easy though.

Nick tells him that only wizards come back as ghosts, but that Sirius will not come back. Very few wizards choose to come back at all. Harry gets angry and starts demanding answers. Why doesn’t everyone come back as a ghost? What happens when you die?

“I cannot answer,” said Nick.

“You’re dead, aren’t you?” said Harry exasperatedly. “Who can answer better than you?”

“I was afraid of death,” said Nick. “I chose to remain behind. I sometimes wonder whether I oughtn’t to have . . . Well, that is neither here nor there . . . In fact, I am neither here nor there . . .” He gave a small sad chuckle. “I know nothing of the secrets of death, Harry, for I chose my feeble imitation of life instead. I believe learned wizards study the matter in the Department of Mysteries –“

The last thing Harry wants to talk about is the Department of Mysteries. Nick hurries off, leaving Harry feeling devastated. He had a brief hope of seeing Sirius again, but that hope was dashed.

Harry wants to hide out, but instead runs into Luna who is hanging up notices about some missing items. Turns out there are some people who take her stuff and hide it just to mess with her. Just because she’s different. Harry offers to help her track stuff down, but she says he doesn’t have to. The stuff always turns up eventually. She mentions Sirius, and for some reason, Harry feels more comfortable talking about him with her. After all, she can see thestrals too, after the death of her mother.

She also knows that the dead never truly leave and that she will see her mother again. The voices, the ones from behind the veil . . . they are there. Always watching. Always with us. Excuse me while I go cry for a bit.

The next day is the trip home on the Hogwarts Express. Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle decide to try and cause trouble, but then the rest of the D.A. turns up and . . . let’s just say it goes bad for the Slytherins. Real bad. Harry also sees Cho, but feels nothing. After everything that has happened, it doesn’t matter to him that Cho is dating someone else, although Ron takes great offense that Cho is dating Ginny’s ex-boyfriend. She also takes that moment to mention that she is now dating Dean Thomas. You go, Ginny!

The train pulls into Kings Cross and there are lots of people to greet Harry: the Weasleys, of course, but also Mad-Eye, Tonks and Lupin. They all decide to have a little chat with the Dursleys about how Harry is treated. Basically, if they hear that Harry is being mistreated in any way, they will have to answer to the Order.

Uncle Vernon swelled ominously. His sense of outrage seemed to outweigh even his fear of this bunch of oddballs.

“Are you threatening me, sir?” he said, so loudly that passersby actually turned to stare.

“Yes, I am,” said Mad-Eye, who seemed rather pleased that Uncle Vernon had grasped this fact so quickly.

“And do I look like the kind of man who can be intimidated?” barked Uncle Vernon.

“Well . . .” said Moody, pushing back his bowler hat to reveal his sinisterly revolving magical eye. Uncle Vernon leapt backward in horror and collided painfully with a luggage trolley. “Yes, I’d have to say you do, Dursley.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Moody is a good person to have on your side!!! He also tells Harry to let them know if he needs them, but if they don’t hear from him for three days in a row, they will send someone to check on him. No way the Dursleys can cut Harry off from the wizarding world this time!

They all say goodbye to Harry, Mrs. Weasley hugging him again and promising to get him out of the Dursleys’ as soon as they can, and . . . that’s it. Harry leaves the station a very different person from the one who left at the beginning of the school year. Now he truly understands just how high the stakes are, and what he needs to do to finish things once and for all.

And that’s it! The end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Thank you everyone for joining in on this read through. I will start Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince shortly — I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to take a few days off or if I’m going to just keep going. In any case, we will join back up with Harry and his friends soon!

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday – 8/28/19

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Sam at Taking On a World of Words. Three questions, three answers. Let’s go!

What did you recently finish reading?

I finished several things last week when I was out sick from work. Lots of time to read! First off, I finished Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, which was the fourth book I read for the Disney-A-Thon. Only one more book to go! I have mixed feelings about the book, which everyone told me I would. I also finished Winning Westeros: How Game of Thrones Explains Modern Military Conflict. This one is for NetGalley and the review should be up tomorrow. I finished Captive by Aimee Carter, the second book in the Blackcoat Rebellion series. One more book to check that one off my “Complete the Series” Challenge! I also finished ISAN by Mary Ting, which was really good. The first book in the International Sensory Assassin Network series, of which I am reading two books for a blog tour next month.

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Helix by Mary Ting, the second book in the International Sensory Assassin Network series. I am really digging this series, so I’m very excited for the blog tour. I also started A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. This is the last book for the Disney-A-Thon, so I need to finish it by the end of the month. I think I can do it! Still reading Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins. This is a re-read for me and I had forgotten how much I liked it the first time around! Lastly, I am still reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling for my Chapter-A-Long posts, but I should finish that one today. One more chapter to go!

What do you think you’ll read next?

I need to start reading Queen by Aimee Carter so I can finish that series – I think I actually marked it as currently reading on GoodReads, but I haven’t actually started it yet. Also, after today, I will start reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling, although I’m not sure if the Chapter-A-Long posts will start immediately or not. Got to look at my schedule. The next book I’m reading for review is Eve 2.0 by Winter Lawrence for a blog tour next month. I’ll also at some point read Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins, the second book in the Hex Hall series.

I think that’s it for this week. Still a lot going on, but all good things! I’m reading a lot of really good books right now, which makes me very happy.

Please leave your WWW in comments!