Added to GoodReads

Added to GoodReads – 8/19/19

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Added to GoodReads is a weekly feature where I share books that I’ve recently discovered and the book bloggers who have shared them. Let’s see what we have this week!

  • Final Girls by Riley Sager – This year, I was lucky enough to get an ARC of a Riley Sager book (Lock Every Door) and absolutely loved it. It was the first I had ever heard of this author. According to this review by Kristi at Confessions of a YA Reader, Final Girls is also amazing.
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – This is one of those classics that I never got around to reading, even when I got my English degree. Then I saw this review over at Ashes Books & Bobs. I totally get where she’s coming from – reviewing classics does feel weird – but this book sounds delightful.
  • Wicked Fox by Kat Cho – I love books that take ancient mythology and put it in the modern world. What, you thought these things just disappeared? Maybe they’re just good at hiding! Check out this review from Noura at The Perks of Being Noura – she highly recommended it.
  • We are Blood and Thunder by Kesia Lupo – Turns out, I actually had this one on my GoodReads, but I wanted to share it anyway. Please check out this review by Nikki at Books and Lemon Squash. She says it’s a “really solid and very enjoyable read.” Sounds good to me!

That’s it for this week. Have you read a wonderful review? Please share! Have you written a review that you want people to see? Please share that too! The more books, the better!

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 32

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In Chapter 32, Harry has to try and figure out what to do about his vision of Sirius, and as usual, everything goes wrong. Let’s go!

Everything is a mess now. Professor Tofty is trying to get Harry to the hospital wing, but Harry just wants to run to Sirius’s aid. He tries to say that he was just having a nightmare, which does work. Tofty thinks it’s because of all the pressure Harry has been under due to the exams. This time, instead of just running off on his own, he goes to the one person in the school who he knows is a member of the Order – McGonagall.

But McGonagall isn’t there. Remember, she took several Stunning Spells right in the chest the night before. She was transferred to St. Mungo’s. Dumbledore is long gone. Harry feels quite alone right now. After the exam is over, he runs to find Ron and Hermione and tells them what he saw. They react with varying shades of disbelief.

“Harry,” said Hermione in a rather frightened voice, “er . . . how . . . how did Voldemort get into the Ministry of Magic without anybody realizing he was there?”

“How do I know?” bellowed Harry. “The question is how we’re going to get there!”

“But . . . Harry, think about this,” said Hermione, taking a step toward him, “it’s five o’clock in the afternoon . . . The Ministry of Magic must be full of workers . . . How would Voldemort and Sirius have got in without being seen? Harry . . . they’re probably the two most wanted wizards in the world . . . You think they could get into a building full of Aurors undetected?”

As usual, Hermione makes good points, but Harry is beyond using logic. This is Sirius we’re talking about – his only real family at this point. When Hermione tries to point out that it may have just been a dream, Harry says no, it’s not, remember Mr. Weasley. That seemed like “just a dream,” and turned out to be spot on. And it saved Mr. Weasley’s life. This brings Ron around. He says that Sirius may have left Grimmauld Place to get some fresh air since he had been so desperate to leave. Maybe Voldemort caught him and then magicked him into the Ministry somehow. Sirius is known to be a pretty powerful wizard, after all. Plus his brother had been a Death Eater, so maybe Sirius knows more about this mysterious weapon than he’s been telling them.

Hermione is still very skeptical, even though Ron is now on Harry’s side. She also says that maybe, just maybe, Harry has a “saving-people-thing.” Like when he tried to save Gabrielle in the Second Task of the Triwizard Tournament. It was very noble of him, but it wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t his responsibility. He just did it. Maybe Voldemort is playing this up, making sure that Harry would come to him by taking Sirius. Harry points out again that it wouldn’t matter if that’s why Voldemort did it, Harry still has to save Sirius, even if he gets accused of “acting the hero.” Hermione tries to say that maybe it really was just a dream this time, and Harry can’t take it anymore.

“You don’t get it!” Harry shouted at her. “I’m not having nightmares, I’m not just dreaming! What d’you think all the Occlumency was for, why d’you think Dumbledore wanted me prevented from seeing these things? Because they’re REAL, Hermione — Sirius is trapped — I’ve seen him — Voldemort’s got him, and no one else knows, and that means we’re the only ones who can save him, and if you don’t want to do it, fine, but I’m going, understand? And if I remember rightly, you didn’t have a problem with my saving-people-thing when it was you I was saving from the dementors, or” — he rounded on Ron — “when it was your sister I was saving from the basilisk –“

Hey, don’t start on Ron here, Harry. He’s on your side already!

They are getting louder and their voices carry. The door of the classroom opens and Ginny walks in, followed by Luna. At first Harry brushes them off, but Ginny offers to help. The main thing that Hermione wants to do is to make sure that Sirius really has left headquarters before they run to his rescue. That way if this really was just a nightmare, or if this is some trick, they will know the truth. In order to check, they need to get to Umbridge’s fire in her office again, and this is where Ginny and Luna can come in. They can be lookouts. All they need is a distraction, which will be provided by Ron, who will tell her Peeves is destroying something.

They won’t have much time, and they’ll need to avoid Umbridge, Filch, and the Inquisitorial Squad. But it’s all they can do. Harry runs to get the Invisibility Cloak and they get set up. Harry’s scar is still hurting, but not so bad that he thinks Sirius has been killed yet. That’s something anyway.

Ginny and Luna use the story that the corridor is full of Garroting Gas, which clears it out, and soon the coast is clear. Ron leaves to distract Umbridge and Harry and Hermione enter her office. Harry uses the floo to call Grimmauld Place, but it’s empty. No one is there. He calls out, but only Kreacher answers. Harry asks Kreacher where Sirius is.

“Nobody here but Kreacher!” said the elf gleefully, and turning away from Harry he began to walk slowly toward the door at the end of the kitchen. “Kreacher thinks he will have a little chat with his Mistress now, yes, he hasn’t had a chance in a long time, Kreacher’s Master has been keeping him away from her.”

“Where has Sirius gone?” Harry yelled after the elf. “Kreacher, has he gone to the Department of Mysteries?”

Kreacher stopped in his tracks. Harry could just make out the back of his bald head through the forest of chair legs before him . . . .

“Master will not come back from the Department of Mysteries!” he said gleefully. “Kreacher and his Mistress are alone again!”

Before Harry can do much else, he is dragged away from the fire by Umbridge. She had put Stealth Sensoring Spells around her office after the second niffler, so she knew immediately when someone broke in. Harry’s wand is taken away, as is Hermione’s. Harry tries to lie and say he broke in to get his Firebolt. Soon they are joined by Ron, Ginny and Luna, and also Neville, who tried to stop the Inquisitorial Squad from taking Ginny.

Umbridge demands that Harry tell her who he was talking to, but Harry won’t answer. She sends Draco to get Professor Snape, and this is where Harry realizes his mistake. There was one other Order member in the castle, even if it was one who currently doesn’t like him all that much. Still, I wonder how much Snape would have helped him, especially given that it was Sirius who was in danger. I’d like to think he would have, but I honestly don’t know. I tend to give Snape way more credit than he probably deserves.

When Snape arrives, Umbridge asks him for more Veritaserum. Snape says she took the last bottle he had when she questioned Harry last time, but she should still have some because it only takes three drops. Apparently Umbridge tried to give Harry the whole bottle. I wonder if it’s possible to have Veritaserum poisoning, because that seems like a lot to overdose on! Umbridge asks if he can make any more, to which Snape says that yes, of course he can, but it takes a full month to brew. That doesn’t make Umbridge happy at all. She tries to explain why she needs it, that Harry was trying to communicate with someone, but there isn’t much that can be done. If she had known better, she should know that you can’t just magic up a potion if it takes that long to brew. She’s really not all that smart, is she? Just power hungry.

Snape stares at Harry and, for once, Harry wants Snape to read his thoughts. He tries to concentrate on what he had seen, but knows it isn’t working. Umbridge is furious with Snape’s attitude and puts him on probation for being “deliberately unhelpful.” As Snape turns to leave, Harry knows he has one last chance to try and get someone to help him.

“He’s got Padfoot!” he shouted. “He’s got Padfoot at the place where it’s hidden!”

Umbridge doesn’t know what any of this means and demands that Snape tell her, but Snape claims that he doesn’t know either and that Harry is just babbling. At that point, Umbridge is desperate. She needs to do something, and what she finally decides on is that the Cruciatus Curse should force Harry to tell the truth. Yeah, because torture always works. Hermione shrieks that it’s illegal, but Umbridge is beyond reasoning. As far as she’s concerned, the end justifies the means, and if that means she has to work outside of the Ministry’s knowledge, that’s just what she’ll do. After all, that’s what happened when she sent dementors after him last summer. Yes, after all of that, Umbridge admits that she sent dementors into a Muggle neighborhood to silence Harry from speaking the truth.

Wow. Just . . . wow.

As she’s getting ready to cast the spell, Hermione cracks. She shouts that they have to tell Umbridge everything and starts crying. She starts telling a story, a very convincing one at that, and Harry and the others try to keep their faces blank. According to Hermione’s tale, they were trying to contact Dumbledore in the fire, but couldn’t find him. They were supposed to tell Dumbledore that some sort of weapon they were working on for him was ready now. They don’t understand what the weapon is or does — they were just following Dumbledore’s instructions.

It works. Umbridge immediately insists that they take her to the weapon. I have to say, Hermione is a good actress here. She is really laying it on thick and it is working so much.

“Fine,” said Hermione, now sobbing into her hands again, “fine . . . let them see it, I hope they use it on you! In fact, I wish you’d invite loads and loads of people to come and see! Th-that would serve you right — oh, I’d love it if the wh-whole school knew where it was, and how to u-use it, and then if you annoy any of them they’ll be able to s-sort you out!”

I’m sure that Hermione is probably crying real tears at this point, probably scared out of her wits, but that doesn’t mean she’s still not the smartest witch of her age. These words convince Umbridge that wherever they are going to go to this weapon, she will be taking them alone. No other teachers. No Inquisitorial Squad. Just Umbridge, Harry and Hermione, heading out to . . . . wherever Hermione is going to lead them.

See you next time for Chapter 33!

nostalgic reads

Nostalgic Reads – Dawn and the Impossible Three

Nostalgic Reads

Title: Dawn and the Impossible Three

Author: Ann M. Martin

Series: The Baby-Sitters Club #5

Blurb: Dawn’s the newest member of the Baby-Sitters Club and everybody’s glad – except Kristy. Kristy thinks things were better without Dawn around. That’s why Dawn’s eager to take on a big baby-sitting job. It’s her chance to show Kristy what she’s made of.

Review: We finally get to Dawn, the fifth member of the BSC. Dawn is from California and, as such, eats a lot of tofu, granola, and wheat germ. She made friends with Mary Anne during the big BSC fight in the last book and her friendship with Mary Anne is making Kristy jealous. Kristy is used to having Mary Anne pretty much all to herself. Couple that with the fact that Kristy will be moving across town after her mom marries Watson ( and won’t live next door to Mary Anne anymore), and it’s a recipe for disaster and lots of hurt feelings. Luckily, Dawn realizes this and reaches out to Kristy, and by the middle of the book they are friends and everything is cool.

The “impossible three” are the Barrett kids: Buddy, Suzi and Marnie. They aren’t bad kids, but their parents are going through a divorce and it’s making their mom get a little spacy. The house is always a mess (which Dawn cleans up), she forgets to tell Dawn about one of the kid’s allergies, and leaves the wrong phone numbers to contact her while she’s gone. She also strictly forbids Dawn to let her kids talk to their father when he calls. The culmination of all this is that one day while sitting, Buddy disappears. Dawn can’t get in touch with Mrs. Barrett so she calls the other parents she knows in the neighborhood to form a search party. One of the other kids says he saw Buddy getting into a strange car and that’s when they call the police.

Buddy is fine. Turns out the strange car belonged to his dad, and his dad was supposed to have that weekend with the kids, but Mrs. Barrett forgot. So he drove by, saw Buddy in the yard, and decided to take him to the amusement park. Dawn stands up to Mrs. Barrett and says that she can’t continue sitting for them if things keep going the way they are. They work things out and everybody is happy by the end.

While not my favorite of the series (I never related to Dawn very much), this is still a solid read. I do feel bad for the Barretts – they are definitely going through a rough time – but hopefully this situation will lead to at least some improved communication.

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 31

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In Chapter 31, it’s time for exams. If only Harry didn’t have to worry about Hagrid and Sirius. Let’s go!

Y’all, Ron is so excited that he helped with the Quidditch Cup. It’s so cute! He can’t stop talking about the match, even when they are hanging out by the lake studying. After a few minutes of Ron recounting all of the action, he sort of realizes that Harry and Hermione didn’t actually see anything that happened. Hermione has to sheepishly admit that she and Harry both left the match soon after it started. Ron is rightly upset by this, but it is soon replaced by the horror of the implications of what they tell him about Hagrid

“He brought one back and hid it in the forest?”

“Yep,” said Harry grimly.

“No,” said Ron, as though by saying this he could make it untrue. “No, he can’t have . . .”

“Well, he has,”: said Hermione firmly. “Grawp’s about sixteen feet tall, enjoys ripping up twenty-foot pine trees, and knows me,” she snorted, “as Hermy.”

Ron gave a nervous laugh.

“And Hagrid wants us to . . .?”

“Teach him English, yeah,” said Harry.

“He’s lost his mind,” said Ron in an almost awed voice.

Hermione agrees, but they promised. Ron doesn’t care. This is the type of promise that is meant to be broken. What are they supposed to do anyway? They are always in trouble anyway, and all of Hagrid’s “friends” have been nothing but trouble. They all hope that Hagrid will make it through the end of the year.

On top of that, O.W.L. season has arrived. This means that they don’t have homework, which is good, but their lessons are all constant review. Everyone is tense, from Hermione talking to herself to Ernie Macmillan bugging people asking how many hours of studying they are doing each day. Malfoy tries to say that the witch at the head of the Examination Authority is a friend of his father’s and will no doubt go easy on him, but Neville quietly says that Griselda Marchbanks is actually a friend of his grandmother’s and he’s never heard her talk about the Malfoys at all.

It’s also led to a black market of products meant to aid in concentration or other such things to help. Hermione has been confiscating things left and right, since most of it is fake.

McGonagall gives them all the run down on how the exams will work. It’s spread out over two weeks with theory exams on paper in the mornings and then practical demonstrations in the afternoons (except for Astronomy, which will take place at night for obvious reasons). They will get their results over the summer.

The morning of the first exams dawns bright and everyone is on edge. Everyone, except the examiners, who have arrived, and who are making Umbridge just the tiniest bi nervous. Especially Professor Marchbanks.

“Journey was fine, journey was fine, we’ve made it plenty of times before!” she said impatiently. “Now, I haven’t heard from Dumbledore lately!” she added, peering around the hall as though hopeful he might suddenly emerge from a broom cupboard. “No idea where he is, I suppose?”

“None at all,” said Umbridge, shooting a malevolent look at Harry, Ron, and Hermione, who were now dawdling around the foot of the stairs as Ron pretended to do up his shoelace. “But I daresay the Ministry of Magic will track him down soon enough . . .”

“I doubt it,” shouted tiny Professor Marchbanks, “not if Dumbledore doesn’t want to be found! I should know . . . Examined him personally in Transfiguration and Charms when he did N.E.W.T.s . . . Did things with a wand I’d never seen before . . .”

Yeah, Umbridge, this is why you really don’t want to tangle with Dumbledore. You will only look foolish.

Their first written exam, Charms, goes fairly well. Then they are called one by one for the practical exam. Harry’s examiner, Professor Tofty, is pretty excited to be meeting “the famous Potter,” which causes Malfoy to drop the wine glass he was levitating when he overhears this. Over the week, they complete their Transfiguration and Herbology exams, both of which Harry feels fairly confident about his performance. It’s not until the D.A.D.A. that he feels completely in his element. Plus, he gets to do all the counterjinxes and defensive spells that Umbridge wouldn’t teach them right in front of her as he performs for the examiners. And she can’t say anything about it! Ha!

Even better, Professor Tofty has heard that Harry can produce a Patronus and asks if Harry would mind showing him for bonus points. Which of course, Harry does, using the image of Umbridge getting fired as his happy thought.

The boys get a break for a day during the Ancient Runes O.W.L.s. Hermione comes back from the exam frustrated at a mistake she knows she made, but also upset because someone put another niffler in Umbridge’s office, which could mean bad news for Hagrid, since she’s so sure he’s responsible.

The next day is the Potions exam, which Harry finds difficult, although the practical is no where near as bad with Snape not around. He’s able to relax a bit, as is Neville. The next day is Care of Magical Creatures, which Harry wants to do well in so that he doesn’t let Hagrid down. Their next theory exam is Astronomy, followed by Divination, which Harry and Ron knew they were going to fail, so they aren’t too concerned.

That night is their Astronomy practical exam, so they are on top of the tower with their telescopes completing star charts. While they are looking around, Harry sees something odd — Umbridge and five other wizards walking across the Hogwarts lawn. They are headed to Hagrid’s. He can hear Fang barking followed by a roar of outrage.

Hagrid’s door had burst open and by the light flooding out of the cabin they saw him quite clearly, a massive figure roaring and brandishing his fists, surrounded by six people, all of whom, judging by the tiny threads of red light they were casting in his direction, seemed to be attempting to Stun him.

No one is paying attention to the test now. No one had ever seen Hagrid angry before. The Stunning spells aren’t working on him and he picks up one of the Aurors and throws him ten feet across the grass. The doors to the castle open once more to reveal Professor McGonagall running out trying to stop everything.

“Leave him alone! Alone, I say!” said Professor McGonagall’s voice through the darkness. “On what grounds are you attacking him? He has done nothing, nothing to warrant such –”

Hermione, Parvati and Lavender all screamed. No fewer than four Stunners had shot from the figures around the cabin toward Professor McGonagall. Halfway between cabin and castle the red beams collided with her. For a moment she looked luminous, illuminated by an eerie red glow, then was lifted right off her feet, landed hard on her back, and moved no more.

I’ll be honest, the first time I read this I was an absolute mess because I thought for sure they had killed off McGonagall and I was going to hate Umbridge even more than I already do. Because you know one of those Stunners aimed at McGonagall came from her. You just know it! Seeing McGonagall down provokes Hagrid into an even ragier rage and he starts pummeling the Aurors. Violence isn’t the answer, except when it is! Except when you almost kill my favorite teacher! Hagrid then picks up Fang and runs into the Forbidden Forest.

Here’s the thing though. This whole scene was witnessed not just by the students, but by the examiners too. They are aghast at this behavior. By the time the exam is over, no one can talk about anything else. Hermione can’t believe they tried to sneak up on Hagrid, but Ernie points out that Umbridge probably wanted to avoid another scene like the one with Trelawney. The good thing is that they didn’t catch him and he wasn’t taken to Azkaban. Hopefully he has gone to find Dumbledore and the Order.

The conversation continues in Gryffindor tower. Angelina asks why Hagrid was sacked now, especially when his classes had been improving. There are two reasons. First, there is Umbridge’s hatred of anything that is part-human. Hagrid’s giant blood may have saved him from the Stunning Spells, but it guaranteed that Umbridge would always try to get rid of him one way or another. Second, Umbridge had thought that Hagrid was putting nifflers in her office, which we find out was not Hagrid, but Lee Jordan.

They are all also very worried about their Head of House.

Harry doesn’t sleep well that night and heads into there final exam, History of Magic, the next morning. He is sleepy enough without having to try and focus on such a dull subject. He soon falls asleep and falls right back into that dream of the corridor and rooms in the Department of Mysteries. This time it is different. There is someone else there, someone who has been hurt badly. Harry hears himself talking, in a voice distinctly not his own, telling the person to take something down for him because he can’t touch it.

“Lord Voldemort is waiting . . .”

Very slowly, his arms trembling, the man on the ground raised his shoulders a few inches and lifted his head. His face was bloodstained and gaunt, twisted in pain yet rigid with defiance . . .

“You’ll have to kill me,” whispered Sirius.

“Undoubtedly I shall in the end,” said the cold voice. “But you will fetch it for me first, Black . . . You think you have felt pain thus far? Think again . . . We have hours ahead of us and nobody to hear you scream . . .”

Harry wakes up, still screaming, and falling out of his chair in the Great Hall and . . . that’s where the chapter ends. J.K. Rowling, you are one sadistic lady!

See you next time for Chapter 32!

Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up – 8/16/19

Weekly Wrap-Up

What an absolutely crazy week! It’s one of those weeks where you feel like your head is spinning. My job has been insane more so than usual, but that’s not the main thing that’s getting to me right now.

My child, my heart, my life . . . is starting high school in 10 days.

I just . . . I can’t . . . HOW DOES THAT EVEN MAKE SENSE! She was just a little baby not that long ago and now she’s starting high school???? It completely blows my mind.

Plus, as I think I have mentioned here before, she has had a lot of issues with school. She was diagnosed with a learning disability and has been put on a new plan in order to help with that, but I still had to withdraw her from school at the end of last year to deal with her anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies. It was terrifying. She is doing better now, finally on some medication that is really helping her cope with life, so she should have more things in place to help her with school. Still, it’s a brand new school and a fresh start, which is a good thing, but is also scary as hell.

I will say that her guidance counselor at this new school is great. We met with her during registration and Ash absolutely loved her. So that’s a good thing. She knows she has at least one ally there. Her best friend is also going to the same school, although we don’t know if they will have any classes together yet.

I will be better after Freshman Orientation, which is next Wednesday. Until then, please excuse this little emotional outburst. She’s a difficult kid sometimes, but I love her more than anything.

The blog is still going strong, although I did bust my mini goal of blogging every day in August – I missed last Sunday. Oh well. Not a big deal. It’s been really busy with reviews and blog tours lately. I’ve been reading so much! Which, I have to say, after fighting through reading slumps for the better part of two years, feels really good. Speaking of reading, let’s take a look at that, shall we?

Reading progress August 9-15:

  • I read chapters 14 through 28 of Altered by Vicki Stiefel, which finishes that book. Be sure to check out the blog tour going on for it (my post is next week).
  • I read pages 43 through 240 of The Art of Taxidermy by Sharon Kernot (I had to keep up with pages as it doesn’t really have chapters), which finishes that book. That review will be coming next week as well.
  • I read chapters 34 through 54 of Pharaoh’s Star by Olivia Hardy Ray, which finishes this one too! This is for another blog tour coming up later this month for me, but it also fit into my Disney-A-Thon prompt for reading something dark and/or mysterious.
  • I read chapters 3 through 6 of Captive by Aimee Carter. This one has slowed down a bit since starting the Disney-A-Thon, but I’ll get back to it soon.
  • I started ISAN by Mary Ting, reading chapters 1 through 15. I’m part of a blog tour for the second book in this series, Helix, so I gotta read the first one first!
  • I started Stain by A.G. Howard for my next prompt in the Disney-A-Thon, which was to read a book with a dreamy cover. This one definitely qualifies! I read the prologue through chapter 15.
  • I also started Winning Westeros by several authors. It’s a collection of essays and is very different from what I usually read. I found it on NetGalley and figured I’d give it a try. I read the foreward through chapter 6.

Just looking at that makes me tired, but also makes me feel pretty accomplished. And, since I said that I would do this, I figured I’d let you in on my secret for keeping up with all this stuff: reading schedules on big post-it notes in my daily planner. Here is one example:

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For each NetGalley review or blog tour, I have a target date of when I want to finish it. For blog tours, of course, the date of my post is assigned. For NetGalley, I try to post my review on the closest Thursday to the release date (since traditionally, my reviews go up on Thursdays, although I’ve posted them other days of the week sometimes too). I try to finish the book two days before I need to post the review, just to give me time to process my thoughts. Then I give myself 10-12 days to get through the book. The post-it has dates and target page numbers for me to get to each day. I do not schedule reading on the weekends, usually keeping the schedule restricted to work days since I can read sometimes at work if it’s not busy. At times, depending on the book, I will get ahead of schedule, or finish the book early – great! More time to spend on books (like Captive, for example) that don’t have a specific deadline.

Yesterday, I had five of these little buggers in my planner. Today I only have three since I finished two books ahead of schedule. Progress!

Is it excessive? Probably. But it works for me and makes me feel productive and organized. I have always loved to-do lists and the ability to cross things off said to-do lists. It settles me. Makes me feel like I’m in control of things when life seems so out of control.

So with that little insight to my psyche, I wish you all a wonderful weekend!

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Chapter 30

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In Chapter 30, we finally find out why Hagrid’s face has resembled raw hamburger meat for the whole year. Let’s go!

The Weasley twins are legends around school. I mean, they probably already were, but they really are now. The story of how they flew off into the sunset has grown immeasurably and now lots of students are fantasizing of doing something similar. Part of the reason for their fame — no one can figure out how to get rid of their swamp. Umbridge and Filch have both tried and can’t do it. Harry is pretty sure Flitwick or McGonagall could have done it, but none of the teachers feel too inclined to help Umbridge and, really, who can blame them?

Plus, now that Fred and George are gone, there are quite a few other students who want that Class Clown title and are going out of their way to cause mischief. Nifflers let loose in Umbridge’s office, dungbombs and stinkpellets dropped all over the place. It’s a mess. Filch is even walking the halls with a horsewhip, but he is vastly outnumbered, as is the Inquisitorial Squad.

Meanwhile it became clear just how many Skiving Snackboxes Fred and George had managed to sell before leaving Hogwarts. Umbridge only had to enter her classroom for the students assembled there to faint, vomit, develop dangerous fevers, or else spout blood from both nostrils. Shrieking with rage and frustration she attempted to trace the mysterious symptoms to their source, but the students told her stubbornly they were suffering “Umbridge-itis.” After putting four successive classes in detention and failing to discover their secret she was forced to give up and allow the bleeding, swooning, sweating, and vomiting students to leave her classes in droves.

Worse than the students? Peeves. The Weasley twins tasked him to do his worst, and he is more than up for the challenge. And NONE OF THE OTHER TEACHERS DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. They enjoy watching Umbridge suffer and, in McGonagall’s case, actually give Peeves some advice on how to unscrew a chandelier.

In the meantime, Ron is not looking forward to the next letter he gets from his mother. He is sure that Mrs. Weasley will somehow blame him for Fred and George leaving school. Not that there was anything he could have done, in fact, it’s obvious that the twins had been planning this for a long time if they already had a shop in Diagon Alley. Ron wonders how they got the money. Hermione wonders if Mundungus hooked them up with stolen goods. Harry decides to admit that he gave them his Triwizard winnings, which makes Ron happy because now, if his mom is mad, she can blame Harry.

Hermione also asks if Harry had gotten up the nerve to ask Snape about resuming Occlumency lessons, which of course, Harry hasn’t. He doesn’t want to go anywhere near Snape. Hermione knows that Harry is still having dreams because Ron told her that Harry was talking in his sleep. He had the dream again in the Department of Mysteries, in the room with all the glass orbs. Hermione asks if he’s still trying to practice Occlumency on his own and Harry lies and says he is. The truth of the matter is that he’s too curious about what is in that room. He doesn’t want to block out the dream, he wants to find out what it means.

The final Quidditch match of the season is Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw. Ron says that since Slytherin lost to Hufflepuff in the previous match, Gryffindor still has a chance for the Cup. Besides, Ron can’t get any worse, can he? Hermione guesses that Ron might actually fare better without the twins around to tease him all the time, and she might be right. The twins aren’t there, but the Slytherins still are, singing “Weasley Is Our King” at the top of their lungs.

Harry and Hermione are both beckoned by Hagrid who asks them to come with him while everyone else is distracted by the Quidditch match. Hagrid still looks awful, this time with a nose bleed, but he also looks really sad and hopeless. Hagrid leads them into the Forbidden Forest, carrying his crossbow for protection because the centaur herd is super angry at him right now because he stepped in when they were beating up Firenze.

They go super deep into the forest, deeper than Harry had ever gone. It’s darker than darker in there. They stop for a second so that Hagrid can fill them in a bit. He’s worried that he will be getting fired any day now, especially since Umbridge thinks he put the niffler in her office. Which he didn’t, but that doesn’t matter. Hagrid isn’t worried about getting fired, and figures that he can help the Order even more once he’s left. They finally stop and hear the sound of deep, loud, heavy breathing, as though something large is sleeping. Hermione, as usual, catches on before Harry does.

“Hagrid,” she said in a whisper barely audible over the sound of the sleeping creature, “who is he?”

Harry found this an odd question . . . “What is it?” was the one he had been planning on asking.

“Hagrid, you told us,” said Hermione, her wand now shaking in her hand, “you told us none of them wanted to come!”

Harry looked from her to Hagrid and then, as realization hit him, he looked back at the mound with a small gasp of horror.

The great mound of earth, one which he, Hermione, and Hagrid could easily have stood, was moving slowly up and down in time with the deep, grunting breathing. It was not a mound at all. It was the curved back of what was clearly . . .

A giant. This is a giant. Hagrid admits that no, this particular giant did not want to come back with him, but he couldn’t leave him behind. This is Hagrid’s brother, Grawp. He couldn’t leave him because the other giants were beating him up because apparently even though Grawp is huge, he’s actually small by giant standards. Hagrid wants to prove that giants are harmless, but it’s been Grawp that’s been beating him up all this time. Not on purpose, Hagrid doesn’t think, but Grawp doesn’t know his own strength.

For everyone’s safety, Grawp has been tied down. What Hagrid wants from Harry and Hermione (and Ron) is for them to look after Grawp if Hagrid has to leave. Keep him company. Give him English lessons. Hagrid decides to wake up the sleeping giant (which doesn’t sound like a good idea at all) to introduce them. He’s not a handsome fellow, Grawp. Or, I don’t know, maybe he is for a giant. Grawp has been uprooting trees and tries to take a swipe at Harry and Hermione, catching Hagrid in the face.

They head back, now that introductions are over, and run into the centaurs. They tell Hagrid that he should not have come into the Forest, that he is no longer welcome there. They are very, very angry that Firenze has entered the “servitude” of humans. Which is nothing like what actually happened, but centaurs have strong opinions where humans are concerned, especially when one of their own is willingly sharing their secrets. The centaurs agree to not hurt Hagrid because he is accompanied by his “young.” They don’t hurt the innocent. They are, however, really upset that Grawp is in their forest.

“Hagrid,” said Hermione breathlessly, skirting the patch of nettles they had passed on their way there, “if the centaurs don’t want humans in the forest, it doesn’t really look as though Harry and I will be able –”

“Ah, you heard what they said,” said Hagrid dismissively. “They wouldn’t hurt foals — I mean, kids. Anyway, we can’ let ourselves be pushed around by that lot . . .”

Yeah, nice try, Hermione, but that’s not going to work.

Once they clear the forest, they hear the crowd coming from the Quidditch game. Hagrid tells them to quickly blend in so that no one will notice they’ve been gone. Hermione is incensed. Hagrid has made everything more difficult for them and they don’t know what to do about it. As they walk toward the crowd, they hear a chorus of “Weasley Is Our King.” Hermione wants to avoid the Slytherins, but then they listen more closely to the words they are singing.

Weasley can save anything,

He never leaves a single ring,

that’s why Gryffindors all sing:

Weasley is our King.

They see a group of Gryffindors carrying Ron on their shoulders up to the door to Hogwarts. Ron is so excited, holding the Quidditch Cup over his head. Harry and Hermione are very happy for him, but decide to save their news about Grawp for tomorrow. Let Ron have one more night of innocence before that revelation.

See you next time for Chapter 31!

Books I've Read

REVIEW: An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the AshesTitle: An Ember in the Ashes

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Pages: 464

Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1

Edition: Ebook

Blurb:

Laia is a slave.
Elias is a soldier.
Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Review: Short version: this book was amazing!!!!

This book has been on my radar for a while, but I had never gotten around to reading it. Boy, was I missing out! I absolutely loved it. It was so well written and well paced. The last several chapters especially were very hard to put down.

First, let’s talk about our main characters. The book switches back and forth between Laia’s and Elias’s points of view, each of them telling their own first-person narratives. What was great about this was that each had their own distinct voice. That’s not always easy to do, but Tahir did it brilliantly here. Laia is such a sweet character and I absolutely loved her. She is terrified in her situation, but determined to do what she can to save her brother. Elias is a much more complicated character, born into a privileged role, but also able to see the inherent evil in their society. His compassion is what is able to set him apart from the others around him.

This complexity is what really made this novel great. There is a resistance movement working against the corrupt and power-hungry government, but they are not necessarily good people. The groups that are in power are doing what they can to stay in power, but there are those who recognize that their system is flawed at best, dangerous at worst. There is no black and white, just lots of gray, which always makes a story more real to me. That’s how real life is. Nothing is strictly an absolute.

There were also plenty of twists and turns, particularly with Hellene, Elias’s friend at Blackcliff. She was probably my favorite character and I would love to see inside her mind, just once. There’s something going on there.

GoodReads rating: 5 stars. Read this. Read it now.