Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

When I first read the Harry Potter series, it’s third installment, the Prisoner of Azkaban, was an instant favorite.

The movie…not so much.

What I really enjoyed about Prisoner of Azkaban is how established the wizarding world had become. By the third book, everyone was familiar with the difference between witches and wizards and Muggles. We had all traveled to Diagon Alley twice before. Quidditch was a sport we all looked forward to. Everything was becoming more familiar, as it was to Harry as well.

Not only that, but the emotional pace of the story was picking up. In the first two books, it was adventurous and everything was still new, full of wonder. By the third book, everything is still full of delight and there are new things to discover. But one of the most important things about Prisoner of Azkaban was the emotion behind it. The ideas of friendship and true loyalty, about love for one’s family can be the most important thing – even when your family is no longer with you.

We learn so much about Harry’s past in this book, through his deep memories when he’s in the presence of the dementors to what he hears about Azkaban escapee Sirius Black. We see how the friendship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione continues to grow, but we also see the characters mature; where they once shared everything, now some of them must keep certain secrets. Not only that, but we also get to see the friendship that still exists between Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and James Potter. Even after 13 years and James gone, their friendship still remains strong.

One of the things I really loved about this book was the Marauders. I so wish we could get some kind of novella about the Marauders and their own adventures at Hogwarts.

My rating: 4.75/5


The Illuminae Files: Gemina

While Kady Grant and Ezra Mason make their way on the Hypatia towards Heimdall way station, the station itself isn’t as safe they think. BeiTech, the company that attacked the Kerenza colony, is now attempting to take over Heimdall. But they didn’t expect to find resistance in the form of three teenagers.

Hanna Donnelly is the daughter of the commander of Heimdall. She’s smart, charismatic, and trained in martial arts. All Hanna is really interested in is her boyfriend, Jackson Merrick, who works in command and communication. She’s planning a romantic celebration with Jackson, all the while unaware that her home is about to be attacked.

Nik Malikov is the nephew of the mafia boss on Heimdall. Nik is a teenaged dealer in dust, a narcotic that some of the station use – including Hanna. He is smitten with Hanna, but of course she doesn’t view Nik in such a sense. The only person Nik is close to is his computer hacking genius cousin, Ella.

When a covert BeiTech group makes it’s way onto Heimdall and murders Hanna’s father, it’s up to the three teens – with some help from Kady’s father – to save the day. But one of their efforts rips open space and creates what is known as the Gemina affect. Now they have to get rid of BeiTech, fix the rip, and get out alive.

And you thought being a teenager in high school was difficult.

Illuminae was such a thrill ride for me that I was worried that Gemina wouldn’t be as good. I shouldn’t have worried. Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman make a wonderful writing team. They continue to write a space adventure that is full of fun and heart stopping moments. I do believe that Gemina was even better than Illuminae, and I can’t wait to see how the nect installment tops them.

My rating: 5/5

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

In November, I set out to reread the entire Harry Potter series. I actually began it in July, just before the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Unfortunately I stopped as I was working my way through a rather large YALL Fest pile and completing my Goodreads reading challenge of the year.

Recent events had me seeking out the happiness I found in reading Harry Potter. As Dumbledore so wisely said “Happiness can be found in even the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.”As with my previous post on the Sorceror’s Stone, I won’t be doing an extensive summary but rather focusing on my thoughts. This will be the theme for all of my rereads of this series.

After my first read through of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, it became clear that it would be my least favorite of the entire series. I still really enjoyed the writing and the plot, but the first 1/3 of the book felt like a retelling of Sorceror’s Stone. I understand the need to revisit concepts that were introduced in the previous volume, but I felt like ALL of them were reintroduced – which I thought was not necessary. Those who have read Sorceror’s Stone would understand the concept of muggles, Quidditch, Hogwarts, and other things associated with the wizarding world. Those who had not would hopefully be enticed to seek out the previous book. It was a struggle to work my way back through the beginning, even on the second read through.

I also felt that the actual events in the chamber were lackluster compared to the events to obtain the Sorceror’s stone. There were less challenges to overcome, which I felt made the book less exciting than it’s predecessor.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Chamber of Secrets. Having completed the series once already and knowing what ultimately occurs, I gained a better understanding of the events of this book. Little details which didn’t mean anything before and were easily forgotten now have become more clear. I also have gained a better appreciation of Ginny’s character; having been possessed by a cursed spirit for most of the year at the young age of eleven, she has progressed remarkably well in later books.

Overall, Chamber of Secrets remains my least favorite of the Harry Potter series. But I still feel it is a necessary piece to the story as a whole.

My rating: 3.75/5

Note: coincidentally, today wasnthe day that I was in Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Orlando. Today, I got to pretend I am a witch. 😀

Stalking Jack the Ripper

Stalking Jack the Ripper is a thrilling tale about a young Victorian woman attempting to navigate her way through a male dominated society.

Audrey Rose Wadsworth has survived the scarlet fever that claimed her mother. At 17, she is expected to become a prim and proper young woman who is more interested in her looks and gossip than the macabre. Her brush with death, however, has left her with a profound curiosity for science, a curiosity that her father detests but her uncle secretly encourages.

Audrey Rose spends most of her days learning the fine arts of autopsy and dissection from her uncle. It is in his lab that she first encounters Thomas Creswell, a young man with an intellect to rival Audrey’s but whose keen observational skills far exceeds her own. Together, they find themselves investigating a string of recent murders, first as a means to satisfy their curiosity. But soon the Audrey’s uncle is accused of the murders and now she must find evidence that sets him free. Unfortunately this makes Audrey a target for the killer who now calls himself Jack the Ripper.

Stalking Jack the Ripper is Kerri Maniscalco’s first novel. While I found parts of it transparent and almost cliche – I correctly guessed who Jack really was – it was still an enjoyable read. As an anatomy teacher, I was being mindful of any science mistakes but found few that detracted me completely from the story. Maniscalco does a wonderful job weaving together the necessary science with the fiction.

I also found the story to be quite reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, which I liked. But what I most enjoyed was Audrey’s character. She begins the book struggling to hide her interests, and at one point seems to succumb to her father’s vehement desire that she give up her study of science. But very quickly Audrey decides that to give up her studies means to give up on a part of herself and fights back. Being that this story is set in the Victorian era, I found this to be both bold and refreshing.

I have heard tale that there will be a second installment to this series. I am curious how it will continue since it wrapped up quite nicely. But if Maniscalco is indeed using Holmes and Watson as inspiration, I think there will be a few more tales to tell.

My rating: 4/5


Vicious is the first adult novel written by Victoria Schwab under the pen name V.E. Schwab. It follows two friends turned enemies over a 10 year period.

Victor Vale has recently broken out of prison. Placed there by his college roommate and best friend for a murder he didn’t commit – well, he did but it wasn’t intentional – Victor has now escaped and is looking for revenge. Armed with a supernatural power to control pain (his own and others), he seeks out Eli for crimes Eli did commit intentionally.

Eli Ever – once Eli Cardale – is hunting ExtraOrdinaries, people with unique abilities that came after a near death experience. Eli is one such EO after an experiment in college, but unlike his victims Eli believes his supernatural healing abilities was gifted to him by God. All other EO abilities are abnormally and should be eliminated. The only two EOs Eli has been unsuccessful with is Victor and Serena, a woman who has the ability to make people do whatever she wants.

Well, Serena’s sister Sydney should also be Eli’s victim, but luck has been on her side. Sydney has escaped Eli and is now protected by Victor, if only for her EO gift. Along with Victor’s escaped cellmate Mitch, the trio must find out where Eli is, who his next victim will be, and stop him before he kills any other EOs.

Easier said than done.

Vicious is the first of a series (with no set number of volumes) and introduces the idea of ExtraOrdinaries and their abilities. But it’s more than that as it involves the dynamics of two friends turned enemies over a battle of intelligence and wits. It also twists the typical superhero trope on it’s head; neither Victor nor Eli is the traditional hero nor are they the traditional villain. This makes their story an interesting read.

What also makes the story unique is its perspective. While a traditional 3rd person perspective story, the chapters not only alternate between character perspectives it also alternates between times. Some chapters are told from Victor’s POV 10 years in the past while others are told from Eli’s POV in the present. While it sounds as if alternating time lines would make for a confusing story, it actually make logistical sense in the way Schwab presents the story. I found myself more enlightened as past chapters clarified what is being said in the present.

Currently, we are told, Schwab is writing the second volume, entitled Vengeful, to be released in the near future. I surely hope so since I would like to know what Victor and Eli are now up to.

My rating: 4/5