The Host

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The Host

by Stephanie Meyer

March 2017

I was obsessed reading The Host. I don’t know why, but I was sucked in by the first chapter and engrossed until the last word. When I had to put it down, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The writing, the plot, the characters – they all were interesting, dynamic, and real. I loved this book.

Earth has been invaded by aliens. They are worm-like, silver creatures who attach to humans’ brains and take over control of their “hosts.” They came to stop human violence and they have incredible medical skills so that every illness and disease is curable. When humans started realizing what was going on, they fought back and went into hiding, so they didn’t get caught by Seekers and get taken over by aliens. Some humans are resistant hosts who don’t let the alien, or soul, take complete control. This story is told from the perspective of a soul named Wanderer who has taken the body of Melanie, a host who will not give over control. The story chronicles their internal battle for control and what happens along the way. Spoilers: Mel has a brother and boyfriend she is determined to get back to. By resisting Wanderer, she slowly convinces her to go searching for them. Wanderer is conflicted, but begins to feel badly about taking Mel’s body, so she agrees. They end up finding them, along with Mel’s Uncle Jeb, who runs a hidden compound. But it is a disaster because no one believes that Mel still exists. Jeb suspects that Mel might still be there, so he keeps everyone from killing Wanderer. He says at one point, “I’ve always thought that if a person wants to, he can get along with just about anybody. I like putting my theories to the test. And see, here you are, one of the nicest gals I ever met.” Slowly and excruciatingly, Wanderer, now affectionately called Wanda, integrates into their society. Mel’s brother, Jamie accepted Wanda from the beginning and wasn’t long to figuring out that Mel was still around. He loves them both and always supports them. Mel’s boyfriend, Jared is furious. He hates Wanda and doesn’t believe Mel’s there at all. It’s a long, long time before he accepts the truth. But when he does, he fiercely supports them. One of the humans hiding out, Ian, is kind to Wanda after only a little while and starts to fall for her. It is awful for Wanda and Mel because they have one body and two loves. Eventually, Wanda comes to one conclusion: she has to give Mel her body back because taking it was wrong. Her plan is to teach their doctor how to extract the soul without the soul destroying the host (they do that and then kill themselves before the humans can) and without the soul dying. The humans can send the hosts to another planet. Then, she’ll have the doctor extract her from Mel. Wanda loves the humans around her and their planet, so she can’t bring herself to be sent somewhere else (she’s already lived on 9 planets). She asks doc to let her die and give her a proper burial. All goes according to plan. Super spoiler: No one really wanted Wanda to die, even though they really wanted Mel back. In their process of separating souls from hosts, they learn that some hosts are too far gone and their old selves never return to their body. One such body they give to Wanda so that she can live with them and help them. It’s such a happy ending. Mel’s with her love and brother and Wanda gets to have a human body without guilt and be with Ian. There are subplots with Wanda’s seeker and many other details, but that is the heart of the story.

Summing it up: I loved every second of this book and I highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

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Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

by Newt Scamander (aka J. K. Rowling)

February 2017

I finally got a hold of Fantastic Beats & Where to Find Them. It was so exciting to fall back into Harry Potter’s world. I loved this little book and reading about all the magical creatures Newt Scamander came across. That is essentially the plot. Scamander, a wizard, traveled the world finding magical creatures and then wrote a book on them, classifying them based on how dangerous they were. I loved the key to rate their danger level.

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Also, Harry’s notes were hysterical. I’m once again floored by Rowling’s writing ability and imagination.

Summing it up: I definitely recommend this book!

All the best, Abbey

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

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The Tales of Beedle the Bard

by J. K. Rowling

December 2016

This book was so good. I sank into it and drank up every word as if it was a calming cup of tea. I’ve always loved fairy tales. The Blue Fairy Book was an early favorite of mine. There’s something about them that feels like home. I immediately liked the tales themselves, but then it got so much better with the commentary. It was clever and funny and gave a depth that I really enjoyed. The illustrations were beautiful in top of everything else. Totally enthralled with Rowling’s book!

 

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Summing it up: I loved it and highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by J. K. Rowling

November 2016

I finally finished the Harry Potter series. I’m so sad is over because I loved the books and the characters and their world. I’m very sad to have left it, though I’m already looking forward to reading them all again! ūüėČ I have to say, in my opinion, The Deathly Hallows was the dark book and the difficult one to read. The other books had dark parts, but this final book finally got to the “dark” I had heard about and had been anticipating. That being said, I absolutely loved the ending and the “19 years later” bit. I get why Harry Potter is so addicting and popular . . .it truly lives up to its reputation.

Lots of spoilers: Harry has decided not to return to Hogwarts for his final year, but instead decides to hunt for the remaining horcruxes. He has to return to his aunt and uncle’s though in order to be protected until he turns 17. On his birthday, his friends and the remaining Order of the Phoenix arrive to help him leave, to prevent Voldemort from killing Harry. They all drink a polyjuice potion to look like Harry and then set off only to run straight into Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Most of them make it back to the Burrow, but Moody and Hedwig die, and George loses an ear. ¬†They go straight from battle to wedding planning as Fleur and Bill are soon to be married. The wedding goes off smoothly (Harry even learning that Dumbledore lived in the same place as his parents), until they get surrounded and attacked by Death Eaters. Hermione is prepared for this though. She has everything Harry, Ron, and she need in a magical fathomless ¬†bag, so they gather together and disapparate. (Side note, Harry and Ginny are crazy for each other, but break up to keep Ginny safe and allow Harry to finish his quest. Understandable, but so sad, as I was so happy when they finally got together!) The trio is back together and ready to finish off Voldemort. They start off by apparating to a cafe in London where they run into Death Eaters. After stunning them and modifying their memory, the three friends go to Sirius’ house to make plans. There they learn from Kreacher that Prof. Umbridge has the next horcrux: the necklace, so they decide to use pollyjuice potion to get into the ministry of magic and get it from her. In the end, they get the horcrux and help set some half-bloods free, but get caught as they disapparate. Hermione is able to leave their captor at Sirius’ house, but because of that, they are forced to leave Sirius’ house for good and end up on the run. Ron gets seriously injured from splinching, so they set up camp with many protective spells and try to regroup. They have no way of destroying the horcrux so they take turns wearing it while Ron recovers and they rack their brains to figure out what to do next. The horcrux makes the wearer grumpy and mean and starts to pull apart the group, coming to a head when Ron gets angry at their lack of a plan and leaves in a huff. Hermione is devastated, but sticks by Harry. They continue to move camp every few days, even though Hermione is heartbroken over Ron. They decide to go to Godric’s Hollow to see if the sword of Gryffindor is there and to see Harry’s patents’ graves. They find Bathilda Bagshot and go to her house hoping to learn more about Dumbledore in order to find out what do to next. It all falls apart as Bathilda is under Voldemort’s spell and it turns into a trap. Harry and Hermione barely escape, and their one casualty is Harry’s wand . . .it broke in two during their escape. Demoralized and feeling hopeless with uncertainty, they still have no plan. Then, one frosty night Harry sees a doe patronus and follows it to an icy pond where he sees the sword of Gryffindor lying at the bottom. He realizes the only way to get it is to dive in, so he does. He reaches the sword only to begin to be drowned by the horcrux he’s wearing. He is about to give into fate when Ron dives in to save him. They get out of the pond and Harry lets Ron destroy the horcrux before they return to Hermione who is furious with Ron (though happy inside). They are now ready to find the next horcrux when they get captured by snatchers who bring them to Bellatrix at the Malfoy’s house. There, Harry and Ron get thrown into the dungeon, while Hermione gets tortured. Ron is beside himself, but they have to press on with trying to escape. Harry is able to call to Dobby who comes to the rescue. In the dungeon are also Luna, Gregorovitch, and a goblin. Dobby takes them to Fleur and Bill’s house (remote and safe), while Harry and Ron trick their guards and run to Hermione’s aide. Dobby returns and in the end they escape with Bellatrix and Malfoy’s wands, but Dobby gets stabbed right before they disapparate and dies. They have a proper burial (while I sobbed my eyes out), but are short on time. Harry talks to Gregovoritch and learns that the Deathly Hallows (explained earlier on their quest by Luna’s father as the three objects that make the owner immune to death: ¬†an unbeatable wand, a stone to bring back the dead, and an invisible cloak) are indeed real. He has the cloak and Voldemort has learned where the wand is (in Dumbledore’s tomb) and will get it before Harry can. It’s now even more important that they find the remaining horcruxes. They decide to strike a risky deal with the goblin: he gets them into Gringotts to Bellatrix’s vault (where they hope to find the next horcrux: a goblet), they give him the sword of Gryffindor. ¬†Their plan (including using pollyjuice to disguise Hermione as Bellatrix and Ron as a Death Eater, leaving Harry and the goblin to hide under the invisibility cloak) works, even getting them past a dragon, until they reach the vault. There they find the goblet, but by then they are discovered and only manage to escape by releasing the dragon and riding it out. After their escape they realize they need to return to Hogwarts to find the next horcrux: Ravenclaw’s diadem. They return and find that they have a huge support group and a ton of help. They set off as a battle begins between Voldemort and his Death Eaters, and the wizards and witches of Hogwarts! Ron and Hermione run to the chamber of secrets where they use a basilisk tooth to destroy the cup horcrux. They meet up with Harry and rush to the room of requirement where they find the diadem. They’re followed by Draco, Goyle, and Crabbe, whom they battle until Crabbe creates fiendfire, which destroys the horcrux and takes Crabbe’s life. They escape and set out to find Nagini, Voldemort’s snake. They find them with Snape at the Shrieking Shack. Voldemort believes that in order to have full command of his unbeatable wand that he has to kill us last owner, whom he believes is Snape, so he kills him and then leaves. Harry rushes to Snape where he gets a valuable memory: Snape knew Harry’s mom from childhood and has always been in love with her. Even though he was a Death Eater, he was ultimately always faithful to Lily and therefore Dumbledore, etc. He was living as a double agent of sorts, working for Voldemort, but reporting back to Dumbledore. Dumbledore was slowly dying from a curse from a horcrux and asked Sirius to be the one to kill him in the end, which of course he did. Through the same memory Harry learns that he is one of the horcruxes and needs to die in order for Voldemort to be defeated. He leaves Hermione and Ron with instructions to kill Nagini, but doesn’t tell them what he’s about to do . . .in fact, he tells no one, but leaves to do what he’s finally ready to do. On his way, Harry figures out how to open the golden snitch that Dumbledore left him. He places it in his mouth and it opens to reveal the Deathly Hallows stone, which he uses to bring back his parents and Sirius who support him and go with him to his death. Harry wakes to find himself is a beautiful, quiet place with Dumbledore. They discuss a few things, including that Harry isn’t really dead if he doesn’t want to be. Harry decides to return and wakes to hear Voldemort and the Death Eaters discussing if Harry is actually dead. Draco’s mother comes to Harry and asks if Draco is alive. Harry says, yes, and she announces that Harry is dead. A mourning Hagrid carries Harry back to Hogwarts where Harry springs to life. Rapidly, Neville kills Nagini and Harry kills Voldemort. Much damage is already done though, including the deaths of Fred, Lupin, and Tonks. Soon things are returned to order and then fast forward 19 years. Ron and Hermione are sending their daughter and Harry and Ginny are sending their son to their first year at Hogwarts. Harry’s son, Albus Severous, is nervous about being sorted, to which Harry reassures him that the two men he’s named after were from two different houses and were two of the bravest men he knew, but in the end the hat will let you choose, so he has nothing to worry about. It is such a sweet, beautiful ending. I was so happy!

Summing it up: it was a fitting, sad yet wonderful end to the series. I love it and all the other books and highly recommended them (with caution for the last one to younger readers)!

All the best, Abbey

Carry On

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Carry On

by Rainbow Rowell

August 2016

I read¬†Carry On¬†for my mom’s club book club. We’re not discussing it until October, but I loved Rowell’s novel,¬†Eleanor and Park, so much that I was very excited to read another one of her books. I literally knew nothing about the plot or characters, so I was genuinely surprised to start reading and discover it was a fantasy novel. As I just finished reading the first Harry Potter book, I was struck with how similar the two were at first, but then I was reminded a lot of the¬†Twilight¬†series (disclaimer, I’ve only seen the movies, not read the books). I love Rowell’s writing style, so I was quickly drawn into her novel and caught up in her clever, intriguing plot. I was rooting for the characters from the beginning and I was totally blindsided by the twist at the end! That being said, this book is not a favorite. I think the biggest drawback for me was the story line between Simon and Baz. Carry On¬†was the first book I’ve read with a gay couple, so I found relating to it difficult. Honestly, I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t love it.

Simon is a magickal student at Watford who has never known his parents. He has a difficult time controlling his magic even though he has more magic in him than anyone he knows, other than the Mag who runs the school and has taken Simon under his wing. Simon’s roommate is a vampire named Baz and the two are sworn enemies and his best friend is Penelope. They are all in their final year of school, but this year is different because the Insidious Humdrum is making magic disappear all over England in circular pockets, and they must stop him. The book follows their journey to stop the Humdrum and keep peace within the magickal world. The parallel story line follows Simon and Baz who shift from enemies to lovers and friends when they realize that they need to work together to stop the Humdrum. Spoiler: in the end they figure out that the Mag fathered Simon to make the most powerful magician in order to bring peace. But the Mag has let power get to his head and instead of allowing Simon to defeat the Humdrum, he wants to take all of Simon’s power. Simon figures this out and is able to give all his power to the Humdrum, thereby destroying him and healing the holes (that were actually caused by Simon using so much magic). Simon is left with no magic, but it’s okay because he has Baz and peace is achieved. I definitely loved the tidy, sweet ending . . . yes, I’m a sucker for happy endings . . . we all know this by now! ūüėČ

Summing it up: I loved Rowell’s writing, but as I didn’t love the story, I¬†would not necessarily¬†recommend it.

All the best, Abbey

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

by J. K. Rowling

July 2016

I never fully hopped on the Harry Potter train when I was a kid. My mom read me the first two books, but I don’t remember anything about them. My husband wasn’t into them either back in the day, so¬†we decided that it would be fun to read them all at once together. He has a good half an hour drive to work, so I got the audio book for him and the hard copy for me! We just finished book one . . . and we both liked it. For me, it was as if I was¬†reading it for the first time. Literally the only d√©j√† vu was at the end with the game of chess, but it’s a fuzzy memory at best. So, as someone new coming into the series, I really didn’t know what to expect (other than having high expectations, considering its popularity). I got swept away into Harry Potter’s world and wanted him to succeed so badly. I loved the characters and Rowling’s writing style. It was easy to fall into this new magical world, as¬†I really enjoy¬†reading fantasy books.

Harry Potter is an unusual boy raised by his selfish, “normal” relations. He soon learns the reason why strange things happen to him – he is a wizard. Harry gets invited to attend the premiere wizardry school, Hogwarts. Against his aunt and uncle’s wishes, Harry goes off to school where he is met with many challenges like being bullied by Malfoy and despised by Professor Snape. However, he forges a close friendship with 3 peers: Ron, Hermione, and Neville, and discovers that he is a natural at the sport of Quidditch. Spoilers: the 4 friends¬†soon suspect that dark magic is taking a hold and resolve to find the source. At first they believe Professor Snape is to blame, but in a surprising twist (after heroically defeating and outwitting many spells) they are confronted by the great dark wizard Voldemort himself, taking residence in the body of Professor Quirrell. Harry is able to defeat him in the end, but not kill him. For now, all is well and the entire school celebrates before ending the school year.

One of my favorite characters is Dumbledore. He said a few things throughout the book that I thought were profound in his world and ours. Like when he is talking to Harry after Harry finds the mirror of Erised. He says, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.” Or in the end when he is talking to Harry about Voldemort (or you-know-who), “Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” I thought those quotes were memorable.

I’ve heard that the rest of the books get darker and that they are sad, but I’m looking forward to reading them for myself and seeing what I think. So far, I’m enjoying and curious, and definitely drawn in . . . we’ll see where I end up!

Summing it up: I definitely recommend this book if you love fantasy. I’m looking forward to my boys enjoying it¬†one when they’re older!!

All the best, Abbey

 

The Queen of the Tearling

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The Queen of the Tearling

by Erika Johansen

December 2015

That was intense! This is the first book by Johansen that I’ve read, but it will not be my last. It literally swept me along from the first page to the very end. I thought that it was a novel premise for such a well known genre. I was on the edge of my seat as I read, but I also really enjoyed what I read and wasn’t anxious in a way that took away the fun. ūüėČ

Kelsea is the uncrowned Queen of Tearling who has been hidden for nineteen years for her safety. She’s been raised by her guardians, Carlin and Barty who are also training her to be a queen. The story begins when Kelsea is of age and ready to be crowned. However, it is not simple for her to gain her throne because of traitors and an usurping uncle. She has to win the trust of her guard and her people and not be killed in the process.

I was SO frustrated throughout the book because Kelsea doesn’t know a lot of her history and /or who she really is or what is going on in her country. I felt like she had the right to be¬†more prepared. She was prepared in other ways, but it wasn’t enough. That being said, I’m pretty sure that was part of the point and it was certainly part of the plot¬†. . . just super annoying for me personally because I totally fell for Kelsea and wanted her to succeed from the first sentence. I loved some of the novel concepts like that fact that Kelsea is really plain and how she is very clever for not being told a lot. She is a strong and courageous heroine and that was wonderful to read. A caution: there is a decent amount of language (heads up to those of you who are sensitive to that), and a lot of heartache. As a mother, it was very hard to read a bunch of the scenes. I get why they’re in there and they are important to the story, but it’s sad.

I loved, Johansen’s writing style and I really enjoyed her plot, characters, and the way the story developed. I begrudgingly admit that Kelsea not knowing things was good for the reader in that you had to wait to find everything out (hurumph) . . .I guess I’m just impatient! This book was just so good and I’m really happy I picked it up. Credit is due to my sister who recommended it based on the fact that I loved Goose Girl and I enjoy the show, Game of Thrones. ūüėČ Thank you, Han! Awesome recommendation.

Summing it up: I really enjoyed The Queen of the Tearling and I’m looking forward to the second book in the serious (hopefully Jan/Feb I’ll get to it!). I definitely recommend it! Has anyone else gotten swept along with Johansen’s stories? Are there other good ones to check out?

All the best, Abbey