BOOK REVIEW: Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix – by J.K. Rowling

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Title: Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
(Harry Potter Series #5)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: June 21st 2003
Finished reading: February 14th 2015
Pages: 796
Rating 4

“Youth can not know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”

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Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix has always been my least favorite Harry Potter book of the bunch. Don’t get me wrong; I still love the series, but I guess the main problem I have with this fifth book is that I absolutely despise Umbridge. Her character isn’t supposed to be likeable, but still… Both the last chapters of the fourth book and fifth book mark a turning point in the life of Harry, where he is forced to deal with death and the fact that Lord Voldemort has returned. Harry is growing up, and the books get only darker as the story continues. The initial innocence is gone, and the last few books of the series are definitely not suited for the youngest audience. I remember crying the first time I read the ending… Sirius has always been one of my favorite characters and sometimes I wish J.K. Rowling would have mentioned him and the other Animagi characters more frequently. Who knows, maybe one day?

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WARNING: Spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the previous books yet...

After Harry Potter’s fourth year at Hogwarts ended terribly with the death of Cedric and return of Voldemort, he still had to go back to his aunt and uncle during summer. His friends and godfather Sirius seem to have forgotten him as they are busy with the order of the phoenix; a group of witches and Wizards working together to fight Voldemort. Things change when two Dementors show up and attack both Harry and his cousin, forcing the young wizard to protect both of them and use magic in front of a Muggle. The Ministry Of Magic tried to expell him, but Dumbledore interfered and Harry has to go to a hearing instead deciding his fate. The problem is that Harry is the only one who actually saw Voldemort’s return, and The Ministry Of Magic doesn’t want people to believe Harry and let the panic of his return spread. All summer long they have been running an anti-Harry and Dumbledore campaign, but it hasn’t been completely succesful… For now.

Things are about to change at Hogwarts as the Ministry decides to interfere. They have appointed Umbridge as the new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher, and soon it shows that the Ministry doesn’t want the students to know how to defend themselves. Paranoid that Dumbledore is trying to create an army to fight against the Ministry, Umbridge has the task to slowly take control of the school and make sure everything is up to standard… And she turns out to be a true dictator in pink disguise. Harry now has to fight both against the numerous decrees of Umbridge and the all too real dreams he has been having… How long will it be before Voldemort shows himself again?

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The prose is as good as ever even though the story gets darker as Harry ages. The parts with Umbridge read slower and I found them annoying in general, but that is probably mostly because of my dislike for this character. While this is my least favorite Harry Potter book, I still enjoyed reading it and even discovered a few facts I didn’t remember. All in all this reread was another magical journey to the world of Harry Potter; one I cannot get enough of.  Recommended as it’s part of the series and necessary to understand the rest of the books!

Book Review Policy

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Authors and publishers have contacted me in the past with the request of reviewing their book, and I’m grateful for them to consider It’s All About Books. I always enjoy discovering new authors and books and I tend to read books from a wide variety of genres. If you are a publisher or an author looking for someone to write an honest review of your book, you can contact me through my Contact Info page; I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Please note the following information before sending me a review request:

Please note that since I’m living in Argentina, the easiest way for me to review your book is in e-book form. Any format compatible with kindle would be highly appreciated. I will try to read and review the book that has been sent to me as soon as time allows and post my review both on my blog, Twitter, Goodreads and Amazon US.

IMPORTANT: Due to a stubborn blogging slump and health reasons, I’ve decided to take a partial blogging break until further notice. As a consequence, I won’t be able to accept any new requests for the time being. Thanks for understanding! 

My reviews always follow this standard format:

  • The details of the book I’ve read (title/author/publish date/page count etc)
  • The rating which gives a general idea of my opinion according to my Rating System.
  • A quote to give those who read my reviews an initial feel of the story.
  • My Rambles, where I give my opinion of the book.

All my reviews are 100% my honest opinion and therefore I cannot garantuee a (completely) positive review OR a garantueed 4 to 5 star rating. To give an idea of the books I like and don’t like to read, I’ve listed both my top 5 favorite genres and the genres/elements I don’t read.

TOP 5 FAVORITE genres

  1. Mystery/Thriller/Crime
  2. Historical Fiction
  3. Fantasy
  4. YA
  5. Memoirs/True Crime

What I DON’T read:

# Anything with (cheesy) romance or (romantic) cliches. Tropes like insta-love and love triangle are likewise a huge turn off.
# Erotica, sexy scenes, adult content etc.
# Anything involving vampires. I’m sorry, but if your story is about vampires, there is a 99,9% chance I won’t like it. Therefore I’ve decided to not read any new stories that have the slightest hint of fanged characters.
# Religious/inspirational stories. Especially if they sound preachy.
# Business/Financial.
# Political.

Thank you for taking the time to read my review policy! If you have any further questions you can ask them through the contact page.


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BOOK REVIEW: Beautiful Creatures – by Kami Garcia

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Title: Beautiful Creatures
(Caster Chronicles #1)
Author: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: 2009
Finished reading: February 10th 2015
Pages: 563
Rating 5

“Mortals. I envy you. You think you can change things. Stop the universe. Undo what was done long before you came along. You are such beautiful creatures.”

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I picked up a copy of Beautiful Creatures a few months ago without exactly knowing what it was about, and I’m glad I did. I absolutely LOVED this first book in the Caster Chronicles! I have been having problems finding good YA fantasy series lately since so many sound quite similar and are packed with (cheesy) romance scenes. I’m not a big fan of the romance genre so I tend to avoid books that are classified as romance, but I’m glad I did read this novel by Kami Garcia and Margareth Stohl anyway. The dose of romance is just right and doesn’t distract you from the plot; the relationship between the main characters Ethan and Lena plays a big role in the curse that affects the Duchannes family. The prose is easy to read with many interesting book references that actually make sense. Historical facts about the Civil War are brilliantly mixed with the magical elements and the fast pace and plot twists just make you want to keep on reading. The Casters are surely a bunch of interesting people and I love the idea of them having a hidden library with all kinds of interesting books and secret passages. Beautiful Creatures is without doubt a must read for those who enjoy reading YA fantasy!

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Lena Duchannes is new in town, but that is not her only problem. There is a curse that affects her family and the consequences will be known on her sixteenth birthday… Then, the Book will decide her fate and show her if she is Light or Dark. Lena and her family are Casters and have special powers that they have to hide from the Mortals. Even before Lena gets to know the people in the Southern town she moved to, they already judge her. She is different than others and the fact that she is now living with her strange uncle Macon Ravenwood doesn’t help her fit in either. But Ethan Wate doesn’t seem to matter. He has been having strange dreams lately and when it turns out that Lena is in them, he is dying to find out more about her.

The story is narrated by Ethan and we get to know the Caster world through an outsider. Slowly, Lena and Ethan become friends and they are aware there is a special bond between them. Mortals and Casters aren’t supposed to be together, but they soon find out they were not the first in their family to fall in love… Their ancestors were in love with each other during the Civil War, but fate decided to end their relationship brutally and the curse was born. It is now up to Ethan and Lena to find a way to fight the curse and prevent Lena from becoming a Dark Caster… But they do not know the full story and things are not as easy as it seems. Meanwhile the clock is ticking… Will they find a solution on time?

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The historical facts, the male POV and the magical elements made Beautiful Creatures into one of my favorite reads this year and one of my favorite YA fantasy series in general. The Casters are not exactly witches and they have some very interesting supernatural powers; the intriguing part is that not all of them know exactly what they can do and you see them slowly discovering their potential. The growing relationship between Ethan and Lena is crucial for the development of the story and therefore it didn’t bother me at all. The main characters are interesting, the plot is great and the different elements are mixed brilliantly. Do I have to say more? I LOVED this novel and I would definitely say it is a must read.

Friday Finds #23 – February 13th

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FRIDAY FINDS is originally featured at Should Be Reading and showcases the most interesting books I’ve encountered during the last week and have added to my neverending TBR list on Goodreads.

My finds this week:

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WWW Wednesdays #26 – February 11th

wwwwednesdaysOriginally featured at Should Be Reading and now hosted by Sam at Taking On A World Of Words, WWW WEDNESDAYS is still about answering the following three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?

harrypotterandtheorderofphoenixbeautifulruinsI’ve decided to continue my HP series reread and I’m currently reading the fifth book: Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix. This is probably my least favorite of the bunch, mostly caused by Umbridge, but I’m enjoying travelling back to the magical world of Harry Potter anyway. I’ve also started to rad Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, a historical fiction/romance novel that will be perfect to get in the mood for Valentine’s day. Or so I hope; I’m keeping my fingers crossed it’s not too cheesy…

  • What did you recently finish reading?

beautifulcreaturesthecatcherintheryeI’ve finished Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia the other day, and I must say I absolutely loved it! A magical Caster family with a curse, a teenage girl trying to escape her fate… The dose of romance was just right, and this is one of my favorite YA fantasy reads so far. Review coming soon! I also finished The Catcher In The Rye, a classic I unfortunately wasn’t able to enjoy the way I thought I would… This novel by J.D. Salinger just didn’t convince me.

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Again, I’m still not sure what to read next… I will probably read something romance related for Valentine’s day depending on how long I take to finish my current reads, but other than that I don’t have a clue what to pick.

Versatile Blogger Award

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I promised myself I wasn’t going to do any blog award memes anymore and just thank everybody in my general Nominations & Thanks post… But no less than four awesome bloggers have nominated me in the last few days, so I thought why not share the love?! Thank you Sheetal @ Dreaming WordzAlina @ Radiant ReadsMaren @ The Worn Bookmark and Reckless Indulgence for the nominations!! 😀 ❤

poster-moment-awesome-you-are The rules of the award are:
1. Show the award on your blog.
2. Thank the person who nominated you.
3. Share seven facts about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 blogs. 

I’m going to cheat and nominate all of you!! Thanks to the enormous amount of amazing book bloggers this community has been like the home away from home… Thanks for giving me the inspiration to keep reading and blogging! You guys rock!! ❤

 

On to the seven facts…

  1. I LOVE cooking and baking. I love experimenting with different foods from different cultures and normally don’t follow recipes unless I’m trying to cook something specific. My hubby doesn’t seem to complain hehe. I love anything curry and one of my favorite recipes would be this awesome mint oreo brownie. Soooo delicious, I wish I had a few pieces right now to go with my capuccino. 😉
  2. petsI love animals and I currently own a dog and six cats! Although four of those are little kittens born only two weeks ago and I will only keep one. 😉 My inlaws next door have another dog, so things are getting crowded outside haha. From top to bottom are Jazmin, the mother of Sienna below and the little kittens to the right. (The black one is a male, so I’m going to keep him, yay!) Then we have Paco, who we should have named Tornado or something; he is about 6 months old and totally destructive. Lastly is Pini who is owned by my inlaws…
  3. Sadly enough, I read more e-books than actual books… It’s not easy and rather expensive to buy paperback/hardback copies of English novels in Argentina, so I normally stick with the digital version. Sometimes I wish I would move to an English speaking country with my hubby just so I can buy more books! 😉
  4. My favorite color is blue and it shows; I even painted a few walls blue at home. 😀
  5. I hate the cold winter months! I can handle a one or two week vacation with snow, but anything longer than that and I will probably end up frozen solid. I’m the kind of person who has to wear three pairs of everything when the temperature drop below zero.
  6. I have lousy ankles and knees after playing too much volleyball when I was younger, but I’ve set myself a goal to participate in a 5KM run by the end of the year anyway. Wish me luck! 😉
  7. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the guitar, but I’m a leftie and it’s not easy to find a teacher. I’m also a terrible singer, so even if I do learn to play, I wouldn’t be able to sing along.

Teaser Tuesdays #29 – February 10th: Beautiful Creatures

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TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly book meme originally featured at Should Be Reading. To participate, just open the book you are currently reading to a random page, and choose two ‘teaser’ sentences from somewhere on that page. (no spoilers!)

I’m currently reading Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia, a YA fantasy novel that I’m loving so far. I’m about halfway done and cannot wait to find out more about Lena, Ethan and the curse that affects them! So far the mystery and supernatural elements are winning from the romance scenes, so I’m a happy camper. Fingers crossed it stays that way!

beautifulcreatures“Oh, you think Casters dress up on Halloween and fly around on blooms?” she laughed.

“I didn’t mean-”

“Sorry to disappoint you. We just dress for dinner like we do on any other holiday.”

 

What are you reading right now?

BOOK REVIEW: The Catcher In The Rye – by J.D. Salinger

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Title: The Catcher In The Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Genre: Classics, Fiction, YA
First published: 1951
Finished reading: February 7th 2015
Pages: 277
Rating 3,5

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”

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The Catcher In The Rye is not only a classic, but also one of the many banned books out there. I never had to read it at school (the focus was mainly on Dutch literature), so when I saw a copy I thought it was about time to read this classic. Now I have, I’m not sure what to think of it. Sure, the prose itself is good and goes together perfectly with the main character, even if he is not exactly likeable. Holden Caulfield comes over as a spoiled brat who swears too much rather than the ‘cynical adolescent’ J.D. Salinger supposedly was aiming for. I don’t mind swearing as long as it adds to the story, but in this case ‘goddam‘ is mentioned way too many to be taken seriously. That said, with the slang Holden uses throughout the novel, Salinger has created a colorful language that can be offensive even nowadays; probably one of the reasons The Catcher In The Rye is still on the banned books list. There is no real plot development; the novel seems to be about Holden’s inner thoughts rather than actions. Which in a way is interesting because he is a total nutcase. Still, I’m having mixed thoughts with this one, and I’m not sure whether to recommend it. I suppose it will be an interesting read if you don’t mind the swearing and don’t take the story too seriously.

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Holden Caulfield has just been expelled from yet another prep school, and he doesn’t know what to do with his life. He doesn’t want his parents to find out yet and he is afraid to go home before the Christmas holidays start, so he decides to stay in a hotel in New York for a few days. Being a teenager alone isn’t easy in New York, especially if you are Holden. He hates all the ‘phonies’ out there and doesn’t seem to be able to escape them in the big city. We follow Holden on his days in New York where he goes from hotel to hotel, dates a girl, goes to bars and tries to visit his younger sister without his parents finding out. But more than that, it is a journey inside his head where we learn more about his thoughts, problems and vision on life in general.

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The plot itself is extremely uneventful and I cannot say I liked the main character. Still, Salinger was able to create something special with Holden. Even if he is a complete nutcase who swears more frequently than he talks, Holden does show us what it is like not knowing what to do with his life and being unhappy with his life as it is. I guess The Catcher In The Rye has to be seen as a little journey inside a (messed up) teenager’s head and has to be read that way to be enjoyed. Maybe next time, if I decide to to a reread some day…

BOOK REVIEW: Allegiant – by Veronica Roth

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Title: Allegiant
(Divergent #3)
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: YA, Dystopia, Fantasy
First published: October 22nd 2013
Finished reading: February 6th 2015
Pages: 526
Rating 3

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. … Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.”

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It took me a very long time to finally pick up my copy of Allegiant, mostly caused by the fact that Insurgent was a complete disappointment for me. I don’t like romance novels in general, and I wasn’t expecting Insurgent to be full of romance instead of action. I’m glad I finally did pick up the third book anyway, because it is definitely better than the second. I did start reading with low expectations and prepared for the ‘bad’ ending a lot of people mentioned, so I was pleasantly surprised Allegiant did have a lot of action and interesting information on the experiments and outside world. The ending is fitting for the trilogy, although I see why a lot of people wouldn’t like it. I guess the exact same thing happens when George R.R. Martin readers become too attached to their characters… Speaking of characters, the chapters are split between the point of view of Tris and Tobias. Luckily, some focus on their relationship is shifted to more important matters and that takes away some of the drama. Good enough to read this last book by Veronica Roth, especially if you already read the first two!

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WARNING: do not read this summary if you haven’t read the books yet! It will most likely contain spoilers, even though I’ve made sure to keep it short.

The society Tris and Tobias once lived in doesn’t exist anymore and the five factions have lost their importance. Their world is now stained with violence and power struggles; one tyrant taking over from the other. Tris wants out, and when the rebellion group called Allegiant offers her and Tobias a way out she grabs the opportunity with both hands. They go past the limits of the city she grew up in, exploring what’s out there beyond the fence. She wants to start over and find a new life without complications, but it’s not that easy… The people on the other side of the fence reveal a lot of very shocking information that will change everything. Their past, their future… Suddenly they don’t know who they are anymore and who is the bad guy in all this mess. Tris, Tobias and the others will have to find out on which side to fight and what to believe… But that doesn’t come without sacrifices.

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Like said above, I’ve kept the summary very short in order not to reveal too much of the story for those who haven’t read Allegiant or the previous books yet. It was so hard to keep it spoiler-free! Veronica Roth reveals a lot of new information about the dystopian world Tris and Tobias were living in that will change everything. Allegiant is a fitting ending to the Divergent trilogy and better than the second book. Worth reading if you haven’t finished the series yet and enjoy reading YA dystopian novels mixed with romance.

ARC REVIEW: Under Dark Skies – by A.J. Scudiere

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Title: Under Dark Skies
(The Nighshade Forensic Files #1)
Author: A.J. Scudiere
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Fantasy
First published: 2014
Finished reading: February 3rd 2015
Pages: 378
Rating 4

“Regret for things he had not yet done reminded him why he was here. Though he had personal goals, those didn’t change the fact that the job was to tip society back toward the sane, the safe, the wishful.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I always seem to enjoy crime/thriller/mystery novels, so when I was contacted with the question if I would like to read Under Dark Skies, I immediately said yes. It’s the first time I’ve read something by A.J. Scudiere, and I must say I’m impressed. There are so many crime novels out there, that it is hard to stand out from the rest. But I think that with this first book in The Nightshade Forensic Files she is able to do just that. A.J. Scudiere combines a supernatural touch with a fast pace and easy-to-read prose which makes you just want to keep on reading. Missing children, murder, forensic investigation, werewolves… The different elements go together so well I would say she nailed it. The characters weren’t all exactly to my liking, but the other elements make up for it. Definitely recommended for crime/mystery/thriller and fantasy lovers!

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Eleri Eames suffered a mental breakdown while she was working for the FBI and she was forced to take some time off. But one month before her planned release, the FBI contact her again. They want her to be part of a special FBI dvision called Nightshade, and they need her right away. Eames doesn’t seem to have a choice in her own early release… Her new boss introduces her to her partner Donovan, a former medical examiner with a shocking secret. Together they have to try solve their first case: the leader of a cult called the City Of God seems to be involved in various old kidnapping cases, and the FBI wants him. But can Eames trust her partner and her boss for that matter? Both men seem to hide something.

Slowly they try to discover more about the true location of the City Of God and the missing children. One of the cult members shows up dead, and Donovan is using is very unusual skills to track down the location of the cult. When he rescues one of the kids in his true form, Eames starts to suspect something is off. Suspicions that are confirmed when she visits Donovan at his place… Eames has her own secret though, and together they try to find a way to use their special gifts to solve the case. Will they find the location and the missing children on time?

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The supernatural elements in Under Dark Skies make the novel stand out from other forensic crime novels and it is without doubt a refreshing read. The crime and fantasy genre are both among my favorites, and this novel by A.J. Scudiere is a perfect blend of both. The pace is fast and the forensic and fantastical elements are mixed together in a way neither becomes boring. The novel is full of action and while I couldn’t connect to all the characters, the rest of the story makes up for it. I am definitely looking forward to the release of the second book in the future!