Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#1: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling)

To begin my reading in the new year, I completed the fifth volume of the Harry Potter saga. In this 5th year at Hogwarts, Harry learns much about his past and destiny while struggling with his own demons as well as the Dark Lord and the infuriating High Inquisitor of the school. Of all the books I have read thus far, Phoenix has been my least favorite. I do recognize its importance to the story as a whole, however.

I found The Order of the Phoenix to get off to a very slow start. Truthfully, if I had not been so invested in the series, I probably would not have completed the book. (I tend to quit reading books that have not grabbed my attention within the first 75 pages or so.) Additionally, I found myself longing for Dumbledore's influence on the story. I love the adventures of the children and have enjoyed watching them grow up, but their stories make a much more profound statement when they are enjoying the interaction of all the faculty. My reading was often distracted as I kept wondering why the Headmaster was not commenting on the situation.

As the novel began to reach its climax, I became enthralled with Harry's story again and just couldn't put it down. The quality of the writing of the final scenes restored my confidence in Rowling and has me looking forward to the 6th year of our heroes' studies at the Wizarding Academy.

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#22: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The fourth year tale of our boy hero, Harry Potter, is significantly longer than the novels that have preceded it and takes on a decidedly darker tone. As Harry, Ron, and Hermione grow on the pages of the novel, the reader is treated to more mature discussions of relevant topics raised by the plot. The Goblet of Fire centers around an international competition that Harry has been entered in against his wishes. With each passing task, Harry discovers the importance of honor and honesty in his pursuit for victory. Additionally, the novel addresses topics of racism, deception, and death in a manner that is appropriate for the young reader.

What I found most intriguing in this year at Hogwarts’ was the return of Voldemort. It is interesting to see how the horrific memories of past events have faded in the minds of many of the HP world while others valiantly strive to keep Voldemort from regaining power. As the novel comes to its conclusion, a clear line is drawn between those who choose to ignore the changing scenario and those who are preparing for battle against the forces of evil. It is very clear how Christian overtones and themes can be applied to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Quite simply, the novel speaks powerfully of the necessity of man to choose either good or evil.

Without a doubt, Rowling has prepared the reader for a powerfully charged read as we approach year 5 with Harry and the gang. I’m already looking forward to diving in!

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#21: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I wanted to keep things light at the beginning of the semester, so I returned to the world of Harry Potter for the third installment in the series. Although I found the book a little slow in the beginning, HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban quickly turned out to be my favorite of the novels I have read thus far. I especially liked the themes of self-empowerment and overcoming darkness with light that pervaded the book. As the reader discovered more about the death of James Potter, we learned a little about making rash judgments right along with Harry. Perhaps the most powerful lessons were taught about assumptions through the stories of the hippogriff and Black. Both were thought to be extremely dangerous, killing machines. In the end, the truth about both the magical creature and the feared wizard came to light.

There are so many other things that could be discussed…..the battle between the Patronus and the dementors……prisons that must be escaped (both literally and figuratively)……as well as ideas of discernment and true friendship. I am certain that I will return to this book again and examine the themes more closely now that I know where the story is heading. Prisoner of Azkaban has definitely made an impact on my reading life….and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an entertaining read.

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#17: Reboot (Amy Tintera)

As I continue to work my way through My Library Shelf, I encountered Amy Tintera’s Reboot. The story is narrated by Wren, a HARC assassin identified as 178. Her number signifies the number of minutes she remained dead five years ago before she woke up — or before she was rebooted. In this futurist society in Texas, teens are being wiped out by a highly contagious virus. HARC, the Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation, resurrects these victims and creates an army trained to follow orders without question. The result is a community marked by fear and governmental abuse. When Wren meets Callum, another Reboot, her opinion of the situation changes and the two set out to escape in order to obtain freedom.

I found Reboot a difficult book to dive into. The opening scenes felt stunted and contrived. Honestly, I found myself repeatedly thinking that Tintera was attempting to capitalize on the success of The Hunger Games. I found little exciting or original in the work. I don’t plan to read the sequel (Rebel) either. Here’s hoping that the positive reading experiences resume as I continue my way along My Library Shelf.

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#12: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (J.K. Rowling)

When Harry Potter made his way to American bookshelves in 1998, I was a graduate student who had just started working with the children’s ministry of a local church. In that position, I felt the need to read the controversial book in order to have an opinion to share with children and their parents. As I read, I was looking for problems…..and found some things that I thought parents should know before making their own decision about the book. In my search for information, however, I missed the story and excitement of Rowling’s characters. Almost 17 years have passed since the novel made its American debut and I have found myself wondering what all the hype was about, so I decided to read the series this summer. What I found was a charming book filled with moral dilemmas, images of pure love, and the challenges of finding your own identify during childhood. Additionally, I only found a few scenes that I found questionable for pre-teen readers (the target audience of the book). Instead, what I discovered is that I was enthralled by the story and simply could not put the book down. I have actually had to forbid myself from returning to the library to pick up the next installment before I finish a couple of other books that are on deck.

I realize that I am just beginning my journey with Harry, Hermione, and the rest of the cast at Hogwarts, but I am definitely excited to see how the story continues. I’m just glad I don’t have to wait as long as the original readers did to find out what happens in the next year of school.

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#5: Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins)

I finally completed The Hunger Games trilogy! I certainly didn’t see some of the twists and turns in this final episode. Now that the revolution against the Capitol is in full swing, the book becomes much darker in tone. Almost too dark, honestly. While I understand the necessity of making the shift, I found myself not very fond of the final book.

The scene that most upset me was when the surviving tributes vote about the possibility of hosting another Hunger Game, featuring the children of the Capitol. While Collins explained Katniss’ vote, I found it to be completely out of character. While I was thrilled with Katniss’ final choice of beau, I didn’t like the series’ ending. I felt the final resolution was trite and contrived. It seemed obvious to me that — in relation to Collins’ writing — “The odds were NOT ever in her favor.”

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#32: Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins)

Catching Fire has been sitting in my to-read stack for almost a year. This summer, I finally got around to reading the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy. When I first began reading the book, I was sorely disappointed. It didn’t begin with the spark that I had come to expect from Collins. I almost put the book away in order to move on to something else. I suppose I was picking up on the feelings that my youngest niece had expressed about the book. As I continued to read, I found extremely thought-provoking writing about revolution and rebellion that fascinated me. When the twist of the games finally appeared, I was hooked and couldn’t put it down. I’m anxious to read the final volume of the trilogy to learn how the story ends. I’ll pick up the book next week and add it to my bedside collection in order to guarantee that I return to the adventures of Katniss, Gale, and Peeta before the summer is over.

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#21: Between the Lines (Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer)

My favorite author is Jodi Picoult.  Every year, I anticipate the release of her latest book and rush to the store on the day of its release to add it to my growing collection.  When I saw that she and her daughter had written a young adult novel, I must admit that I was rather skeptical.  Part of Picoult’s appeal is her willingness to tackle controversial contemporary topics while allowing her characters to grapple with the moral issues that arise as a result.  I knew that many of her topics would not be considered appropriate for a young audience and I wasn’t sure how her writing would translate into the YA genre.

Imagine my surprise when I was transported inside a fairy tale in which the handsome prince desperately wants to escape his life in the book.  As Prince Oliver dreams of escape, his cry of help is finally heard by Delilah, a teen reader who has become obsessed with the child’s fairy tale.  Picoult and Van Leer proceed to weave a masterful tale combining two conflicting worlds united by the growing love of Oliver and Delilah.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting a look “behind the curtain” as the characters in the fairy tale lived life while the book was closed.  The idea of not judging a book by its cover suddenly took on an entirely new meaning.

Thematically, Between the Lines addresses pertinent contemporary issues admirably;  the power of love, the impact of a parent’s death, and the search for self-identity are clearly explored in a meaningful way for teen readers.  I anticipate that many junior high and high school classes will find the work a compelling story to consider along standards of the American literary canon.  Until that time, Between the Lines will be a wonderful book for mothers and daughters to enjoy together that will open doors for communication between parent and child.

4 out of 5 stars!

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#10: The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

Things were too relaxing to update my blog last week while I was on vacation. This week has been insanely busy dealing with demands that I ignored while away, so I’ve got a few novels to catch you up on.

Just before heading to Biloxi, Mississippi for a few days, I decided to give in to peer pressure (primarily coming from my niece) and read the first volume of Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games trilogy. The timing was also rather intentional as the movie was also scheduled to premiere at the end of the week.

I went into my reading expecting to have a negative impression of the book. After all, the central plot is based upon a fight-to-the-death competition pitting teen against teen. Imagine my surprise when I dove into the story and discovered that the competition serves as a backdrop for a remarkable story of love, courage, strength, and moral fortitude. Rather than spoiling the work for anyone that has not read the work yet, I’ll simply say that it comes with a high recommendation from me.

Additionally, I would encourage parents to read the novel themselves. While there is a sizeable amount of violence in the novel (which is thankfully not depicted graphically in the movie, garnering it an appropriate rating of PG), the deaths are treated with dignity and respect for human life from the heroine, Katniss. There are numerous opportunities for parents to dialogue with their teen regarding important issues such as peer pressure and how to respond when your moral code conflicts with a government’s demands. While I do not consider any of the characters to be a Christ figure in the novel, there are several incidents that do display characteristics beneficial to a Christian teen.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed The Hunger Games. I look forward to reading the remaining novels in the trilogy and hope that the dignity and virtues found in book one continue throughout the series.

4.5 of 5 stars!

 

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