#78 A Review of Darcy and Fitzwilliam by Karen Wasylowski

Cover ImageDivided into two volumes, Karen Wasylowski’s debut novel, Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentleman and An Officer tells the story of our beloved characters after the marriage of Darcy to Ms. Elizabeth Bennet.  Col. Fitzwilliam, just back from the Peninsular war, returns to rejoin his boyhood friend (and biological cousin) Darcy and his new bride.  Although their reunion is lighthearted and filled with jokes from their past, some unfinished business lurks beneath the laughter as Darcy and Fitzwilliam grow apart over time.  Enter volume two, where Col. Fitzwilliam enjoys pseudo-rock star status as a veteran of the war returning to his homeland.  Enjoying his new-found celebrity, Fitzwilliam comes across Lady Amanda Sayles, with whom he falls head over heels in love.  Sayles returns his affections, but worries that engaging in a relationship with Fitzwilliam would jeopardize her relationship with her son.  What will become of Fitzwilliam in this matter?  Will Fitzwilliam and Darcy ever reconcile their growing resentment?

I know from other reviews I read that reviewers either liked or hated this book.  Many of the “hate” reviews seemed to be centered around their dislike of the liberties taken with the characters.  Personally I’m not an Austen purist; I tend to get bored with reading the same thing over and over and over again.  I really enjoy reading the new personality traits that authors come up with and give to each character.  It’s this trait that helped in guiding my enjoyment in this novel.  I was able to take it for what it was at face value: laugh when I was supposed to, be sad when I was supposed to, and just enjoy the overall story lines that Wasylowski came up with.

Just from following Wasylowski’s twitter, I knew I was in for lots of laughter when I decided to read Darcy and Fitzwilliam.  Wasylowski’s take on Lady Catherine and Mrs. Bennet were absolutely hysterical; taking the most ridiculous elements in both of them and blowing them way out of proportion.  The end result are two uproarious women who were utterly ridiculous (in a good way).

For those of you Janeites out there, that can withstand liberties taken with Jane’s original masterpieces, then I’d tell you to give this novel a try.  It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will certainly make you joyful for deciding to revisit Darcy, Elizabeth, Fitzwilliam, and the rest of the Pride and Prejudice gang.

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my thirty-sixth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

This is my twelfth completed review for the Chunkster Challenge

Darcy and Fitzwilliam by Karen Wasylowski
Sourcebooks (2011)
Paperback 496 pages

#77 A Review of The Wedding Vow by Jillian Hart

The Wedding VowContinuing on my historical fiction binge of sorts, I recently picked up The Wedding Vow by Jillian Hart.  Before you chide me on reading a book with a cover fit for the trashy romance novel section, I must admit that Hart’s work has left me impressed by the depth of the plot and character development.  With that said, there were also a few other instances of lackluster writing quality that balanced out the shining points, leaving me with a mixed overall view of the book.  However, I’ll leave it up to you to make a final decision on what you think of this book!

Gwyneth of Blackthorne was living a good life.  She had land, a title of nobility, and a loving family.  However, all this was shattered when her parents were brutally killed by a man who eventually took their titles and land.  Not only did he kill Gwyneth’s parents, but all of the guards and her brother, who were entrusted to protect the family at all costs, were killed by this man and his followers.  By sheer luck, Gwyneth was able to escape, forced to live with her cruel uncle, who works her night and day as a servant.  Her daily routine of misery is interrupted one day by Bran the Fair, who seeks her help.  Known as the greatest healer in the land, Gwyneth is enlisted to help the very man who killed her family.  She finds that the man, who is now a Barron, has been thrown from his horse and is in serious condition.  Not only this, but Bran is his bastard son.  The Barron, knowing he is near death, apologizes to Gwyneth and tells her that in order to repay her, she must marry his son and once again preside over her land which was brutally taken from her.  Although she dislikes the arrangement greatly, the King grants the Barron’s dying wish and Gwyneth marries Bran.  However, this is not Gwyneth’s first encounter with the Barron’s family, as she was previously married to Geoffrey, Bran’s half brother.  A savage man who attempted to beat her, Gwyn was freed from this marriage soon after it began.  Will Bran be as horrible as his father?  Will Gwyneth ever find peace again?

I won’t lie.  This novel needs a lot of editing/grammatical work.  There were times that characters would be in the kitchen and then three sentences later they were somewhere completely different with no transition.  It gave me an oddly paced feeling, and I feel that with the markings of a red pen this could easily be rectified.  Also, adding to the underlying grammar issues, I took issue with parts of Gwyneth’s character.  For someone who had lived her whole life hating “men” and thinking there was no good left in any of them, Gwyneth sure melted fast as soon as Bran was doing things for her (i.e. drawing her a hot bath, finding her a kitten).  Sure, she kept her guard up, but I felt like these actions portrayed her as a weak female that easily acquiesced to others wants and needs.  She was this strong female character that you could give props to, then boom – a man makes her weak in the knees and she’s his.  When Gwyn and Bran have sex for the first time a dramatic shift in the plot came about.  Suddenly everything revolved around making bonds with their bodies and about Gwyn and Bran’s need to possess each other, rather than about fighting Geoffrey and making The Keep (their land) stable again.  It made me sad that there was such a shift, because the storyline pre-sex was actually really interesting.

Putting aside the negative things mentioned above the storyline was compelling with complex characters scattered here and there.  The conflicts between Geoffrey and Bran as well as Gwyn and Bran were gripping plot points all on their own.  Add into that the relationship that Bran tries to begin with the townsfolk and with Gwyn and you have the makings of a dynamic plot.  With all that being said The Wedding Vow is a good read for those you looking to explore a historical fiction work with a bit of a romantic flair.

3 out of 5 Stars

This is my thirty-fifth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge
This is my eleventh completed review for the Chunkster Challenge
The Wedding Vow by Jillian Hart
Jillian Hart (2011)
eBook 589 pages
ISBN: 2940013019676

#75 A Review of A Gathering Storm by Rachel Hore

A Gathering StormFor those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you know I have a soft spot for historical fiction novels.  The intrigue and mystery of a foreign time period always draws me in and makes the plot of these novels that much better.  Rachel Hore’s A Gathering Storm is no different, and I found myself incredibly immersed in this harrowing mystery.

Lucy Cardwell’s father has died.  When looking through his papers, she finds that he started doing research on Rafe Ashton, a long-lost uncle.  Determined to pick up the pieces of her father’s search, she sets out to find out more about this man, Lucy decides to visit her father’s childhood home, Carlyon Manor.  While there, she is instructed to talk to an old woman by the name of Beatrice, who would most likely know the story of Carlyon Manor and its inhabitants.  Beatrice tells her that she normally played with all the children of the Manor at that time (in the 1930’s), especially Angelina Wincanton, Lucy’s grandmother.  Beatrice also tells Lucy that she and the others had some excitement one summer, as she rescued a man named Rafe Ashton from certain death as he was drowning in rough seas.  After this daring rescue, Beatrice fell in love with Rafe, yet the impending second world war threw their plans into certain turmoil.  Will Beatrice be able to give Lucy the information she was looking for, or will Lucy’s world be turned upside down with Beatrice’s long-buried secret?

The pacing of the novel could use a bit of work.  The first third builds up fairly slowly.  It’s a lot of character development, that while necessary could have been sped up slightly.  When you reach the last third of the book the pace quickens rapidly and hooks you in until you finish.  The weaving from the past to the present would have been of better use if Lucy had a more integral/interesting part to play in the plot.  I understand her use in the development, but not much really happens with her side storyline.  It seems that Hore lacked interest in developing her more.  I would have liked to see an epilogue that took place six months/a year later.  It would have given the reader a chance to see how she dealt with the big reveal.

As I started reading this novel, another kept popping in my mind, The House at Riverton.  That novel, as well as A Gathering Storm, were both written with from the point of view of having a huge mystery looming over you the entire time.  You know there are things that haven’t been said yet and secrets that have yet to come to light.  You can tell that Hore is an incredibly gifted writer by the simple fact that you’re not bored by all of the back story leading up to the big reveal.  Each piece of the story is meticulously planned out so as not to give anything away prematurely.  As in any mystery you start guessing what the big secret is, but it’s not until the end that you find out how close your assumptions were.  The ending leaves you completely breathless, gasping for air, amazed at the cruel nature of people.  I’m still reeling from it.

All in all the facts are these: Hore is a gifted storyteller, giving us a fascinating look into World War II England and the behind-the-scenes people who never got the glory they so justly deserved.  If you enjoy a good suspenseful mystery injected with tons of historical information this is definitely the book for you!

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my thirty-third completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

This is my tenth completed review for the Chunkster Challenge

A Gathering Storm by Rachel Hore
Simon and Schuster (2011)
Paperback 464 pages
ISBN: 9781849832885
Special thanks to Ally from Simon and Schuster UK for sending me over a copy for review!

#64 A Review of The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

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Todd and I are back to review Stieg Larsson’s second novel in his critically acclaimed series, The Millennium Trilogy: The Girl Who Played With Fire.  We decided that to continue with the tradition started with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (check out the review here), we should listen to this novel as an audiobook.  Again we had the pleasure of listening to Simon Vance’s melodic voice as he impersonated all the characters and make us feel more involved with the storyline.  As expected, Larsson’s work definitely did not disappoint, as this novel was more harrowing and nail-biting as the first.

Mikael Blomkvist, now restored to his rightful position as editor of the magazine Millennium, is excited to publish an expose on sex trafficking by a young journalist named Dag Svensson.  Mia, Svensson’s girlfriend, recently finished writing a thesis for her doctoral program much along the lines of Dag’s work, as she outlines the plight of prostitution and the exploitation of women in Sweden for sexual purposes.  Together, they provide enough information for Millennium to publish a bombshell of an article, yet just a few weeks before going to press Mikael finds them dead in their apartment, shot by an unknown assassin.  Later, Mikael finds out that Lisbeth Salander, his love interest and partner from the first book, has been named the main suspect in the murders, as well as the murder of her state-appointed guardian.  This is just the tip of the iceberg, as Mikael must work tirelessly to prove his innocence in the affair as well as Lisbeth’s.  He must also undercover the real source of the killing, and work to stop this force from acting again before it’s too late.  Can he accomplish this in time?  What will become of Lisbeth?

Kim: I have to start out by saying that Larsson is a genius when it comes to weaving story-lines.  In both Tattoo and Fire he has a wide array of characters that ultimately all play an important role in the story.  Whether they’re there to help move another characters development along or play a role in the “crime plot” of the novel, he gives them each a time to share their story and for the reader to get to know them.  There aren’t many authors (at least in my opinion) that can do this well and keep the reader from being confused.  It’s even more difficult to achieve all of the above and STILL accomplish a shock ending.

Todd:  I definitely agree.  It was a bit overwhelming at first to be introduced to so many characters in this story.  It was almost as if you had to keep a family tree in your head to keep all their different relations to each other straight, but once this was accomplished, the multitude of background characters only added to the complexity and texture of Larsson’s work.  I know when most people think of this series they immediately think of Mikael and Lisbeth, especially since the commercials for the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo have exploded onto the scene recently, but really this series highlights how others perceive them, and how they must work to change preconceived notions of themselves in order to find the real killer.

Kim: Good point, Todd, about the preconceived notions.  In relation to this I enjoyed how Larsson essentially mocked the media and how ridiculous and false the stories in it can be.  When it’s found out that Lisbeth is the main suspect in the case, the media starts digging into her past and trying to find out as much as they can about her.  Suddenly her face is on every newspaper with headlines that she’s a lesbian and part of a Satanist cult, all because she is friends with an all girl rock group with a questionable name.  I like how Larsson uses things like this to make statements about the social and political climate of Sweden.  It’s the little details like this that give Larsson’s work texture and deeper meaning.

Todd: That’s true.  Larsson’s work existed to be more than just a story, he wanted it to be part of a greater commentary on the plight of women and the political obstacles that they and other working class people had to overcome to achieve any change in Sweden.  It’s no wonder than Larsson himself was a journalist, and worked as an editor of a magazine called Expo, which shares some similarities with Millennium.  I give Larsson a ton of credit for tackling these difficult issues and standing up against the status quo.  I can see a lot of him in Lisbeth, as she does whatever it takes to achieve her goals, and doesn’t let anything get in her way to stop her.  We could all use a little Lisbeth in our own lives!

Kim: Very true Todd.  Lisbeth is one of the most kick-ass lead characters I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  She tells it like she sees it, sticks up for herself and the ones she cares for, and makes sure that those who do wrong get their fair comeuppance.

Kim: 5 out of 5 Stars

Todd: 5 out of 5 Stars

This is my eighteenth completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge
This is my eighth completed review for the Chunkster Challenge
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (2009)
Paperback 752 pages
ISBN:  9780307476159

#55 A Guest Review of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star by Heather Lynn Rigaud

Head on over to the Austenprose blog for my newest guest review, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star by Heather Lynn Rigaud!

The novel takes us on a wild romp with the men of Slurry, a rock band known for its crazy behind-the-scenes behavior almost as much as its music.  Fitzwilliam Darcy, literal rock god, heads up the group along with singer Charles Bingley and drummer Richard Fitzwilliam.  When their new opening act Long Bourne Suffering joins them for the last leg of their tour, everything they thought they knew about life, love, and music is suddenly thrown up in the air.

To check out my review, click here

This is my eighth completed review for the Chunkster Challenge

#46 A Review of Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman by Maria Hamilton

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Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman is the debut novel of author Maria Hamilton.  The novel is a what-if variation of Pride and Prejudice (my favorite!) that asks the question, What if Mr. Darcy is so incredibly heartbroken and remorseful about his failed proposal to Elizabeth Bennet that he goes back to Meryton to pick up the pieces of his meddling and prove to Elizabeth that he’s a changed man?  Will Elizabeth accept this new Darcy and realize that these changes were made for her?

The novel begins with a melancholy Darcy thinking back on his failed marriage proposal to Elizabeth Bennet.  He focuses on the reproofs she gave him and realizes that he needs to take a deeper look at the man he is.  He realizes that Elizabeth was right in her assessment of him and pledges to make things right between Jane and Bingley.  He decides it would be prudent to find out if they have still have feelings for each other and sets out to meet with Bingley.  Darcy is unable to tell if Bingley feels that a relationship with Jane is still possible, and decides to head to Meryton to speak with Jane.  Elizabeth is stunned when Darcy shows up at Longbourn and begins being cordial to her family, showing Jane special attention.  She wonders if his presence is meant to make her jealous of what she missed, or if it is to force his attentions on her.  Rumors begin swirling around Meryton that Darcy is there to secure Jane’s hand in marriage, and that Elizabeth will soon follow with a marriage proposal from a childhood friend.  Darcy becomes incredibly jealous over this rival for Elizabeth’s affections and finds himself unable to decide what to do.  Will Darcy fix Jane and Bingley’s relationship and then move on with his own life, or will he find a way to stay in Elizabeth’s life and prove that he’s capable of winning her love?

The first third of the book seemed to drag a little bit.  The chapters leading up to Darcy’s revelation to Bingley of the truth about what happened in the affair with Jane Bennet just seemed unnecessarily drawn out.  I will however say that it did not make me dislike the book.  The other two-thirds of the book were absolutely wonderful and had me sitting on the edge of my seat the entire time.  Well, actually that’s not entirely true.  I was on the edge of my bed at 3:30am trying to read as fast as possible, because I just HAD to get to the end of the book. (Warning: Do not begin reading this right before bedtime like I frequently do.  You WILL stay awake.) The quickened pace and heightened plot events added to a rollercoaster ride of a read.

Right around the middle of the book comes Darcy’s second proposal.  Can we just pause for a minute so I can gush over this scene?  Hamilton definitely has the heart of a romantic because I became a bucket of gushy emotions as I read it.  The actions and words of Elizabeth and Darcy are spoken with true love and determination in their hearts.  The proposal is everything that a girl dreams her own proposal will be like: it’s full of love, affection, and is searingly romantic.  I couldn’t help but go back and re-read that whole section over and over.  Once I hit that point in the novel there was no stopping.  Every interaction between Elizabeth and Darcy became like crack, and I couldn’t get enough; Hamilton had me hooked.

I’m still in shock that this was Hamilton’s first novel.  Her next novel has an exceedingly high bar to reach to match the level that Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman was on.  I’ll be eagerly awaiting her next venture, she’s definitely made a fan in me.

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my twentieth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

This is my seventh completed review for the Chunkster Challenge

Sourcebooks (2011)
Paperback 528 pages

#45 The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

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Kim and Todd here for a joint review of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo!  After hearing a lot of buzz about the novel, we decided to give it a try.  Seemingly everywhere we went, on a train, plane, or any form of public transportation, someone was reading this book.  Of course, after we started listening/reading it we couldn’t put it down either.  Yup, you read that right – listening and reading.  We were taking a road trip one day and, wanting to try something new, picked up the audio version of the novel.  We both got hooked and couldn’t wait for the other to be in the car to continue along with the story.  With that being said we both began swapping CD’s and the book back and forth to continue the story as fast as possible.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo begins with a lawsuit, specifically a libel suit against Mikael Blomkvist, writer and member of the board of directors of Milennium Magazine.  The magazine specializes in writing exposés of famous individuals, bringing their misdeeds to public attention.  Blomkvist loses the suit, which was brought on by an article he wrote alleging billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström of corruption and money laundering.  He is sentenced to a serve time in a minimum security facility for several months.  Before his scheduled jail time, he is contacted by a man named Henrik Vanger, who offers him a freelance assignment with the promise of a more than generous salary and information that he can use to build a stronger case against Wennerström.  Blomkvist accepts and moves to a small island where most of the Vanger family lives, working under the cover of writing the Vanger family history, but in reality is trying to solve the disappearance of Vanger’s niece Harriet roughly 40 years earlier.  Little does he know, Vanger already throughly inspected his background and personal life using the services of Lisbeth Salander, a computer and investigative expert.  Blomkvist eventually catches Salander hacking into his personal computer and decides to ask her to help him with his investigation.  Meanwhile, Salander’s difficult past is explained, culminating in a brutal scene of sexual assault against her by her legal guardian.  Will Lisbeth be able to overcome the horrors of her personal life so that she can help Blomkvist?  Will they be able to solve the kidnapping that happened almost half a century ago?  Will Blomkvist be able to escape the odd sense that Vanger is not all that he seems?

Kim: The first thing I have to say about this novel is that the writing and language used is just exquisite.  The fluidity of the prose is just perfection, which is surprising, considering that the book was translated from Swedish.  Honestly the only way I can describe the writing is like melted butter on hot lobster. (HAHA – for you lobster lovers out there, my metaphor makes perfect sense)  The imagery conveyed with this prose is at times very helpful in learing what the characters looked like and acted like, but at other times it was too graphic and disturbing.  The subject matter at times got very rough, and I must forewarn readers about a difficult rape scene to get through.  I find myself able to read/watch most anything, I’ve just become desensitized to things over the years, but this proved rough for even me.

 Todd: I think that Larsson crafted an amazing story, and it was so complex that it seemed at times that he had tons of information to get out in a short amount of time.  I think that the writing was on the shorter side sentence-wise, which makes sense due to the translation.  However, this didn’t detract from the overall feel at all.  I think if anything it helped during the scenes of intense action and mystery.  Larsson is great at building suspense, and made me nervous that something big was about to happen throughout the novel.  The addition of Salander is a great plot point in the book, as she adds a sense of vigilante-ism that is missing in Blomkvist.  She takes matters into her own hands, and extracts a certain vengeance that makes her character all the more badass.

Kim: Another point about this book that I really liked, was that it was an intelligent mystery.  It really required you to pay attention to what you were reading to pick up on the subtleties of the clues.  Blomkvist is definitely one of my favorite protagonist having read this now.  The way he goes about trying to solve this 40+ year mystery is astounding.  I wish my brain functioned like his does!

Todd: I definitely agree with Kim’s point about this being an intelligent mystery.  Not only do you get sporadic clues and delve deeper into the circumstances surrounding Harriet’s disappearance, but you also have to deal with increasing attacks on Blomkvist and Salander’s own well-being.  Someone very badly wants to keep Harriet’s disappearance a mystery, and when that plot point is finally revealed I almost fell out of my chair.  Larsson takes the typical mystery/suspense setup and really turns it on its head.  It is an amazing and complex read.

Kim: I felt smarter after reading it!  The weaving of Salander and Blomkvist’s stories together into one meshes really well. I do also have to say that Todd and I watched the Swedish version of the film and I’d highly recommend that also.  The film sticks close to the book, dropping some of the subplot out for time purposes, but the main bulk of the plot is intact.  I can’t recommend this book enough for those of you wanting to push your brain to a new limit.  Larsson’s writing will have you without a doubt transcending to a new literary level.

Kim: 5 out of 5 Stars

Todd: 5 out of 5 Stars

This is my fourteenth completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge
This is my sixth completed review for the Chunkster Challenge
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (2009)
Paperback 672 pages
ISBN:  9780307473479

Harry Potter Blogsplosion Day 12: #41 A Review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling + GIVEAWAY

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Welcome to the 12th day of the Harry Potter blogsplosion!  Today I’m reviewing the sixth installment of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  This time, we follow Harry in his sixth year at Hogwarts as his nemesis Voldemort grows ever stronger. Harry decides that if he is supposed to battle the Dark Lord, he needs to know more about his past in order to survive.  In order to do so, he works with Dumbledore on their most dangerous and far-reaching journey together yet in the series.

The Half-Blood Prince begins slightly differently than the other Potter books, as Harry is picked up from number four, Privet Drive, by Dumbledore himself.  On the way back to Hogwarts, they stop to persuade Horace Slughorn, former teacher of potions at Hogwarts, to return to his post as potions professor.  (Severus Snape is appointed to the role of Defense Against the Dark Arts professor)  Harry attends classes as usual, and receives a used and marked-up version of the potions textbook, previously owned by a student named the “Half-Blood Prince”.  The annotations written in the book allow Harry to excel in potions, causing him to wonder about who this mysterious student was.  Meanwhile, Dumbledore begins asking Harry to join him for special lessons that will supposedly give Harry an edge over his foe when they inevitably battle.  These lessons turn out to be trips into the pensieve to look back on memories that might hold clues to what Voldemort’s weakness is.  It is through these memories that we learn about horcruxes, objects that hold a piece of one’s soul.  Voldemort it seems has made seven horcruxes, and it’s up to Voldemort and Harry to find them.  Can they do it?  Do they have enough information to start their search?

Half-Blood Prince in my opinion is the second darkest book in the entire series.  (I think there is definitely more darkness in Deathly Hallows, but that’s another review).  This book was the only one I’ve read where I didn’t feel some bit of hope at its end.  For those who have not read the book yet, all I will say is that one of the main characters is murdered towards the end.  It’s shocking, heartbreaking, depressing, and terrifying.  Terrifying because for a fleeting second you can finally recognize the strength that Voldemort and his followers have.  In that fleeting second you see no way of beating him and no way of living in a world filled with goodness and love. 

Everyone always thinks of magic as this amazing talent/gift that they wish they possessed themselves.  It’s really interesting to see the darker side of it, however.  This book is filled with people being cursed at with death spells, spells that inflict mortal harm, destruction, and finally, death.  The fight between light and dark and good and evil is very pronounced in this novel, and Rowling really brings the world of magic to a whole new level.  She definitely makes the story more realistic by doing this, as she reminds us that there are these forces of evil at work in the world, and we must work tirelessly to make sure that they don’t overcome the light of the world.

Half-Blood Prince is definitely worth the depression you feel upon completion of the novel.  Yes, a main character dies, but it brings the reality of the war that the magical world is facing to the front lines of the plot.  I do hope that you read up to this book in the series, and continue on along to the last book.  Half Blood Prince does an excellent job prepping you for the greatest battle the wizarding world has ever seen.   It’s definitely one you don’t want to miss.

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my thirteenth completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge
This is my fifth completed review for the Chunkster Challenge
Scholastic (2005)
Hardcover 652 pages
One lucky winner will have the opportunity to win a copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Paperback) by J.K. Rowling.  For your chance to win simply leave a comment in the thread below.  Comments will be accepted through midnight of Saturday July 30, 2011.  Winner will be picked at random and announced on Sunday July 31, 2011.  Giveaway open to US & Canadian residents only. Good luck!!

Harry Potter Blogsplosion Day 7: #40 A Review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling + GIVEAWAY

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Rowling again graces us with another installment of the life of Harry Potter, our favorite wizard, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  Set during Harry’s fourth year at Hogwarts, a magical school for witches and wizards, we follow Harry as he begins to expand on his previous knowledge of magical defense and an increasing threat from You-Know-Who.

This year, Hogwarts is bestowed the distinction of being the host school for an inter-magical school championship called the Triwizard Tournament.  Held for the first time in centuries, the tournament is comprised of three tasks that are meant to challenge the contestant’s magical skills and ability to perform under pressure.  Typically, it is held with one representative from the three great magical schools: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, The Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, and The Durmstrang Institute, however, this year four champions get selected.  After a student is picked from each of these schools, another name is surprisingly pulled from the cup, announcing the name of the fourth contender.  This fourth champion is Harry Potter, who technically is not allowed to enter the contest because he is well under the 17 year age limit.  However, he is eventually forced to enter as another representative of Hogwarts.  Confused and nervous of what lies ahead, Harry bravely enters the tournament, facing the tasks under the guidance of Alastor Moody, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.  Moody, an ex-auror and famous soldier against Voldemort and his followers, seems to be a huge help to Harry’s cause as he helps him along the way.  However, nothing can prepare Harry for what happens during the third and final task of the tournament.  Will Harry make it out of the tournament alive?  Will he be able to fight Voldemort’s seemingly inevitable rise to power?

What can I say about this book?  It is far and away my favorite Potter book in the series.  Of course, Rowling is a master at weaving multiple plot lines throughout all her novels, but she seems to do it especially well in this particular book.  In addition to the tournament, we also explore Hermione’s quest to gain fair wages and representation for house elves, bringing in complex themes and ideas that we have to see and deal with in our own world.  Also, we find out that Hagrid is half-giant, and we explore the implications this has on his career as Rita Skeeter does her expose on him.  There is also the over-arching theme of “international magical cooperation”, as the separate schools strive to strike up a sense of unity in the magical community.  This is important in the overall scheme of Voldemort’s rise to power, as the wizarding world must not only come to terms with his rise, but band together in order to defeat him.

Additionally, this book is important in that it is the first time which we see Voldemort’s true power as he takes control of his human body.  Up until now his threat had been more distant, as he was too weak to pose any true and present danger to the wizarding world.  Yes, he was becoming stronger, but we don’t totally take that into account until the final showdown of this novel.  The interaction and subsequent battle between Voldemort and Harry at the end of the novel is epic in terms of what it means to Harry and his struggle to avenge his parents’ murder, as well as Voldemort’s rebirth.  Harry now has a face and body to direct his anger towards, and Voldemort can finally try to destroy what almost destroyed him 14 years prior.  It’s interesting that in the face of the evidence of Voldemort’s return that the wizarding world would rather fold and deny such a thing was happening instead of galvanizing to fight him, but Harry of course doesn’t take this path.  His course is now set, and the final chapter of his fight against Voldemort can unfold.  This book is the gateway to the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort, and it’s a crucial pivot point for the series.  Rowling does an excellent job at accomplishing both of these tasks, and every time I read this book it makes me a Harry Potter fan all over again!

5 out of 5 Stars

This is my twelfth completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge
This is my fourth completed review for the Chunkster Challenge
Scholastic (2000)
Hardcover 734 pages
One lucky winner will have the opportunity to win a copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Paperback) by J.K. Rowling.  For your chance to win simply leave a comment in the thread below.  Comments will be accepted through midnight of Saturday July 30, 2011.  Winner will be picked at random and announced on Sunday July 31, 2011.  Giveaway open to US & Canadian residents only. Good luck!!

#32 A Guest Review of The Truth About Mr. Darcy by Susan Adriani

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I recently reviewed The Truth About Mr. Darcy by Susan Adriani for the Austenprose blog.  The novel was originally published as Affinity and Affection

The Truth about Mr. Darcy is a Pride and Prejudice “what-if” variation.  Adriani poses the question, “What if Darcy came clean and told Elizabeth straight up about his prior dealings with Wickham?  Would it have changed her mind about him?  Would Lydia have been able to be saved from a horrible marriage?  These plot paths and more are explored in the novel.

For a direct link to my review click here

As always, thanks to Laurel Ann at Austenprose for the opportunity to review!

This is my seventeenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

This is my third completed review for the Chunkster Challenge