sonk’s #CBR5 Reviews #59 – #65

I’m finally done!

#59: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (5 stars)

#60: Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III (3 stars)

#61: Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff (2 stars)

#62: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman (4 stars)

#63: Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker (3 stars)

#64: Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness by Erich Schiffman (4 stars)

#65: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (5 stars)

Baxlala’s CBR5 Review #26: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

With this post, I will have made it to my goal for the year, which was half-Cannonball, but I’m still a bit disappointed in myself for this last post, as it’s something I’ve already written so it kind of feels like cheating? I don’t know. I’ve signed up for the full Cannonball next year and hope that, with the help of my 2014 motto (TRY HARDER), I will actually achieve it for the first time ever WOOHOO!

Anyway. HARRY POTTER! Like the three HP posts before it, it has been crossposted from The Harry Potter Medicinal Reread.


Like Ashley, I have a very vivid memory of reading Goblet of Fire, much clearer than my memories of reading the first three (barring that first, life-altering moment in the library break room, of course). I’d been visiting a friend in North Carolina when the book came out and I bought it on my way to the airport so I could read it on my return flight home. I didn’t want the plane ride to end, even though I was wedged between the window and the very large man seated next to me, so caught up was I in this book. It might be my favorite. But then again, my favorite Harry Potter book really seems to depend on what mood I’m in. Or whatever one I happen to be reading at the time. Anyway.

(BONUS FACT THAT NO ONE CARES ABOUT: My NC friend and I met on the internet, brought together by our overwhelming love of The X-Files. Somehow, two summer before, I’d convinced my parents to drive us all to North Carolina from Ohio, so my friend and I could see The X-Files movie together. We saw it four times on opening day. I KNOW.)


You guys, I have a confession to make: I hate Quidditch. Or, to put it more accurately, I hate READING about Quidditch. Luckily, despite the title, this chapter deals with more than just Quidditch. I just said Quidditch a lot. QUIDDITCH QUIDDITCH QUIDDITCH. (Did you know saying it three times in a row makes Oliver Wood appear?)

 photo oliverwood_zps7f2f63f5.gif

Hey girl.

The Weasleys, Harry, and Hermione all have seats in the Top Box. They meet Winky, a house elf belonging (gross) to Barty Crouch. It turns out she knows Dobby, but she’s ashamed of him because he wants to be paid for his work now. SPOILER ALERT: this will be important later.

Harry buys them all Omnioculars, magical (duh) thingies (technical name) that can slow down and speed up the events viewed through them. (Later, during the mascot display, Ron shoves a handful of leprechaun gold at Harry to pay him back, not realizing that, being leprechaun gold, it will disappear later. Poor Won-Won.)

There’s a tense moment as the Malfoys enter the box. It’s especially icky when you consider that the last time Lucius and Arthur met, Lucius gave Arthur’s daughter a book that would possess her with the spirit of Voldemort himself. FUCKED UP. Lucius, of course, makes a crack about how the Weasleys were able to afford so many tickets to the match. (Also, and I don’t want to know why, but my brain really wants to write Luscious instead of Lucius.)

Continue reading

reginadelmar’s #CBRV review #37 The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy begins very abruptly with the death of Barry Fairbrother, a parish councilman in the small English town of Pagford.  Pagford neighbors the Fields council estate.  The privileged townspeople of Pagford see the Fields residents as drug-addicted parasites, and the Fields residents see the townspeople as elitist snobs. Barry, who grew up in the Fields worked to help those in the Fields, in particular one teenaged girl: Krystal Weedon.  Krystal is a stereotypical juvenile delinquent with a drug-addicted mother, until Barry convinces her to participate on the school’s rowing team.  The rowing team gave her a touch of confidence; yet, with the death of Barry she’s right back where she started.

 The book follows Krystal and numerous other residents of the Fields and Pagford. In Pagford Howard Mollison, deli-owner and council president, schemes to fill Barry’s council seat with his own son.  His daughter in-law Samantha is bored with small town life and opposes her father-in-law’s scheme.  Colin Wall is a deputy head teacher who wants to carry on Barry’s legacy, and then there is Simon Price, a truly despicable character who runs for the seat hoping to profit from political graft.

 The candidates all get a rude awakening when the “ghost of Barry Fairbrother” appears on the council’s website revealing one of Simon’s secrets.  In a gossipy bitchy little town like Pagford, suspicions and accusations fly.

 The children of these characters are all teenagers attending the same school.  They too are cruel and petty. Suhkvinder Jawanda who is bullied by Fats Wall.  Andrew Price is Fats’ best friend, who doesn’t understand Fats’ cruelty.  Andrew Price in turn has a crush on Gaia, the new girl in town, whose mother dragged her to Pagford as part of her own romantic pursuit.  Krystal is in the center of all this, protecting her younger brother Robby from their mother and from the social service workers as best she can.

 Pagford is a small town inhabited by a lot of small-minded people.  I found it impossible to empathize with any of the adults, but felt drawn to Krystal, Andrew and Suhkvinder.  The plot started out a bit slowly, but picked up somewhere in the middle.  Overall, I found this to be a good read.

sonk’s #CBR5 Review #51: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Order of the Phoenix picks up a few weeks after the events of the fourth book, and Harry is in a bad place. He’s still traumatized after witnessing the murder of his Tri-Wizard tournament competitor, Cedric Diggory, and he’s being painted as a liar and attention-seeker by the wizarding media, who don’t believe his statement that Lord Voldemort has returned. To make matters worse, once he returns to Hogwarts, he finds that Dumbledore is acting very strangely around him, and the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Umbridge, is perhaps the worst one yet.

Read the rest of my review here.

bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #62: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

As celebration for passing my Doctoral Qualifying Exam, I indulged in another pilgrimage through Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, one of my favorites in the entire series.

Harry finds himself searching for Horcruxes, items that contain pieces of Lord Voldemort’s soul. With only a few hints and a few tools bequeathed by Dumbledore, Harry, Ron, and Hermione try to navigate a world made unfamiliar by Death Eaters, the threat of capture or murder hovering over them at every turn. This is the book where the loose ends are tied up, and the story definitively ends for a resolution that most will find satisfying.

There are several beautiful passages about the nature of friendship, death, and love that make me hope Rowling finds her footing in other writing. Her adult plotting in The Casual Vacancy left me wishing for more, but she hits many right notes in the Harry Potter series, and I’m always delighted to read through them, but always slightly regretful when it’s over.

You may also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.

bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #58: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

*My apologies, Cannonballers. For some reason, this posted as a draft and was not published. I blame exam stress.

I find Half-Blood Prince to be highly interesting, because it deals with the construction of memory. It takes us to fascinating places in the mind that transcend the castle walls. I had friends mourn that we had moved away from the world of Quidditch and castle exploration, but I didn’t. To me, the series matured as Harry did, and we became immersed into the adult wizarding world as Harry did.

This time, Harry finds a Potions textbook with the inscription claiming ownership by a “Half-Blood Prince,” which he finds fascinating. Simultaneously, he has been asked to take private lessons with Dumbledore, all while trying to avoid being “collected” by new Potions professor, Horace Slughorn. In his lessons, he and Dumbledore travel backwards in time via memory, to figure out the origins of Lord Voldemort, aka Tom Marvolo Riddle, and how best to defeat him.

The novel ends rather shockingly (although I was spoiled to the ending the first time I’d read it, which made me so angry). I won’t go into it here for the handful of you who have not read, but it still takes my breath away. Of course, knowing what I do, little clues have been planted all along to make me marvel at the way Rowling had envisioned her series. Half-Blood Prince sets up the final book quite nicely, and we didn’t have to wait ten years for it, either!

You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.

bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #57: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Traditionally, Order of the Phoenix has been my least favorite Harry Potter book. But maybe this time around, with exam anxiety looming large, I found myself highly enjoying (or at least amused by) Harry’s A.N.G.S.T.

In short: Harry is a hormonal teenager. He’s angry about the fact that no one is letting him in the loop about the revival of the Order of the Phoenix, the anti-Voldemort league. He’s angry that Dumbledore seems to be avoiding contact with him. Meh, he’s just kind of moody in general (and they say girls are bad!). He keeps having strange dreams, while trying to ward off a threateningly saccharine and disturbing new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. All while trying to stay safe from the returned Lord Voldemort.

There were so many times when I would just snap, “Shut your DAMN MOUTH, Harry,” or “Harry, STOP,” or “Harry, you’re STUPID.” Clearly, if I have boy-children, I am going to be such a loving and supportive mom. Ahem…Harry. My husband believes Rowling got the teenage angst absolutely down (from the male perspective). I just kept. rolling. my. eyes.

I will say that the introduction of Dolores Umbridge was genius. Listen, we’ve all had an Umbridge in our lives. She’s a maddening figure. The girlish laugh, the garish trappings, strange rules, and power-hungry moves. They are frightening in a different way from the obvious evil that is out there in the world. So I found the Weasley twins’ final stand to be completely satisfying and delightful, along with Umbridge’s comeuppance.

You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.

bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #55: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

I consider GOF to be the “transition” book in the series–despite scary dementors and basilisks, there are quite a few childish romps. But here, the end is absolutely gutting.

Harry is about to begin his fourth year at Hogwarts. He gets to go to the Quidditch World Cup with the Weasleys, where somebody lets off a Dark Mark using Harry’s wand. The Dark Mark is the sign that Lord Voldemort used to summon his followers and to show off that he had just done great evil. So…everyone gets nervous.

Then, at Hogwarts, there is a Tri-Wizard Tournament that is going to take place at the school. Two other schools, Beauxbatons in France, and Durmstrang somewhere in Russia or Eastern Europe (based on characters’ names), will participate. One champion of-age from each school will participate. But there’s a kink in the plan–someone enters Harry’s name without his knowledge or permission. So he has to participate.

This book showed me where some of Harry’s intellectual flaws lay. I think he relies too much on his own bravado and doesn’t always follow his head–like Hermione. Maybe it’s that my own career has me in-my-head soooo much that Harry’s brushing off the library or intelligent things just gets irritating after awhile (we won’t even start on Ron).

Of course, it’s hard to disassociate the book from the movie these days, so the Cedric parts always reminded me of a much younger and more innocent Robert Pattinson:


Poor RPatz. You had no idea the Twilight taint would fall so hard upon you.

I found Cedric to be a tragic character, beyond the oh-look-poor-pre-Twilight-RPatz phenomenon. Cedric is honestly just in the wrong place at the wrong time. And that’s all I can say, except that the end had my eyes slowly leaking tears for quite a few of the final two or three chapters.

And then, of course, there’s the problem that I am still stuck on Season 2 of Doctor Who because I cannot get THIS image out of my head:


It’s a real dilemma.

You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.

bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #54: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

This is my favorite Harry Potter book. Bar none (well, maybe a few moments from Deathly Hallows qualify…but still). I feel that the awkward transition from the descriptive, childlike wonder of discovering a new world starts to give way to finding one’s place in said world begins here.

Harry’s third year at Hogwarts begins with a bang (or a blow-up) in The Prisoner of Azkaban. Pompous old windbag Aunt Marge finds herself ballooning out of the house, Violet Beauregard-style, after making nasty digs at Harry and his parentage at the Dursleys’ supper table. This comedic scene quickly yields to the terror of running away and discovering that a dangerous murderer named Sirius Black is hunting down Harry. The Ministry of Magic is determined to catch Black and send him back to Azkaban, the prison where all wizards are sent. To apprehend him, they have truly frightening creatures, dementors, standing guard outside Hogwarts. They literally suck your happiness out until they eat your soul up. I think this is one of Rowling’s scarier and more inventive creations. Of course, in this Hogwarts universe, not everyone is who we think they are, so we have some interesting twists and turns that I frankly did not expect the first time I read it.

Sirius is one of Rowling’s more interesting characters in this book (though she definitely drops the ball in Book 5, but I’ll hash that out in my review when I finally get around to reading it). Here is a man maligned by the entire wizarding world who manages to escape a heavily guarded prison where your feelings are slowly sucked away with some semblance of sanity and ambition. Granted, I’m not just saying this because I imagine Gary Oldman


I think he and Remus Lupin are fascinating adults, especially in their rather laddish past with James Potter. And the contrast between them and Severus Snape is also interesting, even uncomfortable. And, when you return to the series after finishing, you find little pieces that fall into place, which makes it even better than the first time you read.

You can also ogle Gary Oldman on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed (hint: there’s a picture of him in my review for the excellent Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).

bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #53: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

What better way to enter the last pre-exam weeks than with Harry Potter? Since it’s been about 3-4 years since I last read the series, it’s time for another read through.

In The Chamber of Secrets, Harry finds himself being thwarted on a return to Hogwarts by a house elf named Dobby. For reasons he cannot quite figure out, it is too dangerous for Harry to return to Hogwarts. Later, we find out that magical people who aren’t born of magic-born folk are in danger of attacks from someone who claims to be Salazar Slytherin’s heir opening the urban myth Chamber of Secrets. Of course, it turns out to be all too real.

While this has historically been one of my least favorite books (and my least favorite film), I did enjoy it this pass. Maybe it’s the simple act of immersing myself in the Hogwarts world and not focusing on the literary aspects that gave me more patience for one of the slower books. Or maybe it’s the mysterious Tom Riddle who gives hints about the past and future of Harry and his nemesis, Lord Voldemort. Or maybe I was just picturing Jason Isaacs (helloooo, Lover!) as Luscious, er, Lucius Malfoy. I always hated that Orlando Bloom Legolas wig they made Isaacs wear for the movies.

Lucius Malfoy

He deserves much, much better than that.



You can also ogle Jason Isaacs on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.