Thursday, October 27, 2016

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Guest Post

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince guest post by Dana
Follow her on Twitter

Choosing a favorite Harry Potter book is hardly an easy task. While I can easily narrow it down to my favorite 4, I feel incredibly guilty leaving the others out (except for Chamber of Secrets, I just can’t seem to love it). After much internal debate, I decided to choose Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince for this post. It may not be my “you can only pick one Harry Potter book to read for the rest of your life” favorite but it has some of my FAVORITE and most memorable scenes in it.

I remember when it first came out and I devoured it in the wee early morning of July 16, 2005. I recall the thrill of trying to figure out who the Half Blood Prince was and the devastation of Dumbledore’s death. I’m fairly certain I cried for the entire day and it took me about 2 hours to read the final 3 chapters because of the tears.

With every subsequent reading as time went on, I began to realize how insignificant the entire plot line of Harry’s previously used Potions book. What is always most memorable to me are Harry’s “lessons” with Dumbledore in which we get to dive into the pensieve along with them to discover the secrets of Tom Marvolo Riddle’s history.

Through these memories the readers meet Marvolo Gaunt (Voldemort’s Grandfather) and his children Morfin and Merope. The family has a ring with the Peverall coat of arms engraved on it and a locket that belonged to Salazar Slytherin, whom they are descended from. Merope yearns over Tom Riddle, a muggle who lives down the way. When Morfin and Marvolo are sent to Azkaban, she concocts a love potion which she gives to Tom. They run off together and eventually she believed that his love was real enough that she stops giving him the potion. Tom returned to his home and left Merope alone and with child. The locket is the only possession she has of any value and she sells it to Borgin for far less than it was worth. It is believed that she then stopped using magic and died after giving birth to Tom. Later, Dumbledore visits the orphanage where Tom resides and offers him a place at Hogwarts. When talking with Dumbledore, Tom is suspicious and then overjoyed that he’s different from most people. He tells how he can make animals do things and bad things happen to people. He also has a tendency to take souvenirs from others.

Tom excels at Hogwarts and gathers loyal followers. He is obsessed with his parentage and tracks down his uncle and father during one of his summer breaks. Tom kills his father and muggle grandparents and then modified Morfin’s memories so that he believes he was the one who did it. Also at Hogwarts, Tom uses Professor Slughorn to gather information about Horcruxes and how they’re made. Once finished with his schooling, Tom goes to work at Borgin and Burkes after his request to remain at Hogwarts as a teacher is denied. His job involves the acquisition of items for the shop. On one such trip, he visited multiple times with Hepzibah Smith in the hopes of procuring goblin made armor. Because he is so charming, Hepzibah shows Tom her most treasured items: a golden cup that is said to possess special powers and belonged to Helga Hufflepuff and a locket that once belongs to Slytherin. She died two days later and the items were missing from her home. He resigned from his job and that was the last time Tom Riddle was seen for a while.

About ten years later, Tom returns to Hogwarts to again request a job as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. By this time, he is known as Voldemort and has recruited his loyal Death Eaters. He tells Dumbledore how he has been experimenting with magic but it is to no avail. Dumbledore refuses Tom a job, saying that they both know that he doesn’t really want to teach. From then on, Hogwarts had never been able to keep a DADA professor for more than a year.

I just love these glimpses into the past so much, perhaps it’s the history major in me! The fact that they omitted some of these scenes is my biggest disappointment with the movie version. These bits of the book explain so much about Voldemort and what’s to come for Harry. Dumbledore, knowing his end is coming, gives Harry practically everything he can to help him for when the time comes that he can’t be there.

At the end when Dumbledore is laid to rest and a wizard is saying a few words, Harry recalls with a smile what Dumbledore’s idea of a few words was.

“Nitwit. Blubber. Oddment. Tweak.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Choice of Harry, Ron, or Hermione Ornament (U.S.) - Ends Nov. 12

Another Etsy shop offering up a great Harry Potter giveaway today. This shop is Called and Chosen and it's run by Alexandra. She creates the most wonderful ornaments and figurines. She even has ring holders, cake toppers, etc. This is one shop you need to visit for yourself! 

Before we get to the Harry Potter items, I thought I'd share a couple items I really liked from Alexandra's shop. 

You can get this really cute fox ornament for only $10! Want custom colors? Alexandra would be happy to work with you!

There are even a lot of fun character options, like Sadness from the movie Inside Out.

Sadness Ornament, Inside Out ornament, Sadness Cake Topper, Sadness Christmas ornament, Christmas ornament, Inside Out Caketopper

You can get this Sadness ornament for $15 and you are given the choice of making it into a cake topper too if you want!

Now...let's get to Harry Potter! 

Luna Lovegood Ornament, Luna, Luna Lovegood Caketopper , Luna Lovegood Christmas ornament, Hogwarts Christmas ornament, Christmas ornament

One of my favorite options is the Luna Lovegood ornament. It's fun seeing secondary HP characters being featured and Luna is one of my most favorite characters! Luna's ornament is $17.

Any Hedwig fans out there?

Hedwig Ornament, Hedwig figurine, Harry Potter ornament, Hedwig Christmas ornament, Hogwarts Christmas ornament, Christmas ornament

You can get this cute little Hedwig ornament for just $8! What an adorable stocking stuffer! 

Finally, we have options for the giveaway. One winner will get their choice of a Hermione ornament, a Harry ornament, or a Ron ornament. Each of these are available for $17 or you can get all three for $50!

Harry, Hermione, and Ron Ornament Set, Harry Potter ornament set, Cake Toppers, Hogwarts Christmas ornaments, Christmas ornaments

I love that they each are holding something iconic to their character! Which one would you choose for your Christmas tree?

Giveaway Time!

Open to: U.S. only
Prize: winner's choice between Harry, Hermione, or Ron
Ends: November 12
Enter if you are 13 years of age or older, or you have parental permission
Neither Alexandra nor I are responsible for lost or damaged mail

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Guest Post

source: photo by Michelle
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix guest post by Michelle
Follow her on Twitter
Check out her blog, Pink Polka Dot Books

The first time I read the Harry Potter series, it was almost like a religious experience for me. From the first sentence of the first book, I was completely enamored, couldn't wait to read more, and knew that I'd probably never feel that exact way about a series ever again.

During my first read of the series, my favorite book hands-down was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. And believe me, I know this is NOT a popular favorite to have.... but I'm used to being the black sheep of reading, so it's cool :)

7 Reasons Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Is An Important Installment In The Series:

1. It's the book that comes after the "After" moment.
  • When the incident in the graveyard happens, it's clear that the games are over and things in Harry's world have just gotten real. Nothing was ever going to be the same again. With the start of the fifth book, it was obvious that the dark times had begun and that Harry's childhood is officially over.
2. It was the start of Harry not being able to count on Dumbledore
  • Before this book, it seemed like Dumbledore had all the answers. He was almost like a father figure for him at times. Before this book, I was VERY trustful of Dumbledore, knew that he would swoop in when times got too tough, and knew that he would help Harry understand what was going on with his wise words.
  • But then Dumbledore isolated and abandoned Harry after one of the most hellish moments of his life. The summer after the graveyard thing, there's radio silence from the wizarding world-- and it's on Dumbledore's orders. When Dumbledore showed up to Harry's disciplinary hearing, he's relieved to finally be able to talk to his mentor.... but Dumbledore brushes him off. He then spends the rest of the book acting like he barely knows Harry-- and even though Dumbledore believes he's doing this to protect Harry, it still supremely sucks.
  • When Harry finally gets the chance to go off on Dumbledore-- it was one of the BEST moments in the whole series. It's also nice that J.K. Rowling got us in the mind-set that Dumbledore isn't going to be the one Harry can count on because as we learn later, he really can't.
3. Umbridge
  • Dolores Umbridge might be my favorite villain in any book or movie ever. And by favorite, I mean least favorite because I've never hated anyone as much as I hated that vile woman.
  • There's something supremely creepy about her toad-like appearance mixed with the pink bows and cat adorned china. You just don't expect someone as evil as her to have an office full of doilies.
  • Why I hated her more than Voldemort is that she's masquerading as one of the good guys. She's somehow in a high position at the Ministry of Magic and she uses that position to justify all her crazy-doings. At least Voldemort is out in the open about his badness.
4. Luna Lovegood
  • We meet LUNA in this book!!! And I freaking love Luna. On that note, there's a CREW of new characters introduced and most of them are AWESOME (except Cho Chang, because she sucks).
5. Dumbledore's Army
  • The beloved D.A. is put together in this book because of Umbridge's refusal to teach them any real defenses against dark magic. This might be the most important thing that Harry, Ron, and Hermione do because without the D.A. I don't think they would've been able to succeed going further.
6. Epic Final Battle Scene
  • All the main players show up in the Ministry of Magic for a showdown. It's my favorite action sequence in the whole series.
7. It showed me that J.K. Rowling wasn't messing around.
  • This book is full of failure. Dumbledore fails Harry by not keeping him in the know. Harry and crew are deadly wrong about the Department of Mysteries and they fail to come out of it unscathed. The bad guys fail to secure the prophecy. Everyone loses in this book. And when Rowling kills off a major character (and Harry's last shot at a real family), I knew that no one was safe.
So yeah, this isn't a sexy choice as #1 favorite Harry Potter book. Harry is moody and angsty, the mood of the book is dark and depressing, and nothing ever seems to work out in the hero's favor. BUT-- I think the series needed this book to show us that it's more complex than a typical good vs. bad, hero always triumphs story.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Review by Lauren

source: copy from BloggingForBooks; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryIn Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it's falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you're constantly reminded that no one looks like you. 

In "How to Look Spectacular: A Starlet's Confessions", Kaling gives her tongue-in-cheek secrets for surefire on-camera beauty, ("Your natural hair color may be appropriate for your skin tone, but this isn't the land of appropriate-this is Hollywood, baby. Out here, a dark-skinned woman s traditional hair color is honey blonde.") "Player" tells the story of Kaling being seduced and dumped by a female friend in L.A. ("I had been replaced by a younger model. And now they had matching bangs.") In "Unlikely Leading Lady", she muses on America's fixation with the weight of actresses, ("Most women we see onscreen are either so thin that they're walking clavicles or so huge that their only scenes involve them breaking furniture.") And in "Soup Snakes", Kaling spills some secrets on her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and close friend, B.J. Novak ("I will freely admit: my relationship with B.J. Novak is weird as hell.") 
Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays that anyone who's ever been at a turning point in their life or career can relate to. And those who've never been at a turning point can skip to the parts where she talks about meeting Bradley Cooper.


To be honest, I've never watched Mindy Kaling all that much, but I do know a bit about her and I think she's a great actress. I've wanted to read her memoirs for awhile now, and while I still need to check out her first one, I saw this one up for review on BloggingForBooks and I knew I had to check it out. I'm definitely glad that I did!

Mindy is amusing and real. She actually talks about not liking the term "real" when it's related to the way she looks, because it's almost as if they are vaguely insulting her, and I have to agree with that. I think of "real" as someone who seems down-to-earth or at least like someone who doesn't let fame go their head. You can't tell if a celebrity is real or faking it, but sometimes, like with people such as Mindy, you get the distinct impression that they really are how they present themselves. I think Mindy seems like a great person. She has faults and things about her that you might not like, and that she doesn't necessarily like either, but you can still see her and read her stories and believe she's ultimately a good person.

Why Not Me? is full of essays about Mindy's life, mostly focusing on her time in Los Angeles and being an actress. Granted, she still talks about issues and topics that anyone can relate to such as beauty standards, dating/romance, work (no matter what work you do), and more. Sure, you get fun stories about her dating someone who worked for Obama and working on a TV show that she created, but these are still enjoyable to read. I like celebrity memoirs that give you a look at their "real life" as well as their more "famous life" if you will.

Whether you know Mindy really well or not, I do think you should check this one out. Get it from your library even! It's a quick, entertaining read.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Swapoween Gift Reveal: What I Gave + What I Got

I love all things Halloween so I had to take part in the Swapoween Swap hosted by Chaotic Goddess Swaps and it was a lot of fun. This year, they had odd numbers so the person I sent to is not the person who sent to me but it's nice to get to know two bloggers this way!

First off, I gave to Kristen from The Book Monsters. I always love getting a fellow book lover in swaps just because I know ONE thing that they would love to receive. If you'd like to see what I gave Kristen, check out her post on Instagram.

Now, here is what I received from the lovely Elizabeth at Elizabeth Blair Books. She did such a good job at shopping for me! I just loved it all!

I opened up the box and saw this fun Halloween card and lots of orange and black tissue paper!

Elizabeth sent me so many fun goodies, I had to break it all up into different photos. In the one above, you can see the two Halloween socks (I'm wearing the orange/gray ones now), three awesome mystery/thriller books, and a book with lots of fun Halloween party ideas. I love throwing parties, so this was such fun! I also got awesome Halloween/fall themed bookmarks - I especially love the ones that you can color in!

I also got this really cute tumblr. If you can't read it, it says "if the shoe fits...wear it" and it's got lots of fun witchy shoes!

Even better? Elizabeth put a few Cadbury Scream Eggs inside the tumblr! I LOVE these.

Finally, all the other goodies that I got! As you can tell, Elizabeth did not skimp on the candy. I love that she put the candy and the Larabar's in cute Halloween bags. I included one at the top of the photo so that you could see!

Thank you SO much Elizabeth. You did a fantastic job; I seriously love it all.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Win 1 Dozen Harry Potter Cookies (U.S.) - Ends Nov 12

Cookies inspired by Harry Potter - listing for 1 dozen

Distinctly Delicious Desserts by Jennifer is a great Etsy shop where you can buy all sorts of different cookies. You can choose from Holidays, Sports, Animals, and more! And since it's Harry Potter month, you can even buy 1 dozen Harry Potter cookies for $32 on Jennifer's Etsy shop. This is what one U.S. winner will get if they enter the below giveaway. Before that though, let's take a look at some of Jennifer's other fun creations.

You can get Superhero Character Cookies, inspired by Marvel:

Super Hero Character Cookies (inspired by Marvel)

Another set of cookies I thought my readers would enjoy are these Alice in Wonderland Inspired Cookies - you can get 1 dozen for $36.

Full size Alice in Wonderland inspired cookies - listing is for 1 dozen cookies

I just love the details! I wish I could decorate a cookie half as well as Jennifer does!

Giveaway Time:

-winner gets 1 dozen HP cookies
-open to U.S. only
-must be 13 years of age or older to enter; unless you have parental permission
-we are not responsible for lost/broken items in the mail
-giveaway ends November 12

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Guest Post: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Goblet of Fire Guest Post
By: Maria Zuppardi

Twitter: @MariaZuppardi

The fourth Harry Potter book is kind of super amazing, if you haven’t read it already! I find that this is the point where this series takes a dark turn. We start this book off with the murder of the Riddle family that Harry is dreaming about - not exactly a nice scene at the beginning! This is however offset through the (temporary) excitement of the Quidditch World Cup, which was such a good match! I get so into it whenever I read it….I mean who doesn’t?

I liked the chaotic feel to this book; Harry was always on edge when he didn’t know what to do about an upcoming Triwizard Tournament challenge, or because of the mystery behind Rita Skeeter and her Harry + Hermione rumours, the threat of the Dark Mark and the implications behind it - this was such a crazy book to read because again, it was a different feel from the first three books, but I like it! At this point, Harry and the gang are older, J.K. Rowling’s audience is getting a bit older so it makes sense that she would write this differently.

My favourite part of the book was the ending, when Sirius ends up at the castle almost losing his mind about what Harry went through. Sirius is my favourite character, so any part he’s in I just LOVE! Harry never had a father figure growing up, so it was nice to see Sirius taking on this role way better than Vernon Dursley. Sirius has done better parenting for Harry in over a year than Vernon ever did.

Honourable Mentions

  1. Dobby. Bless him for being a paid member of the Hogwarts faculty! Even though he’s not the most liked elf in the kitchen, he’s really doing something right and following something he believes in. He wants to redefine the boundaries and create a better life for himself and other elves.
  2. Dobby (again) - just because he gave Harry the gillyweed which helped him for the second challenge.
  3. Hermione for always being badass, and figuring out a few key facts along the way.  
  4. Barty Crouch Jr. Let’s face it, it takes some serious dedication to act like a world-renowned Auror. And convince everyone around him that he IS one. Although obviously not done for the right reasons, it’s still a pretty cool undercover mission.
  5. Voldemort. He isn’t the most feared wizard of all time for nothing! From literally going to a gross-looking thing and growing into a full-fledged man was a frighteningly awesome scene both in the book and the movie.
Overall, I think this book was great preparation for the deaths in the other books. There’s really not much to critique here, because I love this book! It’s my second favourite one in the series because of all the action and the amount of new characters introduced. I loved meeting the different wizarding schools. Most of all though, I love J.K. Rowling’s writing ability and how she conveys a story that the whole world can fall in love with.