Playing Harry Potter Spell Book Tag!

Sumaira at Hyper About Books recently shared her Harry Potter Spell Book Tag list and challenged anyone who read it to take part in the game. Well, I couldn’t resist – I mean, we’re talking about Harry Potter, folks! So, here are the ten books I’ve chosen for my round of Harry Potter Spell Book Tag.

1. Expecto Patronum — A childhood book connected to good memories

Magic Locket cover

Elizabeth Koda-Callan’s Magic Charm Books: Each story tells of a little girl’s struggle to believe in herself using examples such as learning to dance, being cast in the lead role of a school play, and coping with the birth of a new sibling. As a child, I felt connected to the main characters because they were about my age and I could relate to their experiences. What made the Magic Charm Books so special, though, were the necklaces that came with each book. Koda-Callan obviously knew that children often need something tangible to help them apply the lessons they learn. What better – and prettier! – way to help little girls remember the Magic Charm Books’ messages of courage and self-confidence than by offering a necklace with a charm that symbolizes each book’s unique story? Continue reading

Recent Reads: “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky

Perks-Wallflower 2012 cover

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky
Contemporary Fiction / Young Adult


Charlie is a freshman.

And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

Rating: 4.25 / 5, and *Unputdownable*

Awwwwwww! Yes, I had to start my review of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks Of Being A Wallflower that way. I’ll admit that I was already familiar with the story thanks to seeing the film adaptation starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson (which I adored!). So, I was looking forward to reading the novel when I finally got it – but I wasn’t expecting it would further endear me to Charlie, the introverted, intelligent yet socially awkward protagonist.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower chronicles Charlie’s freshman year of high school in the form of letters typed by Charlie to an anonymous friend. The novel acts as the character’s diary, revealing Charlie’s observations, secrets, and discoveries about life as well as the darkest corners of his childhood. Readers learn about his anxieties over high school, his family life, and the new friends who open his eyes and change his life forever. The most memorable of those friends are Patrick, a rebellious senior who celebrates and struggles with his homosexuality, and Patrick’s candid, nurturing, and equally free-spirited step-sister Sam, whom Charlie falls for despite her being in a relationship with someone else.

Chbosky’s epistolary format of The Perks Of Being A Wallflower brings the reader so intimately close to Charlie that it’s impossible not to bond with him. You’ll feel his excitement over attending his first party, his disappointment whenever he sees Sam with her boyfriend, his sadness when he recalls his birthday as the anniversary of his beloved Aunt Helen’s fatal car accident. Perks is also an excellent exercise in voice. Charlie’s language is plain and to-the-point; it truly resembles how high school students talk. At the same time, it masterfully explores the depth of Charlie’s intellect and emotions and lifts it all to the surface in ways that readers of all ages can understand and relate to.

I can understand why some people have challenged or been offended by the book’s mature content (mostly drug / alcohol use and sex). However, I wouldn’t place myself among those opponents, even though I chose not to participate in such experimentation as a teenager. Here’s my take: Had Charlie not dabbled in those areas of life, I doubt he would have grown in the way he needed to in order to move on from his past. Sometimes we have to be thrown out of our comfort zone in order to evolve. By the time Charlie writes his final letter, the core of who he is hasn’t changed, but he’s a stronger, more grateful character who’s ready to live life to the fullest.

The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was how the major revelation of Perks was handled. It sneaks up on the reader, without indication that something unspeakable had happened to Charlie when he was younger. Perhaps his younger self didn’t understand what had been going on, and he had repressed those memories until they clawed their way out at the story’s climax. I swear it was approached differently in the film (gradual hints instead of suddenly), but I could be wrong. Regardless, even though I knew the revelation was coming, the book treats it more like a last-minute plot twist than an explanation for some of Charlie’s behaviors.

I knew I loved The Perks Of Being A Wallflower when I finished it, though. It’s the first novel where I wanted to reach through the pages and hug the protagonist – on multiple occasions, and for different reasons. When a story elicits that kind of emotional reaction from readers, you have to applaud the author. That’s the ultimate reason why Perks is a must-have for every YA lit lover’s bookshelf (though the subject matter requires an open mind) and deserving of its recognition as a timeless classic in its genre.

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Deciding whether to buy The Perks Of Being A Wallflower from Amazon? Let me know whether you found my review helpful by clicking here and selecting either “Yes” or “No.”

Recent Reads: “Insurgent” by Veronica Roth

Insurgent cover

Veronica Roth
Young Adult / Dystopian / Science Fiction

Summary: One choice can transform you – or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves – and herself – while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable – and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

Rating: 3.75 / 5

After seeing the recently released “Divergent” film (I read Divergent the book last year), I grabbed Insurgent off my bookshelf and started reading it when I got home. It was an excellent idea; the plot, characters, and world were all fresh in mind, so diving into Insurgent felt like slipping into my most comfortable pair of jeans. And like with Divergent, I had a hard time putting down Insurgent once I started reading it. The major difference? I was more satisfied with the sequel than I was with the original.

With Insurgent, Veronica Roth has mastered the art of suspense. She excels with writing action and maintaining a brisk, breathless clip, even during the quieter scenes. And gosh, does she know how to create a plot twist. They always come at the right times – and regardless of whether it’s a shocking betrayal from someone Tris believed was an ally or a surprise rescue by someone she swore was an enemy, the twists never fail to leave readers agape, even after each character’s motives have been revealed.

I also came away pleased with the evolution of Tris and Four / Tobias’s relationship. Their attraction to one another in Divergent seemed almost purely physical, with little substance. It’s still this way when Insurgent begins – and then BOOM! Between Tris’s hasty decisions that put her life at constant risk, Tobias’s disagreements with Tris’ (often correct) intuition, and the secrets they hide from one another, the couple grows deeply concerned and frustrated with one another. The arguments that follow explode on the page, and it’s terrific. Once the anger fades, the reader clearly sees why these two characters care about each other and can truly root for Tris and Four to succeed together.

While I have no complaints about plot or characters, the first several chapters almost suffocated me with Tris’ guilt trip over killing her friend Will in the previous book. I completely understand it was a traumatic experience for Tris, but how necessary was it her to wallow in her grief and remorse afterwards to the extent and length of time that she does? If it wasn’t for Roth’s exhilarating writing style, continuing to read this book would have been a burden. Thankfully the anguish lifts once Tris accepts Will’s death, making the rest of Insurgent a rewarding experience.

Other critiques I have for Insurgent are nitpicks and pet peeves. For example, way too many chapters and individual scenes within chapters begin with Tris waking up. More variety in scene and chapter beginnings would have made these transitions less repetitive. Otherwise, I found Insurgent a thrilling and satisfying second act to Roth’s Divergent series. It’s rare that the second book in a trilogy betters the first – and since Divergent left me excited yet dissatisfied, I was all the more pleased that Insurgent improved on all the areas where its predecessor was lacking. Now I look forward to reading the trilogy’s finale, Allegiant. I do know how that last book ends (it’s impossible to avoid reading the online discussions because of the controversy it caused) and how it’s a dual narrative switching between Tris and Tobias, but I’m going to read Allegiant with an open mind and reserve all opinions for when I’ve finished it.

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Deciding whether to buy Insurgent from Amazon? Let me know whether you found my review helpful by clicking here and selecting either “Yes” or “No.”

Coming Soon: I’m most of the way through Lynn Kurland’s fantasy romance novel Dreamspinner, and that book will be my next Recent Read. Before that, though, keep an eye out for my next Music Monday Review, on Stream Of Passion’s A War Of Our Own.