Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling
I kind of felt like there was a lot going on in this book this time around. Not quite enough to make you feel frazzled, but it’s less of a quick read than the others, possibly because it’s the hugest volume of the lot, & it doesn’t have the linear progression of the Triwizard Tournament to keep such a long book focused in the one direction.
That said, the a-lot-going-on-ness in this book (it’s a word if I want it to be a word) means that there’s plenty of room for Rowling to showcase a lot more realistic teenageryness (also totally a word) as well as as more of that beautifully building menace. The teenageryness leans sharply towards the angsty & moody, but I’d be awfully angsty too if I was Harry. (I was an angsty teenager without having been Harry Potter, so his angst is even more justified.)
Also, Order of the Phoenix introduces two of the best characters ever: Dolores Umbridge, who is so deliciously despicable & all without being part of the clear-cut “good people vs Death Eaters” version of good & evil, & Luna Lovegood who is absolutely wonderful & possibly one of my favourite characters ever written because she’s not always entirely sympathetic, & she’d odd, & she’s lonely, & she is utterly delightful in her eccentricity & unexpected wisdom.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling
It’s all about the characters in this book. I love the slow, steady pace at which Harry learns more about Tom Riddle; it becomes the backbone of our understanding of a villain who might otherwise have become caricatural. And have I mentioned lately how much I love the teachers? So many excellent characters to choose from: McGonagall, Slughorn, Trelawney, Snape, Dumbledore no YOU’VE got something in your eye.
Ahem. I love that we see even more of the everyday teenage life of the trio even though the school - & indeed the world - is crumbling down around them. I feel like this book in particular strikes a perfect balance between the characters knowing that people are being taken out of school because their parents have been murdered, & at the same time navigating friendship & schoolwork & first love & all of those other life-or-death things.
I also love that Harry’s obsession with the half-blood prince’s book neatly underlines his tendency to get so caught up in a different mystery that he loses sight of the big picture, before the whole hallows vs horcruxes debacle of the next book.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
This book. This book. This series!
Deathly Hallows isn’t a story about a child wizard in a boarding school. It’s basically dystopian fiction. It’s completely different to the other books, it’s pretty bloody bleak in parts, & every time I re-read it I have a very hard time putting it down.
And you have the cold, dragging chapters where the characters are all depressed & in hiding & have no idea what they’re doing, only that they hafta, you know, save the world. And then you have the hell-for-leather all-or-nothing chapters where they break in to the three biggest magical institutions while also being the Ministry’s Most Wanted. And then you have the Battle of Hogwarts which is epic & amazing & devastating & then you have the hard-won happily ever after & it’s just perfect. (Especially if you ignore the epilogue.)
This is definitely my favourite book of the series, followed, this re-reading, by Goblet of Fire. If I’m to continue rating them in order of preference I think it’d go something like: Half-Blood Prince, Prisoner of Azkaban, Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets & Order of the Phoenix. But that could change next time around.
So, over the course of seven books I teared up six times, cried five times, & full-on sobbed through the entirety of the Battle of Hogwarts. Don’t judge me. You know you did too.
Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan
Sarah Rees Brennan plays with tropes really well, & in this book, like in Unspoken, everything you could possibly want from a YA novel is there: wise-cracking heroine, tortured & broody bad boy, parents who Are Not What They Seem, characters who end up being secretly related, love triangles, selfless sacrifice in the name of love, & a whole heap of romantic drama that could have easily been avoided if those involved had actually talked things through instead of assuming the other person was inexplicably no longer interested in them, &/or keeping away from them For Their Own Safety.
I preferred the first book because the chemistry between the two main characters was a lot stronger & I’m not always a fan of multiple points of view. But like in the first book, the dialogue is hilarious, the characters are great, it’s basically Buffy meets Veronica Mars in the middle of the English countryside & I love it.
Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne
A really exceptional, uncompromising book about obsession, madness & revenge. Emily’s story is told in a skilful & subtle way by an unreliable narrator who should be unsympathetic but instead draws you in & makes you feel every irrational feeling that Emily does, & lets you understand why those feelings - along with the actions that have landed her in a young offenders’ institution - make a perfect twisted kind of sense. Highly recommended.
Saga Volume 1
by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples
I fell in love with this so hard. Breastfeeding, babywearing warrior woman! Star-crossed wartorn interspecies lovers! Lie-detecting cat! Rough, rugged mercenary with a heart of gold! Wisecracking, sarcastic, badly mutilated teenage ghost! It’s like this thing was written for me!
This basically reads as if Neil Gaiman & Joss Whedon* & a heavily pregnant comic book expert (possibly my friend Aoife a year & a bit ago**) sat down & took a lot of drugs (well, maybe not the pregnant comic book expert) & Fiona Staples just went “Okay, I can make the most beautiful art ever to go with this crazy idea & also lots of penises.”
Seriously, it’s possibly not entirely the best thing to read in a very crowded hospital waiting room with one arm in a cast so you can’t hide all the robot sex & rampaging dildoes with the hand not holding the book open. Consider yourselves warned.
*But not actually Joss Whedon because although I love Buffy & Firefly more than I can possibly express, I firmly believe that Joss Whedon should be kept well away from graphic novels. Seriously. I mean, Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways was one of most fun graphic novels I’d read until Whedon got his hands on it. There was NO NEED for intergalactic space travel aliens, OKAY?
** capt-spork ily xoxo
Saga Volume 2 by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Star-crossed married couple! Breastfeeding & babywearing while war rages on! Family drama! Gun-toting magical inlaws! Sexy spider women! Spurned exes! Small girls rescued from slavery! Cyclops romance authors! Gigantic troll testicles! THIS IS SO SO GOOD. I can’t WAIT to read the next one.