Month: November 2015

Nov 24

Thoughts on Revisiting Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets

Fantasy, Readalong, Young Adult Fiction 10

Great Maggoty Haggis, Bookworms!

I’m trying to work that phrase into my lexicon because I like coming up with alternatives to swearing. Not that I have a problem with profanity, because I don’t, I just prefer my language to be a bit more colorful. The Harry Potter books never fail to supply me with entertaining phrases. Which brings me to the point! I’m still trucking along with The Estella Society’s #PotterBinge re-read-along and it has been delightful. Since I had so much fun logging my thoughts with The Sorcerer’s Stone, I thought I’d continue the concept with Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets. Ready?!

  • Oh Dobby! The self flagellation! He’d fit right in to one of those penance parades they had in The Seventh Seal. Yeesh.
  • I love me some lock-picking Weasley twins.
  • I am still desperately ashamed that GIlderoy Lockhart was a Ravenclaw. Ugh.
  • Ginny almost forgot that blasted diary at The Burrow! If only she’d left the darn thing!
  • For some reason imagining a pair of 12 year old boys driving a car on the road seems much more insane than a pair of 12 year old boys flying an enchanted car through the air…
  • Fred and George never got caught with the car despite having taken it out a number of time. It proves, once again, that they are criminal masterminds working for the greater good and general mischief.
  • Oh, Errol. You poor, ridiculous owl.
  • I want to punch Lockhart ALL. THE. TIME.
  • The earmuffs in the mandrake scene made me think of Scream Queens and that girl who always wears fancy designer earmuffs. Apparently there will be a scripted reason for her doing so at some point, but since the actress is Carrie Fisher’s daughter (!!!) they thought the Princess Leia homage would be funny.
  • Alright, you guys. Cornish Pixies. Is it not more correct to call them “piskies” in the Cornish dialect? Did they get translated to “pixies” in the American version or is it like that in the British version too?
  • Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeves! That punk never made it into the movies, but I forgot that he was the one who broke the vanishing cabinet Draco ended up fixing to cause all that trouble later on!
  • Even the Hufflepuff ghost is cheery. Go out and hug a Hufflepuff! I bet they give the best hugs.
  • “Great Maggoty Haggis” is my new catch phrase. (See? I’m already putting it into practice.)
  • Hermione steals from Snape. Classic. Badass.
  • Dear Ginny, since when are fresh pickled toads in any way romantic?
  • “When in doubt, go to the library”- sound advice.
  • Dude, Harry can put together crazy clues about the Basilisk and reflective surfaces but it takes him FOREVER to figure out that Tom Riddle is up to no good.
  • Who does wizard laundry if house elves can’t handle clothes? I have a hard time imagining Narcissa Malfoy scrubbing anyone’s under drawers… This has been bothering me for years.
  • A pajama feast is obviously the best way to end a story.

There we have it, Bookworms. My thoughts on the second installment of the #PotterBinge. Is anybody else playing along? I’m seriously pondering this laundry issue, I’d love to hear your theories on it. 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*


Nov 23

The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell

Memoirs, Non Fiction 6

Greetings Bookworms!

You know how they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover? Since I do a lot of my reading digitally, I’m not usually prone to that, but I am guilty of judging a book by it’s title. I was browsing NetGalley not too long ago and I ran across a title called The Penguin Lessons: What I Learned from a Remarkable Bird. I didn’t request this solely based on the title. The cover art and the blurb indicating a real life penguin was involved also influenced my decision. I make no apologies for my penguin enthusiasm. Not a single one. PENGUINS FOREVER! *I received a complimentary copy of this book for review consideration. My good opinion cannot be bought with a free book. It can be bought with charming penguins, however.*


Tom Michell was a 23 year old Brit with wanderlust when he decided to accept a post teaching in Argentina in the 1970s. While on holidays from school teaching, he often went exploring other South American locales. While visiting a beach in Uruguay, he happened upon a heartbreaking scene. An oil slick had caused hundreds of penguins to wash ashore. (I had such a hard time reading this part, it was worse than those ASPCA commercials where the dogs with injuries look at you so pathetically while Sarah McLachlan sings.) Among the sea of perished penguins (SOB), there was but a single sign of life. Acting on a crazy impulse, Michell decided to take the surviving penguin home, wash him off, and release him back into the wild. It was the 70s, you guys. There weren’t hotlines for wildlife rescue and whatnot. After an eventful de-oiling, the penguin, now known as Juan Salvador, refuses to leave Tom’s side. Naturally Tom does the only logical thing- he smuggles Juan Salvador across the border and takes him home.

A pet penguin!!! You guys, this is the DREAM. Juan Salvador is a Magellanic penguin, which resonated with me especially as the penguin I met face-t0-face was a  Magellanic penguin too! Juan Salvador was beyond charming. He became the school’s de-facto rugby mascot, party host, and swimming coach. It’s worth noting that Michell DOES mention all the weirdness that comes with keeping a penguin as a pet, particularly the fact that they poop wherever the heck they want to and need a rather large supply of fresh fish. Still, Juan Salvador seems to thrive in his new home and it’s the cutest thing ever. EVER. This book is not for those who are interested in flowery prose as Michell is quite plain spoken, but who needs flowery prose when you had a penguin pet?! This book is definitely worth a read, even if you’re not an insane penguin lover.


I met a penguin, and it’s one of the highlights of my life. Not even kidding.

It’s worth noting that at the end of the novel, Michell, who thinks he’s lost all his photographs from that period of his life, runs across some old video footage of Juan Salvador. I tried to locate this clip online, and when I couldn’t find it, I contacted the publisher because I just couldn’t NOT see it. They were kind enough to oblige me with a clip that I’ve loaded below for your viewing pleasure. It’s the best. Many thanks to George Foster at Penguin Random House for supplying me with the footage, and many thanks to Tom Michell for being my penguin rescue hero! Obviously, I think everyone should go procure a copy of The Penguin LessonsFor the love of penguins!

Talk to me Bookworms! Don’t you wish your high school had a live penguin mascot that you could swim with?! Gaaaah I’m dying. DYING, you guys!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*


Nov 18

After You by Jojo Moyes

Audio Books, Contemporary Fiction 15

Greetings Bookworms!

I hope I never see the day when I don’t love something Jojo Moyes writes. I just finished reading (with my ears) After You which is the follow up to the glorious ugly cry of a novel that was Me Before You (review.) It was pretty great. Uh, spoiler alert. Or something? Do I ever actually surprise anyone with my reviews? I mean, I can lead with “I liked it” or “It sucked” right? This isn’t school, I can do what I want!

afteryouIf you didn’t read Me Before You go do that right now. Our lovely Lou is still kind of reeling after the events of the previous book. She’s struggling to create a new life for herself, and frankly, she’s failing miserably. It’s okay, Lou, we all still love you. Sometimes things have to fall apart (again) in order for people to move forward and Louisa Clark is one plucky protagonist, believe you me. There are elements that seem a little melodramatic… Well, maybe a lot melodramatic. The thing about Jojo Moyes is that she can pull it off. Louisa isn’t a ridiculous soap opera vixen, so her reactions to some of the things that befall her are pretty amusing. It’s like “oh, I’m a normal British gal, but all this weird crap has happened and seriously, how would YOU react?”

So yeah. Basically, I loved this book, I love Louisa Clark, I love Jojo Moyes, and I love audio books. I though the narrator was fabulous, but the teeny tiny bit of American accent she had to do? It sounded really weird. I certainly couldn’t do any better, my British accent sounds farcical and wouldn’t fool anyone (except that telemarketer that one time. I told him I was the nanny. Because Mary Poppins. I am not a good person.) There have been many times when I’ve been fully fooled by an excellent British actor’s American accent. I can think of a number of times when I was all “oh holy crap, that guy has a fancy accent” when seeing said actor on a talk show, so I have operated under the mistaken assumption that American accents are easy-peasy and/or all British people are good at everything ever. I shouldn’t expect audio book narrators to be good at ALL THE ACCENTS. It just bears mentioning.

Okey Dokey, Bookworms. Tell me. What is your native accent? Can you easily detect when people are faking it?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*


Nov 16

Thoughts On Revisiting Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Fantasy, Readalong, Young Adult Fiction 23

Happy Monday Bookworms!

I know, I know. It sucks to start a brand new work week or school week or whatever. Heck, I’ve got a Monday fever, and the only cure is HARRY POTTER. I’ve been blogging for over 3 years and have talked about Harry and the gang plenty, but I’ve never done any sort of official review of the books. When some of my favorite bloggers at The Estella Society (Heather, Andi, Amanda, I love all your faces) announced a Harry Potter re-read-along, it seemed like kismet. There are few things that are guaranteed to lift my mood the way Harry Potter can. Since everyone already knows all the HP things (and if you don’t you probably don’t give a figgy pudding about spoilers) I thought I’d forgo official reviews with synopses and such and focus on my raw reactions upon re-visiting these books. Without further ado, I present my rambling thoughts on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

  • Dumbledore, I love you, I really, truly do, but WHO LEAVES A BABY ON A DOORSTEP?! Does the Wizarding World have any sort of Child Protective Services? Seriously, Ministry of Magic, you need to get your act together.
  • Harry didn’t even have a library card when he lived with the Dursleys. SOB.
  • “Hamburger restaurants” are mentioned repeatedly. I suppose in England not every single restaurant in the history of ever serves hamburgers? #cluelessAmerican
  • “I don’t like cats. They make me sneeze.” ME TOO, HAGRID!
  • Although, if Hagrid is allergic to cats, does that mean he can’t be around Professor McGonagall? Or perhaps only when she’s a cat? Are animagi hypoallergenic?
  • Dude, why are Olivander’s eyes silver? That’s pretty friggin creepy.
  • Molly Weasley is the BEST EVER. (And I’m so glad I named my car after her.)
  • I know that I have the American version of HP, as the British version was The Philosopher’s Stone (not Sorcerer’s), but it made me wonder. In the original when they referred to Harry’s hair, did they use the term “bangs” or “fringe”?
  • Rats are not on the approved pet list. Scabbers being banned from Hogwarts from the get-go would have been helpful, no? Hindsight being 20/20 and all. Cats, owls, and toads are the only pets mentioned in the supply list…
  • I WANT A WEASLEY SWEATER! Seriously, I can think of nothing more wonderful than opening up a lumpy, magically knit, monogrammed sweater for Christmas. Does Molly have an official fan club? Because I would join it.
  • Baby dragons thrive on a mixture of brandy and chicken blood, which explains why dragons raid liquor stores and chicken coops in equal measure. (I can’t back up that last part, but it makes me laugh.)
  • I wish my final exams had consisted of making pineapples tap dance. I would have owned that challenge. There’d have been sequins, you guys.
  • I get goosebumps EVERY SINGLE TIME Neville gets awarded those last ten points and Gryffindor wins the house cup! Oh Neville!

I’m kind of surprised by my reactions too. I mean, not a single ode to Hermione? I do love her, she just didn’t make my notepad for some reason. Oh well. The series is young. We have six more books in which I can fawn over everyone. Siiigh. It’s like visiting old friends.

Talk to me Bookworms! Do YOU think animagi are hypoallergenic? And do you think it’s advised that pregnant dragons drink alcohol, seeing how beneficial it is to the hatched offspring? I mean, if they’re not mammals then they don’t nurse, so what would wild dragon babies be eating? Chickens would be easy enough to come by, but brandy? In remote Romanian mountains? Hmmm….

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. All proceeds will likely fund my expanding collection of Ravenclaw paraphernalia. #HOUSEPRIDE*


Nov 12

Vampires and Witches and Daemons, Oh My! (The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness)

Supernatural, Time Travel, Vampires 21

Good Morrow, Bookworms!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A witch, a daemon, and a vampire walk into a bar… Oh wait, you know that one? That’s kind of what I thought too, when I started reading the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. I decided to review the series as a whole, because I totally binge listened to them and this way I can limit spoilers with carefully placed vagaries. I’ll probably screw up and reveal stuff because I’m me, so take this as your spoiler alert if you’re super spoiler averse. Spoiler sounds funny if you say it over and over again. Spoiler. Spoooooiiiiiillllllllleeerrrrrrr.

Basic plot overview: Historian/professor/reluctant witch Diana Bishop finds herself drawn into an ancient mystery all while falling head over heels in love with a vampire/doctor/research fellow/polyglot Matthew Clairmont. A mysterious, bewitched alchemical manuscript revealed itself to Diana and as a result she draws the interest of every daemon, witch, and vampire in the greater Oxford region. Diana and Matthew’s attraction is forbidden by a shadowy organization whose chief function is to prevent the intermingling of creatures lest they be discovered by the hapless humans surrounding them (Volturi, anyone?) Diana and Matthew need to acquire the book, discover the secrets it holds, and figure out their relationship before the world around them implodes. Or something. It’s a big deal, okay?


A Discovery of Witches was the first book in the crew and I found it disturbingly Twilight -ish… At least in the beginning. Diana (who doesn’t realize she’s beautiful and talented) can’t figure out why devastatingly handsome vampire Matthew has a thing for her. She falls for him, he tries to push her away despite his desperate passion, you know the drill. As things progressed, I got a little less grumpy because there was some science (highly fictionalized science, mind, we’re talking about vampires, daemons, and witches, after all) and pseudo-science. Namely alchemy. Everyone knows that alchemy is the process by which people who didn’t understand the periodic table of elements attempted to turn metal into gold. It’s obviously not a thing that can happen, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fascinating from a historical perspective, so that was pretty fun.


Shadow of Night was the second book in the bunch, and reminded me of the second Outlander novel, Dragonfly in Amber in approximately 18 zillion ways. Only, you know. Vampires and witches and daemons. Oh my. There were a ton of cameos by famous historical figures because OF COURSE. Vampires don’t just chill with chimney sweeps. They get all up in art and literature and philosophy and politics. They also adopt street urchins, but as much as I liked Jack, he’s no Fergus. (From Outlandernatch. My word this isn’t very coherent if you haven’t read every single book I’ve read, is it?)


The Book of Life was the final installment of the series, and while it contained elements I recognized from other series, none of the comparisons are as pronounced as with the first two books. In fact, it felt a little more spy thriller than supernatural time-traveling love story at times. Intrigue and justice and the righting of old wrongs all came into play.

I know this was meant to be a trilogy, but I kind of feel like Harkness left a number of loose ends that she could neatly dovetail into an offshoot series, prequel, or future installments. I’d probably read them if she wrote them. I’m not completely in thrall to the series, but I’d be willing to invest some more time in this world. If you’re in the mood for the supernatural, it’s definitely worth a read.

Talk to me, Bookworms! Have you read the All Souls TrilogyDid you see the same parallels I did? What did you think?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*


Nov 11

My Neighbors Are Better Than Your Neighbors: Even When The Book Isn’t…

Book Club, Memoirs 6

Hello Bookworms,

Last week we had our monthly meeting of my neighborhood’s book club. We don’t have an official name, but I’ve dubbed us “My Neighbors Are Better Than Your Neighbors” because it’s true. I don’t usually write up full reviews for our selections, though that’s usually because I’ve already read and reviewed them on the blog. I told them a long time ago not to worry about choosing books I hadn’t read because I’m a book glutton and everyone should get to read what they want to read, you know? Plus, I have an unfair advantage with blogging and ARCs, so I’m kind of the worst. Anyway, this month was Jennifer’s turn to host and she picked a book I hadn’t read yet. Exciting!


Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor is a memoir by Rosina Harrison. She served for 35 years as a lady’s maid to Lady Nancy Astor, a temperamental world traveling Parliamentarian who often entertained royalty. Going into this book, I didn’t realize just how journal-like it was going to be. Don’t get me wrong, it was pretty darn fascinating to read how the other half lived. I mean, changing clothes 5 times a day? Fancy hats? Butlers and footmen and scullery maids and jewelry so valuable you needed a security detail? I’ve not seen Downton Abbey, but I imagine fans of the show would enjoy this book… Except… There really was no scandal, no hijinks. No below stairs drama or major impropriety on the part of the family. It was all pretty well on the up and up. Which again, is lovely… But rather dull. I did take issue with a couple of things in this novel. First, there is a discussion of the Astor family’s fortune and Harrison decided it wasn’t even interesting enough to footnote the fact that JJ Astor perished aboard the Titanic (which believe you me, is super noteworthy. Especially if when you consider that Victor from The Young and the Restless played him in the blockbuster movie version of the tragedy.) Secondly, there were a lot of typos in there for a book that was professionally published. I’m not usually a stickler for these things, which means that if the average book has a few mistakes that I never even notice, this book had a lot more than a few. They even spelled “Astor” wrong once, like “aster” the flower, and that was just weird. So. Yeah. Not the best book ever. Of course, Jennifer then made some really fancy treats which totally made up for the lackluster book. How pretty are these?!

Apples, puff pastry, jam, and prettiness.

Apples, puff pastry, jam, and prettiness.

Talk to me Bookworms! Do you watch Downton Abbey? Am I missing everything?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*


Nov 09

Literary Love Connection: A Puppet Show

Literary Love Connection 9

Happy Monday Bookworms!

I made you a video this weekend. Actually, all I did was be ridiculous, it’s just that this time I did it in front of a camera. A few (okay a lot of) months ago I was sent some AWESOME literary finger puppets from Gone Reading. I told them I wanted to do a puppet show and they were pretty stoked about it, but then LIFE. UGH. But! It’s here now. And it’s… Well. It’s something. Enjoy!


Please ignore my apparently uneven nostrils. Nothing worse than a weirdly paused video still. Yeesh.



Nov 04

A Glimpse Inside My Head

Personal 17

Howdy Bookworms!

I have nothing bookish to discuss with you today. I mean, I’m reading and thinking about books and things, but I’ve got nothing coherent enough to constitute a post. I’m writing a post anyway because I feel like it. Here are things that have been going on in the swirling mass that is my brain of late.

1. I recently watched The Conjuring against my better judgement. It was Halloween, we had friends over, I am highly susceptible to peer pressure. I proceeded to have a nightmare that night in which I was conducting an exorcism and my prayers were having no effect… Because they weren’t in Latin. I woke up lamenting my monolingual status more than usual, and questioning why the Vatican would have phased out Latin if it were an essential ingredient in exorcisms.


This gal was my college roommate. She made me watch scary movies then, too. We had bunk beds. It was awesome. And yes, I dressed up to hand out candy. It’s kind of my thing.

2. In other news, last night I saw an animal on the sidewalk and for a split second, I believed with every fiber of my being that it was a monkey. Until I remembered that I LIVE IN ILLINOIS and monkeys are not a native species, nor are they a common house pet. It turned out to be a tabby cat… Or it was Professor McGonagall playing a trick on me. Always a possibility. That Minerva. Ten points to Gryffindor, you prankster, you.

3. Speaking of McGonagall, I’m planning to join The Estella Society’s Potter Binge over the next couple of months. I’ll probably put together reactionary posts as I re-read and/or re-listen because HP is so ubiquitous there’s no real danger of subjecting anyone to spoilers. I doubt it’ll be very coherent, and will probably consist of bulleted lists full of SHOUTY CAPITALS and exclamation points!!! Which is wholly unlike everything else I write. (Wah waaaaaaaaah.)

4. I realized that I kind of hate animal print. I feel like I need to clarify the term “animal print” because my friend Joules has a top with these tiny elephants on it that is the cutest thing ever. That is NOT the animal print I’m talking about. I’m talking prints that resemble the pelts and skins of various animals. I don’t dislike people who like animal print or cringe when I see people wearing it, but it’s not something I’d incorporate into my own wardrobe. I own very little that’s not striped or a solid color. My closet is basically a billiards table.

So Bookworms. Give me an update. What’s been going on with you? Had any weird dreams lately? Been punked by a fictional character? Inquiring minds want to know!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I may or may not use it to buy myself Latin lessons. Just in case. Although, since Latin is technically a “dead” language, can anybody really be considered an authority on accent? I mean, all the native speakers are like super dead right now. I really hope demons aren’t particular about accent. They probably are though, because EVIL.*


Nov 02

Speed Kings by Andy Bull: Review and Giveaway!

Giveaways, Non Fiction 6

Happy Monday Bookworms!

Let me tell you a story about bobsledding. No, not THAT story about bobsledding (I’m assuming you immediately thought of the classic and heartwarming film, Cool Runnings. That’s where my head went, anyway.) But I’m talking old school bobsledding. Back when it was all sexy and dangerous. Oh yeah, you didn’t know that bobsledding was sexy and dangerous? Well you WOULD know that if you’d read Speed Kings: The 1932 Winter Olympics and the Fastest Men in the World by Andy Bull! *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. You needn’t worry about a biased review though. I never, ever lie about bobsledding. Ever.*


That leaning is super important for SPEED!

Whenever I think of Olympic athletes, I think of people who have trained since childhood in their given sport. I think of athletes so focused on the quest for the gold medal that they forgo traditional schooling and miss their proms in exchange for private tutoring on planes between competitions. The team that would eventually become gold medalists at the 1928 and 1932 Winter Olympic games in bobsledding were anything BUT the athletes I imagined. They were, in the immortal words of Maya Rudolph’s character in Bridesmaids “a stone cold pack of weirdos.” Here’s what the Goodreads synopsis had to say: “There was Jay O’Brien, the high-society playboy; Tippy Grey, a scandal-prone Hollywood has-been; Eddie Eagan, world champion heavyweight boxer and Rhodes Scholar; and the charismatic Billy Fiske, the true heart of the team, despite being barely out of his teens.” As you can imagine, bobsledding is a mere sliver of the story surrounding this charismatic crew.


So, Katie, what did you think of Speed Kings: The 1932 Winter Olympics and the Fastest Men in the World? Thoughtful of you to ask, Katie! It took me longer to read than I expected, but that’s virtually always the case when I read non-fiction, no matter how interesting the subject matter. This book wasn’t what I expected at all, but it was pretty awesome. I mean, do you have any idea how dangerous bobsledding can be? Or that Hollywood has been a crazy bag of scandal since the dawn of time? Or that the dude who invented the Dewey decimal system was kind of a horrible human being? All sorts of craziness goes down in this book. But you don’t have to just take my word for it. The awesome folks at Avery Books are sponsoring a giveaway! Enter below to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*