Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2) by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2) by J. K. Rowling
Publisher/Year: Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Press, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 341
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted to do was to get back to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone–or something–starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects…Harry Potter himself?

What I thought

Y’know, my instinct about Chamber of Secrets has always been to say that this is my least favorite of the Harry Potter books. And truth be told, it is. I still love it though. I will always have love for any foray into the wizarding world. I can’t speak for anyone else, but after this re-read, I have to say that I don’t think I give CoS enough credit, and here’s why. Now having read the series and having watched the movies, I can see that this little installment is pivotal for the rest of the series.

As I’ve said, I will forever love anything J. K. Rowling writes, and CoS is just as near and dear to me as the other books. But even I will admit, the reintroduction of everything in the first few chapters makes the beginning a little slow going. Other than that though, there is so much to unpack in this one, and it really does develop our story in such a necessary way. First and foremost is the development of the trio’s friendship, as not only do they head on another adventure together at Hogwarts, but also as Harry is welcomed further into the Weasley family with his visit to the Burrow. Additionally, the plot takes a darker turn in CoS as the reader is introduced to magical racial tensions for the first time (full bloods, half bloods, “mudbloods,” squibs), which ultimately is a very important aspect of the series’ overarching plot. On a more positive note, it’s with CoS that we are first introduced to Dobby’s angel self and his unconditional loyalty. And who can forget the first horcrux? But we’ll get into that another day.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that although this is my least favorite of the Harry Potter books, I still love it and find it immensely important for the sake of the series. I always have a genuinely great time reading these books. And it still stands out as an exemplary addition to the fantasy genre. Regardless of what anyone might say, this is and will always be a 5-star read for me! On to book #3!

The Trail to You by Lindsay Detwiler

The Trail to You by Lindsay Detwiler
Publisher/Year: Hot Tree Publishing, 2019
Format: E-book
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


An independent blonde seeking a fresh start.

Orphaned and unhappy, Ally Hunter makes a life-changing decision to move across the country to a small town that once felt like home. As she reinvents herself, she realizes there’s one part of the equation missing–love. However, a tragedy from the past makes her hesitate when it comes to giving up her heart.

A betrayed man looking for a sense of pride. 

Abandoned by his first love and family, Ronan has one friend he can truly count on–his two-hundred-pound mastiff, Henry. When he returns home from service in the National Guard, though, he find his entire life catapulted in a different direction with the disappearance of his beloved dog.

A loyal four-legged friend who will unexpectedly bring them together. 

When Henry, Ronan’s brindle mastiff, finds himself far from home, Ronan sets out on a journey to bring him back. However, as the trail to Henry leads Ronan to Ridgewood, Virginia, and an interior designer with a big heart, he’ll realize some hardships lead to beautiful discoveries.

What I thought

So, before I get into my review of this, I’d like to offer a little bit of background on how I came to read this wonderful book. Let me preface this by saying that I love the area of central PA where I’m from, so much so that I moved back home after college. However, one of my very few complaints is that there’s not much here for readers in terms of local authors, author events, or even bookstores (we have a local Barnes & Nobel and a Bradley’s Used Books, and that’s about it). So, when I happened to go past Bradley’s on a day in 2017 and saw that they were set up for a local author event, I made a beeline into the store. I met Lindsay, as well as her husband and Henry (who is ADORABLE), and we talked about her upcoming release. You guys, she is SO friendly! And her books sounded right up my alley. So, when she contacted me about reviewing her newest upcoming release that has the most adorable premise, I jumped at the opportunity!

And I loved it! I’m so glad I’ve finally read a book by Lindsay, and this definitely has me interested in reading her other works.

The Trail to You is one of those feel-good reads that you want to curl up on the couch with, leaving you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. That’s not to say that this book is empty fluff, though! Our two main characters both have to deal with some of life’s harder “stuff,” which I felt added some extra depth to their story. And let’s face it–with these kinds of stories, you know the guy and the girl will end up together in the end, so I was touched by how beautiful Ronan and Ally’s tale turned out to be. As a dog lover myself, it brought tears to my eyes to watch the mutual love of a dog bring two people together.

Besides that, I have to say that I was very impressed by Lindsay’s writing, as a whole. The story flowed with an ease that made me forget that I was reading, and the character development was spot-on. “Insta-love” was nowhere to be found, and I truly appreciated watching a love story progress naturally. Through all of the “Will they? Won’t they?” I couldn’t help but root for Ronan and Ally. Not to mention, the star of this book (Henry, of course!) had me at work constantly counting down the minutes until I could see my own pup.

I know that sometimes, readers are hesitant to try a book from a self-published or, in this case, an indie-published author, but let me assure you, you’ll be missing out if you don’t read Lindsay Detwiler’s books. The Trail to You is a great place to start! It releases on March 14, 2019, and I’d highly recommend pre-ordering this one, friends!

**Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC of this book thanks to the author, Lindsay Detwiler, and her publisher, Hot Tree Publishing, in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion or this review.

Bah! Humbug! by Michael Rosen

Bah! Humbug! by Michael Rosen
Publisher/Year: Walker Books, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 187
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Harry Gruber has the starring role in his school’s production of A Christmas Carol, but his work-obsessed father cannot seem to put his cell phone down long enough to watch. As the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future take the stage, Harry’s father must face some ghosts of his own. Will the story’s message of holiday love reach his distracted heart?

Acclaimed children’s book creators Michael Rosen and Tony Ross deliver a perfect gift for the whole family in this shrewd update of Dickens’s beloved tale.

What I thought

I am such a fanatic for all things Christmas that I can read and enjoy a Christmas book at any time of year. So when I received this last month and saw that it was a retelling of one of my favorite Christmas stories, I was pretty excited! I’ll be honest though, I think that this is a book that would be best enjoyed by its intended audience, aka kids. As an adult who has read A Christmas Carol countless times, I can’t say that this brought anything new to the table for me. However, I think this would be a great way to introduce young readers to Dickens’ classic tale. The script format makes this easily readable, and I think it would even encourage reading aloud. The illustrations are absolutely adorable and have a quirky quality that I loved. The storyline involving Harry and his family kept the story moving forward and offered a modern, if slightly predictable, take on Scrooge’s tale. I will say that I had the feeling that these characters were first introduced in another book maybe, as I couldn’t help feeling like I was missing something.

Overall, this was a quick and quirky take on A Christmas Carol that I think young readers would love. Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me a free, finished copy!

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) by Michael Scott
Publisher/Year: Delacorte Press, 2007
Format: Paperback
Pages: 375
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


He holds the secret that can end the world.

The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 1330. Nearly seven hundred years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life.

The records shows that he died in 1418.

But his tomb is empty.

The legend: Nicholas Flamel lives. But only because he has been making the elixir of life for centuries. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects–the Book of Abraham the Mage. It’s the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world.

That’s exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it.

Sometimes legends are true.

And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.

What I thought

Update 2019

Having read and reviewed this book before, I don’t actually have too much to add to my original review. I will say that I’m glad I read this one again because I think I actually enjoyed the story much more this time around. I suppose I could chalk that up to knowing more and understanding more of the mythology now that I’m a bit older.

The Alchemyst is one of those books that I enjoyed more for the actual story than for the writing itself. The story is a lot of fun and a romping good adventure, but the writing felt a little “young” to me. I hesitate to call this middle grade, but it’s definitely on the younger side of YA. None of this is a bad thing, I’m just staying that it’s more along the lines of Percy Jackson than Harry Potter. The only thing I wasn’t really a fan of was the twins, especially Josh. They felt a little generic to me, and Josh just got on my nerves. This could be due to the fact that this first book in the series took place over a span of two days, which doesn’t allow for much growth. I’m definitely going to continue on with the series, so we’ll see.

All in all, this was a fun read and one that I think would appeal to a lot of readers, particularly younger readers or even those who might be a bit more on the reluctant side. This was a quick read, full of mythology and adventure, that had be flipping the pages. I was immediately dropped into the action, and the magic built from there–it was hard to read just one chapter! I’m not sure why it ultimately took me so long to read this. I think maybe it was just going by so fast that I didn’t want it to end! I’m truly looking forward to seeing where the series goes, what between seeing some of my favorite myths and legends brought to life and learning about ones I had never heard of before.

If you’re looking for a light, but not necessarily fluffy read, look no further! This was a great beginning to a promising fantasy series. And as I mentioned, these books would be great to encourage younger readers to fall in love with the magic of reading!

Original review 2011

I first started reading this a couple years ago when I stumbled across a free .pdf version of this on Amazon. At the time, I thought it was decent, but it was different than what I expected. I ended up not finishing it because my computer crashed, but that’s a story for another day.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago when one of my friends from work recommended this to me and even let me borrow his copy. It did not take me long to become engrossed in these pages.

For fans of Harry Potter and mythology, this is a must-read. Personally, I think the magic elements and the mythology are one of the stronger elements of this novel. It was definitely cool to see the myths “come to life,” some I was familiar with and some that were new to me. You can really tell that Michael Scott knows mythology inside and out, but it’s not like he’s smacking you over the head with endless details about them. There is just enough to understand the myth and its importance to the story without feeling like a history lesson. Not only that, but the Flamels and Dee were real people, which was an interesting twist. With the setting in our own world, too, Michael Scott makes it easy to imagine this story taking place in a world parallel to our own. And that’s truly what this novel really is–quite imaginative. I would definitely recommend this to young readers because it is so easy to envision all that’s taking place among the pages.

Another thing working for this book is its pacing. The events of this first book take place over a mere two days. Right off the bat, you find out that the Flamels will die within a month without the Codex, so you know it will be fast-paced. The pages definitely flew by for me, and now I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the second book. There is constant action, and there are constant twists and turns. This is one of those books where you’ll find yourself saying “Just one more chapter…just one more chapter…” and end up staying up way too late at night reading.

I’m glad I finally gave this an entire read–it was definitely worth it! This is without a doubt a series to check out for those who are fans of YA fantasy!