Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling (23 July)

The second book! I’d forgotten how addicting these are… I might not get around to reading anything else until these are done. No! Help me! Make me read something else!

Anyway. HP2: Electric Boogaloo. Summary: Harry returns to school. He learns even more new things and then a monster starts Petrifying (literally: turning to stone) students and then Harry fights the Bad Wizard, again, in memory form (yes, really), and then five more books happen.

I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed parts of this book. Lockhart is hilarious, and I’ve certainly met plenty of his type in my time. All of them deserved a memory charm to the face. I also thought that the big plot line was better paced and required much more effort on the part of three twelve-year-olds to solve. The adults could probably have solved it if those darned kids would just trust them, but I certainly didn’t trust adults when I was twelve. Just ask my mother! Similarly, I initially thought it odd that Ginny gets all but ignored throughout the novel, for the integral part she plays in the plot, but then I remembered that this is really from Harry’s point of view and I would probably ignore Ginny, too. I was sad that the bit that actually takes place in the chamber lasted all of ten minutes — I really thought it was more involved, but that’s probably the movie instead? I don’t know. Nonetheless, I want a phoenix.

One last thing: Dobby is so annoying. I do not look forward to his presence in the remaining books.

Rating: 8/10
(Summer Lovin’ Challenge)

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Children of God, by Mary Doria Russell (2 February — 5 February)

Children of God is the follow-up to Russell’s The Sparrow, one of my favorite books of last year and all time. It picks up shortly after the last book left off, with Emilio Sandoz still recovering from what he believes God did to him and trying to reconcile that with his life on Earth, where forty years passed by while he was gone.

The Society of Jesuits is set on sending a second mission to Rakhat to try again, as it were, and attempt to open up trade agreements with the Jana’ata that will be mutually beneficial. The Father General wants Emilio to return to the planet, but Emilio, understandably, is only willing to train people to go in his stead. The Father General, ever wily, figures out some way to get Emilio on that ship.

Meanwhile, back on Rakhat, we find out that Emilio wasn’t the last human left on the planet after all, and also that that human seems to have helped engineer a Runa revolution, changing Runa and Juna’ata society for the better, but also for the worse.

The book is told in the back-and-forth style of The Sparrow, but I don’t think it worked as well as in the first novel. It felt a little too jarring to keep zooming between the planets and their timeframes that didn’t line up, and then also to go back and forth between the on-planet present and the on-planet future looking back. But it was still a good book, probably more so if you’ve read the first one.

Rating: 8/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge)

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman (27 December — 28 December)

Ah, a nice quick read to cleanse the mind. I borrowed the movie version of Stardust from the library maybe a month or two ago and loved it, so I obviously had to go out and get the book, which had to be better.

It wasn’t. But it wasn’t worse, either. Just different and equally awesome.

Stardust, the book, is a wonderful fairy tale. Tristran Thorn, who lives in the English town of Wall and doesn’t know that he is the product of a liaison between his father and a woman who lives on the other side of the wall, in Faerie (apparently because he can’t do math), falls in love with a Wall girl called Victoria and promises to bring Victoria the shooting star they’ve just sighted. He goes on a journey into Faerie and finds the star, which happens to look rather like a beautiful and ticked-off woman, and sets to bringing her back to his town. Unbeknownst to him, there are several other people looking for the star as well, for their own nefarious purposes, making his trip a bit more difficult.

Although I liked the theatrics of the movie quite a bit (who doesn’t like Robert DeNiro in a dress, eh?), I also appreciated the simplicity of Gaiman’s novel. Things happen, they’re taken care of, good wins out over evil without having to try terribly hard.

Rating: 8/10

p.s. This was my first foray into Gaiman. What should be my second?