How Not to Fall & How Not to Let Go (CBR9 #43 & 44)

A note before we get started: I am reviewing both parts of Emily Foster’s duology The Belhaven Series. I will likely get a bit spoilery about these two books, as their author set out to do an interesting thing, and did it.

These books were on my radar because of Malin’s reviews from last year (#BlameMalin). Well, specifically her review of the first book, How Not to Fall. I was particularly intrigued by the fact that the book ends both on a cliffhanger, and that it is not a HEA. This is rather rare in Romancelandia, really. I knew from Malin that the story would continue in the second book, so I decided to wait a bit and read them close together, even though I had not read her review of the second book, other than noting that she rated the book highly. Once I finished How Not to Fall in less than 48 hours, I immediately bought the second book How Not to Let Go and started it, needing to see how these characters continued to develop and where the story would go. That book however, took much longer to read.

The two books are quite dissimilar, while managing to tell one story. The first book is in many ways a quick, sexy, erotica leaning romp with bright scientists dealing with a power and age dynamic. Sexily. At about the two-thirds mark though, the emotional undertone of the story breaks wide open and our main characters, Annie and Charles, are forced to reckon with his demons and her naiveté.   They also have to deal with love, and what happens when it cannot be returned even where it exists.

The second book, How Not to Let Go, is structured completely differently from its predecessor. The narration moves between the two characters, where previously we had only gotten the story from Annie’s perspective. It is also a reckoning with trauma, and rebuilding a relationship that nearly destroyed both of its participants based on its depth. It also takes place over the course of two years, while the first covers approximately two months. As I said, very different books. But, somehow it all comes together in a believable manner, even though we’re dealing with extreme wealth and once in a lifetime intellects.

What really got me though, was what I learned after I was done reading these books. You see, all that Emily Foster accomplishes, and it is quite a lot, was done with purpose and precision as an author. She writes on her blog that this entire enterprise was in response to the trash that was 50 Shades of Grey I have never read those books, I don’t have a desire to. My mother and sister have, and when I asked my mother about it at the time she turned to me and said “eh, it’s not good smut, it’s just there.” I think beyond “just being there” it is also damaging to women and Ms. Foster (really Emily Nagoski writing under a pen name) lays it out beautifully.

“It delivers the story – even if the story is awful. And that is not nothing. But the plot fucks up because in the end Ana defies the biology of attachment in order to do what the plot demands she does: a woman who has spent 450 pages worried that she made a guy mad is not going to FIGHT after being spanked with her consent. When she’s in pain, she’ll turn TOWARD her attachment object, not away. That’s what mammals – especially insecurely attached mammals – do. But the plot structure required that she turn away, and so that’s what she does, despite its biological implausibility. And THAT’s why this book is bullshit. Or rather, it’s the final piece of bullshit in The Worst Book I Have Ever Finished. Grey is Ragey McRagington, Ana is the most dishwater heroine I’ve ever read (which is, I suppose, a kind of distinction), and their relationship is abusive, which makes all the sex gross.” Foster goes on to explain the biology of her argument on her blog.

So, feeling so enraged by that book, Foster set out to prove that the basic structure James’ utilized could be done successfully, without devolving into an abusive mess.  She set out to write a novel that featured a virgin college senior experiencing her sexual awakening with an older, more experienced, powerful man who treated her with dignity and respect and affection. What we all got out of the equation is a  hopeful story that is pro-woman, pro-sex, and pro-pleasure. Not only did she do that, but she took her work in her “real life” and grew the story out, while sticking to the structural limitations she gave herself by mimicking the structure of 50 Shades (having to end on a cliffhanger, for example).

The last bit I’ll mention is that this author was already on my radar for her non-fiction work. Under her real name, Emily Nagoski she is the author of Come As You Are a book about the science of female pleasure. That has moved up the list as well.

I realize that I’ve been pretty vague on details after all, and I’ve decided that’s okay.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read. We read what we want, review it how we want (with a few guidelines), and raise money for the American Cancer Society in the name of a fallen friend.

Before the Fall (CBR9 #42)

Image result for before the fall

Last month over on Oohlo in discussing the season three finale of Noah Hawley’s television program Fargo I had the following comment: “Hawley is also never just telling us a plot, he’s crafting a story. Not everything we see moves the story along, but everything means something, grows out the larger themes.” As I was reading Before the Fall, I had the same feeling about his literary work.

On the surface this is a story about a plane crash and the people who perished and survived. But there’s much more just under the surface (yep I’m leaving that one in) as the story gets past the initial plot points of crash and survival of painter Scott Burroughs and four year old J.J. Bateman.  Embedded in the book are at least one hero, more than one “bad” guy, as well as survival’s guilt, and how we choose to view and consume media about people.

There have been several reviews of this book on Cannonball Read already, but I find myself agreeing most closely with bonnie in my overall thoughts about the book. For instance, I agree that this is actually badly billed as a suspense novel, or really as a thriller. I would perhaps argue that it is closer in execution to Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache books. There is something we don’t know, and the characters in this book are rooted in truth. Hawley does an admirable job of giving enough backstory and detail on each character that they become individuals in your mind, rather than a stream of names and titles, much the same way he is able to create characters in his television work.

Once we move past the initial telling of the lead up to the crash and Scott and J.J.’s survival, the rest of the novel travels between the past and the present. The questions of who these people truly are, why were they on this plane, and what caused the crash unfold as the survivors and the investigators piece together what happened and how to move forward.

While this novel hit some fantastic strengths (its commentary on toxic masculinity) it also had a lackluster resolution and was probably in deep need of another round of edits focusing on pacing. There are some truly interesting components in this novel, but I’m landing on a 3.5 star rating.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it however we want (with some guidelines), and raise money for the American Cancer Society in the name of a fallen friend.

When Life Happened (CBR9 #41)

This is the story of a book.


This was a book which I would never have found on my own, but Cannonball Read‘s dynamic reviewing duo PattyKates located it in their literary travels and recommended, nay demanded, that we citizens of Romancelandia experience.

But alas, it was not available to me via library or Nook and I thought I would perhaps be left out of the reading and the discussion. But, our very own Prolixity Julien procured the book for me via Kindle and once more I was back in the game. Read over the course of thirty hours while I was fighting off a migraine, my thoughts are scattered and a bit fevered.

This book should not work. It simply should not be able to pull you in based on what happens in the first half of the story. Cheating is not something one expects to encounter in a book that purports to be a romance. There are some who have tried to read When Life Happened who could not get through it, and I cannot fault them. I wonder if the fact that I knew there was a twist kept me involved long enough that I was won over by the characters themselves, not their actions. I also wonder how much of my programming as a reader had me accepting things I would not otherwise. I was simply along for a story, and what if this one fell a little more along something that would be found in the regular literary fiction aisle, but with a romance feel?

With that feeling in mind, Jewel E. Ann (that has got to be someone named Julianne using a pen name, right?) weaves in larger philosophical discussion about the gray areas in life and desire versus love. Somehow, it all came together to form a story I enjoyed.

Some overview thoughts:

  1. Even though I knew there was a twist coming I didn’t guess that was it. I actually backed up and read it again to be sure I read it correctly. This is not the first book I’ve read that employed this twist, so there was a moment of “oh, THIS” but I kept right on going.
  2. I am struggling with not hating the cheating that happened in the first half of the book. This should have pissed me off. But the author did a darn good job of laying out the emotions and reservations and guilt all around. She didn’t make all parties likeable, but she did a decent job of laying in the emotional lives of her characters.
  3. The female lead doesn’t have a job in the second half of the book, and it’s just a bit squicky given the other aspects of the plot.
  4. There is ridiculous wealth, but the character with it is just as interesting as his counterpart, if not more so, and that was very important to my overall enjoyment of the book.
  5. The plotting and timelines are intricate; this book could easily have been twice as long. I feel or this books editor.

I don’t know that I would suggest reading this to any of you, but there is an interesting perspective to be gained if you feel like giving it a chance.

This book was read and reviewed as a part of the charitable Cannonball Read. We read what we want, we review as we see fit (with a few guidelines), and raise money for the American Cancer Society in the name of a fallen friend.

Evicted (CBR9 #40)

Image result for evicted

In April of 2017 Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond won the Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction. I am relieved to discover that, because the idea that there was a better, more eloquent, well researched, and presented book released in the competition period I would have eaten my hat. Or your hat, I have trouble finding one that fits me.

Desmond is a Harvard sociologist and a MacArthur “Genius” grant winner, which is shorthand for this dude is awesome (he’s in the same class as Ta-Nehisi Coates). This book is based on his research and creation of the Milwaukee Area Renters Survey where the team he headed examined court records and conducted extensive fieldwork interviews to build a complex picture of what the high rates of eviction do to disrupt the lives of low-income Americans, and specifically African Americans. Desmond is shedding light on how entrenched poverty and racial inequality are built and sustained by housing policies in large American cities.

Evictions used to be rare. But now with many poor families spending more than half of their income on rent (and you can forget owning a home) and evictions becoming an ordinary occurrence for which families plan for which, is demonstrated by the stories of the eight families Desmond highlights in Evicted.

Desmond brought fresh eyes to the survival strategies of struggling families, overturning the longstanding assumption that people in economic disaster turn to their extended family for assistance. Policymakers and pundits have long stated that family and faith should be able to step in, but what if you don’t have the perfect nuclear family they imagine you have? What if your kin or faith family is in no position to help you? Desmond has the answer for that: today, poor families often form intense, but brief relationships with strangers, creating a network of “disposable ties” to meet needs. Near strangers watch over each other’s homes, children, and decide to cohabitate based on need and these relationships come apart as fast as they went together, further destabilizing primary relationships needed for both survival and success.

This is a difficult read, don’t for a minute think it is not. But it is so important. During my childhood my family’s fortunes turned dramatically downward. I remember vividly going on free and reduced lunch, checking the mail to see if the check came so we could go buy new shoes for school, eating meals based more on their price per serving than anything else. The stories told here could have easily been mine if we hadn’t started slightly ahead – if my parents hadn’t been helped with their first home, and then before it all came crashing down sell their next house for enough to be able to buy the house I grew up in outright when we moved states. I think back now that if we’d had a mortgage payment, or a car loan, in those tight years things would have turned out very differently. We are all in good places now, but things are often still tight with my siblings and I often living paycheck to paycheck with very little cushion. Just six months ago I was facing the reality of living on my own in my current city costing me half of my take home income. It would have possibly destroyed me financially. I managed to find another housing solution, only spending a third of my take home on rent, but it was a scary time and balancing student loan debts (hello rising education costs!) as well as other debts and basic cost of living… it is still scary.

But I’m not trying to take care of a family of three with $20 left over after rent. I have it pretty good. There is even now privilege at play in my story, and this book brings it into an even more defined light.

All of this to say – read this book as fast as you can.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we want (with a few guidelines), and raise money in honor of our fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.

Lobster is the Best Medicine (CBR9 #39)

Image result for liz climo lobster is the best medicine

When crystalclear reviewed Lobster is the Best Medicine, she suggested passing along this book about friendship to your friends. I am lucky enough to call her friend – and I am the same friend who moved recently and had the naked refrigerator in need of fun Liz Climo magnets – so when she was over my house the other night she handed me this book and I immediately blew through it.

Reviewing this one is a bit tough, as it is very straightforward in its purpose. If you aren’t familiar with Liz Climo’s art, and I hope you are because it is delightful, it is set up in two panel “set ‘em up, knock ‘em down” jokes with clean backgrounds and simple but evocative illustrations. Climo has centered this collection around friendship and trots out her usual suspect characters, and highlights the similarities and differences amongst the animals to find resonate humor about our relationships. The panels are as simple as their base level and can be viewed simply for a quick pick me up, but they also speak softly and intentionally about the power and value of friendship. These quick comics are more often than not highlighting how the ways in which we care for each other are the glue that holds the whole darn thing together.

Why am I placing so much value on the meaning behind the comics, which Climo spells out in her introduction? Because I believe wholeheartedly in the message it sends. Love your people, love them well, and make sure they have had a smile today. And who wouldn’t love a rabbit who makes sure a bear has pizza for dinner instead of carrots?

Image result for liz climo lobster is the best medicine

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read. We read what we want, review how we want (with a few guidelines), and raise money for the American Cancer Society in the name of a fallen friend.

The Soldier’s Scoundrel (CBR9 #38)

Image result for the soldier's scoundrel by cat sebastian mobilism

The past few years I’ve been attempting the Read Harder Challenge put on by Book Riot, and hile I’ve completed it the past two years, I am not on track to do that this year. But, one of the tasks is LGBTQ romance, and there are always a TON of suggestions for Romance around the Cannonball Read. So, while on vacation I made sure I moved one to the head of the list.

The Soldier’s Scoundrel  is a historical m/m romance. It strikes me as in the Lisa Kleypas school of recognizable history with lovely smoldery romance woven in. Is it up to the high, HIGH standards of Kleypas’ Wallflowers and Hathaways series which I have just completed? Not quite. But Cat Sebastian is a relatively new author (this is her debut), which means she has room to grow. I like her modus operandi though: Cat writes steamy, upbeat historical romances. They usually take place in the Regency, generally have at least one LGBTQ+ main character, and always have happy endings.

As to the story itself, I thought the romance was delightful. We have Oliver and Jack, two men from different class in the society who find them selves crossing paths as war-injured Oliver returns home to find his married sister has paid Jack Turner a large sum of money, and Oliver is determined to find out what for. Turner, making his living filling in the gaps in the justice system in Regency England, will not be sharing that information if he can avoid it and is put out when Oliver Rivington inserts himself in his latest case. This is a well-written enemies-to-lovers where the relationship progress is slow-burn with undeniable sexual chemistry and tension. My main problem with the book, taking away a full star, is pacing. While the slow burn requires a slow start this one is a bit too slow, and the end moves a bit too fast. But I did love how Cat Sebastian decided to maneuver these two characters into closer social circles for their happily ever after (which is strengthened by the characters ability to be accurate about their situations).

This is first in a series, and I’ve added book two The Lawrence Brown Affair featuring Jack Turner’s brother Georgie to my to read list.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read. 

Unmentionable (CBR9 #37)

Image result for unmentionable the victorian lady's guide

One of the questions I receive most often at my job as a educator at historic sites is “wouldn’t you love to live back then?” For reference, that encompasses a period of time roughly 1820-1920 and the answer is a resounding no. I am all about indoor plumbing, air conditioners, and not being considered property. This book, Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill lays out all the ways life was downright terrible for women life was during that same approximate period.

For most people this would not be considered a beach read. For me it absolutely is. Lumenatrix coined the style of this type of book as “accessible non-fiction”, which I completely agree with and am now stealing. I’ve always thought of it as “non-fiction with a sense of humor” like Mary Roach’s books. Therese Oneill is wonderfully sarcastic and direct in her prose, and the structure of the book is well thought out and easily followed. Oneill moves naturally from one aspect of daily life to the next laying out all the differences for life of women in the firmly upper middle class then to life today.

For me, the best part of this book is the way in which Oneill weaves in primary resources, both visual and print into her narrative. While I already knew much of what Oneill discussed, having access to her resources was a bonus to me. So much so, that I immediately passed it along to Ale since she is researching Victorian ladies and their unmentionables for an upcoming project.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read. 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (CBR9 #36)

Image result for mondo harry potter and the order of the phoenix

*Note: These reviews were completed in 2017 before the author’s hateful views towards our trans siblings was widely known. My reading experience was what it was and these reviews will remain up, but it should be noted that I find her TERF values abhorrent and will no longer be supporting her through further readings or reviews. 

I have been waiting expectantly for book five in the Harry Potter series ever since I embarked on this re-read. I’ve alluded to this story’s previous place as my favorite in the series. I don’t know any more if that’s true. But I’m also not comfortable naming another one my favorite (it is a competition between this and Prisoner of Azkabanif you’re wondering). Taking a step back from the experience of reading it, I can say that the transitional nature of this story – we are most definitely at war by the end – as well as moving towards the more adult stories in the series (books six and seven as memory serves are much more A than YA, while books 3-5 are YA, and books 1 and 2 are safely Childrens, in my opinion) are the underlying strengths of this novel. Rowling balances the interior and exterior forces at play and produces an entirely unique book, which is simultaneously firmly within the structure of her series.

But I’ll take even another step back. When I reviewed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban I spoke about how expertly woven that book is. There’s not an ounce of fat on it and every chapter propels the central mystery of that book forward until we get to the climax chapters and the revelations of the truth in the Potters’ history. But, that book doesn’t scratch the same itch as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which, while not as concise and taut as its predecessor, was the sort of long rambling book that I often enjoy. It is that rambly, world suggesting and building aspect that is found in  Order of the Phoenix. In this way, Order of the Phoenix takes the tapestry plot weaving skills of Rowling and applies them to world building and setting up the final two books and moves away from a central mystery structure which has been the standard of the previous four books. At the very end of this book Dumbledore unveils the real mystery and battle to come: neither can live while the other survives.

While I love that there’s not a part of this book that is wasted, it is not in the same way as Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s exciting, dramatic, and dark. But it is also – and this is incredibly important – wickedly funny in places and the humor is balanced exquisitely with darkness and fear of feeling truly helpless against the forces that would do us harm, another component carried over from Goblet of Fire.

The set pieces are wonderfully realized, specifically the growth of the roster of characters to fill in those spaces. Some characters who had only previously been name-checked, or had flitting appearances are now active players in the larger story. A personal pet peeve of mine is what I like to call the Friends party problem. On the show we only really know the core six (for many seasons) but whenever there’s a party its full of strangers to the audience who we are supposed to believe are integral to these peoples’ lives. While a perfectly practical part of production, it sucks from a storytelling standpoint. Rowling never does this to us. The D.A. has a few completely fresh faces, but they are linked to previously mentioned and developed side characters so that having a group of 25 students doesn’t feel in any way strange to the reader, no “where have these people been the entire time?” reaction. Which leads us to perhaps most importantly we have the introduction of Luna Lovegood and Dolores Umbridge who are equally remarkable characters, especially as they are polar opposites in their personal ethos, and thus our estimation of them.

We also now have a wizarding world which feels truly and epically cohesive. The introduction of the interior of The Ministry of Magic as well as St. Mungo’s settles us even more firmly into the world and the story. Every new place feels narratively woven together: think of how important Grimmauld Place and Kreacher become later in the series.  On re-reading, and knowing the endgame, I was hyper focused on Sirius telling Harry about his extended family  and the ways that most pure-blood wizard families are all interconnected, which only strengthens Dumbledore’s  and the Sorting Hat’s “We’re All in This Together” spiels we have heard along the way. Harry has to think beyond his comfort zone of Ron, Hermione, and Sirius if he is going to succeed, and Ginny, Luna, and Neville step to the forefront.

We have also learned as readers that Rowling wastes nothing and the reader needs to be on the lookout. What could have been a throwaway detail:  Sirius had a younger brother named Regulus and he was a Death Eater, instead becomes a major plot point in the final book. Regulus was killed, presumably because he had grown uncomfortable with what Voldemort and the Death Eaters were doing and tried to quit. In the short term this is meant to teach Harry and the rest of us once again that the world isn’t divided into good people and Death Eaters. But it isn’t just that. It is a truth that is going to snowball into a crucial part of the endgame.

Rowling’s themes in this book are slightly more intimate, but no less crucial to our lives and times. The reader isn’t placed on a mystery to solve (I couldn’t have cared less by the end that Umbridge sent the Dementors, I had simply assumed that they had gone rogue much earlier in the story as that is a plausible explanation given by Dumbledore) but instead sinking into life in a tremulous time. The themes and the subject matter explored in Order of the Phoenix resonate with me now in a way that is both powerful, yet uncomfortably familiar. I feel exhausted after reading; it’s not the same thrill and a rush  as I remembered it, which has left me unsure of how to rate it, and where to rank it.

Just a few of these themes, and the ones that warm my heart, are as follows. Our lovely trio, and their friends, learns the power of actually doing something to change things makes a world of difference. In that we have the parallel stories of the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore’s Army. The adults are reforming the group which fought Voldemort the first time, and are actively working against the misinformation coming out of the Ministry. Dumbledore is bringing together a disparate, but equally effected, group of magical creatures and persons, and doing his best even though they are struggling against the media machine. By being left out of the adult group, and forced to sit on their hands in their Defense Against the Dark Arts classes, brings another Hermione genius idea to the forefront: they can train themselves. This subversive group serves to unite members from three of the four houses and prepare them for the battles to come, unwittingly in the Department of Mysteries before long.

We also see various arcs of Character Growth, and I’ll focus on three of my favorite boys in the story and Ginny. Ron, my favorite, has self-esteem issues. His best friend is the most famous wizard of their age, their other best friend is the brightest witch of their age, and he’s Ron. Just Ron, not the best in any subject, not particularly handsome, not particularly known for his humor. He’s just Ron. He is also the sixth son in a family of rather successful wizards as far as Hogwarts goes at least, and is constantly in the shadow of Fred and George and their outsized antics. It is for these reasons why Ron’s Quidditch success and the reclamation of “Weasley is Our King” is so important to the story. It’s not just about Quidditch. It’s about Ron finally getting out of his own way and seeing himself as more than an appendage to someone else’s story. It is important for all of us to see ourselves as the hero of our own life.

Which also leads to Harry’s letting go of Quidditch. It isn’t permanent, we know, but he does not. He loses his broom and his ability to play, which is the only thing he truly feels confidant doing. But instead of sulking he supports his best friend, his team, and finds something else to pour his passion into. He becomes focused on doing his best to support the fellow members of the D.A. so that they can grow, always focusing on their achievements over his own. It is Harry at his best, and certainly a nice break from the emotional upheaval that is the connection to Voldemort and being fifteen.

And finally, we are brought to Neville finding a way to let others in to his pain, and overcoming his shortcomings. Neville, throughout four books, has been the poor student, the shy one, the afterthought. Ron has Harry, and Seamus has Dean, and no one has Neville. We find out at the end of the book that Harry’s story could so easily have been Neville’s, if only for a slightly different reading of Trelawny’s prophecy. Neville has suffered, and suffered alone. Yet, he is a warm, friendly boy who is inquisitive and wants to please. In some of my favorite chapters in the book (22-23 or so) we discover so much more about Neville (including that he has been using his father’s wand, and of course that is going to affect his magical ability. Not using your own wand lessens your effectiveness, as we’ve seen before when Ron had to use a wand that wasn’t his). We also see him focus on improving his skills in the D.A. and fighting with all he has in the Department of Mysteries and literally carrying Hermione out of harm’s way once he establishes that she is still breathing. Our Neville has grown up right before our eyes and uses his newfound truths – that he is worthy and competent – to finally open up honestly to his friends about his life.

Ginny is also growing into the powerhouse we need and want her to be. While Harry is suffering alone, Ginny reminds him that she has suffered similarly, she can be a friend to him through this time. She, much like the rest of her family, is no nonsense and supportive. (As a very sidenote, Mrs. Weasley continues to be a delight to me. Her love for Harry is on easy display – in a rough chapter – as his dead body is also used in the littany of dead bodies the boggart shows her. It is a supremely sad moment, living with Mrs. Weasley in her fear.)

Like narfna, I’m a huge fucking nerd and Order of the Phoenix is a nerd’s paradise. There are exams, stress, new and rare areas of study, medical mysteries…  This book paints a clearer picture than any other of what it’s like to truly be a student at Hogwarts, not just using Hogwarts as a physical location away from the muggle world. Maybe it’s that the 5th years have more homework than ever, but the way that Harry and Ron have to juggle everything, and often don’t while Hermione seems to have a handle on it, (even though she loses her cool at exam time) really portrays Hogwarts as a real place, with its own particular rules and rhythms. We also see these rhythms disrupted by Umbridge in Inquisitor mode.Watching all the students go through O.W.L. testing as Rowling brings back the greatest hits of these characters accomplishments and all they have done over the past five years puts everything into larger perspective. She has grown these characters to match what is yet to come, and we are able to sit and enjoy the ride. As long as enjoying an academic tumult is your jam.

There is so much more I could talk about, the return of Lupin (something about his struggle always speaks to me), the introduction of Tonks (surprisingly less badass in the book than I remembered), Sirius’ death and how it destroyed me (still not okay), all of the ways Rowling laid in for that death to be avoided (never forget what your going-away presents are, folks), and Dumbledore’s admission that all he has done for Harry, and the way he has structured his interactions were because of his selfish desire to let Harry have a normal life, even though that was never going to be in the cards for long. McGonagall continuing to be a bad ass (Have a biscuit, Potter) and surviving four stunning spells to the chest (life goals right there), and the sheer terror that is Umbridge (I hate child abusers, I hate abusers of the system, and I hate power demons. I’m not sure I could hate a character more than I hate Umbridge, I hate her more than Voldemort). But I will not continue, I will return to my own thoughts about The Order of the Phoenix, and wonder what else it still has to teach me, and all of us.

This book review is preceded by The Goblet of Fire.  In due course it will be followed by The Half-Blood Prince.