Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (Book 7)

by J.K. Rowling

No spoilers in the this review.

I did extremely enjoy reading the final book of the Harry Potter series. There was humor, suspense, tragedy, tension, and a great, believable ending. As is evident in the 759-page length of the book, Rowling refused to rush to the final confrontation. Answers to all questions remaining from the first six books were neatly and cleverly revealed. Kudos to J.K. for creating such a fascinating world. I'm quite looking forward to rereading the whole series now that all books are finally available.

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Poison Study

by Maria V. Snyder

This book was recommended by my novelist friend. I really must remember to thank her next time I see her. I really enjoyed this book as well as it's sequel. I'm looking forward to reading the third book in the series which the library unfortunately doesn't seem to carry.

The story opens in the Commander of Ixia's dungeon where Yelena awaits her fate at the hands of the executioner. The guards come for her, but instead of taking her to the gallows, they take her to the Commander's head of security, Valek, who offers her the recently vacated position of food taster. Of course, to ensure her continued cooperation, he poisons her first requiring her to present herself in his office every day for the antidote.

Yelena quickly (and necessarily) learns the rudiments of her new job. Along the way, she develops friendships with members of Valek's elite squad and convinces them to teach her self defense. Intrigue, respect, and love eventually entwine Yelena's life with Valek's. Magic and sorcery, which is illegal and punishable by death in Ixia, are woven throughout the story. The discovery of the secrets of her past and the thwarting of a plot to end the life of the Commander and take over the government keep this story line moving along very well.

I enjoyed this book immensely. It was a complete story within itself, yet it left me eager to hear how Yelena's life continues in the sequel.

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The Thirteenth Tale

by Diane Setterfield

This was a great selection for bookgroup. Everyone enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to others. It also provided lots and lots to discuss. I'm pleased as anything that it was one that I offered up to the group. Even Stepan enjoyed it though he was not looking forward to reading it at all.

This is the story of Vida Winters, a long celebrated author, and Margaret Lea, who Winters choses to write her true biography. Over the years, Ms. Winters has given many different versions of her life's story. She decides to finally reveal her truth as she suffers in the end stages of a fatal disease. Her biographer of choice, Margaret Lea, is a little known bookseller and biographer with her own secret sorrows.

I found this book to be very readable. It was dark without being morbid and it ended with a surprising twist.

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Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling

by Ross King

This was a fascinating book. Frankly, I'm surprised by how well I enjoyed it since non-fiction is not my usual literature of choice.

The book offers wonderful details on the incredible chore of painting such a huge expanse of vaulted ceiling. It also debunks a number of common myths. For example, Michelangelo did not paint the ceiling while lying on his back. There was about a 6 foot clearance between the floor of the scaffolding and the painting surface. Admittedly, this would not be a very comfortable position to work for the four years Michelangelo labored, but it certainly doesn't have him crawling around on his back to get from one spot to another.

Despite the title, this book is about much more than Michelangelo and his experiences painting the Sistine Chapel. It includes a detailed accounting of not only Michelangelo and his relationship with the pope, but also tales of the popes ambitions and military conquests as well as the information on Michelangelo's contemporary rivals in the art world: Leonardo da Vinci, Rafael, etc.

This is definitely a book worth reading. I highly recommend it to anybody who has ever even had the slightest hope of seeing the Sistine Chapel is person or who has ever admired the "Creation of Adam" which has become the iconical representation of the entire work in our modern times.

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After You'd Gone

by Maggie O'Farrell

I really enjoyed this book. It's one I picked up at random at Bookstop a few months ago and I would recommend it to anyone who asks.

The novel is well written – very poetic and engaging. The narrations jumps around chronologically, covers multiple points of view, and occasionally changes from 1st to 3rd person, but I didn't have any trouble following it as I have with other novels written in a similar fashion.

It tells the story of Alice Raike through a troubled relationship with her mother, meeting the love of her life, and the struggle of the desire to die vs. the will to live as she lies in a coma after an apparent suicide attempt.

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