Spark Joy


Title: Spark Joy
Author: Marie Kondo
Genre: Nonfiction, Lifestyle, Minimalism, Self Help
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Release Date: January 5th, 2016

Note: Spark Joy is a companion to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It is “an illustrated master class on the art of organizing and tidying up.” I recommend reading her first book before reading this. 

If you have read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and are wanting more tips and techniques for your home, Spark Joy is for you. Marie begins by sharing her master tips, “Honing your sensitivity to joy,” “How to fill your home with joy,” and “Everything you need to know about storing joyfully.” The premise of this book, like her first book, is surrounding yourself only with things that bring you joy, and discarding the rest with gratitude.

The second part of the book is titled “The tidying encyclopedia,” which consists of chapters dedicated to tidying clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellaneous), and sentimental items. I really enjoyed all of the illustrations she used for these categories. They were cute and helpful visuals to help inspire the organizational process.

The last part of this book, “Life-changing magic,” is all about putting into practice the things you have just read. She walks you through “A home that sparks joy,” spending time on every area of the home, and closes with “The changes that come when you’re done,” which include all the amazing benefits that follow putting your home in order.

I read this book in one day, as I did with her first book. It is the kind of book I love to read that gives me inspiration and motivation to make my home as enjoyable to live in as I possibly can.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author: J.K. Rowling
Series: Harry Potter, 7/7
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, MG, YA
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: July 21st, 2007

Note: This post reviews the seventh book of the Harry Potter series. You may like to read the first six books in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince before reading this review.

It is up to Harry, with the help of his best friends Ron and Hermione, to track down the rest of the Horcruxes if there is any hope of defeating Voldemort. Along the way, they learn the truth to the children’s story of the Deathly Hallows – the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility. It is said that the one who possesses all three artifacts becomes the Master of Death.

Voldemort and his Death Eaters attack Hogwarts, and a great wizarding battle commences. Harry races against time to track down the final Horcruxes before it’s too late. In the end, he does whatever it takes to defeat Voldemort and save Hogwarts – even if it means not saving himself.

This is my favorite book of the entire series! I loved seeing how Rowling tied everything together so masterfully.

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Title: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Author: J.K. Rowling
Series: Harry Potter, 6/7
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, MG, YA
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: July 16th, 2005

Note: This post reviews the sixth book of the Harry Potter series. You may like to read the first five books in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix before reading this review.

After the events in the previous book, the wizarding world is torn in two: those who support Voldemort’s return, and those who will do whatever it takes to see him destroyed. In the midst of another year at Hogwarts, Harry stumbles across a potions book that belonged to the mysterious half-blood prince. This book helps Harry pass his class, and also beckons him to learn more… Who is the half-blood prince?

Dumbledore brings an odd choice of a teacher back to Hogwarts. Harry later learns why Professor Slughorn has returned – to provide insight on the boy Tom Riddle, before he became Lord Voldemort. Dumbledore and Harry uncover the truth together, and begin the hunt for the Horcruxes, objects that contain part of wizard’s soul after being split through murder. As they are forced to face the evil of Voldemort firsthand, sacrifices must be made – but once again, not everything is as it seems.

I really enjoyed this book. It feels like the beginning of the end, as much of this book sets the stage for the next (and final) book of the series.

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Title: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Author: J.K. Rowling
Series: Harry Potter, 5/7
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, MG, YA
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: June 21st, 2003

Note: This post reviews the fifth book of the Harry Potter series. You may like to read the first four books in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, before reading this review.

This fifth book of the series feels darker, graver than the previous ones. After the tragic events and the end of the fourth book, we are forced to accept that He Who Must Not be Named has come back, though most in the wizarding world blindly refuse to acknowledge his return. Since their Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher does nothing whatsoever to help them learn spells to protect themselves, Harry and his friends, Ron and Hermione, decide to take matters into their own hands. Together, they form a secret training group known as Dumbledore’s Army.

He Who Must Not be Named has returned, with the help and full support of his Death Eaters. The Order of the Phoenix – a group of good wizards who are aware of the enemy – does everything they can to fight Voldemort. But will it be enough to stop him, even with some help from Dumbledore’s Army?

The reason I gave this book a 4 out of 5 is because it’s a little tough to get through, at least compared to the rest of the series. The characters are whiny and overly-dramatic, which makes it a bit less enjoyable of a read than the other books.

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author: J.K. Rowling
Series: Harry Potter, 4/7
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, MG, YA
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: July 8th, 2000

Note: This post reviews the fourth book of the Harry Potter series. You may like to read the first three books in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, before reading this review.

During Harry’s fourth year, Hogwarts is hosting a mysterious and exciting event – the Triwizard Tournament. The schools competing in this prestigious competition are Durmstrang Institute, Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, and (of course) Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Each school is represented by one student, whose name is chosen from the Goblet of Fire.

But instead of three champions, four are selected, and Harry, underage though he be, participates in the Triwizard Tournament. The Triwizard Tournament commences, and the four champions face many dangers. As the tournament progresses, Harry begins to suspect that there is more going on than just fun and games. There is a darkness present, a darkness that waits to reveal itself until the grand finalé. It is Harry who must face this evil, as he is the only one who truly can.

This is such a fun book of the series! Placed right in the middle, it has elements of lighthearted fun, even as the stakes are raised between Harry and Voldemort.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: J.K. Rowling
Series: Harry Potter, 3/7
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, MG, YA
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: July 8th, 1999

Note: This post reviews the third book of the Harry Potter series. You may like to read the first two books in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, before reading this review.

Like his first two years, Harry’s third year at Hogwarts promises to be full of danger and excitement. Sirius Black, a dangerous murderer, has escaped from Azkaban, the most secure prison of the wizarding world. And it seems that he is after Harry! Dementors – the Azkaban guards with the power to fill people with despair – appear at the school in search of Sirius. Harry is deeply affected by their presence and works with Professor Lupin, a close friend of his parents, to master the difficult Patronus charm to ward off the Dementors.

Harry learns that not everything is as it seems, both within Hogwarts and without. With the help of a time-turner, he has the chance to go back in time and save more than one life from being unjustly executed, discovering things about himself and his parents along the way.

I absolutely love this book of the series! The time-travel story element is fun and fascinating, as all time-travel should be.

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Title: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Author: J.K. Rowling
Series: Harry Potter, 2/7
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, MG, YA
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: June 2nd, 1999

Note: This post reviews the second book of the Harry Potter series. You may like to read the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, before reading this review.

Harry Potter is preparing to enter his second year at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But before the term begins, he is approached by Dobby, a strange house-elf, warning him not to go back to Hogwarts because it is no longer safe. Though he returns to the school, Harry soon sees that Dobby was right – danger has returned to Hogwarts.

Muggle students are being mysteriously petrified left and right, and no one knows who the culprit is. Harry learns in the midst of these events that he can speak Parseltongue – the language of snakes – which makes him a prime suspect as Slytherin, a known muggle hater, was also a Parselmouth. After yet another incident, a threatening message is left on the walls, informing the school that the chamber of secrets has been opened. Harry begins to realize who is really behind the attacks, and must enter the dreaded chamber of secrets to confront an unexpected enemy.

I love this book, particularly because of the way we are introduced to Tom Riddle. It gives more depth and insight to the villain of the series.

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Author: J.K. Rowling
Series: Harry Potter, 1/7
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, MG, YA
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: June 26th, 1997

For the next seven weeks, I will be reviewing the Harry Potter series! I am so excited to review these classics of our time. If you have not yet read them, I highly encourage you to jump into this beloved series of friendship, adventure, and (of course) magic.

Harry Potter has lived with his horrible relatives ever since the death of his parents when he was a baby. Forced to sleep in a closet under the stairs, his life looks pretty bleak – that is, until a stranger arrives with the news that he is a wizard. He rescues Harry and delivers him to Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he will learn how to be a wizard.

Harry quickly learns that he is special, and even famous in the wizarding world. He learns the truth of what happened to his parents, Lily and James Potter, and why he is known as “the boy who lived.” In the midst of school and exams, there is danger at Hogwarts. The Sorcerer’s Stone, a magical artifact that contains the power to extend life, is hidden somewhere within the school’s walls. Harry, with the help of his new friends Ron and Hermione, races against an unimaginable evil to find the stone before it’s too late.

Join Harry and his friends on this, the first adventure of many, as they use their developing magical skills to fight their greatest enemy ever, “he who must not be named.” You won’t be disappointed!

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Redeeming Love

Title: Redeeming Love
Author: Francine Rivers
Genre: Christian, Historical, Romance
Publisher: Multnomah
Release Date: 1997

Note: I am straying from my typical Young Adult book reviews to review this book. This is not a book I would recommend to YA audiences, as it is deals with mature content for adult readers. 

Angel has only ever seen men as heartless and cruel. Sold into prostitution at a heartbreakingly young age, she has known intense betrayal and cruelty; used and abused countless times, she has long given up all hope in men. Which is why Michael Hosea rocks her world when he enters her life.

Michael believes that Angel, a high-priced prostitute in Pair-a-Dice, is the woman God has called him to marry. Confused, but obedient, he eventually convinces Angel to leave behind the only life she has ever known and be his wife. He offers her more than she bargained for: a home, security, and love. Instead of accepting Michael’s – and God’s – love, Angel is terrified of it, terrified that this sort of love would be her undoing. So she runs back to her old life, the life that feels safe, but is really dangerous and deceptive.

In this compelling story inspired by the book of Hosea, we see Michael demonstrate a love for Angel that is too powerful to outrun. She is forced to face her dark past and accept love for the first time, ultimately, the love of a God who never stops pursuing the lost and redeeming the broken – no matter how lost or broken they are.

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