Review: The Order of the Phoenix

17521812_906085102669_486076334_oThe Order of the Phoenix is the 5th year in the story of Harry Potter and the adventures at Hogwarts.   This book happens to be the thickest of all the novels, as a result it has the most content that doesn’t make it to the movies. It’s weird to me that the films have the last book broken out into two movies but this one with more than 100 pages of extra content over that book is crammed into one short film.

The story begins to take a turn in this book.  You learn of a secret order of witches and wizards who have dedicated them selves to stopping the evil that is Lord Voldemort (yeah, I used his name).

This book involves several key plot twists.  It’s the first book where an important character dies, and you see several power battles play out and how they effect the world at Hogwarts.  We also get to see Harry develop as a leader, though it’s clear he doesn’t want it.  Hermione seems much more suited to it.

In this book I feel Rowling develops the main characters much more that she had in the previous 4 books combined.  But, more importantly she begins, for the first time, to develop the side characters.  They’re no longer just the boys who sleep in Harry’s dorm, they each have wants, fears, and desires.  We begin to see what has made them who they are.  This development is so key to the story and where it is going.  Without that development we might be lead to believe that only Ron, Hermione, and Harry have a personality.

I have one complaint with this book.  In the beginning of the book there’s a comment made about how they didn’t travel by portkey as that would be a lifetime’s work to accomplish.  But we see in the end of the last book that one of the death eater’s made a portkey with no more than a year of lead time.  And then at the end of the book Dumbledore makes a port key in about half a second and sends Harry though it to wait for him.  Are we to believe that Voldemort’s Death Eaters can make a portkey fairly easily, but a normal wizard needs a life time to accomplish it?  I just can’t follow that logic.  This is a fairly big plot hole and present all kinds of other issues.  Why didn’t Voldemort use a port key to enter Hogwarts at any point in the story?  Surely while Dumbledore lived it makes sense that he didn’t, but once he’s dead why do we have the huge battle scene if he could enter silently in the night?  Perhaps this is answered later in the books, but I find that doubtful.

Overall, I give this book five stars.  I’ll review book six next week, but having already read it I can easily say that this is my favorite of the first 6 books.

Next Up: The Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Experiment #2 Making Bouillon

A few years ago, Steph and I were talking as we were making soup with store bought bouillon cubes.  She asked me if I knew what bouillon was first used for and when I expressed ignorance, she told me it was used to make soup in a world without refrigeration.  It allowed them to make soups when the ingredients would normally be out of season and unavailable.  When I heard this I exclaimed “YOU CAN MAKE BOUILLON CUBES?  We should do that!”

We have since learned that modern bouillon is used for many different functions including quick and easy meals while out backpacking.  Now, that’s something to consider!  The next time you’re going hiking… you could be eating gourmet foods while out on the trail, and that will certainly change your outdoors experience!

This February we decided to act on this desire and see what it takes to make bouillon.  We read several blogs on how to make bouillon including the one we based our recipe upon, The Nourished Kitchen.  From all of the reading we learned that bone broth is an essential part of making homemade bouillon.  The gelatin that comes out of bones is what binds the bouillon together and the nutrients in bones come out in the the slow cooking process providing great benefits to the consumer.  In fact, many of the blogs we read posited the idea that chicken soup became a cultural icon of getting healthy when sick due to all the nutrients that came from the bone broth base.  In today’s preparations of chicken soup bone broth is no longer used so chicken soup has lost many of the benefits that made it famous for healing the sick.

The basic process for making bouillon from scratch involves simmering the bones of your chosen animal for 24-72 hours, straining it, refrigerating over night, removing the fat, and then boiling it down again until it becomes jelly like.  The length of time for simmering the bones depends on the kind of bones you use.  Poultry bones, which are hollow, will take less time than mammal bones.  The longer you simmer them the more nutrients will be pulled out of them.  One blogger wrote that she simmers her chicken bones for 48 hours, and when she’s done the bones are so brittle you can eat them.

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds meaty bones, (chicken, beef, lamb, pork, etc.)
  • 1 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoons unrefined sea salt
  • Some recipes call for adding gelatin, this is something to consider if you’re using poultry bones as they have far less gelatin in the hollow bones.

Instructions

  1. If using mammal bones, Lay bones in 9×13 baking pan and roast at 425 F for 45 minutes.  Poultry bones do not need this step.
  2. Transfer bones to stock pot.  Add peppercorns and bay leaves.  Cover with filtered or distilled water and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, reduce to medium low and simmer uncovered for 8-72.  (Beef bones should be simmered for 8-72 hours and Chicken bones from 6-24 hours)
  3. Strain the stock into a large mixing bowl through cheese cloth. Refrigerate in mixing bowl overnight.
  4. The fat will rise to the top and gel in the refrigerator.  Remove and reserve the fat for use in frying vegetables or braising meat.  The fat should keep for a few months if kept refrigerated.
  5. Pour the fat free stock into a shallow pot, stir in salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until about 1 cup remains.  The size of your pot will cause the reduction time to vary, but typically it’s around 45 minutes.
  6. Pour into a small container and refrigerate overnight, cut into cubes about 1-inch square.
  7. Each cube produces one cup of stock. Simply drop the cube into one cup hot water and stir.  Store in an airtight container.  Bouillon will keep at room temperature for six months and often up to a year in the refrigerator.

Review: Orthodoxy and Heresy

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I ended February with a week left and decided to grab another book to read.  I pulled this one off the shelf and gave it a quick read.  It’s a brief fifty pages long.  Joel Parkinson’s goal in writing this book was to give a quick, clear outline of the most basic things a believer needs to believe in order to be able to call themselves a Christian.

What’s brilliant about this book is how simple it is.  Aside from the basic Gospel message Parkinson identifies seven other beliefs essential to Christianity.  He spends a bit of time developing each point and showing where that point can be found in Scripture.

All in all, this book is a great read for both Christian and non-Christian to grab a quick and easy to understand delve into what makes Christianity what it is.

Next Up: The Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Recipe: Refried Beans

It’s time for another recipe!  This one is a bit different, who makes their own refried beans anymore?  Well, we do!  We were at Costco one day when I expressed that I had read that making your own beans is far cheaper and healthier than buying precooked, canned beans.  Steph being a former chef was up for giving it a try on the condition that I do most of the cooking of the beans.  I agreed and did some research.  I found an amazing article on cooking beans and learned that there’s an old wives tale about presoaking your beans before cooking.  And sure enough as I have looked at recipes, they all say to presoak your beans over night before cooking.  The summary of that article I linked is this:  “… don’t bother soaking your black beans. Un-soaked beans taste better, cook almost as quickly, have great texture, and don’t cause significantly worse problems for the digestive system.”  As a side note, I love his journalistic integrity.  He only tested black beans and his conclusion was only about black beans.  A far cry from modern journalism.  Another article I read did seem to think that presoaking them cut about 45 minutes off the cook time, but added that: “when I sampled them, the extra 45 minutes paid off.”  He continued: “The unsoaked beans had a noticeably deeper flavor; they were firmer to the bite, and they did not break up as much in cooking.”

Armed with a wealth of knowledge from my research, I began crafting my own recipe for refried beans.  I looked at two other recipes in particular one from Serious Eats and one from Simple Recipes.  From this and several delicious experiments, here’s what I’ve come up with:

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Refried Beans

Details

Time – 120 minutes (only around 15 minutes of actual work)

Skill – None

Servings – 6-8 cups

Cost – virtually free

Ingredients

1 lb dried beans (about 3 cups)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons bacon fat

1/2 onion chopped

Water

Cheese, Salt, and Pepper to taste

 

Directions

 

Wash beans & place in pot.  Add water until beans are covered by 3″.  Add salt.  Important note here, there’s a lot of articles online about how adding acidic foods (example: tomatoes) and/or salt during the cooking process will make the beans shell become impenetrable.  I have made this recipe several times not and not found salt to hinder the process at all.  I think it’s important to flavor the water during the cooking process or you’ll find that the beans need even more salt at the end to become tasty.  Bring water to a boil and reduce to a medium – low simmer.  Simmer for 2 hours checking water level every 1/2 hour.  You may find the beans are cooked as early as 1 hour in.  If this is the case, you do not need to keep cooking.  Make sure beans remain submerged in water the whole time.  When the beans are tender and the shell starts to crack on the beans, remove from heat and strain, saving the bean-water runoff.

In a separate skillet, sauté onion in bacon fat.  Add beans.  While cooking mash with potato masher or puree with a submersion blender.  I recommend the blender, it’s much easier.  As the beans start to dry out, add the bean-water to rehydrate.  This water is what contains all the nutrients from those beans and it adds a really good flavor as well.  Add cheese, salt, and pepper to taste.

Review: The Way of Kings

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I chose to read the longest book I had set aside for this year in the shortest month.  By doing so it was my hope that to prove to myself that I can read anything in a month.  So I chose to start The Way of Kings on February 1st, and I blew my goal out of the water.  Despite it being 1252 pages long and spending many weekdays not reading, I still finished in 18 days.  Now I can be very confident in my ability to read a book a month for the rest of the year.

The Way of Kings is one of the most in depth fantasy books I’ve ever read.  It’s fantastic!  The flora and fauna are unique and different from the world we know.  The magic operates on the residual energy of storms… and the story lines follow people as they rise to power or are brought low by slavery and defeat.  Brandon Sanderson clearly hit gold with this novel.

I have only two complaints with the book.  First, the info dumps in the book are useful for explaining a great many things that don’t exist in our world.  And while that’s good, they are too frequent.  In general, I find that I’m the only one that is bothered by this.  But to me, what it feels like is this book is written as a history of another world and things are said in that history that only make sense in this world.

It makes sense when you’re telling a story to describe and unfamiliar place or custom to the person you’re telling the story to, in order to give it context.  But when you’re telling a story to a world that already knows that custom you won’t explain that the world has that custom.  In fantasy all too often they explain customs knowing that the reader has not context for it, and it’s noble that they’d want us to grasp that as we wrestle with their story, but the mode in which they explain it is often, unintentionally, condescending.  Where they actually writing the history for their world they wouldn’t explain some of the things they do.  They’d let us pick it up in context and connect the dots for ourselves throughout the story.  Brandon Sanderson is more guilty of this than other fantasy authors I’ve read.  He explains one creature in his book saying: “it’s like a dog” but there’s no evidence that there are any dogs in the world at all.  So for it me, it came off like cheap writing and sometimes condescending.

Second, The Way of Kings is book one of a trilogy and it leaves off with cliff hanger.  I hate cliff hangers.

Despite those two complaints, I still give this book full marks.  It’s masterfully written.  Yes, there are parts that could be improved upon, but overall the story is intricately woven and full of twists and turns that make it one of the best stories I’ve ever read.

Next Up: The Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Building a Backpack Part III

My buckles finally came in and so I was able to go out and get the strapping material I needed to make the compression straps.  I took some time this last weekend to sew the straps in and sew up the bottom of the bag.  I used an X Box pattern to secure the straps (not pictured), but hid that under the bottom layer of fabric in an attempt to keep the outside of the bag looking more pristine.

The next steps for this project are to create 4 more external pockets (two on the front, 1 on each side), secure the bottom portion of the backpack straps to the sides, sew up the sides, turn the back right side out, make backpack straps and secure them, and finish making the compression straps.  I’m planning on making the backpack cover a double layer of canvas to give it some weight and durability.  So I’ll need to cut and sew that in, but that can be one of the final things I do.

Recipe: Arroz con Pollo

Steph and I are terrible at keeping an organized recipe catalog in our home.   Oh, we have plenty of cook books and fantastic recipes, but when we find one we like, we often forget to keep a record of it in a safe place.  So in an effort to keep a record of the best recipe’s we’ve discovered, I’m going to write them into my blog.  That means you get to benefit!

One of the best dishes I’ve surprised Steph with is Arroz con Pollo.  And while the original recipe I found is good, it has some short comings, like not making enough seasoning for the chicken and a tendency for the rice to come out undercooked if you don’t do things perfectly.   I’ve modified the recipe a bit and you can find it below.  For purists, a link to the original recipe can be found at the end.

Arroz con Pollo is a dish of Spanish heritage.  As such you’ll find it full of delicious flavoring!  I was amazed when I made this the first time, the flavor was so amazing and the effort it took was pretty minimal (by most people’s standards).  It’s hard to beat an easy recipe with delicious flavoring and good portion sizes!  I hope you’ll give this recipe a try and report back on the success of any modifications you try.

Now, I’m about to share one of our favorite recipes with you, but before I do, let me give you a challenge.  See this picture:

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These are all the spices in our kitchen that we don’t seem to use.  I’d like to go through these this year, but I need help!  What can we possibly make with these ingredients that will be delectable to our palates?  The spices in this picture are:

Herbs de Providence, Saffron, Mild Curry Powder, Cardamom, Cayenne (this one is a mistake, we go through it just fine), Whole Nutmeg, Turmeric, Coriander, Curry (yes two bottles of curry, you can see we’ve made curry twice in our marriage…) Harrissa, Garden Salad, Ground Nutmeg, Ground Ginger, and Ground Coriander.

Do these ingredients spark your imagination or reverberate your memories?  Shoot us a recipe in the comments below!

Arroz con Pollo

Details

Time – 90 minutes

Skill – None

Servings – about 4

Cost – $10 or less (unless you don’t have any spices, in which case I pity your kitchen.)

Ingredients

Chicken Rub

4 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon dried cumin

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

 

8 serving sized pieces of chicken – skinless

3  tablespoons vegetable oil

1 onion diced

2 bell peppers diced (choose your favorite colors!)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt (skip this if using bouillon cubs for the stock)

1 1/2 cups rice

2 cloves garlic finely diced

1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock

1/2 cup tomato sauce

 

Directions

I’m a big fan of Mise en Place.  I can’t make a meal without getting all the steps done ahead of time.  If you’re like me it helps to break down those steps first and organize them on the counter.  Steph makes fun of me for how bad my Mise en Place needs are.  So many of you more skilled cooks might ignore the ordering of this, but I find it helps me a great deal to know that everything is ready long before I need it to be.

Mix chicken rub ingredients and spread on plate.

Dice all fruits and vegetables and set aside.

Place rice and garlic in a container to the side.

Begin dissolving your bouillon cubes in water or if using a real stock, measure out the appropriate amount and add in the teaspoon of salt.  If using bouillon cubes for the stock, don’t add additional salt.  Combine the water, stock, and tomato sauce in a medium bowl.

Pat the chicken dry and then thoroughly coat with rub.  Heat the oil in a 12-inch high-sided skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking.  The skillet size is important as all the ingredients will be placed in the skillet covered.  Add the chicken to the pan and brown on all sides ~ 3 – 6 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate, using tongs.  Reduce heat to medium high and add the fruits, vegetables, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet.  Cook while stirring, until soft ~ 7 minutes.  Add the rice and garlic cooking until rice begins to turn gold in color ~ 60 seconds.  Add the water/stock mixture to the skillet and stir to make sure the rice is covered in liquid.  Nestle the chicken in the rice, adding any juices from the plate.  Bring the rice to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook until the chicken is cooked through, the rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed ~ 35 minutes.  It’s important to not remove the cover during this portion or the rice won’t cook through.  Let the skillet stand covered for 10 minutes before serving.

Find the original recipe here.

Review: Who Moved the Stone?

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The last few weeks have been crazy busy.  I haven’t had much time to blog, but I impressed myself with finishing another book at the end of January.  That means I read 4 books in as many weeks.  This latest one was called Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morison.

Frank Morison was a journalist during the late 1800s.  He was a naturalist who wanted to disprove the resurrection.  So he some time looking into the historical record using his journalist training to discern what really happened.  He writes about his take on the week leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion and ends a week after.

Morison dissects the psychological ramifications of the events, the way stories tend to be told and develop, and the historical facts of how the religions and governmental bodies of the day worked and where this story deviated from they way they were supposed to operate.

Morison moves through these points with remarkable depth and clarity.  Some of the things he points to I had never thought of despite these events being a matter I’ve pondered for ages.  I’m not sure my words can possible due Morison justice.  He went into such remarkable depth in his study that I’m not sure it could be said that anyone else’s study compares.

If you have ever pondered these events and wonder what actually happened during the week before and after Jesus’s death, you owe it to yourself to read this book.  It’s $11 retail or free at your local library.  And with its brevity you can easily read it in a week.

Now Reading: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

On Self-Criticism

Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one-one that would do nobody any harm.

In February 1931, Francis Crowley and two of his friends went to a party in New York, sans invitation.  After awhile, some men proceeded to remove them from the party, and in reaction, Crowley pulled out a gun and shot two men before departing.  A warrant went out for his arrest under the charge of attempted murder, and Crowley went into hiding.  Several months later, police found and confronted him, but he shot one of the detectives and got away.  Later, he broke into a house, and shot the owner five times using two guns, giving him the nickname “Two Gun” Crowley.  Just three months after this story began, Crowley was sitting in a parked car with his girl, when a pair of police officers came up and asked him for ID, Crowley drew on the officer and killed one and wounded the other.  The following day, the police surrounded his hideout and fired tear gas and bullets into it, trying to drive him out.  While resisting their efforts to capture him, he wrote: “To whom it may concern, under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one-one that would do nobody any harm.”  It seems crazy, doesn’t it?  How could he believe so earnestly that he could “do nobody any harm” when he had shot several people and killed another?

As crazy as it sounds, you’ve seen this kind of behavior before.  Haven’t you?  Someone you know has done something remarkably foolish, but they can only regard it based on their intent.  The fallout of their actions was not their intent; they had no intention of events unraveling as they did.  So they blind their senses, and tell everyone they did the best they could have.  Sometimes they go as far as saying they did no wrong.  Crowley shot six people and yet he regarded himself as someone who wouldn’t harm nobody.

Al Capone, one of the greatest mobsters of all time, is quoted as saying:

I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping people have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man.

Think about that for a moment.  Here’s someone who organized crime, killed police and citizens, and couldn’t fathom why anyone would be hunting him down.

In politics we see this same principle with Rosevelt.  Theodore Rosevelt broke up the Republican party in the early 1900s when he got into a tiff with Taft.  He started the Bull Moose Party and ran against him.  The consequence was that the votes were split and the democrats won.  In the end, Rosevelt could only say: “I don’t see how I could have done any differently from what I have.”  His actions ensured that democratic party would take office as he split the votes of the republicans, but instead of acknowledging that he could only say he did no wrong.  Now I’m not saying that Rosevelt was in the wrong for running against his party, he may very well have been right.  But his intent ensured that someone he felt worse about being in office took office.  The point I’m making here is that doing what you feel is right, may result in something very wrong happening.  (This is also not a commentary on the Woodrow Wilson, who did enact some great changes to this country.)

Many great disasters have come in the wake of some person or another not examining themselves.  Their inability or inaction to judge their own mind and heart and see where they were going wrong led them into peril.  When faced with the self-justification of villains, criminals, and politicians how can we continue down the same path?

It’s not easy to examine ourselves, is it?  In one way or another we’ve all made the mistake of pursuing one goal and totally botching it in the method we pursued.  I know one guy, who wanting to stay in touch with a particularly flaky friend (let’s call him Ben), would call and leave voicemails expressing a desire to talk to the him.  When Ben didn’t return the calls, likely due to the busyness of college, homework, making new friends and life, he added a joking line at the end of voicemail.  That line when something along the lines “Call me back or I’m going to come down there.”  He thought it was particularly funny because he wasn’t a violent sort, and his presence wouldn’t normally be seen as a threat.  And he chuckled to himself thinking about how he might not return the phone call because Ben wished to see him in person.  As time went on, he still received no return call.  His voice mails got sassier and the joke more physical and in the end Ben communicated to a mutual friend, that he had no interest in talking to someone who threatened him.   And that, dear reader, is how I lost my first high school friend.  My joke wasn’t funny, but I didn’t realize it until it was too late.  I certainly analyzed many of my actions at that point in my life, but in regards to Ben I wasn’t analyzing them well enough.

So what’s the solution?  I believe it’s threefold.  1) We must be analyzing our actions and making sure that they are working in the way they are intended and that there is little to no room for them to go wrong. Or as “Mad-Eye” Moody would say:

Vigilance, Constant Vigilance!

2) We must include friends and family in our criticism process.  We must give our trusted allies the freedom and permission to call us out when we err.  Getting self-defensive only serves to further hamper our growth and our ability to effect the changes we want to see in the world.  For the Christian this principle is not only common sense, but a command from God.  Matthew 18:15 states:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

The implication is that there will be times when you need to point out the error of your friends ways.  And the further truth of that, is that there are times you will need to be corrected for wronging your friend.  Each one of us, from time to time, need to be stopped, and pointed back in a proper and good direction.

3) We must acknowledge when we screw up and properly apologize for it.  I’m not talking about saying: “I’m sorry” as those words mean virtually nothing in today’s world.  I’m talking about a full on apology.  Where we admit where we wronged the person, tell them why it was wrong, and earnestly promise to not repeat that behavior.  That threefold apology will mean much more to them than saying “I’m sorry” or worse “I’m sorry you feel that way.” A proper apology also restores a relationship to a better place than it was before.

There is, perhaps, a fourth aspect to this process.  It seems so obvious to me, I didn’t even become aware of its necessity until I pondered how various different people might respond to reading this blog post.  And that is that each person must have a standard to which they are trying to attain.  Without a standard, there is no way to measure success or failure in your day to day interactions and no guide for your friends to use in keeping you accountable.  For the Christian, this standard is Jesus and living a life as perfect as His.  For my non Christian friends, I’d be curious what that standard of living is.  I know you wish to grow and become a better person, but what is the standard by which you measure goodness?  What is the standard by which your friends can hold you accountable and you can measure success or failure and become a better person?

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:38

I’ve been mulling this over for a few years now.  I see people going down the wrong path, and posting about it proudly on facebook or talking about it in social settings.  And I, being only an acquaintance, do not feel I have any place pointing out that their actions are working against their best interests.  It was only when I picked up a book the other day, How to Win Friends and Influence People, that I felt I had to speak out.  The author shares all the stories I listed above and he makes the point that people don’t take criticism well.  If we want to help fix their errant behavior, it is better to get there by asking questions and being gentle than to confront them face to face.  There’s truth in that.  Don’t we find it easier to change if we feel we are the ones that started the thought process ourselves?  But I also think that these stories point to another truth, that if we want to be good and admirable people, we must also be willing to take criticism face to face, and that process begins within.

Review: The Goblet of Fire

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Three books in three weeks!  Maybe reading isn’t as hard and as terrible as I thought…

The Goblet of Fire is the first book in this series written for adults.  I think it’s officially classified as a Young Adult novel, and that’s fine.  While reading this book I laughed, I thought, I tried to figure out the mysteries before they resolved in the books, and I think I got something in my eye towards the end.  It’s twice the length of any of the prior books in the series, and the technical writing skill of Rowling steps up a notch to match the page count.  There is also a lot more differences between the book and the movie and I’ll talk about one of those in a minute here.

The whole story is fanciful and magical.  Rowling spends many chapters describing amazing events and how various characters approach them differently.  This book grapples with the fact that we don’t all think the same, and it still works out well!  The rest of this review will contain spoilers, so you may wish to stop here if you plan on reading it.

I only have two complaints with this book.  The first is that there’s a scene the movie did better.  In the movie Neville Longbottom gives Harry some gillyweed to get him through a challenge, but in the book Neville doesn’t not help Harry at all.  Why is this important?  Because Neville is a klutz in the early parts of this story; he is literally the worst wizard at Hogwarts.  But from seeing the movies we know he grows into one of the bravest wizards in the school.  The scene where he helps Harry out is one of the very few places in the movies where we see any growth in Neville’s character.  Granted there’s still plenty of time for Rowling to prove me wrong, but that scene is so crucial to the movies, it’s a shame we don’t see it here.  In fact, we see very little character growth in Neville in this book.

The second complaint is really more with a character than with the story at large.  Harry has some terrible challenges in this book and he knows someone is trying to kill him, but he puts practically no effort in to making sure he can survive.  I know there are people like this, and it’s just that I don’t relate to them.  I just can’t fathom how someone could spend their time lying to their friends and avoiding trying to solve a riddle just because it’s easier.  Your friends would help you if you let them!  Don’t die you foolish little boy!

Overall, I give this book five stars.  It is absolutely fantastic!

I have a lot to do in the next week or two, so I’ll probably going to put my reading on hold and switch my focus to getting stuff done.  When I come back to reading it will be February 1st and I’ll be starting The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.  I was originally skeptical of being able to get through its 1300 pages in 28 days, but considering I’ve read three books in the first 18 days of this month, I might just have a shot.