The results for my (late) O.W.L.s are in!!! And holy shit, you guys, I have no idea how I did it with less than one month to go, but I actually passed ALL MY O.W.L.s! That means I got an Outstanding and it also means, I could technically take all of the N.E.W.T.s and choose any wizarding career I like.
I did choose mostly short books, which wasn’t a bad thing, because some of them have been languishing on my TBR for very long and now I finally got to them. There were some very good surprises, some not so great books, some subject prompts that had me scratch my head over my TBR because I just couldn’t find the right book for them… But all things considered, this was by far my favorite readathon ever and I am so stoked for the N.E.W.T.s this August.
|Total books read||12|
|Total pages read||3555|
|Career options||ALL OF THEM|
Here’s all the books I read for this readathon and my report card at the very bottom:
* History of Magic (published 10+ years ago) ☑
It’s a personal goal of mine to read more older books and not just newer ones, so this History of Magic prompt was just perfect. My book choice… not so much.
A modern-ish retelling of The Frog Prince, Nancy Springer’s Fair Peril is about Buffy, a middle-age recently divorced woman who is filled with bitterness and hatred for men, her ex in particular. The fairy tale aspects were rather silly but overall okay, but Buffy and the other characters really bothered me. All of them were terrible human beings, Buffy hated all men and complained that she got fat but kept eating nothing but trash. Her daughter is a vapid, blonde little thing, her ex is a macho stereotype. Nobody had layers, and everybody was unlikable. So, sadly, this was a miss for me but at least it was a quick read. (246 pages)
* Muggle Studies (contemporary) ☑
As I don’t read many contemporary books, I thought this O.W.L. would be my hardest. However, the literary revelation that is Sam J. Miller has recently published a new book, Destroy All Monsters. And just as I fell into The Art of Starving and Blackfish City (although vastly different books), I immediately loved this one. It’s told by Ash and Solomon in alternating chapters. Ash is a young girl on anti-depressants, Solomon is her best friend who suffers from some sort of mental illness – he believes himself to live in a world full of magic and dinosaurs. But Ash’s “real” world and Solomon’s “imaginary” one are more similar than you might think, and soon the lines between them blur more and more.
Plus, when they were 12 years old, something traumatic happened that may have caused their mental illnesses. Something they both don’t remember… (400 pages)
* Ancient runes (Retelling) ☑
For the Charms exam, I read Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes. While this was a quick read, I had some qualms about the style and plot – or lack thereof. To me, it felt like the author talked down to her readers, endlessly explaining things that were already obvious from context. This is very much a tell-don’t-show book which may work for very young readers, but for a YA book, I thought it was too simple. I like a bit more of a challenge, I want to figure things out for myself instead of being told outright. The plot meandered and felt very contrived and incoherent at times. The villain was over the top evil but without a hint of motive or reasoning. And the secret string-puller behind the scenes was painfully obvious. This is the first book in a trilogy, but seeing as it had very little going for it, I won’t be reading the sequels. (319 pages)
Charms (adult work) ☑
For my charms O.W.L. I finally read The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. I tried my best in my review to put into words just how wonderful this book was. It tells the story of a Golem whose master dies shortly after she is “born”, and a Jinni, who is released from his flask but has no memory of who put him into this prison and trapped him in human shape. These two are literally lost souls who meet and form a friendship. They learn to navigate life with humans, learn about cultures and what moves people, they teach each other and lift each other up.
I loved this so, so much! The writing was perfect, the characters grew incredibly dear to me, and the ending is a piece of art. (486 pages)
Herbology (plant on the cover) ☑
I had been meaning to read The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris for a long time but – as with so many books – never got around to it. Now I finally also enjoyed this pleasurable retelling of some Norse myths from the point of view of our favorite trickster. Loki’s voice was quite funny, narrating his escapades beautifully. I was especially surprised how well the modern dialogue worked, considering the setting. You’d expect a lot of old-timey speech but this way, it was much funnier and the ideas still came across.
The ending, although it was clear how everything would end from the start, was a bit of a let-down. I would have gladly read more Loki and Thor adventures but didn’t care much about the overarching story. But I’ll check out the sequel for sure. (302 pages)
Potions (sequel) ☑
It’s hard to explain how much I love Martha Wells‘ Murderbot Diaries. The titular Murderbot (a Security Unit robot with human parts) has hacked their control module and, since then, spent their time doing what they like best: Watching endless seasons of soap operas.
Except of course, real life threats get in the way, Murderbot has to save humans and fellow bots, all while being desperately anti-social and anxious. I didn’t like Rogue Protocol, the third in the series, as much as the predecessors but following Murderbot is always a pleasure. And I’ll definitely continue the series, if only for Murderbot’s wonderful voice and exasperation about us humans and our quirks. (158 pages)
Transfiguration (sprayed edges/red coveR) ☑
Oh boy! I was the last person to expect a slim novella written in free verse to get to me the way Maryse Mejer’s Northwood did. I’m not a huge poetry fan and I have very few poets that I actually like. I was not a fan of Meijer’s poetry as such, but the story she told was mind-blowing.
A woman moves to a hut in the wood to focus on her art. There, she meets an older married man, begins a violent affair with him and becomes obsessed with him. When the affair ends and she goes back home, the obsession continues.
This is a truly dark little book. Some chapters felt like a punch in the guts, I was frequently shocked and disgusted. I had to put the book down several times because it was just so hard to read. While the ending didn’t convince me, I was still pretty blown away by this powerful little book. (128 pages)
divination (set in the future) ☑
Because Murderbot is so much fun and I needed to catch up on the series anyway, I read Martha Wells’ Exit Strategy for Divination. This last (for now) novella in the Murderbot series wraps things up nicely with the very first book, as Murderbot has to try and save the humans they first encountered in All Systems Red. While I didn’t love the third in the series as much, this one was back to its usual greatness. Murderbot has to deal with a lot of emotions here (and they hate having emotions) and while it’s a short book, it asks important questions of personhood and identity, humanity and human rights. I loved it and can’t wait for the full-length novel that is set to be published next. (176 pages)
defence against the dark arts (title starts with “r”) ☑
I really, really, really didn’t for the life of me expect to enjoy Seanan McGuire’s Rosemary and Rue. But I needed a book that started with “R” and this series is nominated for a Hugo Award, so everything pointed to it.
I ended up completely falling into this world of urban fairies. It may have had some plot issues and almost too much action (almost, but not quite), but I loved Toby as a protagonist, I want to learn more about this world of Faerie Courts and lieges and blood magic and changelings. It’s a magical murder investigation with incredibly high stakes and with a plot twist right at the beginning and compelling characters. I raced through this book and now hope to fit the next one somewhere into my N.E.W.T.s reading. (368 pages)
care of magical creatures (land animal on the cover) ☑
This was a surprisingly difficult subject for me because I already put my top book choice for this on my N.E.W.T.s reading list and I wasn’t sure if birds counted as land animals. I heard that dragons do, however, so the little dragon (and maybe the butterflies?) on this cover counts. The Alchemist’s Daughter is my first book by Eileen Kernaghan and it wasn’t at all what I expected. More historical than fantastic and not exactly fast-paced, it ended up being only an okay story about a girl seeking the famed elixir that will turn metal into gold – a task her alchemist father has failed at for many years. The plot was kind of strange, everything was told rather simplistically, and the characters remained mostly flat. I can’t say that I felt immersed in the story at any time, but I kept on reading because I was hoping that something would happen soon. Alas, the book kept up its level of “meh” until the very end. (144 pages)
astronomy (“star” in the title) ☑
What better way to pass my Astronomy O.W.L. than with William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher?
I had read the previous two instalments and enjoyed them a great deal, and this last of the original trilogy wasn’t any different. It’s the story of Star Wars, wrapped in Shakespearean language, sometimes even with direct Shakespeare quotes, and with lovely, hilarious illustrations. I mean, just look at Jabba on that cover! There’s more goodness inside and if you like Star Wars and Shakespeare, you don’t want to miss this series.
At 165 pages, it was also a perfect book to fit in some more O.W.L.s exams in the little time I had left. (165 pages)
arithmancy (written by more than one author) ☑
I totally wanted to read a short book for this prompt but then Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff fell into my hands, I remembered how much I liked Illuminae, and the decision was made. And I do admit, although this is a really chunky book, the way it is written and illustrated, the pages just fly by. The fact that the plot was super exciting, the characters engaging, and the action fantastic, may have also helped. It’s been a while since I read Illuminae but I think I liked this second book even more. It also brings together the two books in the trilogy nicely and sets up the larger conflict for the third book. I’m glad I finished this a couple of days before the O.W.L.s ended, because I can feel a major book hangover coming up. (663 pages)
All things considered, this was an amazing experience! The Harry Potter theme kept me motivated throughout the whole month, and although I know well enough it’s all make-believe, the chance of achieving my dream wizarding career was like a shiny carrot dangling in front of my face. I can’t wait for the N.E.W.T.s and what may very well become a double major (Ravenclaw here… classic overachiever). I will leave you with my beautiful report card.