Best Books of Apr-May-Jun 2017

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At the end of March, I wrote a blog post about the top books I had read in the first three-month period of the year. This is owing to the fact that when I do a yearly round-up, a lot of the books I read, I have enjoyed but because I only do a top ten, they miss out on the list. So I’ve decided to do a three-month roundup, to make sure those books I really enjoyed get their honourable mention that might narrowly miss out on my yearly list. So here are the books I’ve chosen from April, May, and June.

1.

The End of Oz by Danielle Paige

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My name is Amy Gumm. When a tornado swept me away to the magical land of Oz, I was given a mission: Dorothy must die. But just when we thought it was safe to start rebuilding the damaged land of Oz, we were betrayed. Now I’m following the Road of Yellow Brick as it helps me escape toward the mysterious land of Ev, where the Nome King rules a bleak and angry world. I thought my job was over, but it’s only just beginning. – from Goodreads.com

I can’t believe this series is over! I originally picked up Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige in 2015, right at the beginning of when I started book blogging. I really liked it, and there were minimal retellings of the Oz books at the time, and so ended up waiting with bated breath for The Wicked Will Rise to be released in 2016. Now, we’ve had the last ever book in the series and I’m still struggling to accept the fact that there will be no more books!

2.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

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When aging brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert decide to adopt an orphan boy to help with chores around their farm, Green Gables on Prince Edward Island, neither is prepared for the feisty and imaginative redheaded girl who is mistakenly brought to them instead. Nor are they prepared for the way in which she will change their lives. Through a series of hilarious misadventures, Anne’s uncompromising spirit makes her a striking presence in the close-knit village, bringing new friendships, first crushes, and, for her foster parents, a love and openness unimaginable before her arrival. – from Goodreads.com

Anne of Green Gables has been on my radar for a while, but my urge to read it increased when I watched the Netflix series Anne with an E, which is based on the novels by L. M. Montgomery. I found Rachel McAdam’s narration to be simply charming and I loved reliving the story of Anne and the Cuthberts. I can’t wait for season 2!

3.

The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C Hines

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Cinderella – whose real name is Danielle Whiteshore (Nee Danielle de Glas) – marries Prince Armand. But not long after the “happily ever after,” Danielle is attacked by her stepsister Charlotte, who suddenly has all sorts of magic to call upon. And though Talia – otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty – comes to the rescue (she’s a martial arts master, and all those fairy blessings make her almost unbeatable), Charlotte gets away. That’s when Danielle discovers a number of disturbing facts: Armand has been kidnapped and taken to the realm of the Fairies; Danielle is pregnant with his child; and the Queen has her very own Secret Service that consists of Talia and Snow (White, of course). Snow is an expert at mirror magic and heavy-duty flirting. Can three princesses track down Armand and extract both the prince and themselves from the clutches of some of fantasyland’s most nefarious villains? – from Goodreads.com

This was another book that I picked up really early on in my book blogging journey and I’ve ONLY just gotten around to reading it! As you know, I love retellings, and so the Princess novels, of which there are four, encompass quite a few fairy tale characters, such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and many more. It was such a fun read and I’m really looking forward to moving onto The Mermaid’s Madness, where the Little Mermaid will make an appearance!

4.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

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On Thursday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention. Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher. And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investi­gators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Thursday, he died. But on Friday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they just the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them. – from Goodreads.com

Thanks to Netgalley I was able to secure an advanced reader copy of this book to read on my e-reader. It was really fast paced, really fun and I was quite surprised at the ending! It’s definitely going to be up there with the top mysteries of the YA genre when it gets released.

5.

Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp

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If you have ever asked yourself where the Golden Snitch came from, how the Bludgers came into existence or why the Wigtown Wanderers have pictures of meat cleavers on their robes, you need Quidditch Through the Ages. This edition is a copy of the volume in Hogwarts School Library, where it is consulted by young Quidditch fans on an almost daily basis. – from Goodreads.com

I don’t ever remember reading this companion novel when I was younger, so I decided that during @readbyzoe’s #averypottersummer read-a-thon, I would FINALLY pick it up. I absolutely love Rowling’s companion novels. It’s such an eye-opener into the wizarding world and goes to show just how much depth J.K. has gone into over the years writing the Potter books. I loved it and it’s a must read for any Potter fan!

So these are the best books of April, May, and June! I can’t believe we’re half way through the year now. So it probably won’t be long before I’m rounding up another three months at the end of September. Have you got any books you read and loved in the last three months? Or maybe you read a few of these as well? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Top 5 Countries I’ve Traveled To

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I would be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of my traveling achievements. To date, I’ve been to 11 countries all around the world. But it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality, and I’ll be counting down my top five countries I’ve traveled to. (So far!)

These countries are in no particular order.

France

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You’re sitting in the airport lounge between your yawning parents. It’s early, but that doesn’t matter because today you’re going to Disneyland Paris! You’ve never been on a plane before, never been outside the UK before, and you can’t contain you’re excitement. Next, you’re on an art trip, admiring the beautiful architecture of Paris, eating baguettes and sharing a room with your best-est friend in the whole wide world, thinking it can’t get much better than this. But lastly, you’re on a beach in Nice, watching the sun go down, having spent nearly a month on the road with the same best-est friend. They say everything comes in cycles, and this one might just be your favourite.

Italy

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Once again, you’re sandwiched between your parents, this time in the back of your brother’s car, driving through the rolling hills of northern Italy. You admire the vineyards, the mountains, how everything is so green. Ten years later, you come back, with a heavy heart and minus your parents. You try to relive every memory you ever had here, trying to search for your lost loved ones as if they had come here to escape their illness. It’s your own little patch of heaven, and in some ways, you can still feel them with you in every step. It’s not just northern Italy that captures your heart. In your Europe Road Trip you glide through the cities, eating pizza, pasta and gelato, enjoying the country in true Italian style.

Hungary

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You’re sitting in the bay window of your hostel, looking down on the locals whilst you read. You’re reading Looking for Alaska by John Green, which you picked up for less than a pound in an English Bookstore. You marvel at how a book can perfectly summarise the grief you feel, and capture the wunderlust you ache for. You carry it with you through the rest of the trip, and for a long, long time after that. Budapest is the perfect rest stop, with the famous bathes to sooth your aching shoulders, goulash to settling your stomach and roommates who really make the stop exciting and fresh.

Austria

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Your inner child is squealing with joy, as you sing the songs from The Sound of Music and marvel at the filming locations. They even have a Julie Andrews exhibition, as if you weren’t excited enough. Salzburg is filled with deja vu, as is Vienna, which inhabits the stereotypical big city high street stores you would find at home. But if you look hard enough, you will find the back alley authentic Austrian gems, like the Naschmarkt, selling fresh fruit and vegetables, meat kebabs, and accessories and other trinkets made by the locals.

America

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(c) clarebearhh

Your J1 visa dictates a cultural exchange, you must work to earn your keep, but also have some adventures in equal measure. New York City is your favourite, the concrete jungle whisking you up in it’s frenzy. Times Square dazzles you with it’s bright lights, Broadway theaters and levels upon levels of shops. You celebrate the big 22, wearing a long, glamorous dress and having cocktails at TGI Friday’s, a burger a Planet Hollywood and a matinee show. You feel like a Princess, making it one to remember, and flying bright and early next day to Florida. Harry is waiting for you at the Islands of Adventure, where Ollivander gives you your wand, Willow with Unicorn Hair, ten and three quarter inches.

~

That concludes my top five. It was really difficult to choose from all of the wonderful places I’ve been to, and as you can tell some hold incredible memories for me. In the second part to this post, I’ll look at the places I really want to visit and haven’t yet. Are there any you think I should add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

Reliving the Magic: Why I Re-Read Books.

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As an experiment, ask someone near and dear to you what their favourite film is. I bet you most answers will be something along the lines of “Back to the Future” or “The Sound of Music”, or “Anchorman” depending on their generation. I have way too many favourite films to pick just one, but I can tell you exactly why I love each and every one of them. They usually remind me of a certain time in my life, or a certain someone I’ve lost, or perhaps I just want to relive the magic and the memories of watching it the first time.

This is exactly how I feel about books.

I absolutely love to re-read books, and my love of it began with (you guessed it) Harry Potter. I’ve lost count the amount of times I’ve read that series, and The Chronicles of Narnia too. It brings me such comfort and joy to delve into those worlds again, no matter how much of it I know off by heart. They still thrill and excite me to this day, and maybe when I’m feeling nostalgic or have heartache, Harry will comfort me as any medicine would.

I also recently re-read one of my all time favourite books Looking for Alaska by John Green. I was really nervous beforehand, as I worried that the magical words that had touched my heart the first time I read it would be gone, but I was met with the same warm and fuzzy feeling I felt inside like I had before. I could just see myself back in the Aventura hostel in Budapest, curling up in my window seat with the Hungarian sun streaming in. It’s a memory I’ll cherish forever. Even though it had been years since I’d picked the book up, it still managed to have the same effect on me, I still thought all the same wonderful things about the story, the characters and John’s writing. So it’s still one of my favourite books and I’m really, really happy about it.

Another collection of books I’ve re-read are the classics I was forced to read in school. The fact that they were compulsory reading made me fail to recognise the true strength of novels like Frankenstein, An Inspector Calls and Cider with Rosie. Now, I consider these among my favourites, and if you’d asked 15 year old Clare if she felt the same, she would have laughed in your face. The same goes for mystery novels. I like to re-read them after I know the ending, so I know what clues to look for, to sort through the red herrings and the plot twists. It makes it so much more interesting!

So these are the main reasons why I re-read books. Firstly, because I love to relive the magic, secondly because I love to revisit the memories and thirdly, because I love to gain a new perspective on books I’d long forgotten. Of course, this does make it difficult to get through my hefty TBR pile, so I don’t like to make a habit of it. Never the less, whenever someone tells you what their favourite film is, I’m sure it would be very interesting to ask them just why that is.

Do you often read books? Let me know down in the comments!

Top 15 Favourite Books

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At the age of (almost) 25, I have read a lot of books. I have read books I’ve loved, books I’ve hated, books that left me feeling ‘meh’, and books that I’ve abandoned. In my first quarter of a century, I’ve accumulated many books that I declare among my favourites, but these are the fifteen most loved ones that I want to share with you.

These books are in no particular order.

1

The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis

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I’m seven years old, accompanying Lucy Pevensie through the wardrobe and into the Western Wood. I try to reason with Edmund as we walk towards the Witch’s castle. I sharpen my blade with Peter as we prepare for battle, and I fight alongside Susan, shooting my arrow through the hearts of Narnian traitors. As I grow older, I ride alongside Shasta and Aravis as we made the journey across the desert into Archenland. I’ll see Narnia come to life, hearing the sweet sound of Aslan’s song, singing the world into creation with Digory and Polly.

2

The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

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I’m eleven years old, getting my Hogwarts letter with Harry in the cupboard under the stairs. We get the train together at 11 o’clock on the 1st September, and meet Ron and Hermione along the way. I defeat Voldemort with Harry, once, twice and three times. I escape to the Burrow with the Weasley’s way too often, and tag along to the Quidditch World Cup. I stand by Harry through the rise of Voldemort and fight along side him in the Battle of Hogwarts.

3

Looking for Alaska by John Green

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It’s 2011 and I’m in Treehugger Dan’s bookshop in Budapest, Hungary. I’m 19 years old, nearly no longer a teenager, my childhood soon to be over, marked by an epic InterRail experience before university. I’m in the sale section, I see a book called Looking for Alaska by John Green for 200F, equivalent to about 50p. What draws me in is… well, everything about it. I buy it and head back to my hostel, a cute, quirky loft converted from an old town house. I sit in the bay window and devour Looking for Alaska in one sitting. I realise why I want to be a writer. I realise that grief will never leave me. I continue to seek my Great Perhaps.

4

The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth

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I have now “become” an adult. I’m twenty years old. I’m in my first semester of university and I have just been exposed to The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, both of which I’ve read. Somewhere online, I find that the Phantom of Manhattan is the unofficial sequel to Gaston Leroux’s original novel and I fly through it in one sitting. It becomes my guilty pleasure, and much to my enjoyment, enables the musical-sequel Love Never Dies to come to fruition.

5

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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It’s the summer of 2012 and I’ve just completed my first year at university so I head into Waterstones to celebrate. I browse the shelves, when this book catches my eye. I’ve heard it’s being made into a movie, and once I read the synopsis I’m sold. I buy this in a two for one deal along with Fifty Shades of Grey, which I soon regret, but this novel serves as a reminder why picking Creative Writing as my degree is a good decision.

6

Paper Towns by John Green

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After I realise John Green has written not one, but four other books, I head to Amazon and go on a book binge buy spree. I buy An Abundance of Katherine’s, Paper Towns, Will Grayson, Will Grayson and The Fault in Our Stars, his latest novel. Paper Towns arrives first, and on that first page, John Green becomes my second Auto-Buy author. Sitting in my porch/bedroom, as Spring turns to Summer in 2013, I delve into Q’s world, sitting next to him in the mini van as we make our way along the East Coast to find Margo.

7

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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It’s Christmas 2013 and I’m in New York. I head into Barnes and Noble on 5th Avenue and browse the shelves aimlessly. Outside it’s snowing, and I know we have to get the Croton-Harmon train back before peak times but I can’t tear myself away. Most people are gazing up at the Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center, but I’m gazing up at the rows of books before me. I’ve always wanted to read The Bell Jar, and so I buy it there and then before I could talk myself out of it. I read it on the train all the way to Tarrytown.

8

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

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It’s 2014 and I’m in my final semester of university. In our Creative Visions module, we’re exploring futuristic words and thus my love for dystopian fiction is born. I spend my time trying to escape the pain of assignments and dissertation talk by curling up with this book, finding a whole new definition of the word escapism. As I read, Tally and I hover board along the skyline, wondering what exactly it is that makes a person “pretty”.

9

Flowers in the Attic and the Dollanganger Saga by VC Andrews

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Despite trying to escape talk of my pending dissertation, I can’t, but I find respite in “reading for research”. Flowers in the Attic is the first book in the Dollanganger Saga, and fills my head with rich, luxurious, gothic mansions, plot twists and betrayal. I lap it up, and am reminded that my final piece for my degree is MINE, and take notes on delicious description from Ms Andrews.

10

The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

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I’ve finally left university. My dissertation is handed in and now I’m waiting on my results. Now I can read whatever books I choose, and the thought of that alone is so liberating. When I hear that Divergent is to be made into a movie, I figure it’s just another book series jumping on the coat tails of The Hunger Games, but after I decide to read the series, I realise it’s so much more. Tris goes on a journey unlike any other. She questions what it means to be selfless and brave, and questions her identity along the way. The ending to the Divergent series is heartbreaking, but proves it’s not just another book series. It’s a social commentary on human nature.

11

We Were Liars by E Lockhart

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Three years worth of assigned reading stopped me from buying any new books, so as my graduation fast approaches in the Autumn of 2014, I look for exciting books to catch my eye. Rediscovering authors seems to be a habit of mine. Many years ago when I was in secondary school I read a booked called The Boyfriend List, now nearly ten years later I find We Were Liars by the very same E Lockhart. It’s my first trip into psychological thrillers and I LOVE it. I don’t realise the twist and it blows my mind.

12

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

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I’m at my very first Writing Weekend as an alumni of the University of Winchester, and Belzhar has been my most anticipated read of 2014. A YA novel, inspired by The Bell Jar, set at boarding school, and it’s right up my street. Sometimes I wish I could go back to school, just so that I could choose to go to boarding school. Or sometimes I wish I could move back into Halls of Residence, where life was much more simple.

13

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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My graduation has come and gone. I really am a full fledged graduate, so I retreat to a place that makes me feel safe. I’ve spent much of the past ten years online. Not just online but ONLINE, participating in forums and chat rooms, writing in online journals, and writing, writing, writing. I never thought anyone would understand my “life online”, and I didn’t know how to communicate to anyone what that time in my life meant to me, but Rainbow Rowell does it with one swift novel: Fangirl.

14

And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks… by Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs

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It’s almost Christmas again and I’ve just finished watching Kill Your Darlings with Daniel Radcliffe. I quickly become obsessed with the Beat Generation and haul a tonne of books from that era. This book is the fictional account, similar to the Kill Your Darlings, of the murder of David Krammerer and the Beat Poets growing up in the underbelly of New York City. I adore this book the moment I read the first page and the moment I read the last.

15

Cinder and The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

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I’m twenty three going on ten years old again. I’m scouting the scrapyard for junk metal with Cinder and Peony when she gets taken. I’m running with Cinder to warn Prince Kai about Levana. I’m sitting in the cell with Dr Erland when he tells her she’s the lost Princess Selene. I’m reminded that you’re never too old for fairy tales.

Did I mention any books in this list that you love too? Let me know in the comments.

Which Harry Potter film is my favourite?

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Picking your favourite Harry Potter movie (or book) is like trying to pick your favourite child. I don’t take the decision lightly, hence why it has taken me SO LONG to write this post. Whichever film is left last, I immediately feel guilty for, and to be honest, each film has their strengths and weaknesses, which makes the decision even harder. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to rank them. Finally.

I would just like to take a moment to say that just because your favourite doesn’t come near the top, doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the film or think it’s good. I love all of the Harry Potter films dearly, but my reasons for ranking them in this order is down to my own personal taste. With that in mind, let’s get underway.

8

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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Order of the Phoenix marks David Yates’ debut on the Harry Potter franchise, and unfortunately he was met with a difficult task. Order of the Phoenix is the largest book in the series, and so trying to condense the plot into a streamline film was going to be challenging for any director. Couple that with the fact that this was David Yates’ first Harry Potter film, I find Order of the Phoenix to be the weakest.

Scenes I Love: Dumbledore’s Army practicing in the room of requirement, watching their friendship develop and grow stronger. The Order at Grimmauld Place, especially Christmas with the Weasleys.

7

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

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I know, I know. The climax of the Harry Potter franchise charts so low on the list? Yes, but only because I cannot bear to watch my beloved characters die in the final battle. It is an amazing action film, with incredible special effects, moments of humour, and it completely charming – but I have to mentally prepare myself before I put the DVD on!

Scenes I Love: Dumbledore’s Army camping out in the room of requirement, led by the silver trio Neville, Ginny and Luna. Neville generally being a bad-ass beauty in his cardigan. Ron and Hermione FINALLY getting together. Lupin, Sirius, James and Lily walking with Harry into the Forbidden Forest. Narcissa betraying Voldemort!

6

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

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The film that kick-started it all. Watching the young golden trio is just a delight, and it’s so comforting to revel in the pure innocence of the Wizarding World before Voldemort’s return. Christopher Columbus managed to make the first film timeless, and no Christmas is complete without watching this film by a roaring fire and wearing a Weasley jumper.

Scenes I Love: Hagrid putting the Dursleys in their place. Harry’s first experience of Diagon Alley. Harry meeting Ron and Hermione on the train. Harry standing up to Draco (multiple times). The gold trio sleuthing around the castle figuring out the mystery.

5

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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Prisoner of Azkaban stands out, not just visually, but as the turning point of the Harry Potter franchise. Alfonso Cuarón creates a stunning film, that sees the trio not only come into their adolescence but also gives the collection a mature tone. It’s a shame that Alfonso Cuarón didn’t stay on for more Harry Potter films, as his vision was something that was universally loved by all of the fans. 

Scenes I Love: Hermione being rubbish at Divination, yet mastering all of her classes by using a time turner. The introduction of the Mauraders, and seeing Remus and Sirius come to life. Ron and Hermione going on “dates” in Hogsmede as Harry can’t visit without permission.

4

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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The second film, also directed by Chris Columbus, steps up a gear with the Chamber of Secrets. Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts with more knowledge of Voldemort, the Wizarding World and the dangers that surround Hogwarts. With Hermione being petrified for a portion of the film, we see Harry and Ron haphazardly try and navigate their way through the next mystery, and ultimately (without realising it) destroying a Horcrux.

Scenes I Love: The introduction of Dobby. Dobby is free! The Weasleys rescuing Harry from the Dursleys. Spending time at the Burrow. The Weasley’s in general. Harry’s derp moment trying to get to Diagon Alley. Lockhart being inept throughout the whole film.

3

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

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A lot of people were opposed to splitting up the Deathly Hallows book into two films, and I can understand why. From a business perspective, it would seem as though Warner Brothers wanted to make more money by issuing two separate films, but had they not made that decision, we would not have had Part 1 in all it’s glory. I know lots of people think that the “calm before the storm” films are boring, as I heard lots of complains about Mockingjay Part 1 as well as the first Deathly Hallows film. Personally, I absolutely adore this installment. There are so many moments of light and shade, and comedy mixed with fear as the final battle looms ever closer. The dynamic between the trio strengthens as their friendship is put to the test, and even though we’re out of our usual Hogwarts setting, we’re still left with the amateur sleuthing that the trio partake in throughout all the books and films.

Scenes I Love: The flight of the seven Harrys. Preparing for the Wedding at the Burrow. The return of Dobby and Kreacher. Camping in the Forest. Harry and Hermione dancing together. The silver doe. Ron returning, destroying the Horcrux, admitting his deepest fears and feelings, and Hermione giving him hell. Ron and Harry making up and talking in the tent. The tale of the three brothers. Basically any romantic Ron/Hermione moments.

2

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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Trying to decide between my number two and number one was THE MOST difficult decision ever and to be honest I switched these around a number of times. Probably by the time this post goes live I will have changed my mind again. When the Goblet of Fire DVD first came out, I watched it over and over again, so I probably know the film inside out. Mike Newell created a fantastic film, and I’m sad he didn’t stay on for more films after Goblet of Fire.

Scenes I Love: The entire Quidditch world cup sequence. Harry falling for Cho Chang and Cedric and Harry looking out for each other, despite the fact that Cedric is dating Cho. The Yule Ball sequence. Ron and Hermione arguing. Cedric’s funeral and Dumbledore’s speech. The ending with the golden trio watching Durmstrang and Bauxbatons leaving Hogwarts.

1

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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Half-Blood Prince is my favourite Harry Potter film, (although closely followed by Goblet of Fire). David Yates, who tackled the task of adapting the remaining Harry Potter movies, really hit his stride with this film. Once again, this film is the calm before the storm, as we see Harry and the gang return to Hogwarts after the events of Order of the Phoenix. This also marks the last time Harry is at Hogwarts before the Final Battle.

Scenes I Love: Harry and Dumbledore out on their adventures. Harry trying to flirt with the waitress. Harry returning to the Burrow and flirting with Ginny. The trio taking potions classes and Hermione getting frustrated at Harry because he is better than her (thanks to the Half-Blood Prince). Ron being rubbish and then awesome at Quidditch. Hermione and Ron fighting, flirting, trying to get back at each other. Ron being under the influence of a love potion. Harry being under the influence of Felix Felicis. And so many more!

That concludes my ranking of the Harry Potter films. Do you disagree with my choices, and think a different film should be number one? Or do you agree with me? Let me know in the comments.