Sunday, 24 April 2011

Book #24

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Harry is returning to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry after the summer holidays and, right from the start, things are not straightforward. Unable to board the Hogwarts express, Harry and his friends break all the rules and make their way to the school in a magical flying car. From this point on, incredible events happen to Harry and his friends--Harry hears evil voices and someone, or something is attacking the pupils. Can Harry get to the bottom of the mystery before it's too late?

Click here to read my review from last year.

It is amazing how light and fun-filled these earlier installments seem to be when thinking about later episodes in Harry's life, and how horrifically dark these turn out to be. Despite Harry's run-ins with Lord Voldemort in the first couple of books, it really does all seem very jolly, ha-ha, Quidditchy in the beginning. I like this to an extent, as it's nice to see Harry having a pleasant(ish) childhood before things start to get messy. I don't like the feeling of sheer dread that comes with this, though, knowing what the poor boy will have to go through in a few years time (not to mention how emotionally distressing I always seem to find it, no matter how many times I have been through exactly the same events in the past).

Again, Rowling's imagination is fantastic here, and I can't praise her characters enough. We are introduced to Gilderoy Lockhart, who is obessed with his own fame and incredibly self-absorbed. Rowling has written him in such a way that we can completely identify with him - after all, there is a Gilderoy Lockhart imitation in everyone's life.

I particularly like this novel because Harry destroys the diary. I wouldn't want to go into detail and risk posting a huge spoiler; however I am sure the most Potter-hardcore of those who read my blog will know how monumental a moment this is on Harry's journey - even if he doesn't know it yet.

It's the little things that make the books work. De-gnoming at the Burrow, Floo powder, Howlers, Valentines dwarves, broken wands, flying cars - the Whomping Willow! It's all so exciting and different, yet glaringly believable. I cannot fault the stories at all.

Onwards, upwards, and further into the wizardly darkness I go.

24 / 72 books. 33% done!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Book #23

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Say you've spent the first 10 years of your life sleeping under the stairs of a family who loathes you. Then, in an absurd, magical twist of fate you find yourself surrounded by wizards, a caged snowy owl, a phoenix-feather wand and jellybeans that come in every flavour, including strawberry, curry, grass and sardine. Not only that, but you discover that you are a wizard yourself!

It has been almost an entire year since I read the Harry Potter series, and I was becoming slightly restless, almost missing the characters. Since the final film is just around the corner (cue bulk-buying of Kleenex), I have resolved to read the books all over again to ensure the story is at the forefront of my mind before I walk into the cinematic finale. I am more than a fan of this series; I am a psycho fangirl.

I read and reviewed this one last May, and my first review can be read by clicking here. I thought it would be nice to do an entirely new review, but I think I will probably repeat some of the sentiments from last year.

Meeting Harry again at the beginning of his wizarding career is a pleasure. He is so innocent and vulnerable that Rowling makes you feel that he really deserves all of the wonderful things that happen to him. He hasn't been tainted by the cruelty he's been subjected to by his horrid aunt and uncle, and you can almost feel his essential goodness emanating from the first few pages. I remember completely falling in love with him when I was younger, and I am still in love with him.

I especially enjoy reading Harry Potter as a series because Rowling places tiny nuances into the early novels, hinting at the shape of things to come. Having prior knowledge of what Harry will endure in later novels is almost delicious, and Rowling's little hints are as equally thrilling.

I got slightly emotional in places here, most memorably when Harry had the Sorting Hat on and it screamed, "GRYFFINDOR," and also when Dumbledore awarded Neville ten points for his house as "he had never won so much as a point for Gryffindor before." The feelings I stumble upon whilst reading through these again are always so strange, but wonderful. It's like a set of old friends who I am visiting after a time apart, which is very odd, but I like it.

There are many things, good and bad, that can be said about Rowling's writing (although I would advise you not to criticise her to my face), but her characters cannot be faulted. They are all so rich and full, most of them remind you of someone you know, and you feel what you are supposed to feel for them, whether it is love or hate. The backgrounds we are given are always so concise and so deep that her characters will live on for a long, long time.

Rowling also manages to create this fantastical world of witches and wizards and makes it completely believable - so much so that I am of the opinion that the books were written to introduce us Muggles to the existence of the wizarding world in order to gauge how accommodating we would be towards them. We are shown so many weird and wonderful things, but not once does it feel at all far-fetched - it's Harry's world where anything can happen.

One book down and six to go. I am so excited, as always, about reading over these. It really is my favourite series. It sounds clich├ęd, but there is something very magical about the whole thing, and this is why it has become a sensation.

23 / 72 books. 32% done!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Book #22

Harry Potter: Film Wizardry by Brian Sibley

Immerse yourself in the world of the spectacular Harry Potter film series, and learn why Yule Ball ice sculptures never melt, where Galleons, Sickles and Knuts are really "minted", how to get a Hippogriff to work with actors, about the inspiration behind Hogwarts castle, and why Dementors move the way they do.

This was wonderful; I really, really enjoyed it.

I am by all means a fan of the Harry Potter books before the films, but I have always been very impressed by how the films have taken shape and evolved over the years. I think they do a good job of representing the wizarding world in a visual form. This book gives an amazing insight into how this is achieved, and some of these ways and means are absolutely incredible.

The photographs, storyboards, and concept art that were printed in the book were breathtaking. These, combined with the copies of props which came with the book (the Marauder's Map, Umbridge's proclamations, Harry's acceptance letter to Hogwarts, and even a Yule Ball programme), ensured a wave of goosebumps up and down my arms every time I turned a page. I especially enjoyed the pages detailing Weasley's Wizard Wheezes - everything is so eccentric and colourful; it'd be an incredible place to work.

I was particularly struck by the passion for the saga that each and every person who works on the films very obviously has for both the books and the films. The effort that could be put into a single prop - even one which is visible for only a fleeting second - is truly epic. There was an intense amount of research put into even the smallest of moments; I particularly liked the inspiration for the Ministry of Magic taken from research of the Soviet Union. The quotes given from the crew members really show their devotion, also. They really are the best people for the job.

Each of the main characters has a page dedicated to them, how the actors who play them ended up with the part, and in some cases how they were transformed into their character. This was absolutely fascinating; I particularly enjoyed reading about Evanna Lynch who plays Luna Lovegood - she seems so like her character, and such a big fan of the series.

I was also treated to a sneak peek of some of the scenes from the last film - namely Gringotts Bank and the Room of Requirement before it's consumed by Fiendfyre. My heart was pounding as I pored over it, I will not lie.

This is a good example for an anti-ebook argument. There is absolutely no way an ebook reader could begin to convey anything this book is trying to evoke in a reader. The glossy pages and the pull out pages did a lot for my appreciation. I honestly don't believe that this would have had the same effect had I read it from a screen.

This really has been great, and it's a wonderful book for anyone who likes Harry Potter - but especially the more hardcore of fans amongst us. It's inspired me to begin reading the series again in preparation for the final film, which will break my heart. I reviewed the entire series last year, and will be doing this again.

Haters to the left.

22 / 72 books. 31% done!