Thursday, 20 May 2010

Book #35

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Harry has been burdened with a dark, dangerous and seemingly impossible task: that of locating and destroying Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes. Never has Harry felt so alone, or faced a future so full of shadows. But Harry must somehow find within himself the strength to complete the task he has been given. He must leave the warmth, safety and companionship of The Burrow and follow without fear or hesitation the inexorable path laid out for him.

I'm really not sure how to begin.

I had only ever read Deathly Hallows once before now, and this was just as it was released. After I read it, I pronounced my distaste for it, chucked it in my cupboard and promptly proceeded to forget all about it. I'm sorry to say it, but not much has changed.

There were much more things I appreciated in the novel this time around, although I think that's only because I've read the whole series back to back and certain things were fresh in my mind. I felt more affinity with the characters and felt more emotion at the various deaths that were peppered throughout the novel. At times these deaths seemed a bit cruel and unnecessary, shoved in at random times to shock.

I failed to see the point in the Hallows. They were the book's namesake and they did absolutely nothing, proved absolutely nothing and meant absolutely nothing to me. It struck me that perhaps Rowling had created them after all of her cliffhangers in Half-Blood Prince had already been guessed by readers, and guessed correctly. Things like the identity of R.A.B, the fact that Snape was good all along, and various other things had all been guessed before Deathly Hallows was released.

Rowling also dragged Dumbledore's name through the mud, giving details about his past that were completely morbid and so unlike the Dumbledore we had come to love in previous novels. It seemed so out of character for Dumbledore to be like this, I couldn't believe a single word of it. Again, I felt Rowling was aiming solely for shocks.

Snape's redeeming chapter was a highlight, and possibly my favourite chapter in the series. I loved hearing about his love for Lily, and I loved that this was his entire reasoning for ensuring Harry was constantly safe.

Harry's walk of death was also as beautiful a moment as any. You could really feel his pure little heart shining through as he prepares himself mentally and physically to die for his friends. I am of the opinion that he should've remained dead, but perhaps I am just a bit of a no-heart.

Molly killing Bellatrix was also a severe disappointment. I've heard many say that they wished Harry had killed her, but I disagree. Neville Longbottom killing Bellatrix would have been absolutely wonderful, and the boy deserved that chance of vengeance.

Finally, Voldemort was killed by his own rebounding curse. How incredibly mediocre and anticlimatic. Harry had already used unforgivable curses, why not let him Avada Kedavra the guy who killed his parents? I was so disappointed. There are only so many times Harry can scream, "Expelliarmus!", before you start to think he might be a bit of a pussy.

I had launched myself into this book, quite confident that my previous opinion of it would be shattered. I'd been on a Harry Potter journey and the ending was supposed to be emotional and wonderful. It wasn't, and I was gutted.

The less said about the epilogue the better.

35 / 66 books. 53% done!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Book #34

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

'In a brief statement on Friday night, Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge confirmed that He Who Must Not Be Named has returned to this country and is once more active. "It is with great regret that I must confirm that the wizard styling himself Lord - well, you know who I mean - is alive and among us again," said Fudge.' These dramatic words appeared in the final pages of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In the midst of this battle of good and evil, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince takes up the story of Harry Potter's sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, with Voldemort's power and followers increasing day by day.

So I finally get to my favourite installment - Half-Blood Prince.

It's a shame that Order of the Phoenix was such a disappointment - it made many people give up on the series, and they didn't manage to make it to this chapter in the Harry Potter saga. It's full of love, heartbreak and betrayal. It illuminates mysteries we've previously been dwelling on, and it brings new puzzles to the fore. It's the darkest installment yet, and it opens the way for the final novel perfectly.

My favourite thing about this book is the insight we get into Voldemort's past. I found the stories of his parents and their families fascinating, and I also enjoyed reading about the Dark Lord's young life. There were many similarities in Harry's childhood, and I found each of these incredibly enlightening.

I also loved the way Voldemort's past was brought to light. What better way to explain the past than through a vessel used to store memories? The Pensieve is an ingenious plot device, I really do love it. It allows us to personally witness important events where Harry wouldn't have been present. This also allows Harry to remain as our viewpoint character, and allows the plot to remain consistent.

Harry and Ginny's relationship also comes to a head in the novel, with them finally getting together. I have to admit this pairing is one I've never really been truly convinced by. I always thought there was something a bit off about it, and this time around I've realised what it is. Harry is always likened to his father in both looks and behaviour. His mother was described as having red hair and a fiery temperament, which can also be said of Ginny. Isn't this awfully Freudian? I am perhaps reading too much into things, but I did mention Freud before, in my review of Chamber of Secrets. I passed the suggestions off as rubbish there, but apparently there are more hints such as these throughout the books that I haven't noticed. Perhaps it's something to look into in future.

This novel, of course, is the one that gives us the death of Dumbledore, which broke my little heart. The emotion of it lasts from the instant of his death until the end of the novel, and it stays with you afterwards. Dumbledore has been protecting Harry for six years, and now the floor has fallen out from underneath him. He has no one left who can protect him completely and it'll be in Book Seven where we see how he copes with this.

I'd like to close with a tribute to Dumbledore. He was my favourite!

And now I move onto the final installment! Dark and difficult times lie ahead.

34 / 66 books. 52% done!

Friday, 14 May 2010

Book #33

Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

As his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry approaches, 15-year-old Harry Potter is in full-blown adolescence, complete with regular outbursts of rage, a nearly debilitating crush, and the blooming of a powerful sense of rebellion. It's been yet another infuriating and boring summer with the despicable Dursleys, this time with minimal contact from our hero's non-Muggle friends from school. Harry is feeling especially edgy at the lack of news from the magic world, wondering when the freshly revived evil Lord Voldemort will strike. Returning to Hogwarts will be a relief... or will it?

It really pains me to say this, but this is definitely my least favourite of the seven books in the Harry Potter series. I suppose with every series you will always have favourites and least favourites, but this one just disappoints me to an incredible level. Its only redeeming quality is that it's a part of the story, and has to be read to move the plot along. If it weren't for this, I wouldn't have bothered.

My main complaint here is how much I hated Harry with a passion. I have loved him completely throughout the previous four installments, but this time Rowling portrays him as a complete cretin. He moans constantly and is almost always unnecessarily rude to his friends, not to mention authority figures, all of whom are only acting with his best interests at heart. He is even rude to Dumbledore, which in my book is an unforgivable act of blasphemy. The majority of the book is Harry SHOUTING IN CAPITAL LETTERS AT EVERYONE WHO CROSSES HIS PATH BECAUSE OMG THEY DON'T UNDERSTAND HIM, HOW CAN THEY?!

My next annoyance is the death of Sirius. It's pathetic. It happens in a mere sentence and no one is entirely sure of what's happened. I've heard many people say that this is the death that has affected them most in the series, but I really feel that it could've been done better, and with more emotion. It didn't touch a cord with me at all.

I feel a bit sacrilegious posting this review, so I'm going to keep it short and sweet. I am only too pleased that I'm now moving onto Book Six, which I already know is an improvement.

33 / 66 books. 50% done!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Book #32

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

The summer holidays are dragging on and Harry Potter can't wait for the start of the school year. It is his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and there are spells to be learnt and (unluckily) Potions and Divination lessons to be attended. But Harry can't know that the atmosphere is darkening around him, and his worst enemy is preparing a fate that it seems will be inescapable.

Another one done and dusted, and it's still getting steadily more exciting! Goblet of Fire has always been my favourite in the series, and nothing has changed.

I think that here, Rowling is really beginning to find her voice. The readers were getting older along with Harry, and she resolved it was time to delve into more serious, complex matters. The fact that Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3) is tiny in comparison to Goblet of Fire is a clear example of this. For these reasons, I find this particular book to be much more moving than the previous three. The death of a character is a huge consequence in a young adult novel, and I feel the fourth book in a series of seven is an excellent time to introduce dark themes such as this one.

Since Harry, Ron and Hermione are maturing throughout the series, I particularly like the way Rowling portrays them as teenagers with typical issues, rather than presenting them as amazing, wonderful kids with powers. Harry and Ron's stress at asking a girl to the Yule Ball made me smile, as did Ron's jealousy at Harry's constant fame.

I also loved the Tri-Wizard tournament, and this is another reason for Goblet of Fire being a favourite. I loved meeting the new, foreign characters from the other wizarding schools and learning about their cultures. I also loved the new spells and techniques that were mentioned here.

I do, however, have a couple of gripes about some things in the book. In the first task, Harry uses a summoning charm to bring his broomstick to him, so he can fly past a dragon to reach a golden egg. Why couldn't Harry summon the egg instead of his broomstick? Is that too easy? Secondly, Voldemort is described as a mere creature, a disgusting little thing that I began to imagine as looking like a scabby foetus. How was he able to keep hold of his wand for thirteen years if this was the case? And thirdly, Harry seems to be the only person in the world who can resist the Imperius curse. Is there no end to his talents? I found that part a bit hard to believe, he's good, but he's not that good. Despite these mild wanderings of my brain, I did thoroughly enjoy the whole novel.

Reading these books in quick succession is doing crazy things to my brain. I keep dreaming about things like parchment, and lighting my way down dark corridors with a wand. I've even been muttering curses under my breath when I come across the smallest inconvenience. I'm not letting these minor threats deter me, though. The tale is just getting far too intense now, and much more intriguing.

32 / 66 books. 48% done!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Book #31

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort. Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter's defeat of You-Know-Who was Black's downfall as well. And the Azkban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, "He's at Hogwarts...he's at Hogwarts." Harry Potter isn't safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.

I really like this installment, because it's where everything starts to get exciting!

This could possibly be my favourite of all the Potter books, as it's where Sirius Black and Remus Lupin are introduced, and I think they're both wonderful. It's certainly my favourite of the three I've read so far! It's a huge leap from Chamber of Secrets in many areas. It's different, more complex, but mostly due to it being far darker than its predecessors.

I particularly enjoyed the etymology of Sirius Black's name. I'm not sure if this is common knowledge amongst Harry Potter fans (the softcore ones, that is), but the star Sirius is known as the Dog Star. This is obviously a nod from Rowling towards his ability to turn into a dog at will. I am the kind of strange person who appreciates tiny facts such as these.

This book also gives us our first glimpse into Snape's background. The first two novels had us regard him as merely a strict Potions master who has a general contempt for Harry, but this time we're allowed a peek into one of his best kept secrets, and are given more of a hint as to why Harry is such an eyesore to him. I love the slow way Rowling reveals Snape's past to us throughout the whole saga.

The plot gets more exciting, more mysteries come to light, more suspense, and Rowling really excites the imagination. Most of all, I am incredibly excited to start on Book Four!

31 / 66 books. 47% done!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Book #30

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

Harry Potter is a wizard. He is in his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Little does he know that this year will be just as eventful as the last even getting there is an adventure in itself! The three firm friends, Harry, Ron and Hermione, are soon immersed in the daily round of Potions, Herbology, Charms, Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Quidditch. But then horrible and mysterious things begin to happen. Harry keeps hearing strange voices, sinister and dark messages appear on the wall, and then Ron's sister Ginny disappears.

This was just as delightful as the first, full of mystery, intrigue, and most of all, heart!

I've noticed with the first and second books that I have a light feeling of freedom and safety, because I know what is to come. The wizarding world doesn't seem as terrifying and dangerous as I know it will in books to come. Although this is a nice feeling to an extent, I can't help but dread coming events! I am getting more and more into it, and it's quite exciting.

The title of this particular Potter book has incited some wonder across the world about the meaning behind it. There is a theory that Rowling is bringing back memories of her childhood sexuality by sending Harry into her 'chamber'. Reviewers then go on to say that Rowling is fulfilling her sexual desires by writing the novel in such a way. Personally, I find these ideas ridiculous. Freud does not feature in everything, and this is a children's book. If this was Rowling's intention (whether concious or not), I'd rather not think about it.

Again, it's just wonderful how many hints to the final book are lodged within these pages. I find it amazing that Rowling had the entire plot, not to mention subplots, all worked out from so early on.

Time for Book Three!

30 / 66 books. 45% done!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Book #29

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

Harry Potter is an ordinary boy who lives in a cupboard under the stairs at his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon's house, which he thinks is normal for someone like him who's parents have been killed in a 'car crash'. He is bullied by them and his fat, spoilt cousin Dudley, and lives a very unremarkable life with only the odd hiccup (like his hair growing back overnight!) to cause him much to think about. That is until an owl turns up with a letter addressed to Harry and all hell breaks loose! He is literally rescued by a world where nothing is as it seems and magic lessons are the order of the day. Read and find out how Harry discovers his true heritage at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, the reason behind his parents mysterious death, who is out to kill him, and how he uncovers the most amazing secret of all time, the fabled Philosopher's Stone!

And so my Harry Potter journey begins. I'll be reading the entire Harry Potter series back to back. A small disclaimer: I am aware that there is some criticism out there for Rowling and her novels, but I am an insane fangirl, so my reviews will most probably entail nothing but excited praise, and perhaps a few digital squeals if I can figure out how to get one of those into the blogosphere.

I loved meeting Harry again for the first time and being reminded of how he got to where he is. Although I like to privately consider myself a bit of a Potter expert, it is amazing how many things I had forgotten that came to light when rereading this one. I imagine this will continue as I progress through the rest of the series.

It's wonderful how quickly Rowling manages to coax the reader into loving the characters you're supposed to love, and hating the ones you're supposed to hate. It sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the series, bringing you over to the proper side, and making you anticipate what is still to come.

As strange, new worlds go, Rowling's descriptions of the wizarding world living alongside humans is strikingly believable, and her ability to draw readers in is impressive.

Reading this book again has definitely been an eyeopener. It has so many things going on, and so many complex plotlines - ones that you can't possibly fathom unless it's a reread and you have an inkling of why such things are going on, and what they're going to lead the characters into. It's the beginning of Harry's great journey, his coming of age ultimate saga.

Bring on Book Two!

29 / 66 books. 44% done!