Harry Potter and the 8-book review

Hey there friends and fans! It’s the end of May and, as promised, here is the first in a new kind of review for me. I apologize for being a bit later than intended, but between work and some personal challenges, here we are. Without further ado, let’s jump right in! Obviously, the appeal of the standard review isn’t something I can completely drop when a book particularly calls to me, but this has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while. In case you’ve had your head in the sand, I’m talking about my review of the Harry Potter series in its entirety. As someone who grew up with J.K Rowling’s amazing books (although I admittedly didn’t join the celebration until the release of the third book) I have been incredibly influenced by the ideas and art within them. My style, my interests, even some of my own moral ideas reflect some of those exhibited by The Boy Who Lived and his closest friends. One reason I wanted to do this review, aside from having an excuse to talk about them, was to make myself buckle down and read the series from beginning to end again. The last time I read each book in succession like this was immediately after the release of “Deathly Hallows,” and, after doing it again, I think I see why. I’m pretty sure my brain was saving me once again from the pain of having to deal with the end of this amazing series. However, in this instance I also had “The Cursed Child” to stave off the ‘ending pains.’ As a side note, since this book comes so long after the originals and acts as a very different sort of book, I’ll probably set up a separate paragraph about it as well.

To begin, this series is about Harry Potter, a young wizard who was attacked by the most powerful Dark Wizard who ever lived. Potter, after being raised by muggles (non-magic folk) for 11 years, is thrown into the wizarding world and his own fame with no knowledge of any of it. The series follows Harry’s footsteps through his 7 year tenure at Hogwarts, where he and his friends must face typical teenage angst, learning the facets of magic, and the return of Voldemort, who still wants nothing more than to see Harry dead.

As I said, I fell into this series at a young age and I was instantly hooked. From the first paragraph J.K. Rowling drives you into this fantasy world that, despite the silly antics littering the pages, is almost entirely believable. Even now, more than a decade later, I love reading about Harry’s adventures and his education at an antiquated, unusual, and wonderful school. The characters were, for the most part, incredibly relatable to me. I was very impressed to find out that this was still the case after all these years. As I read into these characters I found myself understanding their conflicts, their sadness, and their excitement.

One of the strongest things Rowling presents, in my opinion, is the threat of darkness that surrounds Voldemort’s return. Every one of his followers we are introduced to is more dastardly than the last – despite the blatant incapability of some of them. Harry’s link to his would-be murderer is something that, even at the end of the seventh novel, feels like it is much deeper and more involved than we could ever understand. This idea is, of course, further explored in “The Cursed Child,” but more on that later.

One of the things that continuously interested me with this series – even more so at this point in my life and the state of the world – was Rowling’s continued incorporation of the necessity of equality, between sexes, genders, sexualities, species and races. Time and time again our main characters (particularly Hermione) find the mistreatment of anyone who is different from the pure-blood, magical standard in the wizarding world deplorable. Organizations are started (S.P.E.W. – not spew), punches are thrown, spells are cast, and lives are lost in the name of equality. I love the repeated examples that show all species and races and sexes should have the same claim to the world and its happiness. Rowling doesn’t back down from bringing these issues to the forefront of the novels in many different ways, and I think the story and morals are all that much more important because of it.

Harry’s coming of age was something that made many of my generation feel a little less alone, a little stronger, and a little more at ease about our own lives. Rowling’s tale reflects some of the difficulties that can face all of us as we enter adulthood – with the hopeful exception of a murderous psychopath chasing you through your life. So many of us bonded incredibly with this tale, feeling the characters experience some of the same things we all felt, facing some situations we were familiar with, and it showed us all that everything would be fine. After all, if a 17 year old can handle battling most of the wizarding world and coming toe-to-toe with the most powerful wizard alive, we can surely handle high school, right?

Rowling’s nonchalant style throughout much of this saga makes the books very easy to read. Her often lighthearted approach at even the most difficult situations helps drive these novels home and make them stick with us long after we’ve closed the books. The saga is so immense and full that I’m not sure I have a favorite part, or even a favorite book, although I think “The Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Order of the Phoenix,” and “Deathly Hallows” are steps above the others for me.

Overall, I’m not sure there are many things I don’t like about the series. I would like to see more of Harry’s story played out. I would really love Rowling to write a book about the events before Harry’s birth. A nice long exploration of Dumbledore’s past, the true story of Voldemort’s rise to power, background on James’s family. Of course these things have been touched on in various ways since the original novels.

When it comes to “The Cursed Child” I had a good deal of inner conflict when reading the work. I was very excited to see the script released in novel format, and I would love to see the production, and I do think it could be a great movie. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, as this was my first reading of the book, even though I preordered it and have had it for well over a year. This continuation of Harry’s tale, bringing his family into focus and revisiting events of his past was a wonderful idea. I had a good deal of trouble relating to the adult Harry and his son, Albus, at first. I found the boy to be quite impetulant and much more like a Malfoy than a Potter, and I thought Harry did not feel like the same person he was in the series. As the story went on I did relate a bit more the characters, and I admittedly do enjoy the idea of Hermione as Minster of Magic. I won’t mention too many more spoilers here, because a good deal of people have missed the book. Suffice to say that I enjoyed the continuation, but still would have loved more mention of the past events of the wizarding world.

Overall, this series is by far one of the best things I’ve read in my life – and, believe me, that list is NOT a small one. The wizarding world continues to have immense appeal to me, particularly in that they have little to no need of the technology that continues to drive this world forward and diminish our connection with the universe. The continued use of quills and lanterns, a lack of trivial things like television and video games, and the obvious embrace of the natural world still warms my heart, too. But what did you think about it? Do you love the series, do you hate it? If you’d never read it before, how did it hit you, and if you were returning to the books did you still find yourself interested in the story? What, if anything, changed for you? Share your thoughts in the comments and share this as far and wide as you can to get plenty of people involved! For me Harry Potter was, and is, truly an inspiration. The laughter, the tears and the passion that filled these pages will never die and I am exceptionally glad that I can always turn to them. I am proud to have grown up on them. I will be happy to pass them on to future generations. Always.

We’re off to see the wizard

I hope everyone enjoyed this month’s book. It was definitely a treat, as most books are for me. This month, of course, we read L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” I have to make the obvious statement here and say that the 1938 musical has surpassed the book in popularity for the most part. Because of this it was a little difficult to differentiate between the two at first. Once I began reading the book again, it became pretty easy to notice the difference – particularly Dorothy’s projected age and the entire ending of the movie. I also have to make a full disclaimer here; the movie has long been one of my favorites (the Cowardly Lion being my favorite character, if you’re wondering), so this was great!

No matter the differences, I really enjoyed the book. Baum presented a world that both called for a lot of description and didn’t need much at all. The great thing about this book is the matter-of-fact nature of it all. Baum presents the book in a quick, easy, conversational tone. When he’s describing things like the lion, the Emerald City, the Munchkins, he does so in such a way that we don’t have to think about it. He presents the descriptions of his world so simply that we don’t even question what we’re reading. That’s the mark of not only a great children’s book, but a great author in general. He doesn’t overdo it, he doesn’t underplay it, he just SAYS IT.

The witty remarks by the scarecrow remain one of the best parts of the book, in my opinion. Satire was a strong part of literature at the time this book was published, and I loved seeing it float across the pages here in the dialogue of the “brainless” character. Scarecrow considers himself stupid, but remains one of the smartest characters in the novel. His comments on intelligence and nature are something that really leads the book in some parts.

The story of the tin man is very fun to look at here as well. The wicked witch cursed his axe and caused him to cut himself to bits, but he somehow managed to be rebuilt out of tin. Ironically enough, the craftsman managed to put his brain and nervous system into the tin body, but somehow couldn’t figure out how to make the heart work. But again, that’s a kid’s book for you.

The really interesting thing about the book, for me was that Dorothy was cool with all of this. She went about her way in Oz barely questioning anything, which takes me back to Baum’s style. We don’t question, because Dorothy doesn’t have to. I think the characterization here does speak to a difference in the personality and upbringing of children now compared to 100 years ago. Dorothy’s house gets picked up by a tornado and she just goes to sleep and wakes up in this random place with a bunch of little people to find out her house landed on someone and killed them. Now any one of those things would be enough to cause a kid to freak out and need all kinds of therapy and everything else. Dorothy was like “Oh bother. I bet Aunt Em misses me. Let’s set out across this weird country and ask a wizard for help.” Granted that was more or less her only option (unless of course we look a little deeper into the fact that the good witches knew the shoes could send her straight home but chose to endanger her life rather than just tell her), so it’s a little understandable. But honestly, even in my mid 20’s I can’t say that I wouldn’t freak out at least a little in a similar situation.

I wasn’t overly wild about the speed of the book, I must admit. It may just be me, but I felt like we were no sooner introduced to a new, weird species of animal of some strange race of people than they were little more than a memory. For instance we come across the hammer-heads and within minutes Dorothy calls on the flying monkeys to help them out. The entire scene involving the new race lasts maybe two pages and we barely have time to digest their existence. I’m aware there are a ton more Oz books, and these characters may come back, but it was  little off putting to see that buildup only result in  a couple of lines of description, almost no dialogue and then they’re a thing of the past. This happens a few times in the book, and it kind of makes it feel like Baum runs through it a bit too quickly. It could be fleshed out a fair amount, in my opinion. But that’s alright. It all works out in the end, and gives us a very beloved book.

What did you guys think? Are you fans of the classic? Or would you just as soon stick with the movie? Do you like the way the children’s book element plays out here? Hopefully you’ve been enjoying the book club and enjoying the books we cover. As always, I look forward to next month’s selection and I hope to hear all of your opinions about it. This month I want to look into a good dystopian work that can really make us think about the state of the world. In other words, let’s get paranoid! Make your suggestions below or message me! Tell me what you thought of the book and let’s keep reading, guys. Share this as far and wide as you can and help me get eyes on it!

Reading (Over the) Rainbow

I’ve had some good feedback on social media about what book to read next, and I have to say that I got a lot of great options this time. I had a hard time figuring out which of the suggested works I should review, but I think the option I have decided on is one that many will enjoy being able to immerse themselves in.

On  a request from Shaun Holt, this month we’re covering the classic novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum.  This, like “A Christmas Carol,” is one that we have all come in contact with at some point or another. The classic movie “The Wizard of Oz” is one that has always been a favorite of mine, and I’ve had a few experiences with the book series over the years. In that light, I do have to admit that the book is drastically different from the movie in some ways.

I look very forward to getting into this book and having people to discuss it with. This is a classic that many people don’t realize is actually part of a series depicting various tales of Oz and its inhabitants. I plan to start this book ASAP, and I hope you’ll all join me in reading and discussing this awesome piece of literary history!

I want to make sure you all know that I’ll accept suggestions anytime, any day. If there’s something you want to read and discuss, or maybe you want to encourage others to read your favorite book, or even a book that you hate, let me know about it! Send me all the titles you want to see discussion on and I’ll do  my best to get to them! Join in on the discussion here or via email or social media and share this post as far and wide as possible! One thing that I do need to stress is that, without interaction, it doesn’t really help to post these reviews everywhere. I really want to be able to keep doing them, so comment and join in on the fun, guys!