On Re-Reading The Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #4)

Harry Potter is midway through his training as a wizard and his coming of age. Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup. He wants to find out about the mysterious event that’s supposed to take place at Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competition that hasn’t happened for a hundred years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen-year-old wizard. But unfortunately for Harry Potter, he’s not normal – even by wizarding standards.

And in his case, different can be deadly.

Review:
I remember when this book came out and all of the media attention it got — criticisms about it’s length and a death, saying that kids would never read something this long and death would be too much for them to handle. Thankfully, those predictions didn’t come true.
Despite this, I have to say that The Goblet of Fire is probably my least favourite of the series. I still liked it, but found that it dragged for me a bit in the middle. However, the ending had me back to turning pages as fast as I could.
I love how Rolling explores different themes in multiple ways in each book. Slavery is clearly one of the dominating themes of this one. First there is Hermione trying to stop the indentured servitude of the house elves, then there is the introduction of the Imperious Curse, which basically enslaves its victim.
This book shows Harry, Ron, and Hermione growing up and becoming teenagers, showing how moody and angsty they can be. There are squabbles, but friendship reins in the end — which is also another common theme to this series.
The Goblet of Fire is also full of adventure, dragons, mermaids, and mortal peril. What else could a reader want?
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Book Review: The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket

The Lump of Coal

by Lemony Snicket, Brett Helquist (Illustrator)

This is a story about a lump of coal who can think, talk, and move itself around.

Is there a more charming holiday tale to behold? Probably, but Lemony Snicket has not written one.

 

Review:

I absolutely loved this book. In true Lemony Snicket fashion, the book talks to the reader, engaging them, and is full of dry wit. The illustrations, also, are wonderful and amusing, full of great detail.

This is a funny little story about the adventures of a lump of coal looking for a Christmas miracle. He just wants to be creative and draw charcoal lines and maybe barbecue some meat — he is a lump of coal, after all.

I think kids, especially young school aged kids, and adults alike will enjoy this quirky, off beat story that embraces the importance of miracles and creativity.

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On Re-Reading The Chamber of Secrets

On Re-Reading The Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2)

The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny. But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone, or something, starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects: Harry Potter himself?

My Thoughts on Re-Reading (not really a review…)

I can’t even remember how long ago I first read this book — I think it was close to the time when it came out, and I haven’t re-read it since. But this year my local library is doing a Book Geeks Book Club for adults and we are reading all of the Harry Potter books. Last month was The Chamber of Secrets.

Again, I was blown away by how much pre-planning Rowling did when she wrote her books. She really knew where they were going as was able to pepper in details that become important in later books.

One of the things I loved about this book was the change in tone. The Philosopher’s Stone was full of discovery and magic and everything (pretty much) was wonderful. But The Chamber of Secrets shows a darker side to the wizarding world: we find out about house elves, Azkaban, Kncckturn Alley, the prejudice against mudbloods and squibs, and the history of the Chamber of Secrets. This is also a book where Harry doesn’t feel at home at Hogwarts anymore. He is miserable at home and now he is miserable at school with people avoiding him and making fun of him. This is a fantastic turn of events and adds more depth to the wizarding world.

I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading this book and can see again how kids (and grown ups) fall in love with this series — and how current it is twenty years later.

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Book Review: The Bone Labyrinth

The Bone Labyrinth (Sigma Force #11)

A war is coming, a battle that will stretch from the prehistoric forests of the ancient past to the cutting-edge research labs of today, all to reveal a true mystery buried deep within our DNA, a mystery that will leave readers changed forever . . .

In this groundbreaking masterpiece of ingenuity and intrigue that spans 50,000 years in human history, New York Times bestselling author James Rollins takes us to mankind’s next great leap.

But will it mark a new chapter in our development . . . or our extinction?

In the remote mountains of Croatia, an archaeologist makes a strange discovery:  a subterranean Catholic chapel, hidden for centuries, holds the bones of a Neanderthal woman. In the same cavern system, elaborate primitive paintings tell the story of an immense battle between tribes of Neanderthals and monstrous shadowy figures. Who is this mysterious enemy depicted in these ancient drawings and what do the paintings mean?

Before any answers could be made, the investigative team is attacked, while at the same time, a bloody assault is made upon a primate research center outside of Atlanta. How are these events connected? Who is behind these attacks?  The search for the truth will take Commander Gray Pierce of Sigma Force 50,000 years into the past. As he and Sigma trace the evolution of human intelligence to its true source, they will be plunged into a cataclysmic battle for the future of humanity that stretches across the globe . . . and beyond.

With the fate of our future at stake, Sigma embarks on its most harrowing odyssey ever—a breathtaking quest that will take them from ancient tunnels in Ecuador that span the breadth of South America to a millennia-old necropolis holding the bones of our ancestors. Along the way, revelations involving the lost continent of Atlantis will reveal true mysteries tied to mankind’s first steps on the moon. In the end, Gray Pierce and his team will face to their greatest threat: an ancient evil, resurrected by modern genetic science, strong enough to bring about the end of man’s dominance on this planet.

Only this time, Sigma will falter—and the world we know will change forever.

Review:
I really wanted to like this book — it hit a lot of the right buttons for me. I was in the mood for a thriller, the story involves archaeology and Atlantis, there is action and adventure, and Rollins is a highly recommended, prolific author. But, despite all of my expectations, I only found the book OK.
The characters were good, the kind of tough guys you would expect in a thriller. I like that not all of the tough guys were “guys” — some were women too.
And you can’t fault Rollins on his research. It is clear from the early pages that he has researched all of the science and archaeology behind the book. That part really was interesting, thinking of the possibilities of Adam and Eve, a historical leap of intellect, and the presence of Atlantis. Great stuff.
But then there were the other things. I actually felt uncomfortable reading parts of this book. The big antagonist was basically all of China. There was no redeeming quality of anything Chinese. The whole country was depicted as inhumane, cut-throat, and immoral. I know there needs to be bad guys, but vilifying an entire country is not OK.
The writing, for the most part, was good. There did need to be more editing, however as there were a few occasions when a paragraph or description was repeated practically word for word within several pages. And much of Rollins’ research was presented in an info dump format — a character would go to the library and research then come back and tell everyone everything for several pages.
And, I couldn’t figure out from a story point of view, why Sigma Force took the people they were supposed to be protecting to Ecuador and put them in harm’s way. There needed to be a better rationale for going against their assignment of keeping these people safe than curiosity. From the book point of view, it was interesting and they learned a lot, but from a plot point of view the officers of Sigma Force were not doing their job by putting their charges in life threatening danger when there was no pressing need.
Overall, there was a lot to enjoy in The Bone Labyrinth, but I’m not sure I’ll be picking up another Sigma Force book soon.
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