On Re-Reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter #3)

Harry Potter’s third year at Hogwarts is full of new dangers. A convicted murderer, Sirius Black, has broken out of Azkaban prison, and it seems he’s after Harry. Now Hogwarts is being patrolled by the dementors, the Azkaban guards who are hunting Sirius. But Harry can’t imagine that Sirius or, for that matter, the evil Lord Voldemort could be more frightening than the dementors themselves, who have the terrible power to fill anyone they come across with aching loneliness and despair. Meanwhile, life continues as usual at Hogwarts. A top-of-the-line broom takes Harry’s success at Quidditch, the sport of the Wizarding world, to new heights. A cute fourth-year student catches his eye. And he becomes close with the new Defense of the Dark Arts teacher, who was a childhood friend of his father. Yet despite the relative safety of life at Hogwarts and the best efforts of the dementors, the threat of Sirius Black grows ever closer. But if Harry has learned anything from his education in wizardry, it is that things are often not what they seem. Tragic revelations, heartwarming surprises, and high-stakes magical adventures await the boy wizard in this funny and poignant third installment of the beloved series.
Review:
This is one of my favourite Harry Potter books and it was so much fun to discuss it in my book club recently. Rowling is certainly bringing in more of the dark aspects of the wizarding world in this installment.
I find it fascinating how Rowling brings in so many important themes into her writing, such as discrimination and wrongful convictions without proper investigation and evidence — there is an almost World War 2 feel to some of what went on in the wizarding world under Voldemort. And then there are the dementors themselves and the fact that the wizarding world is alright partnering up with them, emphasizing again how everything is not always wonderful in the world of magic.
There are also great themes around friendship in this book. Harry and his friends argue and act moodily, just like regular teenagers. And then there is the friendship of Harry’s parents, their friends and their dynamic, and how they bullied Snape. The good and bad of being friends is explored.
Overall, I loved the pacing and the tension and the humour in The Prisoner of Azkaban. There is so much adventure and looming peril that it is hard not to get completely engrossed.

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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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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

(Harry Potter #1)

by J.K. Rowling

This isn’t exactly a book review — it is so hard to review such an iconic book. This is more about the experience of re-reading Harry Potter after so many years.
Our local library is an amazing place, and this year, they have started a Book Geeks reading club aimed at adults, where our goal is to read and talk about one of the Harry Potter books each month. We had our first meeting earlier this month and it was so much fun. There was a group of us, all who were excited to geek out about Harry Potter.
I was an adult when Harry Potter first came out and I decided to pick it up because I knew I’d never be able to talk to my niece and nephew again if I didn’t because all of their conversation revolved around it. Instantly, I was hooked and raced through the books as they came out.
Re-reading The Philosopher’s Stone now was so much fun. I could look at what Rowling wrote in the context of the whole series and see the brilliance of it. Not only is it an entertaining and exciting book in it’s own right, full of interesting characters and battles between good and evil, but it set up the whole series. I was so impressed by things I would never have noticed all of those years ago, like mentions of characters important in the next books, and themes and story arcs that are integral to the whole series. Rowling’s vision for her series is masterful. I’ve recently heard that Rowling wrote the end of the last book before she ever wrote the first word of the first book — an impressive feat, but this certainly is what unifies the series so beautifully.
What is there to say, really? The Philosopher’s Stone, even 20 years after it was published, is still one of the best middle grade books out there. It is timeless. My daughter recently started reading this series herself and she is as excited about it now as my niece and nephew were all of those years ago.

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Book Review: Skulduggery Pleasant

Skulduggery Pleasant (Skulduggery Pleasant #1)

by Derek Landy, Tom Percival (Goodreads Author) (Illustrator)

Meet Skulduggery Pleasant. Sure, he may lose his head now and again (in fact, he won his current skull in a poker match), but he is much more than he appears to be—which is good, considering that he is, basically, a skeleton. Skulduggery may be long dead, but he is also a mage who dodged the grave so that he could save the world from an ancient evil. But to defeat it, he’ll need the help of a new partner: a not so innocent twelve-year-old girl named Stephanie. That’s right, they’re the heroes.

Stephanie and Skulduggery are quickly caught up in a battle to stop evil forces from acquiring her recently deceased uncle’s most prized possession—the Sceptre of the Ancients. The Ancients were the good guys, an extinct race of uber-magicians from the early days of the earth, and the scepter is their most dangerous weapon, one capable of killing anyone and destroying anything. Back in the day, they used it to banish the bad guys, the evil Faceless Ones. Unfortunately, in the way of bad guys everywhere, the Faceless Ones are staging a comeback and no one besides our two heroes believes in the Faceless Ones, or even that the Sceptre is real.

So Stephanie and Skulduggery set off to find the Sceptre, fend off the minions of the bad guys, beat down vampires and the undead, prove the existence of the Ancients and the Faceless Ones, all while trading snappy, snippy banter worthy of the best screwball comedies.

Review:
This is a really fun book, full of interesting characters, adventure, and action. I was engaged right from the first page.
Skulduggery Pleasant is a skeleton detective with a dry wit and a quick mind and full of snappy quips. You know right away when he appears at the fringes of his friend’s funeral that he is going to be interesting and full of character. He teams up with twelve year old Stephanie to find the Sceptre of the Ancients after her uncle’s death. There is mystery and intrigue right away, pulling both Stephanie and the reader into a magical world hidden in just below the surface of the everyday world.
I liked Stephanie — she is feisty and fearless, willing to fight for what is right. She is sensitive and thoughtful, but also determined, is able to stand up for herself, and is up for adventure.
Landy has created a fantastic magical world in this book, filled with interesting characters and menacing villains. Many of the characters are stereotypes, however, with the evil ones having no redeeming qualities and the good ones very sympathetic.
This is a great start to the series and I can see kids racing through these books.

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