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 Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic #2)

Find your magic

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.

Review:

This is the first Alice Hoffman book that I’ve read, and knowing that it involved magic and witches, and had themes of being true to your whole self — well, I was anxious to read it. That and the cover really is beautiful.

However, I did not bond with this book. I liked the characters well enough and there was some magic, but something was missing for me. Aunt Isabelle was by far my favourite character. I loved her eccentricities and the idea that people approached her porch at night to receive her spells and remedies and would pay anything for them but would snub her on the street.

Hoffman has clearly done her research and filled out her novel with information of the area, the history of witches and the social situation of the day.

My favourite parts of the book have to do with the themes of accepting all parts of yourself, as illustrated by this quote from the novel:

“This is what happens when you repudiate who you are. Once you do that, life works against you, and your fate is no longer your own.”

I did find myself wanting to finish the book to find out what happened, but also found that most of the novel, especially as it went on, was describing situations and what went on. As a reader, I didn’t feel like a part of the action. It got to feeling like reading a history book.

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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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Book Review: Dust by Patricia Cornwell

Dust (Kay Scarpetta #21)

Massachusetts Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta has just returned from working one of the worst mass murders in U.S. history when she’s awakened at an early hour by Detective Pete Marino.

A body, oddly draped in an unusual cloth, has just been discovered inside the sheltered gates of MIT and it’s suspected the identity is that of missing computer engineer Gail Shipton, last seen the night before at a trendy Cambridge bar. It appears she’s been murdered, mere weeks before the trial of her $100 million lawsuit against her former financial managers, and Scarpetta doubts it’s a coincidence. She also fears the case may have a connection with her computer genius niece, Lucy.

At a glance there is no sign of what killed Gail Shipton, but she’s covered with a fine dust that under ultraviolet light fluoresces brilliantly in three vivid colors, what Scarpetta calls a mineral fingerprint. Clearly the body has been posed with chilling premeditation that is symbolic and meant to shock, and Scarpetta has reason to worry that the person responsible is the Capital Murderer, whose most recent sexual homicides have terrorized Washington, D.C. Stunningly, Scarpetta will discover that her FBI profiler husband, Benton Wesley, is convinced that certain people in the government, including his boss, don’t want the killer caught.

In Dust, Scarpetta and her colleagues are up against a force far more sinister than a sexual predator who fits the criminal classification of a “spectacle killer.” The murder of Gail Shipton soon leads deep into the dark world of designer drugs, drone technology, organized crime, and shocking corruption at the highest levels.

With unparalleled high-tension suspense and the latest in forensic technology, Patricia Cornwell once again proves her exceptional ability to surprise—and to thrill.

Review:
This is my first time reading a novel my Patricia Cornwell and I was excited because I’d heard great things about the Kay Scarpetta series. Unfortunately, this book was a let down for me.
The characters are all well established, have a history with each other, and a pattern of behaviour, which is fine. Old tensions and rivalries are brought in quite a bit.
This novel takes place over the course of one day and yet there is very little actual action. Scarpetta spends a lot of time going over things in her head, so much time that things get very repetitive. And I mean really repetitive. I almost didn’t make it through the book. She explains old rivalries between the characters several times, she looks at the evidence, figures it out, talks about it, explains it, then thinks about it again.
And, I have to say, that it bugged me that Scarpetta was hungry all the time but barely ever ate. And that they were sometimes in a hurry, but it would take two chapters of thoughts and contemplation before they actually left the room.
Right from the start, Scarpetta’s husband and FBI profiler, Benton, seems to know there’s a cover up and who’s doing it and much of the rest of the book is finding ways to use the evidence against him.
It is obvious that the author knows a lot about forensic science and all of the techniques and gadgets and that was interesting, however, the story was so slow and repetitive that author knowledge couldn’t compensate.

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