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

HP Prisoner of Azkaban

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Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Premise:

In Harry’s third year at Hogwarts all heck breaks loose!  Notorious criminal Sirius Black has broken out of Azkaban prison and is bent on seeking revenge.  Meanwhile, Harry, Ron and Hermione are buried in schoolwork as they prepare to take their OWLs (final exams).  Quidditch is just as drama-filled as ever, and Harry learns to defend himself against Dementors–the terrifying Azkaban guards who are keeping guard at Hogwarts.

My thoughts:

This is another wonderfully rollicking Harry Potter story that embodies the elements of fun and adventure.  The Quidditch scenes are just as harrowing as in previous books; the school drama just as satisfying; the mischief just as exciting!

With this book, however, the series seems to have taken a turn into more mature themes.  Not anything inappropriate, but more mature in terms of emotions and motivation.  It deals with themes of hatred, revenge, betrayal, and how people react in adverse circumstances.  Harry really comes to a crisis point in his thinking when he understands how fully somebody hurt him and has to decide whether to embrace his hatred or let it go.  I like that kids get to explore those more complex emotional issues in this story.

The story itself feels like it’s more complex and well-planned than the previous two.  The plot is more involved and interconnected, with some decidedly clever bits that make you say, “Oh, now I get it!“.  I don’t want to give anything away, but Hermione’s “tool” is an awesome plot device.

I love Lupin and wish that he were a bigger part of the story.  It seems like there is so much about his character and history that is only hinted at and I’d love to get a fuller look at that.  One character who I think is portrayed quite differently in the movie is Crookshanks.  In the book he’s much more intelligent and plays a greater role in the story.  The movie Crookshanks is mostly just an ill-tempered cat.  It’s too bad he was dumbed-down for the movie.

Finally, it was very satisfying to learn more about the history of Harry’s parents and friends.  It helps round out the story and characters, and really adds a depth of understanding to everything that happens in the series.  If there’s one thing that J.K. Rowling does well, it’s writing well-developed characters.

I highly recommend Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to kids from elementary school up through teens.  It’s also a great family read-aloud.  It’s definitely a family-favorite at our house!

Possible Objections:

  • 2 uses of the d-word
  • 1 use of the b-word (though it’s used in reference to a female dog)

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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

HP Chamber of Secrets

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Title: Harry Potter and The Chamber Of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Premise:

Harry Potter is back for his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!  Don’t get too comfortable, though–danger lurks yet again for our dauntless hero and his friends.  Someone is determined to rid the school of students who are from non-wizarding families.  Can Harry, Ron and Hermione stop them before somebody is truly hurt?

My thoughts:

This book is possibly my favorite Harry Potter novel (though I’ll have to go through and compare all of them again to judge fairly).  The story is fun and charming; the characters are engaging and still fresh; the plot elements are fun and adventurous!  If ever there was a satisfying adventure story written for children–this is it!

Chamber of Secrets really capitalizes on the cohesive friendship of Harry, Ron and Hermione, where the first book only touched the surface.  In this book the friends really function as a team and figure out how they work best together.  Also, Hermione’s character became much less annoying and much more fleshed out.

Speaking of characters, I think that this book really did an admirable job of bringing in some very interesting and entertaining new ones–Professor Lockhart, Moaning Myrtle, and even Dobby.  An author should never underestimate the power of good supporting characters, and this story sure does deliver on that front.

As for the story line, it is so much fun–a flying car, the Forbidden Forest, the magical creatures, and the final scene in the Chamber of Secrets–who wouldn’t love it?

If you are familiar with the movie adaptation of this book, you will notice that the book and the movie are nearly identical.  It almost feels like you’re reading the screenplay.  Of course I know that the book came first, but I can picture the movie scenes in my head.  It’s a bit strange.

I highly recommend Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to kids all the way from elementary school up through teens.  It’s also a great family read-aloud.  The story is timeless and would appeal to many ages.

A Favorite quote:

“’So Dobby stopped us from getting on the train and broke your arm….’  He shook his head.  ‘You know what, Harry?  If he doesn’t stop trying to save your life he’s going to kill you.’”  (p. 184)

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

HP Sorcerers Stone

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I read the Harry Potter series years ago, though not when they first came out.  I had a thing back then about reading books which were being talked about non-stop.  The more someone told me, you have to read this book, the less I wanted to read it.  I finally caved and ended up absolutely falling in love with the books.  Now my kids are starting to read the Harry Potter series and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to revisit them myself.  We currently have five people in our family reading through the series.  I think that’s pretty awesome!

Title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Premise:

Harry Potter has been raised unloved and mistreated by his aunt and uncle who took him in as an infant when his parents died.  Much to his surprise, Harry finds out that he has been accepted into a school for witchcraft and wizardry, and that he is in fact quite famous for having survived an attack by a powerful wizard named Voldemort.  Follow Harry in his first-year adventures–playing quidditch, making friends, and unraveling the mystery of who is trying to steal a valuable and potentially dangerous substance from the school!

My thoughts:

It is a bit difficult to review this book objectively because I’ve seen the movie multiple times.  How do I separate my impressions of the one without talking about the other?  I’m not sure that I can.  Rest assured, I’ll go back and watch the movie to post a review of it at some later date.

I love, love, love this book!  Rowling’s style of storytelling is wonderful!  She balances the dialogue and action well, keeping the story going at just the right pace.  Her characters are well-developed and relatable.  By the end of the book they end up feeling like old friends (and enemies).

The author also has an uncanny ability to inject humor into the story–through interesting and feisty  characters, humorous situations, and the wonderful medium that is British humor.  In the books a lot more of that subtle humor comes through, which unfortunately, doesn’t always make it into the movies.  Don’t get me wrong–I love the movies, but they don’t catch the full personality of the book characters, nor the subtleties of every situation.

There was one section of the book which I thought was really hilarious, which was shortened and condensed for the movie.  The part about the lengths that Harry’s uncle Vernon goes to in trying to escape the letters is absolute gold.  I thought it was one of the funniest parts of the book.

I was also struck by how long it took for Harry and Ron to accept Hermione as one of the gang.  In the book she is much more awkward, talkative, overbearing and disliked.  I don’t think the movie was wrong in speeding up that sequence, it’s just different.  Honestly, I think I prefer the movie version of that aspect of the story because it makes Hermione more likable and less socially awkward.

Another thing I noticed was that in the scene where Harry defeats the antagonist, the person is burned.  I appreciated that they changed that for the movie because I think it would have been a bit much visually for kids to handle.

I highly recommend Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to kids all the way from elementary school up through teens.  It’s also a great family read-aloud.  The story is timeless and would appeal to many ages.

A Favorite quote:

“’Oh, these people’s minds work in strange ways, Petunia, they’re not like you and me,’ said Uncle Vernon, trying to knock in a nail with the piece of fruitcake Aunt Petunia had just brought him.”  (p. 40)

Possible Objections:

  • 1 use of the d-word

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind

wizards-first-rule-wm

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Wizard’s First Rule is the second to last book from my Thrift Store Fantasy Reading Challenge.  Almost done!  I had never heard of this book, nor the author, Terry Goodkind.  It can be a little intimidating starting a thick book with no clue about whether or not it will be a good one.

Wizard’s First Rule is an epic fantasy adventure story in which Richard (the Seeker) has to defeat the evil Darken Rahl.  He is aided by a beautiful but powerful woman, a wizard, and a few others.  The majority of the story is taken up by their journey to find a magical object which must be hidden from Rahl, and by the many scrapes they find themselves in.

I am still conflicted about this book. Was it good? Was it bad? Did it mess with my brain? Probably so. There are parts of it that I really like and parts of it that made my stomach churn.

The frequent graphic violence (including sexual violence), is just so overwhelming. If that had been watered down dramatically, I think I might have liked the novel more. Of course the writing isn’t stellar, but it’s hard to fairly assess anything else in the book when all you can think about is a dominatrix, a pedophile, and people’s heads cracking open like melons.

What I liked:

  • I liked the variety and different types of characters.  It seems like there was a lot of thought and imagination that went into the diverse inhabitants of this fantasy world.  You get to see people who are pure and people who are quite diabolical.
  • I liked that they were going on an epic adventure and that their journey took many detours (it reminded me of The Lord of the Rings quest).
  • The beginning and end of the book.  The last third of the book, in particular, really picks up in plot twists and complexity.  Even though there were parts of this book that I didn’t like, I will probably read the next in the series because the end of the book was an interesting segue into the next.

What I didn’t like:

  • The main characters seemed almost bipolar at times, going from saying they would protect someone with their life one minute to holding a sword against that person’s throat the next.  Real people don’t act that way, but hey, maybe they were under extreme stress?
  • I felt like the book could have been shortened by not repeating phrases over and over.
  • One of the characters seems to me to be almost a rip-off of the Gollum character from Lord of the Rings.
  • I understand that terrible things happen in war, but personally I was very uncomfortable with how candid the author was about things like sexual exploitation and gory violence.
  • The middle of the book was more difficult to get through–I had to force myself to keep reading.  It seemed like it was lacking any urgency in keeping the story going.

So, there you have it–my mixed feelings on this book.  I feel like there are definitely people out there who would really dislike this book because of some of the intense subject matter.  If you’re uncomfortable with the occult, gory violence, or sexual themes, I would recommend you skip this one.

Possible Objections:

  • A lot of violence & gore
  • Not very subtle references to sexual violence against women & children
  • Sexual themes, including S&M and references to anatomy
  • 2 instances of the b-word
  • Occult themes

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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The Glass Dragon by Irene Radford

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Reading The Glass Dragon has brought me back to my Thrift Store Fantasy Reading Challenge.  It will be good to pick up with this challenge because I really enjoy fantasy books.  This book is part of a trilogy, though I only have the first book.  I’m not sure if I’ll purposely seek out the next two, or wait around until I spot them secondhand.

I enjoyed this book and finished it in a couple of days.  The action was able to keep me interested and flipping pages.  The gist of the story is that there is a kingdom whose power is tied to dragons.  The kingdom, however, is waning in power because people have come to view dragons with suspicion and hate them, even going so far as to kill them.  A man who wants to seize power for himself takes advantage of this situation and endeavors to set himself up to take over as ruler.

There are three main characters who help fight the forces of evil–a rogue magician, a man-wolf, and a witchwoman.  They embark on a quest to save the last female dragon in the realm, and along the way they discover the power they are capable of wielding.

There is some kind of strange, unexplained sexual link between the three characters.  I didn’t quite grasp what the author was getting at (for which I am thankful).  Once that little facet of the story emerged, things started to get a bit awkward.

I think the thing I like most about this book is the creativity used in making up this enchanted world.  The reader gets descriptions of its customs, animals, geography, and more.  Its complexity reminds me of The Lord of the Rings, but not nearly as detailed.

I would recommend this book for older teens and up because of the sexual themes.

Possible Objections:

  • Some sexual scenes
  • A bit of violence

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

HP Cursed Child - WM

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While picking up some books at the library the other day, I spotted Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sitting on the counter with the new items.  I’m a big Harry Potter fan and have seen this book all over the place, but had never purposely sought it out.  How could I pass it over when it was sitting right there in front of me?  I couldn’t.

The first thing you should know is that this book is written in play format.  You have to pay careful attention to who is speaking, and the story line moves more quickly with fewer extraneous details than in the novels.  If you’re looking for a book that exactly matches the previous Harry Potter novels, you will be disappointed.  This is something completely different.

This story is set nineteen years in the future from where we left off with Harry, Hermione, Ron, and the rest of the crew.  Harry and Ginny are now married, with kids.  Ron and Hermione are also married, with a child.  Even Draco has married and had a son.

It picks up with their children entering into their Hogwarts education and follows them through to their mid-teen years.  Albus (Harry’s son) and Scorpius (Draco’s son) have a hard time fitting in and become good friends.  However, Harry is distrustful of Scorpius and tries to thwart their friendship.  This is on top of Harry’s already strained relationship with Albus.  In an ill-advised plan, Albus tries to right a wrong from Harry’s past, while simultaneously trying to win his father’s approval.  Things go haywire and the whole cast has to come together to set things right before evil is again let loose on the wizarding world.  I could give you more details, but I don’t want to wreck the story for you.  😉

I enjoyed seeing the old characters in new adult roles.  They all show some imperfect tendencies and prejudices, and uncertainty in their new role as parents.  I like that this book takes a much deeper look at human nature than you generally get in the older Harry Potter novels.  This is a grown up world now, where adults make mistakes and people are more complex.  There is less of a line drawn between good and evil, and more emphasis on common priorities in life and how they can draw people together.

If you were a Harry Potter fan in your youth, you will appreciate the grown up complexity of this book.  You get to see your favorite characters again, but in the challenging world of adulthood.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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The Misadventures of Salem Hyde, Book 1: Spelling Trouble by Frank Cammuso

Spelling Trouble

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The Misadventures of Salem Hyde, Book 1: Spelling Trouble is about a girl named Salem and a cat named Whammy.  Salem is a young witch who mixes up almost all of the spells she tries to cast.  Her family decides to assign her a companion animal to help teach her how to use her powers.  Whammy the cat is the one enlisted to fill that role.  He also tries to help Salem win a spelling bee that she will be taking part in at school.  Though there is some friction between them, they eventually become friends.  This is the first book in the series.

This book is best for older school-aged kids to preteens.  Bubba likes this book because it’s funny.

Possible Objections:

  1. Salem is a witch and uses magical powers.  If you don’t want your child reading about that type of thing, then steer clear of this book series.
  2. There’s a bit of rude behavior and talk amongst some of the characters.

 

Goodbye,

Bubba & Lori