MatthewSean Reviews

Book reviews, movie reviews, and other writing

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling — July 27, 2013

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling

Facts:

  • Book: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Author: J.K. Rowling
  • Genre: Fiction (Modern Literature)
  • Year of Release: 2005
  • Read 607-page hardcover edition in July 2013.

Book Description: In his sixth year at Hogwarts, Harry is now meeting with Professor Dumbledore on a more regular basis, for one-on-one training, to learn more about Voldemort, how and why he rose to power, and more importantly what can be done to stop him.  Dumbledore has brought Harry into his confidences, and wants to work with him to prepare him for the war that is sure to come, and has already started in some respects.  Harry, Hermione, and Ron, along with friends like Ginny, Neville, and Luna also plan for the future and what the war will mean to them on a personal level.  And as the suspense and seriousness of the current situation with Voldemort and his followers increases, it becomes clear that who can be trusted will play an important part on surviving and prevailing.

Book Review: This sixth novel was a tighter one in many respects from the last huge book that Rowling wrote, where she had written in many new characters, plot points, and ideas.  In this sixth book, Rowling spent more focused time with key characters and plots, and allowed the reader to learn more about the key characters of Harry’s background, Voldemort’s background, and Dumbledore to a lesser degree.  We still see the other characters present, including the addition of an important and well-written new character, Professor Slughorn.  But Rowling uses this sixth novel in large part to “set up” the seventh and final novel.  We need a lot of this background information to allow the seventh book to proceed.  Although this is totally understandable, and the information is valuable, it must be said that large parts of the intro and middle of the novel are spent looking back on history and learning about why things are the way they are.  There is less “present-day action” in this novel versus the previous outing.  That being said, the backstory is required and interesting.  Furthermore, the finale of this novel has to be said to be action-packed, dramatic, suspenseful, emotional, touching, and traumatic.  Overall, this is a strong novel that sets up the last book of the series very nicely.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5.

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling —

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling

Facts:

  • Book: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Author: J.K. Rowling
  • Genre: Fiction (Modern Literature)
  • Year of Release: 2003
  • Read 766-page hardcover edition in July 2013.

Book Description: Before returning to Hogwarts for his fifth year, Harry Potter encounters a serious problem while spending another dreary summer with his Dursley relatives.  His cousin Dudley and him are attacked by Dementors, and in his usage of magic to defend them, he is brought to the Ministry of Magic to face charges of using magic outside of school.  The Ministry seems different than it did int he past, and it is only thanks to Dumbledore’s intervention that Harry is saved from serious trouble.  But things don’t calm down when he arrives at Hogwarts.  Harry is having trouble with seeing visions that are troubling him, and he and the other students have to deal with a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher Dolores Umbridge, who is also the eyes and ears of the Ministry of Magic, who continues to deny that Voldemort is indeed alive, well, and trying to gain more power and control.  As Harry works through all these challenges and tries to find some answers from an evasive Dumbledore, he knows that things are coming to a head, and that a showdown with Voldemort and his Death Eaters is only a question of when, not if.

Book Review: Like the last book in the series, Rowling has done an exceptional job of expanding the level of detail in the narrative of this book.  Without giving away a spoiler, one can safely say the closing scenes of this book are probably the most intense and action-oriented of the series thus far.  Being the largest book in the series, this novel has copious amounts of action, suspense, and drama between characters of good and evil built into it.  In addition, this novel begins to make one question a lot of characters, and whether there are motivations are truly good or sinister.  Seeing Harry and Hermione, and to a lesser extent Ron, build into true leadership stars is a great source of character development by Rowling.  The romance continues to blossom in this novel, and again Rowling does a nice job of incorporating it to just the right degree for a novel that has focus on other, larger issues.  We also get introduced to another assortment of interesting new characters, both good and bad, and although some of them are a little bit lacking in complexity, the presence of standard characters from previous novels who continue to add depth and question the readers allows us to enjoy the telling of the plot with a lot of questions in our minds about true motivations.  Overall, this novel does a great job in all areas, and really helps us to see the plot expand beyond the traditional Hogwarts borders, into a larger scale.  This book is successful as an action tale in its own right, but also at setting the stage for some larger-scope stories to come.

Overall: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling —

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling

Facts:

  • Book: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Author: J.K. Rowling
  • Genre: Fiction (Modern Literature)
  • Year of Release: 2000
  • Read 636-page hardcover edition in June 2013.

Book Description: Harry Potter has returned to his fourth year at Hogwarts, and the dangers inside Hogwarts have increased with the Triwizard Tournament coming to the school, which is a series of challenging magical tests for those deemed brave enough to represent their school.  This means representatives from two other schools from abroad have also been brought to the school for the year.  But with increasing speculation of Voldemort supporters gathering, and with lingering questions about where loyalties truly lie with students like Malfoy, teachers like Professor Snape, and visitors to the school, Harry and his friends know this will be a year fraught with danger and risk, as they seek to uncover the truth.

Book Review: After the first three shorter books in the series, this is the first novel in the Harry Potter universe where Rowling expands the word count and really starts to provide greater detail, character development, and info on the mythology of her universe.  And for the most part, this has worked well, as she has created a very pure adventure-type story with clear contests that will appeal to her more youthful audience, while increasing the detail and back story that will appeal to older audiences.  The result is a strong novel that has broad appeal, with enhanced character development, new characters, and more information on the wizarding world and where this tale may be going.  The level of suspense and tension is cranked up a notch, certainly, in this novel.  The characters are all showing their teenage years with some romance and drama that is appropriate to their age, and Rowling does a good job weaving this into the novel with the right amount and at the right times in the narrative.  One minor complaint to the story is that this novel had a couple major plot points that one could easily wonder “why would Dumbledore and the wizarding powers that be allow this to occur given safety concerns?”  It is a practical question that never gets fully answered, and basically the reader who picks up on those questions has to set them aside and just enjoy the novel without worrying about them.  But overall, this novel does succeed in taking the Harry Potter universe to the next level.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5.

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling — July 20, 2013

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling

Facts:

  • Book: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Author: J.K. Rowling
  • Genre: Fiction (Modern Literature)
  • Year of Release: 1999
  • Read 317-page hardcover edition in May 2013.

Book Description: Harry Potter is just entering his teenage years, and with that reality comes some angst, as he waits at the Dursley’s for summer to end, so that he can return to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  However, after running afoul of some underage wizarding rules, he finds himself with his wizard  friends sooner then he thinks.  And he quickly learns that this coming year at school will be full of adventure and mystery, not only as he starts to learn more about his family history, but also because of the increased security surrounding the escape of mass murderer Sirius Black from Azkaban prison.

Book Review: This novel was, in two words, absolutely fantastic.  Rowling has truly hit her stride with this third novel in the Harry Potter series.  She has decided to take things to the next level by starting to develop characters in more detail and share history and culture of the wizard world in much greater depth.  The result is a fabulous tale, with characters that showcase true complexity and multi-faceted natures.  We also see Rowling do an incredible job of mixing complex character thought and emotion with a fast-acting and twisting plot that has several great surprises throughout.  Rowling shows that there is still much to learn in the world of Hogwarts, and the entire novel makes the reader yearn for more, which is an excellent measure of a strong series.

Overall: 5 stars out of 5

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling —

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling

Facts:

  • Book: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Author: J.K. Rowling
  • Genre: Fiction (Modern Literature)
  • Year of Release: 1998
  • Read 251-page hardcover edition in May 2013.

Book Description: As Harry Potter suffers through a long summer holidays with his terrible cousin and mean aunt and uncle, he longs for school to start again so he can go back to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  However, before he returns, a house elf brings him a warning, that something terrible is brewing at Hogwarts, and it may be too dangerous to go back at all.  When Harry finally gets to Hogwarts, his friends Ron and Hermione join him in trying to discover just what is going on.  But when students start getting attacked, and other strange occurrences happen, they realize the danger is more serious than they ever thought possible.

Book Review: This second novel by J.K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series was truly an excellent sequel to her debut novel from the year previous.  Rowling has taken the time here to expand on the characters she introduced, and has added more depth and interaction between the characters in the story.  That being said, although some effort was made to begin opening up the universe to more magical properties, history, and more characters, one minor downside is the book does not go into as much detail in some areas and characters, and more insight from some scenes and situations which were briefly presented would have been nice.  However, being marketed as a children’s book, that is probably the main reason for the book’s shortened length from what it could have been. On a more positive front, Rowling was freed up from introducing many people and places here, allowing us to see firsthand the true imagination Rowling has for her universe. and has given more time to exploring in greater detail some of the amazing places, objects, and people in her magical world.  She has also introduced some new characters and magical creatures in this book, allowing it to be as original and fresh as the first novel in the series.  As well, suspense and action are even more a part of this book than the first one, making it a truly exciting read.  The key to this book’s success though, lies in Rowling’s ability to relate to the three principal children in the novel.  Her descriptions of young Harry are truly insightful and believable, and they make the novel something that anyone, young and old, can relate to honestly.  The character interactions of Harry, Hermione, and Ron are equally well written and interesting, making for a very powerful core group of characters that the readers can really care about.  Rowling’s mix of strong characters, amazing imagination, and heightened suspense and action make for a truly amazing novel!

Overall: 4 stars out of 5

 

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling —

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling

Facts:

  • Book: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • Author: J.K. Rowling
  • Genre: Fiction (Modern Literature)
  • Year of Release: 1997
  • Read 223-page hardcover edition in April 2013.

Book Description: Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary, and unlucky, boy.  He lives in a cupboard, is picked on by his bigger cousin Dudley, and is put down by his mean Aunt and Uncle.  However, on his eleventh birthday, which has been forgotten by his family, he gets an amazing visit by none other than a giant.  He learns that he is, in fact, a wizard.  Like his parents before him, whom he never knew, he is to go to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and learn how to be a wizard.  However, a mysterious object is being heavily guarded at Hogwarts, and Harry and his newfound friends become involved in the protection of this peculiar stone, from an evil that not only killed Harry’s parents, but tried to kill him as well.

Book Review: I decided to re-read all the Harry Potter books again in 2013 partly because I hadn’t read them quickly one after another, and I wondered whether I would learn new truths from moving from one to another quickly.  The other reason was simply for pure enjoyment, having read them as they came out back in the 1990s and 2000s.  Anyways, on to the review!  This novel by first-time writer Joanne Rowling, is truly an incredible tale, which takes children’s literature to a stunning new level.  Rowling has done a magnificent job of creating an entirely new environment for her characters, which are themselves very interesting people.  She has developed an entire culture and aura around the group of wizards who live in secret.  Not only is the setting developed in mythic intrigue and detail, but Rowling has also created a vast panoply of characters that are truly unique and unforgettable.  Rowling describes the inner workings of Harry’s mind with amazing and sometimes heart-wrenching details, and the children in the story are themselves very unique individuals, which young readers will be happy to get to know.  Rowling not only uses vivid imagery in her descriptions of Hogwarts and the wizard world, but she also throws in a lot of British humour and phrasing which is a welcome presence.  The conclusion of the novel is also nicely written, with an ending that is thankfully not the same old simplified ending as other children’s books, but one that shares a lesson and leaves lots of room for more future tales.  Finally, the main character of Harry is written with such wonderful appeal, both for kids and adults.  Rowling has created a main character who matters in the reader’s mind, and her hero is truly written with personal passion.  This is a character who we really care about, and with the amazing setting of Hogwarts, Rowling has truly written an amazing and powerful first novel, for readers of all ages.

Overall: 5 stars out of 5