Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Last year, my husband and I signed up for GalleySmith's fabulous Harry Potter reading challenge.  I was so pumped because I convinced my husband to read them with me!  While we haven't exactly been reading them together, we did listen to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on audio together.

Nine months after signing up, we are finally getting our first book review up.  (But, to look on the bright side, we read two books!)  It is really rather sad that we are given a whole year to read them and we cram all seven into the last few months.

We're also going to skip over summaries of the books.  Really, if you don't have any idea what they are about, ask your neighbor, coworker, or any kid about age 10.

Anyway, I've never done a joint review before, so this might be a little confusing or rambling, but we did our best.  My husband, Vince, isn't a big fan of writing, so I typed up his thoughts, trying to keep as much of his wording as possible.  He wanted me to note that he hasn't ever really "reviewed" books before, but I think he did just fine.  We didn't separate each book into separate thoughts and we didn't really have concrete things we liked and didn't like, so I scrapped that format for this review.  So, let's just jump right in!
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: 10th Anniversary Edition (Harry Potter)

Vince: Rowling was really good at setting up a real-life type situation, even though you know it's not real. She has the world we live in and another world that is completely different, but hidden in our world. You almost want to believe that it's real, because being a muggle, we wouldn't know about it, right?

Me: She's created this blend of fantasy and realism that is so developed and believable. You honestly start to not be astonished when a new crazy magical creature or something is introduced, because that is just how it happens in this world. She's really got an imagination!

V: Her characters, especially the main ones, are well-developed with distinct personalities. Ron provides the humorous side of a story that in general is serious. As the story progressively gets darker, you get characters like Ron and his older brothers who provide comic relief, which is one of my favorite things about the characters.

M: I really love the humor too! I think much of the appeal of the stories are the characters. Each one, even some of the very minor characters, have quirky and unique personalities. I also love how the names she gives them that fit just right - Hagrid, Weasley, Lockhart, Quirrel, Snape. She manages to create these real characters and then she puts them in her world doing totally odd things. It makes for so many funny situations! I also like that her characters are definitely not perfect: we like Harry, but sometimes he's stupid and arrogant; we like Ron but he's dense and sometimes stubborn; we (sometimes) like Hermione but she really is annoying and a know-it-all. We like them because they are like us - flawed.

V: I like how Rowling sets up things for future books in the series, she establishes things that will be important later so they aren't randomly and suddenly introduced right when she needs them. For example, she introduces in passing the vanishing cabinet, that we know plays an important part in book six. Also, she mentions early in the series (book 2) the idea that Voldemorte put a part of himself into Harry, which is central to the story, especially in book seven.

M: She really is a queen of setting things up for later. Most of these things are just little hints throughout, stuff you totally don't notice the first time through (at least I didn't). You can see, when looking at the whole series, how much plotting she did and how carefully she crafted each book to build on the previous ones. I was particularly struck, while listening to book two, that it really was a key book in the series, setting up way in advance how Voldemorte was "immortal" and how Harry could defeat him. I think another part of the books' appeal are the complex and interwoven stories. She's got so many things going on at once, but they are all usually essential parts, even if we don't recognize them as such when we first see them. I think it takes great talent to plan all these plots and pieces out and weave them into one another.

V agreeing, but not commenting :)

M: In particular I noticed on this reading (and listening) that her descriptions are very vivid. She uses metaphors to create clear images of characters and many of them are quite humorous. I also noticed that she tends to set us up to think that one character is the cause of all the trouble, and there is a surprising and totally unexpected twist at the end. On my first reading, I never picked up on the hints throughout the story until it was revealed: not Snape, but Quirrel; not Malfoy or Hagrid, but Ginny. And I always fell for it.

Also, I think that after that first reading, it is hard to enjoy the series quite like the first time. I couldn't quite feel the same wonder and excitement. I can see some rereading of the series is inevitable, but it is definitely not quite like that first time.

V: This is my favorite series and I am loving rereading them (and watching the films).

M: Whereas I must admit I don't particularly like the films. Once is enough for me :)

If you like Harry Potter (and I haven't met many that don't) try the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan, the Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer, and the Farworld series by J. Scott Savage

s-factor: !
a few

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
always some action at the end

Overall rating: **** & *****

Any thoughts you have on rereading Harry Potter?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage


  1. This is a great review! The Harry Potter series is one of my very favorites, because I grew up reading them. ( I started the first book when I was 13). After I finished the series I read them to my younger siblings and then my husband and I read them out loud to each other. I can't wait to read them to my kids when they're just a bit older.
    I loved hearing your thoughts on the series, and I'll have to check out the read-alikes.

  2. I re-read them last summer -- because I wanted to read them all in a row, like one big book. It was awesome! You can really see the foreshadowing that you were talking about when you read them without waiting a year in between each book.

    I very rarely read more than one book in a series -- I'm a high school librarian, and I like to read a wide variety so I can recommend to my students -- and to read ANY book a second time (let alone seven books) is unheard of for me. I did read all the Twilight series, but I would never read those again. So to me, Harry Potter is "special."

  3. Aelysium, sounds like you got to spread the HP love! I didn't start the series until about the fourth book came out (I was reluctant with all the hype). How fun it will be to share with your own kids!

    Annette, it is definitely one of a kind - probably a series I will reread once every few years. And yeah for librarians! :)

  4. I didn't start reading HP until book 4 was out too. I'm glad for that because it was hard enough waiting for 5, 6, and 7 to come out. I actually love re-reading these awesome books. I bet I've read them about 4 times and I will probably read them again. I believe that JK Rowling started a new age in children's literature with these books.

  5. Kim, Rowling really started something didn't she? I'm hoping she'll publish more sometime soon :)

  6. I like the two you've reviewed, too, but I think The Prisoner of Azkaban might be my favorite of all the Harry Potter novels.

  7. Andie, I think that's one of my favorites too!

  8. I have read the HP series so many times, I've lost count. I read HP fanfictio because I can't get enough. I love how she crafted everyting in the series. It's all so real! :)

  9. Anon, it really is unique in its creation and such a phenomenon still!


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