bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #50: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Oops. I can’t believe I posted out of order. Oh, well.

 

I’m so close to the end…and I’ve hit a snag. Blame it on summer getting busy, blame it on my exam which has finally started turning into a reality (as in, my dissertation director discussed the scheduling of it), and I’ve lost the reading mojo that has carried me through. I’m reading Invisible Man and just getting nowhere, so I had to put it down and turn to more comforting fare. Yes, I’ve read this series a few times (and I’m sure most of you Cannonballers have too!). But I always walk away with something new.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone kicks off the famed Harry Potter series. Harry Potter, our titular hero, is an eleven-year-old boy with a mysterious scar, living in suburban England with his nasty uncle, aunt, and cousin. He doesn’t know that his parents were magical, and so is he! It’s so British, really. If you’ve ever read an English children’s book, there’s always nasty relatives, secretly wealthy relatives, boarding schools, or magic (and until Harry Potter, the only book to my knowledge to have combined all those elements was Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess). Harry is, of course, whisked away to boarding school with other magical children, where he is to learn how to become an adult and to control his special gifts. That is, if he can survive his first year. You see, there are rumors that the man who killed his parents, Lord Vold-I mean, You Know Who, is mysteriously at large and (obviously) still wants to kill Harry, having been unable to do so eleven years ago.

If you’ve ever read British literature, there will be many elements that come together for you, and J.K. Rowling’s classics degree does her proud. It’s an engaging read with lots of details about the world of gifted people living in a parallel universe of Muggles (us non-magic folk). For the moments when I’m stressed, sad, or in desperate need of a pick-me-up, I can think of no better solution than Harry Potter.

You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.

kmc1138’s #CBR5 Review #3: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Image I was at first very disappointed by how much I had to try to read “The Casual Vacancy.” I expected to want to devour it in one weekend, like I had done all of the author’s novels (despite their volume). But for the first two thirds of the book, I found myself plodding through only a chapter or two every other night.

I can’t wholeheartedly fault J.K. Rowling for my issues. I have always had a problem with any fiction that largely features a cast of characters that I neither like nor find relatable; the characters can be brilliantly written into a plot of labyrinthine intrigues, but if I don’t like ’em, it’s over. And it took a great while for me to find reasons to be invested in these characters, but once I did the novel became a marathon to the finish.

The book tells of the residents of a small town in England and reminds me a lot of 90’s era Robert Altman. It’s only through reading the connections between characters that the purpose of the novel is revealed, rather than by the actions of those characters. As someone who grew up in a town with a population of approximately 380 people (seriously), I can tell you with no exaggeration that the overseas setting sets no limits as to experience. I knew these characters growing up, and I didn’t really like them then, either. Pagford, just like my home town, is a place where not only does everyone know each other, everyone has very definitive opinions on each other as well. The children in the novel were the first to become sympathetic – at first, I couldn’t really find my reason to care for them. But they quickly grew on me as, just as it seems in real life sometimes, the children were the first to want to rise above their shortcomings. The adults either didn’t realize they were a problem or felt that their own miseries were naught but a cause to share unhappiness and discomfort.

All of this changed in the last third of the book. Loose connections became a game of tight cause and effect, and characters, as they often do in the face of tragedy, came to revelations with their own inadequacies and talked to one another instead of stewing in their own tepid hate. The climax of the book made all of the footwork through the first chapters absolutely worth it.

A note on villains, and perhaps a spoiler, so read with caution: Sometimes a villain stays a “favorite” because we secretly like him. Maybe we identify with him, or maybe we secretly wish we could take away a small part of him into our own lives. Rarely is a villain a “favorite” simply because of his utter lack of sympathetic traits, but Shirley Mollison is exactly that villain for me. She remained despicable to her very last narrative passage, and I absolutely love Rowling for not giving her one hint of a redemption, especially when it would have been so easy to give the character a moment of apologetic insight. Shirley Mollison is a grand villain in non-fantasy literature.

taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #1: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

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Cannonball Read V: Book #1/52
Published: 2012
Pages: 503
Genre: Fiction

I think this book is best read by going into it without thinking that it was written by J.K. Rowling. I know it’s been said to death, but this is definitely not Harry Potter. The Casual Vacancy starts off with the death of Barry Fairbrother. His death was sudden and now everyone is plotting to see who will get his seat on the town council. There’s a lot of politics in this book, which is probably why I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to.

Read the rest in my blog.