Thursday, June 04, 2009

Harry Potter

Well, I’ve finished the entire seven book Harry Potter series now. I’m sorry that it’s over. I have to give J. K. Rowling high marks, both for the individual books and for the overall arc of the series. In fact, I’ve never been so caught up in a series that I read them all one after another after another. The last two, particularly, put the reader through an emotional roller coaster, and as a reader I appreciate every minute of such an experience. Even three days after closing the cover on the last volume, I still feel that sense of loss that comes with being finished with a beloved book. And although I normally leap right into a new book after one is done, I waited a day before starting something different (a Star Trek book if you must know.) A day is a lifetime for me where reading is concerned.

I’m not going to give details of the books here because I don’t want to reveal any spoilers. The books are too good for that. But I will tell you my overall impression of the story arc. The first two volumes, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets are indeed books for young, young adults. They’re good, but they only hint at the more mature development that picks up with volume 3, Prisoner of Azkaban. After that, for me, it was a straight run to the finish, with each book capable of standing on its own but also laying the ground work for the next. At first I thought book five, The Order of the Phoenix, marked a fall off. I didn’t much like Harry at the start of that one, but in retrospect I think Rowling simply turned him into a true teenager in that book and handled that task deftly. I was also pleased to see that Rowling’s action scenes substantially picked up, although these are definitely character books and not truly action driven.

It’s hard to say which book was my favorite because in this case I really think you have to judge the whole series together. And as a series it is outstanding. However, for me, the last two books, where the overall story is coming to its climax, stand out in my mind. I wish I still had them left to read.

Thank you, Ms. Rowling! Not that you need it, but you have another fan.
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48 comments:

SQT said...

I'm so glad you liked the series Charles. I was one of the people waiting at midnight to pick up the last few books-- I just could wait a minute longer.

I had the same feeling you did with "Order of the Phoenix" and was slightly disappointed at first. But when I re-read it I felt that Rowling made the right decision to express Harry's anger and frustration. I would have been just the insufferable in that situation at that age.

For some reason "The Goblet of Fire" always remains my favorite. I think that book was the one that really kicked the series onto another lever. It was the first of the big books in the series and the first to deal with the reality of death.

A great series all around though. I re-read them frequently.

SQT said...

Er, "lever" should read "level."

Paul R. McNamee said...

Glad you enjoyed it. I dropped off during 'Order of the Phoenix'. Haven't tried going back, yet.

Which Trek novel? I just started reading 'The Kobayashi Maru' by Julia Ecklar.

moonrat said...

YAHHHHH HARRY!!!

Cullen Gallagher said...

I'll be reading my first Harry Potter book this summer for a class. The syllabus is quite eclectic - who would think to combine Harry Potter, V.C. Andrews, Gilmore Girls, Carson McCullers, John Updike, and Philip Roth? I'm taking the class largely to read books that I would probably pick up normally, so I'm looking forward to trying some new authors/styles. The only thing I've read is Roth's Goodbye, Columbus, which is a long-time favorite. Will be nice to revisit.

jennifer said...

Wonderful! That is high praise coming from you. I am going to start the second book TONIGHT and quit dawdling. My daughter will be so proud!

jennifer said...

*side note* My son was looking over my shoulder and saw SQT's pic. He said "Cool! Blue Girl Group!" (as opposed to the Blue Man Group?) :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Goblet of fire really did step things up a notch, although it was a natural development from Prisoner. Like I say, it's hard to pick a favorite. They really all stand together so nicely.

Paul, the serious definitely ended with a bang rather than a whimper.

Moonrat, I agree!

Cullen, that does sound like an eclectic syllabus. Give us a report when it's done as to what the connections were.

Jennifer, like I say, I Thought book 3 was where it really came into its own as a series.

Middle Ditch said...

You know, I never ever read one. But I do watch the films and they are also great to see. Perhaps I should give reading them a go.

Margo Dill said...

Have you ever listened to the audio books? I found myself reading the books so quickly to find out what was going to happen to Harry and Voldemort that I then listened to the audio books to fill in the missing details. Jim Dale does an OUTSTANDING job as narrator.

Margo
http://margodill.com/blog/

Ello said...

WOO HOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

I'm so happy that you loved it! It is amazing how on target your read of the series matches up with mine. I really am a huge fan of the series and of JK Rowling. Glad to have you join us!

Lana Gramlich said...

I'm glad you liked them so much, hon! Sorry I haven't visited your blog lately. I've been involved in other things, as you know...

the walking man said...

Who is this Harry Pooter? I am in the middle of reading a rather unique and odd little work by an Author named Gramlich. I think I'll finish his book before I go and look for Pooter

Leigh Russell said...

Interesting. I must say I felt pottered out after book 5 and stopped reading the series. I think I'll probably go back to them and read the last two books now. A recommendation from you has got to be worth taking seriously.

Steve Malley said...

"Phoenix" is actually my favorite in the series. (Well, maybe-- I sure do like Azkabham lots!) Harry's an ass, but Delores Umbridge chills my blood.

And Fred and George's moment of glory-- priceless!

jodi said...

Charles, I too hate to finish a book that I am really into. I have a little ritural involving the last chapter when this happens. I get into bed for total comfort, with 3 Hershey Kisses (dark). I need absolute silence as I slowly read and savor the treat! Then I mourn....

Barbara Martin said...

I have not yet read the last three books in this series, and now will have to after your glowing report, Charles.

writtenwyrdd said...

I'm glad you enjoyed them. I think that the first two books suffered from Rowling being a new author and the publisher forced her to cut them back. After the massive sales, they let her have her head and the complicated plots and more mature themes emerged. If she ever releases her original volume 1, I'm buying it.

Gabby said...

I'm glad you liked HP, too! What I really liked about this series, and one I haven't felt as much in other series like this, is that you get to grow with the characters. Many kids began reading this as (older) kids and finished as young adults. I agree that it is a series that I wished I could have continued reading.

David Cranmer said...

I owe it to myself to give them another try. I read the first, liked it but wasn't overly excited to read on.

Charles Gramlich said...

Middle Ditch, I've enjoyed the films I saw, although I don't think they are as good as the books. I'll probably watch them more closely now.

Margo Dill, I haven't but you're actually the second person today to suggest I give them a listen. I'll have to check them out. Thanks for dropping by.

Ello, what is the term for Potter fans. I'm already a Trekker. Am I now a Potter Head, Pot Head, Rowlingite? What's the lingo?

Lana Gramlich, don't worry about that sweetness. I know you are busy loving me so I'll forgive you! ;)

Mark, I've heard good things about that Gramlich fellow. Mostly from Lana, it's true.

Leigh Russell, I almost took a break after the fifth book. I thought the character wasn't as much fun. but since I had the other book right there I plowed ahead and I'm glad I did.

Steve Malley, oh yeah, Umbridge is a scary ass character. Makes me think of how much evil has been done in the name of doing good. Yeah, I loved when Fred and George took off from Hogwarts. They were cool characters.

jodi, I ended up reading the last two chapters sometime after 3:00 in the morning but I just couldn't go to bed without knowing what was happening.


Barbara Martin, for the young and young at heart, they are. I think that's how the saying goes.

writtenwyrdd, I didn't realize they'd had her cut the first one back. Interesting. I'd buy the original myself.

Gabby, yes, I think it would be particularly salient to a young reader for just that kind of reason. I kind of did some reliving of my youth I think.

David Cranmer, the first one wasn't a real stand out. It was good enough to make me go on but it was certainly simplified, and the theme of the mistreated orphan was a little old to me. but I'm glad I continued from there.

Cloudia said...

Charles: Making YOU a fan is equivelant to captivating 25 "normal" folks. high praise for the author indeed!
Aloha book worm

Best Fantasy and Science Fiction said...

I still have yet to read them all. The first book seemed rather slow for me but eventually I will get back in the swing of things and finish the rest.

Right now I just got into Salvatore's work and love every minute of it. That is the first series I have read back to back books and I am loving it!

Paul: 'The Kobayashi Maru' by Julia Ecklar is a great book. At first I wasnt happy but I forced myself to get past the few chapters and make a decision then to stop or proceed. I was glad I kept going because I loved the plot.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, I just put down the next book I tried to read. It certainly didn't captivate me.

Best Fantasy and Science Fiction , I have a couple of Salvatori's books but have never read any. I hear good things about him, though. I'll try some.

Jennifer said...

My son and I are fans, my other son and daughter are not. I can't understand why they don't like Harry Potter - I loved the books and the movies too. But it just goes to show there's no accounting for taste, lol.
My fave was book (and movie) number 3.

Greg Schwartz said...

i feel your pain... it sucks when you finish a really good book (or series), it's almost like you've lost a friend.

Lauren said...

I agree, the books are awesome. She really did a great job with the overall arc and the development, not just of the characters but of the reader level so that kids can grow with the books, which is my favorite bit :).

I don't have a favorite either, but I really wasn't a big fan of the 6th. That was probably my least favorite. I felt like it was a prequel to the final book, but maybe that was because I read it when the final book came out and I really wanted to know what happened next...lol.

ivan said...

Comes to Harry Potter, I'm a little like Joan Rivers reading the Bible. Every so often, I mark "Good" in the margin.

Charles Gramlich said...

Jennifer, I just recently watched the movie "Goblet of Fire" and thought it was really good. Yeah, I don't see anything about the books that would turn someone off of them. I think sometimes people make up their minds ahead of time not to like something that everyone else seems to love. I've done that myself on occassion, I suspect. Thanks for visiting.

Greg Schwartz, yes, exactly. And you want that same experience from the next book and are unlikely to get it.

Lauren, Rowling has definitely impressed me. And I tend to think I'm pretty hard to impress. the Losses in book 6 really hit me hard. It was definitely the book that was least able to stand on its own.

ivan, lol. I never heard Joan say that about the Bible but it's definitely a hoot.

Heff said...

For some reason, I just can't visualize you reading these books...

Vesper said...

I'm so glad you liked the Harry Potter series, Charles! I love it too. I think J.K. Rowling is a fantastic writer and in this post you brought her a fantastic compliment.

Even three days after closing the cover on the last volume, I still feel that sense of loss that comes with being finished with a beloved book.

My almost nine-year old daughter has already read the first two books and has watched all the five movies many, many times. We're looking forward for the sixth, which will come out around the time of her birthday. :-)

Charles Gramlich said...

Heff, man does not live by porn alone. Some portion of me has never gotten past the age of about 12.

Vesper, Yes, I had not expected her work to be so impressive.

Sidney said...

I need to read all of those. I've liked the movies and really need to re-watch all of them to get caught up.

laughingwolf said...

i agree, charles, though i have yet to read the last book... my daughter will lend it to me... when she remembers ;)

Randy Johnson said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the books. I was a big fan early on. Now, the next question. What does she do next?

Travis said...

I'm delighted that you enjoyed these books. In my opinion, Ms Rowling did an outstanding job not only of showing her characters grow up, but she also grew her story with her audience.

I love the entire series, but if pressed to pick a favorite book it would be Order of the Phoenix. I appreciated her treatment of Harry, and I really enjoyed how she started to build the "team" Harry would need to face the challenge of defeating Voldemort.

It's a very satisfying series and I'm gearing up for the new movie next month.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sidney, I never made the effort to systematically watch the movies but I probably will be doing so now.

laughingwolf, the young at heart will enjoy them I think!

Randy Johnson, yes, I wonder if she wants to go back and tell earlier stories in the same world. Maybe Dumbledore's early days for example. will be interesting to see, although I don't suppose she ever has to write another word.

Travis, yes, I'll definitely be looking forward to that movie now. I'm trying to catch the older ones as they come on these days. Interesting to see the differences, although the movies seem to have done a pretty good job.

Lisa said...

it's all good... i totally admit i got completely caught up in them too. :)

when i try to analyze the writing and level, I am almost ashamed, but I'm not... they suck you in... she's good. i so wanted to be so many characters in her novels.

I do not know why i didn't want to be sucked into her books. I really don't. but i was. and i loved them all, and i admit it.

:) i think for me, i like that it was a whole new world and i didn't feel like a bazillion other people were a part of it with me... it was me and the books,and the characters, and the plot, and i was pulled...

idk...

Lisa said...

oh, and i was definitely more impressed with the movies than i thought i would be. they did a wonderful job and i never like the movie after i've read the book.

movie first, book second for me... i'm more sucked into the book and if they change stuff in the movie it irritates the crap outa me!

Charles Gramlich said...

Lisa, yeah, I wish I knew how she'd accomplished what she did. A lot of hard work as well as talent, I imagine. I'm like you about movies and books. I almost always like the books better, and that is true of the Potter movies so far, although they haven't been bad.

Merisi said...

I am really pleased that you liked the series! :-) No wonder all of four children read the HP, some even twice!

SQT's comment brought back my own memories of evenings spent mulling around town, waiting for midnight and the new HP book to appear.

Sadly, the bookstore where we used to buy our books, Olsson's Book and Records, is no more. There are now barely any locally owned bookstores left in Washington, DC. "Politics and Prose" on Connecticut Ave NW is one of the few that still withstand the pressure of the times while "Chapter Bookstore", for some time now existing only as an online resource and literary center, is trying to come back as a brick and mortar store.

Merisi said...

Sorry, I got a bit carried away by the memories of great bookstores that are no more. I confess that I am no friend of those mega-bookstores and even less of that big bookstore in cyberspace. I think losing all those places where one was able to engage in the tactile pleasure of actually holding and leafing through a book and discovering new authors is one of the great tragedies of our time.

Charles Gramlich said...

Merisi, no apology necessary. I do go in the chain stores because often they are all we have now. But I patronized all the small stores when they existed and I think you're right, we've lost something for sure.

Travis Erwin said...

I was a bit disappointed with the last book. It lagged for me all that time in the tent with Hermione and that epilogue really put me off even though i understand why she wrapped everything up so.

Aine said...

Yay! A new bona fide fan! I've never known a particular term for an HP fan. Potterhead was bantered around a bit, but it didn't seem to stick as far as I'm aware. And, Pothead-- just, LOL!!

You may not know about the prequel Jo wrote. It's just a short story that she penned for charity. You can read it online here: http://www.gryffindorgazette.com/2008/06/11/the-harry-potter-prequel-read-it-here/

And, about any future HP books, Jo says she will write an encyclopedia. It is known as "The Scottish Book" among fans. As she explains on her website: "There is a superstition that it is unlucky to speak the name 'Macbeth' in the theatre, so actors always refer to it as 'the Scottish Play'. Given the contentiousness that has sprung up around the Encyclopaedia lately, I simply thought we might start showing it similar respect!"

And, if you're interested, there are also a set of Harry's schoolbooks (Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) and The Tales of Beedle the Bard which Jo published for charity.

So, will you be catching the midnight showing of the Half-Blood Prince movie next month dressed as Dumbledore (hey, you've got the long hair!....)?
LOL

Charles Gramlich said...

Travis Erwin, I liked the epilogue but you're right about the tent time. I kept wondering when they were going to get going on something. A lot of that could indeed have been cut out.

Aine, I didn't know about the textbooks. I might get some if it's for charity. Could be fun. As for being dumbledore, I still haven't ever even dressed up as Spock so I don't know. Maybe if I start growing my beard longer now.

Juhani said...

J.K. Rowling has said that she doesn't promote witchcraft in Harry Potter books. J.K. Rowling has also said that she doesn’t believe in witchcraft “in the sense” how critics say, and that she doesn’t “believe in magic in the way” how she has described magic in her books. Does she believe then witchcraft and magic in other ways and why she has very accurately written about witchcraft and magic? It seems that she knows very much about those things. J.K. Rowling has also said that she has researched mythology, folklore and occult beliefs (pagan religions, celtic religions, druids religions, witchcraft, and satanism) in order to write her books. She knows also that majority of the spells, which are used in her Harry Potter books are used in real life, in witchcraft and occultism. It is very obvious that she knows what she has been doing as writing her books. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books are stories about evil, not about good things. Those books are not harmless fiction, but tell for real evil witchcraft with magic spells and other evil things. Rowling has not written Harry Potter books merely by using fiction, but has used precise and accurate knowledge of occultism and her Potter books are not thus only a fiction, but based also to real evil.

J.K. Rowling has said that she is a Christian, and that she believes to God. Why Christian who believe in God write books, which emphasize witchcraft and sorcery and occultism? I think that she thinks that she believes, but actually she doesn't believe as it has been written in the Bible. Because he/she who really believe to God and the Bible don't write a book saying that there is good and bad witches, because the Bible say that all witches are evil. J.K. Rowling says in her books that Harry's witchcraft is good and this one statement alone is enough to prove that Harry Potter books are evil. Of course there is also much more evil in those books. All books which promote witchcraft and don't say that it is evil are evil books. There is no matter is author Christian or not, if he/she writes such books. The Bible says that all witchcraft and sorcery are evil, and so we have to believe as Christians.

http://koti.phnet.fi/petripaavola/HarryPotterbooks.html

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