children's fiction · fantasy · review

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Illustrated) – J.k.Rowling & Jim Kay

“There will be books written about Harry – every child in our world will know his name.”

 

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Blurb: “Harry Potter’s life changes forever on his eleventh birthday, when beetle-eyed giant Rubeus Hagrid delivers a letter and some astonishing news. Harry Potter is no ordinary boy: he’s a wizard. And an extraordinary adventure is about to begin. The first ever Illustrated edition of J.K.Rowling’s magical classic is packed with glorious colour illustrations by Jim Kay, winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal. An utterly enchanting feast of a book, perfect for devoted fans and new readers alike.”

It’s no secret that I love Harry Potter. When Bloomsbury announced there would be new illustrated editions coming out each year I was beyond excited: an opportunity to experience my love for this story in a new format.

I finally sat down with my massive, very heavy copy and started reading. I was instantly sucked back into this world: reading about characters and a magical world I’d grown up being a part of. Through my re-read I decided to bump up my rating of this book to the full five stars. What is truly wonderful about this book is that, with the combination of the words and the illustrations, it felt like I was reading it again for the first time. There is the element of surprise as you don’t know what scenes are going to come to life in glorious colour. It made the whole reading experience even more exciting.

Through reading the first book again I was reminded of how fantastic and magical this story is and decided to bump up my rating to five stars.

The thrill I get from this new edition is knowing that a whole new generation will be able to experience the story with the pictures to go along with it.

I honestly cannot justify how beautiful this book is and while it’s  quite pricey, it is worth it if you can afford it.

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fantasy · review

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

“Hogwarts will be the making of you, Albus. I promise you, there is nothing to be frightened of there.”

 

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Blurb: “It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the ministry of magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes darkness comes from unexpected places.”

When it was first announced that there was going to be, in essence, another Harry Potter book, naturally I experienced mixed emotions. Harry Potter remains to be my all-time favourite series to the point where I feel like it’s a part of me. Alongside that the ending was so perfect that I was faced with the reality of what may happen if this extension was sub-par in comparison. After all, you can’t unread a book. I was happy to get an opportunity to experience this new story in some form as tickets to the West End shows are so limited that even if I managed to get my hands on them, I wouldn’t be able to afford travel costs to London.

The story takes place right where Deathly Hallows leaves off: on platform 9 ¾ with Harry sending his son Albus off to Hogwarts for the first time. I expected Albus to be the primary focus on this adventure and while he is in a lot of ways, we get to see into the lives of our favourite golden trio and what became of them nineteen years after the battle of Hogwarts.

The first thing I will say about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is that you can’t really give it a rave review or a terrible rating because this is a script and plays are meant to be seen not read. It took a while to get used to the format but once getting over that hurdle it’s easy to follow what’s happening. A lot is left to your own imagination as you’re just reading stage directions and dialogue rather than getting the pages of description that you would if it was a novel. I really enjoyed the path this story took and it’s easy to see why Scorpius Malfoy is becoming a favourite. I feel like the right parts of the adventures were depicted through the scenes and I just felt like I was home. There are a few things I found issues with and sometimes I felt the turn of events were too convenient but overall, as an addition to the Harry Potter timeline, I am very happy with it.

I’ve seen a lot of reviews saying that Cursed Child reads like fan fiction because the characters don’t “read” authentically and while I understand why readers think that, it’s important to remember that these characters fought in a war and they are all in their late 30’s so Harry is bound to not be like he was when he was 11.

Personally I found the first part much better than the second part which I think could have done with more work.

I came out of this experience sad that it’s over, relieved that it lives up to my expectations, but also happy getting to see how everyone was doing nineteen years later.

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children's fiction · fantasy · review

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix – J.K.Rowling

 

“He felt as though his heart was going to explode with pleasure; he was flying again, flying away from Privet Drive as he’d been fantasising about all Summer, he was going home… for a few glorious moments, all his problems seemed to recede to nothing, insignificant in the vast, starry sky.”

 

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Blurb: “Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friend Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to School and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…”

It’s taken over a year but I have finally finished my re-read of Harry Potter (in the fancy new UK editions). It’s not the first time I’ve re-read the series and I have no doubt it won’t be the last. This is the fifth book in the series, so you can clearly tell I didn’t re-read the series in order. One thing I have discovered is that every time I pick up one of the Harry Potter books and read them again, I become even more disillusioned by the films. I understand that changes need to be made etc. when it comes to an adaptation, but I just feel like you miss out on so much if you haven’t read the source material.

Like I said, this is the fifth book in the Harry Potter series and the longest; reaching exactly 800 pages in this edition. What I really like about this book that following on from the events in Goblet of Fire, is that everything has the “calm before the storm” feeling. Horrible things are looming that people are trying their hardest to ignore, but for the most part there’s enough warmth and joy that it makes you feel like, for now, things are continuing as normal.  You have Fred and George up to their usual antics, new and exciting classes and creatures, contrasting with Harry’s negative battle with being left out of situations, being left with no information and no contact with his friends. This book is when he starts to internalise a lot of what he’s going through and becomes quite bitter. He gets upset, he gets angry (and not just over exams) and that only gets worse when the Ministry of Magic appoints Dolores Umbridge as the new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher. Her character is insufferable as she grows in power throughout the plot, but one thing I will say is that she is tame in the movie adaptation compared to this book. She gave me headaches. A lot.

A while ago, someone said to me that J.K.Rowling is a “good storyteller, but not a good writer.” At first I was utterly flabbergasted. I think everyone can agree that Harry Potter has been hugely successful and continues to be long since the last book was released. However, upon my overall re-read, I’ve learnt that the person who made those comments is right. Maybe it’s because I do a lot of editing, or maybe it’s because I’m a writer myself, but I found myself saying “I would have cut that”, “oh that’s oddly presented” although you cannot deny that the world she has created is something that will fall into the classics of the future.  She paved the way for stories about magic schools and child wizards.

There’s so many subplots in this book that just root you back into the world, despite not wanting to admit that certain people may be making their return, such as Quidditch, St Mungos hospital, the prefects and Hermione becoming essentially a House Elf Activist. And may this is because I love learning, but it was interesting to see the characters stressing over exams and how the actual exams took place.

Overall, it’s another solid addition to the series and where I feel Rowling starts to get stronger. It’s moved its way up into my top 3 Harry Potter books.
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Non-Fiction · review

Very Good Lives – J.K.Rowling

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Blurb: “When J.K.Rowling was invited to deliver the commencement address at Harvard University, she chose to speak to the graduating class about two topics very close to her heart: the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination. Having the courage to fail, she said, is as vital to a good life as any conventional measure of success; imagining ourselves into the place of another – particularly someone less fortunate than ourselves – is a uniquely human quality to be nurtured at all costs.”

This book has fallen into my hands at such an important time in my life: I have just left University and in July I will have my graduation ceremony. Naturally, I’m searching for all the advice  I can get to handle myself in “the real world” after sixteen years in the education system. So, getting advice from the great J.K.Rowling? Sign me straight up!

Very Good Lives is a book version of Rowling’s 2008 commencement speech given at Harvard University, and sales of the book go to Lumos, an international charity founded by J.K.Rowling.  One of the things I love the most about this book is just how pretty it looks: the pages are decorated with beautiful artwork which made is such a pleasurable read. Most of all, it was really inspiring.

One fear I have – which I’m sure a lot of you reading this share too – is failure. This is a topic that Rowling talks about a lot, referring to her own experiences, but also talks about how it is impossible to avoid failure because of how life pans out. One thing she said really stood out to me:

“Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

It changed my outlook on failure. Rather than trying to avoid failure and give up living, I should embrace and learn from failure when I do face it.

Basically, it’s a wonderful little book showing that we are important, we should live for ourselves, not for others. And most importantly, we should use our incredible imaginations to create.

I recommend this to everyone going through an important milestone in their lives.

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