Harry Potter

Delighted Book Review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

untitledI’m way behind on this delightful little foray back into the world of Harry Potter, which has been out for months now.

Despite the playscript format – which admittedly I am reasonably used to reading otherwise may have impacted upon my enjoyment – The Cursed Child feels very true to the voice and spirit of the Harry Potter novels and the world in which it is set.  It is the chapter we needed to have – how on Earth do you grow up as a son of the most famous wizard who ever lived?

For Albus Severus Potter – the only Potter ever sorted into Slytherin – it has not been easy.  He doesn’t feel that he fits into his father’s legacy.  Instead, he is best friends with a Malfoy – who also feels the burden of his father’s previous actions.

When Albus decides to take action to be his own man and correct what he thinks are some of his father’s wrongs, he very nearly brings the wizarding world that we know and love to its knees.

It was delightful to visit our old friends again – seeing how successful Hermione has become and how haunted Harry still is by his past. Only the portrayal of Ron is somewhat disappointing, emphasizing only parts of his character and minimising his contribution to the original seven novels.

The new characters are wonderful too – and I could not have felt more at home in reading this play than if Rowling had done all the work herself.  I devoured this.

Book Review of Career of Evil

Career_of_Evil_Oct_2015The third of the Cormoran Strike series delivers more on this delightful formula, proving that JK Rowling is more than just Harry Potter.

I’ve been a fan of these books since the first one – all of which I have  listened to on audio.  Cleverly plotted and engaging, Rowling has managed to create relatable, loveable characters in grizzled detective Cormoran Strike and his would-be partner Robin Ellacott.

Career of Evil reveals a lot of both characters’ pasts, and concentrates on the developing attraction between the two.  It begins when Robin is sent a severed leg in the mail with song lyrics from the Blue Oyster Cult – which just happen to match a tattoo Strike’s famous groupie mother had.  Strike determines that the package is actually an attack on him, and he, Robin and the police begin investigating various shady characters from Strike’s past.

In the meantime, Robin’s relationship with Matthew becomes tense as her interest and skill in detective work increases.  One night she reveals to Strike (and thus to readers) that she was raped and left for dead in her university days, explaining why this sharp and intelligent woman is working as a temp. She had wanted to be a forensic psychologist all along. This also explains the concern her loved ones have for her working in this kind of field.

Her split from Matthew draws her closer to Strike, but eventually their disagreements about the case and her role in their partnership drive a wedge between them.  We end on somewhat uncertain terms about their future.  And on tenterhooks for the next book.  Fortunately Rowling is pretty prolific under this pen-name, and we can expect another Robert Galbraith towards the end of next year.

Delighted Book Review of The Silkworm

strikeI really can’t help enjoying these mystery novels, penned actually by the legendary J.K. Rowling. They share the same colourful characterisation and clever plotting as the Harry Potter novels, but have a completely different feel. While Rowling will never win a Pulitzer Prize for them, she demonstrates yet again that she can write good popular fiction – this time exclusively for an adult audience.

The Silkworm is more believable than the last book of the series, surrounding the disappearance of a failing author who recently wrote a manuscript that sends up in grisly and obscene terms, each of the people closest to him.  Perhaps Rowling’s own turbulent relationship with the ‘literary establishment’ loans this novel a greater sense of authenticity than the last.

The magic lies within her brilliantly crafted main characters – Cormoran Strike, a brilliant, no-nonsense detective with a gruff exterior and a heart of gold, and Robin – his resourceful assistant.  The two have incredible chemistry, and Rowling deftly moves that relationship inches forward. Rather than rush these two clear soulmates together, she carefully just begins to erode the walls between them – like Robin’s obnoxious fiancée for a start. Apparently there are five more novels in the series to come – and my prediction is she will stretch the sexual tension out for much of that time.  And we will love it.

I am more excited now about the series than ever.

 

The Cuckoo’s Calling

Like many others, I thought I would check this out when it was revealed that it was CuckoosCallingCoverreally penned by J. K. Rowling. I thought The Casual Vacancy was quirky and reasonably entertaining. You could see how characters were penned in similar ways to Harry Potter. But there are almost no stylistic similarities between The Cuckoo’s Calling and any other of Rowling’s works.

So – I guess we have to judge it on its own merits! Apparently the reviews before the big reveal were positive, and in general I would agree. The Cuckoo’s Calling (odd title) is an entertaining enough piece of pulp fiction. It concerns the death of a supermodel – concluded by the police as suicide. The brother of the deceased approaches down-and-out detective Cormoran Strike to re-open the case. Cormoran has demons, like every good detective in literature should. He lost a leg in Afghanistan and has suffered a series if personal tragedies. Financially, he is in dire straits, so he takes on the seemingly closed case. After all, he has to pay for his new and surprisingly resourceful temp. Of course, Strike cracks the case, and Robyn the temp is so enthralled by detective work that she turns aside other job offers to remain on staff. This is well set up to be the new ‘buddy cop’ duo – and indeed I read today that Rowling intends to make this a series.
If you don’t expect anything earth-shattering, there is plenty to like here. Strike and Robyn are terrific as a crime solving duo, and the plot is well-paced and not predictable. I’ll pick up any subsequent titles when I fancy a light read.

The Casual Vacancy

There is a lot to like in J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults, and except for a tendency to capture the nuance of character in a charming way, little that will remind you of the Harry Potter series.

A casual vacancy is what happens when a council member passes away, leaving a seat vacant.  This is what happens at the beginning of the novel.  A seat becomes vacant on the town council of Pagford, a charming little village in England that is just as much a political hotbed as London itself would be.  You see, many years ago adjacent to Pagford they built an estate called The Fields, low income housing that tended to attract the long-term unemployed and drug addicts who used the local methadone clinic.  Residents of Pagford fell into two categories, those who believed they had some responsibility and belief in The Fields, and those who want to sever all ties.

The adults in the town scramble for the seat, each with their own agenda in regards to The Fields, while the teenagers are living their own secret lives, harbouring malices and in possession of secrets about those who want to stand.  And those malices are about to come to a head.

Both quaint and serious, I hope Rowling finds a whole new readership with this novel.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

There have been a lot of disappointed readers of this slim volume of fairy tales from the world of Harry Potter. However, this is much the result of those readers being uninformed. This book should be viewed as more akin to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” as opposed to one of the Harry Potter novels. It is simply a glimpse into the literary myth of the characters’ world. They are sweet little stories – the whole collection is probably only an hours worth of reading.

Each story is accompanied by notes from Albus Dumbledore – whose witty tone still does not fail to amuse. Rowling herself adds footnotes to the piece, to allow muggle readers to understand Dumbledore’s notes. These are often as fascinating as the stories themselves. On a further connection, Hermione is credited with the translation of the stories from the original runes.

This is a bit like walking down memory lane, nothing more. No mentions of Harry, but this shouldn’t be a surprise.

Eragon…Can it replace Harry Potter?

A student gave me Eragon to read, and I took it knowing that it has captured the imagination of so many teen minds. I have thought about reading it so often that I figured it was probably time!

When approaching this novel, I could not help but think about Harry Potter. While Paolini’s series is by no means the “new kid on the block”, I think a lot of people are just waiting for the next series that is going to become part of the vernacular the way that Harry has.

So, is Paolini up to the task? It took me a little while to get into it, but ultimately I did enjoy my reading experience. It answers just enough questions to make the novel satisfying, while leaving just enough mystery for one to be motivated to chase up book two.

Eragon is a young man (late teens?) who finds a strange stone in a deserted part of the country. It is little surprise to readers that this is in fact a dragon egg. Dragons were thought all but extinct, as the last remaining dragon is in the power of the evil king Galbatorix. However, the fact that the egg hatches for Eragon, places a huge responsibility on his shoulders – for it marks him as a “Rider”, one destined to fight for truth and justice. This puts him inevitably at odds with Galbatorix even before he really understands what is going on.

Eragon grows up and develops amazing abilities in this first book (which of course, all the teenage readers lap up), and while much of his hidden past is revealed, there is still so much more.

So will I read book two (Eldest)? Probably, yes. Is it the new Harry Potter? I am unsure. But it took a few books before I really loved Harry too.