J.K Rowling – Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone

Image

In order to know the importance as to why I’ve read this book this week, I have to tell you a closely guarded secret of mine.

I’ve never actually read the whole Harry Potter Series.

I know. I’m disgusted with myself too. HOWEVER – This summer, that is going to change.

I read ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone’ in my Year 8 English class, and then I remember reading up to ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’ successfully, but it was when I reached the opening house scene in ‘The Goblet of Fire,’ I got too scared and didn’t read anymore. So, this summer I decided if I was going to read just one series, it was going to be the Harry Potter series, and catch up with the rest of society.

So what did I think of it? J.K Rowling shows her brilliance for child writing in this book, but also had me, as a twenty year old girl, hooked – which I didn’t expect. I expected it to be a pleasant, magical read, which filled my imagination with the world of witches and wizards, (which of course it was) but, I didn’t expect to be up until 3am, just to try and learn how they got past Fluffy, the three headed dog.

I suppose I was lucky in my timing. I haven’t seen any of the films in ages, and so I was able to be surprised, where I was meant to be surprised, and happily remembered the things I had previously forgotten happened in the book. Some things I didn’t even remember at all! Like the room with the bottles… but still! I couldn’t help but find it a great read.

Obviously one of the things that has made the Harry Potter series as popular as it is, are the vivid descriptions which Rowling presents us with. I think she easily finds the perfect balance between the action of the plot and description of the magical place which surrounds our characters. For example, whether it is of The Forbidden Forest, or the Castle, or even his cupboard under the stairs, Rowling describes it in such a way we are as awed as Harry Potter is. By making Harry a regular boy, or a ‘muggle,’ meant that the reader, whether it be a 8 year old boy, or a 50 year old woman, empathized more easily with his confusion and excitement, crucial for Rowling’s opening book. His nervousness at starting Hogwarts, fear in the Forbidden Forest, or happiness at Christmas time, is all very easily shared by the reader, as we too know nothing of this magical place and what is about to come.

However, debatably, what is equally as important is the sense of humour which J.K Rowling includes in the book. With the greatest of talents, she writes things which children would find funny, whilst at the same time, the older generations who read the book could find amusing too.

Dumbledore: “Fancy seeing you here, Professor McGonagall.”
McGonagall: “How did you know it was me?”
Dumbledore: “My dear Professor, I’ve never seen a cat sit so stiffly.”
McGonagall: “You’d be stiff if you’d been sitting on a brick wall all day”

Who’d of thought McGonagall would be prone to banter. Combine the witty comments of the professors with the cheekiness of the children…

Mrs Weasly: “Now, you two – this year, you behave yourselves. If I get one more owl telling me you’ve – you’ve blown up a toilet or –”
Fred and George: “Blown up a toilet? We’ve never blown up a toilet.” “Great idea though, thanks, Mum.”

…and you’ve got yourself the most perfect of tension breakers.

However, Rowling doesn’t shy away from the responsibility Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone gives her, which is, to teach. To teach that doing the right thing will get you further than following the crowd, and that not doing the right thing for fear of getting in trouble, is not an excuse. To teach what is really important in life – appreciation of each other, being brave when we are scared, and standing up for what we believe is right.

“Harry – you’re a great wizard, you know.”
“I’m not as good as you,” said Harry, very embarrassed, as she let go of him.
“Me!” said Hermione. “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things – friendship and bravery and – oh Harry – be careful!”

One of the final scenes is of a conversation between Dumbledore and Harry. Harry asks why he survived, to which Dumbledore answers: “Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. Love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.” Which is something everyone can appreciate, and if they hadn’t, Rowling certainly reinforces such ideology – that love will concur all. With such great morals embedded into a book about magic, wizards, and mystical creatures, I don’t think anyone could help but completely fall in love with ‘Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone.’

Advertisements

Veronica Roth – Allegiant

Image

Well, I’ve finally finished the trilogy. Took me long enough! Have to say, I wasn’t disappointed, but I didn’t feel it was a fitting end to a story that had gripped me.

I’m going to keep this review shorter than my previous two because I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone. I could talk about which parts I liked, and which parts I didn’t but I found the main basis for the plot was actually sqwashed into the ending, and I don’t want to ruin that for anyone.

Allegiant wasn’t as easy to get through as Divergent or Insurgent. I think towards the middle it got a little descriptive, with too much information on GD’s and GP’s.  It wasn’t exactly the gripping action or personal reflection reading which Roth has gotten me used to.  It seemed dare I say it, a bit waffley.

This book has reminded me of something about myself, which I already was aware of but tried to forget – that I’m a shallow reader. I tend to want a story to end a certain way, and when it doesn’t I’m quick to label it as a bad book. The end to this story I’ll imagine has divided its readers, but for me, if it had been my story, it wouldn’t have had the ending it had – but, I need to acknowledge that this book was still a good one, even if it didn’t fit what I had planned in my head.

After the pretty shitty week I’ve had I guess that real life is the same. That like the Divergent series characters, we can’t change life to how we would like it. We can try our best, by choosing what job we want, where we live, or who we marry, but really we have no control as to how our lives will end up, and who we will lose along the way. So if there’s anything I want to take away from this book it’s how to appreciate the people around me, the life we have together and not to take a since moment of it for granted, because, like for Tris and Tobias, you never know how the story ends.

Bit of a dedication with this one. Goodnight my gorgeous best friend. Sleep peacefully.

Image  Image Image

Veronica Roth – Insurgent

Image

Well after my exams I can finally blog without feeling bad, so, time for me to have a little chat about insurgent.

Loved it. Read it with a gap of only a few days after Divergent, probably due to a piece of coursework or something, otherwise I probably would have read it straight away. Tris is feistier and Tobias is just as complex.

I thought the beginning however was a bit…muddled. It had its positives and its negatives.
Tris, Four, Caleb Peter and Marcus all travel to Amnity, which I liked. It was interesting to see the other factions after only really being exposed to Abnegation and Dauntless in Divergent. Then they leave to spend time with the factionless. The re-introduction of Edward was a brilliant touch, one of those moments where you grin at your book and hope no one notices, “OH ITS EDWARD! AWESOME,” gleeful, moments. Nice to see he had a purpose other than just as a stock character. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone so I won’t mention what emerges, but I wasn’t overly surprised. Although like with the Amnity, it was nice to see from the view of the factionless, even if it was a little brief for my liking. Then Tris and Four move onto Candor headquarters. So, although Roth describes each faction well, I would have been happier to have more time spent there. I can see why Roth did it, and she writes the scenes well but for me, it felt like a bit of a whirlwind of a first few chapters.

When Tris and Tobias get to Candor though, things picked up. Adored the truth-serum scene. It felt like all the emotions of the first book and the first few chapters were finally released.

Tris in this book I liked even more than in the first. I liked that she couldn’t handle everything that had happened, I liked that her sense of danger was distorted, and oddly enough I liked that she broke down. Having spoken with friends who felt that Tris was a bit and I quote, “depressing,” and “needed to man up a bit,” I couldn’t have disagreed more. I think more and more often in young adult fiction the protagonist carries on like they’re psychologically invincible. They can come close to death numerous times, kill loads of people and then seem to just… be over it. Roth doesn’t do that with Tris and I thought that it made her more real. The scene where she throws the chair, and thinks about throwing herself off too, I thought was really cathartic. She is only 16 after all. Roth’s use of deliberately making the mother a recurring figure in Tris’s thoughts tugged on my heartstrings in particular. I’m closest to my mother than I am anyone else in the whole world, so. Imagining myself in Tris’s position… I can see why she broke down as much as she did. I don’t blame her one little bit.

“No matter how long you train someone to be brave, you never know if they are or not until something real happens.”

What I found most interesting though is how this breakdown affects her relationship with Tobias. I think it would have been easy for Roth to make Tobias a subservient character. He could easily have pandered to Tris. He could easily have told her that everything was going to be okay and fallen into the trap of being the ‘perfect’ male character. Thing is, because he doesn’t do this, because he stands up for their relationship, and because he shows that he can be just as stubborn as she is, it makes the reader love him even more.

It’s easy in an action novel to forget that these characters have been through a trauma. It’s inevitable that it was going to alter perceptions and that that in turn is going to have a knock on effect on their relationship. Plus, I did enjoy the friction. It had the same effect on me as it did in Divergent when I could have screamed, “JUST KISS HER.” This time I was yelling “JUST MAKE UP” in my head. It gave the reader something to aim for romantically, which I also think stopped their relationship from getting boring.

““I can’t tell him I need him. I can’t need him, period — or really, we can’t need each other, because who knows how long either of us will last in this war?”

My favorite moment however was probably the heart to heart to Christina. Somehow I think that to have Christina on side was just half the battle. Having her forgiveness was half the battle. I think after that she could potentially forgive herself. Some-what.  Bit emotional at that part as well. I was emotional for quite a lot of this book actually! Again, without trying to spoil things, the way Peter acts towards the end I was pleased about. Gasped when he told her the time. Won’t say anymore. Shhh.

Marcus I still don’t trust. I also don’t understand why Tris trusts him over Evelyn either. He abused her boyfriend for Christ sake! I blame her state of mind, but as this trust, this need, to know what Marcus knows, runs throughout the book, my distaste for it, I’ll admit, grew.

On a final note, I just wanted to draw attention to how brave it was of Roth to turn her main characters into… well… murderers. The attack on Erudite was not only the pinnacle of rising tension but also a manifestation of the Dauntless’ continuous resentments at being the dog’s bodies for the Erudite. By the end of it, you don’t really blame them. You see why they want to attack. You see why they are hated by the Dauntless, but, you also see why Tris doesn’t agree with it. They are after all, many of them, just people. It’s a difficult line to draw, but the way Roth draws it, it parallels many real-life war casualties. She hesitates on the sorrow, but sticks to the main aim.

But, overall, I really enjoyed Insurgent. It’s different from Divergent in really good ways and separates itself as an independent novel, rather than the middle step in a trilogy.

“Because inside me is a beast that snarls, and growls, and strains toward freedom… and as hard as I try, I cannot kill it.” 

Soundrown

Hi guys,

I know that I mostly wanted to use this blog for reviews, but I thought some of you budding writers and readers might find this website helpful.

I know, for instance, when I’m reading a book, be it on the bus, at home, or wherever, if there happens to be a loud conversation going on, or my Mum keeps trying to talk to me, or even if the TV is on, I can get easily distracted. Unfortunately I’m not one of the lucky ones that can read while listening to music. I end up singing along to the words and cant focus on the words of my book.

SO- I was lucky enough through a friend to be introduced to the website – soundrown.com

soundrown

I think its fab. You can basically choose a mild ambient noise, which then drowns out all other outside distracting noises. The choices are: Coffee Shop, Rain, Waves, Fire, Birds, Night, Train, Fountain, White Noise, and Playground. I think what makes this website work is picking the noise that’s right for you. For example I cant listen to white noise, that just makes me feel like I’m in a horror film. Fountain, if I listen too closely makes me need to use the bathroom. However, coffee shop I think is great. You cant really hear anyone’s conversation which stops me from being my nosey-ear-wigging self, but also after a while, you forget that you’ve been listening to it, and that you’ve read 200 pages of that gorgeous book you’ve been wanting to read all week. Plus, you can have two sounds playing at once. Create your own beach bonfire, with waves and fire and night, or chill out with night time rain. Whatever you want.

Not forgetting its also really handy when you’re in Uni trying to write an essay and the woman next to you is insistent on telling the friend next to her about her holiday.

So have a listen, pick your sound, relax and enjoy 🙂

Veronica Roth – Divergent

Image

Firstly, I want to say thank you to Roth for this book. I’m a second year English Literature student and although I love my course, and often enjoy the books issued on the several reading lists, I feel like its become a rarity that I have the time to read a book for me. A book that I read purely because I want to, that I get hooked into and I certainly did with this one. I always think that there’s something personal about choosing a book, taking it home from the shop, (or downloading it these days) and tucking yourself away and reading it practically cover to cover.

This is the first book of the year which I’ve allowed myself to read for pleasure since Christmas, for fear that ill get so into it that I would neglect my compulsory reading. So, I have to admit, I am a bit late on the band-waggon with this one. Roth first published Divergent in 2011, and believe it or not, it was her first novel ever published. Didn’t she do well! But anyway, I know a few friends who have read it, and with the first film adaptation being out at the cinemas as we speak, I did turn to the trilogy pretty late. Was it worth the wait? Completely.

The story follows the main character Tris, and her decision between staying with the faction shes been brought up in, the Abnegation, (for the selfless), or choosing another, where she might feel more herself. I think Roth does something very clever here. I think by giving Tris this horrendous decision to make, especially so young, it makes her easily relatable.

I know from personal experience that my life so far has been, and the future is going to be, full of decisions that scare me, as I’m sure is the same for most of the young population these days. Which A-Levels shall I pick? Which uni course shall I choose? Which job shall I aim for? Even though these aren’t the questions posed to Tris, its nice to know that actually- we aren’t the only ones who aren’t sure we’ve made the right decision when we make them. In fact, Tris doesn’t even know what faction shes going to choose until the Faction Ceremony. It gives us all permission to admit that sometimes, we don’t know where our life is going. However Tris shows us that, by the end of the book, everything will work out in the end. We all just need to believe in fate a little more.  Que Sera Sera. 

I liked Tris. Like I said, she was easily relatable. She wasn’t this overly confident or even emotionally shut down character. She got on with being a Dauntless as best she could, without being overly cliche. I found myself agreeing with her decisions, and asking the same questions she asked, even finding Four as attractive as she did. I think some authors can use the main character simply as a set of eyes for us to see through, but Roth doesn’t fall into this trap. Tris is her own character. She is brave (as she should be) but she is also selfless, making her the perfect Divergent.

The plot however, surprised me. The only things I knew about this book prior to reading it, was that it was about a girl who when she was 16, found out she was a Divergent, and unlike the other characters, broke off to be with the other Divergents. I didn’t realise she became Dauntless. I visioned it to be more like The Host, where Divergents might have lived separately, underground perhaps, and that they were hunted by divergent-haters. An easy 2 sided society. Good vs Bad. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t expect there to be all this grey in between as to where Tris felt most at home.

“It will be difficult to break the habits of thinking Abnegation instilled in me, like tugging a single thread from a complex work of embroidery. But I will find new habits, new thoughts, new rules. I will become something else.” – Tris, Divergent. 

She shows us that as humans we are capable of change. We can see something that we are unhappy about, and go for it. Sometimes, we just have to do, what we have to do. So, the setting, the divided factions, the friction between them and the eventual revolution made the plot even more enticing. An almost mirroring of the Harry Potter houses, or the Hunger Games districts, the factions give the characters their sense of identity, similar in other young adult novels, but also gives the plot something different. It allowed Roth to explore how their environment, related to the characters personal characteristics, thoughts, beliefs, and perhaps most importantly, their morals.

The minor characters therefore also heavily contribute to the book. I think my favorite, (don’t judge please) was probably Peter. Hes so EASY to hate. At least he was mean and nasty and stayed that way, whilst Al somehow becomes a bubbling mess. Although Roth tries to make Al’s character understandable, for me, its not enough. I cant really see a guy who cries in the night, clings to his friends, being the one who hurts Tris. It just doesn’t really make sense to me. I think Roth’s intention was with the whole, Al-fiasco, was instead to explore how Tris would react. I’m sure some readers condemned her for her lack of forgiveness, and some others thought she was too emotional for even thinking about it – but, it just shows Tris’s complexity, and also involves one of favorite quotes.

Somewhere inside me is a merciful, forgiving person. Somewhere there is a girl who tries to understand what people are going through, who accepts that people do evil things and that desperation leads them to darker places than they ever imagined. I swear she exists, and she hurts for the repentant boy I see in front of me.

But if I saw her, I wouldn’t recognize her.” 

I think it shows how even in the people who are supposed to be the most forgiving of us all, everyone has their limits.

So, enough about Tris, what about Four? I have to say, in as coded a way as I can for those who haven’t read the book, I didn’t see the family relation coming, and I love that. As satisfying as it is as a reader to think you have something worked out, and then be right about it- its even nicer when something blows you away. He falls in love with Tris a little too easily though if you ask me. Although by half way I was thinking “just kiss already!” I think the declaration of love at the end was a little forced. I mean, Four is a guy who has been abused, deliberately sets boundaries, (I mean hes never been with another girl) and is a authority figure in Dauntless. Its this unattainability which I think makes him attractive. So, we have to assume that he would be the same with Tris. I think he should have made it a little harder for her. I’m not saying he shouldn’t tell her he loves her, but with these two, I could see it coming out more in a heated mid-argument that turns into a passionate embrace, rather than something so tender, which to me, seemed a little cheesy.

“Maybe I’m already sure,” he says, “and I just don’t want to frighten you.”
I laugh a little. “Then you should know better.”
“Fine,” he says. “Then I love you.”” 

I suppose in comparison to the previous chapters, full of violence, and tense action, and death of characters we had become attached to, Roth’s intention was to create a break from this. At least I assume this was what she wanted. To give the first installment a happy ending, in a calm and collective way. I can see why.. I suppose I’m a little torn myself as to how I feel about the ending.

However, Tris has taught me, that my indecision is okay.

I could talk about this book for ages, but I think for a first post, this will do. 🙂

Responses are welcome. What did you think of Veronica Roth’s – Divergent?