Manga Review: Puella Magi Madoka Magica (vol.1)

Details:

Title: Puella Magi Madoka Magica (Vol. 1)

Chapters: 1-4

Written by: Magica Quartet 

Artist: Hanokage

Translation/Adaptation: William Flanagan

Lettering: Alexis Eckerman

Publisher:  Yen Press

Published: February 12, 2011

Pages: 144

Genre: Manga, Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Young Adult

Synopsis:

            When a new girl joins her class, Madoka Kaname thinks she recognize the mysterious, dark-haired transfer student from one of her dreams…a dream where she is approached by a catlike creature who offers Madoka an opportunity to change destiny. Madoka had always thought magic was stuff of fantasy…until she sees the transfer student fighting with the very cat being from her dream! And just like in Madoka’s dream, the cat gives her a choice. Will Madoka become a magical girl in exchange for her dearest desire? What will be the cost of having her wish come true?

What I First Thought:

            Last year my roommate convinced me to watch this show with her. The anime was fascinating and it broke me. When I found it on a shelf at my local Barnes & Noble I decided to read the manga, just to see how it compared to the anime.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

5/5

            I thought I was prepared enough when I read volume 1, because I had watched the anime, I thought that the big plot points wouldn’t affect me as much the second time. Oh, boy was I wrong! Nothing really changed, this volume is a pretty good adaptation of the first few episodes of the anime. With that said, I still squirmed at the same spots as the anime, and some of the emotional scenes actually affected me more than when I viewed it the first time. There were little changes between anime and manga, mostly in little character designs such as added weapons and minions.

I’m a little on the fence about the magical girl genre, mostly because if it’s not done just right then I end up hating the idea all together. I was drawn into this idea, however, because I heard it was a different, darker take on the genre, and they weren’t kidding either. Don’t let the cover fool you, this isn’t some cutesy story that’ll make you feel all good at the end of the day. It’s a story that will burrow in your head and remake you think about somethings that you might’ve thought were pretty solid.

I really enjoyed reading this volume and seeing the characters again. It has a really cutesy art style that may be a turn off for some, but it serves a purpose. Again, it’s not a super cute story like a lot of the magical girl stories are, it may look the part but beyond that it’s vastly different. I found it interesting how the artist took the scenes from the anime, because in the anime there’s a lot of psychedelic animation that was really trippy to look at. A lot of that feeling I think was lost from screen to page, but I loved how the artist still brought a lot of creativity from those scenes to life.

I don’t recommend this manga to the faint of heart. It’s gory with a lot of false hope and questions that aren’t answered until later. Some of the characters may seem a little cliché now, which may be a turn off for some people, but by the end they won’t be. If you want something different, and don’t mind a dark, hopeless story, then this manga may be for you!

Book Review: An Unlikely Friendship

Note: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: An Unlikely Friendship (Book 1 of the Fidori Trilogy)

Author: Jasmine Fogwell

Publisher: Destinee S.A.

Release Date: April 8th, 2016

Genre: Young Reader, Fantasy, Illustrated

Pages: 118

 

Synopsis:

While living in the old inn of Nemeste, James discovers that he and his parents are not the only ones calling the inn home. On the third floor lives a mysteriously old lady named Rionzi DuCret. Though Rionzi is feared by the villagers and confined to her room, she and James strike up an unlikely friendship and soon discover that they have both befriended leafy, mushroom footed creatures in the woods called ‘Fidoris.’ But the friendship is threatened as Rionzi grows suspicious of James’s claim of a certain Fidori sighting. How could he have found out about her deepest secret? Have the villagers set a trap for her to finally prove that she is insane?

My First Thoughts:

I’m always looking for books for younger readers, because I understand that parents are always looking for books for their kids. So when the author came to me and asked for a review, I was pretty excited to read and share another kid’s book! After reading my last book, I was also looking for a light story full of fun and uplifting moments.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

Growing up, the only chapter books I read as a kid were Magic Tree House and the American Girl Dairies. I never read any of the others, so I don’t have much experience with chapter books for young kids. With that being said, I found that this story was very average and followed exactly as the synopsis read. There were no surprises or twists. The story just followed the given path, which is fine, but it didn’t add any excitement to the book.

Ms. Fogwell’s writing style is a little amateurish, which is understandable because it’s her first published book. Every new author’s first book is very stiff or reads a bit awkwardly, especially if the books don’t go through professional editing. With that said, even though the author’s writing voice sounds amateurish, it’s honestly not that bad. Mostly, there were just details and words that I don’t think a young kid would pick up or know. Also, the pacing of the story was very slow and might have a hard time keeping a child’s attention, but that’s dependent on the child. There was some action, but it was mostly a lot of conversation between the little boy and the old lady, which might not hold well with younger kids. Again, I don’t have much experience in that area. However, for future works the author can maybe step away from a more dialogue driven story and write with being the bigger driver.

Another thing that threw me was the end. When I got to the end of the book I wasn’t really left with the sense of ‘oooo! I need the next book!’ Instead, I felt a bit off put by the ending because it was so sudden and a little out of nowhere. I understand the pieces that lead up to the final reveal, but it didn’t really have much of an effect on me and it didn’t leave me wanting more. Now, I would like to continue with the story because I’m curious about where the author will take it, but that curiosity was not initially there when I finished the book. A younger reader may be completely different and beg for the next book right away, or they may feel a bit ‘so what’ and not bother continuing.

I think the reason why I do want to continue this series is because the author spent so much time with the area and the lore. I loved what she had to say about the Fidori and the world building she did in An Unlikely Friendship, but I’m not sure kids will have the same fascination that I do. I remember when I was younger I didn’t care much for all the background information, I just wanted action. However, I think that this book would be received better by younger audiences if it were read to them.

The illustrations were interesting to look at, but they didn’t always appear in the right place. Sometimes the illustrations for a certain scene would appear before the scene actually occurred, which through me off and out of the story a few times. I’m not sure why they were out of place, but if they were moved closer to their actual scenes then it they might better help illustrate the story.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I’m not sure what kids would actually think of this book. I think the best approach, is for it to be read to children by their parents or teachers. I think that An Unlikely Friendship would be a wonderful book for kids to hear. However, if kids have to read this book on their own it may or may not have a hard time keeping their interest for all 100 plus pages.

For older audiences, if you enjoy magic and lore then this book may entertain you. There are some obvious flaws that the writer can easily approve upon with practice, but the world building is quite wonderful and the story would be interesting to follow or the lore alone. For those who aren’t into lore very much, then this book would not suit you very well.

Rating:

3/5

For a first novel, An Unlikely Friendship is a good start for Ms. Fogwell. The lore is interesting to read about and I’m curious to find out more about the Fidori! Her voice will grow with time along with her writing style; I hope to read her later books to see how she improves.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Book Review: The Night Parade

the-night-paradeDetails:

Title: The Night Parade

Author: Kathryn Tanquary

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Release Date: January 5th, 2016

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Cultural

Pages: 320

Synopsis:

The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family’s ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.

But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked… and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth – or say good-bye to the world of the living forever.

My First Thoughts:

I found this book on Christmas Eve when I went up to Rehobeth Beach to spend Christmas with my boyfriend and our families. I’ve been trying to read more books for younger readers and this bookstore, Browseabout, has this wonderful section dedicated to those books. I’ve read a lot of books (manga) that come from Japan, but I’ve never read a book about a Japanese character in Japan written by an America author. I know, there’s this whole thing going on about readers attacking authors for misrepresentation, culture appropriation, and poorly done diversity. Honestly, I wasn’t afraid that this book wouldn’t do Japanese culture justice because it seems like the author actually live in Japan, teaching English to Japanese students and asked some of her colleagues to help with the manuscript. The Night Parade was advertised as being one of the employees’ top picks for the month and I decided to give it ago, to see for myself the quality of the book.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

For a first time author, this book is pretty fantastic! The Night Parade reads like if Hayao Miyazaki was asked to take the elements of The Christmas Carol and make his own story out of it. The descriptions were wonderful, just enough to describe the fantastical characters that Saki runs into without going overkill. As I read the story I could see the scenes play out before me, and for kids with better imaginations than my own I bet it would be fun for them to imagine.

In The Night Parade the main character Saki is really the only character that you read about through the whole story. None of the supporting characters really stay long, for instance a lot of the spirits she meets have brief appearance in the story. Her family and a village girl are the only characters that consistently keep showing back up, however, only the village girl has a major role. Saki’s family appears to be there for plot sake, but they play no real role in her adventures between the human world and the spirit world. This kind of story telling is not bad, especially when the major audience is younger readers. However, some older readers may find it a bit harder to read the book like this.

For adults, I imagine that Saki would be a little hard to follow because of her abysmal personality. However, I don’t that middle schoolers or younger would notice how annoying her character is at the beginning. For myself, I had a difficult time sympathizing with Saki because she seemed to make a lot of poor decisions for all the wrong reasons. Her personality does improve over the course of the story, much like Scrooge in The Christmas Carol, but it does take time before some readers begin to notice the change.

The pacing in this story is okay for a first time author. There are these long periods in between the intense action in the beginning, which can take some readers out of the story. For me, the pacing wasn’t too bad because I’ve read enough stories with similar speeds that it doesn’t bother me as much. However, for readers who thrive off of action, they may wither some in the long lulling periods, towards the end though the action picks up and stays pretty consistent till the end. Younger readers may find this pacing kinda boring, but I believe if read to or a loud, the pacing wouldn’t be much of an issue.

The one issue that I had with the plot was that not everything was fully explained. There were just things said or done that were briefly mentioned in the story with no follow through. It was as if the author wanted to write more on those issues, using them to drive the plot more, but then abandoned ship early and then forgot about them. There was even a character that all the spirits kept mentioning throughout the story but you or Saki never meet them, the character never shows up and plays only the role of a boogeyman. It was a little frustrating, because I wanted to see where the author took us with those things but they didn’t go anywhere, but I don’t think a child would notice these things as much.

Final Thoughts:

I’ve already recommended The Night Parade and even gave my copy to a friend of mine to read. She’s an exchange student from Japan who was eager to read the book because it is uncommon to see an American author write a story set in Japan with Japanese characters and culture. So I can’t wait to get her opinion on the book!

For young readers, I think this is a great book for them to read. It allows their imaginations to run wild, while showing them a different culture and teaching them various lessons. Depending on the age, it may be better for the book to be read aloud by an adult to combat the boredom that the pacing may bring. It would be a great book for a teacher to read to their classes, especially if they’re good storytellers.

I would recommend this book to adult readers who don’t mind a bratty main character. Saki does change, but her personality and actions may be too much for some older readers to handle before she starts to grow as an individual. For those who don’t like kids, or just the annoying ones, this book may not be the best pick for you.

Rating:

4/5

Overall this is a fantastic book, especially for a first time author! The storytelling had beautiful imagery and the descriptive language wasn’t too complicated or long winded. The various characters that our main heroine ran into were unique and interesting. Some minor characters were more memorable than others, but overall they were well done even though they didn’t stay long within the story. The pacing is a bit off and there were some aspects of the story that seemed more important than they were, or were just abandoned all together. However, for a first book the author did a fantastic job telling a story that reads like the brain child of The Christmas Carol and Hayao Miyazaki. I believe that fans of both will find enjoyment from The Night Parade!

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Manga Review: The Seven Deadly Sins vol. 5

the-seven-deadly-sins-vol5Details:

Title: The Seven Deadly Sins (Vol. 5)

Chapters: 30-37, plus a bonus storie!

Written by: Nakaba Suzuki

Artist: Nakaba Suzuki

Translation/Adaptation: Christine Dashiell

Lettering: James Dashiell

Publisher:  Kodansha Comics

Published: November 11, 2014

Pages: 192

Genre: Manga, Historical-Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Young Adult, Romance

Synopsis:

It’s A Showdown!

Four of the Sins have been reunited and it feels almost so good. Entering a fighting tournament where the grand prize is Diane’s weapon, the unthinkable happens when the Sins and Holy Knights clash on stage! But who is the other faction of Holy Knights, dubbed the “New Generation”, and what could this monstrous group of demon-like knights be planning?

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

4/5

This volume is centered on a tournament with a few flashbacks that add depth to our characters. As tournaments go, this one isn’t really different, especially when it comes to manga. There are some really over powered players and some that are in really far over their heads. Still, the tournament is rather fun to read, mostly for the various commentary between the contestants. We get to see some new and old Holy Knights with this volume shedding some more light on some of the older ones. The one thing that really bugged me was Griamore’s ever changing body size; I swear, every time we see him in a new panel his body gets larger and he has more ripped muscles that don’t actually exist on the human body. Don’t get me wrong, I love the character, but the inconsistency kept drawing me away from the action, especially when his head looked so tiny compared to the rest of him. In this volume we also get to see more of Elizabeth and her relationships with the people around her, especially more development between her and Meliodas. I do have to warn some people though, if you’re uncomfortable with fan service this volume may be a bit tough for you to read because there is a lot more of it. There’s also a bit more gore, so this is not a read for the faint of heart.

Book Review: Penny White and the Temptations of Dragons

temptation-of-dragonsNote: We were given a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows.

Details:

Title: Penny White and the Temptations of Dragons

Author: Chrys Cymri

Publisher: CreateSpace

Release Date: March 31st, 2016

Genre: Fantasy, Christian

Pages: 230

Synopsis:

Bishop Nigel smiled at me. ‘Holy water doesn’t harm vampires. Which is just as well, as it would make it impossible to baptise them.’

When I was asked by a dragon to give him the last rites, I never dreamed it would lead to negotiating with his cannibalistic family or running from snail sharks. Life as the priest of a small English village is quite tame in comparison. At least I have Morey, a gryphon with sarcasm management issues, to help me. And if all else fails, there’s always red wine and single malt whisky.

As if my life weren’t complicated enough, a darkly beautiful dragon named Raven keeps appearing where I least expect him, I’ve met a handsome police inspector who loves science fiction as much as I do, and my younger brother is getting into trouble for trying to pick up vampires.

That’s what happens when you’re dealing with an incredible and dangerous parallel world full of mythical creatures. And I have to learn to navigate it all without losing myself, or my brother…

 

My First Thoughts:

My last journey into Christian fiction was such a disappointment, so I wasn’t expecting much from this book. The author, Chrys Cymri, is a priest in England with a very Welsh name (from my limited experience), so I was intrigued about how mythology and Christianity were going to combine. The synopsis was… confusing, but all the reviews for it were good. I figured I would at least get a laugh from it, even if I didn’t enjoy it.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

In my review for Soft on the Devil, I stated that there are two ways Christian fiction can go: either Christianity and religion are used to genuinely add to the characterization and story, or the reader ends up getting beaten in the face with a bible. I’m so excited to say that Father Cymri has done a wonderful job incorporating Christianity into his book in a way that feels genuine! I’ve never actually read a book that managed to do that.

The main character, Penny White, is the vicar (a type of priest for those who may not be informed) for a tiny English village. It makes sense for her to have religion be a strong influence in her life, but unlike so many Christian novels that I have read, it’s not the only influence in her life. Penny is a woman who has interests in books, movies, and television that I’ve seen quite a few “Christian” websites completely denounce as “works of the devil” (Doctor Who, Buffy, Charmed, etc.). She supports gay marriage, women’s rights, drinking in a little excess, and evolution, as do most of her fellows in the cloth. She is also imperfect, which I love. She’s been orphaned and then recently widowed; she has doubts about faith and her relationship with God. Those feelings are real and so important. She seeks guidance from those in place to guide her, who tell her it is okay to feel like that and help her to work through it. I feel like too much Christian fiction either has perfect people who never experience doubt and people who don’t believe that have some sort of experience and begin quoting bible verses in a second.

I also love her associate, Morey. This little griffon who wise cracks, follows the verses of the bible to the letter, is a creationist, and is fiercely loyal is a great counter to our vicar as she discovers the new world she has been selected to join. Morey is another character who grapples with his relationship with God, the Church, and his fellows as the story progresses. For a fantasy character, he feels real and I find myself caring so much about him. He and Penny grow so much over the course of the story. Honestly, all the characters feel so deep and real, and I look forward to learning more about them as the story progresses.

Of course, this book isn’t perfect (honestly, would a perfect book be interesting at all?) and there are some minor complaints I have. While I feel like I know all the characters personally, I have trouble picturing the human ones in my head. Every fantasy character gets an in-depth description, but then all the humans are just there. They are deep and I know a lot about them, I just can’t picture what they look like. There are quite a few instances where characters speak Welsh, which is so cool, but because Welsh is such a ridiculous language I would appreciate some sort of pronunciation guide/translation insert at the end of the book, just so I could go back and not just have my inner monologue sound like a keyboard smash (although, knowing Welsh, it still might!). Also, and I’m sure that this is because it is the first book in a series, there are a lot of things that I feel are unanswered. I guess I’ll just have to read the next book to find out!

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I genuinely enjoyed this book. It was a lot of fun to read and a different take on fantasy and Christian fiction. I felt the characterization and inclusion of Christian elements was natural and in depth, and I found the story captivating.

Rating(s):

4/5

This book was so much fun. I would recommend it to anyone looking for something different. I think it is a wonderful example of what Christian fiction should be, and such a different take on what fantasy normally is. This would be great for a quick read over a long weekend!

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COMING SOON!!!

(Audio)Book Review: Rebel of the Sands

rebel-of-the-sands

Details:

Title: Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1)

Author:  Alwyn Hamilton

Narrator:  Soneela Nankani

Publisher: Recorded Books, Inc.

Release Date: March 8th 2016

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Romance

Play time: 9 hr and 31 min

Synopsis:

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him…or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

My First Thoughts:

I’ve been looking for a good book to listen to on my way to campus and on my long walks to my classes. I haven’t read very many books, fantasy or otherwise, with a Middle Eastern tone, so I was excited to give this book a try.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

For a debut novel, Rebel of the Sands was pretty good. It wasn’t squeaky clean and shiny, but it was a good start to a series for a first time author. And for one of the first stories that I’ve read with a heavy Middle Eastern theme, it has given me a taste for more.

I think my favorite part about this book was the journey. Looking back on some of the other review for this book people found the first part to e rather boring. Honestly, it was really refreshing to listen to a story about an unfortunate heroine that isn’t rushing at the chance to save the world, like so many popular YA do. People complained that there was no plot to this story and I have to argue against that. Rebel of the Sands reads like the classic hero’s journey. In fact, while I listened to the story progress I often had thoughts about Luke Skywalker and his hero’s journey.

Yes, the first part of the book can be very long to some readers who don’t care much for build. There’s a lot of action and character development in the first half of the story, but sometimes you just have to sit back and let the story wash over you. I found the ‘boring’ part of the story to be very interesting because the author took this time to try and introduce the larger world that she created for her characters. I promise that there is plot from beginning to end, it’s just a lot of the beginning of the plot is to subtly (and realistically) change the heroine into someone who looks out for herself only to someone who looks out for others. I found Amani’s journey to be quite interesting and I enjoyed listening to how she changed throughout the story.

For those willing to sift through the first part of the book (I promise, it’s not that bad but a lot of “big” reviewers have said otherwise) the second part of the story picks up the pace pretty quickly. Honestly, I got through that half a lot more quickly than the first, but mostly because I was not aware of how much time would pass when I listened. The change in pace wasn’t sudden, there was a nice easy transition that didn’t give you whiplash. However, one it really starts to pick up it’s really hard to put it down. Several times I had to remind myself that I had to get out of the car to go inside or that I needed to get homework done.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the characters and their development. Each character was just a little bit different and the author didn’t have to spend a lot of time showing us their personalities. Even the minor characters were easily discernable and could be imagined easily, which was nice because you meet a lot of them in rapid succession in the second half. Yes, our main character are a little bit cliché, but they were extremely enjoyable to follow!

Speaking of clichés, another gripe other reviewers had with this book was that it was riddled with overused themes in YA books. Honestly, it’s really hard to write a YA book without working in clichés into the story, it’s nearly impossible because every good idea has been used in thousands of books across the genres. With that said, this book actually didn’t have very many glaring clichés you might find in a debut novel. Yes, some of the things about the characters were a little cliché, but honestly they only appeared that way and the author slowly revealed why she wrote her characters that way. Could it have been written a little better? Yes, but for a first attempt at a bestselling novel, the author did a pretty good job of it.

The last thing I’ll talk about is the world building. One thing I love more than character development is world building, especially in fantasy or sci-fi where an author has the most range. While this book reads very much like it has a Middle Eastern setting, it is nothing like I’ve ever read. I really enjoyed being submersed in the sand with the characters, hearing stories about the county’s mythos along with them, it made my walks onto campus and to class seem almost mystical. The author’s world is more than just sand and sun, it was so much more and I loved seeing through my mind’s eye what it must’ve looked like. I can’t wait to see how the author expands her fantastical world in the rest of the series, especially as she grows as a writer!

 

Final Thoughts:

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to travel to a different place all together. I’ve read a lot of fantasies, but they normally spend a majority of the time in a very European-like setting where the characters visit ‘exotic’ places or deserts briefly, so it’s refreshing to read one set within the desert. The magic and mythos of the land is also different from what I’ve read before, so it could be a lot of fun if you’re looking for something fresh, something new.

I will have to say that this story does have some Western themes, which was a little odd for me at first because it didn’t seem to fit quite right in my mind. However, as the story plans out those themes add to the story and really help develop some of the characters. It does make some sequences in the story seem unbearably why, and some of you might ask why these scenes are needed. Trust me, the long sequences are very much needed but they dominate a lot of the first half of the story so it may be a little hard to get through that first bit.

Rating(s):

Story: 4/5

This story was pretty solid, definitely an excellent first attempt for a new author! I loved the settling, the overarching world, the characters, and even some of the clichés. I also enjoyed being surprised from time to time. There were some major reveals that I didn’t see coming or saw almost a little too late, which is always exciting for me. This book won’t be for everyone, but I bet that those who do enjoy it will have a lot of fun reading it. I can’t wait for the next installment!

Narration: 4/5

I really enjoyed Ms. Nankani’s narration of this story. I felt like Amani and her journey really came alive as she spoke. Sometimes her male voices were a little rough, especially when they were conveying certain strong emotions. However, I do understand that it can be hard for women to variate male voices. Overall, she was fantastic and can’t wait to hear her read the sequel!

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COMING SOON!!!

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

3Details:

Title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Author: J. K. Rowling

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Release Date:  October 1998 (American Edition)

Genre: Fantasy, Childrens-Middle Grade, Novel

Pages: 309

Synopsis:

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a room far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to harch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley—a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry—and anyone who reads about him—will find unforgettable.

For it’s there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that’s been waiting for him… if Harry can survive the encounter.

My First Thoughts:

When I was about to read this book for the very first time, I was seven years old and bullied constantly at my Catholic school for being too smart—especially when it came to reading. My second-grade teacher had also already deducted points from a book report I had written because the book I read was “too advanced.” My mom gave it to me time and time again, but I refused to read it. I remember saying that it was going to be too hard to read, but I knew that I just didn’t want to be seen at school carrying such a large book when I was already being bullied and getting marked down for reading things that were above my grade level. Eventually, on a trip to Ocean City with my family, my mom wore me down and I read the first page.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

I will forever be thankful my mom was so adamant I read this book. As a bullied little girl with a single friend and a lot of insecurities, I connected with Harry and his friends almost immediately. I remember the writing being a little hard for me to read at the time, but it was accessible enough for me to enjoy and understand. I started reading the book and I couldn’t put it down. I spent the next three or four weeks (I was seven and reading a book several years above my reading level, so it took me a while to read) taking this book with me everywhere. I went from being so concerned to starting this book because someone I knew may see my reading it and make fun of me to not caring in the slightest because I had to know what was going to happen when Draco challenge Harry and Ron to a duel, or when Hagrid got his hands on a dragon’s egg, or what was going to happen when the trio went down the trap-door in the forbidden corridor. Being “too smart” for my teachers and peers… not fitting in—it didn’t matter anymore—not when I had Hogwarts just a page turn away. Now, as an adult, I still find Hogwarts is my favorite place to go when I’m bored, or stressed, or just needing to refocus.

I do not praise Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone so highly only because of sentimentality. One of the most important things an author can do with their words is show their readers everything that is happening in the story rather than simply telling them. It is a difficult, subtle skill that too few authors possess. J. K. Rowling, however, has done an amazing job showing me everything in the story, from the spiders lining the roof of Harry’s cupboard under the stairs, to the majesty of Hogwarts castle through the seasons, to the bushy curls of Hermione’s hair, to the freckles on each of the Weasleys’ noses. Every character has life, every setting has scale, and every season has breath through Rowling’s descriptions. This book has so much detail in it that every time I read it I discover something new, but I’ve never felt overwhelmed by it. Over the years, it has felt like every time I gain new information from the book it isn’t because I missed it before, it is because I’ve reached a different point in my life and it matters more to me now.

The most important thing to me, however, is an author’s characters and their development. I’ve already stated in this article how I quickly connected with Harry, but his development over the book is remarkable. Taken from an abusive home and thrust into fame, he handles it with confusion, humility, and some incredulity. He is sarcastic but caring, hard working and kind. Harry isn’t perfect, though. He seeks revenge and slacks off in some of his classes. He breaks rules and makes many poor choices. He isn’t even my favorite character of the book! My favorite character is Hermione, the know-it-all bookworm. The girl who had issues relating to her peers, but had an answer for everything, and always had her nose in a book… with the situation that I was in personally, how could I not relate? Especially since that wasn’t all she was, and as much as being smart and studious was a good character trait, being a know-it-all caused her relationships with peers and certain teachers to suffer. The highest praise that I feel I can give characters and character relationships in books is that they feel as real as the people and relationships I experience in the real world.

All this praise does not mean that this book is without its flaws. It does take a while for the story to feel like it has gotten started. Hagrid doesn’t even show up until chapter 4, and we don’t get to Hogwarts until chapter 7. The very end of the book is quite exposition heavy in a “let’s sum up everything that happened because you were comatose” way. But these flaws are minor in the grand scheme of the book.

Final Thoughts:

A sign of truly good children’s literature is that it can be read and enjoyed thoroughly by adults, and I feel that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a prime example of that. I will whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t read it. I know that it has been a source of controversy since its release, but I have found that everyone I have ever talked to that held the negative opinions about Harry Potter and its devotion to witchcraft had never actually read the book. Harry does not go to Hogwarts so Rowling can teach children how to follow the occult, he exists in a world of magic that makes impossible situations suddenly probable.

Rating(s):

5/5

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone will always hold a special place in my heart as the book that helped me to accept myself and embrace my love of reading. It’s helped me to stay true to who I am and to discover who I am. I will forever love this book.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!