Author Feature: J.K.Rowling

I did a Harry Potter marathon to celebrate Rowling's birthday, in addition to which, she is the author I'm featuring this month.

Brief Bio: Born in Glouchestershire in 1965, Rowling studied at Wyedean School and College, then pursued her B.A. in French and Classics at the University of Exeter. She moved to Portugal to teach English as a foreign language, married a journalist, but they separated a year later. I guess the story of how she came up with Harry Potter is so famous that I don't have to repeat it here. If you don't know it, check it (and lots and lots more) on her website She is now married to Dr. Neil Murray and has 3 kids.


My Reviews:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

My Views: J.K. Rowling is indeed one of the coolest fantasy writers I have read. I owe my initiation into fantasy to her. I used to believe that fantasy was for kids. But she opened my eyes to the wealth of stories that the fantasy genre encompasses. I learned that fantasy is not just cute and lovey-dovey, with happy endings, it can be grim, dramatic and heart-breaking as well.

Rowling's imagination is possibly her biggest asset. She comes up with such cool stuff, from Quidditch to Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, things that you so wish were a part of your world. She also draws from a variety of stories and legends, and adapts them to suit her story. For example, the bit about Death and the three Peverell brothers in Deathly Hallows is similar to a story in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales; the concept of Horcruxes drawn from legends of putting your soul in someone else's hands for safekeeping, the search for the Horcruxes themselves remind you of the quest for the Holy Grail. Her knack of foreshadowing makes every book very interesting to read; clues to future books are strewn all around, sometimes as a major plot element (Chamber of Secrets), sometimes in a couple of words (the locket and diadem in Deathly Hallows). This is something I find really cool, it makes you go back and read the previous books again and say, Oh, look, it was there all along!

Rowling's style of writing is simple and direct, not much fruity prose, a little bare-boned, if you can say that. She is a children's book writer and that might be expected, I do expect a little more description when it comes to fantasy. I mean, what makes Tolkien's works so enjoyable (among a lot of other things) are his elaborate descriptions of Middle Earth. It's not that Rowling doesn't manage to create vivid images of Harry's world before my eyes, but...well, maybe I'm cribbing too much. I was a more than a little disappointed with her later books, the magic, the enchantment seemed to be missing, lost in the whole PR exercise. But if you consider the series as a whole, it is a gem.

A lot of people credit Rowling for bringing children back to reading, and believe she is a wizard. Well, she is, kind of, because she brought to her books the hallmarks of a good storyteller: engaging writing, well-thought plot and memorable characters, elements that distinguish an ordinary author from an awesome one. Her books are easy to read, but not just bits of magical floss. She weaves in concepts of loyalty, friendship, courage, greed and evil into her stories very well. I don't know if her books can be called classics, it's too early to tell. But of one thing I can be sure: 50 years from now, children will enjoy her books as much as I did when I first read them, so maybe you could call it a classic. I'll leave you with the school song from Philosopher's Stone, a song which always makes me laugh, and wish that my school song had been this fun, instead of the usual sermon on honour and hard work.

Hogwarts, Hogwarts, hoggy warty Hogwarts,
Teach us something please,

Whether we be old and bald,

Or young with scabby knees,

Our heads could do with filling,

With some interesting stuff,

For now they're bare and full of air,

Dead flies and bits of fluff,

So teach us things worth knowing,

Bring back what we've forgot,

Just do your best, we'll do the rest,

And learn until our brains all rot.

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REVIEW Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: J.K.Rowling


I read the book before I went to watch the movie because all I remembered in the book was how it ended and that Ron and Hermione had romantic troubles. Honestly, I don't really like this book that much, though it ranks above its predecessor on my scale.

Harry starts his sixth year at Hogwarts with the Dark forces growing stronger. Dumbledore enlists his help in bringing a old teacher Slughorn out of retirement, who turns out to, surprise, surprise, replace the Potions Master, making Snape the Professor of Defence Against Dark Arts. This discomfort aside, Harry has to persuade Slughorn to give up something he is hiding, deal with love pangs for Ginny and learn more about Voldemort's past, so that he can defeat him.

I didn't like the book much. I thought there was too much of fluff, it read more like some teen romance, you know, girl and boy like each other and are separated by misunderstandings. The Ron-Lavender track was quite irritating to me. Granted that the trio is growing, and hormones are stronger than ever, but this story is about good vs evil, Harry vs Voldemort, not Hermione vs Lavender. It seemed like Rowling was writing a young adult romance, then would remember what the story was about and come back on track.

But I really like the insights into Voldemort's past, the sneak peeks at the man before he became the mask. The concept of Horcruxes was elegant, inspired in part, I think, by those olden folk tales which talk about removing the soul from the body and keeping it in another being for safekeeping, but with darker undertones. However, I was disappointed by the lack of coverage given to the half blood prince subplot. I mean, when I heard the story, I figured that the Half-Blood Prince would be like a central plot element, connected with a challenge Harry has to face (like Goblet of Fire or Prisoner of Azkaban), but apart from being a mysterious author, not much coverage was given to his story. The book, I believe, could have been a good 200 pages shorter with no loss whatsoever.

A word about the movie. It takes a lot of cinematic liberties with the book. Now, I don't expect the movie to be a xerox of the book, but HBP has, in the words of one of my friends, 30% of the story with 130% of the romance. It's not a bad movie, its cinematography is great, the sets and locations wonderful. If you watch it forgetting that it's an adaptation of the book, you'll love it; in fact I liked it too.

Have you watched the movie? How did it compare with the book?

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REVIEW Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: J.K. Rowling


This book is a close second when I list the Potter books in order of preference. Rowling spins an engrossing story, one which has you gripped right from the word go.

Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts is preceded by a strange dream along with his scar hurting, ominous signs of Voldemort's presence. He attends the Quidditch World Cup with Ron and Hermione, then proceeds to school, where an amazing but dangerous magical tournament is being held for the first time in many years. Harry is excited, just like everybody else, but when his name is drawn as a participant in the Triwizard Tournament, it seems like someone is out to get him. But it's not just dangers that Harry has to face, but resentment and heartbreak too.

I read this book when the whole Harry Potter craze was just beginning to spiral out of control. There was a lot of hype around this book, and Dad had to buy the hardback edition (I was too impatient to wait for the paperback). The book completely justified the hype. Rowling writes with a deft touch; her storytelling is as engrossing as ever. There are loads of twists and turns (though you can't compare to the surprise ending of Prisoner of Azkaban), as Harry handles his greatest challenge yet. This is the first time Voldemort is actually seen in the book, his cruel nature exposed to readers; he steps out of the shadows to become a menacing villain of flesh and blood.

Like I said before, Quidditch is my favorite thing in the magical world, and to read about the thrills of the World Cup was really cool (I was so angry when they cut it out of the movie!). In The Goblet of Fire, Rowling puts Harry through much more difficult situations than before, especially that of losing Ron's trust. Honestly, I had been expecting something like this before, I mean Ron seemed almost inhuman in his friendship (I mean, he never did get jealous earlier). The hints of a Ron-Hermione relationship are loud and clear, and immensely funny. And Fred and George's joke items were just too cool; how I yearned to get my hands on them. But more than anything, I loved the maturing in Harry's personality, his presence of mind and his courage in handling Voldemort. This 700-page tome was captivating, with light and dark moments in equal measures, and ended on a high note, keeping everybody agog for the next one.

Did you enjoy this book as much as I did? Go on, share what you think!

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REVIEW Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: J.K.Rowling


I fell in love with this book the moment I turned the last page. It is my favorite of the entire series, and in my top 5 fantasy books as well.

Harry returns for his third year at Hogwarts, in the shadow of an escaped mass murderer and the scary Dementors. Sirius Black, Voldemort's right-hand man, has escaped the supposedly inescapable fortress of Azkaban and is baying for Harry's blood. But life at Hogwarts goes on, despite everything. Disappointment on the Quidditch field, the best Defence against Dark Arts classes he's had yet, a couple of new subjects, Harry's hands are full. But then he learns an earth-shattering secret, a secret that will change his life forever.

I have lost count of the number of times I have read The Prisoner of Azkaban. The series takes a darker turn with this book, with Harry and his friends maturing and learning that good always doesn't win. This book doesn't have a happy ending like the two previous ones, setting the tone for the ones to come. The Dementors are probably Rowling's most inspired creation in the entire series. The idea of a faceless fiend who can suck all joy out of you with its mere presence is chilling. Of course, there is some fun, but the darkness and edginess play a more prominent role. You are on the edge of your seat most of the time, and the twist ending makes it all the more memorable.

I think this book sort of sets the foundation for the entire series. It is from this book that events accelerate, the Dark forces get a boost. Voldemort does not make an appearance in this book, but that somehow adds to the danger. Also, the relationships between James, Lily, Sirius, Lupin and Snape are established, relationships that are crucial to the plot of this and later stories. A fantastic story, it's probably the most thumbed book on my bookshelf.

Which is your favorite Potter book? What do you like about it?

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REVIEW Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: J.K.Rowling


My second foray into Harry's world was the first book Rowling wrote: a fun-filled introduction to the wizarding world.

After surviving a Killing Curse which rebounded on its master, one-year old Harry Potter is left at his aunt's home. After eleven miserable years with the Dursleys, one day, a giant arrives at his doorstep and tells him he is a wizard, and the most famous one at that. Harry sets off to study at Hogwarts from an enchanted platform, makes friends and enemies alike, faces trolls and three-headed dogs, and searches for The Philosopher's Stone.

The first chapter introduced Dumbledore and his Put-Outer, a device I found so fascinating that I couldn't wait to read more. And more there was, from Bertie Bott's Every Flavored Beans to centaurs to Snape. Rowling's style was simple and direct, no frills and no over-dramatization. As I said before, her wit shone in every page, in situations like Hagrid's first arrival at the Dursleys and Fred and George's ribbing of Percy. The book stresses on the concepts of friendship, loyalty and courage, but doesn't deliver elaborate eulogies on the subject, instead depicting it through small incidents. When I reread the book later, I felt the writing to be somewhat childish, maybe not that ageless as the others in the series. But it didn't take anything away from the magic of the books, still doesn't. Also, I realised how wonderfully Rowling had sprinkled clues for later books throughout the story; while reading a later book, you'd be like, Oh, it was there right in the first book!

I kind of missed the charm of the book in the movie. When it first came out, I was a little disappointed in how much had been pruned and altered. It's not like I am a die-hard Potter fan that I would be sorely disappointed in the movie: I just felt that it was not very true to the book. If you had just seen the movie and not read the book, you'd be a little confused as to what was going on.

What do you think about this book? Share your opinions and set the conversation ball rolling!

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REVIEW Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: J.K Rowling


I read the whole Potter series again over the holidays, and it's the author J.K.Rowling's birthday this Friday, so I thought I'd do a Harry Potter marathon this week, reviewing all seven books. Instead of going in the order they were written, I'll review the books in the order I read them, in the order the series developed before my eyes.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets sees Harry back at Hogwarts, on the way being reprimanded for underage magic use, breaking out of the Dursley home and flying an unauthorised magic car. Life at the school with Ron and Hermione is magically unpredictable and fun. But darkness soon sets in, with something attacking the students, as a centuries-old secret is revealed.

My grand-uncle bought me this book when Harry Potter was still a relatively unknown phenomenon, and I certainly hadn't heard of him. The cover of a bespectacled boy flying in a magic car attracted me, and the first chapter had me completely hooked. I read the book in a single sitting, in four hours flat, a big achievement for me since I was then in Class 7, without the reading speed I have today. Today when I read the book, I still love it, though it is not my favorite in the Potter series. Its greatest advantage, like others in the series, is that it blends humour and thrills very well, creating a piece that I enjoyed thoroughly.

I can say that Harry Potter was my introduction into the world of fantasy, and an explosive one at that. Quidditch, Potions, Parseltongue and much more, it was a fantastic journey into a parallel universe. I also liked the names in the book, they sounded so exotic: Ravenclaw, Slytherin, Voldemort. But most of all, I loved Quidditch, the action, the swooping around on broomsticks, the idea as such, of a flying basketball game. You really feel part of the story, joining Harry as he snoops around the castle, laughing at his encounters with Lockhart and sympathising with him when he is accused of attacking students. An enchanting book, a book that you will enjoy if you pick it up again and again.

Which was your first Potter book? What did you think of it?

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Neil Gaiman giveaway!

I thought that this giveaway was super cool, so I had to blog about it. Maw over at Maw's Books is giving away a signed copy of Gaiman's The Graveyard Book! I have not read any of Gaiman's books, though a friend, whose opinion on books I listen to, is reading the novelization of Neverwhere, and she likes it a lot. And this book has had so many people raving over it, so this giveaway is not an opportunity to be missed. The contest is open till July 31, so do check it out.

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And....I'm Back!

A new semester of college, a new schedule and new books. Great combo, right? Well, I've been off for nearly a month, but I'm back on the blogging circuit: posting book reviews, visiting other blogs and commenting with a renewed vigour. I made a couple of blogging goals for this semester.

1. I realised that though I read a lot, lately I haven't been finishing a lot of the books I have started, and since I review only those books I have completed, my reviews are generally fewer than I would have liked. So now, I have made a commitment to finish every book I start, no matter how boring.

2. I am going to increase the frequency of my commenting. I am usually a lurker, and it's about time I was more forthcoming. I do wish to get across to a lot of people, and to do that, I have to get to know a lot of people, so comments are the first step.

3. I am going to complete my Guardian reading challenge (I had almost forgotten about it!) within this semester. I will try to sign up for a couple of challenges that suit my TBR pile, and I pray I can finish them.

4. I also want to sign up for the Sunday Salon. I have been reading a lot of Sunday Salon posts all around the book blogging world, and I really want to be part of the community. I will be a Sunday Saloner come August, and I will probably be posting a lot of random thoughts about books, reading, and maybe a few memes.

5. I noticed that many people review ARCs. I think it's a really great way to get to read new authors, and I would like to receive some ARCs as well. As far as I can gather, most ARC programmes are U.S. centric, and I'm not sure how I, sitting in India, will manage to gather a few copies, so that's why this is at the bottom of my list.

I have a stock of reviews to catch up on, and a whole lot of books waiting to be read. It's good to be back blogging, and it's great to be reading.

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About Me and Advance Booking

About Me: I am an engineering student studying in India. I currently live in a hostel with a very entertaining roommate, who is as mad about books and movies as I am, and is a good source of books, old and new. I love reading, and I like writing. I also enjoy watching movies and sleeping (I sleep more than probably any other person in this place!).

About Advance Booking: Since my dad bought me my first book, I have read and read. This blog combines my two loves: reading and writing. It's a place for me to share thoughts about the books I read, and connect with other bibliophiles like me, to find more books to read.
If you find a book on my review list that you have reviewed, do leave a comment (with a link) on the list post or on the main review, and I will link your review up to mine.
I welcome your comments on the posts. It gives me an insight into how you perceive my reviews, and thus helps me improve my content. If you like what you read, you might consider subscribing to my RSS feed as well.
Do check out my business blog Acerbiz as well.

Review Policy: If you'd like me to review your book, you are welcome to send me a copy. I will finish the book and post an honest review about it. I also read e-books, provided they are in .pdf or .lit format.
I read literary fiction, young adult, fantasy and science fiction, suspense, horror and non-fiction.
I don't like reading romance and self-help. I will not read erotica.

See My Reviews
See My Blogger Profile

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A Little Break

It's my birthday tomorrow, and I'm going on a little break from then. Nothing too major, no evaluation of priorities or anything, I just wanted a small rest before the routine of college starts again. I've been a little off the whole of June, just been posting, have hardly had time to visit other blogs I like, so I thought I'd take a break and catch up on some of the other stuff I have to do, rather than put on what might seem like a half-hearted effort at blogging (it's not, btw). I'll be back by the end of this month, probably with an Author Feature, and with loads of reviews as well. Till then, happy blogging!

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