Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

This was such an intriguing book. It starts off with a girl, Rose, who falls down a hole while out cycling her bike but then lands on what looks like a giant hand made out of some unknown material.

The story then continues some 20 odd years later with Rose as an adult and lead scientist on a project to look into the hand in more detail. We also get some more POV’s (kind of): Kara, a US navy pilot; Ryan, Kara’s co-pilot: Vincent, a linguistics genius; and an unnamed interviewer.

What makes this such a strange book is the format of it. The whole book is in the form of interview transcripts, diary entries, media reports etc. It makes it a very quick read but it has its downside in that it is difficult to form any emotional bond with the characters.

I don’t want to go into more plot details for fear of spoilers but it goes into some interesting areas, including political and societal repercussions. I think the book could have been a solid 5 stars if there had been some normal prose interspersed in all the interview transcripts. The format while initially interesting, got a little annoying towards the end, I just couldn’t feel for the characters. The characters themselves were a little cliche at the beginning as well but things did take a few interesting directions which was nice. The unnamed interviewer was probably my favorite, we still don’t know much about him but he is very interesting.

I felt it could have been a really exceptional book with some format changes but still is very solid. I will definitely be reading the sequel at some stage.

4 stars out of 5

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

This should be a 5 star book. It has so many amazing moments, pretty much from Malfoy Manor onwards. The battle of Hogwarts is spectacular and heartbreaking. I much prefer the final duel between Harry and Voldemort in this compared to the movie version. No stupid special effects, no long drawn out battle. It feels much more real and meaningful. And the final thud really resonates. So why no 5 star? 

Well it’s two things. The pacing and title. It really got bogged down in the first half of the book. Too much time spent just sitting around. Yes it affects the plot but that brings up the second point.

We get introduced to another whole plot revolving the deathly hollows. I really felt this could be skipped as it took away from the story that had been built up. OK the elder wand was fairly pivotal but the rest of it played no real part and I think actively took away from the story. 

Still though it is such a great end to the series and I am sure I will be reading it again some time in the future.

4 stars out of 5

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

I remember thinking this book was just okay when I read it before but I really enjoyed it this time around.

The whole horcrux thing is brilliant and the chasing of clues through memories was a great way to do it. For quite a big book it feels much smaller as it is very well paced though another quidditch story line did feel one too much after so many before. The whole romance thing wasn’t even too bad though of course it’s all quite PG and innocent.

We all the know how it ends and though sad, I still feel that Dumbledore should have spent way more time with Harry. He knew what was going to happen so you think he would have spent as much time with him as he could to get him prepped.

It certainly feels like a penultimate chapter and most of places are in setup for the endgame. Even though I know what’s going to happen I am still looking forward to it.

4.5 stars out of 5

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Another great entry in the series. I really appreciate what the author did with this series, the first book is rather simple but the story progresses and grows darker and more complicated with each entry.

Harry is quite annoying in this story but to be honest he’s a young teenager so it’s fairly accurate. We also meet one of the greatest villains I’ve ever read in Umbridge. I think she works so well because we all have probably met somebody like her, somebody so utterly self absorbed and then put in a position of power. It’s a bad combination.

Also Snape. We all know the story with Snape but it doesn’t take away from the fact that he is a bitter, small minded person from the very first book and constantly humiliates Harry because of something that had nothing really to do with him.

Rowling may lack sometimes in the art of writing itself but it’s undeniable that she’s created some great characters, of both the good and bad variety.

5 stars out of 5

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

This book is where I always feel the story really gets going. The larger world starts to come into play and we see that things are not all rosy in Harry Potter universe.

We’ve already seen the discrimination that can be put on muggleborn (though it’s often overlooked that this whole world looks down upon anybody born without magic, muggles, and treats them like children, the almost definition of class discrimination, ‘you have to be born with it’) in early books but it starts to come more to the forefront now. We also see the power of the press come into play (probably to do with the author’s well known struggles with it in real life) and the witch hunts that happened after the first fall of Voldemort.

Other than that though it does move along fairly similar to previous books. Harry has struggles. He overcomes them through an awful lot of help from people around him. He triumphs and gets the glory. 

That is until the scene in the graveyard. There is massive tonal shift and the story gets a lot darker immediately, instantly becoming a different beast. I believe it is this shift that made them the phenomenon they are today. Yes they probably would be been still very popular but it is this shift that makes them appeal so much across many demographics. It is a brilliant piece of storytelling and why this book is one of favourites.

5 stars out of 5

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

A further step up I think from the previous. This is when the story starts to get really interesting. It still has the general feel of the others but has definitely gotten darker with more adult themes starting to emerge.

I really feel for the character Sirius Black. His life has been mostly terrible and we know it doesn’t get any better. I love the moment when he suggest Harry go live with him and the hope and joy they both feel for a very brief moment. He should have had everything going for him and of course it doesn’t happen. Imagine getting jailed for 12 years for something you didn’t do but still feel responsible for? And the mistake you made causes the death of your best friend and then being in a place where you have no choice but to dwell on all the time. That’s some dark stuff.

Also a big fan of Lupin, who has his own tragic story. That group of four kids really did not have a happy ever after.

4 stars out of 5

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

A definite improvement on the first book, which was hampered by too much scene and world building.

The story takes a slightly darker turn and is the better for it though it still contains the wonder of the first book. I’ll be honest with these books there’s not much to say that probably hasn’t been said loads of times already.

3.5 stars out of 5

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

I read these books initially much older than a lot of people, I’d say I was in my late teens, early twenties. I think the first three had been released. It’s probably why I don’t enjoy this one so much.

It’s starts off strongish, but I was bored for a lot of the middle part and end was okay. I can see why it was so popular though. There’s a real sense of wonder about the story, you learn about this hidden world along with Harry and it creates a feeling that maybe you too could receive a letter from Hogwarts. The writing is nothing special but it gets the job done and luckily enough it’s such a short book that you can fly through it.

It’s also interesting that there are a lot of tidbits in it that become very relevant later in the series. I always wonder had she planned the whole thing from the start or did she just use what she’d written and expanded it? Either way it is quite impressive.

3 stars out of 5

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Most people would be fairly familiar with the contents of this as even though they might not have read the book they probably would have seen the film as it was quite popular.

The story is broadly the same as the film, Tristan sets off over the Wall to faerie to find a shooting star for his love Victoria. Things don’t quite go as planned and he has a series of adventures with feuding princes and witches.

I’ll be honest I love this film as have seen it numerous times but for some reason I never got around to reading the book. I kept comparing it to the film and sacrilegious as it may seem I think I prefer the film. I’ve read a couple of Neil Gaiman books before and enjoyed them but I think this lacked some of the agency and tension of the film. It all felt rather too easy and the end was rather anti-climatic. It still had a sense of wonder but just felt a little flat in places, particularly between Tristan and Evaine. 

This was also the first audio book I’ve ever listened to and it was great. It had a full cast and sound effects so that made it very enjoyable to listen to. Still not totally convinced on audio-books in that you can’t fully immerse yourself in them but it was still made a nice change to the commute to work!

3 stars out of 5

Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft

So this continues Senlin’s adventures in the Tower a few months after the ending of the first book. Senlin and his crew have become (very courteous) pirates in the quest to find his wife. In this book we explore more of the tower and get a greater understanding of what it’s about. We also get more POV’s which is good to see, the secondary characters are just as interesting as Senlin himself. 

The book takes a while to get going. I wasn’t bored but also I wasn’t as involved as the first book for quite a lot of the start, it only got really interesting once we met up with the Sphinx. From there I ripped through the rest of book and I’m very interested to see where we’re going next. It is still a very well written book, hence the 4 stars instead of 3. Though not as spectacular as the first it is still a most enjoyable read.

4 stars out of 5

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