Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

61clY6n-0UL._SL300_Novel: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
Release Date: November 20, 2015
Publisher: Pottermore from J.K. Rowling
Format: Digital Audiobook
Source: Bought
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads | Pottermore | Audible

Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard! The first book in the “Harry Potter” series makes the perfect introduction to the world of Hogwarts.

I could not for the life of me find a decent description of this amazing book, so I provided the usual Goodreads one above. Regardless, everyone should have read Harry Potter by now, so in terms of content, you already know it’s magnificent. (If you haven’t read or didn’t like Harry Potter… Well, I’m quite sorry for your loss. Perhaps this review will inspire you to give it a go!)

So I’m going to be discussing the audiobook version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and the pleasure I got from listening to it this month. Until this March, I hadn’t listened to an audiobook in ages. I think the last time had to have been 8+ years ago; I have The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis on CD, but I don’t think I ever finished it. I’m not an auditory learner, so I’ve always avoided audiobooks, and I’ve had my doubts as to whether listening to a book can really be considered reading. Regardless, I want to re-read the Harry Potter series this year (it’s been far too long) and my trip to Harry Potter World in Orlando in mid-march had me on a time crunch to start. I ended up checking out Audible again (I’ve browsed here and there over the past two years) after watching Christine’s review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. She re-read the series via audiobook and completely sold me on trying out the experience. ANYTHING FOR HARRY POTTER.

Let me just say, I loved it.

Plot/Language
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and the entire Harry Potter series for that matter, is such a good story. I never quite realized it until I listened to it, but it’s as though this book was made to be heard. Reading it is magical; listening to it brings it to life. I felt like a little kid listening to a bedtime story, and it was hard to turn it off when I had to go to class or leave my car. The plot, characters, and narration of the novel make it prime material for read aloud narration. Brilliant!

Narrator
Jim Dale is an artist. I know there’s a lot of debate as to which narrator is better—Jim Dale (American editions) or Stephen Fry (British editions). I listened to several samples of both, and I think they’re both excellent—you really can’t go wrong either way. However, due to copyrights and all that, my only option was the Jim Dale versions and I am so happy with his narration so far. He has a lovely British accent and narrates the story wonderfully. His particular strength is his character voices; he does a different, yet distinguishable voice for each character, which makes following the book really easy. Yes, sometimes he makes Hermione sound too whiny, and he also made Firenze’s voice much higher-pitched (and Scottish?) than I imagined. But after adjusting to his interpretations, they’re fine. He also narrates the Quidditch matches really well! I want to listen to other audiobooks narrated by Jim Dale now, especially Peter Pan and the Peter and the Starcatchers series.

Length
The audiobook version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is about 8 hours and 15 minutes long. Additionally, it includes a bonus 16-minute sample of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I think Jim Dale’s pacing is perfect; Stephen Fry reads slower, and though I didn’t notice it much (it didn’t bother me at all), when it comes to the longer books, the time adds up! Dale reads at an easy pace: not so quickly that you’ll miss anything, but not so slowly that you want to speed it up. I’d describe it as a leisurely stroll. The pacing really helped me absorb the story; I felt like I was watching the book as a movie, with no changes, or actually living it.

In summary, I really loved listening to the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I enjoyed Jim Dale’s narration and voices, and the story seemed more magical than ever before. The audiobook truly brings the story, characters, and wizarding world to life in a way I’d never imagined—and for Harry Potter, which is already so real to so many of us, that’s really saying something.

Thanks for reading.

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The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

15724396Novel: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan | Goodreads
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Also Posted On: Lit Up Review

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, he’s tracked down by a man he’s never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.

The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . . .

Rick Riordan knows who he is. He knows what he does well, and he sticks to it. And he produces something wonderful and magical each and every time. I really enjoyed the first book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series. The Sword of Summer was fast-paced and fun. I read it because I love mythology, because I love Riordan’s witty writing style and sassy characters, and because I knew it would be a good ol’ time. And it was. Magnus is sixteen, sarcastic, and reminiscent of Percy in all the lovable ways. The side characters are an elf, a dwarf, and a stubborn daughter of Loki. Magnus is definitely my favorite character, and I am excited to get to know the god Loki more over the course of the series.

There are several references to the Percy Jackson & the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus series in The Sword of Summer, and Annabeth Chase is Magnus’ cousin. I totally did not connect the dots between their last names until they smacked me in the face within the first few chapters. My hope is that Riordan will somehow explain how all the Norse gods and mythologies and Greek/Roman gods and mythologies can coexist in the same world… In my opinion, it would have been smarter to leave Annabeth out and have Magnus and his series be entirely separate from Riordan’s prior works. But I understand that this connection will excite some people, and will definitely be a pull for the ever-loyal Percy Jackson audience. Admittedly, some of the references were quite funny (like the chapter title, “Hearthstone Passes Out Even More Than Jason Grace (Though I Have No Idea Who That Is)”).

From The Sword of Summer, I did get a refresher on Norse mythology and definitely learned some new information. Though it is immersed in the nine worlds of Norse mythology, the overarching story is not really new. I think anyone who’s loved Riordan’s past works will enjoy this one, but don’t expect to have your mind blown with new material. The book is very entertaining as a whole, just not revolutionary. In fact, the novel’s plot – and the plot of its sequel, judging by its title, The Hammer of Thor – is fairly predictable. HOWEVER, I’d like to point out that I read The Sword of Summer as a seventeen year old, after having read around fifteen Rick Riordan books before. Of course it didn’t feel one hundred percent original. But it has everything I’ve always loved about Riordan’s books in it and I enjoyed it and sometimes that’s what matters most, more than any critical literary analysis.

In conclusion, I very much enjoyed The Sword of Summer and I look forward to continuing the series. While Riordan’s first series, Percy Jackson & the Olympians, will likely always remain my favorite of his, I am excited to see him explore another area of mythology in a new series. His tried-and-true formula continues to be successful in The Sword of Summer and I think people of all ages, whether it’s their first Rick Riordan book or their fifteenth, will enjoy the lighthearted, adventurous spirit of Magnus Chase.

Thanks for reading.

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Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan

20829994Novel: Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan | Goodreads
Release Date: August 19th, 2014
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Also Published On: Lit Up Review

A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, Can we do this anonymously? Because I don’t need the Olympians mad at me again. But if it helps you to know your Greek gods, and survive an encounter with them if they ever show up in your face, then I guess writing all this down will be my good deed for the week.

So begins Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, in which the son of Poseidon adds his own magic—and sarcastic asides—to the classics. He explains how the world was created, then gives readers his personal take on a who’s who of ancients, from Apollo to Zeus. Percy does not hold back. “If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on, because it definitely was a Golden Age for all that.”

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods is a collection of mythology stories surrounding the major Greek gods that is narrated by none other than Percy Jackson himself. The size of the book surprised me when it arrived at my doorstep last October – don’t expect to fit this one on your bookshelves next to your other Rick Riordan gems. It’s the size of the classic D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, but is much heavier. The book can be read alongside or separate from the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series as it is a companion to Riordan’s other works. It is illustrated beautifully by John Rocco, the illustrator of all of Riordan’s beloved novel covers.

I am a self-declared mythology buff. I’ve studied it independently for most of my albeit short life and my mom integrated it into my curriculum when I was homeschooled. So I began reading this book with mixed expectations: I thought it’d be a fun, easy read but didn’t think I’d learn anything new from it. BOY, was I wrong. Rick Riordan really did his research, because though he tells the basic creation story of each god, he also includes SO many obscure details that I had never picked up on before. Each chapter is dedicated to a god and tells all sorts of short narratives about the god’s life and encounters with mortals and other mythological beings. Percy’s narration is hilarious and sarcastic and really the reason I picked this book up to begin with. He references characters from Percy Jackson & the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus, and also throws in modern day references to technology, etc. that add humor to the stories. The book really feels like it was written by Percy, even more so than the PJO series did, and Percy never disappoints. If you love the PJO series you will adore this book, and if you read this one without ever having touched a Rick Riordan novel, I guarantee you’ll want to upon finishing.

Rick Riordan and John Rocco are releasing a second mythology book this August called Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes, a second PJO companion book chronicling famous Greek heroes and their tales. Like Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, it will probably teach me something new and have me rolling on the floor laughing from Percy’s snarky commentary. For all Rick Riordan lovers, Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods is a must-read, but I extend my recommendation to all mythology lovers and book lovers alike because the charm of the illustrations, the captivating narration, and the notable details of the stories make this mythology collection unlike any other.