Hogwarts "IS" Good!

NOTE: I am guessing by now most of you would've read The Sorcerer's Stone but if you haven't, this post does contain spoilers for the first Potter book.

I once said to myself I will never understand what all this craze of Harry Potter is about. But, today, I realize how wrong I was and have joined all these people in their craze. As you would remember, a few days ago I posted "Is Potter really good?" but now I have found out the answer myself. Harry Potter is really good and Hogwarts is a fun place to be in.

Now I am not going to bore you over plot points or a reviews of this book because I am sure you would've read many of them. I am just going to point out some of my best moments (in no particular order) from the book.

Quirrell is evil, not Snape - I have to tell this must be one of the best twists I have read because I definitely didn't see it coming. When Harry opened the door, I expected either Snape or Voldemort to be in there but it was Quirrell. One of the best moments in the book for me. I also have to say that I was more shocked at Snape helping Potter than at Squirrell being evil.

Gryffindor wins the House Cup - This, for me, was the best moment in the book. I was sure Slytherin had won it but when Dumbledore started awarding points I almost jumped out my bed in joy. I, however, expected a tie but did not expect Neville to be awarded points and win it for Gryffindor.

Hagrid's entry - Right from the moment Hagrid comes to meet Harry to them leaving on the boat, this was one of the best sequences in the book. The way Hagrid tells Harry he always had the "Wizard" in him and Harry thinking over the events that happened when he had been angry was splendid.

Those moments are just off the top of my head. It is hard to sum up a book which is full of great sequences. The whole sequence leading up to Harry's showdown with Voldemort is superb - Ron using his ability to win the chess game, Hermione using her ability to get past the puzzle and Harry using his flying ability to get the key. Just for the record I read the last 160 and odd pages straight for about 3 hours.

This post should give you an idea of how worked up I am of Harry Potter. My next goal is to finish the next five books as quickly as possible. I want to join the other fans in their wait for The Deathly Hallows. The reason being if I finish The Half Blood Prince with just a few days to go for the last book then I wouldn't be able to feel the excitement or join the others in the speculation and rumors surrounding it. I will definitely be going to the library tomorrow to rent The Chamber of Secrets as excited as I ever was before reading any book and hoping to finish it sooner than ever.

The Last Juror

My reading habit has been slowly deteriorating lately due to various commitments (especially to studies). So, when my last semester exams finished on December 13th, I decided I would get back on track as far as books were concerned and start reading books regularly. One of my friends said that John Grisham books were really good, posed several law-related problems and then used the law in ways we would never imagine to solve them. I decided that John Grisham it will be and went to the local library and picked up the first book I laid my eyes upon, The Last Juror. It took me a whole month to finish the book (again disturbed because of various commitments) but I can definitely say that this will not be my last John Grisham book.

The Last Juror follows the story of William Traynor (and is a first-person narrative from his perspetive), a dropout from Syracuse after having studied Journalism for 5 years. He joins The Ford County Times, a weekly newspaper in Ford County, Mississippi as an intern to pursue his interest in journalism. After the paper goes bankrupt in 1970, he takes money from his grandmother and buys the paper and becomes its Owner and Editor-in-Chief. He soon befriends a local, well-educated, married and God-fearing black woman named Callie Ruffin and even runs a humanity article about her in his paper.

The book takes place from 1969 to nearly 1980 and Grisham has done a good job in capturing many important things that happened in America during these years. Many things like the integration of black and white schools, the entry of shopping malls in local towns have all been given due attention. But these portions do not have anything to do with the main story and had they not been there, the main story would still remain unchanged.

The main story is itself very satisfying and has law as its focus (as is usual in Grisham books or so I am told). A young widow and mother to two (Rhoda Kassellaw) has been murdered by Danny Padgitt. Danny, however, comes from the Padgitt family, local drug dealers and mafia gang, who have connections going up till the town mayor. Punishment is out of the question but The Ford County times publishes all the grim details of the murder that makes the whole town believe Danny is the accused. Danny is sentenced to life by a special jury selected from all citizens who have the right to vote (of which, one is Callie Ruffin). However, Danny is paroled in 1978 and his revenge begins.

The best thing John Grisham has done is not to heavily fictionalize any of the characters in the book. The bond that forms between William and Callie is portrayed beautifully and so is the townsfolk change of attitude towards William as his paper grows in reputation. Even though some sequences in the middle don't do a whole lot in terms of the story, they still help in moving the story forward and helps us identify with the main characters better. Even William getting bored of living in a small town has been portrayed naturally.

There is a small twist in the end though anybody who pays enough attention will immediately guess it. The conclusion, while not satisfying, is good in the context of the story and ties everything up neatly together though it unfolds only in the last 100 or so pages.

Overall, I can safely say that this is definitely not Grisham's best work but it is definitely is worth a read for anyone who is a Grisham fan and will also offer a nice experience for those who are not.

On the topic of books, "Is Potter really good?". I have not read a single book and was never really interested in Potter, wizards in school never caught my eye but still, because of all the hype The Deathly Hallows is getting, I went out and rented The Sorcerer's Stone but have not yet started reading it. Now, I can take that swearing you just gave me and the mouse you threw at me, but please tell me, is it worth reading the six books in order before the seventh is released this July.

The Journey Begins....

... and I started playing The Longest Journey. This game has been dwelling in my collection for as long as I can remember but because of commitments to present games I have never gotten around to playing it. However, after playing a game with memorable story and characters in Planescape Torment, I decided to play this game as I had heard it also features one of the most memorable stories and character casts.

I have just gotten to Arcadia and the game seems very interesting and engaging so far. The first thing I noticed about the game is the amount of effort put in to character development. The developers could have just showed a few bad dreams as cutscenes and then made the jump to Arcadia but they clearly wanted us, the players, to feel for the main character and put in extra effort to make it so. The graphics are mediocre to me, the lighting is good but it is all in low resolution, so it does look bad compared to recent games. Still, I have a feeling that, similar to Torment, I will start to ignore the low-quality graphics because of the story. And from intial impressions I feel that will definitely happen.

On other notes, the second part of my Best Plot Twists will come only later. That is because I feel some current games and books I am reading may make it into that list. As mentioned TLJ looks like it will have a great story and I am currently reading The Last Juror from John Grisham which is also taking great turns in its story. And on my backlog of books, I have read The Da Vinci Code but many suggest that Angels and Demons is better, so that is going to be my next read. And after all of these are completed, I will most probably get around to the second part of Best Plot Twists.