review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

harry1 {Source: GoodReads.com}

Oh, Harry.

I resisted reading this series for a while when it first came out, mainly because it was so popular, and you know that feeling of, “well it can’t possibly be good if so many people like it”? Thankfully, I did end up reading this book and anxiously awaited the final installment when it came out in 2007.

It all begins so innocently and so wonderfully, with Harry living in The Cupboard Under the Stairs with his horrendous “family”, the Dursleys, until one day, funny things start to happen. Harry finds he has a specific set of abilities that scare the Dursleys, owls begin appearing, letters come through the fireplace and there is something that no one is telling him. Something big.

When Harry does finally find out the truth –

You’re a wizard, Harry.

– it’s pretty magical. He discovers Diagon Alley, Gringotts, Hogwarts and makes friends with Hermione and Ron. Over time, darker forces threaten his happiness, and he learns the truth about his parents’ death, the mysterious scar on his forehead, and ultimately, his own destiny.

JK Rowling perfectly captures every child’s dearest fantasy – that they will discover that they are actually a wizard, destined for amazing things and whisked off to wizarding school where they will learn to do magic and escape from their humdrum lives.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone isn’t the strongest of the series (I give that to Azkaban but it is the beginning of a beloved tale that will stand the test of time (given it’s been made into a theme park and all…), and introduced us to a cast of characters that I will never forget.

review: The Lost City of Z by David Grann

3398625{Source: GoodReads.com}

This review does contain mild spoilers. It’s difficult to discuss this book without them. Read at your own risk, you guys.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – David Grann should write ALL THE BOOKS ALL THE TIME.

Grann is the ultimate in detectives, tracing the path of one Percy Harrison Fawcett (PHF to friends and family), who, along with his son Jack and Jack’s friend Raleigh, disappeared into Amazonia while searching for the fabled city of El Dorado (or as Fawcett called it, simply, “Z”). Fawcett and his team vanished in 1925, so it’s unlikely that any traces of them will ever be found, but what about Z? Grann sets out on a quest to follow Fawcett’s footsteps, and that’s where our journey begins.

Fawcett was, by all accounts, a fascinating, complicated and driven individual, with a singular ability to survive in the Amazon rainforest, as well as to communicate with the Indian tribes that so threatened exploration at the time. One of Fawcett’s many flaws was his inability to understand that others may not have his stamina (he called one member of his team who drowned in a river a “rotter, typical waster” and was appalled that another wanted to stop because their body was infected by maggots… the nerve!) but the end result normally worked in his favour. His explorations came in under time and under budget, and he was a hero of the Royal Geographic Society.

Grann speaks with Fawcett’s existing relatives, reads through his journals and other documents, and manages to find out what others hadn’t. but wait, there’s more…