After reading the two most recent Harry Potter books this week to refresh myself for the upcoming Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince I was reminded just how good and captivating these books really are. I haven't read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix since the weekend which it came out. I remember thinking at the time that it started a little slow and ended a little quick, but this time around it felt just right. Harry is a pompous ass during Year 5, quick to anger and snap at friends and teachers and is always suspicious that the world is out to get him. In other words, a typical fifteen year old. I think that was part of my problem reading this the first time around because I was tired of reading about Harry whining and so much could be avoided if he would just shut up for a second and realize that Hermoine is always right and that people really are looking out for him for a reason. But Rowling's choice here makes sense and the book is probably better off because of it.
I also forgot just how dark the book goes. Bad things are happening at Hogwarts with Professor Umbridge and the Ministry of Magic making things very difficult for Harry and Dumbledore since they don't believe Voldemort is back. In previous books, Hogwarts was a haven for Harry even with Malfoy and Snape there. It was harmless. Now school is just as dangerous and nasty as any other location.
Another thing that I really liked is that some side characters are getting further development. Ginny Weasley is more than the youngest sister with a crush on Harry. Neville Longbottom becomes a stronger character in each book and here we get more of his family's background (talk about brutal, his parents were tortured into insanity by Voldemort's followers, that's why he was raised by his grandmother), and even Fred and George Weasley get a little more time to shine here.
Now I'm really looking forward to Book 6 coming out in a few weeks!
There is no good way to make this segue, so I'm not even going to try...
Powells.com has a nice interview with historian David McCullough. McCullough is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of the biographies of John Adams and Truman. It is very interesting to read about McCullough's motivations and interests in researching the books that he writes and why his new book 1776 is more about the military campaign of that year than anything political. I've read reviews that found the political aspects of the book lacking, but it seems that was the point and not what McCullough wanted to focus on. Should be an interesting book, I have it on reserve at the library (which means I should expect it in November).