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

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“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” is full of the same magic as the first two entries. The invisibility Cloak, Quidditch, and Diagon Alley are all back as Harry, Ron & Hermoine start their third year at Hogwarts along with some new mainstays such as The Muarders Map, Crookshanks and Hogsmeade. The tone this year though is a bit darker though.

This darker tone is a new and welcome change to the series because otherwise it does feel like a rinse and repeat story line of the first two. The darker tone does make the book move at a slower pace. This isn’t really an issue because the first two are lightning fast, but it does give way to a small problem toward the end of the book.

In order to corral all of those loose ends she had been carefully hinting at for the entire book, Rowling left us with a pretty hefty info dump toward the end of it(the scene in the Whomping willow.) Of course “The Prisoner of Azkaban” is still great and every author is entitled to an info dump if they have you hooked up until that point, but it does take you out of the story.

Because of this sudden info dump, the end felt rushed. This could have been because Rowling originally had a much longer draft and had to cut it significantly back because, well, it’s a children’s book and it’s longer then the first two as it is now.

I don’t think this you would deter you from reading this book if you enjoyed the others and it shouldn’t. Besides odds are if you’re a real fan of the series, you’ve already read this book a long time ago.

“StarWars: Aftermath” by Chuck Wendig Review

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“Aftermath” is a story about the little people in the StarWars universe right after a huge event took place. That event was the destruction of the second Death Star and fall of the Empire at the end of Return of the Jedi.

By “little people” I mean the most major character in this story is Wedge Antilles and his part isn’t even that big. Okay, Han and Chewie have a very small part too but if you blink you’ll miss it. (Which is tough to do since you’re reading it.)

Instead, Wendig centers the story around a rag-tag band of unknowns which include a Rebel Fighter, her incredibly mechanically inclined Son, his self-built Droid, a Bounty Hunter, and an Ex-Imperial. These characters are all fun for the duration of the book and can get cheesy from time to time but they aren’t memorable. They honestly feel more like party members from one of the Old Knights of the Old republic games rather than potential “Cannon” characters. Although one does make an appearance in The Force Awakens. However, its another one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it deals. I’ll leave you to your own research to figure out who.

The character I enjoyed most was the Imperial Commander, Rae Sloan. She was essentially this stories “Villian.” but I felt she showed much more growth throughout the novel than the whole group of good guys combined.

Wending’s style of writing was perfect for the StarWars universe. If this shares one thing with TFA it’s the fast break-neck feel of the whole piece. Wendig’s chapters are short and effective and make you want to turn the page.

Speaking of chapters, the “Interlude” chapters are where “Aftermath” really shines. Each chapter is titled after a planet or city and focuses in on some small part of that setting. As word of the fall of the Empire gets around, many beings react very differently to it. These show that war is never over as quickly or cleanly as it was in Episode 1 when Anakin blows up the droid control ship and they all just power down permanently. It also adds to the sheer scale of the event.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book even if the characters were forgettable, the action and overarching story was not. The worst thing that happened to this book and the real reason I think people are hating on it so much was that it was marketed as a direct tie-in to The Force Awakens. (It was released in September just a month and a half before TFA hit theaters for crap sake!) Go into this book knowing that it won’t have basically anything to do with TFA and I think you will enjoy it as well.

“1984” by George Orwell Review

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The Wordplay in “1984” is it’s most powerful attribute. Orwell either takes words at face value and uses their literate meaning like the “2 minutes hate” where the people of Oceania literally stand and scream hateful things at a picture of Emmanuel Goldstein for two minutes everyday . In other cases he does the total opposite and names something the exact opposite of what it does or contains. For instance, the “Ministry of Love” is where people are said to get tortured. Even Big Brother himself eventually turned into a euphemism for the government watching you years after the book was released. Now that’s power!

Another strong point if 1984 was the visual picture the Orwell paints of Oceania. It’s a total militant regime that keeps close tabs on all of it’s inhabitants. Most of which almost act as if they are brainwashed. This dystopian back-drop only adds to Orwell’s literate archetypes in this book. It’s easy to infer what you want into these archetypes or relate to them however you want. That’s probably why this book has had so much success.

The only issue I had with 1984 was, unfortunately, a pretty big one. It didn’t feel like a story. Usually when I read a fiction book, I expect to be taken along for a ride. I want to start somewhere and end up somewhere completely different with some great change having occurred. This doesn’t happen in 1984. It almost feels more like a documentary or essay about a “day in the life in Oceanana.

That being said, it is still definitely worth a read based on Orwell’s use of language and the haunting world he builds alone.

“Quiet:The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain Review

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“Quiet” could just as easily be called “Chicken Soup for the Introverts Soul.” Cain uses real life examples from years of research(I believe she said it took her 10 years to write this) done personally or other wise to support what exactly it means to be an Introvert. She explains how our Society, which prides Extroverted Salesmanship and collaboration, can actually be harmful or at least hindering the efforts of some people who could have a lot of introverted people who have a lot to bring to the table. I don’t want to give me too much away to those who haven’t read it, but I can say that I highly suggest it. Especially if you are an introvert, or have one in your life.

If you’re on the fence about reading this book, search for Cain’s Speech on “TED Talks.” This is where I first came across her. It’s completely free to watch and it goes over some of the general points of this book. If you like what you see and want to dive deeper than this book is the perfect opportunity.