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My little girl went to bed at a decent hour and stayed down, so I finally had a chance to start reading the newest Harry Potter book. I think it's going to be really good. I'm about a hundred pages into it; this one is 672 pages long, a bit shorter than the last two, but still substantial. There has already been one major plot surprise. Spoiler: It appears that Snape has rejoined the Death Eaters, and is remaining at Hogwarts as a spy for Voldemort. I'll update this post as I continue to read. (Because I'm sure there are simply millions of people reading my blog and wondering, "What does Laura think of the HP book?" *laugh*)
I'm now about 200 pages in and I'm hooked. I wish I could hide away in a airconditioned room on a comfortable couch with snacks and cold drinks by my side and read all day. I must admit that my mental picture of the various characters now matches the actors in the films; I suppose that was inevitable. I spoke with a friend who said he is reading it one chapter at a time. I lack his discipline! There are some changes at Hogwarts, which keeps things from getting stale after five prior books. Spoiler: Harry is the Quidditch Captain and with the help of a marked-up textbook is suddenly good at Potions. Snape is now the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor -- something he has wanted for years. An old friend of Dumbledore's takes over Snape's position of Potions master. Harry seems to have the ability to focus his anger better. He's still a teenager who sometimes gets into minor trouble, but has a bit more maturity after all that he went through at the end of Book Five.
I'm now at the 300 page mark. I was happy to find that some of the coming-of-age themes more evident in Book Four (if I'm remembering correctly) than in Book Five are present in this book, too. For my taste, it can't all be doom and gloom and danger and the Dark Arts. I enjoy the Quidditch matches and the adolescent crushes. Spoiler: Ron and Hermione appeared to be getting together and then something Ginny said in anger to Ron made him veer away from Hermione into the arms of Lavender Brown. Meanwhile, Hermione is utterly perplexed, then hurt, then angry. A subtle hint from earlier in the book was brought into sharp detail: Harry is in love with Ginny. I think they would make a great match. She's faced Voldemort in her own way, loves and is good at Harry's beloved sport of Quidditch, and has the confidence to be her own person, born of being the only girl in a house full of boys. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that more of Voldemort's (a/k/a He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's) background is learned in this book.