Things I liked:
- Hermione's character development was possibly the best thing about this book for me. In previous books, I've found Hermione to be okay, if occasionally annoying. In this book, however, she is, as my co-worker would say, a grown-ass woman. I nominate her for this year's Melanie Wilkes award for getting her stuff and everyone else's together in a totally selfless manner. I was impressed with her preparation, and with her kindness in making sure that if the worst happened, her parents and others would suffer as little collateral damage as possible. She was mature, heroic, and noble, and I found the speech where she breaks things down for Harry quite admirable. Also, I totally want her purse.
- Kreacher. In a way, this part contrasted Sirius and Dumbledore for me. Because of Albus' own past mistakes, he was far more willing to give others opportunities for redemption. Sirius, on the other hand, had written off the whole of his family and anyone associated with them as bad news. I can't really blame Sirius, in a way: he probably suffered a lot of having to prove himself in Gryffindor when he was there, given all the Slytherin baggage. However, because of his understandable self-preservation method in refusing to entertain the idea that anything Slytherin could be other than evil, he wrote Kreacher off entirely, which only exacerbated things. I really liked this character's transformation.
- McGonagall for the win. Love her. I only hope that Dame Maggie Smith lives long enough to see this role to fruition, because it would be disastrous to lose these scenes or have them played by someone else.
- The Snape/shampoo line. Hee. :) Although you'd think that a Potions master could come up with something suitable that would leave his hair conditioned but not limp.
- I'm also getting a bit of amusement out of Albus Severus Potter. Anybody else notice the initials? Yep: ASP: a type of snake. Maybe he'll be the first Potter to go Slytherin, as part of making the houses a little less divided at Hogwarts.
- I did like her bringing in the Snitch. Like it or not, Quidditch has been an ongoing part of the books, and I thought it was nice for her to work in something that had been important to Harry even in a book where clearly no Quidditch match could take place.
- Neville and the sword of Gryffindor coming out of the Sorting Hat made me happy.
- There was a lot of gratuitous death in this book, but I'm glad that Hagrid lived. I thought he was one of the characters most likely to die, and it seems that my hunch was right there -- he's supposedly the one that got the reprieve that JK mentioned.
- I'll admit it: I know some found Luna's bedroom a bit creepy, but I was touched by the "friends" bit. Poor little girl. I think it's okay if you did find it creepy: she's a little eerie, but her heart is in the right place. Like Sirius, she's a little cracked in the head, but she means well and she's wholly loyal.
- Having more Bellatrix was good. Just enough for salt.
- I liked reuniting Percy. I feared she might've overlooked him with all that had to go into the last book. Dudley's bit, too, was nice. I was pleased that she tied off the Ollivander plotline.
Although I know this is supposed to be a "good things" post, I do have to mention that Rowling's handling of Fred's death absolutely sucked. Even if they somehow got separated in the battle, George seriously deserved some time there for his twin. And since she bothered with that wisp of an epilogue she excreted, she could've at least mentioned Hugo and Rose's little cousin, Fred, because George would've likely named a son after his lost brother. :(
So. Much. Left. Out. Grr.