I was very very resistant to reading this series when it first become popular. I held off for a long time. After I watched the first couple of movies, I decided to give it a try.
I read The Sorcerer's Stone, The Chamber of Secrets, and The Prisoner of Azkaban a couple of years ago. I started Goblet of Fire, but I got bored and stopped. Out of the entire series, I find that The Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite. I find the story, the plot, and the characters to be the best out of the series in this installment.
I still find that Goblet was the hardest book for me to get through. I'm not sure why. I think I just didn't like the TriWizard Tournament.
The Order of the Phoenix is probably my least favorite. I really liked the plot. In fact I enjoy JKR's plots and backstory; my criticisms are in how she presents that material. I struggled through this book because I couldn't stand Harry throughout the story. He was too angry and it was hard to sympathize with him. I understand that anger was part of the plot and is a part of adolescence, but I've read/watched angry youth before and never got this annoyed. I also always enjoyed the banter between Harry, Ron, and Hermione so having nothing really going on between them was a bore to me. I also like Dumbledore very much and his absence was striking. I knew that Sirus was going to die so that didn't really impact me.
I really loved the plot behind The Half-Blood Prince. I particularly liked the mystery of the Potions book, even if the outcome was predictable, and the lessons between Dumbledore and Harry. However, I think this book was by far the worst written in terms of info dumping and exposition. All of JKR's book suffer from this problem, but for me it seemed most pronounced in Book 6. Despite always having a soft spot for Ron/Hermione, they annoyed me to no end in this book. Again, a lot of the magic from the first three, or even four, books was missing from this installment.
I really didn't like The Deathly Hallows when I started it. It seemed to drag something fierce, and that turned me off especially as this was the final installment. The wedding seemed out of place to me and slowed the story, and too much time was spent on camping out, looking for information. I felt once they went to Godric's Hollow and Ron came back, the story started to move along at a better rate. Pacing is a big issue with me in anything I read or watch, so it's something I tend to harp on. However, I found the climax and ending battle to be satisfying. I enjoyed the hunt for the Horcruxes and the Hallows, and I liked the reveal of Snape even if I already knew it. (I wasn't exactly spoiled for it, but I didn't believe him to be evil anyway.) I am sad that Snape didn't get a better send up, but his quick death did make an impact on the story and I'm glad it affected Harry the way that it did. I wish we'd have seen Snape's portrait, though. I figured that Harry was a Horcrux himself and I liked the whole end between him and Voldemort and his final appeal to him. I tend to really be drawn to stories that have that good vs evil tone, and where there is a spiritual edge. This was a battle of souls that I enjoyed. I found the epilogue to be unnecessary and the name everyone after their relatives thing was very fanfic-ish. But I did like the nod to Snape and the end with his scar finally being silent.
Question: In Book 5, everyone was worried that Voldemort would be able to use Harry and possess him. He placed false images in his mind. This stopped once Harry realized what was going on and Voldemort didn't like what was inside him, to a certain extent. But why did Book 6 and Book 7 never have Voldemort try to figure out what Harry was up to by going in his mind? Was there a block I don't recall? Because if Harry could keep seeing into Voldemort, I would assume that Voldemort could at least try to manipulate Harry like he did in Book 5, even if Harry could deflect him. Was this touched upon? I might have missed it since I was reading this series fairly quickly.
All in all, I think it's a worthwhile series to read. JKR's weaknesses seem to be with exposition and length - she could have edited quite a bit out of the book to streamline them - and sometimes she was a little too obvious with her reveals. I don't feel like she rally built up Harry/Ginny enough as it seemed out of the blue, and Hermione seemed a weaker character in the last 3 books (did she ever stop crying?). However, I found her strength to be in her ability to plot over the course of several books, create detailed histories for a huge number of characters, and to have characters that were unique and individual, each one its own person. Her writing had a witty tone, and it was laced with something whimsical. JKR has quite the imagination.
I'd recommend them for a fun read and to anyone who wants to pass on the message that love and bravery can conquer all.