If you haven't yet read/finished the book but plan to, I'd suggest you skip this entry. I'm going to give some things away here.
Pre-ordered from Amazon, the book arrived yesterday around 2:15 p.m. I was in the middle of something at the time, but finished it up as quickly as I could, then ripped the book out of the box it arrived in. I started reading around 2:30. With short breaks here and there, I finished the book at 2:25 a.m. When I started, I really did not intend to read the whole thing in one day. It gripped me, though, and as I got further and further along it just seemed like the way to go. After all, with only one copy between us, Brandi was clamoring for an opportunity to read, and beyond that, I wanted to make sure I found out what happened in the story by actually reading it instead of some other means. It didn't hurt that the story took hold of me and didn't want to let go; I only begrudgingly put the book down long enough to have dinner with my wife.
Although I don't know if I could have read it in any other way than what I did, I do wish I could have taken my time, drawn it out and savored it longer. Now that the series has drawn to a close, I feel a great sense of melancholy--more than I felt after seeing Revenge of the Sith; more than I felt after reading The Dark Tower. I don't want it to be over. This is that delightfully rare creation that you want to be a part of forever. J.K. Rowling could write about these characters' now-mundane daily lives, about them having dinner and doing laundry, and I would read it simply for the pleasure of keeping up with them.
That's not to say I loved everything about this particular book. In general, I liked it very much, but there are some things that bothered me.
A couple of character transformations happened way too fast to be believable. Dudley Dursley, anyone? He was the chief antagonist of Harry's early life, a role that continued, albeit in a lesser way, throughout the books, and all of a sudden he's an admirer? I'm not saying it's impossible; I'm just saying that I didn't read anything that made this change of heart particularly convincing. In fact, I initially thought Dudley had been placed under the Imperius curse and was simply trying to get on Harry's good side for some later treachery, but of course that never came to fruition. And I feel much the same about Percy Weasley. There was a time for him to admit his mistakes and come back to his family, but that time was much earlier in the book than when it actually happened.
I also wasn't crazy about the entire epilogue. Sure, it was nice to see the characters down the line and get a glimpse of how things turned out, but...it just didn't feel right. Too saccharine for my taste. For one thing, after everything he had been through, to see Harry leading a pack of kids, to imagine him pushing strollers and changing diapers, is about the most anticlimactic thing I've ever read. This is why Frodo sailed away to Valinor--resuming a normal life after such an epic struggle just can't be done. Then again, Frodo didn't have an attractive redhead to anchor him to Middle Earth, as Harry did. So okay, I don't like that part, but I get it. Harry and Ginny naming a kid after Snape, however? Yeah...not seeing it. I'm sure Harry could recognize and appreciate, finally, what Snape had done, but I don't believe for one second that he could forgive him for years of being an utter jackass. That sort of thing, at least as far as Snape is concerned, has never been a part of Harry's character.
(And yes, even with the anticlimax factor, I'd still read about him and Ginny washing their dishes, having crappy days at work, etc. Inconsistent, yes, but fully self-aware.)
For all of that, I'm glad Harry didn't die in the effort of defeating Voldemort. I didn't think he would, as I didn't see how he could--if he had to be the one to kill Voldemort, how could he do so if he were dead? I wasn't particularly shocked by any characters' deaths. I was shocked, actually, by those that survived. I thought Arthur Weasley and Hagrid, as father-figure types for Harry, would die, and I thought that Remus Lupin would die much earlier than he did. I thought Neville Longbottom would die. I thought Draco Malfoy (and Lucius as well) would die. I wasn't convinced Ron would make it through, although I was never particularly concerned for Hermione. All in all, I expected much more of a bloodbath than we actually got.
What I'm thinking I'll do now is re-read the entire series, from beginning to end, probably with a notebook by my side, writing down my thoughts on each book as it pertains to the story as a whole, and also any questions that remained unresolved. I'm planning to take a day or two to decompress from Pottermania before starting this project, but we'll see if that actually happens or not--seven books down, I'm still hungry for more. I may jump right back in.