Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. 1999.
I've been told by dreol, Harry Potter nut and English major that he is, that Chamber of Secrets is the weakest of the seven novels in the series. It certainly seems to be his least favorite; he says he thinks it's because it's less connected with the overarching story and the rest of the novels than the others.
He may be right, but it was still a fun read. And Chamber of Secrets isn't unconnected - not in the least. There was at least one gun on the mantle that comes out in book six (or I assume so; I made the connection with the movie - I haven't yet read book six). If there's one thing Ms. Rowling can do right, I would have to say it's setting everything up... even this early, even in the second book that can get mired in a pile of seven (which by all rights should be less important than the first for VAST FORESHADOWING), I found myself spotting... well, not quite hints and clues, but things - items, people - that would come into play much, much later. And I haven't even read the rest of the series; this is just from my incomplete movie knowledge. So there's something there. Book 2 might not be as connected, but it doesn't lack connection.
Past that, Harry Potter continues to be escapist fiction of the best sort. Rowling does a decent job re-explaining Hogwarts and some of the events and revelations that took place in the first novel - I'm assuming she doesn't continue to do this, once she realizes how rabid her fanbase is and how much they tend to remember, but she does manage quite well. Harry has a personality but not too much of one; his two friends fulfill their roles as sidekick and brain very well. And seriously, I don't mean any of those things in a bad way, as I like Harry, Ron, and Hermoine. But it's good for escapist fiction - you have to be able to substitute yourself for them, in those roles. If I were in junior high school, I'd be gobbling Harry Potter up just for that. Snape's still my favorite character, but huge surprise there. And I'd more or less forgotten about the second movie (more proof that it's not as connected, perhaps?), so part of the Big Twist at the end came as a surprise.
Oh, and I went on a hilarious at one point, which I'll put down as a spoiler: When Ginny comes to Harry to tell him that she thinks she's the one who's been causing all of the trouble with the basilisk, I thought she was Dobby. She was described as acting very much like Dobby, with the rocking at the edge of her seat and her mouth being open - she screamed and ran like Dobby when Percy came by and asked for her spot.
For that matter, I thought Harry'd come to the same conclusion, since Rowling was having him draw the parallel between Ginny and Dobby. And it would have explained Harry's room getting trashed later, because it's already been proven that Dobby would do that (plus, if he's being all Ginny, then he could get in). Nuts for shapechanging house elves. Oh well, in my alternate Harry Potter universe, I guess. ;P
Rowling does goof in a few places - careless mistakes, like confusing "ancestor" with "descendant" at one point and making a dialectical botch in Lucius' Malfoy's speech at another. But these are minor things that are easy to skip over, and overall, I've found the novel enjoyable, quick, and fun.
Next: Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, by Julie Powell