"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" was the first Harry Potter book I read, as soon as it came out. By then, the series had made it big. Everyone was talking about it, there were midnight release parties, and there was even talk of a movie series in the work. Anticipation was extremely high for this book, and it definitely delivered.
The first thing that surprised everyone was the book's length. It is a brick, longer than the first three books put together, almost. And as I read, it became obvious that the book was long, because the editors refused to cut anything out. They kept everything, even the chapters where absolutely nothing important happens. I'm thinking of "Mr. Weasley and Percy have a hard time at work after the World Cup" chapter and the chapter called "House Elf Liberation Front". I remember reading that and thinking, "boy, that title doesn't fit the chapter at all; it's just a throwaway joke that Ron made". Then I realized that there isn't really a good title to fit the chapter, because nothing much happens. They go to the kitchen, and that's it.
Yes, it was good that JK Rowling had unlimited space to work with, and she could put in a bunch of small, neat details, talking about interesting things that came along. But it also resulted in a long, unfocused book. It takes Harry ten or so chapters to make it to school, and in one of the earlier books, school would be half-over at that point.
Or maybe 14-year-old Michael was just grumpy with the lack of editing, because they didn't replace British-specific words with American-specific ones, like in the earlier books. Either way, it took some getting used to.
I think the house elf subplots and the Rita Skeeter subplots would probably not have been in the book, if it had been edited down like the other ones. I mostly didn't like those. The exception is that the scene with Winky and Dobby together; that was the best part of the house elf subplot. With the Rita Skeeter subplot, the only part I liked was Harry and company talking to Hagrid, after Hagrid got upset and locked himself in his house. That was an emotional, moving scene.
And now I'm remembering blast-ended skrewts. Now THAT was a weird, pointless storyline.
Another problem with the book is the title. I remember when they first announced the title as "Harry Potter and the Triwizard Tournament". They should have stuck with that title, because "Goblet of Fire" is SO not descriptive of the book at all. It shows up in one chapter and never again.
I'm sure I sound like I hate the book, and I don't. It's great! Harry competes in a deadly international tournament! It's a lot of fun, although the second task takes place underwater and the third task takes place in a maze. I'm sure it wouldn't have been fun for the audience to watch those tasks. They must have been sitting in the stands, just waiting for it to be over.
Not sure why they had to cancel Quidditch all year long, for the tournament. Quidditch is only 8 games over the course of the year, right? It surely can't be THAT hard to reschedule.
Just like the last book, the ending sequence was fantastic, a real page turner with great plot twists. It made me want to read the next book in the series right away!
There was one thing which always bugged me during the endings, though. Prime Minister Cornelius Fudge becomes a jerk and refuses to believe that Voldemort is back. We know now that was setting up for the next book, where Fudge and Ministry are pretty awful to Harry. But reading it for the first time, I didn't get why Fudge's personality changed so dramatically, or why he refused to believe Harry. I went back and checked book 3; in the scene where Fudge talks to the teachers at the bar, he says something like, "Give [Voldemort] his most faithful supporter back, and I shudder to think how he'll rise again." Harry should have thrown Sirius under the bus here and blamed everything on him. I know that's a jerk move, but I think that would have convinced Fudge.
Overall, great book! I kinda wish it had been cut down to a normal sized book, but hey, that's what the movie did. Although if they made the movie series today, I'm sure this book would have been at least two movies. There was a lot of talk about that, when the movie was in pre-production, but it didn't pan out like that. I kind of wish THIS had been the book split into two movies, not the last book, because the first half of this book is way better than the first half of "Deathly Hallows".