On YouTube.

Hello, world. Did you miss me? Are you even still here? I have something for you. It’s a book review. And it’s on YouTube!

Book Review: The Warrior Heir

It’s a review of Cinda Williams Chima’s “The Warrior Heir.” Please enjoy.

On bookworm crafts 2: Tonks doll

Hello, world. I’d like to bring you another of my nerdy, book-based crafts. Today I present the Nymphadora Tonks doll.

Tonks is actually an older doll of mine, but still the one I’m most proud of. She’s shown here without her robe, but you can see the shoulders of it in future pictures. For those of you who might not be familiar with Tonks, she is a character from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Tonks has the ability to change anything about her appearance at will, a feat she seems to use most frequently in changing her hairstyle. As such, my doll is designed like this:

The doll itself does not have hair attached; rather, there are two velcro strips on the back of her head that allow various “wigs” to be attached. A lot of times I leave her in the pink spiky wig, since it’s the hairstyle Tonks is seen most frequently with in the books, but I do have several others for her to choose from.

This wig was an absolute must. This one is the “limp brown hair” wig, and is designed after Tonks’ appearance in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, where Tonks is somewhat depressed (some people argue that the hairstyle was a choice made by Tonks to reflect her mood, but I’ve always been of the opinion it’s her “natural” hair color and that she was so upset she couldn’t change it during this period). Even though I had to have it in my collection, I don’t put it on her much because it’s such a departure from her natural personality.

This one was supposed to be the “sexy” wig for Tonks. It also works for an “angry” wig.

Here’s the “special occasion” maroon wig. Unfortunately, you can really see the hot glue on this one, so I don’t use it much.

Now we’re getting to wigs that were more for the heck of it. Why not white with teal bangs? The headband was added because I didn’t like the hairline, but I don’t particularly like the headband either.

This one really was just for the heck of it. There’s not much to say about it.

Last but not least, we have what is in my opinion the funniest of the just for fun wigs. Believe me, to this day I have never watched a single episode of Sailor Moon, and it wasn’t until a week or so after I made this wig that I saw the resemblance.

On bookworm crafts 1: Christopher Chant Scarf

Hello, world. I promised you I’d be posting some of my book-related crafts soon, and this is the first installment of the fulfillment of that promise. Without further ado, I give you the “Christopher Chant Scarf!”

The Christopher Chant Scarf is based on a scarf mentioned in The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones (who many of you may know is my favorite author). It is given as a going-away present to the titular character. In the book, the scarf is described as being 10 feet long and rainbow striped.

My rendition of the scarf stays true to those  specifications- it is almost exactly ten feet long, with three repetitions of the rainbow striping pattern. The scarf in the book is knitted; however, mine is crocheted due to the fact that I don’t know how to knit.

If you, like me, are nerdy enough to want a Christopher Chant Scarf of your own, feel free to head over to my crochet blog, Nerd With A Hook, for the pattern to this scarf. Feel free to also check out some of my other crochet projects while you’re there!

Thank you, and good night/morning/mid-afternoon/general state of being.

On my mysterious disappearance and miraculous return.

Hello, world. You’re probably wondering where I’ve been for the past few months. Well, allow me to explain.

I had things all planned out, you see. It was to be summer. I was to have plenty of time to read books, and then to review those books accordingly. Unfortunately, Murphy’s Law kicked in.

First of all, I did do some reading. However, most of it was rereading various books I already knew I liked and wouldn’t really be able to review properly. Second of all, I kind of forgot about this little thing called “preparing for college” that, along with my time spent volunteering at church camp, led to my summer being fairly nonexistent.

So I didn’t write here practically all summer. Therefore, this entry serves three purposes: First, to apologize for my absence, second, to show you I really do exist, and third, to give you a promise of future posting.

I will be reviewing books again as soon as the opportunity arises. For example, I just finished reading Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, but will be waiting until I finish the series to pass judgement here. I will also be adding the occasional post about some fun book-related crafts I have created (expect anything from “Chrestomanci” to “Harry Potter” and more). So if you would be so kind, continue to keep an eye out for things.

The last thing I would like to say is more of a housekeeping thing than anything. Some of you may be aware of the trouble I have with receiving comments directed at other blogs than my own. In the past, I have simply not added comments that I cannot be sure directly pertain to me. However, the number of these comments has increased to the point of frustration, so I will now disable comments altogether. I apologize to those of you with genuine comments for me, but I cannot continue to struggle against this tide. If you would really like to reach me, feel free to find me at angelandchangeling.deviantart.com and I will be happy to take your comments there. Thank you, and good night/morning/mid-afternoon/general state of being.

On “The Faeman Quest.”

Hello, world. I know it’s been a while since I’ve been out here and that there are promised projects I have yet to finish, but I simply must discuss this book with you. My connection to it, as you will see, is odd and somewhat dear to me. The book I wish to discuss with you is The Faeman Quest, the fifth book in Herbie Brennan’s Faerie Wars Chronicles.

Before I tell you how I came to read this book, you should know something- I was fairly sheltered as a child when it came to what I read, and not so much because my parents wouldn’t let me read things. (In fact, my mom gave me 1984 to read when I was in sixth or seventh grade, a book which still remains in my mind as being almost entirely about sex because at the time, I couldn’t be bothered to care enough to read into the symbolism.) If a book, TV show, or movie had even the slightest bit of offensive material, I refused to expose myself to it.

Now, let’s go back to my fifth grade year, shall we? This was the first time that, bored and looking for a good fantasy to read, I selected Faerie Wars from the shelves of my public library. I got about two chapters in and put it down because his mother was lesbian. No, seriously. See what I’m saying?

So I returned the book to the library and thought that was the end of it. I would never read that book. It hadn’t even had faeries in it! Which, of course, is a testament to how very quickly I put the book down, because if you’ve read Faerie Wars, you know there very much are faeries in it. If you haven’t read Faerie Wars, you seriously should.

But the book kept bugging me. A very simple, inconsequential detail from what little of the book I had read kept returning to me, and returning to me in a fond light no less. Eventually, the flying pig drove me crazy and I checked the book out a second time, fully expecting to get no further than I had.

I fell in love.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago, a point in time when I had read (I thought) all four of the Faerie Wars books, and had fallen so deeply in love with the series that is one of only three series I refuse to go to college next year without. I have loaned the books out, driven my friends crazy, absorbed verbal tics from the characters, read and reread, cuddled with the books at night (don’t ask). On a whim, I decide to check out Herbie Brennan’s wikipedia listing to see if he had any other good books out.

And there, under the “Faerie Wars Chronicles” listing, is 5. The Faeman Quest (2010).

At first, I thought it was a project that had fallen through, because the wikipedia page for the book didn’t exist. But I googled it feverishly, discovered it was real, and knew I had to have it.

(I’m going to interrupt here to say that as I was writing this, I was trying to find an official release date so I could let you all know how long I had gone without knowing of its existence. Ironically enough, I discovered another sequel to a different author’s series is out in the process. My life is strange. By the way, tFQ has only been out in the U.S. since January 4, so I feel less stupid now than I did.)

Finding out there was another Faerie Wars book was like getting an unexpected present from a best friend- you know, the “just because” kind- and I had to have it. This is one of the benefits of owning a nook, by the way- in the olden days I would have had to have taken the twenty minute drive to Barnes and Noble to get the book. I would have gone immediately after finding out about it, and chances are they wouldn’t have had the book, which would mean I would have had to have them order it, and wait forever while going crazy and possibly spoiling the ending online for myself. Even if they had the book when I got there, I would have had to wait another twenty minutes to read it as I drove home. A nightmare. As it was, I downloaded the book and was reading it within two minutes.

So now, the part that actually applies to you and isn’t just my little chance to feel important. The review. I’ll be focusing on The Faeman Quest, but a lot of it will apply to the series as a whole, which I really have been meaning to review for you since I like it so much. Anyway, spoilers still marked SPOILER!! and End Spoiler. Enjoy, and all that.

Pros

All Grown Up: tFQ takes place about 16 to 17 years after the fourth book, Faerie Lord. Now, in my experience, a lot of times even books set several years like after like this involve characters that look and act exactly the same as they did in the previous books. There’s no character development. Mr. Brennan aged his characters beautifully, however. I had no trouble whatsoever imagining Henry, Blue, Pyrgus and Nymph as adults instead of the teens they had been previously. (Granted, Henry and Blue look like Colin Firth and the queen from Tangled respectively, but the image is still there.) It made it much more easy to read without having to fight against my mental image, and it was very enjoyable.

Oh, Yeah!: One of the many subplots going on in the book is based on a rather small event that occurs earlier in the series, so far back and so seemingly unimportant that I don’t even remember what book it occurred in. While this makes me believe Mr. Brennan had at least been considering writing this book as early as when he wrote the event, thus making me mildly upset that Faerie Lord was repeatedly labelled the conclusion, it also is a very incredible thing to me. I literally had entirely forgotten the occurrence of this event, even after the rather minor character involved was suddenly being discussed in great length in tFQ. It wasn’t until the event itself was brought up that I remembered it happening. It was all in all very impressive.

Awkward…: A couple of days ago (hours before I discovered the existence of tFQ, actually) my friend and I were trying to pic a scene from the books to do a fan art from, and came to the following conclusion: nearly every epic, hilarious, memorable scene is memorable because it is awkward. Everything, from how Henry met Blue to how Pyrgus met Nymph to the climactic scene of the fourth book, involves incredibly awkward events. The fifth book continues this tradition, and like the characters, the awkwardness grows up. I won’t go into too much detail so that you can read it for yourselves, but rest assured it makes things fun.

Cliffies: The Faerie Wars books are written in a style that involves several different plot lines running at once, with changes between subplots at chapters. Sometimes you get lucky, and there’s two chapters in a row about the same subplot. Much more often, you get left at a cliffhanger at the end of the chapter and switch to other subplots for chapters on end, leading to a sense of urgency that literally does not let you put the book (or ereader) down. It’s slightly torturous, but pulled off very well. And it’s not always the “most important” characters that get cliffhangered as such. Nearly every subplot left me dangling precariously at the edge of my proverbial seat.

‘Mr Fogarty…’: Now, I don’t know if this is an Irish/British thing, or a Herbie Brennan thing, but the punctuation is way different than what I’m used to. Dialogue, for example, is marked by a single apostrophe at the beginning and end instead of quotation marks, which are reserved for ‘quote-within-a-quote’ moments. Which, to be honest, almost makes more sense to me. Plus, titles like Mr, Mrs, and Dr do not have periods after them. But I digress. The point is that clearly the punctuation is different from the norm (at least here in America) and I’m glad the editors left it as is.

Cons:

Age Level: I’m putting this under the cons this time, but it really could go either way. Whereas a lot of the books I read and review are geared toward elementary or middle schoolers, the Faerie Wars Chronicles is most definitely a teen book. I read it in middle school, to be sure, and I’m not saying middle schoolers shouldn’t read it, just that it’s geared toward an older age group in the subject matter and that this is something to keep in mind. As long as the reader is not going to be offended by the slightly off-color humor, it will be fine, but this is still something I wanted to address.

Hold on, what?: There were a few typos, first off, but it’s also fairly new. However, there were a couple of fairly minor continuity issues (reference to Jormungand, the Midgard Serpent as “The Jormungand Serpent,” incorrect order of the Purple Emperor’s marriage, and incorrect reference to Blue as Hairstreak’s “great-niece” were most noticable to me). There was nothing cripplingly wrong, but when you’re mildly obsessed as I am, these things do stand out.

Where’d they go?: This is just a personal issue, really, and for all I know it’ll be addressed in the next book, but SPOILER!! I’m really bothered by how the doppelgangers Blue and Henry had left in their place just sort of disappeared. End Spoiler I’m sure there’s probably an explanation, but for the time being, it bothers me.

Overall Opinion:

The Faeman Quest was a sequel, so it’s at least somewhat clear that if one gets far enough in the series to read the fifth book, one is going to like it at least somewhat. This book did not disappoint- it felt like coming back to an old friend for me. Unlike The Lost Hero, this is not a book that I would advise newcomers to the series to start with. It would be best to read the whole series in order. But if you’re looking for a good read, full of just enough action and plenty of off-the-wall humor, I heartily advise you to give the Faerie Wars Chronicles a try.

Note: I’ve been getting a lot of comments again on my blog that are clearly unrelated to my blog, and several that I can’t quite tell if they’re for me or not. To avoid too much confusion and embarrassment, for at least the time being, I will only be approving comments that are very clearly for my blog. I appreciate your opinions and thoughts, so please mention something that lets me know for sure you’re talking to me- the post title or even “Hello, World.” for example. I wouldn’t want your valued thoughts to slip through the cracks, but it’s all too confusing otherwise. Thank you for your support!

Five things that should never be said about books.

Hello, world. In news completely unrelated to this entry, the little bar that tells you where you’re typing is not appearing here right now, and it’s driving me nuts.

Anyway, I felt like going off the beaten path of book reviews, and so I’m doing something different tonight. There are some things, I feel, that should never be said about books and novels. These things just drive me crazy to hear. Again, this is all just opinion, and I’d love to hear how you feel, as long as you’re willing to be civilized about it. Okay?

5. “Well, I saw the movie, and it was good.” This one is only number five on the list because it genuinely depends on the context it’s said in. If, for example, someone is saying that about the movie for a book they already read, then great. If they’re saying it about a book they haven’t read and plan to read the book since they saw the movie, that’s fine too. I don’t even mind if they like the movie better than the book- I’m that way on a few books myself. It’s when someone says that about a movie and does not intend to read the book that irks me. I find it ill-informed for people to just assume that the movie is a perfect indication of what the book is like. Prime examples that this is not the case: Eragon, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and Howl’s Moving Castle. I love the last movie on this list, actually, but it doesn’t follow the book very well at all. The other two were just, well, sort of an insult to the books, in my opinion. Heck, you can even see this principal with The Last Airbender, and that’s not even a book.

4. “Reading/Writing doesn’t pay the bills, so why waste your time?” All I have to say about this one is that A) writing pays the bills just fine if you get published, and B) Come back to me with this one when Professional Television Watching becomes a viable career choice.

3. “I would never read that book. It’s stupid.” You can say it’s not your type. You can say you don’t like the author. You can say you don’t find it interesting. But you can’t say it’s stupid. You have to read the book to know whether or not it’s stupid. Once you’ve done that, call it whatever you want. But I just hate it when people refuse to read something because it looks stupid when they’re uninformed. It’s one of the things I dislike about many anti-Twilight fanatics- several of them haven’t even read the book to know whether or not they like it. I’ve read all four, therefore I feel perfectly justified in saying I don’t like it, because I have valid reasons.

2. “Why do you want to buy that book? You’ve read it already!” I finally broke my mom of this one just recently. The way she figured, if you’ve read a book once, that’s it. What she didn’t understand is that I consider books a precious commodity, and don’t want to spend my money on just any one. I read it from the library or borrow it from a friend first to see if I like it. If it’s really good, I’m going to want to buy it for two reasons- first, I reread books. All. The. Time. The books from my favorite series are all on the verge of falling apart because I read them all the time. Second, I want to share the joy. My official title for my bookshelves is the Marci Stevenson Private Library. If I own a book, a friend wants to borrow it, and they’re willing to follow my rules, then they can borrow it. I want everyone to be able to read the good books I have read, and to form their own opinions about the ones I disliked so we can either agree or debate. I’m quite glad I broke my mom of this one, though- I literally bought a book I already owned on my nook in order to loan it to a couple of friends who I’d been telling about the series. And it was a neato imported copy, too!

1. “They’re just fictional characters. I don’t see why you’re getting so upset.” Argh. Just argh. This one irks both my inner reader and inner writer. On the one hand, as a reader, I’d like to point out that fictional characters, whether they are in a book or a video game or anything else, are there to tell you a story, and hopefully one you’ll enjoy or relate to on some level. They can’t do this unless you feel for them just a little bit. So I feel for them way more than most. That doesn’t make me a freak, or a fantard, or any other highly offensive name you want to call me. The point is, when you refuse to feel for a character because they’re fictional, you’re basically sentencing them to silence. On the other hand, as a writer, I have my fair share of fictional characters, of course. And they’re far from passive. So much of what I’ve written never would have been in my plans if my characters hadn’t occassionally taken control of the pen or keyboard and written their own story. I seriously collapse and can’t write if I allow myself to consider the fact that my characters aren’t real. I just can’t do it. Therefore, when people say this one, it’s like a shot to the chest for both me and the fictional characters they’re referring to, in my opinion.

So in the course of typing this, that little bar that tells you where you’re typing came back. Yay! Anyway, those are the things that most get on my nerves to hear people say about books. Are there any you would add to the list?

On “The Legend of Eli Monpress.”

Hello, world. As promised, here is my review for Rachel Aaron’s series “The Legend of Eli Monpress.” The series is comprised of three books- The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion, and The Spirit Eater, with a fourth entitled The Spirit War set to come out sometime this year (my friend knows the exact date but I can’t seem to find it at the moment. I’ll edit this when I do.) I came across the series when a friend of mine recommended it to me and checked out the sample on my nook.

This review will cover all three of the currently released books. As usual, spoilers are possible, and will be marked with SPOILER!! and End Spoiler so they can be avoided if you wish to.

Pros

Great Story: As far as fantasy novels go, this one has a very good plot and is very well developed. The magic system is nicely planned out and the events make sense rather than being completely random and illogical. It’s a very enthralling story and quite original as well.

Reading Level: Don’t get me wrong; I’m still a huge fan of all the young adult fantasy novels, but it’s nice to find something like this series that’s more geared toward adult reading level. Especially considering that, in the author’s own words, most people thing “adult fantasy” translates to “porn and smut.” It’s refreshing to have something closer to my reading ability that A) isn’t boring as all heck and B) doesn’t involve steamy sex scenes every other page. I read for story and not for smut, so this was right up my alley. The higher reading level did result in me taking much more time to read these books than most of the stuff I read (about a month and a half for all three books) but it was totally worth it.

Characterization: The characters are so endearing! Eli’s motives made me laugh in the first book, fall in love with him in the second book, and temporarily hate him in the third book until all was resolved. Miranda’s steadfast devotion to her morals made me like her despite her desire to capture my favorite character. Josef and Nico, with their devotion to each other, made me root for them through thick and thin. Altogether the characters were wonderfully realistic. (And Rachel Aaron, if you ever read this, I too love Marion the Librarian! As a bookworm, I love to see characters like her helping out, and let’s face it- the way her name rhymes with her job is just super entertaining. I could say it all day!)

Eli: Okay, so I know I just did characterization, but I have to put this in here. It’s kind of odd, but for some reason I’m drawn to characters who are just a little odd. Eli fits this description perfectly. Just look at the name of his hometown (I won’t put it here to minimize the spoilers) or his seemingly suicidal desire to increase his bounty! His eccentricities make him endearing, plus his serious side makes him human. It’s a beautiful combination.

Lack of Romance: Again, I’m not denouncing books with a central romance, and I’m not saying you can’t read into the Eli books (I sure as heck do!), but it doesn’t hit you over the head with “mushy-mushy-goo-goo” every four pages like a lot of today’s fantasy. Just a personal preference.

“The Big Reveals”: A lot of times, if books have a few huge things to reveal about characters, they’re evenly spaced out in the book or even the series so you get “cool-down” times between shocks. Rachel Aaron does a good job of throwing this convention to the wind- in the first book, several fairly large events happen almost back-to-back toward the end, and in the second book, you don’t even get thirty pages in before a revelation of fairly great magnitude is thrown at you. This again brings me back to the word that seems to fit this series well- Refreshing.

Cons

Slightly Predictable: It’s not the whole book. There’s plenty of things that I never saw coming but SPOILER!! it was revealed at the beginning of book two that Etmon Banage was Eli’s father, I wasn’t remotely surprised. The same was the case for the “Sara” revelation- both had enough leadup to be easily spotted. End Spoiler Maybe the intent was for it to be extremely obvious, but it’s one of those things that I’m just not fond of. The abruptness and the motives some of these reveals brought, however, compensated for their predictability.

Typos: Unfortunately, the books are riddles with typos, often in the form of skipped words or grammatical errors (i.e. “plain of existence”). As a reader who visualizes quite vividly when reading, and a total closet grammar nazi, I find this sort of thing terribly distracting, which is a pity when the story is as good as this one.

Character Name Mistakes: There were at least two times where characters were called by incorrect names, and another where the name was merely misspelled. If you’ve read my Artemis Fowl review, you know this drives me nuts. The simple misspelling (“Eril” spelled as “Erol”) was easy enough to overlook, and in the case where Miranda’s fire spirit Kirik was erroneously referred to as “Karon” (the name of a lava spirit who also appears frequently), the mixup was easy to understand, but the sudden and rather unexpected replacement of “Alliana” with a name I’d never seen before (I don’t quite recall what the new name was and I don’t own the books to look it up) was just plain perplexing.

Rachel Who?: On the date I wrote this blog (2/18/2011) I went onto Wikipedia and searched “Rachel Aaron.” No results. I then searched “Eli Monpress.” Again no results. Moving on to deviantART, which in my experience has fan art for everything imaginable under the sun, I searched “Eli Monpress.” Two results- the wanted poster I created and the figurines I created. So clearly, nobody’s really heard of the books. That, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing, and the only reason I’m including it on my “Cons” list is because this means the books might be a little hard to find. For example, my local Barnes and Noble did not have them four days ago, and they have pretty much everything. However, it is available as a nookbook, and you can find it on Amazon, so if that’s your thing, you’re set.

Overall Opinion

These books have a great story and wonderful characters, and are actually aimed toward older readers for once. The quirks are refreshing and keep the reader’s attention. Unfortunately, there were several editing issues which can distract from the actual meat of the story. If you’re looking for a good fantasy series with a unique story, and can look past the typos, definitely check these books out. If you, like me, are bothered by editing issues, I still recommend that you give them a chance. You might be pleasantly surprised at your ability to suspend your inner editor. Thank you, and good night/morning/mid-afternoon/general state of being.

On my upcoming projects.

Hello, world. I thought I’d give you a preview of the projects I plan to do for this blog in the future. Here is a list of things I definitely want to get done. If you have any suggestions, feel free to comment.

~Add excerpts to all the book reviews listing simplified pros, cons, and overview lists.

~Review: Chrestomanci Chronicles by Diana Wynne Jones

~Review: The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron Finished as promised!

~Weblog review: Nook e-reader Edit: I’m unable to upload the video, so it will be a regular blog entry.

~Possible eventual site move to prevent the plethora of comments I keep getting that are about some other blog.

On Howl’s Moving Castle and Subsequent Sequels.

Hello, world. I promised a while ago that I would explain my obsession with Howl’s Moving Castle, and that time has come.

I suppose the best place to start would be with how I came to discover the movie. A friend of mine had provided me with a Hiyao Miyazaki film to watch, and had gotten me hooked on his films. As such, when I was in anime club a little later, and Howl’s Moving Castle was one of the options for us to watch, I voted for it simply because it was a Hiyao Miyazaki film.

I loved the movie. I mean, I absolutely loved it. My affection for it was instantaneous. I couldn’t even be so patient as to wait for the next week’s anime club to finish the movie. I went home and watched it.

I had known for a long time after discovering the movie that it was based on a book. I had seen it in the credits, and I had a friend that had read the book and liked to discuss the differences between the movie and the book. I always promised myself I’d read it sometime, but that’s about as far as it ever got.

Until I found out the author.

I was in Barnes and Noble when this revelation occurred, browsing the children’s section with my mom to help her come up with Christmas gift ideas for me. “What about this one?” she had asked. “You really like Diana Wynne Jones, don’t you?”

She handed me the book with the back facing up so I could read the summary. I’m not entirely sure how far I got into the summary before I made the connection and began to get very excited. Diana Wynne Jones, one of my favorite authors, had written the book one of my favorite movies was based on. I realized then that I had to have that book.

I didn’t get it for Christmas.

I survived a while, never quite having money enough for the book when I was at the store with everything else I would buy. But at the end of this past school year, it finally got to me, and I requested it at the public library. The next day we went to the library, and I checked out the sequel (actually the third book in the set) so I’d have it to read when HMC came in.

Two weeks pass. The copy of HMC I requested does not come in.

My friend texts me to ask if I want to go to Barnes and Noble with him. I have nothing better to do, and I decide I’m sick and tired of waiting for the library book to come in, so I go and buy the book (Finally!). I get home, and decide I’ll sit and read a couple of chapters before getting back to matters at hand (namely, the bedroom cleaning that was underway).

I’m still reading the book at suppertime, and have to be dragged away from it to come eat. I inhale my food, clear the table quickly, and get back to the book the second I get the chance. I have it finished by the end of the evening.

I start the third one the next afternoon. It’s finished by the time I go to bed that night, as well.

The next day, the copy I requested at the library comes in. I rejoice that I bought the book, seeing how wonderful it is.

Once I check out the second book in the series, I read it in one day as well.

All of this, of course, is mere background information. Time to get to the good stuff: my official review. It will cover my opinion of the series as a whole (Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Air, and House of Many Ways). Spoilers might abound, and such.

Pros

Quick Read: If you didn’t read my explanation above (I don’t necessarily blame you), I finished each book on the same day I started it. We’re talking 400 page books here, mind you. Now, I know I read faster than most, but the point is, the story drags you in and keeps you attached.

Character Flaws: Perhaps one of the best things about this series is that the characters are flawed. I mean, really flawed. Take Howl, for example: he’s vain, he’s fickle, he’s a pigheaded coward who gets head colds like a drama queen, if you leave him alone for more than five minutes he literally screams for attention, he throws temper tantrums that terrify an entire town… Each character has a list nearly as long as this. And yet, despite all their flaws, it is impossible not to fall in love with the characters. In fact, I’d venture to say that their flaws make them more relatable, drawing the reader to them.

Satirization: Good news- that’s actually a word! Anyway, Jones has an amazing talent for taking the standard conventions of fantasy and poking subtle fun at them. Sophie is a girl with a stepmother and two stepsisters (Well, okay. One’s her full sister and the other’s a half-sister. If the cliche fits…), and yet she gets along quite well with all three of them. The genie hates the world. The magic carpet is activated by snoring. The otherworldly wizard’s other world happens to be Wales. SPOILER!! In what I happen to believe is the best use of classic poetry known to man, an entire curse is crafted around the words of John Donne. End Spoiler The point is, the satire is wonderful, and makes for a delightful tone.

“Happily Ever After”: Ah. Sophie and Howl. These two could not get more hilarious. They’re probably the last thing I’d think of if you said “true love”, and yet they’re one of my favorite fictional couples. There is so much wrong with their relationship from the traditional standpoint, and that’s what makes them so great- despite the fact they argue all the time, they make it work. It makes their romance that much more real. Add to that the handful of tiny details I delight in, such as Howl’s hilarious profession of love at the end of the first book or his reaction upon first meeting his son, and you’ve got the makings of a “One True Pairing.”

Ending: This is more of a personal preference thing, but I love how there’s hardly anything between the climax and the end of the book. It just ends. It’s kind of refreshing.

Cons

The DWJ Effect: I suppose I have to put something for cons, and this is what I’ve come up with. Personally, this is something that doesn’t bother me in a bit, but it has the potential to drive people crazy. There is this thing I like to call the “Diana Wynne Jones Effect” that seems to be standard for any series she has written. The definition of “series” tends to be fairly loose when it comes to her books. The main characters are rarely the same from book to book- instead, there will be some characters that return in supporting roles throughout the series. What can make this even more frustrating is the instances in which she wrote the books in an order other than in-story timeline order, such as with the Chrestomanci Chronicles. Now, this kind of thing could go either way- it gives the reader a little bit of freedom to read out of order or start in the middle. For example, I actually read the third HMC book before the second because I didn’t know the second existed. However, it could drive the kind of person who likes a well-defined series absolutely bonkers.

Overall Opinion

Well, obviously I love this series. It is my absolute favorite. There’s not much else I can truly say here without raving on the virtues of the amazing author. Diana Wynne Jones, if you ever see this, I would like to thank you for producing such brilliant works of art. Also, if anyone locked me in a closet with Howl for any period of time, they might not live to see the next day. That is all. Thank you, and good night/morning/mid-afternoon/general state of being.

This I Believe

Hello, world. I entered an essay in the local “This I Believe” essay contest and thought you might like to read it. Enjoy!

 

Normally Ever After

I’ve had a pretty boring life.

I’ve won a couple of contests, but the prizes weren’t all that grand. Although I’ve lost my fair share of loved ones, so has everyone else my age. I did what I had to do, and I moved on with my life. But I’ve never travelled to another country. I’ve never bungee jumped. I haven’t broken a bone, or run away from home, or fallen off a cliff. I’ve never even kissed someone.

But I have read books.

I read Tom Sawyer, and while I wasn’t the one conning my friends into doing my chores for me, I felt the thrill of victory. I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and I rejoiced with Lucy when Aslan returned triumphant. And if I wasn’t the one to throw the Ring into the fire, well, I certainly felt Frodo’s burden lifted from my chest as I finished The Return of the King. I have laughed and cried with characters. I have travelled to fantastic places, fallen in love, experienced heartbreak, won wars, and grown up over and over again- all through books.

I would never claim these experiences I have been allowed to enjoy could ever replace the real thing. After all, when I read, I am never in real danger. The swords and arrows are only as sharp to me as the writer’s words. Nor am I the one riding into the sunset with the handsome hero, travelling away to start my happily ever after somewhere in the great unknown. Unlike Frodo or Lucy or Tom, I can get going when the going gets tough, saving the story for another day. And if someone were to hand me a sword and send me into battle, I’d probably slice my big toe off long before I’d put a scratch on my foe. I can’t do ninety percent of the things I’ve read about any more than I could say I’d gone skydiving.

Still, I would never say I’ve wasted the time I’ve spent with my nose buried firmly in a book, reading for so long my knuckles turned inky. My reading has inspired me. It is my dream to teach abroad. I want to make a difference in my world, not for fame or glory, but because I know this world needs a glimmer of hope and a happily ever after now and again. If I come across hardship or heartbreak, I’ll have an example to follow to get through it. Above all, I want to become a novelist myself one day, so that others can live through the characters I create.

I believe that the events I experience through the books I read are just as important as those I experience in real life. And if I do nothing else, I want to help others experience the same thing. That is my life’s goal.