Book of the Month: Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

night-circusIt can be dangerous picking books from a list and hoping that they live up to the hype. The Night Circus has appeared over and over on book lover Pinterest boards so I decided it would be worth seeing what the big deal was about. I’m glad to say that this is a book that delivers.

Not too long ago I wrote a post discussing what Magical Realism meant. The Night Circus is a terrific example of magical realism. The story takes place in an ahistorical Victorian London and follows the lives of two young magical proteges. These magicians can perform actual magic and not just feats of illusion. These proteges and their masters create the Night Circus – Le Cirque des Rêves, the Circus of Dreams. A reality defying collection of curiosities that is only open from dusk to dawn.

The circus itself is surreal enough to make for intriguing reading. Among the expected acrobatic acts and contortionists there are tents that are full of the impossible. One is a garden created entirely from ice. Another, a cloud maze where you can fall from incredible heights without the fear of being hurt.

The story weaves it’s way through the lives of two magical proteges. Through the years, Prospero the Enchanter and Mr. A.H. have been locked in a rivalry to prove who is the better, more powerful magician.  Their students, Celia Bowen and Marcos Alisdair are the pawns in a dangerous competition in which they have been groomed their whole lives to play. Except, they are never given the rules of the competition. They must push to find what must be done and are never sure what the next step must be.

My review:

It’s not often when a book takes me by surprise. The Night Circus has an otherworldly quality that makes for perfect escapist reading. I was transported into this alternate world where magic is indeed real and palpable and filled with wonder. The story itself is fresh and full of ideas and creativity that haven’t been seen before, which is a feat in itself seeing how most stories I read are beaten dead from over use.

The best part of the book is the circus itself, the wonder and the thrills contained therein continually change and evolve to captivate and delight both reader and the characters that walk the pages.

I recommend this to anyone who likes magical realism, Cirque du Soleil, and surrealism. For those of you who like their fiction to keep both feel solidly on the ground, this might be a touch cerebral for you.

Like book reviews? Here are a few of my others:

Book of the Month: Redshirts by John Scalzi

91Hx5ImdhzLThis month I ventured into a new and unfamiliar land where reality collided with fiction in a fun and thoughtful way. In the Star Trek universe the sad fact exists that if you are wearing a red shirt and are sent on an away mission, chances are you are going to die.

Scalzi’sRedshirts takes this truth and turns it on it’s head. The crew start asking questions when they notice the abnormally high death rate on their vessel. Crew who aren’t in the officer line have watched their friends leave on away missions never to return. They have learned it’s best to avoid the senior officers at any cost. Being found by one certainly means being assigned to another of these deadly away missions.

Another Star Trek truth that Redshirts makes fun of is the magic box that solves the most insanely complex problem the same way that a microwave heats food.  You insert the correct samples, set the timer for slightly less than when the catastrophe is going to occur, and wait patiently for it to finish. The data it produces is then taken personally to the bridge and presented to the captain, always stating that there is some sort of random made up problem. This is when the captain dramatically looks over the data and within seconds solves the problem, showing just how awesome of a hero he really is.

There are several more of these little gems hidden inside the book, if you want to find them, I suggest you read it.

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Our main character, Dahl, is one of these minor members of the crew who are often targeted. The older crew don’t warn him of the dangers in an attempt to save their own skins and he is assigned to an away mission where he barely survives. When he returns, he wants answers and he demands to be told everything. This line of questioning leads him to the mysterious Jenkins, a hermit who has sealed himself into the utility passages of the ship. Jenkins has a crazy theory that logically explains why the ship works like it does. It’s the alternate reality created when Star Trek was written. Every death, every dramatic rescue, every inconsistent part of their world is there because some writer has invented it to make entertaining television.

Dahl comes up with an insane plan to get it all to stop, and it involves jumping dimensions.

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My Review:

I got a kick out of this book. For anyone who likes Star Trek but finds some of the science and story lines far-fetched, this book is a joy ride. It’s written in a very direct and to the point way, not wasting any time to dwell on the scenery or the deep internal turmoil of the characters.  What I found most unique is that the characters start to become self-aware that they are indeed characters being written. If you like light sci-fi parodies, discussions on inter-dimensional theory, and paradoxes, this is a great book for you.

However – reader be warned. There is a fair amount of rude language sprinkled throughout, enough to make it rated a solid R. There is also casual innuendo, violent (but humorous) death, and an absence of a bad guy. Although I didn’t find it a problem, some might not like the three-part coda ending where after ending of the principle story, there are an additional three sections that explore what happened to three of the minor, but significant characters.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Month – The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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When an author’s name keeps coming up over and over, at book clubs, at conferences, at critique groups, you know there is something special about what they create. Neil Gaiman is one of those authors. This month I explored his book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

In this book, an unnamed middle-aged man returns to his childhood neighborhood and finds a mysterious draw to visit an old friend’s house. While he is there he remembers a strange event that happened when he was a boy.

Short on cash, the narrator’s family rents out his bedroom and he must share a room with his younger sister. One of their renters commits suicide in the family car. His death allows a supernatural being to enter the world and strange things start happening.

The narrator goes to his friend Lettie Hempstock’s house at the end of the lane for help. Lettie agrees to help and takes the narrator with her to bind the supernatural spirit back into her own world. In the process, the being sticks the narrator in the foot and anchors a pathway back to the human world in him.

The being returns in the form of the caretaker, Ursula Monkton, that the narrator’s family has hired so that the mother can return to work, proving that the most terrible of terrors is the one that is hiding in your own home and no one believes you about. Ursula is manipulative and soon bends the family into loving her, everyone except the narrator, who she turns the family against.

With the Hempstock’s help, the narrator is able to defeat the villanous Ursula, but it comes at great price. To save the narrator the pain of remembering they alter his memories so that the event is more like a dream that quickly fades.

Every few years he returns to visit, and every few years he is allowed to remember the experience once more only to forget once again the moment he walks away from the house.

There is, of course, much more to the story than this. If you want a more complete synopsis you are welcome to go visit the wiki page.

My Review:

There is a reason that so many people talk about Neil Gaiman’s work, especially around writing circles. He has a talent with language that makes the prose flow beautifully across the page. The ideas that he chooses to weave into each story are unique and intriguing and make the reader question their own realities.

Gaiman’s books are short, making them easy to start and finish in a long evening. Which is a good thing because once you pick one up you won’t want to put it down.

I loved the Ocean at the End of the Lane and can’t wait to pick up another of Gaiman’s books. I recommend this title to those who love well written prose, good vs. evil, and practical magic. Those who don’t like magic, even in small, easy to digest portions, might not like this book.

Book of the Month: Everneath by Brodi Ashton

9413044This month’s book, Everneath, comes from fellow Utah native Brodi Ashton and is the first in the Everneath series.

Twilight fans rejoice! I have found a perfect novel for you. It is loaded with teenage angst, and I mean ANGST. The main character, Nikki Beckett, is in high school when her mother is tragically killed by a drunk driver. Her resulting depression, paired by the belief that her boyfriend has cheated on her, drives her into the lethal clutches of Cole, an Everliving.

Every 100 years the Everliving must feed on the energies of a human host and then that host falls prey to the tunnels, a hellish place where the host is drained of all emotions until they cease to exist. The feed takes 100 years, but in the alternate space of the Everneath time works differently so only six months pass on the surface. The host can choose return to the surface for six months before the tunnels claim them, that is if they can remember any of their life before. Most don’t.

Nikki is an exception. Not only does she survive the feed without aging, she remembers Jack, her boyfriend, and is compelled to return to him. She now has six months to reclaim her life before the tunnels come for her once again. Paired with Jack, she must find a way to survive, and even thrive.

As I said before, this book is perfect for all those Twilight fans out there. There is a supernatural element in Cole, however instead of being a traditional vampire, Cole is what many would call a psychic vampire.  He feeds on the energy and emotions of those around him. There is a troubled love triangle between Cole, Nikki, and Jack, not unlike Jacob, Edward, and Bella. There is a lot of high school drama and as a perk there are nice mythological elements and nods to the myths of Persephone and Eurydice.

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Coolest picture ever.

However, like all books, there are elements in Everneath that might drive readers crazy. Nikki is very similar to Bella, she’s very passive and has a very simple character arc. Her recurring debate is whether to go with Cole and become his queen in the Everneath and have to engage indirectly in his vampire-y ways, or to let the hellish tunnels come and eat her soul. She spends most of the book flip-flopping between the two choices, that is when she isn’t flip-flopping between Jack and Cole.  Jack is the leading quarterback and football prodigy, a personal pet peeve of mine and many readers like me.  Why does the romantic lead always have to be the quarterback? Stereotypes people! Another stereotype is found in the trampy cheerleader who tries to destroy Nikki and Jack’s relationship. Oh, and did I mention that Nikki is devastatingly attractive? Thankfully, she’s not also a cheerleader.

I recommend this book for teenage girls who like a good angst-y story of love and loss. If that’s not you, read at your own risk.

Book of the Month: Existence by David Brin

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Some books are meant to sweep readers away into another world where they can live another life. Then there are those books that exist on a different plane where the concepts are foreign and bizarre and it takes hundreds of pages to start understanding what is actually happening.  Existence is one of those books.

If I were to compare it to other books I’ve read I’d call it Cloud Atlas meets Ender’s Game. It is similar to Cloud Atlas because it combines a handful of storylines that all have a few sparse threads in common. The characters come from vastly different walks of life and most of the interest lies in trying to figure out what’s actually going on. It takes hundreds of pages to find links between the different storylines. It resembles Ender’s Game, not in the edge of your seat thrill ride, but the way that the author introduces his philosophies and ideas about the vast unknown.

To be fair, I haven’t finished reading Existence, yet. It’s long and requires focus and persistence to keep going forward. I can see why many people recommend it, Brin possesses a deep understanding of his world and a keen intellect which is demonstrated in the distinct characters that each play a role in the story.

Do I like it? Yes and no. Yes, the world is fascinating and I really want to see what will happen. I like the questions it asks about the nature of existence and the possibility of life on other worlds, and how to communicate with said life. And no, it’s slow going and almost too intellectual to be a read in a way where the reader can feel truly immersed. The story is so fractured among the different characters that the reader only gets a taste of what’s happening before being shoved somewhere else. To fracture it even further, between each chapter are different seemingly random essays on different facets of existence, discussions between scientists, or meandering thoughts of an autistic person.

I’m looking forward to finishing, nothing would make me happier than for the story to unfold into a brilliant and hard-hitting climax that gives the reader what they came for!

Have you read Existence? Come share your thoughts in the comments!

Featured Artist: Danielle E. Shipley

For this month’s featured artist I’ve chosen the inventive and feisty Danielle Shipley. Danielle and I became acquainted when we were both part of the same fantasy anthology THE TOLL OF ANOTHER BELL, published by Xchyler.  Not only does she write terrific short stories, she also writes novels and posts all sorts of cleverness and snark over at her blog Ever on Word. Trust me, go check it out and follow, it’s bundles of fun.

Now for the part you’ve all been waiting for – The cover reveal of Danielle’s latest offering!

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The Surrogate Sea is the sixth installation in the Wilderhawk Tales series and follows along in it’s predecessor’s fairy tale footprints. There are princes and princesses, kings and kingdoms, and magic found in the strangest places.

About – 

The Surrogate Sea is about the pursuit of love and the many misunderstandings that can take place along the way. Young Princess Liliavaine has outgrown her childhood love and seeks a man with whom she can make a life with. However, her childhood love has feelings of his own and instead of dimming with the years, it has only grown stronger. The interaction of these two causes ripples throughout the entire world, including the realms of the elemental beings that rule over air, water, and land.

In this world, it is possible to mix humankind with elemental kind. Liliavaine’s sister wed the lord of the moon himself. In fact, one of the other books in the series deals with the bout of insanity caused by looking into the moon’s face. One of these elementals is Muirigan, the great sea who falls in love with a prince.  However, she is trapped by her own beaches and cannot seek him out. She finds another to take her place (thus the title, the Surrogate Sea) and the problems spiral out from there. Throw in a spiteful South Wind, and you have quite a story.

Surrogate Sea Launch Week Tour Pics, Excerpt

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I love a fanciful and innovative fantasy story and so The Surrogate Sea was a delight to read.  My favorite aspect of the book are the interactions of the elemental characters with the human folk.  Danielle excels at making fascinating and well-rounded characters, this is especially true when it comes to her more magical characters.

I’m not crazy about complicated love triangles, but I know a good one when I read one, and this one has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing how it’s all going to work out.

There is always a concern when reading a book in a series without reading the earlier books. I hadn’t read the earlier books in the Wilderhawk Tales and so there were several references in this book that I didn’t fully understand, only because I hadn’t read their stories.  However, the book is well enough constructed that it is still very readable without having to read the rest of the series first.

Overall I give the book 4 out of 5 stars – The beginning starts slow as we wait for all the characters to be re-established and re-introduced. The true heart of the conflict isn’t revealed until much later.  Once you get there then you can’t put it down.

If you like fairy tale stories, love triangles, unique magic, princes and princesses, and a whole lot of mischief, then this book is sure to please.

I received a copy of Surrogate Sea in exchange for an honest review.

Surrogate Sea Launch Week Tour Pics, Author

While you’re here check out Danielle’s Linkies: Website ~ Blog ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

Want to buy The Surrogate Sea? Here are some handy links!

Surrogate Sea Launch Week Tour Pics, Giveaway

Pre Release Peek: Mechanized Masterpieces 2 – Spotlighting Author Neve Talbot

Mechanized Masterpieces 2: an American Anthology is a collection of steampunk stories from authors around the globe.  This collection takes American classic literature and gives it a steampunk makeover, much to the delight of this reader.

Today we are spotlighting author Neve Talbot, author of the story “West End.”

pennyAs a child, Neve Talbot developed the habit of lulling herself to sleep by dreaming up continuations of her favorite books too soon ended. She never left off the habit, and eventually gained confidence in worlds of her own creation. She first cracked open a spiral binder in high school, and has spent the past decade dutifully penning her prerequisite one million words of bad writing before getting to the good stuff.

Now author, editor, story coach, and journalist, Neve currently lives with her husband under the pseudonym of Penny Freeman, in a quasi-reality filled with fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, Regency romance, the classics, and history books, suspended between the piney woods and sprawling metropolis of southeast Texas. She plans on exploring the world when she grows up.

“West End” is Neve’s third outing with The X, the others being “Crossroads” in Shades and Shadows, and “Tropic of Cancer” in Mechanized Masterpieces, of which “West End” is a sequel.

To learn more about Neve, check out her About me page!

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An Interview with Neve Talbot:

As “West End” is inspired by Little Women, who do you envision playing your characters?

Liam Helmsworth for Theodore Laurence. I think he’s got the right mix of hunkiness, cockiness, and vulnerability to make it really come off.

Ian Somerhalder for Edward Rochester. He’s a touch too good-looking for the part, but he’s got a good combination of dark smolderingness and charm that works.

Julian Meeks (he has a much bigger part in my novel than he does in either Tropic of Cancer or West End): Morris Chestnut, I think. Julian’s a tricky character to cast.

Josephine March: smart, feisty, implacable, and impossible to forget? Emma Watson. Done.

Amy March: Amanda Seyfried

Beth March: This is a really, really difficult one because young actresses try to be sexy, rather than vulnerable and wise. Dakota Johnson has the right combination of both, but . . . ewww. She might be 50 shades of tainted. Too tainted for this angelic part. Victoria Morris seems like she has the sweetness for the part.

Bertha Mason: Halle Berry would make the perfect Bertha, except she’s a touch too old. Nathalie Emmanuel is also gorgeous, but she’s too young. In Bertha’s case, since age is a heavy factor in the plot of Tropic of Cancer, I’d have to go with Halle Berry.

Why did you choose the story of Little Women to convert into a steampunk tale? What is special about it?

Little Women was probably my first ‘adult’ reading experience. I must have been in the 4th grade. It’s held a warm place in my heart ever since. It seemed a natural choice to expand into Steampunk. Since my protagonists tend to be male, Laurie’s story got the nod. Finally, since this book is the sequel to Mechanized Masterpieces, I decided to tie this story into “Tropic of Cancer,”, my expansion of Jane Eyre.

What is your writing process?

I seem to do my best writing late at night, I think because my imagination has more room to maneuver in my brain. Traffic is much lighter. I also tend to write a lot, then delete at least half, then compress that into as succinct a text as possible.

When you have a chance to relax and read, what kind of book do you seek out?

I am a literary omnivore, but my favorites are biography, history, and historical fiction. I also have a fond spot for the classics. Fantasy and Steampunk have really strong historical components, with the world-building, etc., which is why I think I enjoy it. I’m a sucker for a good map. Maps are graphic history.

Do you have a current favorite book?

That’s like asking who’s your favorite child. The book that has had the most impact on me in recent years is Shadow of the Last Men by J.M. Salyards, recently the CYGNUS winner for science fiction.

What do you listen to when you write?

I usually need it quiet so I don’t get distracted. When I do listen to music, I listen to The Writer’s Trance, Orson Scott Card’s writing music on Pandora. Lots of emotive music without the distraction of lyrics.

Our writers out there are dying to know – Panster or plotter?

I used to be a pantser, which is how I made up my first million words of really bad writing. Now, I’m more a plotter, which makes a more finely crafted story. I believe in allowing a character to reveal themselves as the story evolves, which in its turn helps the plot itself to evolve. As they say, even the best battle plans mean nothing once the shooting starts. The same goes for writing. An author needs to be flexible enough to reevaluate and restructure their outline as they go, but having a general direction to travel and a goal to reach really helps. Also, plotters really are pantsers at heart. They just do it in a lot fewer words.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Follow your passion. Let your characters live you, and they will become real to your readers. Never stop learning. Every author deserves a good editor. If you find yourself telling others, “You just don’t get it,” you need to ask yourself what you can do to change it. The responsibility of communication is yours, not the reader’s.

What are some of your current projects?

Gosh. Here’s a partial list: my historical fiction I’ve sworn to finish this year; develop Tropic of Cancer story into a full-length Steampunk novel; a long-nurtured sci-fantasy that I’ve finally muddled out. I’m ready to start outlining that as well.

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I had the pleasure of reading “West End” along with several of the other stories in this new installment of Mechanized Masterpieces. (I’m eagerly awaiting a time to curl up with a cocoa and warm fire to finish the rest!) In this story we get to experience Laurie’s life abroad as he goes about his studies and begins to specialize in the very steampunky field of medicine crossed with metallurgy and robotics. He has feelings for Jo and as readers we get to see his struggle with both life and love. However there is a nice little twist in the story from the original Little Women, one that I think readers will thoroughly enjoy.

I love the way the characters are handled. Each one has a unique and memorable attitude that plays of the strengths and weaknesses of the others.  The steampunk elements are masterfully created and play well with the other elements of the story, which is always nice when it comes to a retelling of a classic tale.

If you like stories that include steampunk, relationships and love, travel, wonder, and Victorian sensibilities, then this story is for you!

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Hey, guess what? There’s a giveaway! Click the link to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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A super big thanks to Neve and the awesome people at Xchyler Publishing for letting me participate in the book tour for Mechanized Masterpieces 2.  If you want to learn more, or to buy your own copy, click on the banner below!

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To visit other sites on this blog tour check out the links below:

Sunday, 02.22.2015
A. E. Albert, A Writer’s Blog
Chosen By You Book Club
Liz’s Reading Life
In the Spotlight
Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Monday, 02.23.2015
I Feel the Need, the Need to Read
The Naughty Librarian’s Playground
Creativity from Chaos
Candy O’Donnell
A Virtual Hobby Store and Coffee Haus

Tuesday, 02.24.2015
Kitty Muse Book Reviews
Semi-short Chic
Mel’s Shelves
Ever On Word

Wednesday, 02.25.2015
My Bookshelf
Mel’s Shelves
A Virtual Hobby Story and Coffee Haus
The J. Aurel Guay Archive

Thursday, 02.26.2015
Addicted to Reading
A Virtual Hobby Store and Coffee Haus
The Author Visits
An Author in Progress
Penny Writes

Friday, 02.27.2015
Semi-short Chic
A Virtual Hobby Story and Coffee Haus
An Author in Progress
The Book Beacon
My Literary Quest

Saturday, 02.28.2015
Vampires, Crime and Angels . . . Eclectic Me
Fictional Rendezvous Books
An Author in Progress
Perpetual Chaos of a Wandering Mind

Book of the Month: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

200px-Inkheart_bookThis month’s read is the YA fantasy Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke.  I’ve been wanting to read this book for years and was happy that I finally got around to doing it.  Watching and enjoying the movie might have played a small part as well.

Inkheart is one of those books that feels like it’s been around for a long while, although it’s only been around since 2003 for the German edition and 2005 for the English edition.

On an interesting side note, I tweeted about Inkheart and received a cute note from Cornelia Funke herself!

A super brief, spoiler free,  overview of the book:

The story is about a twelve-year-old girl named Meggie, and her father Mortimer, who everyone including Meggie calls Mo. Mo is a book binder with a secret rare gift of being able to read fictional characters and objects out of their books and into the real world. However, he didn’t discover that this had a great cost, for every person or item that leaves the book, something from the real world must return.

When Meggie was very young, Mo read several unsavory characters into the world by accident. These included the devious and unscrupulous Capricorn whose morals are essentially nonexistent, and Dustfinger a fire-eater and juggler who desperately wishes to return to his story. The cost? Meggie’s mother disappears into the book.

The book of Inkheart revolves around Mo and Meggie’s dealings with Capricorn and Dustfinger and Mo’s efforts to “read” his beloved wife back into the real world. There’s adventure, romance, magic, and danger.

My Review:

The book’s strongest points are its characters and its evocative writing. Funke captures different moments in the story using lovely metaphors and surprising analogies.  If you loved the use of language in Zuzak’s, Book Thief, then you would enjoy the writing style of Inkheart.

The characters are brilliant and perhaps the most intriguing bunch of people assembled to make a story that I’ve stumbled across.  They are each well written where it feels as if they jump to life off of the page (and in a way, that’s precisely what they do!) The villain Capricorn is a vile and repulsive storybook villain with no true redeemable qualities. Some might consider him an overly stereotyped villain, but you must remember that he is an actual storybook character and with that in mind he is written perfectly.

The lead character, Meggie, is a lover of books and stories, just like her father.  She is young, and makes mistakes, some of which cause huge problems. To her, it is almost as if her storybook world has come alive around her and she is both fascinated and terrified. She quickly learns that her actions and decisions have real consequences and she must be brave to do what she must.

Her father, Mo is a bookbinder who has been into action by external forces.  He wants nothing more than his wife back and a  peaceful life surrounded by piles and piles of beautiful books that he can share with his daughter.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who loves a well written story that takes them to new places.

To read more about Inkheart, check out these links:

Book of the Month: Howl’s Moving Castle

71sst0-sdELI’ve had a soft spot for Miyasaki movies ever since I first watched the acclaimed Spirited Away and so reading one of the books that inspired another Miyasaki movie was a treat. There is a bizarreness to these stories that is both refreshing and thought-provoking.

About the book:

Howl’s Moving Castle is the story of Sophie Hatter, the oldest daughter of three, who is destined by birth to be a failure. Or so she thinks.  When she is cursed by the Witch of the Waste to be an old woman she finds it an inconvenience albeit she is somewhat relieved. Being an old woman grants Sophie a much greater freedom in her actions and speech than what she’s felt as an adolescent.

With this new found freedom she leaves the hat shop which has been her prison and heads into the countryside. It is there that she runs across Wizard Howl’s magical castle drifting along. She forces her way inside to get out of the damp and meets Calcifer, a fire demon who powers the castle, and Michael, Howl’s young assistant.

Howl himself is a selfish and vain man who has too much interest in the ladies and not enough in common sense.  Throughout the book we see how Sophie wins her way into his heart by not putting up with his foolishness.  They help each other in turns as they prepare to face the ultimate battle with the Witch of the Waste.

My Review:

There’s a lot to be said about having characters with strong opinions and preferences. In this book we see the importance of speaking up for yourself when we read about Sophie’s life both before and after her transformation. This is contrasted against Howl, who refuses to have any useful discussion with anyone and because of it comes across as cold and uncaring, even though he secretly does care deeply for Sophie.

Then there’s the inventiveness of the story elements themselves.  First, the totally awesome castle that wanders around the countryside and has a magic door that opens into different cities all over the realm. Not only does this provide Howl and Sophie ease of access to different places but it allows for some whimsy as well.  One of the doors is anchored to the very real Wales while the rest are in the magical world. Then you have my favorite character, the fire demon Calcifer who is cursed to live within the confines of chimney and hearth and at times acts like a petulant child, even though he is the most magically powerful of the three main characters.

It’s a fun and lively story and a great read for upper middle grade readers all the way to adults. I’d recommend it to readers of Piers Anthony, David Eddings, and Rick Riordan.

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Want to recommend a book? Let me know in the comments!

Have you read Howl’s Moving Castle? What was your favorite part? Favorite Character?

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Next month (February) I will be reading Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, and in March, Everneath by Brodi Ashton. Come join me!

Related posts:

4th Quarter Reading, Done!

Here with only a few days left of 2014 I’m proud to report that I finished the last book of the year this morning at 2:45 am. Now I’m not saying that I stayed up reading all night, although I liked the last read enough that I could have – my youngest woke at 1:30 throwing up and I couldn’t turn my brain off afterward. Ahh, the joys of too many ideas and not enough time.

Here are this quarter’s books-

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee: Somehow I escaped reading this in school, and it’s a shame too because I’ve heard references to parts of this book and it’s characters all my life and never realized it.  If I were to pick a favorite element I would chose the character of Atticus Finch, the father of Scout and Jem and also the town attorney. He is a brilliant example of what it means to lead by example.  His high standards and sense of morality are enviable and something that is lacking from much of the world today.

Dune, Frank Herbert: Ok, I’ll admit, I cheated a little here.  Dune is a massive tome of dense writing that even the most seasoned writer needs to pick through carefully.  It’s fascinating and a good read, but time consuming. I read the first section, which still was over 300 pages and intend to read the rest at my leisure later. This is one of those books that has redefined what is possible in the world of science fiction and is a prime example of how to do world building right. I only wish I would have picked it up earlier, this would have been a perfect example when I was creating my own fantasy world.

A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute: At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like this, the story didn’t take off right away and for the first twenty or so pages the reader has to wade through the narrator helping a gentleman settle the articles in his will. Not too exciting. Things pick up when we get into the story of Jean Paget, who inherits the estate. We first learn about her experience as a prisoner of war to the Japanese in Malay where she, and a group of women and children, was forced to travel by foot from town to town because no one wanted to take them in. I love stories of survival against the odds, so this was great. The rest of the story is devoted to how she spends her inheritance by first digging a well and washing house for the town that finally took them in at the end of the war, and then making improvements in a derelict town in Australia where her love interest has a cattle station. It is a story of perseverance and grit and one that I truly enjoyed.

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I had a great time reading these books off of the BBC Book Challenge and hope to find equally good reads for the coming year.

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Did you have a favorite read this year? Tell us about it in the comments!

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