Saturday, June 9, 2012

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)

"He was in there two hours," said Calcifer, "putting spells on his face. Vain fool!"
"There you are, then," said Michael. "The day Howl forgets to do that will be the day I believe he's really in love, and not before."

After reading The Space Between Trees, I immediately went online and bought it on Amazon. And here again I've stumbled upon a book that I absolutely must purchase as soon as I get a bit of money.

I didn't exactly stumble upon Howl's Moving Castle. In fact, I happen to be quite fond of the movie adaptation. When I found that it was based off a book, I knew I had to read it. Once again, I am profoundly glad I did. It is nearly an entirely different story and I loved every second of the journey.

Howl's Moving Castle is the story of a girl named Sophie. As the eldest of three, she is doomed to an entirely uneventful and unsuccessful life. She resigns herself to this fate, even as her younger sisters go out to seek their fortunes. However, fate doesn't seem to agree with her on how her life is supposed to turn out.

When the hat shop she runs with her stepmother is visited by the Witch of the Waste, Sophie is put under a curse that turns her into an old woman. Unsure of what to do and unable to tell anyone of the curse, Sophie decides to leave the home she has always known in order to find her destiny and hopefully an end to the curse.

When she seeks lodging in a moving castle belonging to Wizard Howl, she expects to be turned out almost immediately. However, she makes friends with its occupants: a fire demon named Calcifer, Howl's fifteen year-old apprentice (Michael), and the dreaded wizard himself. Howl is nothing like she had been told. Still, the vain wizard manages to trample on every last one of Sophie's nerves.

That's not the only trouble, though. The Witch of the Waste is hot on their tail, eager to get Howl in her clutches, and she'll stop at nothing to succeed in her aims. On top of that, Sophie needs to find a way to break her own spell. Calcifer promises to break it if she can break the contract between he and Howl, but to do that, Sophie is going to have to find out the terms on her own.

Howl's Moving Castle is a fantastical adventure through a land filled with wonder. I enjoyed every moment of the journey and couldn't wait to see where it would take me next. I would advise it for readers of all ages. It's a compelling read and lovely story.

Rating: ~★★★★★~

[Click here to see my review of book 2: Castle in the Air and book 2: House of Many Ways]

It seems as if those of high ability cannot resist some extra, dangerous stroke of cleverness, which results in a fatal flaw and begins a slow decline to evil.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Space Between the Trees by Katie Williams

I shake my head and as as I do, a tear shakes off my cheek, and I realize that I've been crying, but I don't know when it started . It's not the kind of crying that you force up and out of your throat but the kind of crying where the tears slip out your eyes and down your cheeks, dissolving into one another at your chin in a stealthy escape.

I picked up this book at the library because the binding looked nice, but the cover blew me away. A book with a cover (seen on the right) as cool as this one deserves to be read, in my opinion. Once again, my tendency to judge a book by its cover led me to a pretty great book. The Space Between Trees is definitely in my top ten favorite books, if not my top five. 

In The Space Between Trees, Katie Williams tells the story of Evie, a teenage girl with a tendency to improve the truth and straight out lie without thinking of the consequences. After the death of a girl Evie knew as a child, this bad habit is exactly what leads her on a collision course with the girl's father and her best friend, Hadley. 

Somehow, despite Evie's initial lie, she and Hadley become friends. This is a first for Evie, who has always something of a loner. But this new friendship launches the two girls into searching for the person who murdered Hadley's best friend, Zabet. Things quickly grow out of hand and Evie has to figure out where to draw the line in being a loyal friend and putting herself and others in more danger than she could have anticipated.

Altogether, I found this to be a wonderful book. Filled to the brim with intriguing descriptions that really pull the reader in, the detail is drool-worthy. I found myself poring over paragraphs, trying to analyze exactly how Williams was able to describe things in just enough detail to keep you interested without becoming overwhelming. There are plenty of life lessons to be learned within the pages of The Space Between the Trees, as well as a good amount of symbolism and an ending you couldn't have anticipated.

This was a lovely book that I look forward to rereading in the near future. There are few books that I finish and want to immediately read again, but this was definitely one of those. Everything about it was well-done. I ended up purchasing this book because I enjoyed it so much. 

I suggest picking up The Space Between Trees at your nearest convenience.

Rating: ~★★★★★~

And so there it is, the answer. It doesn't feel like how I thought it would at all. I don't feel the urge to gasp or say aha! I am not wiser or safer. The world is not set to rights. It is a small, sad, messy world, and I am a small, sad, messy girl.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson (Scarlett, #2)

"Sometimes we all get a little broken." 

I just read a sequel . . . a sequel to a book I've never read.

This was entirely an accident. I had no idea that this book was a sequel. There was nothing on the cover indicating it and nothing in the story that made me think I had missed out on an entirely different storyline. I wouldn't have even found out when I did if I wasn't the type that likes to read the "About the Author" section, no matter how much I already know about said author, and saw that there was another book called Suite Scarlett.

This distresses me in ways you cannot imagine. I do not like reading books out of order. I suppose I'll just have to get over it and read the first book when I get the chance. I was wondering how Scarlett landed  such an interesting job.

Now, to the book review itself!

Scarlett Fever is the story of a fifteen year-old girl whose family runs a run-down hotel in New York City. She works as a personal assistant to her brother's agent. He is an up and coming actor who soon lands a role that has him labeled as "New York's Most Hated" and dodging flying doughnut missiles from angry fans. Scarlett's little sister is up to something questionable and her older sister seems to be drifting further and further away from them.

To add to the drama, Scarlett's boss, being an acting agent, has a new actress she wants to sign. This actress has a younger brother who is more than prepared to drive Scarlett up a wall with his obnoxious behavior and rude manners.

It seems that Scarlett is the only one who has it together, but things are slowly deteriorating and it's going to take quite a bit of work (and a particularly hazardous dance move) to keep this family from sinking under the pressure.

Despite the fact that I just read a sequel first, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Johnson's writing and storytelling is even more compelling than 13 Little Blue Envelopes and I would definitely peg this book as the better of the two.

Johnson's descriptions and wordplay are superb in the telling of Scarlett's story. I couldn't help but admire certain turns of phrase that simply worked. Descriptions like, "The formaldehyde was overwhelming. It smelled like a sterilized headache." I could almost smell my ninth grade Biology class all over again. There are more little gold bits like this sprinkled throughout the text that I wholeheartedly encourage you to keep an eye out for. They were a special delight to me in the reading of this story.

The only criticism I have is the abrupt ending. It worked well enough, but caught me off-guard and left certain bits unresolved. Of course, now that I'm aware that Scarlett Fever is a part of a series, it makes much more sense now.

All in all, it's a good novel and worth taking the time to read.

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

[I finally read the prequel: Suite Scarlett. Click here to see my review.]

The feeling of loss was so profound that for a moment, she couldn't breathe. Something wonderful had happened here -- something confusing, but wonderful -- and now it was gone, and it would never come back.