Howls Moving Castle
by Diana Wynne Jones
My love for Howls Moving Castle simply cannot be defined. It has no depth, no characteristics, no limitations; because my love for this book transcends all mortal and spiritual boundaries. But that doesn't mean my love cannot be portioned into a pie chart of my favorite components!
Unfortunately, I cannot include a visual of this pie chart, but I can go to extensive, rambling lengths to ensure that you can form an image in your mind, or at least come to a clearer comprehension of my love for HMC (although I can’t guarantee the explanation will be clear itself).
55% percent of my love is owed to Mrs. Jones' IMPECCABLE characters, plus all the witty banter and tender domestic snapshots that come along with them. Let’s talk about my history with the universally lovable character Howl Pendragon, in particular. The first time I had encountered the character I was 14, and falsely believed that I was already a connoisseur of fine literary characters. In my mind, likable characters were always knights who could skewer their enemies in half, or kickass heroines who could bring down entire armies. At least, that was until I read Diana Wynne Jones’ acclaimed Howl's Moving Castle. Beyond my expectations, I fell in love with this vain, melodramatic man-child. He has entered me into an obsession so deep, I'm not sure if I've crawled out yet. Ok, moving on.
15% includes my UTTER ADORATION for down Wynne Jones' immortal writing. All of her novels have such a charming, dreamy feel to them, which she applies liberally to the atmosphere in HMC.
And the last 30%? That can be none other than my love for the magical world of Ingary. I truly desire to be sucked into the pages of the book and live the rest of my life in idyllic peace there (an occasional dose of Pendragon bickering would not be mutually exclusive from my new, cozy cottagecore life). I'll admit, part of why I am so enamored with the setting is because I may or may not have watched the whimsical Studio Ghibli adaptation of the novel first... If my humble opinion even matters anymore (after committing this hell-bound sin), I wasn't aware that the book had even existed, and the movie IS A GORGEOUS MASTERPIECE IN ITS OWN RIGHT! (I would even suggest you treat the works as two separate entities). Anyone who has seen the movie knows firsthand the rolling meadows, quaint little towns, and picturesque scenic views Ingary had to offer. because Ghibli is very good at being wholesome and gorgeous like that. By the time I read the book (only one day after breathlessly drinking in the movie), I could only see Ingary as this magical dreamscape...and the addition of even more magic made me instantly want to dive into those pages and drown in them.
To recap my wonderful, statistically accurate pie chart, Howl’s Moving Castle is a must-read because of its infinitely lovable characters, iconic writing, and enchanting setting. Come on and just read it!
*Summary is not included in this review, but DOES IT EVEN MATTER ANYMORE? COME ON AND JUST READ THE BOOK!!
**This review contains solely my thoughts and rantings about the book
The Guinevere Deception
by Kiersten White
Hey there! It's me, Vlad's fangirl, again. But this time, I'm not reading another story centered around Vlad the Impaler, I'm reading another one of Kiersten White's marvelous retellings. When I found out that Kiersten White had written a reimagining of Arthurian legend, I was SO PUMPED!! The news also incited me to do a quick brush-up on Wikipedia, and that background context, which I could draw comparisons from, made the reading experience even more special!
The Guinevere Deception is set in the mythical kingdom of Camelot, where magic is both the foundation of the kingdom and scorned at the same time. Here enters not-Guinevere: an adept sorceress in disguise, sent by Merlin to protect Arthur, the charismatic boy-king of Camelot and another mythicized historical leader with a dubious story. She is to pose as Guinevere: Arthur's queen, equal, and confidante (oh how ironic!), although concealing her true identity may be the very thing that dooms her. Soon, Guinevere's life purpose boils down to one essential element: protect Arthur. However idyllic Camelot may seem, whorls of dark magic have been gnawing at its edges since the bloody birth of the kingdom, and the Dark Queen, responsible for these magical threats, is ready to reclaim the land that was once hers. Wow!
What a suspenseful synopsis, I know! I extracted most of it from Good Reads! In terms of plot, this book doesn't quite stack up to its wonderful premise, as the pace only picked up near the final 50 pages of the book. But if we are to address characters....well, that's an entirely different conversation.
I have written in my notes app upon completion of this book [WARNING - HEAVY spoilers]: AHHHHHHHHHHHH! Mordred: my sweet, sarcastic, heroic, angsty, and misunderstood baby, WHY MUST KIERSTEN MAKE YOU AN ANTAGONIST??? I KNOW YOU WERE MEANT TO BE EVIL BECAUSE IT WAS WRITTEN IN THE STARS (aka Wikipedia), BUT WHYYYYYYYY???? [end of spoiler].
As you can tell, Kiersten White elicited a lot of profound feelings from me, namely regarding Mordred, who is my favorite "sweet, sarcastic, heroic, angsty, and misunderstood baby" (*facepalm*). I will say, those opinions are totally valid because:
a) freedom of thought and
b) Mordred is one of the most charming, devious, and lovable characters ever, hence his lengthy, seven-word title
Guinevere herself was a little bland, but that’s probably deliberate characterization, considering Guinevere is restarting her life from a blank slate (like literally sacrificing her identity and everything). Despite Guinevere's simplicity, I thoroughly enjoyed her dynamics with other characters, maybe even EVERYONE she interacts with (ok that might be a stretch, but Kiersten White knows how to write strong character relationships). I must report, however, that there is a love triangle in this novel because no YA novel can be constructed without one (*heavy sigh + eye roll combo*). If you're interested, I'm on team Arthur (for purely selfish reasons): my thought process being that if Arthur ends up with Guinevere, that frees up Mordred for me!! LET'S ESCAPE THE STERILE, INSIPID CONFINES OF CAMELOT TOGETHER!!!!!
The Lady Rogue
by Jenn Bennett
I've never been particularly enthused about the historical fiction genre, but I can say that I've learned a great deal about history (and not against my will!) from this entrenching, masterfully written historical fiction novel. There were fascinating facts (about real people and real historical events, imagine that!) in this book that definitely shocked me out of the comfortable, ignorant bliss I was used to living in. For instance, I was today years old when I found out that aspects of Dracula, yes the spooky, leeching vampire, were based on a real person. Dracula inherited his infamous love of blood-letting from...(drum roll, please): VLAD THE IMPALERRRRRRR. Vlad Tepes, as he is called, was simply a dude who was very fond of impaling people. That...intense...history made for a thrilling novel, in which our heroine concerns herself with the legacy of Vlad Dracula hundreds of years after his death. I, too, found myself growing increasingly interested in the history of this infamous Wallachian ruler. Luckily for me, Ms. Bennet was not the first to capitalize on Vlad the Impaler's prolific life. The most well-known literary delineation of Vlad Tepes happens to be Bram Stoker's Dracula--yes the spooky, leeching vampire I mentioned before. However, tales documenting Vlad Dracula's barbaric acts have been circulating since the late 1400s - early 1500s, and authors like Jenn Bennett are still writing about Vlad the Impaler's monumental life today. This means I have a considerable number of books to read, so if you'll excuse me...
*Summary is not included in this review, but you can check it out here: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/43822758-the-lady-rogue
**This review contains solely my thoughts and rantings about the book
And I Darken
by Kiersten White
A couple of days ago, I had devoured a historical fiction novel set in Romania about Vlad the Impaler's bloody escapades. I am here today to follow up on my fervid Vlad Dracula fascination by reading the impeccable Kiersten White's And I Darken, a gender-bent (!!!) take on the bloodiest conquerer of a time when old New York was once New Amsterdam. Why they changed it, I can't say...people just liked it better that way. So, take me back to Constantinople (I am so sorry; I just couldn't resist!!).
If you didn't understand that garbled misuse of wonderful lyrics, what I was trying to say is this novel is written from the POV of VLAD THE IMPALERRRRR himself, well, kind of.
This first novel in a trilogy follows the early life of Vlad's feminine variant, Ladislava Dragwlya. As a mere child, she was wrenched from her one true love--the kingdom of Wallachia--and tossed into the gilded cage of the Ottoman Empire. As she matured, she learned to hone her violent nature into a deadly, vengeful, weapon, which she uses without mercy and without remorse.
I must say, Vlad, or his female counterpart Lada, has quickly become one of my favorite characters; she is fierce, unrelenting, and assertive. Basically, she knows what she wants (Wallachia) and she will go to extreme lengths (slaughtering over 80,000 people) to attain whatever that is. Still, she is the perfect anti-hero and lovable in all her ferocity. I also feel compelled to disclose that no, Lada does not bear any resemblance to Count Dracula. (Ok, thank you; goodbye).
On the other end of the spectrum, readers are also introduced to her younger brother, the docile and adorably sweet Radu. Radu is an absolute cinnamon roll. The siblings are infinitely relatable (the dynamic, not the being-wrenched-from-your-homeland thing), and the novel does a wonderful job of exploring the commitments to found family vs. blood family.
But because And I Darken is also a YA novel, readers have to contend with a love triangle. Whoop whoop! Kiersten White essentially uses Lada's gender as an excuse to pair her up with Memhed, the vulnerable, fledgling king of the Ottoman Empire (and Lada's number one enemy, in theory). So yeah, the whole sworn-enemies romance is pretty messy, and I haven't explained the love triangle yet! Take a WILD guess at who the members of the threesome are.
Did you guess, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed, because you are absolutely right! And now I feel bad that I've turned this review into an excuse to rant about love triangles, so I'll stop here. Overall, And I Darken was a chaotic, ruthless gem, and I will definitely be binge-reading the rest of the trilogy!
by Shea Ernshaw
SUMMARY: Winterwood is a frost-covered, moss-dappled modern fairytale about a witchling, a lost boy, and the woods. Now, the woods are a pulsing, protective force; they hang on tightly to whatever they mark as theirs, and they forgive intruders with a harsh, unforgiving code. Nora Walker understands the woods as much as humans can understand them; she hails from a long line of powerful witches with a history potent with magic and tainted from the woods. She knows when she is allowed to take from the woods, yet she does so sparingly because taking always demands a sacrifice. When she finds a boy, Oliver, shivering, and near-death--an almost-apparition--Nora decides to risk the wrath of the woods. Of course, her actions have unintended consequences: a deadly winter storm blows into her small town, and Nora must contain herself with her largest mistake yet: Oliver. Because Oliver, death, and the woods have a long-standing history, and they aren't quite ready to give him up just yet. PERSONAL THOUGHTS: I swear, Shea Ernshaw could write a book about boiling water, and I would still read all five hundred pages. Ernshaw's craft has been honed to a sharp, dazzling point, exemplified by her lovely stylistic choices throughout the novel. Throughout the book, Ernshaw slipped little entries about Nora's extensive line of female ancestors who dabble in the "dark arts", and I loved every single witch that was featured! Nora herself is a likable character, with a devotion to her heritage and quiet bravery that I admired deeply. Oliver, too, was every inch the mysterious, but shy and reclusive boy that I could have hoped for. The burn is slow, but any reader would be able to sense the tangible sweetness/gentleness their chemistry has, even starting from the first page. The plot chugs along at a leisurely pace, like the romance, but I didn't mind because Ernshaw simply writes SO beautifully! I am now looking forward to reading some of her other books, which I hope can only be as good as Winterwood!
The House In The Cerulean Sea
by Tj Klune
If you're looking for those warm fuzzy feelings that travel all the way from the tips of your toes (encased in fuzzy socks) to the top of your head (warm underneath the golden rays of the afternoon sun), this book is 100% for you. I have never read a single book that emanates Studio Ghibli vibes as much as this book does; it is wholesome, fulfilling, and I wish I could bottle up its essence and bring it with me wherever I go. I could prattle on and on about the compelling characters, resonant themes, and indulgent plot forever if I could, but my brain is in an uncomfortable state between sagging underneath the weight of so many words (because yes, I binge-read this book) and feeling uplifted, ready-to-smile-at-random-strangers-on-the-street cheerful. So I shall just leave my thoughts here and hope that you use your better judgment and read this book. (wow, I am REALLY feeling confident in humanity today)
*Summary is not included in this review, but you can check it out here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45047384-the-house-in-the-cerulean-sea **This review contains solely my thoughts and rantings about the book
A Winter's Promise
by Christelle Dabos
I don't believe I've raved enough about A Winter's Promise yet. This book was such a captivating, engrossing read, which reminded me a bit of Phillip Pullman, Diana Wynne Jones, and classic French suave all mashed together into one happy harmony. Yes, this book was originally French - proof that it is already superior to the rest of YA. The concept behind the world-building is absolutely enchanting, and Dabos does a wonderful job of layering each level of lore and magic onto one another. (I would rave more about Dabos' lovely prose and the way she unfurls the story but I need space to rant about the story itself) Jumping from the docile Ark of Amina to the brutal, artificiality of the Pole sets up such interesting plot lines and made me long to discover even more Arks (plus their family spirits), which I hope readers will get to do in the following sequels! As for the characters, all are charming and lovable in their own ways. I cannot deny that I related most to Ophelia, the main character with an unassuming quiet courage, whom I also lived vicariously through. She's a total clutz but not at all lacking in willpower, which is such a refreshing diversion from the typical kickass, 10/10 heroines we see (exclusively) in the YA genre today. Actually, all the characters manage to subvert expectations, not to mention the trope of the slow-burn arranged marriage WHICH WORKS SURPRISINGLY WELL IN THIS BOOK. We even get an anti-confession of love, and that (was positively heart-wrenching) is practically the polar opposite of insta love (which is much too abundant in YA). I fully expect the drag (and angsting) to last all the way to the final book, and I don't mind at all. I am also convinced that Ophelia's male counterpart, the taciturn and reserved Thorn, is a secret feminist in a patriarchal society who has been in love with Ophelia since page 50. But my Ophethorn shipping levels are off the chart so these are only fledgling theories that I desperately wish to be true. OH AND OPHELIA IS ACE WHICH MAKES THE REPRESENTATION IN THIS BOOK IS PHENOMENAL AND ONLY ADDS FUEL TO THE SLOW BURN. That's enough rambling for now, just read the book, please. If it helps, the cover is gorgeous.
*Summary is not included in this review, but you can check it out here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40969531-a-winter-s-promise **This review contains solely my thoughts and rantings about the book
by Stephanie Garber
Legendary follows the bubbly, flirtatious sister, Donatella “Tella” Dragna, during the after-effects of the spectacular Caraval game. Tella and her sister, Scarlett, have finally escaped the abusive wrath of their father--reclaiming their autonomy and reaching a close to their formerly oppressive lives. Of course, they did not succeed without their own sacrifices and gambles. Tella still has an arduous debt to pay, one that involves achieving the near-impossible: uncovering the identity of Caraval’s master, Legend. Burdened with this gargantuan task, Tella returns to the magical world of Caraval, where both magnificence and danger play the same part in the game. This time though, Tella isn't playing for a taste of freedom; she's playing to pay up where sacrifices are due and claim her own debts too (wow, that rhymed). As she dives deeper and deeper into the game, Tella is given an ultimatum: win Caraval and ultimately doom Legend (for whom she is developing the hots for, btw) or lose her life in the process.
If anything, I am notoriously good at dropping books and picking them back up at the most random times (i.e., last week). Surprisingly, I remembered a decent chunk of what had happened in the previous novel but ironically not a single drop of what happened in this one.
One quick book rags browse later, I was finally up to speed with the events of Legendary...and then immediately dropped the book again. In my defense, I had had a busy week and just couldn’t see the point of finishing a book I started a YEAR AND A HALF ago, especially with my poor time management skills. Up till then, I had survived just fine not knowing what Legend’s name was or if Tella won the Caraval games (the obvious answer is yes, though).
Now that I do know what Legend’s name is, I can’t say that I’ve achieved Nirvana or anything. I am still somewhat (?) glad I’ve finished the book because now I don’t have the book FBI on my tail anymore for being a bad, bad reader. But now the book FBI is forcing me to read the final book, too.