Posts Tagged ‘Diana Wynne Jones’

Castle in the Air

by Diana Wynne Jones

HarperCollins, 1990

Source: public library

Read it because . . . I love Howl’s Moving Castle


Many moons ago,* I read this review over at things mean a lot and learned that Diana Wynne Jones wrote two companion books to Howl’s Moving Castle. Since I completely love and adore Howl’s Moving Castle, I decided I absolutely had to read Castle in the Air and I was going to do it for the Once Upon a Time Challenge and it was going to be Awesome.

Well, I read it. But folks – and this pains me to say this – it was not awesome.

I know. It doesn’t seem possible. Diana Wynne Jones not be awesome? After I finished reading Castle in the Air, I had the hardest time admitting out loud that I didn’t like it. It’s been a few months since I read it so most of the specifics have already left my brain, (and I don’t even want to skim the book to refresh my memory), but from what I remember the book felt not like the carefully work I’ve come to expect from Jones but like it was haphazardly thrown together. I never connected with any of the main characters. When Sophie, Howl and Calcifer arrived on the scene, it felt like a last-minute decision, like Jones suddenly remembered that this was a companion to Howl’s Moving Castle and she better find a way to tie the books together.

Did anyone else feel this way about Castle in the Air, or am I alone in my disappointment? I haven’t given up on Jones, but I don’t think I’m going to read the third book in the series, either.

Other reviews: BookLust, Chachic’s Book Nook, Dogear Diary, things mean a lot,

Did you write a review?  Let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

*I just realized that I started this review the exact same way I started the Howl’s Moving Castle review I wrote two years ago.  Weird.

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When I sat down a few days ago to catch up on my favorite book blogs I realized how much I miss this book blogging world.  I miss reading reviews, chatting with fellow book lovers, and planning and writing my own reviews and bookish thoughts.  I miss having a tiny corner of my life separate from work and school.  At first I was a little caught-off guard by this feeling, and then I felt a little sad, because unfortunately this is just the beginning. 

Sigh.  Drat being a responsible adult.

I want to apologize for my absence here, my delayed (or completely lack of) comments on your blogs, and all current and future whining about the intrusion of my thesis and work on my book blogging life.  I’m a little bundle of stress these days, but I’m trying really hard not to inflict that on anyone.  (I think I would be a little more successful at that if I moved to Antarctica.  But I hear it’s kinda cold there.)

Even though work, school and being sick (yes, I’ve been sick, too, which is just not fair, if you ask me) have kept me from blogging, I’ve managed to squeeze in quite a bit of “fun” reading.  (Mostly because I read while at work, but don’t tell on me!)  I don’t really have a review in me right now, so here’s a brief recap of some recent reads:

I did read one more Isabel Allende book last month – Daughter of Fortune.  Most of the novel takes place in California during the Gold Rush, and it was interesting to read an Allende novel about a time and place I’m familiar with.  She is such a vivid writer, though, that even if I wasn’t a native Californian I would still have felt like I was there.  I’ve never been to Chile, and yet after reading House of the Spirits I feel like I have.

Hmmm, what else . . . I finished up the Stieg Larsson Millennium series a few weeks ago.  Not the all-time greatest books I’ve ever read, but still very good.  A coworker loaned me Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen last week, and I feel a little ho-hum about it.  I’ve definitely read better memoirs (A Girl Named Zippy comes to mind; wow, do I love that book!). 

I’ve had a good reading streak since then: I finished Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman last night and lovedlovedloved it.  When I have available time and brain space I’m definitely going to review it here.  (In the meantime, check out Jenny’s review.  Wonderful.)  I’m on a mini Diana Wynne Jones kick, too.  I read Charmed Life the other day (good times, big fun) and am in the middle of Dogsbody, which is just fantastic.  I’m also in the middle of Among the Shadows by L. M. Montgomery, (recommended by Chandra), because frankly I could not resist reading a collection of spooky stories written by the author of Anne of Green Gables.

And on a totally unrelated note, autumn is finally getting rolling here, which just thrills me to pieces.  The leaves are blowing everywhere, there’s a chill in the air . . . I would be totally okay with it staying like this until spring 🙂

What are you up to?  Any great reads?  How’s autumn treating you?

P.S. In more unrelated news, I just discovered that Gail Carriger (author of Soulless, which I reviewed back in July) quoted my review on her blog!  A real, live author quoted me!  Wow.  I’m getting all giddy and starry-eyed over here.

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Howl’s Moving Castle
by Diana Wynne Jones
Harper Trophy, 1986
Source: public library

Many moons ago I found out that Jenny at Jenny’s Books was hosting a Diana Wynne Jones Week the first week of August. This excited me a great deal, and I figured it would be the perfect introduction to an author I had been meaning to read for awhile. I made a mental note to myself to check out a few of her books in mid-July so I would be all ready to go when August hit.

Okay, so the mental note got lost. By the time I remembered* it was already Monday, Day 2 of Diana Wynne Jones Week, and by the time Howl’s Moving Castle arrived at the library it was Saturday, Day 7 of Diana Wynne Jones Week.

But I read it anyway. In one day (Tuesday). In fact, even though I had been awake since 5 AM, (for the second day in a row; ugh), I stayed up until 11:30 PM to finish it. (I tried to stop reading. Really, I did. But the book was glued to my hand.) Even now I can’t seem to write this post because I keep picking it up and rereading it. Let’s see, if I just toss it to the other end of the couch . . . ahhh, better. (For now.)

So. On to Howl’s Moving Castle. First of all, I loved the fairy tale elements. (I’m a sucker for a well-told fairy tale.) More than that, I loved that Jones made her characters aware of those elements. The opening paragraph reads:

In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.
Sidenote: I almost stopped reading at this point so I could call my younger brothers and share this tidbit with them. “Great news, guys! You can go out and seek your fortunes worry-free! I’m the one who’s going to fail!” Unfortunately for them, though, I’m not the eldest of three, I’m the eldest of four, and four’s not a particularly significant number. Oh! But I’m the eldest with three brothers! Wonder if that means anything?
I also loved Sophie. Loved her tantrum involving the weed-killer, loved how she went around talking life into things for forever before she realized could do it, loved her cranky old lady side. I recognized a piece of myself in her, too, although not an especially flattering piece. Before Howl pointed it out to Sophie, I had suspected for some time that she was preventing herself from escaping the spell she was under and was using it as a shield. It was during this exchange, however, that I realized that I would have behaved the exact same way. Drat. I really hate self-awareness sometimes.
So sign me up: I am officially a Diana Wynne Jones fan. And as soon as I’m less sleep-deprived I’m consulting Jenny’s lists (here and here) to see which book I should read next. Oh, hurray for discovering great authors after they’ve written a zillion books! I now have lots of reading ahead of me. Bliss, bliss, bliss.
Another sidenote: I feel I should take this moment to say that Diana Wynne Jones Week is how I came to read Jenny’s blog in the first place. Nymeth at things mean a lot mentioned it on her blog, so I clicked on over and got totally hooked on Jenny’s blog. Which, by the way, is exactly how I had come to things mean a lot: Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Books had mentioned one of Nymeth’s posts, so over I went and hooked I got. For the life of me, though, I can’t remember how I found Birdbrain(ed) Books. (And yes, I realize I just totally set myself up there. See if you can resist calling me a birdbrain. My three delightful younger brothers wouldn’t!)
Okay, I’m off to hide Howl’s Moving Castle before I stay up reading it again.  And maybe now I’ll go to bed.  Because clearly I need sleep.
*And yes, I am well aware that Jenny has a giant DWJ Week button on her blog. I saw (and admired) it every time I stopped by. In my defense: I have toast for brains.

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