I was hesitant to read this at first. It seemed a little too much like a tear-jerker/romance kind of thing. But I was pleasantly surprised and thoroug...moreI was hesitant to read this at first. It seemed a little too much like a tear-jerker/romance kind of thing. But I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed it.(less)
"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 eldes...more"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." So begins Howl's Moving Castle. Our protagonist, Sophie Hatter, is well aware of the fate awaiting the oldest child. But circumstances force her to set out to seek her fortune despite the fact that she is the oldest of three daughters.
This is one of those books that reminds you of the magic that made you fall in love with reading in the first place. Just look at that opening paragraph. Who can resist the lure of that? I immediately felt it calling me on to find out what does happen to the eldest.
Overall, this was a charming fairy tale. And like all good fairy tales, everyone comes out a little wiser in the end. But what I really liked about this particular fairy tale is that Sophie was not a helpless maiden in distress. She was saved from quite a few jams, but she did just as much saving with her quick wits. But at the same time, she was a flawed character who made mistakes but ultimately learned from them.
This was one of those books that left me with a satisfied smile at the end. I think it would be fun for both the young and the young-at-heart. I highly recommend it and I'll be looking for the sequel.(less)
As the second book in the Soldier Son Trilogy, Forest Mage was better than Shaman's Crossing in that it moved a little better and it wasn't quite as f...moreAs the second book in the Soldier Son Trilogy, Forest Mage was better than Shaman's Crossing in that it moved a little better and it wasn't quite as full of rationalizations. I still felt like I was slogging through a lot of unnecessary description and repetition. I understand that the magic is supposed to make people do weird things, but some of the complete reversals of characters' personalities were hard to swallow. I don't know if I'll bother with the third one when it comes out.(less)
Aza was abandoned at an inn when she was an infant. Luckily, the innkeeper and his wife decide to adopt her as their own. Aza grows up to have an unbe...moreAza was abandoned at an inn when she was an infant. Luckily, the innkeeper and his wife decide to adopt her as their own. Aza grows up to have an unbelievably beautiful singing voice, but she does not have a pleasing appearance, to put it nicely. Other Ayorthians value her for her voice, but they're appalled by her looks. They like beauty in every aspect of their lives and are downright offended by non-beautiful things and people.
Aza, in a strange twist of fate, finds herself attending the King's marriage, where she becomes the Queen's lady-in-waiting. But Queen Ivi has her own plans for the country, and those plans might just spark a revolt. Can Aza help to save her beloved country?
I can't quite make my mind up exactly what I think about this audio. I loved the full cast narration, and this book was perfectly suited to that. Sarah Naughton did a fantastic job as Aza, and I also really liked the voice of Prince Ijori. The Ayorthians are constantly singing. Constantly. Just everyday conversations will randomly have a sentence or two sung. For that reason, I think I did a little better with the audio than I would have with print. I find it frustrating to read songs in the middle of prose. (I'm looking at you, J. R. R. Tolkien. That's probably part of the reason I never finished reading The Lord of the Rings. You and your endless songs.) I love to watch musicals, so this should have worked a little better for me than it actually did, and I can't put my finger on why. The singers all did a great job. The lyrics weren't always perfectly metered, for lack of a better word. I could hear the singers trying to fit that extra syllable in somewhere, and it sounded rushed. I think part of my problem is that very few of the songs were fast. They were mostly ballad-y, which worked fine, but there were just too many. One or two, "The Song of Ayortha" in particular, just dragged on and on and on. It was more of a dirge than an anthem. It was actually sung so slowly that I couldn't half understand the words, so I just wanted this song to freaking end already!
The story was pretty cute though. Aza got a little tiresome with her constant obsession about her looks. She's at that awful age where it really, really matters though, so it was understandable. There's a good message for young girls here, but it's not something that bashes them over the head. I liked the twist on Snow White. It was a very original take on the tale, and I never really knew where it was going. The love story seemed to happen a little too fast, but then, they always do in fairy tales, don't they? At one point, I started to feel like the judgmental Ayorthians were only getting what was coming to them. Okay, so we all judge based on appearances, but they never even try to get to know Aza or let her give her side in any story. They were maddening! Prince Ijori was a prince worthy of the title. I really liked him.
I recommend this if you don't think the songs will throw you off. While I had some issues with it, I did like it, and I even recommend the audio. Feel free to skip past "The Song of Ayortha" though!(less)
The Masque of the Black Tulip continues the story of spies and lovers begun with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Henrietta Selwick (sister...moreThe Masque of the Black Tulip continues the story of spies and lovers begun with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Henrietta Selwick (sister to Richard Selwick, who was the spy known as The Purple Gentian) is corresponding with her cousin Jane (who is living in Paris and spying on Napoleon's government in the guise of the Pink Carnation). Got that? Through their coded correspondence, Jane sends messages of intrigue to the War Office in Britain. One such message notifies the War Office that the French have deployed their best and most dangerous spy, The Black Tulip, to London. A search for the spy follows.
Okay, without giving away anything, that is the bare bones of the plot. But that makes it sound a lot more serious than it is. Sure, the spying and disguises and coded messages do happen, but this book is pure, unadulterated, fun chick-lit. I raced through it, waiting to see if the Black Tulp is caught in time, but really, I just wanted to see who ends up in love with whom. The plot is fun, the characters are maybe not too well-developed, but they're fun too, and the pace is just right. If you don't take yourself or your books too seriously, this is an amusing, easy read. It would be great to read on the beach.(less)
Princess Andromeda feels like she can't do anything right. Her mother, Queen Cassiopeia, always seems to be disappointed in Andie's appearance and her...morePrincess Andromeda feels like she can't do anything right. Her mother, Queen Cassiopeia, always seems to be disappointed in Andie's appearance and her tendency to have her nose in a book. Finally, Andie finds a way to prove her value as a researcher to her mother--just in time to help try to discover a way to keep a marauding dragon happy. Unfortunately, the method she discovers involves sacrificing a virgin weekly. When Andie's name is drawn, can she find a way to save herself, or will this be a job for a Champion? And what exactly attracted the dragon to the kingdom in the first place?
This was the second in Mercedes Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdoms series. I didn't enjoy the overall plot as much as I enjoyed the first in the series, The Fairy Godmother, but the story was still fun and there were a few little things that I did like more in this book. First of all, there were no silly sex scenes. It wasn't bad in the first book, but they felt sort of pointless, so I definitely didn't miss them here. Second, they used a good copyeditor for this book. Most of the distracting italics are gone (a very good thing!). The story was still unpredictable and interesting, I just didn't care about the characters as much. Speaking of characters, Elena and Alexander make a few cameos in this book. I liked them so much from the first book that I was thrilled to have them show up here.
Overall, still fun fluff, but start with The Fairy Godmother and don't expect quite as much from this one.(less)
I ripped through this pretty quickly. It was definitely a page turner and an easy read. The story was enjoyable, I just feel like Mercedes Lackey's ac...moreI ripped through this pretty quickly. It was definitely a page turner and an easy read. The story was enjoyable, I just feel like Mercedes Lackey's actual writing could be better. But she does come up with good plots.(less)
Dream's kingdom is being threatened by a vortex, an entity that can rip apart the Dreaming. He also finds out that a few of his major, and monstrous,...moreDream's kingdom is being threatened by a vortex, an entity that can rip apart the Dreaming. He also finds out that a few of his major, and monstrous, subjects, have escaped his kingdom. He must look for them all and save the day before it's too late.
Darn it, GoodReads, I need half stars! This was better than Preludes and Nocturnes, but still not quite a four.
The arc of the story flowed much more smoothly. This volume really encompasses one big storyline rather than the three or four rather disjointed ones found in the first volume. This one was definitely creepy--I'm desperately hoping that the Corinthian stays out of my nightmares!--but it wasn't as over-the-top horrifying as Preludes. All pluses in my book. I also liked the way Gaiman took a storyline from the first collection that I had completely forgotten about and expanded it into something unexpected but fitting.
I liked that we got to see a little more of the family dynamics among Dream's family, the Endless Ones. They aren't really gods because gods die; these beings don't. They have always been around and they always will be. Some of Dream's past is told, and we're left with the feeling that his younger siblings aren't through messing with him and the other two Eldest.
I'm not a big fan of the art of the actual story. The colors are a little too garish. Sandman is still very cool, but the other characters, (well, except for the Corinthian) were just too much. This was written and illustrated in the late '80's, early '90's though, so that probably has something to do with it. I did, again, find myself poring over Dave McKean's gorgeous cover illustrations. I really, really like the mixed-media work he did for these.
This is a good young adult novel. I didn't realize that was the target audience until I really got into it. Not as good as his "grown-up" work, but st...moreThis is a good young adult novel. I didn't realize that was the target audience until I really got into it. Not as good as his "grown-up" work, but still good.(less)
Dr. Montague, a researcher into paranormal activity, has rented the fabled Hill House for the summer. The house has a reputation for being haunted. Ve...moreDr. Montague, a researcher into paranormal activity, has rented the fabled Hill House for the summer. The house has a reputation for being haunted. Very few people have managed to stay in it for more than a night. In order to sort of help the house do its worst, he invites people to stay with him who have had paranormal experiences. The only two who take him up on his offer are Theodora and Eleanor. Luke, the future heir to the house, also comes along. It does not take long for the house to show what it's made of.
I think this might have been ruined for me by the narrator, David Warner. The book is in third person, but is told from Eleanor's point of view. Why on earth did someone choose to have a man narrate? For the right book, he would be fine, and he did what he could with this. An older man with a deep voice is just not the right person to lead us down Eleanor's thoughts when she's so very--weak, maybe? No, uncertain is the better word. She's uncertain of her place in the world, in the house, in the group. She's also a dreamer who has a tenuous grasp on reality at best. The narrator definitely needed to be a young woman.
Eleanor herself is something else. Her thoughts get to be a little disturbing. She's definitely an unreliable sort-of-narrator. I never really knew what was happening in the real world and what was only happening in her head. For that matter, I never knew what she was actually doing.
Aside from that, I think I expected more of a horror angle. Sure, the house does get up to some crazy things, but nothing as bad as what I expected. I don't feel like there was a very good reason for all the previous renters to leave after one night. But then I'm not actually in the house, am I?
The retainers were probably the freakiest things about the house. The old man was downright scary when Eleanor first encounters him!
I'm not sure what I expected at the end, but it wasn't what I got. I just sat in the car and blinked for a few minutes after it ended. It definitely made sense, but wow. Unexpected.
Read this if you're in the mood for something that's walking the line between gothic and horror. Just don't listen to the version narrated by David Warner.(less)