Howl’s Moving Castle—A Deserved Classic

It’s been a long time since I read Diana Wynne Jones’s YA novel Howl’s Moving Castle, long enough that reading it again was almost like reading it for the first time. I don’t remember what I thought of it that first time, other than that I liked it, but I know I noticed a lot more this time around. So here’s some of what I noticed.

1—A Contradictory Heroine

Sophie Hatter has a unique voice, somehow both whimsical and matter of fact. She’s a contradictory character—stern and commanding, yet withdrawing. One of the most striking things about Sophie is how little she values herself, even while doing extraordinary things. Sophie spends the majority of the book hiding not only in a frumpy grey dress, but in a frumpy old body—she’d been cursed, but perpetuated the curse by her own desire. And yet, when cursed, Sophie uses now being an old woman as an excuse to herself to go get the life she wants. Continue reading “Howl’s Moving Castle—A Deserved Classic”

Some of the Un-Book Reporter’s Favorite Heroines

I find myself drawn to stories of girls and women who are clever and brave, and who make their own path. Likely because I seek and struggle to embody those qualities myself. This will be a short post, as I could go on forever if I don’t limit myself. So here are a handful of my favorite book heroines, in no particular order.

Aly—Daughter of the Lioness

All of the heroines in Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books fit the bill but Alinanne of Pirate’s Swoop most embodies cleverness. Aly is a quintessential guile hero, trained from the cradle in spycraft and chosen by a Trickster god. Said Trickster sweeps Aly off to the Kyprian Isles to be the last piece in a centuries-old game which is about to culminate in bloody rebellion. It isn’t easy to manipulate allies and enemies alike, much less from the position of slave girl, but Aly has her own tricks and games to play. Continue reading “Some of the Un-Book Reporter’s Favorite Heroines”

The Parasol Protectorate Series—A Mellifluous Melding of Genres

The Parasol Protectorate series, by Gail Carriger
The Parasol Protectorate series, by Gail Carriger

Mellifluous has two meanings. The first—having a smooth, rich flow—describes well how Gail Carriger blends supernatural intrigue, historical peculiarity, and amusing romance with wondrous steampunk gadgets. I earlier reviewed another series of Ms Carriger’s which takes place before the Parasol Protectorate, but these are the books that started it all. I was hooked from the first scene in the first book, Soulless, wherein Alexia is accosted by a rogue vampire who knocks over the tea trolley and lands in the treacle tart! Which brings to mind the second meaning of mellifluous—filled with something that sweetens. And Alexia does love her sweets.

1—The Heroine

Adventure, drama, and intrigue are rarely so much fun, and much of that is due to Alexia’s practical yet mannered outlook on events. Ms Carriger went straight onto my “favorite author” list with that first book, and every book since has just confirmed that place in my heart. Continue reading “The Parasol Protectorate Series—A Mellifluous Melding of Genres”

Star Wars: The Force Awakens—A New Beginning for an Old Universe

poster of Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

It’s been a year since I bothered going to see a movie in a theater but I kept hearing good things about The Force Awakens. Yesterday, I finally managed to see it and I’m glad I kept trying. The Force awakens was a fun movie and a solid story, or rather a solid beginning as this is very much the first part of a longer tale. But I expected that going in—this is Star Wars, after all. Trilogies are kind of their thing.

1—Worlds of Wonder

This movie is beautiful. There is such a sense of space and grandness in the scenery. Of the vastness of the wrecked starship and the greater vastness of the desert. Of the lushness of Takodana, and Rey’s awe of this green and wondrous planet, so different from her own barren homeworld. Even the corridors and bays of the ships are beautiful, in their way. Hell, even the Rathtars Han is transporting—balls of teeth and tentacles and death—are beautiful in a grotesque, hand-down-the-sink-disposal way. …don’t ask me how that’s beautiful, it just is. Continue reading “Star Wars: The Force Awakens—A New Beginning for an Old Universe”

A Madness of Angels—Entrancing Urban Magic

A Madness of Angels, a Matthew Swift novel, by Kate Griffin
A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin

You may notice a similarity with the title of last week’s book. What can I say? I was in a particular mood—dark urban fantasy. But A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin (pseudonym of Catherine Webb, pseudonym of Claire North) is a very different book, and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring those differences.

1—Life is Magic

These words are the motif of the book, the heart of both its magical system and of its theme. Life is magic, and all magic comes from life. And because the life in and of a city has a particular flavor, so to does its magic. Our hero (heroes?—I’ll get to that) is an urban sorcerer; his magic is instinctual and comes from, as he says several times, his point of view. They see the wonder of the city—London, if you were wondering which one—all around them and in everything of it. They even create a barrier spell by reciting the rules and regulations of a train station. Continue reading “A Madness of Angels—Entrancing Urban Magic”

Conspiracy of Angels: A Novel of the Shadowside—Intriguing in All Senses of the Word

book cover of Conspiracy of Angels: A Novel of the Shadowside by Michelle Belanger
Conspiracy of Angels by Michelle Belanger

Conspiracy of Angels is the first in Michelle Belanger’s new Shadowside series of novels and while almost all current urban fantasy borrows a bit (or a lot) from horror, I wouldn’t call Conspiracy of Angels a horror story. Bordering on it—it’s dark, with plenty of monsters and fighting—but not outright horror. I need usually need a few mutilated corpses for that…though I suppose the zombies might count. YMMV (your mileage may vary). But whether borderline of full-tilt horror, when I finished the book, I was desperate to read the next—which isn’t out yet, dammit. Harsh Gods isn’t due out until October (2016). But on to the review of the first book.

1—Angel Unaware

Zachary wakes up on a lakeshore with no memory of who he is (actually not the first time I’ve encountered this setup) and no idea he’s not human. He’s one of a tribe of angels that reincarnate, and which I’ll get into later. So biologically human, but he’s also got these wings and extra muscles that only show up on the Shadowside, another side of reality. Continue reading “Conspiracy of Angels: A Novel of the Shadowside—Intriguing in All Senses of the Word”

Downfall: A Cal Leandros Novel—Goddam Satisfying

the cover of Downfall by Rob Thurman
Downfall by Rob Thurman

I finished Downfall more than a week ago then had to go back and reread the whole series. I feel like cackling maniacally. The Cal Leandros Novles are such goddam fun. Gory, gruesome, bloody in the best ways, the Cal Leandros books are told from the first person perspective of the eponymous protagonist (as well as some others, but I’ll get to that) as he and his brother Niko try to make a living among the monsters in NYC. Urban fantasy doesn’t get much better and I’ve loved every minute following Cal on his descent into monsterdom.

1—Come Full Circle

Downfall sees a lot of elements from the first book, Nightlife, come full circle. The Auphe—the originals monsters, slaughter made flesh—and the Bae, their second coming. Cal’s monster side coming out to play, first through Darkling possession, now through possession by his own genetics. And of course, all the old friends we meet again. Continue reading “Downfall: A Cal Leandros Novel—Goddam Satisfying”

The Generation V Series—Vampires Done Differently and Well

book cover of Generation V by M L Brennan
Generation V by M L Brennan

I love vampires so I’ve seen a lot of them, good, bad, and boring. And there are oh, so many boring, overdone vampire movies and books. Seriously, do not watch Twilight, not even to get the jokes—it was hands down the most mind-killingly BORING anything I’ve ever seen *shudders*. Fortunately, the Generation V series by M. L. Brennan restored my faith that something new could be done with vampires without stripping them of (intentional) horror. Let us explore.

1—A New Breed of Bloodsucker

Ok, I know it says “Beware of Spoilers” at the top of every page in this site, but seriously, this section has some massive spoilers. Fortitude Scott—Fort, our hero and first person POV narrator—has been kept much in the dark about his true nature and almost all of what I’ll say here was discovered over several books. So if you want to discover all this along with him, take my word that there’s some neat stuff done with the vampire mythology and go ahead and skip to the next section. Continue reading “The Generation V Series—Vampires Done Differently and Well”

Her Royal Spyness—A Fun First Outing

cover for Her Royal Spyness novel by Rhys Bowen
Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

Her Royal Spyness is the first in Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness Mysteries series of novels. A light, fun romp through the underbelly of the upperclass of 1930s Britain.

1—The Build Up

Most of the first half of the book is build up, but I don’t mind—and in fact prefer. As Georgie—the heroine—isn’t a detective or any sort of investigator (yet), I’m glad the author takes the time to set things up. And there’s a lot to set up. The world—both in the sense of the time and place, and in the sense of Georgie’s social world as minor English royalty. All the pieces must be set on the board, so to speak—it wouldn’t be a mystery without plenty of suspects. And of course, the all important stakes, which gradually build until Georgie’s family home and reputation, and personal freedom, are at risk. Continue reading “Her Royal Spyness—A Fun First Outing”

Nimona—Essential Fantasy

Cover of Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona is a fantasy graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson and now a part of my list of essential fantasy reading (note: there is no actual list, it’s in my head…though I may have to start one now). Nimona started life as a webcomic. You can still read the first three chapters online at Noelle’s website, Gingerhaze. The remaining chapters have been taken down to, you know, get you to buy the book. Which I highly recommend. If you were listening to this post instead of reading it, I’d tell you to shield your ears. SQUEEEEEEEEAHHHhhhaaahahahaaaaaaMWAHAHAAAAAAAA! I love this book so much!

1—The Other Side of a Well-Known Story

Not any story in particular—Nimona is very much its own—but of so many stories. I know this story and I know these characters. The golden Hero, the Villain he routinely defeats but never kills. The back and forth, the banter, the weekly adventure…which we aren’t ever shown in the book itself because it’s unnecessary. That ground is so well trodden, the barest few hints are all that’s needed to walk me down it again. I can practically describe the narrative landscape in my sleep. But this story starts when that routine is disrupted by the appearance of a violent and chipper young shapeshifter into Lord Blackheart’s lair. And from there we get to see villainous side of it, not to mention a few others. Continue reading “Nimona—Essential Fantasy”