Thursday, December 15, 2011

REVIEW: "Howl's Moving Castle" by Diana Wynne Jones

Why this book?: I was reading an article and this was mentioned as one of their favorite books of all time. I wanted to know why.

Type: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Witches, and Wizards, oh my!, Demons

About the bookSophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl's castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there's far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

Review: After reading this... I can definitely see why this book would be listed as one of someone's all-time favorites. It really was an excellent story, I have no clue why it took me this long to pick this book up and read it. But "Howl's Moving Castle" came at a great time for me. I was reading the emotional roller coaster known as "The Hunger Games" yet again, this time for a book club at work, and I needed something fantastical, something lighter, like this. There is great adventure to be had in this book, and it was just what I, and maybe even you!, needed.

Sophie is fascinating. She's sure she won't get a happy ending because she's the oldest daughter, and in fairy tales, the oldest never gets a Happily Ever After. So when the Witch turns her into an old woman, she decides to screw the stories and head out for adventure. Well, that, and she's hoping the crazy, mad, possibly evil wizard in the moving castle will be able to change her back.

The moving castle was one of my favorite parts. I love the idea that one door could open to so many different places. In my copy of the book, there was an interview with the author, and she mentioned her idea behind this door. She said just because the door to your bedroom has always opened into your bedroom before, doesn't mean you can't suddenly open it, and be facing something entirely different. She even mentioned leaving most of the doors in her home slightly ajar so the room doesn't disappear on her.

The characters were truly charming, even the grumpy ones. Michael, Howl's apprentice, was adorable.. and really felt his age - even the way he dutifully cared for Howl and Calcifer. And oh, Calcifer. Despite the fact that he was a demon and played up his grumpiness, you could tell he truly cared for Sophie.. and indeed everyone else as well. He was one of my chief comic amusements in this story.. well, him and Howl. There aren't enough words to properly describe Howl. Fantasy novels have certain conventions - an old wizard, wise beyond his years, bearded and fierce, yet gentle and kindly when they need to be. And then Howl comes along... he's young, vain, a coward.. at least 2 plus hours of his day are spent in the bathroom making himself look handsome. Despite Howl's many, many faults, his sense of humor and slitheriness (Sophie's word) is classic, and even lovable.

The anime movie based on this novel won several awards, and I'm eager to see how the two compare. Usually I try not to watch a movie too soon after I've read a book, because I will automatically dislike the movie.. so I'm trying to hold off as long as possible. But my love for this story is so great, I'm not sure I can hold it off much longer!

Cover Lovin': I loved it! There are several different covers for this book.. the original, later reprints, and even movie tie-in covers, and every one that I've seen looks wonderful.

Recommendation: For readers young and old, this is a fantasy tale that quickly moved to the top of my all time favorites list, and I'm sure it will for you as well!

 Final Rating: FIVE out of FIVE (5/5)! I loved it, I practically inhaled it, reading it all in one sitting.. it was wonderful. Great story, great characters... and hopefully great movie, I'll see soon enough!

Have you read "Howl's Moving Castle"? Share your thoughts in the comments! Want to purchase a copy of your own? Get it from!

Happy Reading!
~!~ Amanda ~!~

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

REVIEW: "A Courtesan's Guide to Getting Your Man" by Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan

Why this book?: I heard some rave reviews, and wanted to see what all the commotion was about!

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Type: Romance (Contemporary and Historical), Steamy (not for readers under 18 years old).

About the bookRegency London’s most celebrated courtesan, The Blackbird, was a woman before her time—uninhibited, financially independent, and free to live by her own rules. Schooled in the sensual arts by the one man she loved the most, she recorded every wicked detail in her diaries…
When Boston museum curator Piper Chase-Pierpont unearths The Blackbird’s steamy memoirs, she’s aroused and challenged by what she finds. Could the courtesan’s diaries  be used as a modern girl’s guide to finding love and empowerment? One curious curator—and one very lucky man—are about to find out…

Review: This is an example of a well done story featuring characters in booth the past and the present. Other books have attempted it, but this is the best one I've seen/read so far.

"A Courtesan's Guide to Getting Your Man" has a cast of truly excellent characters. I actually love all of the main characters. I was originally worried I wouldn't connect with everyone, afraid the characters in one time period would outshine the others and I would be bored with half the story, but there was an amazing balance. And all the main characters were appropriately fleshed out - which is a truly great thing to see. Some novels with more than one or two main characters seem to be lacking in the character development/realness.

It's not often I want to cry at the end of a book (especially when the book has a happy ending!) but I wanted to for this one! This is one of those books I want to immediate thrust into other people's hands and make them read it. In fact, I did. I gave this book to my mother to read, with the caveat that we not discuss the steamy scenes.. well, other than saying they were quite dishy.

And speaking of steamy scenes, this book is choc full of them! I didn't feel that the scenes were over the top, after all.. she's going through training to be a Courtesan. This was not smut for smut's sake, it was erotic, beautiful, and enough to make me want to fan myself. That said, if sex scenes aren't your thing, this book may not be for you. If you don't mind scenes that will fog up your mirror, go get your copy ASAP!

Cover Lovin': Not the best cover in the world, but it does alright, I'd say.

Recommendation: Excellent novel, for fans of both (or either) Contemporary and Historical Romance. Due to some of the more graphic love scenes, not suggested for readers under 18.

Final Rating: FIVE out of FIVE (5/5). This is one of those books I immediately started passing out to people, telling them they just HAD to read it because it was something I wanted to discuss. Excellent!

Have you read "A Courtesan's Guide to Getting Your Man?" by Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan? If so, share your thoughts in the comments! If not, CLICK HERE to get your copy from today!

Happy Reading!
~!~ Amanda ~!~

Monday, December 12, 2011

I'm back, baby!

Hello all!

I know it's been ages, but I finally feel ready to return. I had surgery in the beginning of November.. and there was a lot of prep involved beforehand.. and I'm still not fully recovered from it. BUT.. I have decided I will make my official triumphant return today, a MONDAY of all days. If I wanted it to be a truly happy return to reviewing.. I should have done it on a Friday, when everyone is celebrating the weekend, right? Pft.

I have really missed blogging, as well as reading everyone else's blog. I had these grand plans for when I was off work after my surgery.. I figured since I was off, I would have tons of time to read and relax, catch up on my favorite blogs, etc. Well, clearly I have never had major surgery before - I was tired all the time! Even sitting up and concentrating long enough to read a chapter was killer. So instead, I napped a lot. Finally I'm to the point where reading isn't such a difficult task, and I'm  so excited!

I probably won't be back to my old speed for some time, alas, but I will do the best I can, and maybe add in some filler posts and things go along. I have a review coming up tomorrow, so be on the lookout for that.

Again, I've missed everyone and I'm so glad to be back!
Happy Reading!
~!~ Amanda ~!~