Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (YA Fantasy)

Howls Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle

Diana Wynne Jones (Young Adult Fantasy)

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.

Sophie Hatter was a born blunderer.  Being the eldest of three daughters, it was simply inevitable and Sophie accepted her fate with as much dignity and resignation that she could muster.  She was well read, a talented seamstress, and abundantly aware that life—at least for her—held no interesting or exciting prospects.  But things certainly took an unexpected turn when Sophie found herself on the wrong end of a curse from the Witch of the Waste.  Suddenly, Sophie is now an old lady whose life is brimming with a stalking scarecrow, an enchanted fire, an arrogant wizard, and a magical, moving castle.  And here Sophie thought that her life would never hold any interesting or exciting prospects!

Howl’s Moving Castle is the first of three books by Diana Wynne Jones in the Howl’s Series.  In this novel, Jones takes readers on a thrilling and magical adventure full of charms and curses, mystery and mistaken identity, and frights and delights while our heroine goes on her own adventure of self-discovery and acceptance.  Eleven years before J. K. Rowling enchanted the world with a boy wizard, Jones gave readers another character who felt exploited and unhappy with their place in the world.  A person who longed for adventure and always knew that there was a world far beyond their little nook.  An unassuming hero defined and confined by societal views, but capable of so much more than meets the eye.  Characters like Harry Potter and Sophie Hatter are the very reason why we cheer for the underdog, mourn their failures, and celebrate their successes as if they were our own.  They reaffirm our hope that nice guys don’t finish last and our faith that love does conquer all.

Author C. S. Lewis once wrote, “We are who we believe we are.”  For a long time, Sophie believed herself to be unattractive, undeserving, and unimportant.  Like so many beloved characters in literature, it took a twist a fate to show Sophie that the beauty, strength, and courage she thought she lacked was inside her all along and proved once again that a curse can sometimes be a true blessing in disguise.

Rating: 5/5

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Bed-Knob and Broomstick by Mary Norton (J)

Bedknob and Broomstick

Bed-Knob and Broomstick    

Mary Norton (Juvenile Fiction)

Carey, Charles, and Paul Wilson are rather ordinary children who are planning to spend a rather ordinary summer with an old aunt in Bedfordshire.  The children, not being very fond of her house, choose to spend most of their time outdoors playing in the barns, by the river, in the lanes, and on the hills.  One day seemed to flow into the next rather uneventfully until the day that Miss Price hurt her ankle.  It was on that day where this story truly begins because Miss Price didn’t just visit the sick or teach piano or was the most ladylike in the village.  Miss Price also happened to be a witch…well, a novice witch…and it was this same Miss Price who cast a spell upon one of Paul’s bed-knobs—a spell that could take him and his bed anyplace in the present or past.  A spell that would eventually lead to a trip to the police station, an encounter with cannibals, and a chance meeting with a lonely necromancer.  Perhaps this will not be an ordinary summer for the Wilson children after all.

Bed-Knob and Broomstick is the combination of Norton’s The Magic Bed-knob (1943) and Bonfires and Broomsticks (1947).  The first part covers the initial meeting between the Wilson children and Miss Price and details their adventures in the present while the second part picks up two years after and sends the group into the past.  Norton’s tale is sure to delight younger readers and has enough unexpected twists and turns to keep older readers engaged as well.

Bed-Knob and Broomstick is a humorous, suspenseful, and enchanting book filled with courage, loyalty, friendship, and love.  American author Debasish Mridha once said, “The magic of love is that it has the power to create a magical world in and around us.”  Norton indeed gives us a magical world which teaches us that you’re never too young for an adventure and you’re never too old to find love.

Rating: 5/5

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Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite

In honor of Halloween, we’ll be reviewing ghoulishly scary and spooky books throughout the month of October.

Ghost on Black Mountain

Ghost on Black Mountain  

Ann Hite (Adult Fiction)

“Mama warned me against marrying Hobbs Pritchard.  She saw my future in her tea leaves: death.”

Nellie Clay was only 17 when she married 25-year old Hobbs Pritchard.  With just a feed sack of clothes, some trinkets, and a childhood full of memories, she leaves the only home she has ever known and moves to Black Mountain with a man she barely knows and the ghosts he has spent a lifetime creating.

Ghost on Black Mountain is a haunting tale of abuse, power, greed, and fervent love.  There is not a soul on Black Mountain that hasn’t been negatively impacted or affected by Hobbs Pritchard, and his toxic anger and avarice blanket the mountain like mist on a crisp autumn morning.  Hite does a credible job in conveying the torment and fear unleashed on a tightly-knit mountain community by a man consumed by evil and jealousy.  The author keeps the story interesting by having different female characters narrate and share their own histories and perspectives.  Near the end of the book, just when you thought you were safely out of the woods, Hite throws in an unexpected twist by introducing an unknown character.  Rather than stall the story’s progression with this sudden interruption, this shift actually adds to the story’s mounting tension and brings us ever closer to an inevitable tipping point.  As this character’s story is slowly unraveled, we become uncomfortably and painfully aware that the ghost on Black Mountain may never truly rest in peace.

Ghost on Black Mountain is Hite’s first novel and she gives readers a truly gripping and all-consuming story of good versus evil and the price one is willing to pay for redemption.  Like the ghosts on Black Mountain, this story and its characters will linger in your mind and lurk in your memory long after the last page is turned.

Rating: 5/5

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