Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (Howl’s Moving Castle #1)

Image result for howl's moving castle diana wynne jones

goodreads

The best words to describe this book would probably be charming or whimsical. While meant for younger readers, I can see many adults looking for a lighter read enjoying it as well.

It was odd. As a girl, Sophie would have shriveled with embarrassment at the way she was behaving. As an old woman, she did not mind what she did or said. She found that a great relief.

Sophie is the eldest of the three sisters and following fairytale logic, this means misfortune. Initially resigned to her fate of inheriting her hat shop, she instead gets tangled with the Witch of the Waste, who turns her into an old lady. Then she stumbles into the Wizard Howl, and, well, an adventure begins.

Continue reading “Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (Howl’s Moving Castle #1)”

Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (Montague Siblings #1)

Image result for lady's guide to petticoats and piracy

goodreads

This is so, so far outside of what I usually read. I’m not much for romance, I mostly avoid YA. I’m not averse to historical fiction, but I still don’t read it very often. Yet I’m glad I picked it up because I have enjoyed it immensely.

The great tragic love story of Percy and me is neither great nor truly a love story, and is tragic only for its single-sidedness. It is also not an epic monolith that has plagued me since boyhood, as might be expected. Rather, it is simply the tale of how two people can be important to each other their whole lives, and then, one morning, quite without meaning to, one of them wakes to find that importance has been magnified into a sudden and intense desire to put his tongue in the other’s mouth.

Continue reading “Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (Montague Siblings #1)”

Review: Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner

Image result for thomas the rhymer ellen kushner

goodreads

Lovely but far too short, Thomas the Rhymer is a retelling of an old tale by the same name, which tells the story of a poet and harper who is by the Queen of Elfland to serve her for seven years and returns being unable to tell a lie.

What songs do you sing to them in Elfland? There, where all the songs are true, and all stories history…I have seen lovers walking in those glades, with gentle hands and shining faces, their feet light upon the grass, where little flowers shone in the shadows as though the lovers trod the starry firmament. And some I almost recognized: Niamh of the Shining Hair with Irish Oisian; Fair Aucassin with his gentle Nicolette; and two kingly men with their arms around one graceful, merry queen…other faces, other figures strangely arrayed, each one with their own story, no doubt, and now at peace, with all stories done.

Continue reading “Review: Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner”

Review: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (The Sparrow #1)

Image result for sparrow by mary doria russell

goodreads

The Sparrow is a book that left me with a lot of conflicted feelings. I’m glad I read it and I have enjoyed it immensely, as much as one can enjoy a tragedy. But would I recommend it? I’m honestly not so sure.

I have a huge weakness for stories with a mystery at the centre, where we know the ending, but not the how and the why. It intrigued me right from the start. The story is mostly centered on Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit priest and linguist, the sole survivor of a first contact mission gone horribly wrong. It starts shortly after he’s returned to Earth, physically and psychologically shattered, with some horrible rumours about him circulating. Immediately, there are questions. Why and how did the rest of the crew die? What went wrong? How is it that he survived? The unwrapping of said mystery is careful and unrushed, with two parallel timelines – one in the present, following his slow recovery, the other following the mission to the planet of Rakhat from the beginning to its disastrous end.

“No questions? No argument? No comfort for the afflicted?” he asked with acrid gaiety. “I warned you. I told you that you didn’t want to know. Now it’s in your minds. Now you have to live with knowing. But it was my body. It was my blood,” he said, choking with fury. “And it was my love.”

Continue reading “Review: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (The Sparrow #1)”

Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

goodreads

I was a huge fan of Uprooted, so of course I had to pick this up in hardcover as soon as it came out and read it as soon as I could. And it’s a lovely, wintry tale; subversive yet true to its origins. Novik takes a fairytale and makes in complex, shot through with realism, but no less magical for that. It’s not “just” a retelling. It also touches upon medieval antisemitism, the position of women in their society without denying them agency, family, all in a way that makes sense within the story.

I wasn’t sorry to be leaving them. I loved nothing about the town or any of them, even now when it was at least familiar ground. I wasn’t sorry they didn’t like me, I wasn’t sorry I had been hard to them. I was glad, fiercely glad. They had wanted to bury my mother and leave my father behind to die alone. They had wanted me to go be a beggar in my grandfather’s house, and leave the rest of my life a quiet mouse in the kitchen.  They would have devoured my family and picked their teeth with the bones, and never been sorry at all. 

Easily the best part besides the atmosphere (nailed, of course) and beautiful writing are the characters. Especially the main three female characters. Miryem, the fiercely pragmatic moneylender. Wanda, a farmgirl who’s much smarter than she looks. Irina, a daugher of a local duke without much control over her life. Neither of them particularily strong or beautiful or inherently superspecial, but they all try to make the best of what they can do.

Continue reading “Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik”

Review: Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #8)

goodreads

This review is way overdue.

Guards! Guards! is not the first Discworld book I tried to read. I have read a few books in translation before and bounced off. I have something of a history with comedy – The Princess Bride I hated, Hitchhiker’s Guide I DNF’d. I was reluctant to try again, but I promised that I will give the series one last try, in English, and this seemed like a good entry point.

And hey, it worked.

“I wonder what’s the difference between ordinary councillors and privy councillors?” wondered the merchant aloud.

The assassin scowled at him. “I think,” he said, “it is because you’re expected to eat shit.”

Continue reading “Review: Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #8)”

Review: Hard to Be a God by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky

goodreads

This book started well enough. The prose was quite good, with nice descriptions of scenery, the issues raised were interesting. We follow Rumata, an observer from future utopian Earth, sent to a medieval world with a couple others under a strict rule of non-interference (no killing, etc), but secretly trying to help speed up their development.

It’s fairly kitchen sink, some sci-fi tech, some medieval swashbuckling, bit of everything. The conflict arises when regime in Arkanar start killing intellectuals. Rumata knows this is wrong, yet is plagued by doubts – he is not allowed to kill and not convinced it would solve the problem.

Persecute bookworms all you like, prohibit science, and destroy art, but sooner or later you’ll be forced to think better of it, and with much gnashing of teeth open the way for everything that is so hated by power-hungry dullards and blockheads.

Continue reading “Review: Hard to Be a God by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky”