Posts Tagged: Books

Everybody Needs One

March 11, 2015 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 9 ★★★★½

Everybody Needs OneStrong Female Protagonist
by brennan lee mulligan, molly ostertag
Series: Volume 1
Published by Top Shelf Productions
on November 2014
Genres: Graphic Novel
Pages: 220
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars
With superstrength and invulnerability, Alison Green used to be one of the most powerful superheroes around.

Fighting crime with other teenagers under the alter ego Mega Girl was fun — until an encounter with Menace, her mind-reading arch enemy, showed her evidence of a sinister conspiracy, and suddenly battling giant robots didn't seem so important.

Now Alison is going to college and trying to find ways to help the world while still getting to class on time. It's impossible to escape the past, however, and everyone has their own idea of what it means to be a hero....

After a phenomenal success on Kickstarter, Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag bring their popular webcomic into print, collecting the first four issues, as well as some all-new, full-color pages!

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Everyone needs a Strong Female Protagonist, that is.

I hate to admit it, but I had never heard of this comic until I saw it on NetGalley. It’s a webcomic. It had a very successful Kickstarter campaign. It fell into my lap and y’all. I am so happy about that, because this protagonist is right up my alley.

Alison Green is one of those protagonists you can’t help but identify with. Sure, she has superhuman abilities, but underneath all that strength and super-ness, lies a very uncertain girl with real world problems like money, family, friendship, lack of confidence, and a past she just can’t escape. And then yes, on top of it all, Alison has superpowers. What does she do with that? Is she obligated to save the world? And who really cares anyway?

There is so much to love in this little comic. The writing is great. The art is too. The thing I love most though, is the message. That no matter how smart, how super, how strong you are, you are also human. With human fears, feelings, desires, and just messed up.

Highly recommended.

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Alex + Ada, Volume One by Jonathan Luna

February 5, 2015 Book Reviews, Books 10 ★★★★★

Alex + Ada, Volume One by Jonathan LunaAlex + Ada
by Jonathan Luna, Sarah Vaughn
Series: 1-5
Published by Image Comics
on July 16, 2014
Genres: Graphic Novel
Pages: 128
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars
Collects ALEX + ADA #1-5. From JONATHAN LUNA (GIRLS, THE SWORD, ULTRA, Spider-Woman: Origin) and SARAH VAUGHN (Sparkshooter) comes ALEX + ADA, a sci-fi drama set in the near future. The last thing in the world Alex wanted was an X5, the latest in realistic androids. But after Ada is dropped into his life, he discovers she is more than just a robot.

Five reasons you need to read Alex + Ada. Like, right now:

1. The art is gorgeous. It’s plain jane, but well drawn, and for the story (at this point, anyway) I think it fits. Alex is sad. He’s depressed. And his world reflects that. And the story, while not original, it is a fresh take on it, if that makes sense. I mean, the execution is excellent. And you know, it’s not what you have, it’s all in how you use it. It is just so engaging.

2. Robots are boring. Super boring. Completely subservient, no will – absolute no will – of their own. No personality, no desire, no spark. Some people may think this is great! No more dishes, no more laundry! Others, those who see robots as more than that, have a Big Moral Dilemma to contend with. Fireworks!

3. The political and social tensions. People are terrified because the robots are becoming sentient and no one knows how it is happening. And just like in the real world, when people don’t understand something, they panic. And when they panic, bad things happen. And then the politicians get involved. OH SNAP.

4. Loneliness. This hit me so strongly. These characters have everything they could possibly have in subservient assistance. Alex, for instance, wakes up to a holographic tv screen that gives him the weather, the news report, and more. He has a robot (a very standard model) to make his breakfast, wash his clothes, put up his feet, etc. He has implants in his head that enable to him to tell all his appliances (and robot) to do this, do that, make the water this temperature, flush the toilet, call Grandma, etc. He doesn’t want for anything. Anything except basic human company. In this near future, everything seems solved, except loneliness. Depression. All our technological advances can’t solve this. Except maybe self-aware extremely lifelike robots?

5. Because I LOVES it! When have I ever steered you wrong? (Don’t answer that.)

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The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

January 29, 2015 Book Reviews, Books 2 ★★★★★

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick RothfussThe Slow Regard of Silent Things
by Patrick Rothfuss
Series: Tales from Temerant, The Kingkiller Chronicle #2.5
Published by DAW
on October 28th 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 159
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
five-stars
Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place.

Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own. At once joyous and haunting, this story offers a chance to see the world through Auri’s eyes. And it gives the reader a chance to learn things that only Auri knows...

In this book, Patrick Rothfuss brings us into the world of one of The Kingkiller Chronicle’s most enigmatic characters. Full of secrets and mysteries, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is the story of a broken girl trying to live in a broken world.

Some days simply lay on you like stones.

How does one review a book in a series that almost didn’t happen? How do you convince readers they have to read a book in a series, a book that is chronologically 2.5 in the series?

First, I start with saying you have to read the other books in the series. It’s a given. To know the characters, to know the place, and the time period, the world of the books, you have to read the series.

Secondly, I have to tell you, you could probably read this out of order or as a standalone. The character in this book appears in the other books, but none of the other characters do. She mentions a character from the other books a few times, but never by name. In the other books, she is a very small secondary character who doesn’t take up a lot of time or plot. She is merely a character the author felt the need to expand on. For more on why Rothfuss wrote the book, if you are interested, here is a blog post he wrote on it here.

To be so lovely and so lost. To be all answerful with all that knowing trapped inside. To be beautiful and broken.

Lastly, yes. Yes, I hear you. Why should you read this? Honestly, because it is…geez…how to describe it. It is just such a great character study. (To me, it felt like the chance to get inside the character as it exists in the author’s head.) It’s one character. It’s a week of her life. Wait, let’s back up. The character. Her name is Auri. She lives under the university. In the bowels, the basement, the place where all the pipes lead. Auri is a sad character in the grand scheme of things. She’s alone. She lives alone, under the university, scrounging for food on a daily basis. Yet, when you take a closer look, the picture is a little different. Yes, she’s alone, but she choses to be so. Auri knows she’s not…quite…right.

She felt the panic rising in her then. She knew. She knew how quickly things could break. You did the things you could. You tended to the world for the world’s sake. You hoped you would be safe. But still she knew. It could come crashing down and there was nothing you could do. And yes, she knew she wasn’t right. She knew her everything was canted wrong. She knew her head was all unkilter. She knew she wasn’t true inside. She knew.

God, y’all. This book is gorgeous. The writing is gorgeous. The character is gorgeous. If you’ve ever had a day when things didn’t feel quite right, that you felt maybe a little crazy, like you couldn’t live in the world; this book. I mean, you’ll understand it. You will get it.

But for half a minute she wished it was a different sort of day, even though she knew that nothing good could come from wanting at the world.

You won’t need to know the world this book lives in. You will connect with this character. This powerful, lost, sad young woman will get to you. I got it. I got her. I’ve been her. And, well…

She’d strayed from the true way of things. First you set yourself to rights. And then your house. And then your corner of the sky. And after that… Well, then she didn’t rightly know what happened next. But she hoped that after that the world would start to run itself a bit, like a gear-watch proper fit and kissed wit oil. That was what she hoped would happen.

As the author said:

“This story is for all the slightly broken people out there. I am one of you. You are not alone. You are all beautiful to me.”

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An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay

January 23, 2015 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 12 ★★★★★

An Untamed State by Roxanne GayAn Untamed State
by Roxanne Gay
Published by Grove Press
on May 6, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars
Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.

An Untamed State is a novel of privilege in the face of crushing poverty, and of the lawless anger that corrupt governments produce. It is the story of a willful woman attempting to find her way back to the person she once was, and of how redemption is found in the most unexpected of places. An Untamed State establishes Roxane Gay as a writer of prodigious, arresting talent.

T.S Eliot described Nightwood’s (by Djuna Barnes) prose as “altogether alive” but also “demanding something of a reader that the ordinary novel-reader is not prepared to give.¹

This is how I feel about a book I just finished; An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay. It demanded something of me. However, unlike that “ordinary novel-reader,” I was prepared to give it. I went into the book knowing I would have to give something. And, by God, did I give.

Once upon a time, in a far-off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones.
They held me captive for thirteen days.
They wanted to break me.
It was not personal.
I was not broken.
This is what I tell myself.

 An Untamed State is the story of Mireille Duval Jameson. She is a Haitian woman, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an immigration lawyer, and all around strong, confident woman. One day, while on vacation with her husband and young son, she is kidnapped by armed Haitian men and held ransom for one million dollars. The things that happen to her while waiting for that ransom are horrific. For thirteen days, she endures torment no one, man or woman, should have to face. It was personal. She was broken. No matter what she tells herself.

Roxanne Gay. What a writer. Seriously. She knows how to craft a sentence. She knows how to pack a punch. Reading her writing is glorious, despite the subject matter.

Like I said, I knew this would be a hard book to read. I had read reviews. I knew what was coming. However, when the book was on sale this holiday season, and Andi said she’d read it with me, I knew I had to read it. I knew it would hurt, but I also knew I would come out better on the other side.

This is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately. Why do I (or anyone else for that matter) want to read books with difficult subject matter? I remember when I was a kid…. I was always a voracious reader. I read all the time. Time out in my room never bothered me; that’s where the books where! And I had a role model for this behavior. My grandmother. She read all  the time. After she retired, she could sit and read two books a day. And you know why? She read easy books. She subscribed to Harlequin. It was nothing for me to go get the mail and find a box (or two, or three) of 6 books in there waiting. When I was in high school, and reading all the books, I asked her. “Did you ever read these kind of books? The classics and stuff?” And she said yes. “But now I’m too old to put thought into my reading,” she added. She didn’t want to think.

I want to think.

I want to be challenged. I want to expand my world view. I want my brain to be hardwired differently by what I read. (Seriously, read that article. It’s fascinating.) I want to empathize. I want to understand. I want to learn.

An Untamed State was a great teacher. I can’t wait to find my next one. As Gustave Flaubert said, “Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.” (sorry, couldn’t resist a favorite quote…) (I feel kind of pretentious.) (Oh well.)

Favorite bits:

The sun was still out but fading into pink along the horizon. It was beautiful how the color stretched across the sky in sweeping arcs. I stared into that pink, wanted to remember everything about it, until a hand grabbed my elbow.

My parents are not warm people. They love hard and deep but you have to work to understand the exact nature of that love, to see it, to feel it. That day was the first time I realized my parents loved each other more than they loved us though I couldn’t know then the price I would pay for that love.

Sons are different, my mother says. They always look for home somewhere else. Daughters, though, a mother can count on. Daughters always come home.

What is truly terrifying is the exact knowledge of what will come and being unable to save yourself from it.

This is what I know-the body is built to survive.

My mother has often told me there are some things you cannot tell a man who loves you, things he cannot handle knowing. She adheres to the philosophy that it is secrets rather than openness that strengthen a relation ship between a woman and a man. She believes this even though she is an honest person. Honesty, she says, is not always about the truth.

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So, a Little More on that Routine Thing…

October 10, 2014 Blogging, Book Reviews, Books 6

by Mason Currey
Published by Knopf
Genres: Nonfiction
Source: Purchased

dailyroutineSo, I’m still making my way through Daily Rituals by Mason Currey. I hate to admit it, but it’s a slog. I am about to give myself permission to give it up, even though I’m slightly over halfway through. Like Amanda, some of my problems stem from the lack of balance between man and woman, white and not (and I mean, that is a LOT of my problem, there is basically no balance. If you want to know how a privileged white male finds time to write, this is your book) but, honestly? I think he included too many authors! There are 161 authors, composers, philosophers, poets, playwrights, scientists, mathematicians. After about 50 or so routines, it starts to loose it’s impact.

Where was Currey’s editor?

How did they not see they could have gotten 3 books out of this one?

Don’t they realize that sometimes a brief message is more powerful that one that goes on and on and on and on and on.

I wonder how many more people in this book get up early or late? How many take a walk (or three, like Dickens)? How many have a bit of fun with themselves before they get down to it (seriously Thomas Wolfe? I am NOT looking at you, but you know, I’m looking at you) (and Ben Franklin, with your air baths! Get own down with your bad self!). How many eat meals? Take naps? Sharpen their pencils? Set up the fridge as their desk (Geez, Thomas Wolfe, you were an odd duck).

Another bit of a peeve is the lack of 21st century authors. Yes, there are a few, but the majority of this book is 19th and 20th century writers. Couldn’t you find anyone alive Currey? I have to admit, I am a little more interested in how the creative types of TODAY juggle their routines that those who lived lives of leisure 200 years ago. Times, uh, they have a-changed.

Despite these quibbles though, there is a lot of good information in this book. A couple more favorites:

 “The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”  – Haruki Murakami

And I think I’m OCD:

The founder of behavioral psychology treated his daily writing sessions much like a laboratory experiment, conditioning himself to write every morning with a pair of self-reinforcing behaviors: he started and stopped by the buzz of a timer, and he carefully plotted the number of hours he wrote and the words he produced on a graph. – B. F. Skinner

Actually, I can totally see myself doing that. Heck, I DID do that when I tried to do NaNoWriMo.

I love this from Joan Miró i Ferrà, a Catalan painter:

Miró hated for this routine to be interrupted by social or cultural events. As he told an American journalist, “Merde! I absolutely detest all openings and parties! They’re commercial, political, and everybody talks too much. They get on my tits!

Love it. LOVE. IT. I am totally breaking that line out at parties.

But really, the best piece of advice from the whole book is this, from Chuck Close, another painter:

“Inspiration is for amateurs,” Close says. “The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

And really, that’s all we really need do, right?

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Thoughts on Robot Dreams by Sara Varon

September 19, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 8 ★★★★½

Thoughts on Robot Dreams by Sara VaronRobot Dreams
by Sara Varon
Published by First Second
on August 7, 2007
Genres: Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Pages: 208
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
Buy the Book
four-half-stars
Richly endearing and full of surprises, Robot Dreams follows an ill-fated friendship between a dog and robot. After a Labor Day jaunt to the beach leaves Robot rusty and immobilized in the sand, Dog, unsure what to do, abandons him. As the seasons pass, Dog tries to replace his friend, making and losing a series of new ones, from a melting snowman to epicurean anteaters. Meanwhile, Robot passes his time daydreaming, escaping to better places...Through interwoven journeys, the two characters long to recover from their day at the beach. 

Although its adorable characters and playful charm will win over young readers, Robot Dreams speaks universally to the fragile nature of friendship, loss, and redemption.

There is something magical about an effective story told with no words. Pixar, Shaun Tan, and now Sara Varon, have moved me beyond measure with their work that uses art instead of words. Looking at that cover…I don’t know about you, but my immediate thoughts are that this is a kids book. And yes, it is. My daughter enjoyed it. However, it is one of those books that is deceptive. It looks simple. It IS simple. But the story…it packs a punch.

The reason this story works for me is, even though it is fantastical (at least for me it is. Do you own a robot? A walking, human-like dog? If so, were do you get such things???), it is relatable. The dog. He is lonely. He wants a friend. So he buys a robot. He puts him together. He has a friend! So they go to the beach. And something bad happens. The pair are separated. Feelings are hurt. Actions are regretted. Through no fault of the dog, more like a lack of knowledge, the robot is hurt. Irreparably.

Kids can relate. I can relate. You can, probably, relate.

And it sounds sad. But no. No! It is beautiful!

Through this mistake, the dog and the robot learn. The dog learns from his mistakes. He comes to know himself better and changes based on the hurt he caused himself and his robot. In turn, the robot also learns. As he lays there, daydreaming is days away, he learns about himself and changes based on the hurt he received. They become better “people.” A lesson for everyone, not just children.

Again, I stand amazed at the power in this tiny book with no words. And Sara Varon has a diehard new fan. First Second is such a terrific publisher!

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

June 13, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 7 ★★★★½

We Were Liars by E. LockhartWe Were Liars
by E. Lockhart
(Website, Blog, Twitter, Goodreads)
Published by Delacorte Press
on May 13th 2014
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
four-half-stars
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
 
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 


Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Wow. Just…wow.

Go into it blind. Get it right now. Before it’s spoiled for you. Just read it. Since I AM NOT going to be the one to spoil it, that’s all I’m going to say. Except to say, pick a time when you can read it straight through. You are NOT going to want to put down this study of wealth, priviledge, love, hate, prejudice, greed, and mystery.

About E. Lockhart

lockhart

E. Lockhart is the author of We Were Liars, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, The Boyfriend List and several other novels.

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Mini Reviews: I Shall Be Near to You, The Rosie Project, The House Girl

May 2, 2014 Books 4

by erin lindsay mccabe, graeme simsion, tara conklin
Published by Crown Publishing Group, Simon & Schuster, William Morrow
Fotor0430163434

I Shall Be Near to You
Erin Lindsay McCabe
Published by Crown, 304 pages
Library

Rosetta finds herself in a pretty common situation at the beginning of the Civil War. Newly married, with her man going off to fight in the war. Tomboy Rosetta finds herself quickly stifled by the task of being a housewife to a man no longer home and chaffing under the bit of her mother-in-law. Instead of tolerating it however, she up does what few women did during the Civil War. She up and cuts off her hair and joins in with her husband’s regiment.

She sees first hand the struggles soldiers went through during the war. Fighting for the Union isn’t all the men thought it would be. They all hope for glory and power; but mostly get sickness, loneliness, and sometimes death. She does things women at that time never dreamed of doing; camping on the ground, firing guns, and pretending to be a man when surrounded by rough and tumble men all around. And she learns that they aren’t only fighting for glory or power, but for the very freedom of a whole race, and perhaps herself.

“But don’t you see? We’re all tied up together in this. It is for the betterment of each of us if this war earns the slaves’ freedom, if the evil of slavery is wiped clean from this country. And then surely no one can say women ought to be property as well and we will have our freedom next.”

Jennie Chalmers said that making slaves free will help women, but I don’t know how she can be right when there’s still most men who can’t see the things a woman does, even when she’s doing them right under his nose.

The Rosie Project
Graeme Simsion
Published by Simon & Schuster, 295 pages
Bought

This one was all over the book blogs just a few months ago and I couldn’t resist. At the time I was needing something light hearted and fun. The protagonist has Asperger’s and doesn’t seem to have any idea and he decides it’s time to find himself a wife. So he creates a questionnaire for women to fill out to see if they meet with his stringent criteria. By mistake, Rosie walks in and she has none of the attributes he finds most desirable. So why does she keep popping up in his thoughts? The writing was sharp and witty, the characters charming…well, except one, but he couldn’t help it, he was just written that way, and the whole thing just plain fun.

Just plain fun, y’all.

Favorite bits:

I diagnosed brain overload and set up a spreadsheet to analyze the situation.

I had a great deal of valuable knowledge-about genetics, computers, aikido, karate, hardware, chess, wine, cocktails, dancing, sexual positions, social protocols, and the probability of a fifty-six-game hitting streak occurring in the history of baseball. I knew so much shit and I still couldn’t fix myself.

The House Girl
Tara Conklin
Published by William Morrow, 370 pages
Bought

I could just quote this one and I’m pretty sure I could get my feelings across. Seriously, I have pages of quotes that I noted down. I really enjoyed Conklin’s writing. She lost me a couple times; this another one of those books that change to several different viewpoints, but in the end, it mostly worked for me. I loved the character of Josephine and found her conflicting emotions over her owners to be believable and moving. The ending though, it sort of pretty much basically broke my heart.

Favorite bits (and I’ll try to contain myself):

Over the years she had learned to fold down rising emotion just as she would fold the clean bedsheets, the sheet growing smaller and tighter with each pass until all that remained of that wide wrinkled expanse of cotton was a hard closed-in square.

It was here that Missus had taught Josephine to read. Books brought up from the library, Cooper, Dumas, Dickens, Poe, the names written in gold, the covered cracked, pages spotted dark with mold but still Josephine touched them only with her hands clean, with reverence, savored eatery word written there, each one a small victory. Letters formed carefully, again and again, the paper burned in the grate afterward, but a few secret pages carried under Josephine’s skirts, up the stairs to her attic room. “Don’t breathe a word to your Mister,” Missus would whisper. “We’d both be in a world of trouble.”

Truth was multilayered, shifting; it was different for everyone, each personal history carved unique from the same weighty block of time and flesh.

If there is one lesson I wish to bestow upon you, one shred of wisdom I have gained from my living, dying days, it is this: let your heart lead you, do not be afraid, for there will be much to regret if reason and sense and fear are your only markers.

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Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

April 3, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 9 ★★★★★

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne JonesHowl's Moving Castle
by Diana Wynne Jones
Series: Howl's Moving Castle #1
Published by Greenwillow Books
on January 1st 1986
Genres: Classic, Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 340
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Goodreads
Buy the Book
five-stars
Sophie 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 ey

“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 the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.”

I swore this month that I would make friends with Diana Wynne Jones if it killed me (gross over-exaggeration, but typical of me as you know). I’m happy, so happy, to report that after 3 years of trying, I have found a Diana Wynne Jones’s book I like, nay, love. I LOVE IT.

A few things about it:

  • Who is the main character? That would be Sophie, the eldest of three daughters and destined to fail. Why is she destined to fail? Because everyone knows the oldest will fail! She hides in her widowed step-mother’s hat shop, making hats all day, talking to them (as in the hats), and generally being a bit of a mouse. She has some magical abilities but doesn’t really seem to realize it.
  • Who is Howl? Howl is a wizard! And something of a dandy. Okay, more than something of a dandy, he is QUITE the dandy. And rumored to eat the hearts of all the girls who fall in love with him or something like that. There are a LOT of rumors about Howl.
  • What final gets Sophie out of the hat shop? The Witch of the Waste! Sophie somehow caught the ire of the Witch (that magical ability that Sophie doesn’t seem to know about no doubt) and she comes along and ages Sophie about 70 years completely out of spite.
  • How does Sophie deal with that? By running away and going to live with Howl in his magical walking castle of course! There she meets Calcifer; a fire demon who lives in Howl’s fireplace. They make a deal; if she will help Calcifer break the curse on him, he will help her break the curse on her. She hires herself as Howl’s cleaning lady and moves on in.
  • Also along for the ride? Michael, who is Howl’s apprentice; a scarecrow; Sophie’s two sisters; various spiders; a man-dog; and, of course, the house. Plus various other minor characters.

Oh, I love so many things about what Diana Wynne Jones did with this story. The sheer fun of it was a delight. It was just a joy to read. And I feel like I haven’t read enough books this year that were just plain old fun, joyful reads. I need more of these reads in my life.

I loved the main character of Sophie. She starts the book as such a mousy person, but becoming “old” set her free in so many ways. She started saying the things she thought, she started doing the things she wanted to do…she just became so much less inhibited. As I have aged, I have noticed that I too have started doing and saying things I want and think more often and can only assume that Wynne Jones was showing that getting old can do that to a person. I hope it continues for me! I love that she takes her destiny into her own hands, rather than staying on the path to failure as she believes because of her birth. And I loved how Sophie ended up, but of course, I can’t tell you exactly how she ends up. You’ll have to read the book for yourself.

I was surprised at how much I liked Howl. He is a different kind of immature than Sophie. Sophie’s immaturity is based on a sheltered homelife and a timid personality. Howl is a spoiled brat. When he doesn’t get his way, he throws temper-tantrums. His room is a disaster. He trolls from woman to woman, loving them until they love him back then he’s off on the next conquest. Yet, as Wynne Jones paints this picture of him, I couldn’t help but start to understand him and as I understood him, to like him.

And then, there’s Calcifer. You can’t have Howl without Calcifer. He’s described in the book as a fire demon and he lives in Howl’s fireplace. His magic and Howl’s are so intertwined, it is put forth that one cannot live without the other. The two have made a mysterious bargain. Calcifer is the one who decides to let Sophie in and in return for letting her stay, they will help each other break their respective curses. Calcifer is by far my favorite character in the whole book. He’s so grumpy and crabby and powerful and can be a bit mean. By the end of the book, Calcifer’s life is just as intertwined with Sophie’s as with Howl’s, in a sense making a family.

The main antagonist, The Witch of the Waste, is the most powerful magician around and she has her sights set on Howl, since he spited her. Howl therefore does everything he can to avoid her. I think a lot of her power comes from her broken heart and I appreciated how Wynne Jones shows how that power can be used for ill. By the end, despite all the things she has done, I was merely left feeling sorry for her.

As for Wynne Jones’s writing, it’s equal parts clever, hilarious, moving, and just plain ole fun. I love how she shows age doesn’t necessarily mean life is over, and that anyone can be family. I love that she took a dandy (Howl) and turned him into something more. And I loved how she took this timid mouse of a girl and turned her into something amazing. Gosh, I just loved this book so much. I hope it’s obvious. And I hope you’ll read it. I have left out so much! Howl’s Moving Castle is a book rich in story, characters, personality, and, like I said, fun.

Quotes:

“Yes, you are nosy. You’re a dreadfully nosy, horribly bossy, appallingly clean old woman. Control yourself. You’re victimizing us all.”

“More about Howl? Sophie thought desperately. I have to blacken his name! Her mind was such a blank that for a second it actually seemed to her that Howl had no faults at all. How stupid! ‘Well, he’s fickle, careless, selfish, and hysterical,’ she said. ‘Half the time I think he doesn’t care what happens to anyone as long as he’s alright–but then I find out how awfully kind he’s been to someone. Then I think he’s kind just when it suits him–only then I find out he undercharges poor people. I don’t know, Your Majesty. He’s a mess.”

“Really, these wizards! You’d think no one had ever had a cold before! Well, what is it?” she asked, hobbling through the bedroom door onto the filthy carpet.

“I’m dying of boredom,” Howl said pathetically. “Or maybe just dying.”

“So you were going to rescue the Prince! Why did you pretend to run away? To deceive the Witch?”

“Not likely! I’m a coward. Only way I can do something this frightening is to tell myself I’m not doing it!”

Affiliates disclosure: if you buy a book through my affiliate link, I will get 4%.

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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

February 13, 2014 Book Reviews 14 ★★★★★

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan CainQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
by Susan Cain
(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)
Published by Crown Publishing Group
on January 1st 2011
Genres: Nonfiction
Pages: 336
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
Buy the Book
five-stars
From GoodReads:

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society--from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.

Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts.

Perhaps most inspiring, she introduces us to successful introverts--from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Finally, she offers invaluable advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a "pretend extrovert."

This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves.
Clicking the above affiliate link, will provide me with a small sum of money, which is used to fund my blog and my book habit.

Rather than gush and gush and gushy gush over this book, I’m going to try something different. I’m going to give you my top ten favorite quotes (trust me, there are more) from this book and let it gushy gush gush for itself. And yeah, I’ll probably talk about the quotes a bit. Don’t never know, now do ya?

“Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.”

Can I just get this tattooed on my forehead? I always wish I were home in my pajamas. Social awkwardness for the win. But really, it’s just so much more…comfortable…for my brain and spirit to devote those “social energies” to those I am close to. Anyone else is just exhausting.

Also, I love that she calls small talk a ‘horror’.

“Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.”

All I have to say about this is WORD.

“The highly sensitive [introverted] tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions–sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments–both physical and emotional–unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss–another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.”

This is me to a T. (Also, what does that even mean, “describes me to a T?” Where did that come from?!)

“Or at school you might have been prodded to come “out of your shell”—that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and that some humans are just the same.”

I still get told to come out of my shell.

“Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.”

I just love everything about that sentence.

“I worry that there are people who are put in positions of authority because they’re good talkers, but they don’t have good ideas. It’s so easy to confuse schmoozing ability with talent. Someone seems like a good presenter, easy to get along with, and those traits are rewarded. Well, why is that? They’re valuable traits, but we put too much of a premium on presenting and not enough on substance and critical thinking.”

How many people do you know like this? Cause I know tons. TONS, I tell you.

“The purpose of school should be to prepare kids for the rest of their lives, but too often what kids need to be prepared for is surviving the school day itself.”

Made of gold. That whole sentence is made of gold. I often felt like I was just trying to survive, especially in classes with teachers who expected class participation. I would break out in a cold sweat anytime a teacher called on me. Come to think of it, I still do this with my manager in meetings! I need to get him to read this book.

“I had always imagined Rosa Parks as a stately woman with a bold temperament, someone who could easily stand up to a busload of glowering passengers. But when she died in 2005 at the age of ninety-two, the flood of obituaries recalled her as soft-spoken, sweet, and small in stature. They said she was “timid and shy” but had “the courage of a lion.” They were full of phrases like “radical humility” and “quiet fortitude.”

Not long ago I listened to The History Chicks’ podcast on Rose Parks. It is fascinating. She was fascinating. The above was completely true. She was a shy, soft-spoken woman, with a lion’s share of courage, and truly inspiring lady who didn’t let her introversion keep her from fighting for what she believed it.

“We know from myths and fairy tales that there are many different kinds of powers in the world. One child is given a light saber, another a wizard’s education. The trick is not to amass all the different kinds of available power, but to use well the kind you’ve been granted. Introverts are offered keys to private gardens full of riches. To possess such a key is to tumble like Alice down her rabbit hole. She didn’t choose to go to Wonderland — but she made of it an adventure that was fresh and fantastic and very much her own.”

I love this analogy. One thing this book taught me is that introverts have their own special powers. We just have to learn how to use them, something that school, work, and often life itself fails to teach us. It’s almost like it’s something we have to teach ourselves.

“we have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionally”

My other tattoo.

Gosh, I could just keep going. So much wisdom from such a wonderfully written book. Whether you are an introvert, an extrovert, or are somewhere in between, there is a lot to learn from this book. I highly recommend it to, like, everyone in the whole freaking world.

About Susan Cain

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SUSAN CAIN is the author of the instant New York Times bestseller QUIET: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking, which has been translated into more than 20 languages. Her writing on introversion and shyness has appeared in the The New York Times; The Dallas Morning News; O, The Oprah Magazine; Time.com; and on PsychologyToday.com. Cain has also spoken at Microsoft, Google, the U.S. Treasury, and at TED 2012. Since her TED talk was posted online, it has been viewed almost two million times. She has appeared on national broadcast television and radio including CBS “This Morning,” NPR’s “All Things Considered,” NPR’s “Diane Rehm,” and her work has been featured on the cover of Time magazine, in The Atlantic, Wired, Fast Company, Real Simple, Fortune, Forbes, USA Today, The Washington Post, CNN, Slate.com, and many other publications. She is an honors graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School. She lives in the Hudson River Valley with her husband and two sons. Visit: www.thepowerofintroverts.com

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