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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Howl's Moving Castle Book/Movie

I can’t believe I posted an introductory post on this website and then promptly forgot about its existence! I’ll do my best to remedy this mistake with a few book reviews. Just a warning though: most of my reviews will probably be YA (Young Adult) books because that is what I read most frequently. It’s not that I don’t enjoy adult literature, it’s just that YA books have a slightly different taste to them that I find more appealing. I’ll be reviewing the book, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I discovered this book after watching Hayao Miyazaki’s movie adaptation. If you can, I would recommend watching the movie as well as reading the book, because they both have their own unique value. However I would also advise you not to judge either version by the one you watched/read before it (i.e. don’t judge the book by the movie, don’t judge the movie by the book) because they are too dissimilar to enjoy that way. Anyway, on with the review!

*Spoiler Alert*

The book starts out by introducing the character Sophie Hatter who is the eldest of three sisters. Apparently this is a bad omen, and dooms her to always fail in her endeavors. When her father dies, Sophie’s stepmother Lettie has to decide which two sisters to send out as apprentices and which one she can afford to keep as a worker in the family’s hat shop. All three sisters know that the apprenticeships are superior to staying in the old hat shop, and in the end Lettie decides to keep Sophie. Sophie doesn’t mind getting the worst end of the deal because she knows that of all three sisters, the other two would have better chances of success out in the real world. Months pass and Sophie beings to become restless, and yet afraid to leave the hat shop. In her loneliness Sophie begins

talking to the hats, unknowingly filling them with magic. Buyers of the magical hats succeed in whatever way Sophie wanted them to. Some marry rich, some look younger, and some attract the attention of important

individuals. Soon the notorious Wicked Witch of the Waste finds out about Sophie’s hats, and, seeing the magic inside them, feels threatened by Sophie and turns her into an old woman. Sophie then finds work in the moving castle of Wizard Howl (who was rumored to eat girl’s hearts). As an old woman Sophie no longer feels the need to be meek, and instead of being afraid of Wizard Howl, she begins butting heads with him on a regular basis. This clash of personalities between Howl and Sophie is what truly gives the book its depth. As the two begin their adventures together they analyze and reprimand each other constantly, and it is only through close inspection that the reader can see the chemistry the two have, and the love they hold for one another. I enjoyed this because instead of their Disney-like love in the movie, the book presents the relationship between Sophie and Howl as flawed, and therefore real. Another great thing about the book is the world Jones creates. Instead of the book almost fairy-tale backdrop, the book has a more science fiction feel to it. Now, I’m not ragging on the movie, it’s one of my favorites, but the original novel shines in a different way.

*End of Spoilers*

Overall I would highly recommend this book and its movie adaptation because of their idealistic nature and fantastical adventures.

Rating: * * * * * (5 out of 5 stars)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Review of Lauren Myracle's ttyl

Lauren Myracle’s ttyl was published in New York, New York in 2006 by Amulet Books, which is an imprint of Harry N. Abrams, Inc.. This novel has a simple, realistic insight into the lives of three high school sophomore girls who communicate through instant messaging(IM). Although this book is based on real life, it is a fictional novel. Since ttyl is written in IM form, there is no narrator telling the story. Ttyl is an easily accessible book. ttyl is classified in the genre of realistic fiction. It would probably be found in the young adults section of a library. The novel is meant for an older audience, because the protagonists are teenagers and the things they say are what teenagers talk about, so it probably wouldn't be wise if a ten-year-old read ttyl. This book costs on average about $10 a copy. The paperback printing of ttyl has 229 pages. ttyl is the first novel in the Internet Girls trilogy, followed by ttfn and l8r, g8r.
Lauren Myracle did a marvelous job at creating actual problems to get teenagers addicted to her books. ttyl covers problems that 16 year old girls face every day. Between boy problems, popularity contests, rumors and broken promises, there is nothing that isn't covered in ttyl. To someone who grew up without computers and IM, this book may be a little difficult to follow, but to the teenagers who read it, ttyl is miraculously written to show the true struggles of high school.
Instant messaging is the communication that is popular today. IM is the quick way to communicate with someone through the computer. As soon as the person sending the message presses enter, the receiver automatically has a window pop up on their computer screen. Instant messaging also cut out the number of emails typed because IMs are quicker and shorter. People who use IM, typically shorten what they're saying to acronyms in order to communicate quicker but still get their point across. Such as the title of Myracle's novel; ttyl, shortened for talk to you later. Other examples would be shortening words like you to just the letter u or okay to k. There are many ways to talk on instant messenger.
This novel is a great example of the new technological evolutions of the twenty-first century. Myracle did a fantastic job of writing a book in IM form although people have never heard of a book being written this way. ttyl started it's own sort of genre with the new nature of the book. The closet already existing genre would probably be a play because there's dialog and actions in the IMs, but the book can't be classified as a play because there are no real actions or speaking, the girls just sit in front of the computer and type. Instant messages are letters on a computer and since the entire novel is composed of IMs; ttyl can also be classified as an epistolary novel.
Myracle was brilliant in writing the perfect novel for it's type. Ttyl describes the sophomore year of a high school girl very well. She captured every problem in it's own unique way, thus creating an admirable book that many teen girls will pass on to each other. Not only did she capture the essence of high school, she created the flawless example of an epistolary novel of the new generation of communication through creating a story of only instant messages.
I would recommend this novel to preteen and teenage girls who enjoy talking to their friends. As a sophomore in high school myself, I found that ttyl described my life incredibly well considering the fact that it is just a book. The things that Zoe, Maddie and Angela go through in ttyl are the things that my friends and I face on the a daily basis, so I passed the book on the all of my friends and they all enjoyed it as well. I don't believe that guys would find this to be very interesting, because it has great details of the lives of three 16 year old girls; lives full of drama, crying and romance. I would also say that children under the age of about thirteen should not read this because of the language and topics of conversations that the girls in ttyl use. Some adults would probably not enjoy it either for the same reasons that teen boys wouldn't, although, if the reader is interested in a new, meta-fictional storyline, ttyl is a great novel to read.

Friday, May 2, 2008

My First Post

Now that I am contributor to this blog, I thought I would introduce myself before I started posting reviews, opinions, etc.

My name is Greg and I'm a senior in High School this year. And yes, that means that I'm graduating in less than a month. WOOT! I'm going to be an English Major at the Honors College of Texas Tech University this August, and I am thrilled to be a part of this blog. All of the people that I've seen associated with the Texas A&M Commerce English Department seem incredibly friendly and kind.

I enjoy reading and writing to the fullest extent. In fact, I am a librophile (one who has a deep love for books) and a librarian. I'm an assistant librarian in my hometown and I'm gonna have to say that that is the best job imaginable. What could be better than working while surrounded by thousands of books? If you enjoy literary matters as much as I do, then we'll get along swell. [I don't think that anybody uses the word "swell" anymore, and so I just made myself sound like a ninety-year-old English gentleman....oh well]

I hope to be a Professor of English/Writer someday. Books I enjoy include: Angels and Demons [Dan Brown is a genius], Along Came a Spider [James Patterson is also incredibly awesome], Blink [Ted Dekker has his moments], and The Midnighters Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld. My favorite classics include: The Fountainhead [Ayn Rand's books make me question everything I thought I knew], The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, Brave New World, and Alas, Babylon [I love those last two for their Apocalyptic Themes.] Two of my all-time favorite books are You Don't Know Me by David Klass and Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, but almost no one has ever heard of those books.

If you were able to read this entire post then I applaud you, and I hope to post my first opinion/review soon. Feel free to post responses to anything I post.

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, April 20, 2008

first review.

Okay, I've been putting this off until I could choose a book to start off with, and now I've finally decided to review one of my favorite books first. :]

Alright, for starters, I've created my own rating system to rank books by. I created the image myself, and I will call them "Jacks." The symbol below will be used, with one being the worst and five being the best. On to the review.

Many of you know Gail Carson Levine for her novel Ella Enchanted, but I knew her first for her novel The Two Princesses of Bamarre. Cleverly crafted sub-reality, relatable characters, fantasy and romance - this novel has it all. Since the first time I opened the front cover to the present, I've read this novel 7 times. I've had to buy a second copy of the book and am now in search of my third because the binding is literally falling apart. I've gotten to the point now where I can open the book to any page in the book and tell you what happened before, what is happening on the current page and what will happen next. Can you tell that I love this book?

Opening with the first stanza of Drualt, the epic poem telling the life of Bamarre's greatest hero, Levine sets up her readers for a truly enthralling world that they had better be prepared for. I was and still am easily ensnared into the plot and characters, told from the perspective of the younger princess, Addie. The Princesses Meryl and Addie are polar opposites of one another - Addie is dark-complexioned and frightened by the world around her, while Meryl is fair and fearless, determined to fulfill the prophecy of her country and find the cure to the Gray Death. The Gray Death plagues the land of Bamarre, striking at random and leaving behind no survivors. There is a specific time frame over which the disease takes its course - the Weakness, which lasts for an indeterminable amount of days, the Sleep, which lasts for nine days, and the Fever, which lasts for three days and ends in death.

When Meryl, the brave older sister set on fulfilled the prophecy, contracts the mysterious illness, Addie must step up and set aside her fears to save her sister. She faces many dangers, from Ogres and Gryphons, the lesser of evils, to Specters and Dragons, dangerous and cunning creatures full of trickery. With the help of the castle's sorceror apprentice, Rhys, she uses a magic tablecloth that spontaenously creates enough food for whomever beckons its help.

Addie survives many perils, and in her sister's final hour, she takes her to the waterfall that spills from the Fairy Kingdom that is rumored to cure the Gray Death. Before what they know will be an unsure victory, Rhys pulls Addie aside and confesses the love for her he has harbored over the years of his apprenticeship. Addie reciprocates and the pair enter the valley of the falls, prepared for anything. In an outstanding battle that threatens tears in each reader's eyes, the crew of Addie, Rhys, Meryl and several men and women from the neighboring village fight to fulfill the prophecy and save Bamarre.

They succeed, and as the rains fall over the lands, the Gray Death dies out. Meryl however, is not saved, but made into a fairy much to Addie's dismay. In her eyes, she has failed. Meryl will never get her adventures and will never again be human. But Meryl sees it differently - she will be Addie's children's fairy godmother, and while invisible to human eyes will still be a part of Addie's life. When Addie finally accepts this, Rhys comes to find her. The two are married in the fairy realm, and soon after return the world below. It's hard to leave Meryl behind, but Addie understands that her sister will always be there, lingering though not seen.

There is so much more to this book and I recommend it to anyone that enjoys fantasy novels. Gail Carson Levine takes my breath away with this masterpiece of a novel. I laughed, cried, gasped and sighed with every emotion that Addie feels. I could go on forever about this book, so I'll stop here, but if anyone has any questions or wants to discuss this book, I am definitely up for it.

I give The Two Princesses of Bamarre FIVE Jacks. :]

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

HEARD any good books lately?

I LOVE audio books, partly because I have a lengthy commute, and they help pass the time. But there's also something wonderful about listening to a story--I think back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when novels would frequently be shared aloud. Any other audio book fans out there? What good books have you heard?

Some of my favorites to listen to--combination of fantastic story and superb narration:

Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon
Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper, Case Closed, by Patricia Cornwell
Harry Potter series, narrated by Jim Dale!!
The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo
ANYTHING by David Sedaris, narrated by David Sedaris.
(I have to be careful with Sedaris, though, because I often start laughing so hard that I risk a car accident)
And whoever said Hit Man was one of their favorite books, the audio version is great, too!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Some Great Blogging Suggestions

Found this link filled with useful writing suggestions--and not just for writers on the web! Check it out at

Thursday, March 27, 2008

first post to my new column. :]

So I thought I'd submit a post just to kind of introduce myself a bit. Why read what I have to say if you don't know who I am?! :]

My name is Ali, and I am a freshman at Texas A&M - Commerce. I have been an English major since age 7 [just kidding!], and writing is what I am going to do with my life. I feel very flattered that I was asked to do this column, and I hope that can provide any readers out there with some helpful information regarding books. I love Young Adult fiction, as long as it's not just ridiculuous, childish, whiny dramas. :/ Not my thing. I do like Sarah Dessen, Lois Lowry, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Jane Yolen, Han Nolan, and Jay Asher.
I absolutely love fantasy novels. Gail Carson Levine, Libba Bray, Stephenie Meyer, Cameron Dokey, Bruce Coville = GENIUS. I'm going through a paranormal romance phase at the moment, so I'm reading a lot of Patricia Briggs, Rachel Chance, and so on. And of course, I love British Literature. Emily Bronte, Joseph Conrad, Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Mary Shelley. AH-mazing. These things and more will be discussed here.

Just so I don't confuse anyone, below is a list of slang/abbreviations I will likely use in this column.

YA = Young Adult
Brit Lit = British Literature
Ado Lit = Adolescent Literature, referring to my class.
Vamp Fic = Vampire Fiction
S/F = Science Fiction
FanFic = Fan Fiction

Any others that I think of along the way, I'll be sure to clarify before I use them.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to post any kind of comments or responses that you want to.

Happy readings!


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Confession Time--What were you NOT able to finish?

OK, it's confession time. What are some books that you were "supposed" to read--either because you had to for an assignment or because friends told you that you would love them--that you never got through?

I'll start off:

Ulysses, assigned in my senior year of college English. I didn't even try. Cliff's Notes. I'm ashamed.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Just didn't catch my interest.

Feed. Too annoyed by the prose style.

How about you?

Friday, March 14, 2008

What Are You Reading?

We'd like to hear what you're reading. Although it's been awhile since I read it, David Almond's Skellig is probably one of my top ten books--Susan