Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Howl's Moving Castle
What a charming book! I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with this book, but I am. My namesake is pretty awesome, the story is magical, and it just holds together so well. There’s also something incredible about an older book that’s risen to fame, and DWJ’s writing is so quirky and clever, her plot in this book creative but not too absurd… overall, very happy with what I just read!
Read More »

Advertisements

Mini Reviews: The Circle of Magic Quartet by Tamora Pierce

I’m the happiest thing on two feet right now. And when I’m feeling good, I want to review good books. SO YAY TAMORA PIERCE (again)!!!! ūüėÄ The Circle of Magic is set in a universe as cool and amazing as Tortall-verse – this time, Tammy brings out the magic of everyday crafts (ambient magic), like gardening, knitting, and metalworking. I’m totally in love with the characters, the world, and the simple and strong storylines throughout this quartet. I think 4X the main characters means 4X the emotions, because I’m so invested in all of them, despite (or because of) the Fearsome Foursome’s different personalities and beliefs. Also included here is awesome fanart because urghhh too awesome.

The Winding Circle kids: Daja, Sandry, Tris, and Briar, via Nest of Straight Lines.

To commemorate yet another TP series review, I shall henceforth weave poetic praise for The Circle of Magic. Literally. Because I have nothing better to do and because I love TP. SORRY FOR THE BAD POETRY.
Sandry's Book

The Winding Circle gets new students
With stronger ambient magic than ever seen before.
The story of these four, I’ll never get bored of –
These child-mages are ones I will always adore!

The button-nosed noble who makes thread glow;
The merchant girl who makes the winds blow;
The Trader outcast who works hot iron with bare hands;
And also, the thief who has a soft spot for plants.

At ten years of age, these young’uns are left torn
By devastating natural and man-made disasters,
And it’s only through Winding Circle that they¬†are reborn
And woven together tightly like brother and sisters.

Tris's Book

Title: Tris’s Book
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle of Magic #2
Publication Date: April 1, 1998
Genre: (Middle Grade) Fantasy

But it seems that the weaving was too tight
And their magics were too tangled,
So amidst pirate season, the four try
To save Emelan and also get de-tangled.

Seeing the Fearsome Foursome grow
In magic and into their own¬†selves, I’d
Say I’ve grown to¬†care for them all, although
At the top, Tris and Briar are almost tied!

Daja's Book

Title: Daja’s Book
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle of Magic #3
Publication Date: October 1, 1998
Genre: (Middle Grade) Fantasy

Tying for second place isn’t bad either,
And Daja is just as strong as the others.
Tammy’s great at putting these four
In situations that bring out their best and truest colors.

The underestimated and overpowered
Are often children, outcasts, and commoners.
But Daja is obviously no coward, and
She wins me over with her resilience and honor.

Briar's Book

Title: Briar’s Book
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle of Magic #4
Publication Date: April 1, 1999
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

As with most Tamora Pierce quartets,
(Except for The Immortals) this last book is my favorite –
So much friendshipping involved #noregrets
And now I reread from Sandry’s Book, I’m elated!

Quiet place, via minuiko.

Is there a book friendship that makes you squeal with glee?
If you had ambient magic, what form would yours be?

(Oh look, even my questions rhymed! #naturalpoet ūüėč)

Review: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

The House of the Scorpion

This book is a children’s book? Really??? The House of the Scorpion has a super-creative world and plotline, and it’s nothing like I’ve ever read before. This dystopian novel features many concepts I don’t see much (or at least not well done), including drugs, slavery, cloning/immortality, and immigration. Farmer was able to integrate all of these concepts to produce an engrossing vivid, mildly disturbing, and action-packed story.

Read More »

Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil

This book felt like a charming dog that suddenly decided to chomp into my leg viciously and wouldn’t let go. The School for Good and Evil is another one of those books that is too brilliant, modern, and/or convoluted for my feeble brain. The standard storytelling structure of just one or two climaxes is tossed out the window, and instead, this book shows off twists and turns like no plot has ever done before. The intriguing and magical premise is overshadowed by a plot that took a mind of its own and wouldn’t just let the story END.
Read More »

Review: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables

Ummm this is just an excuse for me to rant again. Because really, who hasn’t read Anne of Green Gables? (Or is this just a Canadian thing?) It’s interesting to see how my own opinion of this book has changed over the years, but my admiration for Anne’s view of the world just keeps growing and growing. I LOVE Montgomery’s writing style and her knack for creating characters that I truly care about, and this is one of those books that I can revisit after I’ve forgotten the basic plotline and still tear up because of THE FEELS.
Read More »

Mini Reviews: The Protector of the Small Quartet by Tamora Pierce

This is only like my FAVORITE TAMORA PIERCE SERIES EVER, no big deal. I feel like it’s so hard to explain¬†why I love this series so much – I kind of just want to say JUST READ IT AND YOU’LL UNDERSTAND! And sometimes I don’t know why I love certain books¬†when there are probably similar books out there, but¬†The Protector of the Small¬†is The One for me. I reread it almost every year, and when I want comfort books, this is the series I turn to.

When I was in high school, I went to the library almost everyday after school to volunteer, and during my downtime, I’d inevitably turn to the Fantasy section and walk straight towards the “P” section for all the Pierce books. (Pros: Gail Carson Levine and Philip Pullman were also close by!) There¬†were these¬†wonderful shiny hardcover copies of Squire¬†and Lady Knight¬†that I would just claim for as long as I could, and I’M JUST IN LOVE. (So all my Tamora Pierce reviews are less of reviews and more of me ranting about my life, sorry in advance, haha.)

First Test

Long story short, the realm of Tortall is finally accepting its first girl into the knighthood training program in a hundred years (Alanna didn’t count since she hid that she was a girl), and ten-year-old Keladry of Mindelan stepped up at the chance. However, she’s been put on probation by the training master, and has to handle bullying from the boys and being at a physical disadvantage. Kel is determined to show everyone that she can make it, and in the process, gains some valuable friends and makes some enemies too. I fell in love with Kel and her gang in this book – Kel is so different compared to Alanna in that Kel is quieter and more “average” in terms of looks, so maybe that’s why I could relate with her more. Her tenacity and firm belief in doing the right thing particularly stand out in my mind, since the plotline allows those characteristics to shine through. This first book in the quartet has plenty of action and adventure, and allows us to revisit good ol’ Tortall while getting us familiar with the new characters.

Page

Title: Page
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Protector of the Small #2
Publication Date: May 23, 2000
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy / Magic / Adventure

Ta-dah! Kel’s made it through probation! (Oops, was that a spoiler? You kind of expected it, right? Since she’s the heroine and all and the story can’t go on without her?) The knighthood training consists of four years as a page (modern translation: middle school), four years as a squire (high school, shadowing teachers/employed professionals), and pass the Ordeal of Knighthood (yay job!). This book details Kel’s next three years as a page. Life as a page isn’t easy, and Kel continues to try to balance her studies with her extracurriculars (ex. going on an anti-bullying campaign, essentially) and her developments into womanhood. Tammy always manages to fit so much time into one book without making it boring, and I was totally engrossed in seemingly mundane things. Also, more animals in this book!

Kel and her menagerie, via minuiko.

Squire

Title: Squire
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Protector of the Small #3
Publication Date: May 1, 2001
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy / Magic / Adventure

Kel has survived four years as a page, and is moving on to being a squire under either an active duty knight or a desk knight in the palace. After facing prejudice and resistance as The Girl for four years, Kel faces new problems as she starts to become exposed to the rest of the world. She makes new friends and new enemies, and learns how to be a great leader in the process. She also (unfortunately?) gets stuck with a baby griffin (as you can see from the cover), which sounds like an awesome experience… but it’s not. I like how nothing is idealized or sugarcoated in this series (as well as other Tammy books) – if something sucky happens, it happens and becomes a learning experience. That said, bad things (ex. character death) doesn’t happen for no reason. Kel’s “high school” years are so much more exciting than mine, and maybe that’s why Squire is the book I read most often from this series when I was in high school, haha. ūüėĄ

Lady Knight

My favorite book in this series, if I had to choose. Kel becomes a full-fledged knight, but is disappointed when she’s put in charge of a refugee camp instead of being out in combat. However, fate has more in store for her than just that… this is the culmination of all things great about The Protector of the Small series: great friendships, great plot, amazing characters. SO MUCH LOVE FOR LADY KNIGHT!!!

Lady knight, via minuiko.

Altogether, The Protector of the Small quartet is AWESOME on so many levels. We get to see nine years’ worth of character development, and Tammy doesn’t disappoint. There’s never a dull moment, and every character contributes to the plot. Another amazing thing about this quartet is that there’s so much political and historical development, although unlike the previous Tortall heroines who were placed at critical moments of history being rewritten, Kel was not. It’s like discovering a new part of the world – the picture of Tortall in my head just got a lot more colorful and a lot bigger after these books!

Also, I AM IN LOVE WITH TORTALL FANART! I especially love minuiko’s depictions of the Tortallan heroines, and her Kel art is just¬†amazing… she’s a big Kel fan too! The Tortall Comics Project is where¬†the cool kids hang out, so that’s where I’ve quenched my PotS needs.

Squire, via JWHamer.

Mini Reviews: The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce

Okay, let’s see if I can get through this without fangirling or squeeing or hyperventilating too much OMG I’M FINALLY REVIEWING TAMORA PIERCE OMGOMGOMG!!! And¬†The Song of the Lioness isn’t even my favorite series, so imagine how excited I’ll get when I review the others!¬†ūüėć

I’ve mentioned that Tamora Pierce is my favorite author before, and throughout my reviews (now and forthcoming), I hope I can show you why her books are pure awesomeness.¬†The Song of the Lioness quartet is the second series I read that’s set in the world of Tortall – the Tortallan universe is amazingly intricate, and this quartet just shows you the tip of the iceberg, really. I won’t belabor the point, but #justreadit. And I’m totally in love with the covers from the 2002 Simon & Schuster edition, so here they are!

Alanna: The First Adventure

Alanna of Trebond wants to be a knight of the realm of Tortall, while her twin brother, Thom, wants to learn magic. So when their father decides to send Thom to the palace of King Roald and Alanna to the convent, the twins decide to switch places. Alanna disguises herself as a boy and takes on the name “Alan.” This first book details Alanna’s adventures throughout the three years that she trains as a page, and it’s a wonderful journey as we’re introduced to the various characters, such as Jonathan, the heir apparent; George Cooper, the King of Thieves; Ralon of Melvin, a fellow page who bullies Alanna because of her small size; and many others. We get a feel of who might be the enemy in later books, but there’s still a bit a suspense near the end of the book.¬†Alanna: The First Adventure¬†is fast-paced and exciting, and it’s an adventure like no other!

In the Hand of the Goddess

In the second book, Alanna is now a squire, and is progressing into knighthood. As her identity is slowly revealed to her closer friends, Alanna is also¬†becoming more aware of her femininity. In addition, Prince Jonathan and the king and queen are being threatened by a mysterious sorceror, and Alanna finally meets her enemy. But this is also the book where I start to lose interest because, oh, there’s a love triangle! I don’t think the romance in any of Tamora Pierce’s books is done particularly well, but hey, the action is still there. Alanna also attains a faithful and sassy companion in this book, so all’s well.¬†In the Hand of the Goddess shows more intricate world-building – such as the Tortallan religions – and really pumped me up for the next book, when Alanna leaves the palace in search for more adventure.

The Woman Who Rides Like A Man

The newly knighted Alanna wanders into the vast deserts of Tortall where the Bazhir – who had been in war with Tortall in the past – make their home. There, she becomes the first female shaman, and plays an important role in fostering the relationship between the Bahzir and Tortall. This third book is key in the world-building of Tortall, because the Bahzir (who are based off of the medieval Middle East) have a presence in almost all of the Tortall books. However, this was my least favorite book¬†of the four, mainly because of the romance (again!). I just have a set OTP in my mind that doesn’t work with what’s happening in this book, haha.

Lioness Rampant

Alanna – having already established a reputation for herself – is now set on finding the Dominion Jewel, a legendary stone with great powers. In the process, she meets new characters (some of whom will play important roles in other Tortall books) and meets her old archenemy. After Book 3, I was surprised by how riled up Book 4 could still get me – and boy, was this a dramatic ending! I love that the cast of this last book introduced more strong heroines, and that my OTP happened, so YAY!

Overall,¬†The Song of the Lioness¬†quartet is a lot of world-building and adventure. I really liked how more of the Tortallan universe gets revealed with each book, and yet Tamora Pierce¬†still has time and effort to infuse¬†so much action and so many characters into the storyline. Moreover, the impact that Alanna has on this world is ENORMOUS, and it’s just amazing how characters can change the world, what! Alanna is such a kickass¬†protagonist (and I love how all of the Tortallan heroines are so different!) with a sharp temper and a kind heart, and even though I whined so much about the romance, it’s nice that Alanna, as a character, is free to try out different relationships before she got her ONE TRUE LOVE. ūüėČ She has flaws, but that’s what makes her real and relatable.

And I’d totally LOVE to see Tammy’s books on the big screen, but that will probably not happen for several reasons and blah blah boo hoo hoo, so I’ll stick with imagining out all the books in my head, which is still awesome! There’s also tons of fanart out there that I’m super excited about, and it’s interesting to see how similar the artworks turn out for a single character, which must mean that Tamora Pierce is a superb and super-detailed character creator!

Have you read Tamora Pierce’s books?
(If not, JUST DO IT.)

Review: Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

Julie of the Wolves

Julie of the Wolves was the book that spurred my obsession with wolves when I was younger. I loved (and still love) Julie/Miyax’s interactions with the wolves, but when I compare this to Paulsen’s Brian’s Saga series, this story feels more tame. However, this story offers something deeper: a sense of self-discovery, the struggles of culture identity, and a look at Inuit culture and the scenery of the Alaskan wild.
Read More »

Mini Reviews: Brian’s Return & Brian’s Hunt by Gary Paulsen

Ahhhh, it’s the end of Brian’s Saga! ūüė¶ I’ll never get tired of the way Paulsen describes the food and nature scenes, and even though I’m sad that these are the last two books in the series, I’m excited to read Paulsen’s Guts in which he tells the true events that inspired this series. I also can’t wait to read Paulsen’s other works – his writing style is simple, yet powerful, and I still want more of it!

Brian's Return
 

Title: Brian’s Return
Author: Gary Paulsen
Series: Brian’s Saga #4
Publication Date: January 12, 1999
Category: (Middle Grade) Survival / Adventure

 
After reading Brian’s Winter, this sequel felt too short yet again. Brian’s Return is a continuation of The River – after Brian returns home, he is once again uncomfortable in his old environment. He loses interest in hanging out with his friends and watching TV, and ends up accidentally reverting back to wilderness mode in public after being in a “threatening” situation. After being forced go to counseling sessions, Brian realizes that he has to go back to the wilderness. No surprises in Brian’s Return, just a sense of rightness after Brian returns to the place where he feels he belongs. But I wanted more! I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reading about Brian, and I’m so sad that there’s only one more book left in the series.
 
Brian's Hunt

Title: Brian’s Hunt
Author: Gary Paulsen
Series: Brian’s Saga #5
Publication Date: December 23, 2003
Category: (Middle Grade) Survival / Adventure

 
 
 
If this book was combined with Brian’s Return, I would’ve enjoyed the latter better. Brian’s Hunt continues off from where we left Brian, who was on his way to the Cree trapping family he met in Brian’s Winter. He meets an injured dog along the way, and witnesses a cruel and disturbing scene that leads Brian to The Hunt. In this last (for now) book in the Brian’s Saga series, Paulsen shows us a harshness of nature that is not present in the previous books. The one thing I didn’t like about this book was the addition of the Cree family’s daughter, who is around Brian’s age. Paulsen tempts us with a potential romance but doesn’t deliver – she’s a necessary (but minor) installment in this story, but Brian’s thoughts about her made it seem like she has a bigger role. (See, I stop understanding Brian when he starts turning into a teenager.) But nevertheless, this book is intense and captivating, and has a powerful message that is driven by vivid imagery and suspenseful scenes.

Canadian