Friday, August 17, 2012

Review: Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle
Diana Wynne Jones
Publish Date: August 1, 2001
Greenwillow Books
Borrowed from Megan
Reviewed by Rachael

In which a witch bewitched the hatter's daughter - and then some....

Sophie lived in the town of Market Chipping, which was in Ingary, a land in which anything could happen, and often did - especially when the Witch of the Waste got her dander up. Which was often.

As her younger sisters set out to seek their fortunes, Sophie stayed in her father's hat shop. Which proved most unadventurous, until the Witch of the Waste came in to buy a bonnet, but was not pleased. Which is why she turned Sophie into an old lady. Which was spiteful witchery.

Now Sophie must seek her own fortune. Which means striking a bargain with the lecherous Wizard Howl. Which means entering his ever-moving castle, taming a blue fire-demon, and meeting the Witch of the Waste head-on. Which was more than Sophie bargained for....-Goodreads

This was our book club selection for July. This isn't "my" genre of YA (the combo of fantasy and magic is not usually a winner with me), but it is one of the things I love about our book club, the genres change each month and it helps keep everyone interested and coming back for more. We have some YA Fantasy lovers in the group and it's always fun to see people excited about a book, even if you don't love it.  I didn't finish in time for our discussion, but hearing other people talk about the book (and movie) made me want to finish.

The characters in the book were interesting, as was the world that was created around the Moving Castle. The beginning of the book was slow (and the paperback version I read had over 400 pages so a slow beginning is sort of a mood killer for me) but things picked up toward the end and I'm glad I finished. I think I may have skimmed a bit too much in the middle because in the final chapters I found myself confusing some of the characters. I've heard great things about the anime movie version of the book, but have yet to get my hands on a copy as of yet. This probably should happen, I've heard there are several deviations from the book that I can see as improvements and I'm excited to see how that plays out. I've never watched anime, but it sounds like this is an excellent movie to start with from what other people have told me.

Have you read Howl's Moving Castle and/or seen the movie?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline
Publish Date: August 16, 2011
Random House NY
Borrowed from local library
Reviewed by Rachael

It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. 

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. 

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune--and remarkable power--to whoever can unlock them. 

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved--that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig. 

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. 

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt--among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life--and love--in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape. 

A world at stake. 
A quest for the ultimate prize. 
Are you ready? 

Megan and I are part of a YA Book Club for those "a little less Y and a bit more A" and this was our book selection for June. I can't believe I forgot to review it until now! (Summertime is always crazy and I've been MIA for a while for really no good reason at all...obviously I'm sure you missed my reviews ;-) )

The story takes place in the future where virtual reality is more like reality as most people spend their time in the virtual world of OASIS. Initially I was intrigued as it reminded me of the Bruce Willis movie Surrogates which I enjoyed, but this book was even better (granted the general public isn't too fond of this particular Willis flick, but whatever, I have strange taste in all things pop culture). I loved having a male main character for a change and Wade, oh man, I loved Wade so much. His friendships throughout the book were inspiring. Wade is about a million times more intriguing than I thought a main character that was an avid video gamer would be and the 80s pop culture references that the book revolves on weren't a hindrance to enjoying the novel at all (yes, while I'm a child of the 80s friends constantly think I slept through them, and the early 90s, since I missed crucial pop culture "events". Example, in the last 5 years I watched (for the first time) Star Wars, Goonies, and most recently became obsessed with Edward Scissorhands...) I had been worried I wouldn't "get" any references and that it was a tough read for an actual YA audience, but really it made things really interesting and sparked my interest in other books, movies, music, etc. and isn't that the point of reading? To take you to another place and spark your interest in other things. I for one most definitely enjoy when this is the case.

I've recommended this book to a lot of people already: guys and gals, YA readers and non-YA readers, video gamers and board gamers alike. It just came out in paperback this summer, so grab a copy or do what I did and borrow one from your local library. There's even a contest going on in the spirit of the book with the grand prize being a Delorean! If one of you win, I expect a ride ;-) 

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