Frightful’s Mountain (My Side of the Mountain #3) ★✬☆☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Frightful’s Mountain
Series: My Side of the Mountain #3
Author: Jean George
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Middle Grade
Pages: 146
Words: 55.5K



Synopsis:

From Bookrags.com

In “Frightful’s Mountain”, Frightful, the female peregrine falcon formerly a pet of Sam Gribley, attempts to reintegrate into the wild, while maintaining her ties with Sam and Bitter Mountain. The novel begins where “On the Far Side of the Mountain” ends: Sam, knowing that it is illegal for him to keep a pet peregrine falcon, and wanting Frightful to have a good and full life in the wild, refuses to call Frightful to him when he sees her flying around in the sky. Frightful then befriends and becomes the mate of Chup, a male peregrine falcon, and becomes the adoptive mother to Chup’s motherless children, Drum, Lady, and Duchess. It is a crash course for Frightful, who must not only learn to eat new kinds of food –primarily ducks and other birds, whereas she had been trained to hunt small game by Sam –but to care for wild baby falcons.

As November comes on, and all the falcons and other birds migrate south, Frightful stays on, determined to find her old mountain, and her old home. She is electrocuted on a utility pole, nearly killed, by nursed back to health by falconers Jon and Susan Wood, and is released in the spring. Frightful seeks out Bitter Mountain, and finds Sam, where she spends some time with him and hunts. She then decides to nest on the bridge in the town of Delhi. She attracts a mate named 426, a bird tagged and tracked by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and she lays three eggs. Yet, as this happens, a construction crew moves onto the bridge to begin work. Sam sneaks up to the bridge every day, and spends hours keeping Frightful calm, so she can incubate her eggs. Leon Longbridge, the local conservation officer, and a group of school kids, including Molly and Jose, try to get the construction to cease until Frightful’s babies hatch, but the crew cannot stop work without orders from the state government. The construction crewmembers feel bad they cannot stop work, but they have no choice in the matter. Attempts to move Frightful and her eggs fail, so when it comes time to paint the bridge, the crews decide they will paint the section of the bridge with Frightful on it, last. Finally, Frightful’s babies hatch.

One morning, two agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show up to remove two of the baby falcons. In reality, they are Bate and Skri, two poachers arrested in “On the Far Side of the Mountain”, and back in the business of illegal selling of falcons. Sam helps track them down, and the police arrest Bate and Skri as they hide out in the old summer lodge of nature writer John Burroughs. From there, Frightful’s two babies will be raised and hacked into the wild. Meanwhile, Frightful raises her daughter, Oski, on her own on Bitter Mountain with Sam. Ultimately, they all fly south for the winter. When Frightful returns, she visits Sam as usual, but decides to nest in town, rather than on Bitter Mountain. Oski, however, decides that Sam’s mountain is a perfect place to nest.

My Thoughts:

Ok, here we go. There was a forward. I skipped it until I’d finished the book and then I went back and read it. It was written by Bob Kennedy Jr. While I can’t say anything about JFK, I can say that I’ve seen nothing good from his living relatives throughout the decades so a Kennedy’s name in the forward was not a good thing or an added draw. Especially when he goes off about how George inspired him to become a lawyer. Great, just what our country needs, more lawyers. Thanks a lot Jean George.

Secondly, and more to the point, this wasn’t much of a novel, middle grade or otherwise. It was much more of a National Geographic eco-documentary about birds. Sure, Sam is mentioned and some stupid kids and even dumber adults act emotionally and irrationally in response to “evil” electric companies and state governments but that’s not enough to make a real story out of.

Thirdly, but in conjunction with the above, this was written 40 years later and shows that George was more concerned with her message than actually telling a story. It was a big disappointment to see how George treated her human characters and how she leveraged the popularity of her first book to sell this one.

Overall, the first book should have been left alone as a standalone. It was excellent and fun and told a wonderful story. Each successive book has gone down hill and I suspect the two books after this one to be even worse. I certainly won’t be finding out.

Someone asked me why I was reading these books when I reviewed the second book and it basically comes down to trying to read some middle grade so I don’t take everything so seriously. To replace this series I’ll be adding most of Roald Dahl’s children’s books to the rotation. At least that I know will be light and funny.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

On the Far Side of the Mountain (My Side of the Mountain #2) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: On the Far Side of the Mountain
Series: My Side of the Mountain #2
Author: Jean George
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Middle Grade
Pages: 107
Words: 38.5K



Synopsis:

Sam Gribley continues to live on his mountain. His family moved back to civilization when Sam’s dad realized that farming the mountain was simply untenable. However, his younger sister Alice decides to stay and make her own way.

A conservation officer confiscates Sam’s bird Frightful, as she is on the endangered species list. At the same time Alice takes off to find her own place and takes a pig with her. Sam shadows her to make sure she is ok. Sam legs it all over New York and finds out his bird was taken by poachers to be sold to a Saudi Arabian sheik. Alice rescues Frightful, the law arrests the bad guys and Sam lets Frightful go into the wild.

My Thoughts:

This was not nearly as engaging as the first book. Part of that was that Sam was in a funk about Frightful being confiscated and instead of asking any adult about the laws or getting help, just decides everything on his own. And while he’s in that funk he reads old journal entries which chronicle all the improvements he and Alice have made on the mountain. It felt very, ummm, like George was trying to recapture some of the feeling of the first book and failing.

I did enjoy the journey of Sam and his friend as they tracked Alice down. It was a new aspect of the story and felt fresh.

While My Side of the Mountain felt like it could be read by almost any age, this book definitely felt middle grade. This was a decent sequel that I’d recommend to kids but not to anyone else. There is a third book that I’m going to dive into but my expectations are going to be very low going in.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

My Side of the Mountain (My Side of the Mountain #1) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: My Side of the Mountain
Series: My Side of the Mountain #1
Author: Jean George
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Middle Grade
Pages: 114
Words: 40K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Sam Gribley is a 12-year-old boy who intensely dislikes living in his parents’ cramped New York City apartment with his eight brothers and sisters. He decides to run away to his great-grandfather’s abandoned farm in the Catskill Mountains to live in the wilderness. The novel begins in the middle of Sam’s story, with Sam huddled in his treehouse home in the forest during a severe blizzard. Frightful, Sam’s pet peregrine falcon, and The Baron, a weasel, share the home with him. In a flashback, Sam reminisces about how he came to be there.

Sam heard about his grandfather’s abandoned farm near Delhi, New York, learned wilderness survival skills by reading a book at the New York City Public Library, and how Sam’s father permitted him to go to Delhi so long as Sam let people in the town know that he is staying at the farm. Unable at first to locate the farm, Sam tries to survive on his own but finds his skills are not up to the task. He meets Bill, a man living in a cabin in the woods, who teaches him how to make a fire. Sam goes into town and is told where his grandfather’s land is. Sam finds the farm but discovers the farmhouse is no longer standing.

Sam forages for edible plants and traps animals for food. He uses fire to make the interior of the hollow tree bigger. Seeing a peregrine falcon hunting for prey, Sam decides he wants a falcon as a hunting bird. Sam goes to town and reads up on falconry at the local public library. He steals a chick from a falcon’s nest and names the bird Frightful. Later, Sam hides in the woods for two days after a forest ranger, spotting the smoke from Sam’s cooking fire, came to investigate.

In the fall, Sam makes a box trap to catch animals to eat, and catches a weasel. Sam calls the weasel The Baron for the regal way the animal moves about. When a poacher illegally kills a deer, Sam steals the carcass, smokes the meat, and tans the hides. Frightful proves very good at hunting. Sam prepares for winter by hunting, preserving wild grains and tubers, smoking fish and meat, and preparing storage spaces in hollowed-out trunks of trees. Finding another poached deer, Sam makes himself deerskin clothing to replace his worn-out clothes. Sam notices a raccoon digging for mussels in the creek and learns how to hunt for shellfish.

One day, Sam returns home and finds a man there. Believing the man is a criminal, he nicknames him “Bando” (a shortened version of “bandit”). The man is actually a professor of English literature and is lost. Bando spends 10 days with Sam building a raft, fishing, teaching him how to make jam, and showing him how to make a whistle out of a willow branch. Sam agrees to come to town at Christmas to visit Bando.

Sam makes a clay fireplace to keep his home warm. Sam steals two more dead deer from local hunters to make more clothes, begins rapidly storing as many fruits and nuts as he can, and builds his fireplace. Sam almost dies after he insulates his home too well, trapping carbon dioxide inside. Sick with carbon dioxide poisoning, Sam barely gets out alive. Sam returns to town just before Christmas. He meets Tom Sidler, a teenager who ridicules his appearance. Sam spends the night with Bando, who shows him the many newspaper articles about the “wild boy” living in the forest. Sam returns home and is surprised on Christmas Day by the arrival of his father. They are overjoyed to see one another again. Sam learns how animals behave in winter, even during blizzards. He overcomes a vitamin deficiency by eating the right foods.

In the spring, Matt Spell, a local teenager who wants to be a reporter, arrives at Sam’s treehouse home. Sam doesn’t want to be interviewed, but offers Matt a deal: Matt can come live with him for a week if Matt will not reveal his location. Matt agrees. A few weeks later, Bando visits Sam and they build a guest house. Matt spends a week with Sam, and at the end tells Sam he broke his promise. A short time later, Tom Sidler visits the farm and Sam realizes he is desperate for human companionship.

When Bando returns to check on Sam, Sam says he intends to return to New York City to visit his family. In June, Sam is surprised to find his family at the farm. His father announces that the family is moving to the farm. Sam is happy at first, then also upset because it means the end of his self-sufficiency. As the novel ends, Sam concludes that life is about balancing his desire to live off the land with his desire to be with the people he loves.

My Thoughts:

I read this back in elementary school in the 80’s and probably again in highschool in the 90’s. The basic story has always stuck with me because it typifies what every American “should” be able to do, ie, become self-sufficient.

With this being a middle grade level of story, there is a lot the reader has to let slide. Sam’s enthusiasm for the food he eats and his praise of how good and tasty it is was one of the biggest. Acorn flower is not good. Now if Sam had grown up with this diet, I could see his enthusiasm, but he comes from New York City in the 70’s with the melange of food available to an urbanite. I’m sorry, but acorn flower and frog legs don’t compare to pizza.

It’s little things like that that the adult me noticed. This is a hyper-idealized tween survival book and coming of age story. Kids need stories like this and what’s more, they need to swallow them wholesale. If they can’t dream like this, they’re growing to grow up in a very small world indeed.

When I read this way back when I had no idea that George had gone on to write 2 more books in the series. I’ll be reading them now though to see what else she has to say.

I’m including an alternate cover because the one I’m using is just way to glamorous. Handscraped deerskins and rabbit pelts will not produce such nice looking clothing. Plus, the character on the cover looks like he’s 16 or older, not 12. The alternate cover really conveys the “essence” of the book much more honestly.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Magician’s Ward (Magic and Malice #2) ★★★★✬


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Magician’s Ward
Series: Magic and Malice #2
Author: Patricia Wrede
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 185
Words: 77K



Synopsis:

Kim is swamped. Between studying magic and learning a whole new life as a monied lady, her life is full, maybe too full! When a particularly inept burglar tries to steal several books from Mairelon’s library, it’s up to Kim and Mairelon to figure out why.

At the same time, several magician’s from Kim’s street life have disappeared and a Russian Magician shows up. When on the track of the thief, Mairelon loses his magic, it’s all up to Kim to deal with the rogue magician, who isn’t a magician at all!

And if that all isn’t enough, Kim has to have her coming out ceremony as a Magician’s Ward, where she realizes she’s in love with Mairelon.

By the end of the book, Kim has stopped the rogue magician, completed her ceremony and gotten Mairelon to propose to her. Now her life as a magician is going to get really busy!

My Thoughts:

If you happen to remember That Book, where I told Romance to get the heck out of my Action Stories, you might have gotten the impression that Bookstooge is a stone cold, heartless killer with no time for the softer things in life. And you would be wrong, dead wrong! (because I’d stone you coldly!) I like romance, in small doses and in its proper place. Jane Austen is the example that made me realize I could like romances.

Anyway, this book is as much a young adult/middle grade romance as a fantasy story. The obstacles that Kim needs to overcome are simplified, the villain appropriately stupid and even Mairelon takes side stage as he loses his magic, thus giving Kim the spotlight from all directions. She shines well too.

I didn’t think the story was quite as “fun” as the first but it felt more satisfying, hence the half-star bump. While I read this way back in 2000 and I have no real review, I remember liking this then and it seems I liked it just as much this time around too. I’m going to call this a Complete Success then.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

ps,
Can we all agree that is the worst cover ever and that it should be cast into the Stygian pits?

Mairelon the Magician (Magic and Malice #1) ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Bookype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Mairelon the Magician
Series: Magic and Malice #1
Author: Patricia Wrede
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 185
Words: 80K



Synopsis:

Kim, a 16 year old street rat is realizing she can no longer hide the fact that she’s a girl. She takes on a final job of spying on a market magician to earn enough money to give her time to figure out what she can do. She is caught but instead of being punished, Mairelon offers her a job of being his apprentice, as he is a real magician and not a street performer.

It becomes obvious to Kim that Mairelon is MUCH more than just a magician though. His references to his time abroad, his connections to various muckety-mucks make Kim aware that Mairelon has been working for the government on the highest levels. And he’s some sort of lord as well.

The story centers around the recovery of the Saltash dinner ware. A platter, a bowl and 4 balls, which when combined, give the user the ability to compel their victims to tell the absolute truth. The British government wants it but will settle for it not falling into French hands. Kim and Mairelon are chasing down the platter in this story and have lots of adventures.

In the end, it is revealed that Kim has a natural affinity for magic and Mairelon adopts her as his ward so he can live in the same house to teach her magic without scandalizing “Society”.

My Thoughts:

I originally read the Mairelon duology (I’ll be reading book 2 in a month or so) back in the 90’s when the Science Fiction Book Club released a hardcover omnibus edition. I still own that baby. I then re-read the duology in 2000 when I was beginning my record keeping. I won’t be bothering to include a link, as it consists of just naming what genre the book was in 😀

This is that elusive middle grade book that is written well enough to still be read and enjoyed by adults. Wrede seems to excel at that particular skill.

Fun, enjoyable, easy on the brain (well, except when Mairelon or somebody else starts monologuing and connecting all the dots) and a sure fire pleasure for fans of Regency Era England. My guess is that Wrede was aiming for “Jane Austen with Magic for Kids”. She hit the mark, that is for sure. Since I’m a big Austen fan, this worked fantastic.

Unfortunately, the one downside to this book, which isn’t really a big thing, is the cover. That is supposed to be Kim on the cover, in her “street urchin boy” disguise. While it is tough to see in the small picture I include here, when I look at it in a larger format, it becomes really horrible. Kim has this squinty, “something” look where her eyes are just messed up. It’s unpleasant to look at. Plus, the byline of “Is it possible? Could his magic …. be real?” is just so wrong. Magicians are a part of the fabric of society in this book, so it would surprise anyone that Mairelon was a real magician.

Those are just quibbles though, because I feel like complaining about something. If you’re a fan of Austen, Regency Era England or Middle Grade Fantasy, go try this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

House of Many Ways (World of Howl #3) ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: House of Many Ways
Series: World of Howl #3
Author: Diana Jones
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Pages: 162
Words: 70.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia & Me

Charmain Baker has led a respectable, and relaxing sheltered life. She has spent her days with her nose in a book, never learning how to do even the smallest household chores. When she suddenly ends up looking after the tiny cottage of her ill Great-Uncle William she seems happy for the adventure, but the easy task of house-sitting is complicated by the fact that Great-Uncle William is also the Royal Wizard Norland and his magical house bends space and time.

Though she is supposed to clean up the mess William has left the house in, Charmain knows next to nothing about magic, and yet she seems to work it in the most unexpected way. The house’s single door can lead to almost any place – from other rooms like the kitchen, to faraway places like the Royal Palace, and even other time periods. In her first days in the magical house she ends up looking after a magical stray dog named Waif, encounters a horrible lubbock, has to share a roof with a confused young apprentice wizard named Peter, tries to work some spells from William’s library, and deals with a clan of small blue creatures called Kobolds.

When Charmain is caught up in an intense royal search to remedy the kingdom’s financial troubles, she encounters Sophie Pendragon, her son Morgan, a beautiful child named Twinkle, and their fire demon Calcifer. One of the messes Twinkle gets Charmain into results in Twinkle climbing onto the roof of the Royal Mansion. She is soon involved in curing the kingdom of its ills and rediscovering the long-lost mystical Elfgift.

Calcifer destroys the Lubbock, Howl turns the Lubbockin (children of the Lubbock) into tiny versions and Waif eats them, as she turns out to be a magical dog and the Elfgift. She is bonded to Charmain, who it looks like will be the next royal wizard after her ever so great Uncle William passes on. Peter turns out to be the next heir of Norland and all the missing money is found, making Norland solvent again.

My Thoughts:

This was pretty good, rather good in fact, but there was something missing that I can’t put my finger on that made me give this 4 stars instead of 5. Pretty much what I’ve written about Howl’s Moving Castle and Castle in the Air still apply here, but something didn’t quite fill me perfectly up.

Other than something that I can’t even describe or figure out, this was another fantastic entry in the World of Howl series. Reading this trilogy so close together has been a very enjoyable experience and I don’t regret it one bit. I’ve tried other DWJ books and they didn’t really work as well for me, so I’m going to just wish there were more Howl books and leave it at that.

Having such success with this does make me wonder what other middle grade books I should try. I don’t know if I’m brave enough or willing enough to attempt that though. I think my best bet is to just relish what I’ve read here and leave it alone. No need to get greedy.

★★★★☆

Castle in the Air (World of Howl #2) ★★★★★

castleintheair (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Castle in the Air
Series: World of Howl #2
Author: Diana Jones
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Pages: 176
Words: 67K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Castle in the Air follows the adventures of Abdullah, a handsome young carpet salesman from Zanzib, who daydreams constantly about being a stolen prince. One day a strange traveler comes to his stand to sell a magic carpet. During the night, Abdullah goes to sleep on the carpet but wakes up to find himself in a beautiful garden with a young woman. He tells the woman, Flower-in-the-Night, that he is the stolen prince of his daydreams, believing that he is in fact dreaming. Flower-in-the-Night, who has never seen a man other than her father, first believes that Abdullah is a woman, so Abdullah agrees to return the next night with portraits of many men so that she can make a proper comparison. He does so, and Abdullah and Flower-in-the-Night decide to get married.

Abdullah returns the next night, but he arrives just as Flower-in-the-Night is snatched away by a huge flying djinn. Soon after, the Sultan of Zanzib captures Abdullah who then discovers that Flower is actually the Sultan’s daughter. Enraged that his daughter is missing, the Sultan blames Abdullah and throws him in jail, threatening to impale him on a 40-foot pole if his daughter is not found. Fortunately, Abdullah is saved by his magic carpet and escapes from Zanzib.

Abdullah ends up in the desert and stumbles upon a group of bandits, who have in their possession a particularly cranky genie who grants only one wish a day. In the night, Abdullah steals the genie and flees. After a wish, Abdullah is transported to Ingary and ends up traveling with a bitter Strangian soldier whose country was recently taken in a war with Ingary. While traveling to Kingsbury in search of a wizard, the two stumble upon a cat and her kitten, whom the soldier names Midnight and Whippersnapper, respectively.

As they travel, Abdullah wishes for the return of his flying carpet, who brings with it the very Djinn that kidnapped Flower-in-the-Night. It is revealed that the Djinn, Hasruel, is being forced to kidnap princesses from all over the world by his brother, Dalzel. The two proceed on the carpet to Kingsbury, which is where they find Wizard Suliman, who, upon realizing that Midnight is actually a person in cat form, returns her to being a human. As the spell is lifted from the woman, who turns out to be Sophie Pendragon, her baby, Morgan is returned to his normal self as well. However, when they go to collect the baby, he is no longer in the inn, where he was left with the soldier.

Abdullah and Sophie then order the carpet to take them to Morgan. The carpet does so, taking them far into the sky, to the castle in the air, which is merely Wizard Howl’s castle, having been greatly enlarged. There they meet the abducted princesses and plot with them to escape the flying moving castle. Led by Abdullah, they overpower the two Djinn, freeing Hasruel who banishes his brother. Flower-of-the-Night had by then wished the Genie free, who turned out to be Sophie’s husband, the top-level sorcerer Howl.

My Thoughts:

My feelings about this book almost exactly what I felt when reading Howl’s Moving Castle. That always makes writing a review that much harder.

The light fairytale’ish feeling permeates the entire book and not at any time did I feel that things weren’t going to work out for Abullah, even if we come to realize that things might not work out exactly how he planned or wants. When I reviewed Castle in the Air in ’08, I ended it with the words “Light and Delightful”. Both still definitely apply in the best sense of the words.

This isn’t exactly a sequel to Howl though. More of another book set in the same world where some of the same characters from the previous book intrude. Just to make things complicated though, Howl’s Moving Castle was made into an anime movie by Hayao Miyazaki. Beautiful film that is more “inspired” by the book than a direct medium change. The complicated part comes because Miyazaki had previously made a movie called Castle in the Sky. It has nothing to do with this book however. What’s more, this book was written in 1990 while the anime movie Castle in the Sky was made in 1996. Howl the book was written in 1986 while Howl the movie was made in 2004. Confused yet? Good. You’re just a schmuck if that confuses you. But even if it does confuse you and makes you a schmuck, at least now you’re a better educated schmuck about something that nobody really cares about. And if that doesn’t stand for everything that the internet represents, well then, I guess I’M a schmuck.

(no schmucks were harmed (very much) in the writing of this review)

★★★★★

Howl’s Moving Castle (World of Howl #1) ★★★★★

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Howl’s Moving Castle
Series: World of Howl #1
Author: Diana Jones
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Pages: 206
Words: 76K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

18-year-old Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three sisters living in Market Chipping, a town in the magical kingdom of Ingary, where fairytale tropes are accepted ways of life, including that the eldest of three will never be successful. As the eldest, Sophie is resigned to a dull future running the family hat shop. Unknown to her, she is able to talk life into objects. Things change however when the powerful Witch of the Waste turns her into an old crone. Sophie leaves the shop and finds work as a cleaning lady for the notorious Wizard Howl. She strikes a bargain with Howl’s fire-demon, Calcifer: if she can break the contract between Howl and Calcifer, then Calcifer will return her to her original youthful form. Part of the contract, however, stipulates that neither Howl nor Calcifer can disclose the main clause, leaving Sophie to figure it out on her own.

Sophie learns that Howl, a rather self-absorbed and fickle but ultimately good-natured person, spreads malicious rumours about himself to avoid work and responsibility. The door to his castle is actually a portal that opens onto four places: Market Chipping, the seaside city of Porthaven, the royal capital of Kingsbury and Howl’s boyhood home in Wales, where he was named Howell Jenkins. Howl’s apprentice Michael Fisher runs most of the day-to-day affairs of Howl’s business, while Howl chases his ever-changing paramours.

When Prince Justin, the King’s younger brother, goes missing while searching for Wizard Suliman, the King orders Howl to find them both and kill the Witch of the Waste. Howl, however, has his own reasons to avoid the Witch; the Witch, a jilted former lover, has laid a dark curse on him. He successfully continues to avoid her until she lures Sophie into a trap. Believing the Witch has taken Howl’s current love interest, Miss Angorian, Sophie goes to save her and is captured by the Witch. Howl spends hours in the bathroom everyday primping himself to look handsome for girls; Michael had said that the day he does not do this is the day Michael will believe that Howl is truly in love. So when Howl comes to save Sophie, unshaven and a mess, it demonstrates his love for her. He kills the Witch and reveals that Miss Angorian was actually the Witch’s fire demon in disguise; the fire demon had taken control of the Witch and was attempting to create a “perfect human” by fusing Wizard Suliman and Prince Justin. It was to be completed by the addition of Howl’s head.

At the castle, Miss Angorian takes hold of Calcifer to capture Howl’s heart. Howl had given his heart to Calcifer. This was the contract between them; the heart kept Calcifer alive, and in return Calcifer put his magic at Howl’s disposal. Sophie uses her ability of bringing things to life to free Calcifer, thus breaking the contract between him and Howl. With his heart restored, Howl destroys the witch’s fire demon, freeing Suliman and Justin. Calcifer, as promised, breaks Sophie’s spell and she returns to her proper age. Howl had realized early on that Sophie was under a spell and secretly attempted to remove the curse; when he had met with failure, he’d figured Sophie simply enjoyed “being in disguise”.

Calcifer returns, preferring to stay with Howl. Sophie and Howl admit they love each other when Howl suggests they live happily ever after.

My Thoughts:

When I read Howl’s Moving Castle back in ’08, I only gave it 3 stars. I had enjoyed it, but wanted something a bit “more”. This time around, the light fluffiness hit the exact spot and this rocketed up to a favorable 5 stars. Which means that this is definitely a mood book and depending on how I’m feeling while reading it is going to affect how I rate it. So that might happen to others as well.

But my goodness, this was just delightful. As Mrs B might say on occasion “totes adorb”. This is definitely middle grade edging into ya territory but not once did I feel that Jones was dumbing things down or simplifying. I think is a story that a 5th grader could enjoy as much as a 40 year old (or older).

Part of it is that Sophie is a completely solid, dependable young woman but who has her blindspot. It was so interesting to see how she would be blind sided by something and I could relate exactly. The other part is that Jones introduces a lot of side characters but I was not confused about who was who or who was what at any point. Every single character was them and they slotted into the story perfectly and stuck in my head. That is how characters should be!

Delightfully light, thoroughly satisfying, wondrously fun; that about sums up my experience this time around while reading this book. I had so much fun that I’m going to be breaking my own rule and reading the next 2 books in the Howl’s World series much closer together (weeks instead of months). I hope I’m not making a mistake!

Ps, this is the first post where I’m experimenting with using google drive to host the cover pix. I have to use a stupid “iframe” and can’t get the info block of text to align around it. If you know how to do that or if anything comes up wonky or if there anything you think I should be aware of, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Thanks!

★★★★★

The Hobbit (The Lord of the Rings Prequel) ★★★★★

hobbit (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Hobbit
Series: The Lord of the Rings Prequel
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 235
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit. Who ends up with a wizard and 13 dwarves for dinner. And somehow gets finagled into going on an adventure to recover the dwarves lost treasure, that is guarded by the dragon Smaug.

Along the way Bilbo meets elves, runs away from goblins, plays a riddle game in the dark with Gollum for his life, finds a ring of invisibility, flies on eagles’ wings, fights giant spiders and is almost eaten by 3 trolls.

Eventually he and the dwarves reach the Lonely Mountain and Laketown. They rouse the dragon and Bard of Laketown kills Smaug and then elves, humans and dwarves prepare to fight over the treasure. Until a huge goblin army shows up and everybody fights them. The good guys win, the treasure is shared and Bilbo returns home a better, wiser and more eccentric hobbit than ever.

 

My Thoughts:

What a book. I’ve read this enough times that nothing is a surprise. And yet… I am still in awe at how Tolkien weaves such a children’s tale so as to keep me intrigued, for the umpteenth time.

What do I say? A simple tale of adventure that is the prequel to one of the worlds most renowned fantasy series? A tale of bravery, generosity and kindness overcoming perils, greed and hatred? A stout heart being greater than a dragon? I just don’t know what to say beyond the fact that I enjoyed the heck out of this just like I have all the previous times and I don’t have any issues with it.

Well, except maybe all the singing. I wouldn’t have minded if there hadn’t been any singing. In regards to the singing though, the only thing I can say positively about the horrific movie trilogy is that the song by the dwarves in Bilbo’s house is absolutely haunting and enchanting. Who knows how long this link will exist, but here’s a youtube link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8ymgFyzbDo

If only the Silmarillion had been this interesting. Well, at least I’ve got the rest of the Trilogy to look forward too!

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Black Pearl ★★★★★

blackpearlbig (custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Black Pearl
Series: ———-
Author: Scott O’Dell
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: MG Historical Fiction
Pages: 96
Format: Paperback Edition

 

Synopsis:

A young man, Ramon Salazar, recently turned 16 is made a partner in his father’s pearl business. He learns to grade and buy and sell the pearls the small fleet his father owns brings in each trip. However, what he really wants is to go diving with the fleet. His father allows him to come out with the fleet but only as a handler, not a diver.

The best pearl diver in the fleet is jealous of the opportunities that Ramon has and constantly needles him about not being a diver. This “Sevillano” claims to come from Spain and spins stories of all the exploits he has done. Eventually, it gets to Ramon and when the fleet makes a week long trip, he heads out to an Indian diver and begs him to teach him. Ramon learns how to be a diver and is shown a cave where Manta Diablo supposedly lives. The Indian tells him to not dive in the cave, as Manta Diablo will come after anyone who takes something from him.

Ramon can’t resist the lure and gets a huge clam which gives up a huge perfect “black” pearl. The Indian warns him that he is now cursed by Manta Diablo. Ramon heads home and gives the pearl to his father to show that he is a great diver, and to get back at the Sevillano for all his jibes. The father haggles with the local merchants and in a fit of pique at their stinginess, gives the pearl to the local Roman Catholic Church.

The next week the fleet is destroyed by a huge storm and only the Sevillano survives. This convinces Ramon that the pearl is indeed cursed and he steals it back from the church to take back to Manta Diablo’s cave. The Sevillano catches him and forces him to go to Mexico City where they can sell it for a huge fortune.

On their way, they are overtaken by a huge manta ray. After several incidents, the Sevillano harpoons the manta and eventually jumps on it to knife it to death. A rope wraps around him and he and the manta plunge into the depths never to be seen again. Ramon rows back to his village, returns the pearl to the church and realizes that he has grown up.

 

My Thoughts:

I had read and bought this back in elementary school at a book fair I believe. I enjoyed it a lot as a kid so I was kind of hesitant to dive into again and potentially ruin it. Kind of like how I got fed up with Lucky Starr by the end of the series. Some childrens books just aren’t meant for adults. However, since it was only 96 pages I figured I could pitch on in and rip through it at lunch times. Which is what I did.

What a great book!

This is the kind of adventure story that can capture the imagination of a young boy. O’Dell knows how to write for a youthful audience without churning out simplistic slop. Ramon deals with some huge issues and O’Dell gently guides the reader along that journey and makes a youngster think about what might change in their life and how would they respond? I love, Love, LOVE the fact that at no point is Ramon an angst-ridden whiny baby. O’Dell doesn’t buy into the lie that young people have to be coddled and that anything “tough” will destroy them. He shows that THROUGH adversity is how a man is forged. Phrack, it is refreshing to see that in a middle grade book.

Keeping in mind the target audience, I loved this story. O’Dell writes a character that inspires the reader instead of pandering to them. It is no wonder that O’Dell won so many awards and honorable mentions back in his heyday.

First 5star review of the year. While probably not a real contender for best book of the year, I think that a 96 page story about a 16 year old young man that can inspire a 40 year old like this deserves some attention. Ramon’s quiet fortitude and steady action is what is needed in more books today.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)