Tag Archives: books into movies

Howl’s Moving Castle

Jones, Diana Wynne. Howl’s Moving Castle (2001 ed.) 329 Pages. Greenwillow Books. $6.99

They always say “save the best for last,” so I have opted to save my favorite Diana Wynne Jones book to conclude Diana Wynne Jones week. It’s been nothing but fun, reading long-time favorites and books I didn’t know existed. The book which has stuck with me the longest, and which I think I enjoyed the most out of all of DWJ’s novels is Howl’s Moving Castle, because it so seamlessly melds fairy-tale conventions and adventure and twists and turns to become such a solid and excellent fantasy novel. Let us begin with the beginning:

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

Sophie Hatter was the eldest of three sisters. She was not even the child of a poor woodcutter, which might have given her some chance of success.

So begins one of the few books which I can safely list as a favorite novel of all time.

Sophie Hatter has resigned herself to a boring life, running her family’s hat shop. As the eldest, it’s a “fact” that she will never become anything, that her adventures will fail, and that she has nothing to look forward to but mediocrity. After Sophie’s sisters — Lettie and Martha– are apprenticed away from the shop, Sophie’s life is exactly what she expected; quiet and average. Everything changes when the Witch of the Waste appears at the hat shop, and curses Sophie, turning her into an old lady.

Something about being old makes Sophie fearless, so she heads out to Wizard Howl’s Moving Castle in the waste. There she meets Calcifer the fire demon, and enters into a deal– she’ll break his contract, and he’ll find a way to remove the Witch’s spell. It sounds like a fair enough bargain, so Sophie agrees, and so begins the first adventure of Sophie’s life. Life with Howl is nothing like what she expected, and the “freedom” of old age allows her to grow from the quiet, fearful girl she is at the beginning into the strong adult she is by the end.

There’s a lot more that I cannot say without spoiling the book (which would be a horrible thing to do), so I’ll leave it at that. Almost nothing is what it seems at first glance, and by the end of the novel everything has resolved itself in a thoroughly satisfying way. There are more books which form this “series,” though Sophie only makes cameos later, rather than being the central character.

In Conclusion:

If you like fantasy adventures, then this is not the book to miss. It’s got adventure, intrigue, magic, and romance. The narration is excellent, the characters intriguing, and the story enthralling. It’s one of my all-time favorites, so it gets an unquestionable 5/5.

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On an aside, there is a Studio Ghibli interpretation of Howl’s Moving Castle, which is a beautiful, enjoyable movie. However, it falls into the genre of “inspired by the book” rather than being true to it. Martha disappears, Michael becomes a child, Howl is a bird-monster, Sophie a brunette, the Witch a blob. Calcifer is still Calcifer, but that’s because the whole premise rides upon  his… flames. It is a very, very good movie if you’re interested in animated movies which were inspired by books.

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As part of the Dogeared Reading Challenge, I’ll be documenting the “loved” shape this volume is in with a couple pictures. It’s been pretty well beaten, with that beautiful curve that spines get when they’ve been read too many times. This particular book is worth 5 points on the beaten-scale. The cover is actually a separate entity from the book, it’s held on by tape and a bit of glue. I wish I had a book-repair setup, so I could fix this book before I return it to the library. That’s the thing I miss the most from my student-assistant job.

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Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult Fiction

Beastly

Flinn, Alex. Beastly (2007). 336 Pages. HarperTeen. $16.99

I got Beastly from the library*, though I can’t for the life of me remember why I even thought of checking it out. It was a pretty good story, and though there were some moments which felt cheesy, I didn’t find it hard to suspend reality and get into the book.**

In an exclusive school full of the ultra-rich children of New York millionaires, Kyle Kingsbury is the top. His father (a newscaster) is one of the richest of the rich,*** he’s the most handsome boy in school, and he’s about to become Prince of the “Spring Dance,” which is not prom. I’m not sure why it’s not prom, because it should be, but whatever. Kyle is a jerk who gets away with anything because of his good looks.

In a moment of ultimate jerkitude, Kyle asks an unpopular goth girl to go to the dance, intending to stand her up. He has a date– the hot, slutty, dumb girl– and she’s in on the joke. Of course, Kendra (the unpopular goth girl) is more than she seems. Angered by his callousness, she curses him to become a beast. Not an animal, like a lion or a bear, but a Beast. He has two years to find his true love, and get a kiss, or he will be a beast forever.

Kyle’s father is hellbent on restoring his son to his former beauty. They visit doctor after doctor, meeting anyone who has even the slightest chance of finding a cure. When that fails, Kyle’s father loses interest in his son, and sends him to a Brooklyn brownstone with Magda the maid. Kyle begins his transformation here, when he calls his father and demands a tutor, and internet access.

Time passes, and Kyle grows closer to Will– his blind tutor– and Magda (the maid). Kyle and Will create a back yard greenhouse in which they grow roses, and things seem peaceful (though hopeless) until a drug addict breaks in. Kyle scares the man senseless, and threatens to take video footage of the break-in to the police unless he hands over his daughter. A few days later, Lind(a?, y?)**** is delivered to his door.

The progression from there is not exactly surprising. Kyle grows to care for Linda, and his plans go from trying to convince her to not hate him, to genuinely wanting to make her happy. The two seem like good friends, and they have fun together being nearly-normal teenagers. It is Beauty and the Beast, so it does follow the standard path of her leaving for her father, him nearly dying because of it, and them getting a happily-ever-after, but the setting was not all that was changed, so it manages to still be a little surprising.

Stylistically, there is one thing which bothers me; the chat sessions. Interspersed throughout the transitions in the novel are support-group “chats” for transformed teens. They didn’t add anything, and were rather annoying. I don’t care about the “little mermaid” in Denmark (or Norway, or wherever she is) or the frog prince. They were an unnecessary distraction, and did not even manage to be funny. The novel would have been better without them. Despite that, or perhaps in spite of, this novel managed to be surprisingly good.

In Conclusion:

With strong writing, and excellent narrative, this story manages to survive the transplant from “Once upon a time” to 21st century New York City without falling apart. The characters are great, and getting the story from Kyle’s perspective helps make the transformation from spoiled prince to good person very interesting, and strong. The book gets a 5/5, and I’ll have to buy a copy, since I picked this up from the library.

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*I need to rant about what I found when I opened this book. There are a lot of different types of security tape for libraries. I know, I’ve put a lot of them in a lot of books. I spent a lot of time dealing with mag strips, which we installed in different spots depending upon the binding. For hard-covers, we put it in the spine. (Stretch your book out, so the gap appears between the block and the cover, we used a metal rod to put it in there.) For paperbacks, we sandwiched it between a few unimportant pages, as close to the spine as possible, so it did not interfere with reading. Well, for this particular library book, they failed miserably at that. It’s on page 1, and it’s hanging out.

** I always picture me hanging up a pair of suspenders and jumping into a book when I say “suspend reality” or “suspend disbelief.” I suppose that makes me a bit weird, but there are much worse fates, I think.

*** Are prime time news reporters really that rich?

**** She is originally introduced as Linda (when we first get her name on p. 77), but is later called Lindy (by her father, on p. 152). The two names are used interchangeably throughout, and the girl doesn’t seem to care which one she is called. This bothered me a lot, and I really could not figure out whether her name was Linda or Lindy. It’s  not like one is a reasonable nickname for the other, either.

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As I was browsing Ye Olde Internets, I found out that Beastly got produced as a movie, due Spring 2011. It looks… interesting.

This is a part of the Local Library Reading Challenge.

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Filed under Book Review, Contemporary Romance, Fairy Tales Retold, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Flipped

Van Draanen, Wendelin. Flipped (2003). 212 Pages. Random  House. $8.95

As soon as Julianna saw Bryce, she flipped for him. “Honestly, one look at him and I became a lunatic. It’s his eyes… They’re blue, and framed in the blackness of his lashes…” (11). One look, and she knew he was hers, and that he had her kiss. Bryce, however, did not feel the same. She annoyed him from the very first moment, and he spent forever avoiding her. Until everything changes.

Juli’s favorite sycamore tree is cut down, her dog dies, she finds out Bryce has been throwing away her eggs for two years. Any of these Julianna could have dealt with on their own, but the combination is brutal. She is left without her tree, which made her feel safe, and gave her a special view of the world. Her dog, which she got when she was a young child is gone. And the eggs which she has been gifting Bryce and his family with for two years have never once been eaten. Bryce is not who she thought he was, and she doesn’t know what to do.

Bryce’s grandfather moves in, opens the boy’s eyes to what is really around him, and shares some wisdom: “Some of us get dipped in flat, some in satin, some in gloss… but every once in a while you find someone who’s iridescent, and when you do, nothing will ever compare” (96). At first, this means nothing, but slowly Bryce figures it out, as he figures out other important things.

Alongside Bryce and Juli we have their families. Where Julianna’s family is poor and eccentric but supportive and loving, Bryce’s family is dysfunctional. His father is two-faced, his mother delusional, his sister is angst-ridden, and Bryce is suffering an identity crisis.

The end is hardly surprising once you’ve gotten through the book. It is, however, entertaining.

The Quick Version:

This coming-of-age story is fascinating, especially how it feels true to the characters as it transitions between two points of view. The plot is predictable, but interesting. The thing which makes this stand out is the characters, and the way they develop through the story. This book scored a 4 out of 5.

Look for the movie September 2010.

Want to read it before it comes out? Trade for it on Swaptree or get it on Amazon.

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Filed under Book Review, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

The Devil Wears Prada

Weisberger, Lauren. The Devil Wears Prada (2003). 360 Pages. Broadway Books. $13.95

Cover: The Devil Wears PradaI never thought I’d say this about a book, but here I am, saying it: skip the book, and watch the movie instead. Anne Hathaway’s Andrea is a far more charming, sympathetic, and interesting character than the Andrea Sachs of this book.

The basic plot* is not so terrible; Andrea wants to be a writer for The New Yorker, a goal which she will do anything to achieve, including taking a miserable job for Miranda Priestly, the editor-in-chief of the fictional Runway Magazine. The premise of the book is that a year as Miranda’s assistant will open doors that years of doing legitimate writing will not. Andrea leaps from abuse to drama to abuse, clinging to her holier-than-thou attitude. At the end of the book, she (oh so shockingly) leaves the company to move on to greater things. Big surprise.

The writing is not strong; the characters remain flat and undeveloped, inviting only the barest amount of sympathy from the reader. None of the characters make you root for them, instead Andrea whines and leaves you wondering when she’ll just stop. (The answer, by the way, is page 360.) Miranda is a monster, of course. Her demands are truly unreasonable and she asks more of her assistants than any boss has a right to ask. She makes a great (if sometimes repetitive) villain. She makes a demand, Andrea struggles, Andrea meets the demand, repeat ad nauseam.

Instead of seeing her co-worker, Miranda’s senior assistant Emily as an ally, Andrea sees her as another enemy. “Just fucking shut up already! You march into this office and think you understand everything. Little Miss I’m So Sarcastic and So Above All This! You don’t understand anything. Anything!” (208) Emily screams, and Andrea just doesn’t get it. It occurs to her at one point near the end of the book that if she had ever once seen Emily as an ally instead of an enemy, she could have had a friend and her year would have been less miserable.

There are other scenes in the book which will make most readers roll their eyes:

  • A girl from Newark, New Jersey writes to Miranda about how she’s skinny but hates herself because she is not a Runway model. Andrea– screening Miranda’s mail– finds the letter and decides to grant the girl’s wish and send her a special designer dress because New Jersey just doesn’t have any designer stores and she’s oh-so-deprived. (243-245)
  • Andrea bursts into tears in the office of a stranger because the girl points out that her job sucks. (268) Andrea’s seeming epiphany is that other people think her job sucks, too. Nobody else of the dozens of other characters who have told her it’s terrible apparently count.
  • The entire Runway office shuts down to outfit Andrea to go to Paris with Miranda. (291) Because they lack anything better to do than dress a sarcastic, whiny girl up like a doll.

Perhaps the most annoying part of the whole book, the thing which drives me the craziest, and annoys me more than the shallow, whiny characters, is the fact that Andrea Sachs, a girl who apparently graduated from Brown and is a brilliant writer says “natch” more than once.

The Quick Version:

All-in-all, if you don’t mind removing your brain for a few hours while you read it, the book has its entertaining moments. If you want to enjoy the basic story, watch the film. I’d give it 2 of 5.

Still want to read it? Trade for it on Swaptree or Buy it on Amazon

* The Devil Wears Prada is apparently a roman a clef about the author’s time working for Conde Nast. It is thinly veiled.

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Chick-Lit