Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Book Review: Howl's Moving Castle

One of my favorite movies of all time is Howl's Moving Castle. It is definitely my top favorite Studio Ghibli film tying in with Spirited Away. I always knew Howl's Moving Castle was a book before it was a movie, but I never got around to reading mainly because I knew that it was going to be different from the movie. With my last coupon for Half Price Books, I decided why not? I read the Phantom of the Opera book, how much different could that be? Here is my full book review of Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.

A Little Bit About the Author

Diana Wynne Jones was known throughout her career as a British novelist, poet, academic, literary critic and short story writer. She focused more on fantasy and speculative fiction for children and young adults throughout her writing career. Jones started her writing career in the mid-60's to, as she puts it, "mostly keep my sanity." (isn't that why we all write?) Her first book was an adult novel published in 1970 titled, Changeover.

Jones wrote Howl's Moving Castle in 1986 when she was inspired by a boy at a school she was visiting who asked her to write a book called The Moving Castle. In 2004, Hayao Miyazaki created the animated movie and was dubbed in 2005. The following year, Jones won the annual Phoenix Award from the Children's Literature Association, recognizing a children's book published twenty years later that did not win an award. 

 A Little Bit About the Book

The book follows the quiet and subdued Sophie Hatter, who's life was perfectly normal until the Wicked Witch of Waste shows up at her hat shop and turns her into an elderly woman. In this giant jigsaw puzzle of a fantasy, people and things are never quite what they seem. Destinies are intertwined, identities exchanged, lovers confused. The Witch has placed a spell on Howl. Does the clue to breaking it lie in a famous poem? And what will happen to Sophie Hatter when she enters Howl's castle?
Diana Wynne Jones's entrancing fantasy is filled with surprises at every turn, but when the final stormy duel between the Witch and the Wizard is finished, all the pieces fall magically into place.

A Little Review

This was such a charming book that held my attention from the very first page until the romantic end. I enjoyed reading Howl's Moving Castle and my predictions were true, it was VERY different from the movie, but it was far from being great. I don't this want this review to focus on the movie and the book, but I do want to say that even though they are different, especially when it comes to the focus of the plot, it was such a refreshing story. It was like reading a rendition of one of my favorite stories with the same happy ending.

The characters were so unique and so fun to read about. Jones does a fantastic job at keeping the characters with their own personalities and distinguishing between all the various people we meet throughout the story. The world itself was so magical and I just wanted to learn more about the worlds and I want to know more about the characters. 

The whole book is just a fun read. It's a great read for the younger, maybe middle school readers out there. It is also a great novel for the adults in the room who just want some fantasy in their life. It's a memorable story and it's also warm. Definitely a book I would pick up and read again.


Overall, this a great book to read for you, for your kids or for your elderly grandparent looking for a nice fantasy book to read. It's a book that will have you wanting more adventure and wanting to read more about all the characters.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Book Review: Christmas in Winter Valley

Ransom Canyon, #8 
Jodi Thomas
Genre: Contemporary / Western / Holiday Romance Publisher: HQN Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Number of Pages: 288 pages
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Ransom Canyon welcomes you back for a Christmas that has everything you’re looking for: romance, family, and a whole lot of Texas.
Cooper Holloway would take nature over people any day—especially visiting relatives. That’s why he’s headed for a rustic cabin in remote Winter Valley, where he’ll care for a herd of wild mustangs. But Cooper’s plans are quickly thwarted by the arrival of two unexpected guests: one, a stranger in desperate need of his help, and the other, a very attractive young veterinarian.
Elliott is busy trying to keep Maverick Ranch running smoothly with Cooper gone, which is no easy task with family visiting. And when a long-lost love suddenly reappears in his life, Elliott knows he’ll have more than just books to balance this season.
With a big, chaotic family Christmas around the corner and love blooming in surprising ways, the Holloway men will have to make big choices about the future—just in time for the holidays.

PRAISE FOR CHRISTMAS IN WINTER VALLEY: "This book has everything you would want. Laughter, drama. And tears both happy and sad. I highly recommend this book." -- Patty Champion (5 Stars, Goodreads Review) “I could not put this book down once I started it and longed for more once I was done.” -- Melanie (5 Stars, Goodreads Review) "I got lost in the world that she [Jodi Thomas] has created and enjoyed seeing her characters with their overlapping and interconnected stories find a happiness that none of them expected to ever find." -- B. (5 Stars, Goodreads Review)

I received this book for free, though this review is my own thoughts and opinions.

Already finished reading my first Christmas book for the year and it's only October! I always like to read themed books for when the different Holidays roll out. If I were you, I would add this book to your list of Christmas books to read this year.

At first, I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this book. I loved the cover and it's not a usual selection for me, so I thought of reading something out of my typical reading, which is mainly biographical/autobiographical, mystery and manga. And right off the bat, this was a nice change of pace for me. 

I'm not going to lie, it was a little slow for me to get into at the beginning, but I still gave it a chance and the story really picked up like a snowball going downhill. I would be reading this book during my lunch break and not wanting to go back to work. Thus, such is life. The story overall was very well written, but I think what really got me interested were the characters. At the begnning, the characters tend to be more closed off to the world and to the reader, but as you keep going through the pages, you start to learn how more complex they are, who they are, what they like, what they've gone through and they become relatable people. It was definitely as if I was getting to know real people as most you will not know a lot right off the back, but as time goes on, the walls break down bit by bit.

I was also happy on the level of romance this book gives you. It's not overally romantic, but subtle and sweet like kiss on the cheek that makes your heart warm up. I appreciate this aspect as I love, love, but I don't like the excessiveness that some romance novels play out. 

Overall, this was a wonderful read and it really got me into the Holiday spirit. I'm excited to read more from this author and more Christmas books in general.

With millions of books in print, Jodi Thomas is both a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over fifty novels and countless short story collections. Her stories travel through the past and present days of Texas and draw readers from around the world.
In July 2006, Jodi was the 11th writer to be inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. With five RITA’s to her credit, along with National Readers’ Choice Awards and Booksellers’ Best Awards, Thomas has proven her skill as a master storyteller.
Thomas was honored in 2002 as a Distinguished Alumni by Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas and served sixteen years as the Writer in Residence at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas.
When not working on a novel, or inspiring students to pursue writing careers, Thomas enjoys traveling with her family, renovating an historic home, and “checking up” on two grown sons and four grandchildren.

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October 3-13, 2019
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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Book Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

 Hello all you beautiful people in the world! I've actually finished this book in June, but hadn't had the actual time to sit down do a whole review on this due to other book review commitments, but I'm really excited to tell you all about this book! It's one that I don't have any negative things to say about it, so read on if you are curious to learn more about the novel, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.

A Little Bit About The Author

She was born in Seoul, South Korea and immigrated to Queens, New York with her family in 1976 when she was seven years old. Lee is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science and was inducted into the Bronx Science Hall of Fame. At Yale College, she majored in History and was awarded the Henry Wright Prize for Nonfiction and the James Ashmun Veech Prize for Fiction. She attended law school at Georgetown University and worked as a lawyer for several years in New York prior to writing full time.

From 2007 to 2011, Lee lived in Tokyo where she researched and wrote Pachinko. As of the fall of 2018, she will be based in Boston, where she will be working on American Hagwon, the third diaspora novel of “The Koreans” trilogy. From 2019-2022, she will be a Writer-in-Residence at Amherst College. She serves as a trustee of PEN America and as a director of the Authors Guild.

A Little About The Book

The story starts off in the early 1900's, before WWII came into play. We find the life of teenager Sunja go from typical to a Lifetime movie in a matter of a couple of chapters. She soon finds out that she is pregnant from a wealthy stranger who she finds out has a different life in Japan. She leaves the stranger and decides to marry a gentle minister who was passing through her mother's inn on his way to Japan. Her decisions lead her on one epic journey that only one could believe in writing.

What Was Most Interesting

If you are a history buff then you are going to LOVE Pachinko. A story set in post and pre WWII Japan. I learned so many things that I never learned in school and haven't watched on the History channel. The story goes into great detail about the Koreans who moved into Japan, how they were treated and how the ones that were born in Japan grew up and what life was like in a place that I consider to be quite friendly. It kind of pops my bubble a bit, but always good to know.

This story also reminded me of Memoirs of a Geisha in the way the story was told, you just want to keep learning more about everyone's life during this time. It's so mesmerizing, especially for people, like me, who don't know much about this part of history.

This story is definitely a page-turner. I could not put it down. I wanted to read the whole thing in a day, but let myself read it slow to take it all in. When you have a good page-turner book, you are going to have feelings. Tons of feelings. You will feel the main character's happiness, sadness, devastation, love and everything else in between. It's a true roller coaster that you just quite don't want to get off from.

 What Was Least Interesting

There is really nothing that I would personally put here. The author went through great lengths to make sure her story was accurately portrayed and accurate to the time and she did a fantastic job.


Overall,  I definitely recommend this to anyone. It's a wonderfully, tragic story that reels you into the human heart and tugs at it's vessels. Until next time, Happy Reading my friends!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Rainy Books: Yazzy's Amazing Yarn

CATHEY GRAHAM NICKELL Illustrated by Emily Calimlim
  Genre: Children's Picture Book, Ages 4-8 
Publisher: Twenty-Eight Creative
Date of Publication: August 1, 2019
Number of Pages: 32
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Yazzy is a creative girl, always sketching out her next adventure. She loves yarn, and she loves to knit! Her neighborhood park is dull and rusty, but Yazzy has a grand plan. 
With a little help from her friends, Yazzy’s knitted wonders transform Penny Park into a fuzzy rainbow of warmth and color. What yarn-tastic idea will Yazzy think of next? 
The book includes a “History of Yarn Bombing” page for readers who are not familiar with this creative and whimsical type of art.

“As a teacher, it's refreshing to find a book that exposes children to an alternative art form. I'm inspired by Yazzy's story, and I know my students will be, too.” -- Deborah Horwitz, Art Teacher, The Emery/Weiner School, Houston, Texas.


This is my first children's book that I'm reviewing and I think I am going to be doing more of these reviews, because children's books matter just as much as any other genre of book. Yazzy's Amazing Yarn is such a cute children's book in the words and in the way it is illustrated. Everything is so crisp and the colors are vibrant and can excite any child reading before bedtime. 

I appreciate the fact that the book starts off with technology intertwining with everyday activities, which is how childhood should be. Making phone cases out of yarn, brilliant idea that only the mind of a child would come up with. 

I also really enjoyed just the whole concept of this book. The story isn't about turning old into new, it's about using what is run down and giving it the TLC that it needs, while still keeping that history of what was intact. It really made me think of how people turn old buildings and revive it to its glory days. I love seeing that, because it gives a new sense of life without completely busting the history down, making it new but not completely modernized.

I never knew that Yarn Bombing was/is an actual thing until I read this children's book. Now I'm interested in finding these playgrounds and possibly submitting this idea to my councilman for a little playground near my area that could use some of that TLC. 

Overall, this is a book your kids need on their bookshelves. I may not be a parent, but I will definitely be grabbing myself a copy and putting it in my small children's collection for one of these days (years). Until then, Happy Reading!

Cathey Nickell is a busy author and elementary school speaker, having presented at more than seventy schools to date. Yazzy’s Amazing Yarn is her second children’s book about creativity and outside-the-box artistic endeavors. She is also the author of Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car, which was awarded first place by the Texas Association of Authors in the category of Children’s Picture Books-All Ages. Cathey lives with her husband, Kevin, in Houston, where they raised their four children.


Emily Calimlim, while not a knitting whiz herself, loves creating art with humorous and lively watercolor pictures for children. She lives in Houston with her fiancé, George, and silly studio bird, Simon. Emily spends her days capturing her ideas and imagination with paint and pencil.
August 27-September 6, 2019
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