Castle in the Air

Castle in the Air Book CoverCastle in the Air is another magical, wholesome story by Diana Wynne Jones. It was published in 1990 and is considered a companion novel (not a sequel) to her book Howl’s Moving Castle which was published in 1986. I wasn’t sure how it related to Howl’s because it had no real connection until about halfway through the book. The entire story has elements that reminded me of Aladdin, with a flying carpet and a genie, but then the second half enters a realm similar to Howl’s Moving Castle. Fans of both will likely love this book, as I did.

Overall, it is a fun read that gets better as you go along. I felt there was a slower period in the middle when things begin to transition, but the action ramps up and all the pieces fall together in the end. This is one thing I really enjoyed about this book. Things that occur in the first few chapters either persist or reappear in the end to show their impact on the overall story. Some of it is whimsical, sure, but there is never anything superfluous, out of place, or unexplained in a Diana Wynne Jones novel (at least from my experience). Though I expected this book to be entertaining, I was yet again surprised how much I enjoy Diana Wynne Jones’s work.

I must admit that I plan to read this book, and many others, to my kids as they get older. I think Diana Wynne Jones weaves incredible stories that children will love and us adult (aka physically grown children) also enjoy. I will be reading the true sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle shortly to complete the Howl’s “trilogy” and I will discuss that book here as well.

Happy Reading.

July & August Reading Lineup

I ended up finishing my May reading lineup in June, so I figured I’d just give myself some extra time to get through these books. Luckily, I am finishing my current graduate courses and will have a six week break before my next few classes start up, so I should have some more time to read.

Castle in the Air Book CoverI am currently reading Castle in the Sky by Diana Wynne Jones and hope to finish it up soon. This is a companion novel to Howl’s Moving Castle which is a favorite of mine. I am about halfway through and there haven’t been any connections to Howl’s yet, so I’m not sure how it is considered a “companion” novel just yet.

House of Many Ways Book CoverMy next read is actually the sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle which is titled House of Many Ways. I decided to read Castle in the Sky first because it was published before House of Many Ways and I just decided to read these books in order of publication. I will likely write a recommendation for these books and, if I do, I may do one post for both books dependent upon how much they have in common.

After these, I’m not entirely sure what I will read next. I typically pick up whatever I am in the mood for, but I think I may begin the Sandman comic series by Neil Gaiman. I recently acquired the omnibus editions of this series, and I have been meaning to check it out. I don’t often read comics (which is somewhat surprising considering my interests), but I have heard a lot about this series and know many people who really enjoy it. I honestly don’t know much about the overall story. I am a fan of Neil’s work though and I’m certain it will be great. I may even begin this series alongside the Diana Wynne Jones books. I typically don’t read more than one book at a time. I’ll sometimes read one fiction and one non-fiction book simultaneously, but I like to focus on one story. For some reason I don’t think it will bother me since Sandman is in comic format. We will see.

Sandman Omnibus Editions

I hope your are having some fun reading adventures this summer. I am actually volunteering for my local library’s annual book sale next month which I am looking forward to especially since it was cancelled this past year. I’ll likely acquire many more books that will sit on my shelves for a bit before I get to them.

Happy Reading.

The Library at Mount Char

Library at Mount Char book coverThe Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins was first published in 2015, and I must say I am surprised I don’t hear about this book more often. Honestly, the one and only time I heard about this book was a few years ago. I put it on my list to read and recently got around to actually reading it. This book is by far the best book I’ve read this year. I absolutely loved it. This is one of those books, for me, where you wish you could discover it again for the first time.

I went into the book knowing nothing about the story. It has been some time since I started a book without any notion of what to expect or having little knowledge about the premise. This may have added to my thrill of discovering what happened next and learning about the universe the story inhabits, but it is overall a great read that was right up my alley of interests.

I’m going to provide just a glimpse, or feeling, of what this book contains so hopefully you can discover it in a similar manner. The best word I can use to describe this book is “ancient” because there are elements that lead you to believe there are forces at play within our world that have been around since time began. The main story centers around a handful of characters, a dysfunctional group of people with strange powers, and a mysterious “father” figure. The basic relationships somewhat remind of me The Umbrella Academy but less familial. There are supernatural elements but nothing feels out of place. I believe this book is typically shelved under fantasy fiction, but it also includes science fiction elements. All of which are reasons I like it so much.

This book is definitely for mature readers, so I don’t recommend it to younger audiences. I was engrossed in the characters and events of the story from the start. Again, I’m not sure why I don’t hear about this book more often, but I hope this recommendation will introduce this story to new readers and help spread the word.

Happy Reading.

Project Hail Mary

Project Hail Mary book coverProject Hail Mary is Andy Weir’s third novel. Weir began writing full time after the large success of his first novel The Martian which was quickly adapted into a movie. He continued pursuing his hobbies of relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight, all of which are incorporated into his novels. However, Project Hail Mary seems to include more science-based fun than The Martian and Artemis put together. This is because the majority of this story’s adventure takes place off planet.

Dr. Ryland Grace is the only survivor of a last-chance mission to save Earth and humanity as a species. However, he does not know this at the start. The book begins with Grace awakening from an induced coma (more plausible than the now generic cryosleep used for long space travel in science fiction), but he awakens with no memory of who he is or where he is. The story is split between him gradually regaining his memories and what is happening with him in real-time as he attempts to solve humanity’s gravest problem.

I really enjoyed this story, as I have enjoyed all of Weir’s works, but I must admit this one didn’t capture my interest as well as his previous books (I was still interested, but not as enraptured). The story takes a little while to really ramp up though I think my biggest issue was the character of Ryland Grace himself. He seems like a very unlikely candidate to be on such a mission. He is a smart guy, probably even more of a science expert than Mark Watney from The Martian, but he is much more…plucky. There are times he acts without the level of concern expected of an astronaut which seems a bit off considering space is extremely dangerous and resources are limited to what is aboard the ship. Also, if he fails the mission then humanity is doomed. The stakes are high and I personally wouldn’t want Ryland Grace as humanity’s last hope. However, this actually does get addressed later in the book and I think the way things play out actually made me warm up to Ryland and better understand how and why he is there. It just takes quite a long time before we get this information, so if you are reading the book and think, as I did, that Ryland is not the best character, then stick it out and see if you change your mind.

This book is somewhat reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey but more entertaining, more realistic, and actually tells a full story without ambiguous events. If you like The Martian or Artemis (which I think is a little underrated) then you will enjoy Project Hail Mary. It comes with all the science-based fun, some of which may go over your head, that is now expected from Weir, and you will likely learn a bit about space and space travel.

Happy Reading.

Welcome to Fatherhood

IMG_44601.jpgI am extremely happy to announce that I am now a father to a beautiful baby girl. Emily and I welcomed Violet Skye Yarber on June 5th at 11:48pm. She was 8lbs 1oz and 20.5 inches long. I cannot state how incredible Em was during this past year, but especially during birth. She was an absolute champion and has continued to be during this first week of being new parents and taking care of little Violet. She is the best wife and mother.

I am overwhelmed and overjoyed at this new adventure into fatherhood. I hope to raise this little one to be an avid reader like myself, but that is still a few years away and will of course be her choice. We have plenty of kids books thanks to our wonderful group of family and friends.

I’m not going to lie, this first week has been a bit rough, but I think we are slowly getting the hang of things and hopefully it will get a bit easier. Violet is just so amazing for a tiny human that mostly sleeps. Then again, I am biased.

I am a lucky man. I hope to be a great father to this beautiful little girl.

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