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.

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.

Book Hangover

Book Hangover is real and I have been experiencing one of late. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, I would define a book hangover as the inability to move onto a new book due to a lingering connection to the story you recently finished. Basically, you are still processing or thinking about the events or characters of the story you finished and need to take some time before moving on.

This can occur after reading a great book or a story you connected with strongly. It happens to me from time to time and usually occurs after I finish a series I really enjoy. There are many definitions the internet will provide because this is a fairly common occurrence but it affects people in different ways. There are several good memes out there that will give you a laugh. I enjoyed a few while writing this post. It's just a book;

The term “hangover” makes it seem like a bad experience, but I don’t consider it to be bad in any way. Yes, I am not yet ready to move on from a story I recently finished, but I just experienced a great story and need some extra time. Granted, a book hangover can be caused by a less-than-ideal experience or even a traumatic one (I’ve never cried during a book but some events can hit hard), but I wouldn’t consider relatively negative experiences in fictional worlds bad for us. It just means we were invested and being invested in a story or character is a good thing. I just wish more of us were as invested in our real-world friends and family (though these are longer-term commitments that require much more effort but they are that much more worth it).

Stories are amazing things. Books are simply vessels for stories. We create the connection and our imaginations bring the world and characters to life. My favorite, absurd description of reading a book goes like this: Reading a book is just staring at a piece of dead tree and hallucinating.

I’m curious if you have ever experienced a book/story hangover. Can you think of a book, series, tv show, or movie that stayed with you long after you finished it?

I think I am near the end of my own book hangover and will be ready to move onto the next experience. I wish you all a great story in the near future.

An Alphabet of Authors

Inspired by @WS_Bookclub’s post of alphabetical fantasy authors. I decided to do an Alphabet of Authors myself. These are authors I have read and I was surprised to see several gaps in letters, so please give me some recommendations if you know of any.

I made this list mainly by perusing my bookshelf so it may very well be incomplete. I’ve also only added the authors whose work I have enjoyed (of course) because I figured you may want to read them if you haven’t yet. If you want a specific book recommendation for any of these authors, peruse my list of recommendations I have posted here. Anyway, here we go:

An alphabet of authors (by last name)

A – Douglas Adams with Honorable Mentions: Isaac Asimov, Margaret Atwood, Ryunosuke Akutagawa

B – Ray Bradbury with Honorable Mentions: Edgar Rice Burroughs

C – Ted Chiang with Honorable Mentions: Orson Scott Card, Raymond Carver, Albert Camus, Ernest Cline

D – Philip K. Dick with Honorable Mentions: Emily Dickinson, Anthony Doerr, Alexandre Dumas

E – Cary Elwes with Honorable Mention: Matthew Eck

F – Raymond E. Feist with Honorable Mentions: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Carrie Fisher, Victor Frankl

G – Neil Gaiman with Honorable Mentions: William Gibson, Arthur Golden, Helene A. Guerber, The Brothers Grimm, Malcolm Gladwell

H – Frank Herbert with Honorable Mentions: Robert Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, Aldous Huxley

I – Dave Itzkoff with Honorable Mention: Kazuo Ishiguro

J – Robert Jordan with Honorable Mention: Diana Wynne Jones

K – Stephen King with Honorable Mention: Franz Kafka

L – Ursula K. Le Guin with Honorable Mentions: Stanislaw Lem, Ann Leckie, Tom Lloyd

M – John Marco with Honorable Mentions: David Mitchell, Cormac McCarthy

N – Garth Nix with Honorable Mentions: Phong Nguyen, Patrick Ness

O – George Orwell with Honorable Mentions: Joyce Carol Oates, Nnedi Okorafor

P – Terry Pratchett with Honorable Mentions: Gary Paulson, Robert M. Pirsig, Gareth L. Powell, Edgar Allen Poe

Q – Recommendations Please (I do want to read Matthew Quick’s Silver Linings Playbook)

R – Patrick Rothfuss with Honorable Mentions: Ayn Rand, J.K. Rowling

S – Antione de Saint-Exupery with Honorable Mentions: V.E. Schwab, Snorri Sturluson

T – J.R.R. Tolkien with Honorable Mention: Karen Traviss

U – Recommendations Please

V – Kurt Vonnegut

W – Tobias Wolff with Honorable Mentions: Gene Wolfe, Martha Wells, Danny Wallace, and Andy Weir

X – Recommendations Please

Y – Recommendations Please (I do want to read Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life)

Z – Yevgeny Zamyatin with Honorable Mention: Timothy Zahn