House of Many Ways

House of Many Ways Book CoverHouse of Many Ways is Diana Wynne Jones’s sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle. However, much like the companion novel Castle in the Air, this book spends the first half following a new character without any connection to the world of Howl’s except where magic is involved. It is really just before the halfway point that we get to see the connection, which is primarily Sophie.

Our main character for this book is Charmain Baker, who I must admit is not a very likeable character (despite the fact she is an avid reader herself). She is tasked with watching over her great uncle’s magical house while he is away receiving medical treatment from the elves. She does grow throughout the book, as good characters should, but she is a bit self-centered in a way that doesn’t leave much room to connect. The overall story and magic are fun much like the previous novels so it is definitely worth a read, and it is always good to see more of Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer.

I am glad I decided to read the three Howl books in order of publication because the events of Castle in the Air take place roughly two years prior to House of Many Ways and a few characters show up in this final installment. Though it is not necessary to read Castle in the Air to understand what occurs in House of Many Ways, the experience is enhanced having read the companion novel first. In all honesty, I would dare to call this book a companion novel as well instead of a true sequel because it focuses on new characters and events quite outside that of Howl’s Moving Castle. Some of the locations and the magic are similar, but the same could be said of Castle in the Air. They are all linked but none are truly cohesive in a way you would expect of a continuous story. Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer are more support characters and the overall story has little to do with the first book.

House of Many Ways was first published in 2008. This is 18 years after Castle in the Air and 22 years after Howl’s Moving Castle (and 4 years after the Howl’s Moving Castle film). Despite the time between publications, these stories are all magical in their own way and read as if they could have all been written at the same time. Diana Wynne Jones was truly a gifted and magical writer.

Happy Reading.

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 adults (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.

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.

Tokyo Ghoul

Tokyo Ghoul Monster Edition Volume 1 CoverTokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida is the first manga/graphic novel series I have read. I originally watched the show and have always heard the source material was better (as is often the case), so I recently read the entire series and it is a ride. I have a lot of thoughts about this series, but to keep things spoiler-free, I will refrain from going into details and will focus on the story and characters without giving anything away (except for the initial events that set up the entire story).

First, the premise. This series centers around the dichotomy of humans and ghouls. Ghouls look like humans, but can only survive by eating humans. Their consumption of humans increases a type of cell in their bodies that allows them to wield organic weapons that extend from their bodies (this is actually pretty cool for fight scenes). They blend into human society in order to survive and several ghouls try to live “normal” lives. Some even try to sustain themselves without killing while others throw caution to the wind and kill as they please. This is of course a problem, and the Commission of Counter Ghoul (CCG) is a specific agency aimed at eradicating ghouls from human society by tracking and eliminating ghouls.

The story follows the character of Ken Kaneki. He is a normal, shy, human college kid. After an accident, he receives an organ transplant but the organs were from a ghoul. Ken finds himself forced to navigate ghoul society once he realizes he can no longer eat human food. He is no longer human but he is not quite a full ghoul either.

Ken’s journey is a long and arduous one as he attempts to adapt to his new circumstances. I won’t go into details as this would defeat the purpose of this recommendation, so I hope the information so far has peaked your interest or maybe helped you realize this may not be a story for you.

I will add a few warnings though. This story is gruesome (if you couldn’t tell by the premise) and Ken Kaneki may have the worst luck of any character I have ever read. Sui Ishida took the “kill your darlings” idea and ran with it because this series delves into psychological aspects that are rare in any form of literature. This goes without even mentioning the physical aspects involved in this story. Another warning is that this story goes in unexpected directions and some storylines or characters may not get a clear cut resolution, meaning some things may seem unresolved. I know this can bother many readers, myself included, but I also felt the overarching story wraps up as well as it can. Sui Ishida provides a brief, personal story at the very end of the series about his time working on the story that I think contributes to providing a satisfied end.

My last warning is more a heads up about a major change that occurs halfway through. This series is split into two parts. The original Tokyo Ghoul is 14 volumes and covers much of Ken’s journey. The second part is titled Tokyo Ghoul:re which consists of 16 volumes and begins 2-3 years after the events of part one. The time gap and changes to characters/events proves to be a hard adjustment for many fans mainly because there is not much explanation as to how it happens. It does get briefly explained later on and hopefully by the time you get this far (if you choose to read it) you will be absorbed in the story and will need to know how it concludes.

The show follows the main storyline fairly well but there are significant changes to several events and some information or arcs are left out. These missing events are what cause some confusion in the show. Though I still really like the show, I will admit I enjoyed the graphic novels much more. Each volume can be read quickly and I think the artwork is fantastic.

I realize this is the first graphic novel series I’ve recommended, but I’m sure I will be exploring more storylines in this format so there will be more to come. I honestly believe great stories are available in any medium and I hope this one is not a barrier for you. If you are already familiar with this medium, I hope this story interests you. There is so much I’d love to discuss about this story and how it comments on our own society, but this is just a brief insight for you to see if you would like to read it yourself.

Happy Reading.

The Man Who Was Thursday

The Man Who Was ThursdayThe Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton was first published in 1908. I put G.K. Chesterton on my list of authors to read after several authors whose work I enjoy had mentioned him as an influence on their own work and desire to be an author. The book Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is actually dedicated to G.K. Chesterton.

This book is actually a short, quick read and is a strange but fun mystery that involves an undercover policeman infiltrating a group of anarchists. The story is surprisingly accessible despite being written so long ago and there were only a few instances of behaviors, word use, or societal impressions being somewhat dated.

The story keeps you turning the page to find out what happens next but the ending is surprisingly open to interpretation, which has me remaining uncertain how I feel about the whole venture. Regardless, I think it was a good read and it is always interesting to read stories written long ago even if it is to catch a glimpse of a past world.

I’m sure there are several other Chesterton stories that I may enjoy better than this one, and I am going to try a few more of his novels to better understand his influence of modern authors (and of course to enjoy more good books). If, like me, you were completely unaware of G.K. Chesterton prior to him being mentioned in a book (or perhaps even this blog), then you may now be interested in sampling his work or finding out more about him. This one is a good start I think because of its brevity.

Happy Reading.