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.

The Long Read

I had originally intended to read several larger books this year just as a little theme, but being back in school has hindered my reading in general let alone larger works, so I figured I’d just make a list and hopefully pick this theme up next year when I should be done with my degree and (hopefully) have some more time on my hands. I at least won’t be reading textbooks.

Below are several of the books I’ve been intending to read that near or surpass the 1000 page mark. How many have you read? How do you feel about large books? I’m curious if you have or intend to read any of these as well.

The Count of Monte Cristo

Count of Monte CristoI have been meaning to read this book for a long time. I think I started it several years ago but only made it a few hundred pages in before stopping (I can’t remember why). I really enjoyed the 2001 film of this book and I think that was when I first wanted to give it a read, but I think I will appreciate the book much more now that I am older.

IT

ItOkay, this book was never really one I would have picked up, but I’ve heard many times how good the book is from people who aren’t even avid readers. This made me want to give it a shot. I also saw the newer film adaptation of the book having gone with friends who wanted to see it. Again, not a book or story I would have originally found on my own, which is another reason I am actually interested in reading it. Exploration is good.

The Books of Earthsea

EarthseaThis one is technically a series, but my wife gifted me a one-volume illustrated edition which I am counting as one book for the purposes of my arbitrary theme of reading long books. I enjoy Le Guin and this series is very popular. It will be interesting to experience it and create my own opinion about the story.

Atlas Shrugged

Atlas ShruggedThis one I’ve been meaning to read for a while. Actually, this book first came on my radar when I found out that a video game I really like was basically a critique of this book. The game was Bioshock and it remains a series I go back to from time to time. I know Ayn Rand can be difficult to read, but I am determined to eventually read this book. I’ve heard The Fountainhead by Rand is good and I may give that one a shot too.

Infinite Jest

Infinite JestI really don’t know much about this book except I’ve read little by David Foster Wallace and I want to read this book of his. I may try more of his work prior to tackling this larger volume, but this is considered one of his better works, so I feel drawn to trying it out first.

These five alone may be more than enough reading for some people, but I hope I do get around to them after I finish this degree. Below are a few others I’ve considered that fit the bill, but I am not as gung ho about getting to them anytime soon.

The Stand

The Stand Book CoverA friend of mine, who is a Stephen King fan, really enjoyed this book and has been wanting me to read it. I tried once a while back but couldn’t get into it at the time. I have read Chuck Wendig’s book Wanderers, which he calls his tribute to King’s The Stand. Both have somewhat similar premises but I may eventually get around to this one.

Don Quixote

Don QuixoteThis is one of those classics that you think you should read or people tell you that you should read. I really became interested in reading it when it appeared in the show The Newsroom written by Aaron Sorkin and staring Jeff Daniels. I was curious as to the context it played with the show and figured it was something I may want to read eventually anyway.

The Foundation Trilogy

The Foundation Trilogy Book CoverTechnically this is a trilogy that I have in one volume and therefore am counting it as one book (and, yes, technically there are five books but two were written well after the original trilogy so I am only including the original for now). This science fiction story by Isaac Asimov is one that has been on my list for some time and I will eventually get to it. Even as a trilogy it doesn’t quite meet the length of the other books in this list, but it comes close.

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 Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue book coverThe Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is V.E. Schwab’s latest novel. I dare say it may well be her masterpiece, though of course I hope, as I do for all artists, that the best is still to come. Perhaps this will be only one of her masterpieces. It is beautifully written and intriguing through the final page.

Addie LaRue makes a deal with a god. The result is that she will seemingly live forever. The cost being that no one remembers her, while she remembers everything. They don’t simply forget her as time goes by, they forget her shortly after she is out of sight. Thus her journey, the parts we get to see, spans over 300 years. We get a plethora of events through parallel stories. One semi-recent, the other spanning Addie’s three centuries to bring her to the end of this story.

One of the aspects that drew me to this book was that of time. I love stories that manipulate time or change it in some way. This one doesn’t manipulate time, but it does amazing things with it. We see Addie’s tragedies and triumphs as she defiantly refuses to give in to her twisted consequence of her deal. No one may remember her, but she lives and explores and watches the years go by reveling in what tomorrow may bring. She has an unending fascination that repels the evils of the world.

Another aspect I found incredible was how time is used to examine the way we build relationships. Also, how memories fade or change, or simply disappear. How memory can impact our relationships with our friends, family, and loved ones. Living forever may mean losing everyone you know eventually, but living forever without being able to build any real relationships is something else entirely. Another reason her ability to enjoy every moment is admirable. We see Addie’s life and wonder what will happen within the confines of her curse, and we see the many relationships and encounters only she can remember.

I love stories that stay with you, and I believe this one does. The conceptual circumstances of Addie alone were compelling for me and I’m sure they will fascinate many. Though the story may mean something different for each reader. We bring our own histories with us when we read a story. We view the pages through a lens unique to only us. But I dare to call this story timeless (pun intended). There is a foundation within it where anyone can find ground to bring parts of their own lives along. To build alongside and weave throughout the pages. When there is room for growth or reflection within characters such as Addie, it is nearly impossible to forget her.

Happy Reading.