Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Day 06 - Favorite Book of Your Favorite Series

Martin the Warrior (Redwall, #6)


I've mentioned before the the Redwall series was a huge part of my life growing up.  With twenty-two books in the series, it's no surprise that after about book 10, they all start blurring together.  I have vague remembrances of enjoying one more than another, but in general the stories were always pretty solid, if not memorable.  There is one exception in this series, and ever since my first time reading it (and upon many, many rereads of this series) it has always stood out as my absolute favourite book of the lot. 

Martin the Warrior is the sixth book in the Redwall Series, and it is the first time we go back to the history of the world Brian Jacques has set up.  In the previous books, you hear constant mentions of Martin the Warrior as a true hero to almost mythic proportions.  In the previous books it's been years (from what I recall it's basically at least a century), and it doesn't matter how far down the generations the books have taken us, Martin the Warrior remains a strong part of their history.  So when I discovered that we'd finally get to hear about this Martin fellow I was pleasantly surprised as it was a new twist to how the series had been progressing (aka, chronologically). 

This book has everything that I've come to realize that I expect in a fantasy novel to be worthy of my favourites shelf.  It's got heartbreak and tragedy, but humour and love, platonic and romantic relationships, epic worldbuilding (and food porn!), complex relationships...it's amazing. I'm not expecting anyone who hasn't read this story to read it, but in the interest of not spoiling it anyway, BEWARE SPOILERS.

Martin's main love interest is killed and my guess is that it was probably the first time I'd had a main character/love interest die (although Charlotte's Web may have happened before this, so who knows. But definitely the love interest dying bit.)  It was one of the only times in the series that a main character dies, and I was absolutely heart broken when I finished this book.  I always find that the books I found as a child that were more than just a happy story are the ones I was really drawn to.  (Hmm. Maybe this is why I am so morbid?)

END SPOILERS

And now I think I'm going to start rereading these books...I'm getting nostalgic haha

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd - Holly Black & Co.

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd



Summary:

GoodreadsAcclaimed authors Holly Black (Ironside) and Cecil Castellucci (Boy Proof) have united in geekdom to edit short stories from some of the best selling and most promising geeks in young adult literature: M.T. Anderson, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, John Green, Tracy Lynn, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Barry Lyga, Wendy Mass, Garth Nix, Scott Westerfield, Lisa Yee, and Sara Zarr.

With illustrated interstitials from comic book artists Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley, Geektastic covers all things geeky, from Klingons and Jedi Knights to fan fiction, theater geeks, and cosplayers. Whether you're a former, current, or future geek, or if you just want to get in touch with your inner geek, Geektastic will help you get your geek on!



Thoughts

I rarely read short story anthologies because I have such a hard time getting into them, but I saw this was at the library so I thought...well why not?  And I'm so glad I did.  As I read each of these stories I kept feeling like "This is my home. These are my stories." - even when they were in a "geeky" matter I didn't know anything about.  With the exception of maybe two of the stories that I read, I wholeheartedly loved everything in this collection (even if I kept thinking all the characters were gay and then discovering I'd gotten the genders all wrong. Ah the pitfalls of short stories in first person).

This collection seriously has something for everyone - cosplaying, role playing, academic debate, LARPing, computer games, dinosaurs, fanfic, theater, Buffy - you name it, it's in here.  And I think it's amazing how drawn into each story I got into, even when I didn't have a clue about what they were talking about, I well and truly cared about the characters.  Which completely bypassed all my normal issues about short stories - since I tend to be pretty character centric, it's hard for short stories to be able to draw me in enough to really care about the characters because the stories are...well...short.  Some of them I actually would have LOVED to have gotten a whole novel out of the story - David Levithan's in particular. (Which shows me that I need to go pick up one of his books immediately. It's not like they aren't already all on my tbr list anyway, I just haven't done anything about it yet. Which will be remedied. Soon.) His was also the only one featuring anything other than a hetero relationship, which actually made me kind of sad because as I mentioned earlier, I actually assumed 75% of the relationships were same sex at the start of the stories haha.   A lot of the stories also had a focus purely on family or friend relationships, and you all know how much I go gaga over that sort of thing!

Sadly I didn't get this post up before the book expired on my kindle, so I lost all the notes I'd taken on the stories I loved, but since there were only two I didn't, just assume that the rest are all pure love for me, because they are.  The only two I didn't love were Scott Westerfield's and Barry Lyga's.  Scott Westerfields was just kind of...weird. And psychotic.  It creeped me out too much to love haha, and while I loved the concept of Barry Lyga's (his was about dinosaurs), the ending definitely didn't make me feel good.  But only two out of an entire collection is like a crazy difference than what I'm used to - I tend to be the reverse!  So I'm glad I picked it up and highly recommend this, regardless of how you feel about short stories or books about geeky things (because let's face it - if you're reading this blog, you definitely will be able to connect to at least a few stories in the collection regardless).


TL;DR

I don't read short stories. Ever. I get supremely bored by them.  But this collection was well worth picking up, and I'd recommend it to all readers because there's something a story in here for everyone.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Day in the Life (20)



Once again I got caught up in moving stuff, plus I started work (although since I'm actually writing this while at work, I suppose that's not the best excuse.)

Reasons why working as a receptionist at a gym is awesome:

1. I am writing this post as I work
2. If I actually ever wanted to work out, I could do it for free. Except that I don't go to gyms, so it's not really an advantage
3. I don't have internet right now, so getting to use it at work is awesome
4. I actually got so bored I LOOKED FORWARD to cleaning the equipment. And then went and cleaned a bunch of equipment I didn't need to. Because I was that bored. Maybe this will start applying to my apartment?
5. I'm meeting not musicians, which is interesting

Reasons why working as a receptionist at a gym is less than stellar:

1. Minimum wage ain't going to pay all the bills
2. Did I mention I was bored?
3. It is not inspiring any creative posts at the moment, so...hopefully I'll come up with something to post soon...(other than this. Obviously.)
4. I haven't had body image issues in YEARS...but when you have to wear pretty much leggings to work every day, it does things to your self esteem. 

...Ok I'm done procrastinating.  I'll go do the real blog post work now! 

Sadly due to my inability to remember where I packed my headphones and only being able to get internet in public places, no music this week.  Here's a video of Michael Rooker dancing like Groot instead!






Bookish Links

Authors
A Thing or Two About the #edbookfest - Sandra talks about meeting some of her favourite authors - (SARAH J. MAAS!!!)
The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe: Sarah J. Maas - Speaking of SJM...want to read some kooky Q/A's?
Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Gritty" Memoir Sounds Historically Accurate and Deeply Upsetting - This sounds freaking fantastic!! Look at me getting all excited for a nonfiction book :)


 Fantasy
 The Extraordinary Cases of Histories of Fictional Worlds - You all know how into world building I am right?
 Fairytale's Most Wanted: The Five Most Well-Known Character Types - And in keeping with my fairy tale obsession...
My Favourite Fantasy Characters - Featuring two of my own favourites, Luna and Tyrion.
Which Hogwarts Professor Are You - I'm Hagrid! I may have posted this already, but who cares it's fun!
6 More Folktales from Around the World to Read to Your Kids - Did I mention I'm obsessed with ALL fairy tales?


Thought Provoking
I Got the Message Loud and Clear: Reading Isn't Cool - I am sure most, if not all, of us can relate to this post. I was lucky enough that for the most part my family is a reading family, or used to those of us who are, so I haven't gotten this much from my family. But I definitely got it elsewhere growing up/.
Animorphs: Why The Series Rocked and Why You Should Still Care - If you haven't read this series and are into diversity, sci-fi, HARDCORE life stuff, just...can everyone go read this series please? This article is AMAZING and you should read it. I loved this series when I discovered in 5th grade, and I'm so, so sad they aren't going to be reputting the books out there on the shelves. As much as I'm trying to purge books, I'll definitely have to start collecting them because they are books that everyone needs to read.
Questioning the Lack of Diversity in Historical Fiction - TBW bring up some excellent points - the conquerors write the histories.
Comic Books and the Question of Diversity - Kwame talks about some of the discussions that have been going on about Guardians of the Galaxy.


Miscellaneous Bookish Things
Manga Review: Maid-sama - While this isn't one of my favourites, it's definitely a ton of fun, so if you are looking for a new shoujo check out Christina's review, I think she really captures the essence of the series.
Tahleen's Favorite Audiobooks - Having just completed my VERY FIRST audiobook, I can second Etiquette and Espionage!
100 Happy Book Days: Days 1-10 - Nafiza shares the first 10 books in the #100HappyBookDays challenge
The Giver, and How it Kind of Surprised Me - Amanda reviews The Giver movie.
New York Public Library’s hilarious archive of librarians’ harsh children’s book reviews - “Be sure to read the chapter about the three girls and the banana.”
Favourite Fictional Couples - The Midnight Garden talks about some some of their favourite (And least favourite) couples.  And they have some of my favs! (FROI AND QUINTANA FOREVER!! Plus Chaol/Celaena. Obvs.)
Non-Medieval Historical Novels - The Book Wars talk about some awesome books and why you might like/dislike them



Nonbookish Links

“Undercover Colors” Is A New Nail Polish That Detects If Your Drink Has Been Drugged - There's been a lot of lashback because some people are saying that this is promoting rape culture, and I'm sorry...but they're wrong. Yes, in an ideal world we should be saying just don't do it (and aren't they saying that anyway? In the article it says that they want to make men scared to use date rape drugs instead having women feel fearful), but that's just not going to happen. And if we have the tools to take preventative action, I'm all for it. I'm really excited for this product and if I had money to donate, I would.
Something in Red: Scarlett Johansson’s SciFi Appeal - Like sci-fi/fantasy? Like Scarlett Johansson (or dislike)? Good. Read this. It's interesting.
My Own Happily Ever After - Jamie gets personal and talks about her relationship with her husband over the years, and it's inspiring and adorable and yay!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Top Ten Books People Have Been Telling You That You MUST Read




The Fault in Our Stars
I figured I should just go ahead and get this one out of the way. I don't have a clue why I haven't read it yet - I read Looking For Alaska and I loved it.  Everyone loves this book, and everyone loves John Green.  And yet...I've only read one book.  Like 8 years ago.  And in other news, a bus full of 16 year olds spoiled the ending of this book and it's totally the reverse of what I was expecting (if you've read it you know what I mean. Probably.) So I still don't know when I'll work my way up to reading it.  I'll probably get to his other books first haha



Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy, #1)

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale was one of the most amazing, influential books I have ever read.  It is by far my favourite dystopia, and I also loved The Blind Assassin which is a totally different sort of writer. Clearly I love, love, LOVE Margaret Atwood...so why haven't I read one of the most lauded dystopias ever...written by the author of my favourite dystopia?





The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns, #1)

I have only heard fantastic things about this book.  It's fantasy. It has a nonstandard heroine. It has basically the set up that sounds like I'll love it.  ...still haven't read it.



Shatter Me - Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)

I don't know anything about this book. Except that there's a really smoking love triangle apparently. And it's addicting. 



On the Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta

Jellicoe Road

I didn't mention it on the blog (I don't think?) but I FREAKING LOVED The Lumatere Chronicles.  I will read anything by this author, regardless of genre.  Give it to me now.



Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, #1)

So, vampires are rarely my thing.  And the cover features an Angelina Jolie lookalike.  And yet...I know SO many people who are totally into this series.  I need to just go judge for myself!



The Blue Castle - L.M. Montgomery

The Blue Castle

This appears to be everyone's favourite not-Anne story!




The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)

The concept seems awesome, a lot of people I whose opinions I respect really liked it.  Also Tamora Pierce gave it 5 stars and an awesome review (from what I could tell. I skimmed)



Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park

I know, I know! This is even worse that TFIOS I think.  I loved Fangirl, and hello this features like the only white/asian relationship with the same gender/race set up as my boyfriend and I!  It also has all the marks for a contemporary/historical fiction? novel that I'll love



Between Shades of Gray -


Ok I can honestly be excused a little bit for this one because I honestly thought it was a 50 Shades of Grey sequel.  Which considering what it's actually about it well...embarrassingly offensive lol


Leave me a link in the comments so I can go check out your list!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Musings: Fantasy Settings and Diversity


To give you a little background on this week's MM, I'm going to talk a little bit about The Kiss of Deception.  No spoilers, and it's only to give parameters for the topic.

The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles, #1)



The Kiss of Deception is not only a book you should absolutely go pick up now, it's a book that led me to an interesting epiphany of sorts.  While reading this book I came to a realization: for possibly the first time ever, I imagined all these characters as non-white characters without consciously making the decision to do that in the beginning of the book.  I had been imagining the main character as resembling someone like Jasmine from Aladdin (and actually she still might be - I couldn't remember her description) and the others as a range of darker skin tones - but Rafe is blond and Pauline is described at some point as having honey hair, and another character is mentioned as having pink skin.  This actually dampened my enjoyment of the novel - the characters were just so different in appearance than I had imagined!  This is unusual for me, because I generally have a vague concept of how things appear, not specific ideas so I can't think of a time finding out someone's appearance or race being different than I imagined as a bad thing.  But I suppose I was just so pleasantly surprised to discover a fantasy novel with both diverse settings and diverse people that I got disappointed when I discovered this wasn't the case.

I was trying to figure out why this bothered me so much and why I had imagined them all as non-white characters in the first place.  Then I realized that the setting is different - there are jungles with tigers, as well as deserts and your general expected town settings in a fantasy novel.  Almost all fantasy worlds are set in the equivalent of the Western world, and almost all characters are white. Fantasy novels rarely get deserts, and even scarcer are jungles, and I think these settings are intrinsically linked to other cultures for me, therefore other races are at the forefront of my mind when imagining these places.  When I think of jungles and the desert, my mind definitely jumps to stereotypes of Africa, the Middle East, and South America - all places where there's generally a majority of darker skinned races.  (My dad is South African and he's white, so this all goes to say that I DO know that not everyone is one color in these places.  And there's plenty of blonde South Americans.  But still. Generally, stereotypically speaking, I think most people around me also have the same stereotypical images when thinking of these places)

I was really excited about getting new settings - while I'm a fantasy girl through and through, we really do seem to get a lot of the same looks in fantasy worlds.  I'm always excited to discover something entirely different (in fact it's one of the ONLY things I liked about Defy - it was probably the first fantasy novel I'd ever read that even mentions a jungle).  That's a lie - Tamora Pierce does a fantastic job of getting her characters into all sorts of different lands - Carthak and the Copper Isles are great examples, and the Circle of Magic series has even more great settings.  But otherwise, I really haven't encountered much Eastern based fantasy. (C.S. Lewis doesn't count. The Horse and His Boy had some offensive stereotypes if I recall. I could be wrong about that though.) Now I have even more reason to want diversity in setting - specifically speaking for me, I imagine more racially diverse books when the setting is more diverse itself.  This isn't to say that I don't strongly believe we need more diversity in ALL fantasy - after all it's not like the Western world is only built up of white people, so we shouldn't be getting only white characters in our Western based fantasy novels - but if I get to kill two birds with one stone (Actually I hate that saying. It's barbaric.) why not get a book with diverse climates, cultures, and people?

Goal: I'm always on the lookout for books with diversity (this is not exclusive to race), but I'm also specifically looking for non-Western based fantasy.  Go!


Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Day in the Life (19)



Holy cow the last few weeks have been crazy! (Hence my impromptu disappearance).  To be honest I don't even feel like going into most of it - I could fill a week's worth with blog posts on all the drama haha!  Long story short, move to Baltimore Part 1 didn't go well (The electricity not being on when I moved in was only the beginning of a long, long saga), but I'm feeling pretty confident Part 2 will go much better.  But good things were lined up afterwards - last week was my best friend's wedding!  Everything went smoothly, and it was a really beautiful, awesome ceremony.  I'm so excited for her, and I think her new husband is perfect, and I was so honored to be a part of all of this.


This was her recessional piece - total classic with lots of fun oboe duets!

You know what else was exciting about that trip for the wedding?  I got to see Shannon!!  I was super, crazy excited about it!  And then after all that...we forgot to get a picture haha!  We ate at this delicious dim sum place - sadly I was still recovering from a week's worth of wedding activities so I didn't eat a whole lot, but I'm definitely going back there the next time I make it out there!  She also gave me a copy of The Kiss of Deception which was so freaking amazing!!!! Seriously guys. Go read this.  Especially if you like the ToG series - this book was fantastic.  And inspired a post I will hopefully get up tomorrow...and I might even review it.  And I'm not really reviewing things today!  She got a super long text from me when I finished reading it (I finished RIGHT as I landed too - perfect timing!) because I was so excited haha.  So I went from having a really, really terrible week, to a stressful but fun week, and then I got to finish it all off by meeting Shannon which was definitely a highlight of my month, so I call that an overall success!

This week has been more moving stuff, so I'm pretty exhausted now.  A week in a different time zone for the past month has been so tiring!  Luckily some friends offered to let my mom and me visit at their beach house which is GORGEOUS, so I'm currently enjoying some choice beach relaxation time! (Or I will tomorrow. And I'd have a picture for you, but it's pitch black outside, sorry!)  So that's a short summation of my...month pretty much lol


I'm kind of obsessed with cover songs, and this is a new favourite!

Because I haven't done this in like two weeks, and because one of the bloggers (you should really check her out, she's got loads of interesting things) I follow did a HUGE recap of what's been going on in the book world, this is going to be quite long.  I let myself bold 5 articles that I think are absolutely worth reading if you were on the fence about doing so, or don't want to skim through the long list!



Bookish Links

Here I go! Operation: Rekindle - Mitchii talks about all the suggestions she's received to help tackle her reading slump.
YA convention debates gender, sex, and strong heroines - I must have posted like every article ever about these topics haha
Don’t Categorize as “Special Interest” - Yes!!! This is so, so important!
Why We Need "Ugly" Heroines - Again, yes, yes, YES! I might make a Monday Musings post along similar lines pretty soon.
How Librarians Can Help Fight the Culture of Slut-Shaming - I'm going to start getting redundant here, but there just can't be enough said about this.
I read books. Does that make me a nerd? - An interesting article written by someone who is still a teen. I used to be right there with her, so I'm glad I've settled into my reading obsessed skin!
Imaginary friends: Philip Pullman on fairy tales - I mean, as someone who is crazy about both fairy tales and Philip Pullman, I was excited about this article haha
Is Bullying in Books Unrealistic to You? - I have been guilty of this before, so I'm glad that I've been set right on this front.  Definitely a recommended read on this list!
Why The Hunger Games' killer Katniss is a great female role model - I know there are many people who have difficulty with Katniss as a character, but this article really nails why I love her.  I don't think she's emotionally healthy - but I also don't think Suzanne Collins was saying that where Katniss is, is emotionally healthy either.  But I digress - read the article and I'll stop talking so much :)
Girls Ruin Everything: Stephenie Meyer, Lois Duncan, and Childhood Nostalgia - I can not agree with this more. I don't think we can credit another series (although HP probably comes pretty close) with getting so many people reading, and that in and of itself is amazing!
In a Balm of Space and Time, Healing - Gayle Forman on grief. This is a truly beautiful and inspiring article.
In Defense of So-Called "Bad Fanfiction" -You all know at this point that I love good fanfiction (and once again this is a call for any recommendations! I'm always looking for more!).  But there's a reason why I believe all fanfiction is valid and important (and a reason I'm unsurprised why it's so looked down upon). This article really touches on all of this so I don't have to :)



Fun Bookish Posts

What If Book Genres Were Pizza? - Yum!
Tough Travelling {1}: Princesses - A look at some of the types of princesses (and who they are) we've come across in our reading 
Science Fiction and Fantasy 101: Thinking Academically About Genre - An overview of how sci-fi/fantasy (and what books) would be approached if it were studied as a college course
Grim: A Twisted Fairy Tale Collection - I'm not big on short stories, but Yash talks about some really awesome fairy tale retellings - even some of the less popular ones like Bluebeard!
10 Diverse YA Historicals About Girls - I'm definitely adding these books to my TBR pile!
When Authors Are Wizards - I'm pretty sure all of us have experienced this at some point



Books and TV/Movies

Holly Black Will Write the Twelfth Doctor’s Next Adventure - Oh my god guys this is so exciting!
Max Landis Writing Show Based on Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently Books - DOUGLAS ADAMS FOREVER!!
Joss Whedon: The Biography (Excerpt) - Joss Whedon. 'Nuff said. Read now.
Young Adult Book Authors Reveal Their Favorite Adaptations - Definitely some surprising picks on this list.
Dr. Seuss Mash Ups - These are so fun!
Game of Thrones Houses Get Their Own Makeup Looks - I really like the Baratheon one.
Frozen Writer Will Adapt A Wrinkle In Time For Disney - OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD



Harry Potter

It’s Harry Potter’s Birthday: Let’s Celebrate With Fan Art! - Holy cow guys, these range from beautiful to funny to heartbreaking.  Go take a look!
What Your Hogwarts House Actually Says About You - What's wrong with liking pineapple on a pizza exactly?
Harry Potter Words As Guessed By People Who Have Never Read The Books - HAHAHA oh man some of these are fantastic - take the description of Voldemort for example...
 Harry’s still Potter-ing around, but Hermione is my true hero - I think this is true for an entire generation of girls who grew up with Hermione, myself included.
YA Authors Sort Their Own Characters Into Hogwarts Houses - Levi is totally a Hufflepuff
What Secondary "Harry Potter" Character Are You - I'm Oliver Wood :)
Rewatching The Chamber of Secrets Film - Another post in the HP reread along!
20 Times Harry Potter & Tumblr Were Magical Together - The baguette chooses the wizard, Mr. Potter!
Which Hogwarts Professor Are You? - I'm Hagrid!



Nonbookish Links

Why Were People & Critics So Infatuated With Frozen? - This is a really, really interesting discussion that I recommend no matter what your feelings on Frozen are!
John Stamos to Play Jousting, Singing Knight on Musical Fantasy Sitcom Galavant - There are already so many reasons to be crazy excited for this show...but if you're looking for another one here you are.
Recaps From the Brightest Timeline: Community Season 6 Episode 4 “Repetitive Music Theory” - THERE IS NOT AN EPISODE AS PERFECT AS THIS REIMAGINING.
Does Thor Qualify as a Disney Princess? - This is totally a valid question.
Haute Couture Versions of Pop Culture Icons  - The Sailor Moon characters are so freaking beautiful!
The Secret Folk Song Joss Whedon Co-Wrote While Making "The Avengers 2" - Have I mentioned that I'm obsessed with all things Joss Whedon?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The House of Many Ways - Diana Wynne Jones

House of Many Ways (Howl's Moving Castle, #3) 


Summary

GoodreadsA chaotically magical sequel to Howl's Moving Castle. Charmain Baker is in over her head. Looking after Great Uncle William's tiny cottage while he's ill should have been easy, but Great Uncle William is better known as the Royal Wizard Norland an his house bends space and time. Its single door leads to any number of places - the bedrooms, the kitchen, the caves under the mountains, the past, to name but a few. By opening that door, Charmain is now also looking after an extremely magical stray dog, a muddled young apprentice wizard and a box of the king's most treasured documents, as well as irritating a clan of small blue creatures. Caught up in an intense royal search, she encounters an intimidating sorceress named Sophie. And where Sophie is, can the Wizard Howl and fire demon Calcifer be far behind?


Thoughts

I have to say that while I enjoyed Castle in the Air, The House of Many Ways  is right back up at the level of Howl's Moving Castle.  Maybe I just prefer Diana Wynne Jones' heroines to her heroes?  I'm not really sure what it was, but I can tell you that the heroine of this book might be my favourite of the three I've read so far in this series.  (Also is Wynne Jones her last name or just Jones?  I've wondered this for years...)

While she's clever and clearly magically powerful, Charmain (which I kept reading as The Chairman which drove me nuts haha) is by no means a perfect heroine.  She subverts our idea of a traditional heroine, particularly one in a fairy tale setting - she's not kind, not domestic at all (and not in the charming clumsy way you often find in manga), she's lazy, stubborn, and in general rather irritable.  I say these like they're bad things (and they are - I suppose most people don't see these as good characteristics) - but she's not unlikeable.  While there's nothing wrong with unlikeable characters, I do have a harder time reading books with unlikeable main characters.  That being said I LOVE it when characters aren't perfect (or the sort of imperfect which is still pretty much perfect ala the charming clumsy girls of shoujo manga).  I mean look at one of my favourite characters of all time - Celaena is selfish, vain, and she knows she's good at what she does - and she revels in it.

There's also loads of Howl and Sophie (even if Howl isn't exactly...how you expect him to be. I don't want to say anything because spoilers!) which is always lovely.  This is set at least a few years after Howl's Moving Castle, so it's wonderful looking at how their lives have got on since then.  It's just as funny and disfunctional as their relationship was in the first book and yet just as charming.  We also see a return of my favourite character - Calcifer!  Although I have to say I've added another favourite character from this universe - I love, love, LOVE Waif.  (Waif is a dog in this book who is adorable and as main a character can be with no dialogue)  I particularly love how Diana Wynne Jones has built her worlds, so they're all connected in some ways, and you get to see all sorts of references to the other worlds, but they all follow their own distinct rules.  It's a perfect blend of familiar and something new, and when it comes to world building Diana Wynne Jones is absolutely one of the best.

TL;DR

If you are a fantasy lover and haven't read Diana Wynne Jones yet, you need to remedy this immediately.  Howl's Moving Castle is a great place to start, and if you liked Howl's Moving Castle, you should definitely give this book a read!  (In fact, you don't need to read HMC to read this book, although you will miss out on some of the joy in seeing Howl and Sophie in this book).  Yet another fantastic book from DWJ!