The magic that is Diana Wynne Jones

Rezultat iskanja slik za diana wynne jones

Three years ago my best friend decided it was time to surprise me with a book called Howl’s Moving Castle. As a huge Miyazaki fan I loved his film – no, not loved, I adored Howl and Calcifer and Sophie and wished with all my heart that I could live in their world and be a sorceress as well. The film was (obviously) based on a novel but I never gave it much thought, not until I received an actual copy of it for my birthday. I still thank my best friend for buying me that book every once in a while.

I was so nervous when I started reading the book because I was afraid I wouldn’t like it since the film was so good. I was wrong. I ADORED the novel. It was quite different than the film but in a good way. It seemed to me as though Miyazaki and Jones took the core story of the novel but then made it their own. Howl was a superb main character, Sophie became my role model and Calcifer, well, I sort of wished he was my fire demon.

I then read the other two books in the series though the first one remains my favourite. Each novel had a list of all the author’s books written in them and I was shocked to see how many there were! I was puzzled by the fact that this clearly talented writer wasn’t mentioned more often. Where was she all my life? Even today not many people know about Diana Wynne Jones and I’m really frustrated about it because she is a genius when it comes to fantasy writing. An actual genius.

Her Crestomanci series is hilarious and filled with unexpected plot twists. The worlds she creates are entwined with magic in a way that makes you long for them. I almost cried because I wasn’t a part of them. Jones has a way with words that is unlike any other writer I’ve come across. Neil Gaiman speaks highly of her and he also started reading her books when he was a teenager. Her books are mainly written for children but they’re not childish at all. In fact they are rather complex and the language itself is far from being simple and straight-forward.

I just spend an hour browsing through the books I haven’t yet read to see which I’ll buy first. The old covers aren’t as ornate while the newest editions are beautiful but since we do tend to judge a book by its cover I keep wondering whether this is one of the reasons her books aren’t so widely known. But I think the biggest reason is that her writing isn’t mainstream and it’s mostly intented for children and I can’t think of many adults who would willingly admit they enjoy reading children’s literature. Well I do and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

There is a point to my post and I think you might have a clue as to what it is already. I’m not trying to sell you anthing, not at all, though I would be so happy if you could take the time to read one of her books (I suggest Howl’s Moving Castle because it’s a good way to be introduced to DWJ’s worlds). What I won’t to point out is the fact that a lot of good authors who write quality literature are hovering somewhere in the background while the popular writers steal all the show. I’m not saying that all popular novelists are bad, but just because a book is a bestseller that doesn’t mean it’s actually any good.

I am quite sad to find so little written on Diana Wynne Jones and I’ll definitely write reviews of her books because they are my favourite and they do deserve to get in the spotlight. Fire and Hemlock for example is my favourite book of the year and I might even like it better than Howl! Anyhow I’ll stop praising miss Jones now but if you are a fan of fantasy literature please give her books a try. I promise you will not be disappointed.

In case I haven’t been persuasive enough and my word doesn’t mean that much, here is a wonderful post about DWJ that Neil Gaiman wrote after the author passed away. It’s beautifully written but then again everything Neil Gaiman writes is beautiful.

Even if only one person decides to read DWJ novel after reading this post, I would count that as a success (in case you do read it please message me afterwards, I’d love to hear you thoughts on the book!). To great authors who seemingly create magic out of thin air: thank you.

Advertisements

Gregory and the Grimbockle by Melanie Schubert

GregoryAndTheGrimbockle-BookCover_preview

The story revolves around a ten-year-old boy named Gregory, who discovers that a strange creature called the Grimbockle has been living inside his mole. Together they explore the mysterious world of Bockles, creatures who take care of the threads that connect people across the world. They have to keep hidden of course, because humans can’t know about these creatures and the threads and so Gregory and the Grimbockle set out on a secret journey, become great friend and finally learn how to really take care of the threads that connect us all.

The story is charming and incredibly funny, I laughed out loud while reading it. The silly Grimbockle’s talk was adorable and the illustrations complemented the story perfectly. I wished for more of them but the story was so good that in the end the number of illustrations didn’t matter.

The main character Gregory is very relatable, I loved reading about his attempts to try to mend the threads. I think the message of the book is very important not only for children but also for their parents. We have to nurture our friendships and meet new people when we can to help each other out and make our lives easier and fuller.

Gregory and the Grimbockle is a lovely, hilarious and feel-good children’s book that readers will definitely enjoy! Despite being fun to read, it contains an important message. I would recommend it to children and their parents and suggest they talk about it, not just the story, but the meaning behind it.

Thank you Melanie Schubert for sending me a copy of your wonderful book, I really enjoyed reading it and can’t wait to read your next one!

Permanent Rose by Hilary McKay

IMG_20171021_103458_332

Permanent Rose is not at all happy. Since Tom left for America, she patiently awaits his letter (every morning she waits for the postman to arrive and every morning she is left empty handed), a phone call (not a single one), a surprise visit (nope), anything at all from her beloved friend. Indigo in the meantime befriends his former enemy David, who isn’t such a bad guy after all. He also reads from Morte D’Arthur which is the first book Rose also enjoys and she draws parallels between Lancelot and Tom. Saffy and Sarah are trying to find out more about Saffy’s father (Sarah thinks he is a rich and handsome Italian) and dear Caddy is engaged to Michael though she doesn’t seem all that happy about it. Eve is a bit upset because Bill lives with his girlfriend in London while she has to paint the walls of the local hospital. A lot is happening at the Casson’s family home and new revelations are about to surprise them all.

The third book in the series reveals that Rose might actually be McKay’s favourite character (or is that just my humble opinion?). She is certainly one of the best written characters I’ve come across. Though the other siblings don’t play such a big part in this book I am happy to report that we finally get more of Caddy! Poor Caddy, she has to face the fact that love is far more complicated than she imagined it. And darling Bill, we finally get to see just who he really is! Eve is just as distracted and loving as always though she has a hard time remembering David’s name. Poor old David, nobody really likes him, Saffy and Sarah think he’s a weirdo and Rose resents him for bullying Indigo and trying to step into Tom’s shoes.

This actually isn’t my favourite book in the series despite being Rose’s but I missed Tom too much to really fall in love with it. Sure, he is ever present, but he isn’t really there and I missed him terribly! David was an interesting fellow and I loved his character development but Tom and Rose and Indigo, well, they are the loveliest. This book is so charming and full of warm sensations, it really pulls you in until you become addicted to the Cassons. Luckily there are three more books left to read!

 

“I always say a little prayer when I put cakes in the oven,” remarked Eve, as she stopped to kiss Rose good-bye.
“What do you say?”
“I say, ‘Please, God, don’t let me forget I’ve put that cake in the oven.

Hilary McKay, Permanent Rose

 

Indigo’s star by Hilary McKay

IMG_20170919_203014_299

 

What’s new in the Casson family? Well, Indigo is finally better after being sick for a long time, so he has to go back to school and face the bullies. Fortunately he meets a new friend, an American boy called Tom, who plays the guitar, loves climbing on top of buildings and refuses to speak about his new family. Rose, the youngest in the Casson family, refuses to wear glasses and she simply adores Indigo’s new friend (though she tries to deny it). Saffy and her friend Sarah want to protect Indigo from the bullies but it’s not really working. And sweet Caddy is dating pretty much every boy available while still talking to her dear Michael. Bill is obviously in London and darling Eve almost never leaves her beloved garden shed.

The second part of the charming Casson family series takes us further as we get to know more about Indigo, the only boy in the family. The writing style continues to be effortless and humorous with sentences that contain a story worthy of an epic adventure. This book is even better than the first one and I highly recommend it to everyone who enjoys reading children’s literature and YA novels. It has a feel good quality to it even though it contains some serious life lessons.

While the book concentrates mainly on Indigo, we also get to see more about Rose. She writes letters to her father in order to make him come home but although she tries to make them as alarming and shocking as possible, the effect is quite different and Bill just laughs at them. We don’t get to see much of Saffy, Sarah and Caddy; they are always there but sort of in the background. Caddy doesn’t want to admit that she is in love with Michael and instead has hundreds of boyfriends (one of whom then falls for Eve) and I really missed reading about her. The focus is on Indigo and his new friend Tom, who are both my favourites in this series.

Every time I read a Casson novel I wish I had a family like that. They are so unique but they always stick together and help each other out. You are never alone if you are a Casson kid. Their house is full of joy and happiness and laughter and life. Sure, there is also sorrow and pain but it’s easier to overcome those feelings as a family. That is why I know I will never stop rereading this series even when I will be old and grey and quite possibly a bit mad.

 

Rose had the sort of eyes that manage perfectly well with things close by, but entirely blur out things far away. Because of this even the brightest stars had only appeared as silvery smudges in the darkness. In all her life, Rose had never properly seen a star.
Tonight there was a sky full.
Rose looked up, and it was like walking into a dark room and someone switching on the universe.

Hilary Mckay, Indigo’s star

Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay

IMG_20170918_201452_844

 

I started reading this series as a favour for my best friend, who at the time did not enjoy reading and was forced to read a book for school anyway (yes, we sometimes cheated like that in primary school, but who doesn’t). She chose this book because of the cover and I thought it was rather beautiful as well, so I said, why not, I’ll read it for you and tell you what happens. Boy, am I glad I actually did read it. So let’s meet the family!

The eldest Cadmium is a teenager and madly in love with her driving instructor. Also, she collects hamsters and Guinea pigs. Then there is Saffron, the main character in the book, who at the beginning finds out she was actually adopted and so her siblings became her cousins. Indigo, the only boy in the family, wants to travel to the South pole and so he keeps testing his fear of heights by hanging from the windowsill of his bedroom (it’s not as dangerous as it sounds, he always makes sure he holds on to something). And then there is Rose, the youngest, the artistic one, who paints on walls and always answers the phone. Their mother Eve is also an artist and she spends most of her time in her garden shed, painting away, while their father Bill, also an artist, but a proper one, divides his time between London and his family (London usually wins).

When Saffy realizes she is adopted, something in her changes and so she desperately wants to find out more about her old life. She meets a new friend Sarah, who ends up crafting the most brilliant plan of going to Siena, where Saffy used to live, and retrieving the stone angel that her grandfather left her. Cadmium is busy flirting with Michael, her driving instructor, who keeps bragging about his amazing girlfriend, and that actually helps Caddy study for her exams. Indigo gets better and better with his fear of heights and darling Rose keeps annoying their father by talking nonsense on the phone. The three siblings manage to find Saffy’s angel and bring it to her when she returns from Siena, thinking the angel is lost.

This book is insanely funny, on occasions even terribly sad, but always written in such a way that you just know everything will be all right at the end. It makes you feel happier and better about life in general. I think everyone can find bits and pieces of themselves in the characters which are so well written and their development is slow but persistent, just like it usually is in real life. I fell in love with all of them and I am not ashamed to admit that this series is still very close to my heart even though I am not a kid anymore.

 

Michael allowed himself to look at Caddy for the first time since she had climbed into the car. It was a moment that he always put off for as long as possible because his concentration was never quite the same afterwards.

Hilary McKay, Saffy’s angel