Wednesday, February 29, 2012


by Diana Wynne Jones, published in 1986

Sophie Hatter, the eldest daughter of a hat-maker, has accepted her fate of living a meaningless life when a powerful witch puts a spell on her, turning her into a wrinkled old woman. Aghast at this new development and ashamed to let her family see her, Sophie leaves the hat shop and finds a job as a cleaning lady for the notorious Howl, a wizard known for eating the hearts of beautiful young women.

Sophie makes a bargain with Howl’s fire demon Calcifer—she will break the contract between him and Howl if he will break the spell on her. Now it is up to Sophie to figure out exactly what the contract is and how to go about breaking it. Meanwhile, trouble besieges the land of Ingary; the King’s younger brother and top wizard are missing and the Witch of the Waste is determined to wreak havoc where she will. Sophie finds herself smack dab in the middle of the land’s problems along with Howl, Calcifer, and Howl’s apprentice. She discovers she has abilities she never knew she had, along with a stubborn knack for getting into trouble.

I love this book. It is so fun and clever, and Diana Wynne Jones has a way of suffusing every sentence she writes with wonder and magic. Who says children's books aren't awesome? I certainly don't!

I would consider Howl's Moving Castle more geared towards gals than guys, as it is largely a romance. Not that guys couldn't enjoy it too, of course. It is not action packed, but Sophie's adventures, mishaps, and the mysteries she unravels caught and held my attention through every page. It's something about Jones's writing that can even make spilled tea sound interesting. I think what I liked most about the book was watching Sophie grow as a character. The supporting cast of characters were also all loveable and extremely entertaining to see develop.

I also love the movie based on this novel, but the novel is so completely different that it is silly to relate the two, so that will be a post for another time.

Friday, February 24, 2012


There I was, minding MY own business when Jeremy over at Geeky Tendencies decided for some reason I was worthy to play tag with. So here I am, answering some questions for your entertainment, and mine. Thanks for tagging me, Jeremy!

1. What is your dream vacation?
That would be: walking the paths of Rivendell, hiking up the side of Lonely Mountain, seeing the white turrets of Minas Tirith, dancing a jig in Hobbiton and climbing the majestic trees of Lothlorien.

2. Are you spontaneous or do you like to plan ahead?
I am one of those people who wishes she was spontaneous, but likes to plan ahead. I'm definitely a scheduler/planner.

3. Tell us one thing you want to do but don't dare do it.
I would like to do go skydiving, and though I haven't dared to do it yet, I probably will at some point.

4. What's your biggest phobia?
Drowning. I hate being underwater.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island-what three things would you want with you? (Not including your laptop or family)
I would want a copy of the book "How to Survive on a Desert Island." Maybe a bow and arrows. And why can't I have my computer?

6. Name three blessings in your life.
My family, my friends, and my ever-loving God.

7. What was your nickname in High School?
Umm... "Al." It's not very exciting, I know. I do have other childhood nicknames given not-so-fondly by my siblings, but I don't think I'll tell you those.

8. If you could meet the President of the United States, what would you say to him?
Well, I'm not much for politics, so that's a tough one. I might ask why he doesn't change their health care system to something more awesome like our Canadian one. :)

9. If you could be any literary character, who would you be?
Someone magical. Or maybe a Jedi. I'm having trouble picking someone specific... I'm going to stretch the meaning of "literary" here, because Winry from Fullmetal Alchemist and Zack Fair from Final Fantasy just came to mind as fun characters to be!

10. What is your favourite quote?
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." --Romans 5:8
"Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement." --C.S. Lewis

And now I am to tag some wonderful bloggers so they can enjoy answering the same questions if they feel so inclined! Here we go:

L.G. Smith
Geeky Daddy

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Nine Princes in Amber

Well, I'd heard him speak of "adding" and "subtracting," as though the universe in which he moved were a big equation.

I decided--with a sudden certainty--that he was somehow adding and subtracting items to and from the world that was visible about us to bring us into closer and closer alignment with that strange place, Amber, for which he was solving.

It was something I'd once known how to do. And the key to it, I knew in a flash, was remembering Amber.

-- pg. 31, "Nine Princes in Amber" by Roger Zelazny

All right, I cheated and gave you three sentences instead of two. This is from one of my favourite books that I am re-reading. Are you intrigued? You should be.

(Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by MizB at Should be Reading.)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why I Stopped Watching Terra Nova

The cool footage like the picture above and the interesting premise--traveling back in time to prehistoric earth--got me hooked enough to watch the first couple episodes, but the show failed to hold my attention. I just wasn't interested enough to keep watching, mainly because I felt it couldn't decide whether it was for kids about kids, for families about a family, or for adults about adults. It seemed to be trying to be all of these, and failing at all of them.

The plot line of the first episodes I watched was also not very exciting, and I felt like the writers could have been more original than having the rebellious teen run off outside the compound with a bunch of friends and be chased by dinosaurs. 

Did anyone keep watching the first season and like it? Think I should give it another chance?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Goodbye, Chuck!

One of my favourite TV series, Chuck, ended a few weeks ago. I know I'm a little late on this, but those of you who watched it, what did you think of the ending?

I think the show was running out of places to go and it was definitely time for it to end. I've said before that seasons 1 and 2 are my favourites, and though the later seasons are still entertaining, they don't quite have the spark the first ones do.

I found season 5 a little rushed, with lots of different plots thrown in that I thought would last for a while, but then only took up one or two episodes. It seems to me that the writers were trying to get in every one of their ideas before the show ended!

That being said, I enjoyed the way they ended the show--it definitely wasn't what I expected. Some of you know that if I hate the ending of a show, it usually ruins the entire series for me and I will probably not watch it again, but for Chuck I will be collecting all the seasons on DVD to rewatch. The characters in this show, the humour, the spy adventures--it's all just so much fun.

So, what did you think? Haven't seen Chuck? Well, what are you waiting for? You can check out my description of it here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Origins Story

When I was little, I loved being read to. My parents read me all kinds of tales, from beginning readers to fairy tales to nursery rhymes. One day, when I was three or four, I decided I would write a story of my own! (And when I say "my own," I meant I decided to re-tell one of my favourite stories.) I took one of the little square pieces of paper from the pad by the phone, and laboriously wrote down what I remembered of the tale, titling the story "The Frog Prince."

When I was done, filled with satisfaction at the product of my hard work, I ran to my mom to proudly show her the first story I had ever written. You can imagine my mortification when she took the piece of paper and her smile turned into a frown of anger and surprise.

"Allison! Where did you learn that word?" she asked me.

I leaned forward, tears coming to my eyes. What had I done wrong?

"What wowd, Mommy?"

"That one!" She pointed at the title.

"It's 'The Fog Pince,' Mummy, you know... the stowy whewre the fog tuwrns into a pince!"

"Ohh. I see." And she smiled with relief, told me what a good job I had done, and proceeded to ask me what exactly the story said and wrote out a translation of it before we put it away.

I found this story in a box of old things a few years ago, and laughed at the horrible spelling. I would have had no idea what any of it said if my mom hadn't included her translation with it. The title read, "Te Fog Pis." She had thought I had learned a "bad word," and that's why she had been angry at first.

So there you have it, the origins of my writing story; misunderstood right from the start!

This post is part of the Origins Blogfest, hosted by DL (Crusing Altitude 2.0), Katie (Creepy Query Girl), Matthew (Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment), and Alex J. Cavanaugh. Click on the link to check out the others participating and read how their writing dreams got started!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Book Review: LEGEND

by Marie Lu, published in 2011

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias' death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

My Thoughts

Unfortunately, Legend fell a little short for me--I think because I do not fall under its intended audience. I've enjoyed a lot of YA dystopian books lately, including The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and The Maze Runner by James Dashner, even though I am older than their target audience. Now, perhaps I am just getting a little tired of dystopia (and I think I am), but I feel like this book was not meant for anyone older than 18.

For one thing, the two different font styles and colours used in the book (one for each of the two narrators) scream younger audience. I found them a little distracting.

For another, I am not much for the theme of beautiful girl meets beautiful boy and they fall madly in love after the first few seconds of meeting. I'd rather they were given time to get to know each other and develop their relationship, but that's just me. The main characters are fifteen years old, though, so I'm guessing the right reader for this book would be around that age as well and would eat this story up.

I am not trying to cut down this book, as I admire Marie Lu's writing and think it was a great adventure story with an interesting plot twist and some fun action. I thought June's character was especially well done--she is the "perfect," incredibly intelligent soldier (as evidenced by her keen observations throughout the tale), but blinded by the government and forced to come to terms with brutal reality. Day's personality could have been a little more developed, as he spends most of his time worrying about his family, but perhaps that will come in the next book.

So in short, Legend was well written, entertaining, probably even captivating for its intended YA audience... just not quite my style.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Making Time

These days I am swamped with school, a job, and life. I'm finding it hard to make the time to write every week (notice my wording here--I did not say I don't have time, because I do. It's just a matter of using it wisely). At the end of the day, I just want to kick back and do something brainless; I often don't feel like struggling with the holes in my plot or managing the development of my characters. To be a successful writer you have to write constantly--not just when inspiration hits. This I know. So how do I kick start my brain into gear?

I know I'm not the only one who's busy--in fact, I'm sure all of you are. So what do you do to keep yourself writing every week? Tips? Tricks? Suggestions? Struggling with this yourself? Do share.

This post is part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Check out some of the other blogs below participating in this event!