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November 30th, 2009


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11:57 pm - Bowling Ball Books
My company recently acquired another company, and when two companies come together, people get laid off. I was not one of those people, but my co-worker of three years (who had been there two years before me) was. I didn't even get to say goodbye; I arrived after she had cleared out. I could barely think straight, I was so sad. I seriously couldn't remember one of my co-worker's names at one point; I just pointed futilely at his cube, completely blanking on his name. This is my first experience dealing with something like this, and I know it won't be the last (and I know one day I may get the shaft myself), but I don't know whether it gets any easier.



For my birthday this year, jeeperstseepers got me what she referred to as "bowling ball" gifts. You know the stereotypical husband who gives his wife a bowling ball as a present? (Does that really happen?) A bowling ball gift is one you want someone to have whether they want it or not. She set me up for disappointment so I was instead quite pleased to receive my gifts, as I intended to enjoy them quite heartily.

She gave me Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones since I had liked the movie. Many, many people recommended I read the book, which I had previously assumed was a children's book with pictures, but, no, it was a real book with words. Luckily, I never did get around to reading it before I received it as a gift!

Howl's Moving Castle is about Sophie, the eldest of three daughters, who becomes even elder when she's turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste. She takes refuge in the titular moving castle, where she meets the wizard Howl and his fire demon, Calcifer. Somebody ought to be able to turn her back into a teenage girl, right? Problem is, she can't tell anyone she's under a spell. Oops.

I already knew I would like the book when I saw that Diana Wynne Jones was using one of my favorite chapter-naming conventions, leading to chapters called "In which Sophie expresses her feelings with weed-killer" and "Which is far too full of washing." That sense of humor carries into the prose as well, which is light and clever, especially when it comes to Sophie's inner monologue, which is very amusing. She is entirely too adjusted to being an old woman, but it's just that kind of book.

There is a lot going on in the book, and about halfway through, it becomes apparent that it's not all just there for flavor! Every fucking thing is important. EVERY FUCKING LITTLE THING. I don't even think I'm kidding. Every single little throwaway detail ends up mattering. It's pretty amazing and very impressive how well constructed the plot is. There are like fifteen thousand plot twists at the end; my head was spinning.

I can definitely see why fans of the book may have disliked the movie, which took out many key aspects of the book and cut out major characters and gave other characters complete personality transplants and added in all this weird mumbo-jumbo bullshit until it became a rather loose adaptation indeed. I enjoyed the movie, but the book makes way more sense and is totally better. Best bowling ball gift ever!

I also received the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy by Terry Pratchett, three short young adult novels about the adventures of Johnny Maxwell. Each book is self-contained and can be enjoyed individually and in any order, really, but there's just the slightest hint of continuity and there are recurring characters.

In Only You Can Save Mankind, Johnny is playing a computer game in which the object is to kill a lot of aliens...except the aliens try to surrender. For them, it's not a game! Johnny dreams himself into gamespace and tries to save the aliens in the game from being obliterated by human players hungry for killin'. It's a neat premise, even though it's fairly heavy-handed with its anti-war message: the book was inspired by the Gulf War, when war started to look like a videogame and videogames looked like war and maybe things began to blur a bit.

In Johnny and the Dead, Johnny sees dead people! He begins communicating with the inhabitants of the Blackbury Cemetery, which is about to be razed and built upon by a faceless corporation that does...whatever it does. It's no Graveyard Book; the dead bear some resemblance to the ghosts in that book, but that's probably because Gaiman and Pratchett clearly share similar senses of humor when it comes to the talking dead.

In Johnny and the Bomb, Johnny and his friends time travel to a day in 1941 when bombs destroy Paradise Street and kill nineteen people. Should they change history and save them or let the past take its course? Time travel mayhem ensues! It's basically an episode of Doctor Who where the TARDIS is a shopping cart.

The books are quite enjoyable but clearly geared toward a younger audience than the Discworld novels. Johnny himself is terribly endearing, so idealistic and hopeful about the world, and he comes to several great Truths that I appreciated. His group of friends is also entertaining. Kirsty is a hyperintelligent—nah, just very intelligent girl who is always right, even when she's wrong. Wobbler is a l33t hacker. Bigmac is a skinhead with a penchant for stealing cars. Yo-less is a decidedly unstereotypical black kid, a trait Pratchett milks a lot of humor from.

The books are very short (each clocks in at about 200 pages), entertaining, and amusing. Because it's Pratchett, they can be LOLarious at times. They don't always make a whole lot of sense, but that's okay. They still make you think about the world in different ways. Probably moreso if you're thirteen, but even now, they have something to say.
Current Mood: sadsad
Current Music: Leilujh - Sleeping Passenger

(45 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:sneaker328
Date:December 1st, 2009 11:31 am (UTC)
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I love all of those books! Yay for you reading them. And enjoying them.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
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Yay!
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From:behindpyramids
Date:December 1st, 2009 12:43 pm (UTC)
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I'm sorry to hear about your coworker. It's a scary world!

Howl's Moving Castle is one of my all time favorite books.

Go read everything else she's written. I'm serious.

Well, okay, start with her best books first, so by the time you get to the less delicious (and we're talking the difference between chocolate with sprinkles and just yummy chocolate) you'll be a diehard.

[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
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But she's written A LOT! I am interested in the sequels, though.
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From:rachelmanija
Date:December 1st, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
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The sequels are "eh." Diana Wynne Jones is one of my all-time favorite authors, but not everything she writes is great. I could give you an annotated list, depending on what you're interested in, as her books can be quite different from each other: comedy? character development? emotion? atmosphere? intricate plotting?

Have you read Terry Pratchett before, or was that your first exposure?
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 07:34 pm (UTC)
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Oh, I love Terry Pratchett, no worries there.

The sequels are "eh."
Aw. jeeperstseepers thinks I'd like Castle in the Air, but she thought House of Many Ways was eh.

I could give you an annotated list, depending on what you're interested in, as her books can be quite different from each other: comedy? character development? emotion? atmosphere? intricate plotting?
All of the above! Er. What I appreciated most about HMC was the intricate plotting, though. And the humor.
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From:rachelmanija
Date:December 1st, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC)
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Okay!

For intricate plotting and humor, your next book (should you choose to accept it) should be Archer's Goon. Do not read spoilers, do not pass go.

For humor and character development, after that try Witch Week, which is DWJ's take on all stories about how awesome boarding schools are. (Hers sucks.) There is an Indian character who is cool! There are scenes which make me laugh so hard that I can't focus on the pages.

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 2: The Magicians of Caprona / Witch Week. The other book is fun, a comic retelling of Romeo and Juliet in a fantasy Italy, with visits from the commedia del'arte.

Charmed Life is also in that vein and also great. So is Year of the Griffin, which parodies college rather than boarding school. (The latter is a sequel to a book I don't like that much, Dark Lord of Derkhelm, but stands fine on its own.)

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 1: Charmed Life / The Lives of Christopher Chant: second book in volume is good too.

One of my favorites, which has some funny moments but isn't primarily a comedy, is The Homeward Bounders. It's extremely original, has great and weird characters, and is another one that you shouldn't read spoilers for. English boy Jamie sees something he shouldn't have and is sent through time and space. I don't want to say more because everything subsequent to that is so surprising and cool.

Fire and Hemlock is fantastic, also has funny moments but not a comedy, is a somewhat dreamlike blend of fantasy and reality and the places in between. A girl named Polly meets some musicians, writes terrible fiction, and sees her fiction come true in unintended, spooky/funny ways; older Polly can't quite recall what happened when she was a girl but is sure that she has to figure it out or something terrible will happen.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 08:07 pm (UTC)
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Ooh. Thanks, Rachel! Those do sound pretty great, and that does help me target my Jones reading. I will keep an eye out for them. I may not get to them for yonks, though, since you have lengthened my queueueueueue quite considerably over the years as it is!
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From:behindpyramids
Date:December 1st, 2009 10:28 pm (UTC)
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Ahhhhh okay okay.

Castle in the Air is good. House of Many Ways is...a good book but meh for Jones. Push it to the end of the Jones list.

Read:
Deep Secret (you will love it. Promise. It's about a sci fi con!)
Chrestomanci Series
Dark Lord of Derkholm
Fire and Hemlock

By the time you get through this list you'll be a fully converted fan.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC)
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Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.
[User Picture]
From:behindpyramids
Date:December 1st, 2009 11:23 pm (UTC)
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Thrilled, right?
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 03:44 pm (UTC)
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How does that one go?
(Deleted comment)
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 03:55 pm (UTC)
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Huh. Wow. So you did. I don't know how you remember these things, Nicole.
(Deleted comment)
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From:ladydisdain225
Date:December 1st, 2009 01:53 pm (UTC)
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Was this your first Diana Wynne Jones?

Because if so, there's a whole list you need to get to...
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 03:43 pm (UTC)
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Ha ha ha, that's what behindpyramids said! But there are so many! I may read the sequels at some point, but...there are so many others! Are all her books so intricately plotted?
[User Picture]
From:ladydisdain225
Date:December 1st, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC)
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A lot of them are. Some of them are more straightforward and a ton of fun. They tend to be pretty easy reads though.

[User Picture]
From:ladydisdain225
Date:December 1st, 2009 06:23 pm (UTC)
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You should DEFINITELY read

Deep Secret
Dark Lord of Derkholm
Power of Three
Fire and Hemlock

And I second the recommendation for the Chrestomanci series.

And then... read all of the others
[User Picture]
From:mina5643
Date:December 1st, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
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I believe that Diana Wynne Jones liked the movie adaptation to Howl's Moving Castle, though, and that matters a lot, I think.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 03:44 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I read that. She acknowledged that it was quite different, as movies tend to be, but it was still good. Which is how I feel as well.
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From:dragon_gem
Date:December 1st, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC)
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I <3 the book of Howl's Moving Castle. soso much.

There is a sequel, did you know? I agree with the above commenters that you should just read everything by Diana Wynne Jones, but the sequel (Castle in the Air) might appeal even more =)
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC)
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I am interested in the sequels! There's that one, and then she just wrote another one this year that actually features the main characters more prominently.

But if you people are going to tell me to read everything by Diana Wynne Jones, I'm going to need some guidance. Because my list of books to read is ever-growing and insanely long, and I will never get to more Jones books without hard recommendations.
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From:dragon_gem
Date:December 1st, 2009 03:48 pm (UTC)
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Read the Chestromanci books. My particular favorite is Charmed Life, but I believe there's five total.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 03:56 pm (UTC)
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Five books is a lot! That's a WHOLE SERIES.
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From:rachelmanija
Date:December 1st, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC)
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But they all stand on their own.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 08:02 pm (UTC)
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Really? Huh. But I would be compelled to read them all, is the thing. In order.
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From:rachelmanija
Date:December 1st, 2009 08:09 pm (UTC)
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But there is no clear order. Chrestomanci is a deus ex machina who pops up, like Dr. Who, in various books that otherwise have no relation to each other.

Of his books which focus on him, the only ones which have a clear chronological order are the ones which take place after Charmed Life. The latter is great and doesn't need a sequel. The existing sequels are not very good.
[User Picture]
From:ladydisdain225
Date:December 1st, 2009 08:18 pm (UTC)
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Well, the Lives of Christopher Chant clearly takes place before Charmed Life even though it was written a decade later.

Seriously, you don't need to read them in order
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC)
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Huh! Weird. So the books don't actually share characters beyond Chrestomanci? Interesting.
[User Picture]
From:ladydisdain225
Date:December 1st, 2009 06:23 pm (UTC)
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Isn't Charmed Life awesome? That was the first of hers I ever read.
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From:lareinenoire
Date:December 1st, 2009 05:09 pm (UTC)
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Oh, Howl's Moving Castle is wonderful, isn't it? I read the book after I saw the film too, and I still love the film, but for very different reasons. The book is just so dense, and you don't even realise it while you're reading it.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 05:25 pm (UTC)
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Exactly! I had to flip back all the time to look up details that, sure enough, were right there and made perfect sense in retrospect.
[User Picture]
From:roxybisquaint
Date:December 1st, 2009 07:19 pm (UTC)
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Sorry about you losing your coworkers. That sucks.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 07:25 pm (UTC)
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At least they got a generous severance.
[User Picture]
From:lembeau
Date:December 1st, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
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News like of your coworkers make me so scared since I'll be trying to find a job in January. I'm so afraid the only thing I'll find a cashier post at a grocery store which is very DNW.

You know the stereotypical husband who gives his wife a bowling ball as a present? (Does that really happen?)

It does! A new friend of mine, her husband got her a Wii Fit. Guess who's on it all the time? My bff's father bought her mother a plane for his farm. Her mother in retaliation went out and bought the biggest flat screen telly she could afford. A family friend got a car for his wife, a car which the kids call "Mom's Pajero", which she never uses. And the list goes on. (Please don't ever do that.)

I adored HMC: The Movie and now I think I really need to get on it and read the book. I've been getting bored by my current readings so I love posts like this and recommendations like in your comments. I feel we all have benefited. :O)

[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 10:16 pm (UTC)
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It does! A new friend of mine, her husband got her a Wii Fit. Guess who's on it all the time?
Oh, I am sure "it" happens! I was just wondering husbands actually gave their wives bowling balls.

I've been getting bored by my current readings so I love posts like this and recommendations like in your comments. I feel we all have benefited. :O)
Yaaaaaay.
[User Picture]
From:lembeau
Date:December 1st, 2009 11:48 pm (UTC)
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Actually, yes! I can't believe I forgot to include it! Bff's aunt's husband. It was epic. :OD
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 11:57 pm (UTC)
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HA HA HA HA HA.
[User Picture]
From:jeeperstseepers
Date:December 1st, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC)
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Huh. No one included the Dalemark Quartet in their list of required Diana Wynne Jones reading? That would be on the top of my list...well, middle of my list, after Howl's Moving Castle and Castle in the Air. The Dalemark Quartet begins with Cart and Cwidder. I honestly don't remember the details of the series, but I remember the impressions it left: an epic, era-spanning saga. Less comedic and silly than some of her other books, and definitely more of a simmer than a boil in terms of pacing. But I enjoyed it a lot.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 10:17 pm (UTC)
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Hm. Sometimes I like simmer and sometimes I don't! I usually prefer boiling. I can get impatient with simmering, but the payoff sometimes makes up for it.
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From:gymble
Date:December 2nd, 2009 02:48 am (UTC)
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I enjoyed the movie, but the book makes way more sense and is totally better.
YES!!!! See? See how it's better and not totally nonsensical? Ahem. Sorry. I didn't hate the movie, just I don't see why Miyazaki changed things that didn't need to be changed. And made the story Make. No. Sense. Urgh.

Moving on then. I keep wanting to read more Terry Pratchett and keep not doing so because for the life of me I cannot remember which books of the Discworld series should be read first. I know that there are websites devoted to this, but I never think to look at them before visiting the library/bookstore.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 2nd, 2009 06:10 am (UTC)
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I keep wanting to read more Terry Pratchett and keep not doing so because for the life of me I cannot remember which books of the Discworld series should be read first. I know that there are websites devoted to this, but I never think to look at them before visiting the library/bookstore.
You are thinking of this. Which is useful, to be sure. But my first was Lords and Ladies, which is the fourth Witches book, and it hooked me good. My favorites are Thief of Time and Hogfather, both of which don't really require any background.
[User Picture]
From:chrryblssmninja
Date:December 2nd, 2009 07:57 am (UTC)
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Howl's Moving Castle! I liked that book (haven't gotten around to the movie yet), but I remember agreeing with my friend that the end was somewhat of a letdown. Can't remember why, though. Jones has written many books, and I've read and liked Dark Lord of Derkholm, in which a fantasy world seeks to overthrow its overlord: a tourism company that operates a lot like a certain company named Disney.

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