Happy Wednesday! I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving week. Unfortunately, all four of us went down for the count with sore throats and coughing last week. It was not fun. Hubby was the last one to get it and is still not feeling well. Ade was the first one to bring it home and has finally stopped coughing a week later. So hope is in sight for us!
As I was writing out my reviews, I realized that November was the month of enemies-to-lovers. Again, not intentional but funny all the same. What is up with this year having unexpected reading themes? Whatever the reason, it was an entertaining month, which is good since I was stuck in bed for three days. Here are my three favorite reads of November.
Before I do though, quick announcement: I will be participating in this year’s Blogmas!
I first participated in Blogmas back in 2020 and I am excited to participate in it again this year. My hope is to help prepare your home, body, and soul for Christmas this year! So beginning on Friday, December 2, I will be bringing you 12 Days of Blogmas. There will be a Gift Guide, ideas for fun family experiences, contemplative posts that have been on my heart this year, as well as ideas for using leftover decorations, and more.
Now back to our regular End-of-the-Month Reading Post!
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fortune. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl–and herself–than first meets the eye.
After last month’s post with House of Many Ways, is it any wonder that I had to pick up Howl’s again?
As I mentioned before, there are some major differences between the Howl’s Moving Castle movie and book. For one, Sophie is a redhead in the book. For another, Howl isn’t as much of a slither-outer in the movie as he is in the book. There are some similarities as well, though. Sophie does go on a cleaning frenzy which does result in a certain slimy Howl tantrum. Perhaps one of my favorite book differences is that Howl takes Sophie and Michael to his sister’s house. In Wales.
Diana Wynne Jones gives Howl many dimensions that aren’t really explored in the movie. In the movie, it’s made clear that Sophie is the main reason Howl starts fighting. In the book, however, Howl’s drive to fight isn’t entirely put upon Sophie. Yes, it becomes a major plot point, but she’s not the only reason, just like it wouldn’t be in real life. We all have multiple things we care about and wish to protect.
As for Sophie, she isn’t so softly spoken. Becoming an old woman allows her the freedom of being sharp-tongued, but it isn’t a by-product of her being in that state, it’s truly part of who she is and she doesn’t lose that. She’s also clever and her cleverness isn’t dependent on Calcifier or Howl’s magic like it seems to be in the movie.
I think what we have to remember is that this is a children’s book, a coming of age story. The gift that Diana Wynne Jones gives the reader, no matter their age, is one of characters who are coming into themselves. Underneath all the magic and curses and weedkiller-throwing, Jones gives her reader the message that it’s okay to be who you are. Yes, you will change and grow, but there are still parts of yourself that you will always retain. They may not be perfect parts, but that’s okay. No one is perfect anyway.
And I think that’s a message we could all use, no matter our age.
The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen
A warrior princess trained in isolation, Lara is drive by two certainties. The first is that King Aren of the Bridge Kingdom is her enemy. And the second is that she’ll be the one to bring him to his knees.
The only route through a storm-ravaged world, the Bridge Kingdom enriches itself and deprives its rivals, including Lara’s homeland. So when she is sent as a bride under guise of peace, Lara is prepared to do whatever it takes to fracture its impenetrable defenses. Yet as she infiltrates her new home and gains a deeper understanding of the war to possess the bridge, Lara begins to question whether she’s the hero or the villain. Lara must choose which kingdom she’ll save and which kingdom she’ll destroy.
First of all, the Bridge Kingdom has a name. It’s Ithicana. That point can be a little confusing when everything refers to it as The Bridge Kingdom and then you’re thrown the actual name. Lara is a princess of Maridrina. Got it? Okay.
This book was really good. I am already reading the third one in the series. It took me about a day each to read the first two books. It caught my eye on Pinterest (is anyone surprised?) and I stopped reading the book I was in the middle of to read this one. The good news is that the trilogy is on Kindle Unlimited, as of right now, so you can enjoy it without paying for each book! Meaning you have no real excuse to not go pick them up and read them!
Lara has been trained as an expert assassin for fifteen years. She is clever and a good actress. She also does what she needs to to survive, even if it means poisoning her sisters, giving in to her fear of drowning, and throwing a few knives into people.
Aren is also a trained warrior. Life in Ithicana is not easy between the attacking raiders and terrible storms, not to mention the snakes (there’s a whole island of them), it takes a certain kind of person to not just survive but thrive. Aren is also a dreamer. He wants better for his people and he hopes marrying Lara will be a step toward it. Unfortunately, he’s the only one.
Everyone else thinks Lara shouldn’t be trusted, as no outsiders ever are. Because of the tenuous hold Ithicana has on the Bridge, the only consistently safe path through Ithicana and the Tempest Seas, no outsiders are allowed to know the secrets of its defenses. The very secrets Lara is intent to discover. But there are secrets Lara doesn’t know, and in this case, what she doesn’t know could get her killed. So what happens when her good intentions come with life-or-death consequences?
Guess you’ll have to read it to find out.
Kiss Now, Lie Later by C.W. Farnsworth
For as long as anyone can remember, Glenmont and Alleghany have been rival towns.
For the last three years, Weston Cole has been leading Alleghany to victory against Glenmont on the football field. For Maeve Stevens, whose last name is synonymous with Glenmont football, that’s a problem. Her dad is the Glenmont football coach. Her twin brother, Liam, is the quarterback. Really it should be easy to hate Weston Cole, whose name is often spoken with an expletive in her town. And it is. Until she actually meets him. Until they start sharing secrets and spending time together tossing a ball back and forth.
Soon they’re asking themselves if the rivalry is truly worth it. How can it be when the one person who’s there for you is the one person you should never look twice at?
So I don’t know the official genre rating of this novel, but I’m going to tell you it’s New Adult. Yes, Weston and Maeve are Seniors in high school, but there’s some 18+ stuff that’s referenced and for me that immediately takes it out of YA and into NA.
Obviously there are Romeo and Juliet vibes here. R&J is even openly referenced, (seriously, is there a single HS student who wasn’t forced to read Romeo and Juliet?) but that’s no surprise since Wes’ favorite author is Shakespeare. Thankfully no one dies in this novel, though. I wouldn’t call Kiss Now. Lie Later. a retelling of R&J. I just didn’t get that kind of vibe from it.
I read this one through twice in a row. Like, I woke up in the middle of the night and had to start re-reading it. It just would not get out of my head. Then, once I had finished the second round, I read the second novel which focuses on Liam, Maeve’s twin brother. (As I’m writing this review I’m thinking I need to do a third read through.)
My only issue, which was more the second book than the first, was the editing. There were a few misspellings and at one point there wasn’t a conversation divide. I think that last one was from the second book, actually.
I do wish there had been more sibling interaction between Maeve and Liam. They’re supposed to be twins and really close, but we don’t get to see a lot of that as Liam is always with their dad doing football things. Even at points where it would make sense for Liam to be there, he’s absent. I mean, it could be argued reasonably of why he wasn’t there, but I just wish for more interaction with him for more than conflict.
Beyond that, I love the back and forth between Maeve and Weston. Every good relationship needs some banter and they’ve definitely got it. Who am I kidding? I enjoyed their whole relationship! I love the whole call each other by their last name and show up to support the other person even if no one else knows it. Secret dating is great. Until it’s not.
Anyway, this is one of those books I feel like I could expound upon relentlessly so I’m gonna wrap it up. But seriously, go read this book.
What Books did You Read in November?
Have you read any of the three I mentioned? What was your opinion on them?
Leave me a comment and let me know!