Saturday, April 24, 2010

Persy -- Beastly by Alex Flinn

First of all, Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my favorite fairy tales. Second of all, I'm a sucker for fairy tale retellings, even though there's a million of them and a good portion of them aren't all that great.

Beastly is a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast (surprise surprise) from the view of the beast, named Kyle. He gets crowned prince for a school party, mostly because of his amazing good looks. After an argument, Kyle plays a mean trick on one of the girls at his school by telling her he wants to go to the dance with her, but then showing up with another girl instead. Later that night, the girl, Kendra, appears in Kyle's bedroom and reveals herself to be a beautiful witch. She lays a curse on Kyle (turning him into a beast, as you probably guessed), which can only be broken within two years. If he doesn't find true love within that time, he's pretty much screwed for eternity.

The way the book is layed out is pretty cool. It's separated into several sections, each one preceded by a 'recorded' conversation over the internet. It's basically a chatroom for people who have been transformed by some sort of magic. Along with Kyle (the Beast), you can recognize several other characters from classic fairy tales, which I thought was a fun and interesting little addition to the story.

Now, this isn't an edgy, 'beastly' version of Beauty and the Beast, which is what I was expecting from the dramatic (and beautiful) cover, so I was a little disappointed. The writing, while certainly not bad, didn't seem... I don't know, mature, maybe? It just felt a little juvenile, even though the book itself isn't. I wouldn't go hand it to an eleven-year-old, anyway. It's just not much of a realistic book, and I admit to liking my books with a fair (though not insanely strict) sense of realism.

The growth of the beast (Kyle) is done fairly well, though. In the beginning he's an arrogant, rich, spoiled brat. As time passes, he develops more depth, though perhaps not a lot of common sense. He starts reading a lot more (sometimes just to impress Lindy, the beauty), which I found fun since I had read lots of those books myself. I also liked that Kyle didn't seem to realizing that he was changing and losing his arrogance.

Overall, it was a good book. It just wasn't great. There wasn't a lot of originality, and it feels more like a fun book than a book the author really thought-out and planned and edited for a long time. Which is completely fine, I'm all about just having a fun time writing a story. But if you're looking for a realistic, interesting retelling of Beauty and the Beast, I wouldn't recommend this one (go check out The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey instead).

Beastly is currently being made into a movie to be released in July of this year, and will feature Alex Pettyfer as Kyle (the Beast), Vanessa Hudgens as Lindy (the Beauty), and Mary-Kate Olsen as Kendra (the Witch). Not sure how great it'll be with Vanessa Hudgens in it, but I guess we'll see.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Arty -- Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Sophie Hatter has two problems. One, she's been cursed by the Witch of the Waste. Two, she can't tell anyone about it.

The eighteen-year-old girl (eldest of three, which is bad luck in Ingary) doesn't even know why she was cursed. A plain-looking person, she was just working in her deceased father's hatshop, talking to the hats as usual, when a strange lady walked in and asked to see their merchandise. The next thing Sophie knew, she had been turned into a wrinkled ninety-year-old lady.

But Sophie isn't to be outdone. She leaves home to find the infamous Wizard Howl, who supposedly eats the hearts of pretty young ladies, in the hopes that he can lift her curse. At the wizard's miraculous moving castle, Sophie meets and befriends (to use the word loosely) the fire demon Calcifer, Howl's apprentice Michael, and, of course, Howl himself. Thus begins Sophie's effort to break her curse, complete with bargains with fire demons, jealous witches, and dashing, vain wizards - along with experiences that teach her there's more to both Howl and herself than it seems at first.

When I first picked this book up, I was skeptical. How interesting could a book about a ninety-year-old woman be, anyway? But Persy told me the movie adaption was awesome, so I decided to read it anyway. I am so glad I did.

The characters were works of art, sharp, witty, eccentric, so mythlike and yet so real. The character development is marvelous as well. Sophie's and Howl's changes are subtle but dramatic - and they don't make an impression on their basic personalities. They're the same people - just more aware of their weaknesses. And the plot, or should I say plots - it'll take you a couple reads to fully grasp the intricacies of the various plot points at work, but it'll definitely be worth it.

The many subplots is really the only thing I can find wrong with Howl's Moving Castle. There are so many aspects of Sophie's world that come into play - her sisters' switching places, Howl's quadruple life, and the Witch's final evil plan - it can very easily get confusing. I had to go back and check a few places to make sure I had everything straight. Some of the coincidences Jones uses are sometimes a bit too... well, coincidental - the true nature of the Witch of the Waste and Howl's Miss Angorian, for example. But this is a fairytale of magic and mayhem - coincidences can be forgiven.

Another note: Howl, the Witch, and a few others do use various magics and spells. Nothing overpowering, but it's definitely there.

All in all, one of the most satisfying, humorous, and unwittingly touching books I've read in a long time. It also has two sequels, Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways; if you can, check out the movie adaption of Moving Castle, too. Not as good as the book, naturally, but still very, very good.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Persy -- Introductory Post

Welcome to the Moonlit Library of the Underworld, the library of Persy and Arty. Both Arty and myself know that there are plenty of other blogs that review books, but apparently that isn't stopping us. Hopefully we'll survive it, and we'll enjoy it no matter what.

Both of us love to read, though we can have surprisingly different opinions and preferences, so this Library will have a pretty large variety of reviews. We also love music, though, like with the books, we have some very different favorites.

We hope this blog will keep on going and that people will actually read it, and maybe even read the books we review. There will be a new update every Saturday, alternating between Arty and myself.