I'm not sure how I went through my youth without reading any books by Diana Wynne Jones, but she's an author that I'm glad to have recently discovered. Though I've only read a few of her works, Howl's Moving Castle remains my favorite!
Sophie Hatter has heard all the rumors about the wicked wizard Howl stealing the souls of young girls but when a evil witch casts a spell on her - transforming her into an old crone - Sophie seeks refuge, and a spell reversal, in the magical castle of the feared wizard. Magic and mystery abound as the story unravels in creative twists and turns with a cast of memorable characters.
Howl's Moving Castle is a delightful young adult fantasy novel. It is witty and unique and jests at cliches found in traditional fairy tales. I was drawn into the story from the very start with the opening lines, "In the land of Ingary where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worse, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes." (In fact, this is the work I find myself quoting most often when favorite first lines are being discussed!) Although classified as a middle grade or young adult work, this is definitely a book that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.
I also really liked the animated film based on this book, and I actually have a difficult time choosing which I enjoyed more. The film does a nice job capturing the plot and the humor of the novel, but as can be expected, there are some rich subtleties to the writing that are impossible to capture on film. I suppose it's easiest to say I enjoy them equally. Have you read any Diana Wynne Jones works? Any titles to recommend?