Alright, I'm not too sure what all to say, but I at least thought I'd get some sort of wrap-up discussion going, since there are a few things overall to talk about that didn't get talked about as much in the readings posts. And of course to just give overall impressions.
First off: For anyone who doesn't know, there are (as was briefly mentioned in comments) two semi-sequels to be book: A Castle in the Air, and House of Many Ways. Each has a different protagonist, and takes place in a slightly different locale (at least partly), but each is in the same world, and has a few familiar characters and situations crop up now and again. Both are well worth the read, IMHO.
The other thing I was curious about was any impressions for those who had, say, seen the movie but not read the book before. I know that I saw the movie version first, and then read the book, and at first was like "wow, this is very faithful in general, although we're getting a bit more detail in the book naturally"... and then about halfway through it just went zooooooooooming off the rails into a whole different direction and I was like "wait... what?"
I'm hesitant to discuss much specifically, since there may be those who have read the book and not seen the movie (and they are different enough to be separate entities), and I don't want to spoil how things go in that version. I will say though that while I do enjoy Miyazaki's work, and enjoyed the movie in general, I do like the book version better. Partly because I didn't feel like there was a Deep Message that I was getting pounded into my head whether I wanted it or not (and, more to the point, that was getting shoehorned into the story whether IT wanted it or not), and partly because, well, the way things pan out seem more... I don't know, organic and natural? And satisfying. Well, except for the rushed, bam-bam-bam nature of the very end of the book.
I will say though that at least the movie version gives a very pretty Howl to look at. :)
As for overall stuff... well, reading the book and nitpicking over little sections like that doesn't necessarily do this story justice, because it *is* a sort of fairy-tale story that handwaves a lot of stuff. It's not supposed to be hyper-realistic in all things, and trying to break it down and examine it makes a lot of the little details that are "wrong" crop up, when overall they really don't matter.
So I don't want it to seem like I hate the book because of various nitpickings (like over the seven-league boots, although they DO bug me a bit each time I read the book), I adore the book. But there are still things here and there that jump out at me. And, as I've said before, given my druthers I'd have the ending be a bit better, paced, and more rounded out at the end.
But yeah, despite a few flaws, I love the characters (despite, or maybe because of, their notable flaws as well). I enjoy the story, and I love the way things all weave together at the end. I like the world, and... well, I like the book! If, y'know, I hadn't made that clear before.
And I think the way things DO all interweave and come together is one of the strengths of the book, although again, I don't think we really got to discuss that aspect much, with the piecemeal method of reading. But there are so many things that don't make sense and add a bit of mystery early on, like why did the Witch curse Sophie? What's up with those hats? Why is Howl seemingly so perceptive at times, and so obtuse at others? What is UP with that scarecrow? And then suddenly, everything falls in your lap neatly tied together at the end, and it's just obvious it couldn't be any other way.
Anyhow, I think I'll shut up for now, and see what, if anything, anyone else has to say!