Thursday, March 29, 2018

#MarchMagics / #DWJMarch Week 4 Roundup

The end of March already?! It came far too quickly for me. I managed two more books in the past week, making it six Pratchetts and six DWJs for me. I am (almost) satisfied with that result. ::wink::

My final Pratchett of the month was Interesting Times, the 5th Wizards book and my 20th Discworld novel! Yay! This is how the book begins ...

When I posted that picture, I had multiple conversations on both Instagram and Twitter about how we are all evidently cursed at the moment and how we are certainly hoping for dull days to return sooner than later. In this book, the interesting times are happening to our old friend Rincewind. He gets sent to the Counterweight Continent and has all sorts of unpleasant adventures (as he usually does), even running into some of his former acquaintances, Cohen the Barbarian and Twoflower.

I was kind of up and down while reading this one. There were some moments of squicky feelings since the book is set in a loosely-veiled Asia. Sometimes the parodies seemed to cross the line ever so slightly into unfavorable stereotypes and were not cool. But, other times, there were breakings of said stereotypes and quite a few funny moments and then I would get wholly back on board. I think, after this, I'll just head back to good old Ankh-Morpork for a while.

And finally, I finished off my Diana Wynne Jones reading with my third time through The Homeward Bounders. I swear that this novel is different every time I read it. This time I really thought a lot more about the various worlds (I think because I read the Magids books and the Chrestomanci short stories and even Everard's Ride during the month) and also about the nature of Them, the baddies of this book. I also decided that this could possibly be Z's entry book into DWJ so I'm going to try and get him to give it a chance this summer!

I had so much fun this year with the short stories and all. I even had a couple of unexpected moments of DWJ/Pratchett synchronicity -- first I saw in A Blink of the Screen that one of the short stories that Terry wrote was for a collection that Diana curated, and then, in Deep Secret, Diana had one of the characters at the fantasy convention wearing an "Oook!" shirt -- in reference to Pratchett's Librarian, of course! What a joy to think of these authors admiring each other.

Well, that's it for me. Please share your final thoughts and links over the next couple of days. Thank you to each of you who spread the word about the event as it approached and thank you again to those who read and shared something new or something beloved (or a healthy mix of both) over this lovely March Magics / DWJ March event. I hope to see you back here again next year!

On a personal note, today is the start of Z's spring break and then I'm having a houseguest (mom), starting my first pieced quilt (with mom), heading out on an anniversary weekend trip (15 yrs married/25 together ... eek!), and having a birthday (old) so I'm going to take a couple of weeks, possibly a month off from blogging. So, don't forget me while I'm gone and I will be back around the end of April/beginning of May!

With melancholy love,

Thursday, March 22, 2018

#MarchMagics / #DWJMarch Week 3 Roundup

We're nearly three-quarters of the way through March Magics / DWJ March, I have read nothing else but stories and novels by these two authors, and I could honestly keep going through the month of April.

First up: Terry Pratchett's A Blink of the Screen: Collected Shorter Fiction, where all but one story was new to me. I didn't dislike a single one of the 33 pieces in this book. The worst I can say is that some of them just weren't subject matters that I cared that much about -- like football rosters and British politics. I wouldn't mind skipping a couple of those on reread. But, of the rest, I enjoyed the diversity of topics, the humor, the tie-ins to classic literature, and yes, Granny Weatherwax. My favorite was "FTB", where a computer gets a visit from a down-at-the-mouth Father Christmas. It was the sweetest story and, if I can remember, I'll revisit it in December!

Then I had a truly enjoyable reread of Mixed Magics, four shorts set in the Chrestomanci world. His appearances in them range from not at all to fairly major character but the stories all have that sense of omnipresence that DWJ wrote so well into all of the Chrestomanci tales. I barely remembered any of the plots from the last time I read this book so it was almost like reading them all again for the first time.
Also, I want to buy the version with this cover -- not because I especially dislike the cover on mine but because my copy is crunchy. It crackles with each turned page because it was bound badly. I'm hoping a newer version will be better!

Pyramids is actually the first book I finished this week. It's part of a little two-book Discworld side-arc and I really liked it! It explored ancient religions, family dynamics, and advanced mathematics (as calculated by camels) and was a fun "now-for-something-completely-different" kind of book. It would definitely work as a standalone.

Finally, a reread of Deep Secret kept me up far too late last night and I have been suffering from sore eyeballs all day long! I don't know why I read the Magid books out of order this time but it just felt right and it totally worked. I liked seeing Nick's beginning after already knowing how he would turn out. Maree was less annoying this time than the last (not sure why) but the romance seemed even more improbable. I do wish there had ended up being more than two books in this series! ::small sob::

Well, I'm out of short stories from both authors (except for that elusive DWJ, "The True State of Affairs", and the Pratchett Christmas collection) so I guess I will just be reading novels for the next week. I have a couple more Discworld books out from the library and I'm planning to reread Homeward Bounders. After that, who knows?!

What did you read this week? What are you going to try and get to before the end of the month? Leave thoughts or links below!

Shifting back to long tales,

Thursday, March 15, 2018

#MarchMagics / #DWJMarch Week 2 Roundup

It's the end of the second week of our Diana Wynne Jones / Terry Pratchett celebration and, for me, it was another great week of short story reads.

I spent the first part of the week reading The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner and Other Stories, the second volume of short stories for children that Pratchett wrote in his younger years -- from 1966-1973. This was another joyful collection, full of humor and friendship and, in this one, the wild west of England -- Wales. And, while every story in Dragons at Crumbling Castle was equally fun, this book actually had a couple of stories that stood out and that I would call favorites.

"The Truly Terrible Toothache" is hilarious, in that a librarian accidentally brings an Elizabethan magician to the present day and he starts changing the town and the people into what he remembers. The librarian fights his hardest to not let his language change so that he won't forget he's a modern man. It has the funniest dialogue and a cute twist.

"The Blackbury Park Statues" was so incredibly sweet. The statues in a park are alive and, when an older woman who has been coming to the park her whole life to feed the ducks stops coming, they miss her and go on a quest to find out what's wrong.

To be honest, I think this collection is actually stronger than the first. That isn't what I was expecting at all. What a pleasant surprise! I now have to find out if the holiday collection will be published in the US or if I need to make a little Foyle's order.

Then I reread Unexpected Magic and was transported again into some favorite DWJ worlds. The thing with this collection is that some of the stories are more for adults while others are okay for older middle grade/YA so it's a little harder to get into a reading groove. But, if you stick with it, you will be rewarded with some amazing stories (and one stellar "novella" which is really long enough to be a novel).

"The Girl Jones" is a (likely embellished) autobiographical tale about the day 9 year old Diana gets put in charge of a dozen or so little siblings of other kids in her village. I think about it all the time actually because it's just such a perfect portrait of someone who thinks differently enough that she was destined to become a storymaker.

"Dragon Reserve, Home Eight" seems to be set in the sequential worlds of Chrestomanci or the parallel ones of the Magids and it is far and away my favorite DWJ short. I would have loved to have seen how Siglin spent the next few years and to be able to explore more of the worlds.

This book does have some strange science fiction stories (which I don't think are DWJ's strength) and some creepy tales that are basically horror that aren't quite to my tastes. But there are enough gems (including the 230-page Everard's Ride) to make this a volume well worth visiting and revisiting. Now that I've read it all of the way through twice, I think I'll just start reading individual stories when I'm in the mood!

So, what did you read this week? Leave thoughts or links below!

Keeping the party going,

Thursday, March 8, 2018

#MarchMagics / #DWJMarch Week 1 Roundup

Oh, this first week of MarchMagics / DWJMarch was heaven. I read four books, two collections of shorts, two novels.

First up was Dragons at Crumbling Castle, a collection from 2014 of stories that Terry Pratchett wrote between 1965 and 1973. From the introduction,
"... read the stories that I wrote as a teenager, mostly as they were first printed, although the grown-up me has tinkered just a little with a few fine details--the odd tweak here, a pinch there, and a little note at the bottom where needed, and all because the younger me wasn't as clever back then as he turned out to be."
These are stories for children but so lighthearted and funny that I loved them all. I loved the punny-ness of the title story. I loved revisiting the Carpet People. I loved the tortoise and the caveman inventor and the hapless Santa. Most of all, I loved the break from everything serious and bleak. This was a joy to read.

And, as much as Pratchett knows about creating lovable characters, DWJ is a master at the most loathsome, horrid creatures ever -- six different ones made their appearances in the three stories of Stopping for a Spell. The stories are each named after these awful characters (the "Chair" Person, Angus Flint, and the Four Grannies) and their awfulness is certainly the basis of each tale. The fact that she could provoke such intense, visceral reactions from adults reading short stories for children is proof that Diana was a bonafide genius.

Besides this horrible cover that I had to explain to Z had hardly anything to do with the story, Eric was another fun Rincewind/Discworld adventure. It won't work as a starting book for anyone just getting into this universe but, once you get to it, literature fans will have a wonderful time with some of the references. I was sad that it was only 197 pages long. Luckily, it left me a lot of time in the week for this doorstop ...

This was my second read of The Merlin Conspiracy (558 pages) and I loved it oh so much more this time through! There are two narratives, those of Nick and Roddy, weaving together through most of the book and then they join at the end and I wavered between each one as a favorite and ended up deciding that I had to love them both equally. The basic story is one of parallel worlds, with Nick in one and Roddy in another and how their lives eventually intersect. The stakes are high and there are some seemingly bad characters who turn out to be good and horrid ones who turn out to be even worse than you originally think. There is a lot of magic of all different sorts and the creatures are especially fun -- even the goat. I would definitely call this an all-ages book too. It has layers. Many, many layers.

So, what did you read this first week? Leave thoughts or links below!
(I know some people have trouble commenting on Blogger sites so it's okay to just leave a comment on anyone else's post too and I will find you.)

Loathing and loving,

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Welcome to #MarchMagics / #DWJMarch!

Hooray! March first! I'm so ready to start reading all of the Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones I can possibly shove into these 31 days. This wretched month may have taken these authors too soon but we can conquer the blues with the grandest reading celebration possible!

My plan is to have a post each Thursday starting next week where you can come and comment and/or leave links so that we can all share our reads and posts. Remember to use the #dwjmarch or #marchmagics hashtags on social media! I'll pick up content from those each week.

Here are the books I've currently pulled to read this month but I'm giving myself permission to grab any others that I end up in the mood for --

These are the short story collections. The DWJs will all be rereads and the Pratchetts are all new to me.

And these are the novels that I've pulled so far. Jean mentioned recently reading DWJ's Magids books and she put me in the mood for rereads! The two Discworld books are new to me as I'm still working through them all for the first time. They'll be my 18th and 19th Discworld reads.

And, confession: I've already cheated and started reading Dragons in Crumbling Castle a day or two early. It's got silly little stories that are a pleasant escape!

What book are you starting the month with? What are you most looking forward to?

In fondest memory,

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Fire This Time

Before the end of the month, I wanted to mention the final book I read for Black History Month, The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward. I know that this is a current sort of book, talking about the Black experience and psyche in today's America but I do feel that reading about what happened yesterday is just as important as studying what happened in 1965. This collection of essays and poems range from topics such as slavery and police profiling, to family and music. Together, they begin to paint a picture of the required mindset and physical realities of being Black in America today.

There were so many beautiful and sorrowful pieces in this book. There were small glimmers of hope for a better future, especially for today's children, but these were all also tempered with a dose of reality. I personally found it to be a call to action -- both to be a better and truer ally to communities of color and to work harder to change the system through civil and political action so that everyone can truly know that they "have a right to be here" (Edwidge Danticat).

With a heavy heart,

Monday, February 26, 2018

New Release: We Matter: Athletes and Activism

Out in just a week or so, We Matter: Athletes and Activism by Etan Thomas is a collection of thoughts and interviews on athlete activism and also the issues that they have to be vocal about. Thomas, a former NBA player, speaks of his own education and mentoring and how it led to his ability to speak out when things in life were unfair or unjust. He covers everything from the Black Lives Matter movement to education to the unique barriers facing Black girls and women.

This isn't normally the kind of book I pick up because of the strong emotions involved but, as a big fan of the NBA (I'm actually watching a Lakers game right this moment) and with the recent crappy talking-head comments about how LeBron James should just "shut up and dribble", it seemed like this was meant to be in my hands right now. And I really ... well, enjoyed is not the word is it when you're talking about systematic racism and police brutality and other such topics ... appreciated the chance to learn and think and explore with Etan Thomas. The variety of people he chose to interview was helpful to presenting a well-rounded discussion and I enjoyed hearing from individuals that I "know". Still, there is not really any barrier to this book also being accessible to readers who are not sports fans.

The first few interviews were very tough to read, those with the siblings or children of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Terence Crutcher, and Philando Castile. These are all unarguably some of the most heinous, pointless murders of innocent people in recent history. To think of the losses from the points-of-view of the family is heartbreaking. It was also the perfect way to start the conversation about the ability of athletes to speak out about these sadly unpunished crimes in their hometowns or cities of play, whether by wearing hoodies or "I Can't Breathe" tee shirts or by participating in marches and panel discussions. I appreciated how Thomas spoke to athletes and coaches/CEOs from the NBA, WNBA, and NFL because each league has different audiences and different levels of receptiveness.

One thing that really resonated and stayed with me was when Thomas would talk about raising his own children and the children he coaches in basketball. I had to re-acknowledge over and over how privileged I have been to be able to keep my white son sheltered for so much longer in life than Thomas was allowed to do with his Black children. My heart broke at the young ages at which he already had to be talking to them about interacting with the police and other authority figures. This is something I can't ever afford to put to the back of my mind.

Finally, I really came to understand how "Black History" is not just about Washington Carver and Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. It is about everything that happened up until yesterday. It is the entire span of time and actions that determine the life (and, sadly, death) of each Black person today. It is being aware of the contributions, challenges, and needs of a community that still must fight to be integrated into the country that they helped build. We each need to take a part in keeping these issues in current discussions and we should thank the athletes who sometimes risk their entire careers to do just that.

In solidarity,

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Broken Lands

I can't even begin to find a way to explain Kate Milford's The Broken Lands to you. It's a prequel to Boneshaker and has a minor character from that book in a medium-sized role. It happens in late-19th century New York City and has card sharps, Chinese fireworks experts, devils, demons, and magic. It's such an amazing and perilous world and I absolutely loved it. There are also real cultural issues and complex war musings. It's another one of those books that has no target age group. It has elements of the fantasy, horror, adventure, and coming-of-age genres and is simply another amazing Milford story.

The coolest news this week was that Bluecrowne, an early Kickstarted story by Milford, has been updated and is being rereleased this October. It's a bridge between the Greenglass House world and the Boneshaker one and I cannot wait for it. I will be more than happy to reread everything this summer before this new adventure comes out.

All about this world,