Wednesday, March 1, 2023

March Magics 2023 Begins

It's March 1st, time to start reading Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones!  This is the year to celebrate all of the good things, be they Chrestomanci, Howl, or Tiffany Aching. I can't even imagine my reading life without these two stellar authors. They have comforted me, distracted me, amused me, and brought me to tears. And I have yet to read a book by either one that I wouldn't be willing to read again and again. (And seeing how my final new DWJ is below, I think I'm pretty safe.)

I have these first time reads ahead of me and will probably start with The Fifth Elephant because you can never go wrong spending time with Vimes and The Watch. I'll fill in the rest of my DWJ reading with whatever I'm in the mood for as the month goes on.

I am not using Twitter at the moment so come find me on Instagram or Mastodon or leave your links on this post ... and remember to use the #MarchMagics hashtag wherever you post!

Sunday, January 22, 2023

#MarchMagics 2023: All Good Things

Hello, friends! I wanted to do an early heads-up this year about March Magics because I have decided that this will be my last year hosting this lovely event. I started it as DWJ March in 2012, one year after our beloved Diana Wynne Jones passed away and then it became March Magics in 2016, one year after the passing of Terry Pratchett. As this 26th of March will be the twelfth anniversary of Diana's death and will also be the last year that I have a new-to-me book of hers to read, it felt like the right time to wind this down. It will only be eight years since Sir Pterry died (on 12 March 2015) and I do have a dozen or so of his books still ahead of me but it seems like a nice, odd milestone to hit for him as well.

Paraphrasing Chaucer, this year's theme will be All Good Things ... (Must Come to an End). This means that basically anything goes, because, with these two, there are so, so many Good Things to enjoy and they're different for everyone. I hope that many of you will join me this year in reading one or both of these authors. I don't have plans yet for any read-alongs or guest posts but, if you are interested, please do let me know! And thank you for spending each March with me in this celebration of literary lives well-lived. It has been one of the highlights of my reading year for so long now. Finally, I am more than willing to hand off the hosting of this event to someone else so do let me know if that is something that interests any of you.

Look for an official kick-off post on 1 March!

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Wrapping Up #MarchMagics 2022

Thank you all for joining in again this year to celebrate the wonderful works of Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett. It has been eleven years since Diana passed and seven since Terry left us but it still feels so recent.

I was able to read almost everything I planned and certainly met new friends and enjoyed my time with the old ones. I had a lot of fun with Sir Pterry's The Last Continent, The Wee Free Men (a relisten), Dodger (a relisten), and Equal Rites (a reread). I also watched the 2008 miniseries The Colour of Magic (with story from both The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic) and listened to LeVar Burton read the short story The Troll Bridge on his podcast. It was also quite a treat to read the biography The Magic of Terry Pratchett by Marc Burrows.  I'm looking forward to having Rob Wilkins' Pratchett biography (Sept 2022) to read next year.

As for DWJ, I got through Dark Lord of Derkholm (a relisten), Cart and Cwidder, Drowned Ammet, and The Spellcoats (a reread). I started The Crown of Dalemark the other day and got about 50 pages in (where Mitt and Moril first meet) and decided that I just wasn't ready to finish my final new-to-me DWJ. I will save this book until next year and postpone that particular sadness.

How was your March Magics month? Let me know what you ended up reading!

Saturday, February 19, 2022

#MarchMagics 2022: Friends Old and New

I was considering whether to just let March Magics go this year since I haven't blogged since the last one when I got a short message from Chris, asking for an event image. Well, I just couldn't let him down so here we are again, celebrating Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett through their always-wonderful works. I am actually quite happy to host this again for the 11th (!) time.

I chose the theme Friends Old and New this year because we are all at different places in our DWJ and Pratchett journeys. Some of the characters have been old friends for years, others we have yet to meet but are guaranteed to be friends when we do.

This is my stack for the month, minus one book that is still on its way. I'll be reading two more Discworld books in my journey through that series--The Last Continent and Jingo. I have also decided to reread Dodger since I can't even remember how long it has been since I first read and loved it. And I have Marc Burrows' biography, The Magic of Terry Pratchett, that I'm really looking forward to. Then for DWJ, well, I'm picking up the last unread books I have of hers--The Dalemark Quartet. The Spellcoats will be a reread but the other three will be first time reads. It's going to be quite sad to have no more new-to-me DWJs after this. But, this is still a chance to make new fictional friends, right?

I would love to know who is participating this year and what you are planning to read so please leave a comment or find me on instagram or twitter. And if you post about the event during the month, please use hashtag #MarchMagics. I hope to chat with many of you soon! And thank you for becoming my friends over these many years through our shared love of these authors. I appreciate all of you!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Wrapping Up #MarchMagics 2021

Well, I have to say that my theme for this year's event ended up being a bit inspired. "All Together Now" was the perfect theme to tie together some of the wonderful stories of Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett. Because, after all, what better magic is there than the relationships we form with family, friends, and sometimes even foes.

I ended up reading Earwig and the Witch, The Islands of Chaldea, The Lives of Christopher Chant, Power of Three, Nation, Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, and Feet of Clay. There were definitely some amazing examples of teamwork and friendship in these stories. I had the most fun revisiting The Islands of Chaldea. The first time I read it, Diana's death was still rather fresh and it was bittersweet to read her final tale. This time, it could be just a fun story with another trademark whirlwind ending. I really appreciate that her family made the effort to finish the story and share it with readers. The Pratchetts have just released a final collection of Sir Pterry's short stories for children too (The Time-Travelling Caveman) and I can't wait to pick that up sometime this year.

Thank you all for participating this year! I loved seeing your posts and pictures and tweets throughout the month. It made me feel a little less alone. I also love that these two special authors bring us together and I'm thankful that they wrote books that are brilliant every single time we read or revisit them. Diana and Terry were gems and they will always be missed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Read-Along: Power of Three #MarchMagics

A cover of Power of Three by Diana Wynne Jones

I almost forgot to write about Power of Three because I read the book last week and since then have have been enjoying seeing posts pop up from various other bloggers (Bookforager, Jean at Howling Frog Books). It felt like a discussion already in progress! I also went looking for past posts I had written about this book and had completely forgotten that I had written about it on Lory's old blog for Witch Week in 2014. This was my summary of the book from that post and I like it --

Power of Three is one of Diana Wynne Jones’s oldest books, first released in 1976. It is less fantastical than most of her other books, even while being rooted in magic. In the land of the Dorig, the Lyman, and the Giants, each race thinks that they are the “people” and that the others are savages, both dangerous and mean. It is the simple magic of words that give each group power, be it curses, charms, or negotiation, and they frequently use those words against each other. It is only when they use their words for friendship and forgiveness instead of enmity that all will be well in their world.

This story fit perfectly with the "All Together Now" theme of the month. Three very different groups had to come together to find a solution that would work for everyone and somehow they managed it. As I see more and more divisiveness in our world these days, even though we have far fewer differences than the Dorig, Lyman, and Giants (apologies to the characters for using what they consider slurs), I wonder if we will ever get over them for the common good. You would think things like climate change and a global pandemic would be big enough problems that the world could come together but, well, not yet.

As for discussion, I don't want to talk about DWJ's fat phobia because that's just depressing and we've already talked about it many times. Instead let's talk about the "people" in this story that surprised us. I loved how Mr. Claybury and Mr. Masterfield totally got on board with everything with NO hesitation. This is so different than how adults act in almost any other children's story. Was there someone that surprised you with their actions? Also, I was wondering if this book predates standard environmental reviews for civic projects. Isn't that what actually happened in this story? The creatures of the land (different groups of people, in this case) got to actually speak up and stop their habitats from being destroyed. That's pretty cool when you think about it, right? Finally--and this one sounds like a spoiler but it's not because anybody who hasn't read the book will have no idea what we are talking about--when did Ceri put a Thought on Gair on in the final scene?!? I honestly can't figure it out.

I'm planning one more post at the end of the month to tally up all of the great books I ended up reading. They have almost all perfectly fit the theme and have gotten me a little more excited to see people again later this summer. (I am one of the weird people who hasn't been overly sad that we've been locked away in our own homes and yards for a year.) Anyway, I hope that you all are fitting in one more fun DWJ or Pratchett read before the end of March!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Read-Along: Nation #MarchMagics

Cover of Terry Pratchett's book Nation

Terry Pratchett's Nation is a multiverse book, a "not our world but one a lot like it" story that brings together two young people who are an unlikely pair. There is Mau, the young Pacific Islander on the cusp of manhood who loses everything when his village is destroyed by a giant wave. And there is Daphne, a British young woman who used to be Ermintrude but who used the wreck of the ship she was on to reinvent herself. Her ship, of course, wrecks on the island that used to be the home of the Nation, Mau's people. As other refugees from the storm start arriving on the island, Mau and Daphne learn to communicate and to create a new found-family as they also strive to each understand themselves better.

I couldn't have picked a better book to fit my "All Together Now" theme. So many characters come together, each with their own strengths, to build a new community from the remains of the old one. They do things that are hard and sometimes uncomfortable but it allows them to process their grief and move forward and to save each other. There is also the pro-science message of the story that seems especially timely right now.

Some things I thought about while reading, if anyone wants to discuss:
Why are we always so certain when we speak about history when we are constantly discovering new facts about what came before?
Will white supremacy ever end or will it eventually be the end of our species?
Why can't we stand up to our grandparents or other elders when they are obviously wrong/mean?
Could you survive alone (or almost alone) on a previously inhabited island?
Can you really shout underwater to scare away a shark? (I looked this one up. The answer is ... maybe sometimes.)

I hope most of you will eventually read this book if you didn't get around to it for this event. It is a fantastic story that showcases more of the philosophical side of Pratchett. There is definitely still humor but it takes a backseat in this one and I found it refreshing. Of course I'm reading Guards! Guards! right now so I can obviously appreciate all of the humor as well. He really was one of the best.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Book v. Movie: Earwig and the Witch #MarchMagics

Welcome to a chat about Earwig and the Witch! I read the book on the first day of March Magics and finished it on, well, the first day. (It's just over 110 big print pages and full of illustrations.) When I set it down, I spent the afternoon watching the movie. Here are my thoughts ...

The book cover of Earwig and the Witch

This was DWJ's last completed fiction book, published in June 2011, just after her death in March of that year. It's probably for the youngest audience of all of her books besides a 1992 picture book and a handful of short stories. The US edition (seen above) was illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. It's the story of Earwig, a young girl who was left at an orphanage when she was a baby with nothing but a note that said "GOT THE OTHER TWELVE WITCHES ALL CHASING ME. I'LL BE BACK FOR HER WHEN I'VE SHOOK THEM OFF. IT MAY TAKE YEARS. HER NAME IS EARWIG." The children's home staff, of course, aren't sold on the witch story or the name and they try to call her Erika Wigg. Still the nickname Earwig creeps back in and she grows up with it and with the special talent of making anyone and everyone do just what she wants. Another day comes when foster parents are to arrive and choose kids to take home with them and Earwig expects the usual thing to happen, a bunch of cooing over babies and toddlers and the ignoring of the older kids. This time though, a very weird pair of adults, one who seems to get taller and grow horns as he stands there, actually choose Earwig to go home with them. What happens after this is unpredictable and fun.

The thing I like most about this book is that Earwig is not a bad kid. She gets her way and she does things that she doesn't have permission to do but she is not trying to hurt anyone. And, in the end, she stays happily with the same people who she didn't think cared about her at all. It's a found family story which is different from many DWJ stories that have bad parents. This one has adults that don't want to be parents who kind of grow into the role because of the strong personality of Earwig. Also ... talking cat!

Earwig and the Witch movie and title image

Just in time for the tenth anniversary of the book, we get the Studio Ghibli film version of Earwig. This is the studio's first computer animated film and was directed by Hayao Miyazaki's son, Goro. As far as story goes, this film is almost too faithful to the book. It uses the exact dialog and pacing from DWJ's book and, in my opinion, it's not quite the right pacing for a film. It does start with an added scene of Earwig's mom taking her to the orphanage while being chased and there are two brief additional plot lines but neither really brings anything interesting to the story and seem tacked on. But these were only obvious to me because I had literally just read the book that morning. Most people won't have read the book and will may not have these issues. But the thing that disappointed me most was that the movie has Earwig's mom return at the end. That killed the entire "found family" aspect of the book and it bummed me out a bit.

As a huge Studio Ghibli fan (you may remember my Ghibli watching project in 2010), I missed the magic that Hayao Miyazaki brings to a story. I adore DWJ's Howl's Moving Castle but will admit that Miyazaki's film, with its differences, has more heart than the original tale. His son needs to learn to find and grow the spark that makes a good book into a great film. Also, the animation of Earwig was a little weird with thin old-lady eyebrows and too many angry looks. And the cat had no fur texture which, as we all know, Pixar perfected twenty years ago with Monsters, Inc. It just didn't work for me the way hand-drawn Ghibli films do ... although the workroom was exactly how I imagined it, so dirty and slimy! I also missed the music of Joe Hisaishi, which is one of the threads that tie all Ghibli films together and also adds to the magic.

Earwig singing in front of a band

Side note: this is the promo image for the film and it is not something that happens in the movie. That's kind of weird, right? Anyway, I know a couple of you were going to be able to watch the film so what did you think? Did you read the book first? How do you think it compares to other Studio Ghibli films (if you've watched any of them)? What was your favorite thing about the movie? Least favorite? Please share!