Sunday, February 17, 2019

#MarchMagics / #DWJMarch Readalongs

Thank you all for voting on the Pratchett Read-Along book for next month! Sixty percent of you chose The Wee Free Men so that will be our group read. And I've decided to do that one first so that the rest of the month remains open for those of us that want to keep reading through the Tiffany Aching series.

The schedule for the Read-Alongs:

Sat, March 9 - Discussion for Terry Pratchett's The Wee Free Men
Sat, March 23 - Discussion for Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle

I'll have a post up on each day but also feel free to write your own blog posts and/or share the book on other social media. I'll probably also have something up on Instagram and Twitter each day.

And, speaking of Howl, did you know that this year is the 15th anniversary of the Hayao Miyazaki movie version?! It will be the first film shown for this year's Studio Ghibli Fest at the beginning of April, if you're interested in seeing it in a theater (and are in the U.S. or Canada).

Are you going to join these group reads? Will it be your first time for either book or are they already favorites?

Making the cheese,

Friday, February 8, 2019

Announcing #DWJMarch / #MarchMagics 2019!

Gather around, friends. It is finally time to talk about our plans for this year's celebration of the lives and stories of two of our favorite genre authors, Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett. In three short weeks, we will get to immerse ourselves in some of the best worlds ever created, feast our minds on some of the best words ever written. So, our theme for this year?

Riches Well-Told!

What does that mean in terms of books? It means we get to read our favorites this year! I want everyone to pick up the books from these authors that never get old, the ones that we've read dozens of times already but plan to read at least a dozen more times.

my DWJ and Pratchett shelf (except for the books that don't fit)
As I look at my shelves, I think about how I could easily spend more time with Derk and the griffins, Tiffany Aching, Chrestomanci, and Death. I want to visit Granny Weatherwax's cottage and take a ride in Wizard Howl's castle.

Speaking of ... with all of the talk of the new Folio Society edition, of Howl's Moving Castle, I've decided that this beloved tale will be our DWJ read-along this year. But I would like some help choosing the Pratchett book. So if you can just answer this one question ...

Thanks, everyone! Once I get some answers, I'll set dates for the two read-alongs. Remember when you are posting about this event on social media to use one or the other of the hashtags so that I can find and amplify your posts.

Please leave a comment and let me know if you plan on participating this year!

With joy and love,

Monday, December 31, 2018

So Long, 2018

I was reminded today that this blog still exists so I thought I should swing by to let you all know that I am okay (nothing happened ... just a trip to California, a couple of colds, and some malaise) and that I am mentally making my way back here. I also couldn't miss the opportunity to write up an end of the year summary, especially as I noticed last night that I had finished my *120th* book of the year! Whoa! So, no, it is not my reading that has fallen to the wayside, just my blogging.

In 2018 I ...

  • Read/listened to just over 40,000 pages in 120 books
  • Found time for 20 rereads
  • Enjoyed 11 non-fiction books
  • Journeyed through 7 books in translation (French, Japanese, Spanish x4, German)
  • Listened to 18 audiobooks
My favorite books of the year (in no particular order)
  • The four books of Martha Wells' Murderbot series - All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, and Exit Strategy
  • The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (and fabulous rereads of the previous three books in the series)
  • The Broken Lands and The Kairos Mechanism by Kate Milford
  • Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
  • The Philosopher's Flight by Tom Miller
  • Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
  • The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss
  • The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland
  • March, Books 1-3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
  • Early Riser by Jasper Fforde (not out yet in the U.S.!)
  • Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson
  • The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin (again, not out in the U.S.)
  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (yes! I finally started this series!!)
  • The Book of Dust, Book One: The Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
  • All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
I don't know if I'm going to do catch-up posts for any of the books I read over the past two months or if I'll just give myself permission to start with a clean slate. It will probably be the latter. No need to start the new year with a stack of stress!

These are the books I got for Christmas this year and, as you can imagine, some of my most anticipated reads of the new year! I might even reread Persuasion since I have this lovely new edition to replace my old Signet Classics paperback. I'll be starting the year with Kage Baker in print (The Machine's Child) and Michelle Obama (Becoming) on audio. My goals for 2019? I'm not going to make any. I am just going to work through as much of my home TBR (161 books) and my library list (58 books) as I can, choosing whatever I want to along the way and sprinkling in some rereads. I will still host DWJMarch/MarchMagics this spring but will probably have a rather generic topic. As for blogging, I may switch to a more journal-like format for a while, until this malaise and general inability to get my thoughts to coalesce passes. If I stay out of the habit of writing for much longer, this blog is toast!

Anyway, I hope that all of you had a satisfactory reading year and that you have great books to look forward to in 2019! Tell me something you are looking forward to in the comments (if they work for you. I know there are some issues and I can't figure out what is wrong.)

With confetti,

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

#RIPXIII Update 3

I have a HUGE stack of RIP books here to mention to you before the end of the month and the perilous reading season. Grab a cup of tea or cocoa because I'm going to need your attention for a while!

I really wish I had the energy to write a full post about The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin because this was an amazing book. First, it's told in a completely unique way. One point of view is told through images, mental pictures sent from the titular elfin character back to his government. The other point of view is told in words, by a goblin archivist named Werfel, who is hosting Brangwain on his historic state visit after years of animosity. The difference between the two accounts is noticeable and is affected by each character's background and the history they were taught. It's an amazing exposure for middle grade students to the concept of "history being written by the victors". But it's also a darkly funny and infinitely perilous story about how to mend relationships that need not remain fractured. This is such an incredibly timely book and I hope it finds its way into lots of elementary and middle school libraries.

And yay! I finally started Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant series with Rivers of London. It was strange to read a modern story because I don't do that very often but once I got used to that, I had a lot of fun with this world and Grant himself. I really do love "magic in the real world" stories! I'll definitely be continuing on with the series and already have the second book from the UK. (They are in trade paperbacks there and only mass market here, which I don't like to read because you have to bend them more.)

I did second reads as listens for The Prisoner of Heaven and The Angel's Game. Rereading this series before diving into Carlos Ruiz Zafón's final book in the group was an inspired idea. Seeing all of the small details fit together and the picture of mid-century Barcelona grow has been a joy. I also liked reading these two in the opposite order from which they were published. I understand why they came out in the order they did originally, with an unreliable narration followed by a more factual account, but I also liked reading them the other way, with a sad history being brushed over by a more palatable, if not-so-accurate account.

Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand was a quick trip into a creepy manor house with a British folk band who are recounting the experience years later. I liked the interview format but also felt that it was a little impersonal at times. Still, for a quick little book, it packed a punch and was a perfect RIP tale.

Then, the reason for the season, Hocus Pocus & the All-New Sequel! Written by A.W. Jantha, the first two hundred pages are a faithful retelling of the movie with a couple of minor changes to reflect more modern sensibilities about what are acceptable ways to talk to girls/women. I really liked that update. And then the second three hundred pages is a story about Max and Allison's daughter, Poppy -- her friendships, love life, and accidental summoning of the Sanderson sisters, among other witches. It was a good, solid teenage witch story with some good reveals (lesbians, good witches, the return of Binx) but I didn't fall entirely in love with it. I am also not the target audience so I'm sure that other readers will form a much greater attachment to the tale.

Now I'm caught up to Readathon time, when I got through a bunch of quick little books. The first was Mary Stewart's The Little Broomstick, published in 1971 but experiencing a new life after being made into the film Mary and the Witch's Flower by Studio Ponoc, an animation studio formed by former Studio Ghibli staff members. I love that film and this book is just as good! I'm glad I picked it up.

Next was the second Murderbot novella, Artificial Condition by Martha Wells. I didn't think the story could improve on what happened in the first volume but this absolutely did. I even got teary at a line near the end about hugs. I have the third and fourth (and final) books on my library hold list but I'm going to be buying myself copies of this set at some point. The writing is amazing, the ideas are fresh, and the bite-sized portions are perfect.

I was a bit late to the Kate Milford party so I missed out on some of her earlier Kickstarter projects, like this novella -- The Kairos Mechanism, which happens soon after the events of The Boneshaker and reunites us with Natalie Minks in the odd town of Arcane. Luckily, Milford found a few extra copies around and put them up for sale on her website. (There are three copies left for $55 each, signed by the author and the papercut artist, and including a papercut "pin" in each one.) The depth of her stories always staggers me and this one was no different. I adore the worlds she has created!

My last full Readathon read was this awesome Manga Classics version of The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe. As most of you know, Poe is one of my things and the five stories covered here are done justice with this format. The illustrations and text formatting on The Raven are stellar and I even enjoyed rereading The Masque of the Red Death, which is not one of my favorite Poe stories. This would be a great place for someone to start who is new to Poe.

While I was getting through many of these books, I was listening to David Wong's (actually Jason Pargin's) John Dies at the End, which is a weird title because John dies way before that. But this was a LONG and increasingly crazy horror/humor/sci-fi tale that, for all of its crass jokes, was smart and fun and I really loved listening to it. I'm not sure if I'll go on with the series but I'll definitely watch the movie version sometime soon.

(Almost done!) Next I dove into the first of six books I bought in Penzler Press' new American Mystery Classics series, The So Blue Marble by Dorothy B. Hughes. (The second set of six will be out in the spring of 2019.) This was SUCH a good story! It was dark and frightening and surprisingly violent for a mystery from 1940. I liked the New York setting and will definitely be searching out more of Hughes' books now, especially the three that became films.

And finally, I need to mention my relisten of Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger. That is such an incredible book! If you haven't gotten to it for the first time yet, you really should. It's the most subtle of ghost stories. The true horror, as we can attest to, usually lies is the real world.

I'm finishing out the month by going slowly (as much as I can when I'm so excited about it!) through The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I'm about 200 pages through the 800 page tome and it is amazing. And remember, he has written these books so that you can read them in any order. This one might be a bit intimidating to pick up first because of its size but the story moves along well and is already ridiculously intense.

Well, this is the end of my RIP reading season, friends. Twenty-five books finished, many new favorites found. I got to read the new Jasper Fforde before it comes out in the US and am buried in the latest Carlos Ruiz Zafón -- two of my all-time favorite authors. I got to meet Murderbot! I traveled through time and space and braved murderers, ghosts, monsters, and more. What fun!

Tell me ... did you have a favorite RIP read this year? Also, if you are in the US, have you voted or are you planning to?

Escaping the peril unscathed,

Friday, October 5, 2018

#RIPXIII Update 2

Life is busy and stressful and crazy but I've managed to read 13 books already this Readers Imbibing Peril season! It's been the best escape, especially since I've had at least one physical and one audiobook going at a time so I get these stories piped into my brain no matter where I am. Here are a few brief mentions of what I've gotten through recently.

I forget where I saw The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin mentioned but I quickly decided that it was totally the type of book I was in the mood for. Of course, it is only out in the UK. So ... I placed an order from Foyles, got my book, and dove into a heart-wrenching, neo-Victorian sensational tale. It's reminiscent of stories by Sarah Waters and Michael Cox. My only complaint was that there was one supernatural moment that didn't need to be in the story. Otherwise, it was a dark, tense, and well-executed visit to Victorian London.

I know where I heard about Martha Wells' first Murderbot novella, All Systems Red -- EVERYWHERE. And, yes, everyone was right. This was good. I sped through it and look forward to grabbing the remaining three parts of the story. (The fourth just came out or is coming out soon.)

Another book that I thought would be right up my alley was The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. This is an extremely unique mystery that takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride of violence and betrayal and surprise. I started wavering on whether I was enjoying it or not and then it came together in a way that was incredibly satisfying. I definitely want to read this one again one day now that I know how everything turns out.

My most bittersweet listen was The Empty Grave, the fifth and final Lockwood and Co. book. The sad thing is that I didn't realize it was the last in the series until about the 80 percent mark. When things started going a certain way, I headed over to Google only to figure out that I was almost done with some of the best fun I have had in a while! I know this is a middle grade series but it's honestly strong enough to be an all-ages series. If you like ghost hunting and friendships and found families, give this series a try.

I also listened to Jackaby to start my series reread and to lead up to finally reading the last book. It was so good. I love that series so much. I don't want it to be over.

So what am I reading now? I just started Rivers of London, first in the Peter Grant series about a police detective who can see the supernatural side of London. And I've started listening to The Prisoner of Heaven, another reread -- and the audiobook is stellar.

Guess what's happening soon?! It's Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon! Sign-ups are live so head over and get your name on the list.

I hope everyone is finding the right books/friends/whatever you need right now to escape all of the madness in the world. Books are honestly saving my sanity. I love you, books!!

Jumping back in,

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Classics Challenge 9: The Leavenworth Case

I was happy to realize that one of my Back to the Classics Challenge choices--the one for "A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction"--would work nicely for the RIP Challenge as well -- The Leavenworth Case (1878) by Anna Katharine Green. This is another one that I've had sitting around for years. I think I even saw somewhere that someone thought it was boring and so I was worried about giving it a try. Now I'm just bummed that I put it off so long.

This was THE first serial detective story, even before Sherlock. And, BONUS!, it was written by an American woman. The funny thing is that the serial detective is totally just in the background. The story is told by a young lawyer who becomes overwhelmed by the personalities of the two adopted daughters of a wealthy man who is murdered. He decides to investigate on his own, under the loose guidance of the detective Grice. What follows is a string of misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and surprises.

I quite enjoyed this story! It honestly didn't seem like it was from 1878. It was well-paced, smart, and had some nicely developed personalities. I certainly wouldn't mind finding more books from Green. (She wrote something like 40 others!) This was just her first novel and had the honor of being praised by none other than Wilkie Collins so I'm sure there are some other hidden gems out there.

Interpreting clues,

Monday, September 17, 2018


I feel really bad because I haven't been updating you on my RIP reads but every time I get out my computer to blog, I just can't find the will to write. So, instead, I'm going to share a few photos of my reading that I've taken over the past couple of weeks. I'm on my sixth RIP read right now and it has been a mostly amazing season so far!

This lovely quote was from The Incredible Crime by Lois Austen-Leigh. Now, you would think that this was a line that then demanded that the woman show everyone how awesome she actually was but no, this book went on to make the woman less independent. The "incredible" crime ended up being kind of lame, and the clues laid for the mystery were all misleading but not in a good, smart way, just in a badly-written kind of way. Super annoying from Jane Austen's great grand-niece or whatever.

Then I read Jasper Fforde's latest, Early Riser, which is now one of my favorite books of the year. More on it later, I promise. But if you love him, you will likely love this. If you haven't gotten on with his style of writing before ... well, this is definitely more of the same.

I needed something amazing to follow Fforde so I grabbed one of the new books I ordered this year, Dark Tales, a collection of Shirley Jackson's short stories. I liked almost all of the stories and really loved about of third of them. Reading one after the other did start revealing her formulas a bit though so I think next time I read her stories I will spread them out a bit more. These I read all in one day!

I also just finished listening to the fourth Lockwood and Co. book, The Creeping Shadow (Jonathan Stroud). I like this series more with each book because the story gets darker and more convoluted. I've already got a hold in on book five and I hope it comes through before the end of the RIP season.

And finally, I'm reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón for the third time. It's just as amazing as the other times I read it. I love CRZ's writing and Lucia Graves' translation skills are A+. I'm looking forward to the second half of the story!

This week I'll pick up All Systems Red from the library and start the audiobook of Jackaby for a reread. Those should both be fun!

I am absolutely loving my perilous, escapist reading right now but I'm guessing my blogging mojo will be missing in action until after the election in November. You can expect more of these quick updates from me until then.

How is your RIP reading going?

Back to Barcelona,

Saturday, September 1, 2018

#RIPXIII Book 1: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman

I did it! I finished my first RIP XIII read just in time to return it to the library and not incur any overdue charges. This is a perilous situation that many of us have been in, right?!

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman is the second in Theodora Goss' series that started with The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter. I read that one in July and it surprised and delighted me and this one was just as good, if not a bit better as it delved more into feelings and morality. I've seen a complaint of the first book that it was sometimes not quite period accurate in the language and I noticed that in this book as well. All I can say is that I had already suspended my disbelief enough to accept that beast women, poisonous girls, patchwork monster ladies, and vampiric dames existed so letting a few conversational anachronisms pass was not so hard. I really got into the story and the 700+ pages flew by. The characters are all interesting and the eastern European settings will certainly trigger a bit of wanderlust!

This book picks up right where the first one left off and it promises a third volume picking up where this one ends (if enough of us buy this one!) so it is definitely for series readers. And, as it ties in to so many classic monster and mystery tales, it is also a perfect perilous read for those who enjoy some humor, romance, and friendship in their adventures.

With blood and pastries,