Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Blogiversary and Random Bits

I started this blog twelve years ago in July 2008. The world was different, the community was different, the books I was reading at the time were different. These days I read far fewer picture books, far more genre books. I allowed diversity to seep into my reading organically by following from one book/author I enjoyed to another similar/tangential one. I read more memoirs, mainly by funny people. I don't make enough time for reading other blogs, mostly because I am barreling through my owned books and the library's audiobooks in an attempt to escape to anywhere else. (I know some people are having trouble reading right now but I just finished my 72nd book of the year yesterday. That's ridiculous.) And, just writing this post, I can tell that I'm missing blogging. I no longer worry about visitor counts or giveaways or review copies but I do worry that some of you might miss out on a fabulous book because I didn't share it.

Anyway, here are a few random bookish things of recent note:

My heart broke last month with the news of Carlos Ruiz Zafón's passing. I went back through this blog and counted 45(!) posts that were reviews, giveaways, or mentions of his books. I have all of his books that were translated into English in hardcover and I revisit them regularly. I'm starting to feel the need to renew and improve my Spanish reading skills so as to eventually read his books in their original form.

There is a Fire and Hemlock discussion at the end of this month (27 July, 8pm EDT), hosted online by the Brooklyn Public Library. Follow the link to register. I think it will be a fun little Zoom gathering, especially if a couple of us DWJ fans from around the world join in!

Monika has compiled a Goodreads list of "not-cis authors". They have 206 books on this list so far!

And here's a free short story from Sarah Pinsker, one of my favorite current authors. She actually wrote a post-pandemic tale, A Song for a New Day, that came out last year and recently won the Nebula Award for Best New Novel. I told her that she might be a witch and she didn't disagree.

So, I do feel kind of happy writing right now and I am certainly reading enough to give me content so maybe I'll be back soon? I was going to wait until after the November election to decide whether to come back or not but I feel like this might be the moment when I need to reach out, to start rebuilding what I once loved. If you are still around and reading this, please leave a comment below!

Friday, February 28, 2020

#MarchMagics 2020 Has Begun! #DWJMarch

I know that it is only February 29 but I figure that we can add this day on to March Magics if we want to since it's a random, magical day. I, for one, am ready to start reading the wonderful stories of Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett.

I have two new-to-me books that I'm planning on reading--Small Gods and Hexwood--and then the rest will be based on mood. I'm pretty sure I will reread Dodger and Eight Days of Luke because I've been thinking about them lately. I'm not sure if I will write any additional blog posts but will definitely be sharing on Twitter, Instagram, and Litsy.

Which DWJ and Pratchett books are on your stack this month?

Please post any links you have during the month on this post so that others can come and find them. And remember to use the #MarchMagics hashtag on social media.

Enjoy your month with our dearly departed but never forgotten!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Announcing #MarchMagics / #DWJMarch 2020

As we quickly approach the middle of February, I remembered that I need to actually launch our favorite event of the year, that it doesn't just magically begin in March. So, without further ado, this year's March Magics (formerly DWJ March), celebrating the books and lives of Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones--two of the *best* all-ages fantasy authors EVER--will be a DIY event!

As I am a bit scattered, stressed, demoralized, and a host of other not-fun emotions at the moment, and since I know some of you are feeling the same, I wanted to continue with last year's theme and have this event really be about the joy you find while you spend time with these two authors. Simply pick up your absolute favorites, dive into them, and lose yourself for a few hours. Afterwards, share that love with others. If you want to host a readalong or a giveaway, DO IT! If you want to write a blog post, share on social media, or even read with your kids--PERFECT! If you want to pick up that last book you have been saving with a heavy heart, this is the time.

Have you already been thinking about March Magics? Share your plans below!

Please link any posts, events, etc. below that you create/organize before March 1 and then I'll have another post for sharing during the month. (And remember to use the hashtags!)

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Closing out 2019

Well, hello there! I don't know if I'm coming back or not yet but I feel really antsy about not having a wrap-up post for 2019 because, even if I'm not blogging, I'm definitely reading. Here are some of the stats:
Books read: 139 
This was helped by audiobooks and novellas and the fact that I needed A LOT of escapist time due to things both personal and worldwide. Many of my books were genre -- mystery, fantasy, and, this year, a lot more science fiction. I've gone to space more times than I ever expected to!

Rereads: 21
This was mostly due to MarchMagics/DWJ March but I also had a couple of Jasper Fforde, William Ritter, Erin Morgenstern, Philip Pullman, Mary Shelley, and Neil Gaiman rereads throughout the year.

Library books: 60
I made really good use of my library this year. I do wish they had a few more audiobook choices but they are a great way to try books I'm not sure I want to buy. I even gave a couple of romances a whirl this year! I didn't really like any of them though. Hmm.

Books in translation: 3
This is the stat that I'm most disappointed with. I usually do much better but I only managed one German, one French, and one Japanese story this year.

Non-fiction: 19
I made up for that bad translation number though with an amazing non-fiction year! I even have two more in progress on my nightstand. The best ones of the year were Becoming by Michelle Obama, Sea People by Christina Thompson, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, Coal Black Mornings by Brett Anderson, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, and The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O'Meara. I think the key for me is definitely variety!

New-to-me authors: 59 (+ some in collections)
My favorite new-to-me authors this year? Seanan McGuire, Sarah Pinsker, and Becky Chambers. I ended up reading five books by McGuire!

I even made a Top 10 of the year list:
Bluecrowne by Kate Milford
Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal (novella)
Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker (short stories)
Six Months, Three Days, Five Others by Charlie Jane Anders (short stories)
Crosstalk by Connie Willis
Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers (novella)
How Long 'Til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin (short stories)
Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott

And a runners-up list:
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
The True Queen by Zen Cho
Witchmark by C.L. Polk
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Recursion by Blake Crouch
The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia

And an honorable mention:
Wanderers by Chuck Wendig ... for being the book to traumatize me the the most! I am terrified that any single thing that happened in that book could really be in America's future.

My goal for the first couple of months of this year is to read almost exclusively from my shelves (after two audiobooks that I have checked out -- The Starless Sea and Bring Down the Hawk). These beauties I got for Christmas will help keep me busy!

And finally, I have to decide what to do with the blog. At the least, I think it is time to rebrand it. When I started writing here, I was reading with my little guy, featuring picture books and chapter books along with my own reads. But Z and I haven't read together in years and so the "we" is now just "me". I also have a goal of less screen time this year so I'm not sure how blogging would fit in with that. I have started using Litsy again (kristenm) but I'm not sure if that will stick. I tend to forget it after a couple of posts and I just don't feel like it's a replacement for blogging. And finally, there's MarchMagics/DWJMarch, which I don't want to let go but also am not sure I have the time/energy to run.

So there it is -- where 2019 went and where 2020 is headed. Happy New Year, friends! I wish you each happiness and many unexpectedly good story adventures.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Reappearing for #RIPXIV

I was about to say "I can't believe it has been five months since I last posted" but I can totally believe it. I'm starting to feel like this particular blog has run its course after 11 years, that it needs to either change format into something more fun for me or close for good. I spent the summer posting all of my summer reads on Instagram and that was okay for a while but I even got bored there and let the final couple of weeks drop. The state of the world, extended family issues, mid-life crisis ... it has all come together to form the perfect storm of me not knowing what I want, feeling paralyzed by uncertainty, and choosing to do nothing for a bit and waiting to see what is ahead.

BUT! It is almost September and that's R(eaders) I(mbibing) P(eril) time and I have to at least share my bookshelf here, right?! If anything is going to bring me back to blogging, it's the RIP challenge, now in its 14th year.

This challenge is, of course, a simple one where you can read anywhere from 1-100 books or short stories (or watch movies) that fall into the "perilous" category, be they mysteries, horrors, creepies, or atmospherics.

This is what my shelf looks like at the moment, packed solid and full of what I think I will be in the mood to read. I, naturally, have other books below that can move up if the mood strikes. Here are a couple of close-ups.

I'm really looking forward to The Inheritor's Powder (non-fic about arsenic!), the final Jackaby novel (after a reread of book three), Jo Walton's Small Change trilogy (I need to hate on some Nazis right about now), and Hollow Kingdom (crows and Seattle).

These are mostly mysteries and I have plenty more where they came from (the stack on the floor next to the bookshelf). I'm really looking forward to Stiletto, the second book in The Rook series. I tried about ten minutes of the tv show but it pissed me off so badly with the changes in character and tone and even purpose that I swore it off forever. The Daphne du Maurier shorts are going to be fun too!

I have audiobooks on hold at the library that are unexpectedly spread perfectly over the next two or so months -- The Ocean at the End of the Lane (~3 weeks), The Graveyard Book (~4 weeks), The Sentence is Death (~5 weeks), Coraline (~7 weeks), The Night Circus (~8 weeks), and Wanderers (~9 weeks). Obviously the Gaimans and the Circus are rereads, there for comfort and sheer happiness. And my library hold list has some peril on it too ... like The Darwin Affair, Sword and Pen (the new Great Library book!), and maybe Recursion (I'm #117 on the hold list).

I'll definitely be posting on Instagram/Twitter and we'll see if the season and books I love inspires me to resurrect the blog as well.

What will you be reading this season?

Monday, April 1, 2019

Farewell, #MarchMagics / #DWJMarch 2019

It is sadly time to wrap up this month of celebrating two of the best genre writers ever to have lived. I want to thank all of you who participated and shared the Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett love, of which there is still an overwhelming amount. Thank you especially to Stephanie, Virginia, and Deborah for your Instagram posts! And also thank you to Chris, Jean, and Kim for your thoughtful blog posts!

As for me, I finished the ten books I set out to read. I absolutely loved revisiting all five Tiffany Aching books. I read the first two and listened to the remaining three, usually binge listening over the course of a day. I sorely wish that we had been able to have one more book with Tiffany as an adult, perhaps at the time that she discovered the witch that she would pass on the leadership mantle to.

I also revisited five Diana Wynne Jones books, including two of my absolute favorites -- Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin. I love the richness of the worlds, the non-stop activity, and, yes, the griffins. I am not so sure though about children with wings so I am glad we didn't have to see them very often. ::wink::

Well, it is now Z's spring break week and we have no plans. So I am going to settle in with some good books and hopefully spend a little time in the sun as well. This coming Saturday is Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon so if you haven't signed up yet and want to participate, head over to their site. I'll be posting during the event on Twitter and Instagram. And on Sunday, Z and I are going to see Howl's Moving Castle in the theater for, I think, our second time together. Maybe this time after we see it, I'll be able to convince him to try the book!

Once again, thank you to everyone who participated in March Magics / DWJ March - even those who did it quietly. It means the world to me that you come back year after year.

With friends,

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Howl's Moving Castle Group Read for #DWJMarch / #MarchMagics

I hope a few of you were able to read / reread HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE this week. There's always something new to discover in this tale of magic, misdirection, and secrets! It was published in 1986 and definitely has some 80s-ness to it (mostly the text-based computer games) but it is also timeless in its themes of lust, heartbreak, family, and loyalty.

As I was reading, I kept trying to think of a discussion topic for this post but it turned out to be quite hard! Sometimes I got distracted by considering how a horse-disguise cloak would actually work and forgot what brilliant idea I had. Other times, I just felt a topic was too drab for such a vivid story.

What I eventually found my mind returning to was the fact that Diana includes so many *different* types and methods of magic in this story.

First, there is the fire-demon-assisted magic of Howl and The Witch of the Waste. They both seem to have endless powers, with the only limitation being energy. They can transform themselves and other objects, create elaborate illusions, connect different worlds, and execute curses. Most of this seems to be able do be done on a whim, with only a small amount needing actual words or rituals.

Second, there is the "grade-school" magic of Michael. He can follow directions to create simple potions and powders that help with everyday problems. Some of them might even be so simple as to be considered placebos. He never does anything on his own though so this implies that there is no "power" required for this magic.

Third, there is the honey magic of Mrs. Fairfax (and Lettie/Martha). Her specialties seem to be gentle transformations and simple manipulations of nature. Again, this seems to be follow-the-directions magic.

Fourth, there is the verbal magic of Sophie which is obviously a talent as she didn't even know she was doing it at first. She can talk life into inanimate objects, transform matter, control minds and actions, and clean houses. Okay, so that last one is just a series of mundane chores -- but if I could make it happen in my house it would be magic!

I'm not quite sure where Mrs. Pentstemmon's magic would fall in this. She has the ability to detect spells and talent and she is said to be a great teacher but we never get a look at her practical methods. She has no demon so it could be that hers is just an advanced version of Michael's magic. But I have a feeling that she's also able to do things at will, just perhaps less spectacular things than those done  with demon-assistance. I am assuming that Wizard Suliman would be in this same category.

And then there is the question of whether Martha practices another sort of magic. She says it is just that people like her because she likes them but it definitely feels like at least a bit of enchantment with how manic everyone in the bakery is about her. It could be a minor form of Sophie's belief-driven magic.

The point of all this being ... many authors create a single system of magic where various characters are just more or less advanced and/or talented at operating within the system. But, in this book at least, DWJ seems to have created new magics every time she needed them. She has at least four different ways of using magic and nothing seems to be out of bounds for what magic can do. This makes the world of HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE both fascinating and a bit frightening!

So, tell me ... what did you think about while reading HMC this time through? Is this one of your favorite DWJs? Have you read the sequels?

Telling this post to write itself didn't work,

Postscript: Let us keep Diana in our hearts and minds on Tuesday, 26 March, as the 8th anniversary of her passing arrives. What a treasure we lost on that day.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Wee Free Men Group Read for #MarchMagics

Welcome to our first MarchMagics group read -- THE WEE FREE MEN! Crivens! Though this is the 30th Discworld novel our beloved Sir Terry wrote, it is the first in the Tiffany Aching series and is a fresh take on that also-beloved world. It is billed as a YA series but I feel it is very different in tone to his children's books and fits more with his adult work. It is a story of danger and bravery, complex relationships and motives, and, yes, very ridiculous humor.

Since the plot of this first book is pretty straightforward (fairy queen steals child, protagonist comes to the rescue), how about we talk about the stellar characters today?

One thing that stands out immediately is the fact that Tiffany is only nine years old, doesn't know about her powers, and yet is already super amazing. She's a productive member of the Aching family, making the butter and cheese. She's a babysitter who takes her annoying little brother Wentworth on walks and even sometimes giving him sweeties. She's educated -- at least a basket of produce and a dozen eggs worth! And she's even a matriarch ... well, for a couple of days at least. She's a great protagonist because she's interesting from the start but, because she's so young, has SO much room to grow.

Then there are the titular Wee Free Men. They are thieves and fighters but also have the biggest hearts inside their tiny bodies. And how about that Scots dialect that the Nac Mac Feegles use? I kind of love when a book makes me read out loud inside my head to understand it. And, as Jean just found out, it also makes the audiobook version, read by the inimitable Stephen Briggs, AMAZING.

And, finally, there is the larger-than-life character who isn't even there anymore -- Granny Aching. Her influence on Tiffany, the entirety of the Chalk, and the supernatural world beyond is incalculable. I think the fact that Tiffany didn't even realize she was a witch proved she was one of the strongest ones possible. And yet she did it all as a "simple" solitary shepherdess, whose smoking habit seems a bit gross and whose belief in the medicinal uses of turpentine is horrifying.

So, if you read or reread along this month or even have read it in the past, what are your thoughts on the characters of THE WEE FREE MEN? Share them or any links to your own posts below!

Listening to the toad,

Postscript: Remember to observe a moment of silence on Tuesday (12 March), as we again mourn the far-too-early departure of Sir Terence David John Pratchett OBE.