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!

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Time for #MarchMagics

I don't know where February went but here we are -- March! It's time again to celebrate the lives of two incredibly imaginative and prolific fantasy/sci-fi authors, Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett. Here are some key dates:

6/7 March - EARWIG AND THE WITCH watch and discuss

11 March - Discussion post for Nation (TP) read-along

25 March - Discussion post for Power of Three (DWJ) read-along

I don't have the energy to coordinate an actual watch-along of Earwig but I'll post about it on the 6th and then we can discuss here on the blog or on Twitter or Instagram. It will be the first book I read this month as well. Speaking of ... here's my stack for the month in the order I think I'll read them:

Earwig and the Witch


Guards! Guards!

Men at Arms

A Tale of Time City
(When I get close to this one I'm gonna start bugging you, Jenny. Be ready to reread with me!)

Feet of Clay

Power of Three

The DWJs are all rereads and only two of the Pratchetts are new-to-me so I'm doing a lot more comfort reading than anything else. If I can find the time, I'll pick up another DWJ or two (because how can I have a year with no Chrestomanci?!).

Link any posts you have this month here and be sure and use the MarchMagics hashtag on social media. And, most importantly, have fun!

Monday, February 8, 2021

Announcing #MarchMagics 2021: All Together Now

Thank you so much for responding to my last post and sharing what is important to you about March Magics. After a couple of comments came in, my brain miraculously kickstarted and within an hour or so I had a theme and graphic and some ideas for events during the month!

I hope many of you will join me this March for a celebration of the wit and wisdom of Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett, may both of their names be spoken forever. I have chosen the theme "All Together Now" for a few reasons. First is that we all professed our fondness for coming together during the month and to having and making friends with a shared love of one or both of these authors. Many (most? all?) of us are obviously feeling lonely and isolated after this long ordeal and some of us need to be reminded that we can still come together past physical boundaries. Second, both of these authors do marvelous things with ensemble casts, whether it's the Chrestomanci clan at the castle or the Nac Mac Feegles under the chalk. Celebrating teamwork and shared responsibility in literature may even inspire us in our real lives. Finally, I have been seeking out music recently that brings me joy and The Beatles' All Together Now never fails to get me smiling and it immediately popped into my head when I was thinking about togetherness and the joy of this event so here we are!

So what should you read? It's entirely up to you. This theme is meant to be very loose and can be applied to the actual plots of the books or just the experience of reading these authors while others are doing the same. I will definitely be rereading Earwig and the Witch and Guards! Guards! and will finally continue with the Watch series. Past that, I'm going to let my whims guide me. Per Stephanie's (bahnree) great suggestion, I created a bingo card for the month. I will post it in my Instagram stories on March 1 for those of you who want to copy or reshare it there but here it is if you want to blog it and/or use it to spark some ideas about what to read --

As for readalongs, Jean suggested The Power of Three (DWJ) and I am dying to reread Nation (TP - and not a Discworld book, in case those aren't your thing) so I will have posts up on 11 March (Nation) and 25 March (Power of Three) where we can discuss. Feel free to participate even if you don't get a chance to freshly reread. I'll come up with some questions/thoughts to relate the books to our theme.

And if anyone does happen to have a way to watch the new Studio Ghibli Earwig and the Witch movie (HBOMax or in theaters), let me know and I'll time my viewing similarly and chat with you somewhere!

Finally, I am considering small sessions of reading aloud on Instagram Live throughout the month. This is still up in the air as I have to gather A LOT of courage and find a place where I won't bother my family in their work/school/etc. If I end up doing this, I will make heads-up announcements on Twitter and Instagram.

I want to open this up to all of you as well. If you want to host another readalong of your own, do some live readings or meet-ups, or anything else you can think of, please do! Just share with me what you are planning and I will spread the word and probably participate as well because what else do I have to do?!

Share your thoughts about this year's March Magics below!

(One last thing -- remember to use the #MarchMagics hashtag on social media so we can find each other's posts.)

Monday, February 1, 2021

#MarchMagics 2021 - Help!

I have been thinking about March Magics for the past month and just can't seem to settle on a theme or plan. Therefore, I am turning to you, my lovely readers with a couple of questions:

1. What are you hoping to get out of March Magics this year? Is community interaction important or do you just need a flimsy excuse to get to old and new Pratchett and DWJ favorites?

2. Do you have the will/time for read-alongs this year? What about a watch-along of Earwig and the Witch? Does anyone else even have HBOMax?

3. Do we need a theme/graphic or is the hashtag enough to bring us together?

Please let me know your thoughts in a comment or find me on Twitter or Instagram if you want to chat!

Saturday, January 23, 2021

2021's Big Reading Plans

I started this year's reading by finishing The Pickwick Papers as my book for Monika's Chunkster Readathon. It felt so satisfying to be immersed in a sizeable book (719 pages) for almost a week that it has led to my choosing mostly bigger books since. I listened to A Promised Land, the first Barack Obama memoir which is 768 pages and about 30 hours of audiobook. (It was fantastic and I can definitely recommend listening to him reading it.) I got through 300 of the 800 pages of Death and Mr. Pickwick before I decided I just wasn't enjoying it enough to continue. And I'm now reading Lost Acre, the third book in Andrew Caldecott's Rotherweird trilogy, which is 473 pages long. This doesn't mean that I won't be reading many shorter books this year, just that I am going to deliberately start choosing some of the longer reads from my shelves and giving myself permission to spend a week on a book sometimes. This probably means more Dickens, Murakami, and maybe, finally, Trollope! I did read one novella that I had from the library (Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings) and I found myself wishing it had been longer and more fleshed out. I'm sure that all of this has something to do with regaining my concentration, my thought cycles, and my sanity.

What types of books are you reading in 2021?