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#MarchMagics Wrapup 2021

Just a quick wrapup post, revisiting the Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett adventures I got up to this last month for March Magics! (Hosted by WeBeReading)

READ AND WATCHED

  • A re-watch of Howl’s Moving Castle (because why not!) — The book is still my favorite, but the film is so cozy and fun and I love it too. It makes me smile, and this time was no exception. It’s also interesting watching it again now that I’ve been watching some other Ghibli films, which was not the case last year!
  • Witch’s Business (a.k.a. Wilkin’s Tooth) by Diana Wynne Jones — I guess this was her earliest children’s book? It kind of shows and was a little different but I enjoyed it, particularly the shenanigans about halfway through when I started getting used to the adventure (as usually happens. XD), and the nods to Puss in Boots which must have been a favorite of hers, since she once wrote a retelling of it and also referenced it for the finale. *grin, grin* Don’t start a revenge business — it won’t go well. XD (Particularly when there’s a mean witch trying to stop you.) Anyway, it has the signature DWJ twistiness and shenanigans and was a bit of a shorter read but I enjoyed it. Reminded me a little of Eight Days of Luke.
  • The Time of the Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones — This was my last DWJ to read that I’d never read before, so it was a bittersweet moment… Some of it was creepier than I prefer, and knowing some things about her childhood made other parts rather disturbing (as I suspected they would) but the mystery was sooo interesting and I was on the edge of my seat wanting to find out what was going on. There were so many fascinating twists, which I adored discovering. The title, like I vaguely suspected, is slightly misleading. Bwahaha. And I was delighted by certain time-related things! Anyway, certainly darker than many of her books, and I can’t say I particularly recommend it (unless, like me, you’ve read pretty much all her books and are used to the strangeness and want to give it a shot), but I’m glad I finally read it. (PLUS, what was with that barrow bit near the end, which I vaguely feel was a Hexwood or Arthurian reference or something??) Some things reminded me of Fire and Hemlock, too.
  • Men At Arms by Terry Pratchett — Since Guards! Guards! was my very first Discworld novel, it was delightful to come back to this Night Watch subseries. I usually find that in Pratchetts there’s a subplot or character that I just don’t care much about, and this was no exception (plus, there was a death I didn’t see coming and like…I was a little annoyed), BUT aside from a couple of things I disliked and threads I didn’t care about, I did really enjoy this one! Vimes is amazing and Carrot and Vetinari are certainly iiinteresting and there were some fascinating goings-on! There were clever bits and hilarious bits and surprisingly epic bits, and I for some reason wasn’t expecting much so overall I had a blast. Not one to start on, but anyway. I think I missed the Night Watch! Here’s hoping I continue the series. (VIMES, though! All of the Vimes parts were gold.)

I’d say these were two of my less-favorite Diana Wynne Jones books, but I expected that as I’ve been reading the ones that interested me more, so naturally the last two I picked up would be less-favorites. But I always find things to like in a DWJ, even the scarier ones. XD

I’ve finally finished reading all her books, so I feel somewhat accomplished! (Her adult novel Changeover is practically impossible to find, and I may have missed a scattering of little things like short stories. But otherwise, I’ve read all her books now at last.)

And March is always my Pratchett month, and I was happy to get back to the Night Watch, even if it wasn’t my favorite aside from Vimes and Certain Epic Things.

And I’ll take any excuse to re-watch Howl’s Moving Castle — or to re-read the book (though I’m saving that for sometime when I need a comfort read, since I do tend to read it every year).

But look at me, complaining! *smacks self* These were all minor complaints and I did really enjoy getting the chance to read some Jones and Pratchett and overall had a blast! So yes, it was a good March Magics, overall, I’d say!

BLOG POSTS

Other March Magics posts I made this month:

INSTAGRAM

I also posted a shelfie pic of my DWJ collection over on Instagram. My current collection!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I did not find the time, in my busy March, to re-read the Magid duology (Deep Secret and The Merlin Conspiracy), which I’m sliiightly disappointed about.

Nor did I find time to finish reading Wintersmith, which I did, however, manage to at least start.

All the same, it was a lovely March Magics! I enjoyed the adventures I was able to go on. ^_^

Did you read any Diana Wynne Jones or Terry Pratchett in March? Let me know in a comment! Thanks for reading!

Top 14 (ish) Reads of 2020

In which Deborah over-uses the word “delightful” approximately 987348749 times. February’s not too late to have a 2020 bookish wrapup, right? *cough*

Of course I have to share my favorite reads of last year (in several categories . . . so, yes, there’s more than 14!), so let’s get to it!

According to my Goodreads, I read 100 books! (A few more on my personal list, but hey, unpublished etc. things don’t quite count. :P) Yes, many of them were shorter, but anyhoo.

Here are some stats:

  • 32 new-to-me novels
  • 21 novellas/quick reads
  • 12 re-reads
  • 10 short stories
  • 7 picture books
  • 6 non-fiction
  • 5 anthologies
  • 4 graphic novels/comics
  • 3 audiobooks
  • Total: 100 books

And here are the reviews I posted here last year:

TOP NEW READS OF 2020

  • Dana Illwind and Growing Shadows (Arthur Daigle) — Well, that made it to my top-five-favorite books of all time! Jayden and Dana are some of my favorite characters EVER and I’ve talked about short stories of theirs on the blog here before, but they are finally released in a novel form and I’ve now read it four times and just never get tired of it! I’m hoping to review it this week. I just can’t put into words how much I love it! Jayden’s one of my favorite characters ever (an elegant enchanter with anger management issues but a burning heart for justice) and Dana is just as marvelous (this sturdy girl is #goals) and they make an EPIC duo. The book is just SO FUNNY but also epic and the humor and world and snark all blend together to form one of my favorite books ever. Perfect for fans of Diana Wynne Jones, Discworld, or Magic Kingdom for Sale/Sold.
  • Winter Spell (Claire M. Banschbach) — This wintry tale is perfection and has some of my favorite characters, pair-ups, and world-building ever! Plus we have ice and water magic, different faeries, a dash of romance, an epic buddy story on the side, and Northern Lights. What is not to love? Tonya, Princess Diane, August, and of course Dorian all wrapped themselves around my heart and won’t let go. I love it so, so much!
  • In the Region of the Summer Stars (Stephen R. Lawhead) — This Celtic fantasy felt like coming home and swept me into a world of ancient Ireland that I’d been longing for without remembering that I was. It’s a marvelous adventure with warriors, horses, boats, druids, fae, and our hero Conor, all in the stunning hills and coasts of Eirlandia. It’s fantastic and I really need to finish reading the series — hopefully soon!
  • Between Floors (W.R. Gingell)note: this is book 3; starts with Between Jobs — I’ve been quite enjoying the City Between series, urban fantasy set in modern Tasmania with fae etc., and this was my favorite yet, because Athelas is my faaave! (And Zero. And just all of it.) I love the humor and the snark! Pet and her Psychos are just such fun. I’m reading them aloud with my siblings and the voices are a blast to do. *grinning*
  • Fierce Heart/War Bound/Death Wind/Elf Prince (Tara Grayce) — I’m just lumping them all together because I feel like it’s one story, Farrendel and Essie’s story, and I love iiit. (I think my favorite is War Bound, but they all go together. ;)) Farrendel is the bessst cinnamon roll elf, and I love Essie and her brothers (Edmund, though!) and all the humor and sweet romance and banter and epicness. They’re just a lot of fun (and feels)!
  • The New Emperor’s Concerto (Hazel B. West) — A fabulous swashbuckling buddy story set in futuristic London, this felt like a fun action movie and was equal parts humorous and epicly exciting. Lysander and Flynn forever! And everyone needs a Sinclair (the butler). It was so wonderfully BRITISH and I adored it. Also, all the Pratchett references.
  • Cry of the Raven (Morgan L. Busse)note: book 3; starts with Mark of the Raven — An amazing conclusion to a trilogy with books that have been on my top-favorites list each year — there’s a reason I cosplayed as Selene. πŸ˜‰ Just a really wonderful fantasy trilogy, and Selene and Damien and wyverns and the gifts/elements and THAT SCENE NEAR THE END WITH THE FLOWER, AAHH! MY HEART. I just loved how it wrapped up!
  • continued —
Between Jobs is standing in for Between Floors since I sadly don’t have a paperback of that one (yet!)
  • An Echo of the Fae (Jenelle Leanne Schmidt) — This selkie/fae, winter/summer novel is like a perfect summer day. I loved it so much! A fae summer adventure with a dash of Rapunzel, some selkie mysteries, a determined heroine in our young Echo, delightful side characters and creatures — including mini dragons! — it’s just a delight all-around and it makes me smile.
  • The Changeling Sea (Patricia A. McKillip) — I can’t even describe this book! *shrieks* It was a totally unexpected amazing book, which I picked up on a whim, and it was absolutely delightful and like an original fairy tale, all enchantments and mysterious princes and magic and the sea and a magician and a girl and a little village. Descriptions fail me but it was a lovely little book!
  • The Geppetto Codex (Kyle Robert Shultz)note: book 5; starts with The Beast of Talesend — Gareth the mild-mannered, nervous faun, and Sylvia, the hotheaded dryad, pair up to go up against terrifying puppets in 1920s fantasy Venice — and yes, it’s just as fun and wacky and thrilling and hilarious as that sounds. *grin, grin* If you haven’t tried out this Afterverse adventure yet, you’re missing out. Also, amazing prologue and epilogues which have bits of our favorites, Nick and Cordelia! *flailing*
  • Midnight for a Curse (E.J. Kitchens) — A truly delightful Beauty and the Beast novel, with humor and feels and gorgeousness, mysteries and fun characters, and a wonderful dream-aspect that I super enjoyed! Also, what would happen if the Beat didn’t actually want to be un-cursed? Bwahaha. This one was so much fun and made me happy.
  • Emberhawk (Jamie Foley) — I adored her Sentinel trilogy so I was super curious about this set in the same world at a previous time. It was fun! I loved seeing more of Felix (sly snarky fox!) and Ryon’s story and all the other characters, and the woods and adventures and the treetop city! Also, Lysander forever! (Yes, there’s a Lysander in two of my favorite books this year. It must be a Lysander year.)
  • Thief of Time (Terry Pratchett) — Probably my favorite Pratchett since Mort, Guards Guards, and The Wee Free Men. This was a fabulous conclusion to the Death series and I so enjoyed all the timey-wimey things in it and Susan and just most of it in general.
  • The Islands of Chaldea (Diana Wynne Jones) — I’ve been curious to read this one for a long time, as it’s one Diana Wynne Jones’s sister completed. I quite enjoyed it! It had a Celtic feel and a hot air balloon and yeah, fun as always! I’m nearly out of new-to-me DWJ reads, so it was a delight to read this one last March Magics. (I’ll have to do something for that this year too if I can find time.)

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Here are two books that I simply HAVE to mention, because despite not making it onto my personal top favorites, simply for personal preference reasons, they still absolutely BLEW ME AWAY and everyone must know about them. *grinning*

  • Beyond the Shadowed Earth (Joanna Ruth Meyer) — Y’all, I adore this author’s books, and I was SO impressed with this story! STUNNING and amazingly well done! A bit dark for my personal taste but I was super impressed with the character arc and loved a lot of what I got out of it. And the Silmarillion vibes near the end were a delight. Yeah, it was wow.
  • Ahab (E.B. Dawson) — Aside from a bittersweet/borderline-tragic ending which (personally) I couldn’t handle, this book is definitely one of my favorites of the year! Everything except the last couple of chapters, basically, were ABSOLUTE PERFECTION so of course I have to shout it out! Ahab and Starbuck are LIFE and this Moby Dick retelling set in space is just gorgeous and brilliant and the best aside from some sadness. XD If you can handle some sad, READ IT. IT’S SO GOOD.

BEST QUICK READS/NOVELLAS

Sometimes shorter reads and novellas don’t make it to best-of lists because they’re a little too short to pack quite the punch, which is somewhat unfair and I feel like they deserve their own category since they seem like a different category than novels… So I’m shouting out my favorite novellas/shorter books, because I read quite a few and these were the most amazing! (Not to mention fabulous if you only have a brief amount of time to consume a story.)

  • All That Glimmers (Selina J. Eckert) — An incredible modern fantasy Rumpelstiltskin story. This is one of many seasonal fairy tale retelling novellas by this author, all of which stand alone. The “Rumpelstiltskin” character in this is a mysterious fae (I love him!), and the heroine and her best friend (who has antlers!) are college students who get swept into the fae world and must heal from loss and discover fae secrets. It was just lovely. ^_^
  • Hand of Steel & The Deathhorn (Jessi L. Roberts) — These are space opera sci-fi adventures with worldbuilding/creatures I absolutely adore. I don’t read much sci-fi but this series is just the sort that I love when I do read it! Hand of Steel is about a bounty hunter (Krys) and how she comes up against space pirates including the awesome feline-like Klate (he’s my fave!). The Deathhorn tells Klate’s backstory and I love it so much. Just such a cool series!
  • Fire and Wind (Daley Downing) — Fire and Wind follows a unique character (DG — loved her!) and spans centuries, continents, and multiple fantasy creatures and it’s just a delight. It’s a spinoff from this author’s wonderful suburban fantasy series which includes Masters and Beginners, Rulers and Mages, and Healers and Warriors. I particularly love how this includes creatures and places and times from all over, from kitsunes to Anastasia/Rasputin to phoenixes to Easter Island to modern-day London or Arizona. I just love it!
  • All the Queen’s Sons (Elizabeth Kipps) — A reverse Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling, this follows a shoemaker’s daughter who is trying to discover why the queen’s six sons wear out the shoes her father makes for them. It was so much fun and a marvelous new twist on my favorite fairy tale!
  • The Midnight Show (Sarah Pennington) — Another Twelve Dancing Princesses story, I loved how this was a 1920s-esque fantasy world and how the fairy tale retelling aspect blended seamlessly with being a detective story! Bastian is a great detective hero and the voice was fun and the worldbuilding was delightful. It was delicious!

BEST SHORT STORIES

  • Dawnsong (Bryn Riplinger Shutt) — THIS STORY. *clutches heart* Lyrical writing, amazing characters, funny moments, relatable struggles, a vivid setting I just want to melt into, and a story that touched my heart in all the best ways. And all in a novelette of just 15,000 words! Definitely one of my favorite short reads of the year. (Also, I adore Des, Lilias, and Artair so, so much!)
  • Shadow Light (Sarah Delena White) — This story reminded me of The Silmarillion, George MacDonald’s Day Boy and Night Girl, and a short story by Lloyd Alexander (as well as Windswept, another story by Sarah Delena White, and one of my own unpublished short stories), all in the BEST way. Like pure myth/original-fairytale. I loved it a lot!

BEST NON-FICTION

I don’t have a lot to say about these two other than that I quite enjoyed both and recommend them for creative types. ^_^

  • Adorning the Dark (Andrew Peterson)
  • Walking on Water (Madeleine L’Engle)

BEST ANTHOLOGY

  • A Very Bookish Thanksgiving (Note: This was a limited-edition anthology, but I think the novellas may be published individually later, or the anthology miiight reappear for a bit for a limited time?) — I couldn’t not give a shout-out to this lovely collection of Thanksgiving novellas inspired by works of classic fiction. A Promise of Acorns (by Kelsey Bryant; Jane-Eyre inspired) and As Long as I Belong (by Sarah Holman; Mansfield-Park inspired) were absolutely amazing stories that blew me away. I adore them. I also loved The Windles and the Lost Boy (by Rebekah Jones; Peter-Pan inspired) and the Great-Expectations inspired Grand Intentions by J. Grace Pennington about a writer! (A Fine Day Tomorrow, by Amanda Tero, inspired by Little Women, was too sad/stressful for me, but I expected that. XD So it wasn’t to my taste but those who enjoy Little Women will very likely like it — just my personal taste.) Just such a good collection. ^_^ I loved the classic-inspired aspects to them, and the Thanksgiving theme, and they were just so delightful!

BEST PICTURE BOOKS

  • The Four Donkeys (Lloyd Alexander) — The Four Donkeys was a delightful folk-tale-esque picture book by Lloyd Alexander. One of the last of his children’s books I hadn’t read yet, I got it for my birthday last year and found it full of his winsome wisdom and wry humor and delight that I always love.
  • Marigold and the Snoring King (J.D. Rempel) — I won a copy of Marigold and the Snoring King and it was so fun, original, and adorable! Next time you’re looking for an indie picture book, I recommend this one! It was fun and classic but fresh all at once. Charming. Made me smile!

There we are! I hope you enjoyed this look at my favorite books of the year, and if you stuck with the post this whole time, you deserve a virtual cupcake. *awards it to you*

Thanks for reading! Have you read any of these or are any going on your TBR? What’s your favorite book you read last year?

My Diana Wynne Jones Journey (Part 2)

My Diana Wynne Jones collection so far! (Not counting a few extra copies. ;))

Way back in 2016, I posted “My Diana Wynne Jones Journey (So Far)” during a previous March Magics, and I had a ton of fun listing each book by DWJ which I’d read and some thoughts about them. (It also amuses me how some of my thoughts/favorites have changed since then. XD)

I’d say a Part 2 of such a post is long overdue (I have sixteen books to talk about!), so here we are!

Here are the DWJ books I’ve read since that post. Those first few years definitely had most of my favorites, but I’ve read some more gems since. ^_^

(Also, last time, I mentioned rereads as well, but I’ve done a fair amount of rereading DWJ these last couple of years and I’m mostly only listing the ones that are new reads this time.)

All titles link to Goodreads, in case you want to read more about them.

2016 (continued)

The Merlin Conspiracy

May 16, 2016

My original review consisted of this: “YES TO THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!! ❀ I need an elephant. AN ELEPHANT. Also Romanov. Yesssss. ACK DIANA WYNNE JONES BOOKS ARE LIFE I TELL YOU. (I may coherent a review someday.) ROMANOV.” So I must have liked it quite a lot, even if it’s a bit hazy in my memory due to how long it’s been since I read it. XD Definitely due for a reread! But it’s about Nick, who’s in Deep Secret, so that was fun. (Did you know he was slightly based on a teenaged Neil Gaiman? πŸ˜€ His not-coherent-until-breakfast-and-coffee parts, at least. XD) Also, I was reading it when I had a flu, which was appropriate, since one of the characters did too. XD

The Ogre Downstairs

August 6, 2016

This one was different but interesting, and a little more like a normal modern fantasy than I was used to reading by her. Many shenanigans and unreliable narration. XD But my favorite part was when two of the characters accidentally switched appearances and stuff ensued. XD A shorter read and kind of strange but fun!

Eight Days of Luke

December 28, 2016

Who likes Norse Myths? This fun little book by Diana Wynne Jones features some of that in some most unexpected ways! She was writing about Loki (and Thor etc.) in modern times back in 1975, before the Marvel movies were making this cool more recently. XD It’s been awhile since I read this one and I need to read it again, but I remember it being unique and really enjoying it. πŸ˜€ I liked David, and Loki is very much of a trickster! The mythology elements and characters are woven in so well, in surprising ways (DWJ is excellent at this), and there is much fire. XD Luke was just so much fun. XD

2017

Wild Robert

March 1, 2017

I wrote a review for this one awhile back but it was so much fun! It reminded me partially of The Boggart, and a little bit of Howl for some reason, and it was surprisingly short and I didn’t want it to end — it just stopped and I wanted more! Ack! But it was very cool and had so many shenanigans I loved the twists so much!

Aunt Maria

March 1, 2017

I reviewed this too, and it was really different. It built up and had some cool twists, and some of it was creepy, but it also had fun parts. And so many magical happenings and interesting characters! It’s told in first-person by Mig and it was sooo intriguing to read it as a journal of sorts. It also has one of my favorite quotes about happy endings. I love it so much and I had to make a quote graphic for it awhile back, which I’ve shared before but I have an excuse to share again. πŸ˜€

Hexwood

April 6, 2017

Another top-favorite one! And definitely requires more than one read-through. XD I re-read it for March Magics last year and it was even better the second time. It’s just a mind-blowing book, with soooo many different genres and complex twists all thrown together. I love it so much! And Mordion is my absolute favorite! Some of it’s a bit darker, and it’s terribly confusing at times until you piece together what’s happening (I kept a diagram of who was who while I read it!) but it’s just so unique and delightful. πŸ˜€ It also has out of order timey-wimey stuff, modern/sci-fi/fantasy, Arthurian elements, robots, dragons… ALL THE THINGS. Check out my review if you like. ^_^

Another of my favorite quotes. ❀

Puss in Boots

May 14, 2017

This is a rather short kid’s-book about Puss in Boots, which was fairly straightforward but a fun read. πŸ™‚ I now consider it the ultimate version of this fairy tale. XD DWJ did a good job of making it make more sense and of course her cat character was fabulous. It was fun and had a few illustrations too. Not 100% necessary to read this one but I did really enjoy it. πŸ™‚

Dogsbody

June 3, 2017

This one was sooo unique and I loved it being from the POV of a dog! And in Ireland. The mystery was really interesting. Also, the Wild Hunt! And sentient planets. *grinning* Yep, it has all sorts of things. XD Again, a bittersweet ending meant it wasn’t my faaaavorite, but there was a lot to love. But seriously, dog point of view! XD So much fun!

2018

The Game

March 6, 2018

The whole idea and the mythosphere and all the story bits were brilliant. I wish it had been longer than a novella because it was so fascinating. LOVED this one. I want to re-read it. I particularly love all the myth bits and the characters and all of it.

Yes Dear

March 18, 2018

This was a picture book! Which… again, I don’t remember that well, but I do remember reading it, on a special library trip to a library I hadn’t been to before, specifically because I knew this book was there and it was my birthday month and I wanted to read it. XD I know it was fun (people, pay attention if a child tells you something magical is happening. :P) and I was glad I read it!

The Homeward Bounders

March 12, 2018

EXTREMELY vivid and I loved parts of it, particularly the worldhopping stuff and a certain cool character! Actually, more than one… Just… bittersweet ending, and creepy parts, and I’m stark terrified of anchors now. O_O But a great narrator and WORLD HOPPINGGGG! Kinda mixed on it but there were definitely great things about it. Fascinating and intense and really interesting!

A Sudden Wild Magic

March 31, 2018

I enjoyed this one but I consider it one of her darker, stranger books. XD This one was written for adults so there was more content in this and just more disturbing, so… I figure you can give this one a miss unless you’re being thorough like I am and trying to read all her books. XD Feels a bit more scifi than some. I did enjoy parts of it though! I mostly remember the part with the guy who loved his car. XD And I think there were centaurs!

Dalemark Quartet Re-Read

Okay, I said I wasn’t going to post about re-reads in here, but it’s worth noting my epic re-read of the entire Dalemark Quartet in the second half of 2018. I loved it so much, and there were even plot threads I’d forgotten, so some of it was like discovering it the first time! DWJ is the only author who can do that to me. XD (We won’t discuss how many times I forgot and rediscovered the villain of Conrad’s Fate. XD)

2019

A Tale of Time City

January 6, 2019

Who loves timey-wimey stories? Meeee! A few of Diana Wynne Jones’s books have time stuff in them, most notably this one. The idea of Time City, a city outside time, was really cool. I read this one early last year and had a blast! A bit of sci-fi and WWII era for those who like that. (Even if I don’t usually; but I didn’t mind. XD) If you like Doctor Who you might enjoy this! Elio is the best and I NEED A BUTTER PIE!!!

Earwig and the Witch

January 20, 2019

The illustrations were actually really distracting for me on this one and I feel like I would have liked it better if it hadn’t been illustrated? That’s… weird and probably just me. XD It mostly wasn’t a super favorite but I did enjoy some of it, of course. There’s always something fun about DWJ books! Also, the cat was great. XD

That’s all I got to last year of new ones. I did a lot of re-reading DWJ throughout the rest of 2019, though, and it was so fun!

2020 (so far)

Unexpected Magic

January 8, 2020

An anthology of sci-fi and fantasy short stories. I especially loved No One (genius robot plots. XD), Little Dot (wonderful story from a cat’s point of view), and Everard’s Ride (unique novella set in historical times with some interesting twists and not quite like anything I’d read! One of the author’s earlier works). Some stories were creepy or a bit too weird — short stories are always hit or miss for me, regardless of their author, but it was a quite interesting collection! So glad I finally read this one.

The Islands of Chaldea

March 12, 2020

The latest one, which I just read this month for the first time! It was so much fun! I loved Aileen and the sprawling cast of varied characters. I loved the different islands and getting to travel across them (rather like the British Isles but still with their own twists). I loved the creatures! What fun. And I love how it all wrapped up rather well —Β  I’m quite curious where Diana’s sister Ursula picked up the story’s threads, but they worked quite well! And the little romance threads were adorable, and the twists were delightful! (Also, how about that hot air balloon?? <3) So much fun! What a delightful final work from an incredible author.


And there’s my DWJ Journey, part 2! I’ve so loved getting to discover more of her works in the last few years.

I still have a small handful left to read. (The Time of the Ghost, Witch’s Business/Wilkin’s Tooth, Stopping for a Spell… I think that’s it? Not really counting Changover since it was before her main works and so hard to find. There might be a stray short story or few.) But I’ve read most of her books — 39? I think? — and a couple other short stories.

It’s been a beautiful journey (8 years so far, as March 14 this month, which marked the 8 year anniversary of the first time I read Howl’s Moving Castle!), and the best thing about it is that I get to wander back down this road and stop to enjoy the stories and places along the way all over again.

Hope you enjoyed and thanks for reading. ^_^

Book Ishness! (March 2020)

Just a very quick post today, featuring some GORGEOUS books that released this month, and an update on what I’m reading.

(I usually post these early in the month but life intervened. πŸ˜› And if you want to know what I’m reading, check out my March Magics post!)

MARCH RELEASES

*squeaking* LOOK HOW PRETTY! ❀ I can’t get over these stunning covers. They make me happy! (Titles link to Goodreads.)

  • Emberhawk – Jamie Foley — I ADORED this new fantasy adventure from one of my favorite authors! You can read my review here but it’s just delightful and features elemental magic and a snarky fox. πŸ˜€
  • On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness & North! Or Be Eaten – Andrew Peterson — These are the new editions, with new illustrations, in hardcover! I’m so excited! I loved On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness when I read it a year or two back, and I’ve been meaning to read North! Or Be Eaten (I love that title) ever since, so maybe this will push me to do that finally. πŸ˜‰ Also, I just read this author’s nonfiction Adorning the Dark and loved it.
  • The New Emperor’s Concerto – Hazel B. West — *incoherent squawking* I’m SO thrilled this book is releasing on Tuesday! It’s a delightfully British book full of snark and action and unlikely buddies and one of the most epic butlers ever. I adore it!
  • Dragons and Ravens – E. E. Rawls — I’m so excited about this novella featuring characters from Strayborn! It sounds so intriguing!
  • Ronnie Akkard and the Brotherhood of Blades – A. C. Williams — This sounds like a super fun superhero story! And I can tell the hero is snarky just from the blurb so I bet it’s a blast. XD

MY READING NEWS

February Reads

I shared about these on my other blog but I’ll repost here. πŸ˜›

Compared to January’s fifteen reads, I did not, seemingly, read as much. But some of these were a bit longer, and mostly delicious, so we’ll call it a win.

  • Cry of the Raven (Morgan L. Busse) // A new favorite! (My review.)
  • Lifelong Writing Habit (Chris Fox) // Some interesting tips.
  • Fairest Son (H.S.J. Williams) // Delightful novella! (My review.)
  • Green Dolphin Country (Elizabeth Goudge) // Absolutely fascinating!
  • This Year You Write Your Novel (Walter Mosley) // Eh. It was okay.
  • In the Region of the Summer Stars (Stephen R. Lawhead) // Aaahh! This was magnificent! Another favorite. I need the sequel ASAP. (My review.)

March So Far

So far this month, I enjoyed a couple of picture books (The Four Donkeys by Lloyd Alexander + Saint George and the Dragon by Geraldine McCaughrean), as well as a nonfiction (Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson) and an ARC (Emberhawk by Jamie Foley). I’ve gotten one Pratchett (Thief of Time) and one Diana Wynne Jones (The Islands of Chaldea) read so far for March Magics. I loved them! I’ve loved all the books I’ve read so far this month. ^_^ Maybe I’ll have some further thoughts later, but that’s what I’ve been reading. πŸ™‚

Currently Reading

  • I’m currently reading A Hat Full of Sky (Pratchett) and enjoying it. The Feegles! XD
  • I’m behind on my bookclub read (Lady of Kingdoms by Suzannah Rowntree) but it’s rich and intriguing so far — historical fantasy during the Crusades!
  • My exercise routines have suffered from all the rain lately so I haven’t listened to If Wishes Were Curses in awhile but one of these days I’m going to finish this fun urban fantasy! (Audiobooks take me way longer than they should and I feel kind of bad about that. XD)
  • And I kind of got sidetracked from Scoundrels but need to get back to that because it’s a delightful Han Solo heist book I’m rereading and having a blast.

RECENT POSTS

Recent Reviews

That’s it on today’s little update. Hope you enjoyed it and that you are all hanging in there and reading good books. Tell me about a book you’re enjoying! Thanks for reading! ❀

March Magics 2020!

It’s March! And that’s means (aside from it being my birthday month) that it’s March Magics / Diana Wynne Jones March!

This online celebration is hosted by Kristin @ We Be Reading and I always have a blast celebrating the works of Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett! πŸ˜€ (Though my posts always lean more DWJ. XD)

Read on for my (slightly ambitious, as usual; we’ll see how much happens. XD) plans for the month, including a giveaway!

(And drop by this post at We Be Reading for the official kickoff. The theme is Make Your Own Magic!)

PAGE

Here’s what’s on my TBR for the month!

New Reads

  • The Islands of Chaldea – Diana Wynne Jones — I haven’t read this one yet! I’M SO EXCITED. The more DWJ I read, the more precious are the last few I’ve yet to experience. So I’m very curious and looking forward to this one which was published posthumously, completed by her sister Ursula Jones.
  • Thief of Time – Terry Pratchett — Also a new read! I FINALLY got my hands on this one and I can’t wait to at long last finish Death’s arc of the Discworld series, which is the only arc I’ve gotten more than one book into, yet. XD I’m looking forward to diving in! And I’m always up for a timey-wimey plot.
  • A Hat Full of Sky – Terry Pratchett — I had a blast last year reading The Wee Free Men (it made it to my Top 15 Reads of 2019), so I can’t wait to try this next one in the Tiffany Aching series, because those Nac Mac Feegles are hilarious. XD

Re-Reads

  • Fire and Hemlock – Diana Wynne Jones — I’ve been meaning to reread this one ever since I read it the first time, so hopefully this will be the year it finally happens! I’m excited and also lowkey nervous since it’s been a long time and I don’t know how similar it is to my WIP The Other Half of Everything which I’m writing. XD
  • Deep Secret – Diana Wynne Jones — If I manage to read all of the above, I’ve also been looking forward to trying this one again, which I read for my very first March Magics back in 2016! I liked it the first time and want to revisit it since I don’t remember it very well. XD

SCREEN

I’m hoping to re-watch Howl’s Moving Castle since it’s been awhile since I saw it! It’s one of those rare movies that I love even though it’s different than the book.

I still love the book best (I’ve read it six times so far!) but the Studio Ghibli movie is totally different and adorable and fun and I love it despite the differences!

BOOKSTAGRAM

Sneaky sneak-peek!

I have Splendid Plans for this month on Bookstagram! I’m going to be sharing all my Diana Wynne Jones collection throughout the month, and hopefully a few Pratchetts too, so if you are interested in that, feel free to drop by my account: @deborahocarroll

Giveaway

Speaking of Instagram, I was thinking of having a giveaway over there sometime during the month, for a copy of Mixed Magics (the short story collection in the DWJ Chrestomanci series!).

But I don’t want to leave out those who are blog readers or don’t have Instagram . . .

So! To enter to win a lightly-used paperback copy of Mixed Magics by Diana Wynne Jones: leave a comment below mentioning 1) that you’d like to enter the giveaway, and 2) telling me your favorite Diana Wynne Jones book or if you’re new to her works! πŸ™‚

Note: It’s prooobably not the best place to start if you’ve never read a Chrestomanci story or any of DWJ’s work, since it will be more appreciated if you are already familiar with the world/characters, but I’ll leave that to your discretion. πŸ™‚

I will also post about this giveaway sometime during the month over on Instagram for extra entries or for those who don’t see this post here, so some of you may have a chance to enter twice. If you are on Instagram, follow me so you don’t miss it!

Giveaway runs until 11:59 pm Central Time, Sunday, March 29, 2020. US only, please! (Sorry, INT peeps. I love you too, but shipping costs…)

I’ll announce a winner at the end of the month in my wrapup post, hopefully on March 31. πŸ™‚

BLOG

I have a few posts of a DWJ-ish nature which I would like to post during the month, here and perhaps on my other blog, so we’ll see how many of those I actually get written/posted! XD

This month will mark 8 years since I read my very first DWJ book, which is exciting!

I have an idea for a post about writing lessons to learn from Howl’s Moving Castle . . . if I can get that together.

Also, wayyy-back-when, I did a My Diana Wynne Jones Journey post and I’d like to do a Part 2 post about the DWJ books I’ve read since then, so we’ll see if I can get to that!

In the meantime, some of my old DWJ posts and a list of the books by her that I’ve read, as well as quote graphics I’ve made and things, can be found here!


Whew! I’m super excited for whichever of these things I manage to get done this month. I’m so excited to celebrate all things Diana Wynne Jones! (And Terry Pratchett too, of course. ;))

How About You?

Are you planning anything for March Magics? It’s all very relaxed and DIY this year!

If you’re a fan, now is a great time to reread your favorite book by either of these authors, or pick up that new one of their books you want to try.

And if you haven’t discovered Diana Wynne Jones yet, it’s the perfect time to try out one of her books! (I recommend Howl’s Moving Castle, of course. ;))

Join in with the #MarchMagics and/or #DWJMarch hashtags around social media, and be sure to share any blog posts or exciting things you’re up to for this, so everyone can read your post, in the comments of the post over at We Be Reading. Thanks again to Kristen for hosting. ^_^

Let me know what you think! Thanks for reading, and happy March Magics / DWJ March!

Top 15 Favorite Reads of 2019!

Yes, I’m finally here with my favorite books I read last year! (A wizard is never late. *cough*)

Out of all the 140 books (yes, many of those were short stories or novellas) that I read in 2019 (according to my Goodreads list if you’d like to see all of them! My personal spreadsheet has 175, but anyway. XD), there were MANY amazing stories, but here are some of the ones that stood out!

But first, stats! Because stats are fun.

  • 37 new-to-me novels
  • 48 smaller reads (short stories or novellas etc.)
  • 28 rereads (some were short stories)
  • 6 anthologies
  • 9 nonfiction
  • 13 picture books
  • 10 beta-reads
  • 2 graphic novels
  • 3 misc.
  • 4 audiobook
  • 14 libraried

Oh, and here is a picture of the books I read in 2019 of which I have physical copies. πŸ˜€ (54. Last year there were 52. XD)

The pretties! Top: New reads. Middle left: Nonfiction, children’s, anthologies. Middle right: Re-reads (yes, half of it IS by Diana Wynne Jones; why do you ask?). Bottom: bookmarks to represent some books that I don’t own or read in ebook form. Plus a picture book and novella.

Now on with the main post!

In no particular order, other than that the top few are my top favorites, I present…

My Top 15 Favorite Books I Read In 2019

1. Oath of the Outcast (C.M. Banschbach)

Hands-down my favorite book of the year! I had a massive book hangover after reading this and I’m not sure I’ve recovered. It’s just so good! You’ve got a Celtic flavor, epic brothers-by-blood-and-by-bond, much stabbiness, rivers of snark (oh, man, the snark. XD), and of course my smol floof of anger management issues, the Mountain Baron a.k.a. Rhys, outcast and leader of the outlaw Cairns, most epic character of ever, who’s just setting foot on the start of a long road to redemption. I JUST LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH.

[MY REVIEW]

2. Flight of the Raven (Morgan L. Busse)

I adored the first book, and each one gets even more amazing! Flight of the Raven was just SO good (and, spoiler alert, I just read and loved book 3, and I think each one of them is going to end up on the top-reads-of-the-year posts in the years I read them!). Dreamwalking, water powers, growing peril in the land, wonderful worldbuilding and fascinating fantasy “gifts”/powrs, and characters I’ve fallen head-over-heels for! I loved this one so much! ^_^ And getting to dress up as Lady Selene Ravenwood when I went to Realm Makers (and the author also, surprise, dressing as Selene!) was definitely a highlight!

[MY REVIEW]

3. Cress (Marissa Meyer)

I liked Cinder, enjoyed Scarlet, and absolutely fell in love with Cress! I can’t wait to read Winter! Audiobooking Cress was definitely a highlight. I got to live the adventure alongside Cress and Thorne (my faves!) and all the other characters I’d grown to love in the previous book, and all while exercising this summer! (The parts in the Sahara coincided with dead-of-Texas-summer heat, so that made it an interesting exercise companion. XD) IT’S JUST SO MUCH FUN! I’m so glad I finally tried this series. πŸ™‚

4. Curse and Consequence (Savannah Jezowski)

I loved this so much that I read it twice in the same week, because I simply HAD to share the delightful and hilarious story aloud. My siblings and I now quote these characters, particularly Hugh. XD (“Wicky, how could you!”) It’s a Regency-esque fantasy novella, with magical curses and shenanigans, a dragon, and a very Twinkle-like character. IT’S HILARIOUS and I need book two yesterday.

[MY REVIEW]

5. Head in the Heavens (E.B. Dawson)

*screaming* I don’t know WHY I adore this collection so much, other than that the author is apparently a genius. Anyway, E.B. Dawson made me fall in love with sci-fi short stories enough that they’re in my top reads of the year! I binge-read them separately and was THRILLED when they were collected in this handy volume. Sci-fi Moby Dick and Beauty and the Beast, GORGEOUS writing, and edge-of-your-seat dystopian (I don’t even like dystopian but this was just SO GOOD??), are only some of the delights that await you in this anthology!

[MY REVIEW]

6. Deadwood + Hollow (Kyle Robert Shultz)

I simply HAVE to mention these new Afterverse books, Crockett & Crane book 2 and 2.5! (I did edit them, since I am, after all, the Editor of the Afterverse. But they are totally going on this list of simply as a books this fangirling reader loves.)

In Deadwood, Todd and his friends face off against a creepy sentient town in the magical wild west. Also, I love how we get more of Julio, everyone’s favorite (second-favorite?) dragon! There is plenty of signature banter and humor and magical fun, but everything has a more serious side too, as well as creepy Pinocchio elements, and there are plenty of feels! But Todd and Julio are just THE BEST, OKAY? OKAY.

Speaking of feels, HOLLOW! It’s Sleepy Hollow meets Wonderland with a dash of time travel and WOW. It’s so delicious. And, again, feelsy. But with Ichabod Crane (Todd’s ancestor) as the main character, and important characters from both the Crockett & Crane and Beaumont & Beasley series . . . it’s ABSOLUTELY AWESOME and mind-blowing. It packs quite a punch for a novella! (Plus, that cover! *heart eyes*)

[MY REVIEW OF HOLLOW]

7. Dark is the Night (Mirriam Neal)

A new book from Mirriam Neal released and some of my favorite characters, Skata and Angel, have been published — THIS IS NOT A DRILL. I adored this book years ago when I beta-read it, and having it finally on my shelf is A DREAM. I’m so happy to have read the final version in all its vampire-hunter, urban fantasy, southern gothic, snarky-hilarious-banter-buddy-story glory! Buddy stories are my fave, and Skata and Angel are THE BEST. XD

[MY REVIEW]

8. Magic Kingdom for Sale (Terry Brooks)

This one was sheer fun, and I’m so pleased that I finally picked it up on the recommendation of Jenelle Schmidt. I was determined to read one book by Terry Brooks before going to Realm Makers 2019, where I got to meet him (!!!), and this one fit the bill perfectly. It’s a delightful portal fantasy from back when that wasn’t really a thing, and I loved the down-to-earth-ness of the main character, and the quirkiness of the world and other characters! A blast.

9. Mechanical Heart (Sarah Pennington)

Aaahh, this book! I had been dying to read it for years, and I was so excited to get to devour this author’s first full-length novel! Steampunk Rapunzel in a clocktower, with solid characters, politics, mysteries, and inventions? YES PLEASE! I still have not read enough Steampunk, but this is another one to add to the slowly growing list of ones I’ve read and loved. Fabulous!

[MY REVIEW]

10. The Fall of Gondolin (J.R.R. Tolkien & Christopher Tolkien)

Bittersweet as the last book Christopher Tolkien released, made more so by his recent passing, but so, so gorgeous, and a fitting end. I’m so grateful that he got to share so many stories and drafts his father wrote with us fortunate readers! This one was different than The Children of Hurin and Beren and Luthien, but as the third of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Great Tales of the Silmarillion, it was an absolute delight to get a closer look at those drafts and I was surprised how much detail there was, if sad that it wasn’t finished. I absolutely loved it, and the illustrations by Alan Lee are AMAZING!

11. The Wee Free Men (Terry Pratchett)

*laughing* The Nac Mac Feegle, though. XD They’re hilarious and totally the reason why I loved this. I had a blast reading it, and really enjoyed the gorgeous illustrated edition I managed to find at a library. It had a more Celtic feel than the other Discworld books I’ve read, and feels somehow different than them, and rather a lot more like a Diana Wynne Jones for some reason. Maybe it’s because of the young main character, who’s great! I can’t wait to read more about the Feegles and their Scottish accents and ridiculous, hilarious shenanigans. XD

12. Flower of the Underworld (Hazel B. West)

At this point, Hazel West is probably my favorite Urban Fantasy author. I absolutely LOVE her Modern Tales of Na Fianna series (the best UF everrrr), so I was curious to try this modern retelling of Hades and Persephone. IT WAS SUCH A BLAST. The normalized setting of Greek mythology in contemporary times was perfect and hilarious, and there were so many shenanigans, as well as much humor. And Hades (who’s like the only nice guy in his powerhungry family) and Persephone (who works at a landscaping business) are so much fun. And she gives him a plant named George so OBVIOUSLY this book is just the best. I just had way too much fun reading it. XD

13. Strayborn (E.E. Rawls)

This just made me happy, okay? It’s a middle-grade Christian Fantasy magical-academy type story and it felt so fresh and delightful! The characters were fabulous and unique and I loved so many of them — particularly the mentor character, Master Nephryte, who reminded me a little of Chrestomanci! Also, that cover! ❀

[MY REVIEW]

14. The Boggart Fights Back (Susan Cooper)

Aaahh! So, the first two Boggart books were on my top reads of the year lists when I read them, and I suddenly found out that years and years later there was a sequel that just came out?? I immediately snagged it from the library and devoured it. Modern fantasy set in Scotland, this time about the children of the characters from the first two. And I love the mischievous Boggart and Nessie! Delightful. πŸ™‚

15. Compass South + Knife’s Edge (Hope Larson & Rebecca Mock)

I haven’t really read graphic novels before, so this was a first for me, and I’m surprised to see these creeping in at the end of my list, but I just HAD to include them! It’s a duology, and I’ve talked about them before, but they’re just SO MUCH FUN . Swashbuckling MG/YA graphic novels, 99% clean historical fiction, with fun characters (and twins!), unexpected twists, and just… These little books made me happy! I’m so glad I randomly picked them up at the library! πŸ™‚


Aaand here’s a picture of all the ones I own in physical form so far!


So there are my “official” top fifteen (ish) favorites . . . but we’re not done yet!

Now I need to share some runners-up and favorites in other categories.

RUNNERS-UP THAT MAKE ME HAPPY

1. Beneath the Haunting Sea (Joanna Ruth Meyer)

This is by the author of Echo North (one of my top five favorite books I read in 2018), so naturally it’s excellent! Sea and island vibes, original mythology and fabulous characters, and all gorgeous and wild. The Silmarillion meets Jane Eyre is how it was pitched to me, which I find rather accurate. Aside from a love triangle, simply fabulous!

2. Ghostlight (Rabia Gale)

BECAUSE TREY. Trey is the hero of this book and singlehandedly gains it a spot on my favorites. A little spooky for me, but it gave me a slight book hangover, and it’s a delightful regency-esque fantasy with fabulous banter, and did I mention Trey?

3. Jeeves and the Wedding Bells (Sebastian Faulks)

It may not quite be Wodehouse, but it gets jolly close. What a hilarious set of shenanigans! Bertie Wooster and Jeeves and the usual hijinks, in a fabulous homage to P.G. Wodehouse’s classic tales.

4. Ewan Pendle and the Castle of Nightmares (Shaun Hume)

Academy story. Modern-day London. Scotland. Ewan and his misfit friends are my favorite. A dragon. A mysterious castle. It’s just a wonderful romp and it makes me happy! (Sequel to Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith.)

5. Fortunately, the Milk . . . (Neil Gaiman)

Well, firstly, that title, which I quote all the time. Secondly, this is absolutely hilarious and it makes me smile and it just wanted to be on this list! (Even if there are obviously other books I read this year which I liked more in general. But it’s just so funny and I had to mention it. XD) I particularly love re-reading the beginning. XD This currently joins Make Good Art as one of my favorite books from this author.


And then a few other categories…


FAVORITE SHORT STORIES

Arbrook Huxley and the Miraculous Confection (Mollie E. Reeder)

A new short story about Huxley from The Electrical Menagerie! *screaming* This story was an absolute delight, and so well-written. It gave me all of the feels! And the ending was perfect. I laughed so hard and then I had to read it to my siblings. XD I just love it! Absolutely delicious.

The Grift of the Magi (Ally Carter)

I loved the Heist Society books when I read them ages ago, and this might be my favorite one! It’s a short story (or maybe novella?), set after book 3, at Christmas-time, and it’s. so. good. HALE and feels and Christmas and a snowstorm and a Scottish castle and so many cons and things and a great twist at the end. I love it so much!

(There’s not a “cover” for the Jayden and Dana stories, but the one I first read was collected in this anthology awhile back, so I’m using this picture. Also, it’s just a really excellent anthology, even if I didn’t read it this year. XD)

Jayden and Dana stories (Arthur Daigle)

These don’t have covers or anything, and I mentioned them in my favorites last year, but they’re a continuing sort of short story serial over on Booksie. I just LOVE reading about these two characters, Dana Illwind and Sorcerer Lord Jayden. I “met” them in some of the Fellowship of Fantasy anthologies, and went on to read more stories of their adventures as they’re posted from time to time. There’s over a dozen of these now and I highly recommend checking them out! Jayden is the best, and so is Dana, and I love their banter and the fantastical adventures they get up to!


FAVORITE PICTURE BOOKS

‘Twas an Evening in Bethlehem (Jenelle Leanne Schmidt)

I love this so much! The art is so soft and charming and the story and poem are lovely, with elegant borders and a great cover, and the whole is just a gorgeous picture book that I love! ^_^

King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson (Kenneth Kraegel)

I ADORE THIS. I found it at the library and it’s one of the best picture books I’ve read. It’s about the great-great-great-etc. grandson of King Arthur, a little boy, who goes looking for monsters to fight, with the absolute BEST outcomes. XD I just love it!


FAVORITE NONFICTION

I think I read about ten nonfiction books this year, most of them about writing in one way or another, and these were my top favorites.

Not Write Now (Kyle Robert Shultz)

I actually copyedited this one, but it’s a marvelous reverse-psychology writer self-help book. I’ve never read anything like it before, but it’s actually really helpful and also absolutely hilarious. XD

Sometimes the Magic Works (Terry Brooks)

I had the delight of meeting Terry Brooks at the Realm Makers 2019 conference, and picked this up while I was there. I’m new to his work this year, but this collection of essays about his experiences as a writer was fabulous, and really encouraged me in a difficult time. Plus, it was just really fun. πŸ™‚


I know that was a lot! *hides face* I just want to share all the books. XD Have you read any of these? Any going on your TBR? What was YOUR favorite book(s) of 2019? Thanks for reading!