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Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones

Title: Hexwood

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Date read: April 6, 2017

Rating: 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy/Sci-fi/Contemporary/Time/Arthurian

Age: Toeing the line between YA and Adult? New Adult? Anyways, slightly darker.

Year pub: 1992

Pages: 449 (paperback)

Fave character: MORDION. Mordion Mordion Mordion

Source: Birthday present, preciousss

Find: On Goodreads here

Favorite quote:

“Can’t you treat yourself with a bit more consideration?”

“Why should I?” Mordion said, hugging the duvet round himself.

“Because you’re a person, of course!” Ann snapped at him. “One person ought to treat another person properly even if the person’s himself!”

“What a strange idea!” Mordion said.

An ordinary modern-day British girl (kind of), named Ann, stumbles into an epic fantasy world (…sort of), and meets a pigeon-hole-defying, spoiler-drenched man named Mordion, and a boy named Hume (maybe).

There are also robots. And dragons.

There’s also an inter-galactic sci-fi mess going on, some Arthurian legends sprinkled around the edges in totally unexpected ways, and oh, yeah, the entire thing is out of order in a time-bending confusing labyrinth of plot-twists.

Nobody is who they seem (or rather, they may be somebody else… or several somebody elses. I literally kept a list/diagram while I was reading).

FEATURING:

  • Dragons
  • Robots
  • King Arthur and Merlin (sort of)
  • Time which is… fluid, shall we say, and more complicated than Doctor Who
  • A tragic brainwashed assassin to rival Bucky Barnes (he’s got nothing on this guy)
  • A complex plot-within-plot that makes my head hurt and kind of makes Inception’s layers look like a children’s cartoon
  • Several hundred plot twists
  • An unexpected romance
  • One of my new favorite characters of ever (not sure how I feel about this)
  • Weirdest book I’ve ever read
  • Has more genres mashed in it than I’ve ever seen in a single book (Contemporary/Fantasy/Sci-fi/Time/Arthurian/Romance/YA/Adult/DWJ)
  • Darker than most DWJ books (except Deep Secret)
  • One of my top five-or-ten DWJ books (despite the darkness/weirdness… don’t hold it against me; I’m surprised at me too)
  • First new-to-me DWJ book since my How to Read Diana Wynne Jones blog posts (part 1) (part 2); it lined up with pretty much everything, x100000
  • I need to reread it now, please and thank you

Don’t read this as your first DWJ, and if you do read it, know you’re getting into an insanely complex, inter-genre, rather dark story, for which reason I only recommend it to older teens/adults. If I recommend it at all. I loved it to bits but have a feeling that it’s far too weird to recommend to anyone at all. I literally can’t predict who would/wouldn’t like this. You’ll either a) love it a ridiculous amount (*raises hand*), b) hate it, or c) not understand it at all. I have a feeling there’s no middle ground.

Anyone who has read it: TALK TO ME! I need somebody who understands my confused feels about this book.

If you need me, I’ll be in a corner with my mind blown, contemplating re-reading this book so that I can understand it, and generally having a massive book hangover. Because how am I going to find anything to read, after this mindbending confusing thing, that will not feel like bland cardboard? HELP. *collapses* (I’m hoping Stephen Lawhead’s The Fatal Tree might help me with this… *reaches for bookshelf*)


Thanks for reading!

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer

Wild Robert by Diana Wynne Jones

Title: Wild Robert

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

  • Date read: March 1, 2017
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy (Contemporary)
  • Age: Juv. Fiction/YA?
  • Year pub: 1989
  • Pages: 100
  • Illustrator: Mark Zug
  • Fave character: Wild Robert… sometimes. 😉
  • Source: Library
  • Notes: Read in honor of March Magics (2017)

[Find it on Goodreads]

What if a mysterious magical being who had been asleep for 350 years, woke up in modern times, found the castle of his former home turned into a tourist attraction, and decided to make mischief? That’s Wild Robert for you! Heather has a lot to put up with when she accidentally summons him into her tourist-crammed day… Shenanigans ensue!

Quite short read (100 pages including illustrations and large print; I read it in a sitting) and a very fun way to kick off March Magics/Diana Wynne Jones March 2017! 🙂

I’d never read this one before. It made me think a little bit of Eight Days of Luke, and maybe a dash of Howl’s Moving Castle for one tiny reason. DWJ once again blends fantasy, history, modern times, humor, strangeness, and fascinating characters in a bizarre but heart-capturing read.

It’s not all fun and pranks though… there’s a deeper mystery and something sinister behind all of this, and the reveal twisted my heart and made me feel bad for poor Robert! I was conflicted about this strange impish character — he definitely keeps you guessing. 😉 He’s a fascinating mystery, I guess you could say.

It was quite enjoyable, and I loved the twist at the end about who Robert is! 😀

It stopped rather before I wanted it to… I could have read another two or three hundred pages on this!! So at first I was sliiightly disappointed about that, but at the same time it works perfectly, ending at just the right place to let the imagination wander free about what might happen next… 😉 So I’m happy with it. 🙂 DWJ always leaves you wanting more!

(It almost made me consider wanting to write a fan-fiction continuation, I wanted to know so badly. The idea of fan-fiction almost never crosses my mind. Heehee.)

Great fun! ^_^

What would you do if you were a magical person who woke up after 300 years and found your castle turned into a tourist attraction? And have you ever read a book where you wanted the ending to continue? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer

10(ish) Thoughts on “Aunt Maria” by Diana Wynne Jones

5starrating

Title: Aunt Maria

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

factoids

  • Date read: March 1, 2017
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy (Contemporary)
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 1991
  • Pages: 274 (hardback)
  • Fave character: Antony Green and Chris
  • Source: Library
  • Notes: Alternate title; UK title is Black Maria. Read in honor of March Magics

[Find on Goodreads]

review

10(ish) Thoughts on “Aunt Maria” by Diana Wynne Jones

1. First thing’s first: Time travel! There was a bit of time travel near the end of the book, which was SUPER awesome! I will not say anything more about it, but suffice to say that it was fabulous.

2. It’s told in first person by Mig, a girl who likes to write (kindred soul!). She tells us the story in her journal. I don’t always care for first-person, but I really liked how it was her journal! It gave the story such an immediate feeling and all the descriptions etc. felt so up-close-and-personal, somehow. And it didn’t feel like a normal journal-or-letters type story, because it wasn’t under daily headings or anything, but had more of a flowing-together sort of feeling. Anyways, it was so well done.

3. Favorite characters! Mig’s brother, Chris, is awesome. 😄 I really enjoyed his character! Chris(tian) not Chris(topher) as he likes to stress when Aunt Maria gets it wrong. 😛 He’s outspoken and has wonderful strong feelings of fun or anger, and is just great. While I’m thinking of favorite characters, Antony Green was fabulous. 😀 I really, really liked him! I also can’t say anything about him because he’s one of those fascinating characters with SO. MANY. SPOILERS. Ahem. But he’s great. 😀

4. The plot was super interesting and complex, with so much going on under everything, even though it seemed pretty ordinary on the surface for awhile. It was soooo strange! (Like DWJ books always are.) But also fascinating. The undercurrent of magical things, the strange, almost sci-fi/dystopia set-up of the strange village, Cranbury-on-Sea, with its people divided into vacant worker-men, women who work for Aunt Maria, and clone-like children in an “orphanage.” There are so many questions about EVERYTHING, so it’s very much a mystery (especially since we’re in Mig’s limited point of view).

5. On that note, for a good half of the story, I wondered why it WAS Mig’s POV, because it seemed like it would have worked better from Chris’s perspective. He was the one who was doing everything to start with, and Mig is always telling us things about what he thinks. But then things happened and everything clicked, and I realized exactly why it had to be Mig telling it and it made perfect sense. So I liked that. 🙂

6. Dislikes: Aunt Maria was awful! (So were her followers.) Eep. She acts like a sweet, innocent, helpless old woman, but she’s sooo creepy! Not that that’s a bad thing, exactly (meaning it’s not something I dislike about the book, I just dislike her. XD). I don’t care for splitting-up-couples storylines, so I’m not sure how I feel about that part, though under the circumstances I suppose it turned out as well as it could.

7. I felt like there was a lot of deep stuff going on… It really felt like it was presenting a lot of thoughtful takes on society and men and women etc. It was really interesting and I can’t really explain it. I might be able to put my finger on it better on a second read, but my first thought is that it had some fascinating ideas about society.

8. The characters were all so complex and well-written that most of the time I was kept guessing and re-adjusting on who I thought was good, bad, or on their way between changing back or forth, or just (as was often the case) had bits of good and bad mixed up in them just like real people.

9. Also contains: humor; a wolf-hunt (which is not what it seems); cats and wolves who are not what they seem; a fascinating bit on what it’s like to have a cat’s perspective (so adorable!); a mysterious elderly brother-sister pair (she’s tiny, with a tendency to fall over; he’s brusque and grumpy with a tendency to practice the art of swordsmanship—mostly standing holding a sword over his head); an ending which wrapped things up in a way that for the most part I really liked; and, of course, lots and lots of tea.

10. I think I need to reread it.

Favorite quotes:

What’s the good of being civilized, that’s what I’d like to know? It just means other people can break the rules and you can’t.

***

“There goes Mig with her happy endings again,” Chris said. But I don’t care. I like happy endings. And I asked Chris why something should be truer just because it’s unhappy. He couldn’t answer.

***

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer

The Spirit Well by Stephen R. Lawhead

spirit-well

5starrating

Title: The Spirit Well (Bright Empires, #3)

Author: Stephen R. Lawhead

review

The middle book in this 5-book series, The Spirit Well was another great addition to the Bright Empires novels. Enthralled, I sped through it in just a few days and can’t wait to continue the saga. Once again, I’m in a hurry to review this one, in effect capturing my thoughts at this point, so I can scurry along to read book 4, The Shadow Lamp… I must find out what happens next!

Again, the character list, “previously”, and ending essay were amusing and enlightening — I just love how even the extra beginning and ending matter are interesting. In short, I love basically every word of these books — literally.

The story itself is progressing in quite a fascinating manner, branching out in all directions (past/present/etc.). There were many new revelations! Some of a tragic or scary nature… and others verrrry intriguing… Let’s just say there’s a lot going on (and as the series progresses, it’s increasingly difficult to write spoiler-free reviews, but I shall do my best). The writing continues to be phenomenal as well and it’s just a pleasure to read. 🙂

There’s quite a collection of characters by now, but I never got them mixed up, and they were one and all delightful to read about. There were several point-of-view characters, both familiar and new; most notably Cassandra Clarke. I think I like Cass. *nod* Kit and Wilhelmina continue to be my favorite people to read about, on their separate journeys. I JUST LOVE THEM SO MUCH. ❤ I always love reading about them. It’s also always interesting to get glimpses at the lives of the generations of the Flinders-Petrie family: Arthur, Benedict, Charles, and Douglas, piecing things together. (And I’m also beginning to know what to think about them… hmm…) I still loathe Burleigh and Snipe, for the record. (But what’s a book without some well-placed loathing for the villains, I ask you.) Still on the fence about Lady Fayth… I love Etzel and Giles, and En-Ul and his River City Clan. We can add the Zetetic Society (mostly Brendan [Irish accent!], Rosemary [tea!], Tess [oh goodness, this lady! XD]) to our list of new acquaintances — still working on what I think about the society as a whole since I feel only recently acquainted with it, but methinks I like these people — as well as Brother Lazarus, who’s a definite new favorite. He’s an extremely quotable chap. 🙂 The people in these books are so well written!

Once again, we’re all over the map and time-periods, and I absolutely love it. Modern-day Arizona (that’s new! We hadn’t been to America yet…), the Stone Age, Egypt, China, 1600s Prague, 1800s Italy, 1970s Spain, 1930s Damascus, present-day London, 1800s England, medieval Oxford… (And of course Black Mixen Tump. I love saying that name — dunno why — even though it’s a scary place.) What a delightful tapestry of time and locality! Not to mention sprinklings of different languages (German, Spanish, Italian, French, Latin) for an extra immersive, authentic flavor. These books positively ooze rich multi-cultural feelings and it’s glorious.

I’m not sure exactly why I felt this way (maybe because we didn’t in book 2?) but it was neat to pop back into modern-day London again! That part, and the contrast with the older time periods, was great. Love love love! (Sale! Everything must go! 😄 Goodness, how awful. :P) And ah, good old Grafton Street, bringing back memories of the opening of book 1… It makes me all nostalgic. (I still can’t help but feel that the opening chapter of The Skin Map, “In Which Old Ghosts Meet”, when paired with the presence of a “Grafton Street” in London, is suspiciously like a reference to a certain old song I know… Especially when so many characters in these books are so fond of repeating that there’s no such thing as coincidence…)

Some of the interlacing storylines, especially Mina’s, make my head hurt, and I love it. Time travel-y stories are delightful to read about. She hadn’t… done something important yet that we saw happen in book 1 — MIND. BLOWN. I was even trying to make a time/character thread diagram, which… didn’t go so well. 😄 I’m still trying to wrap my head around some of the time-y things.

Did I have quibbles or uncertainties? Maybe a couple. One part was very sad… even though I should have expected it. But still. Sadness. 😦 There were a couple things that had me pausing to reflect, leading to some interesting ponderings, so even if I wasn’t sure how I felt about them, they at least served the purpose of making me think. I’ll have to see how things pan out in the rest of the series, but they didn’t make me dislike it, per se, just… unsure. So my quibbles aren’t really quibbles, and I don’t have any concrete complaints.

A few more brief thoughts/reactions:

  • I love how the experiences of Kit and Wilhelmina in the times/places they “adopt” (or… perhaps adopt them?) are so good for them. ❤ They really benefit from their adventures, which is fabulous.
  • There is much tea and yummy foods. (In the words of Brendan: “That will be Mrs. Peelstick making tea. We live on tea, it seems.” …I love this book.)
  • It’s still perfectly enjoyable/appropriate for Young Adult readers, as well as for older adults, I would say — basically, everyone should read it.
  • Some more tendrils of Christianity creep into this book than in the previous two — the tapestry is widening out.
  • The language barrier/misunderstanding about the map was very well done.
  • The new ley lamp is absolutely fascinating.
  • The moment when a certain… erm… cat shows up by a certain… erm… road — that was one of those priceless moments of AAHH which I loved. No idea why, I just did.
  • I found the Spanish peoples’ reactions to Kit to be hilarious — nobody wanted to deal with him, and they kept shuffling him off to somebody else. 😄
  • That ending! How can it stop there? *flailing around* These books do have a tendency to simply stop and leave one squirming for the next one. 😉 I must read book 4 ASAP.

Overall? I greatly enjoyed this one and can safely say that it has joined the ranks along with The Skin Map (book 1) and The Bone House (book 2) as excellent specimens of books in a series I’m enjoying more and more.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I have a large book titled The Shadow Lamp (Quest the Fourth) calling my name, which I intend to devour at once. Toodle-pip and all that.

I will leave you with some quotes from The Spirit Well to help convince you that you need this series in your life (because you do, you know).

FAVORITE QUOTES

“I insist you go away before we both say something we will have need of confessing.”

“Dear lady,” offered the priest with a smile, “there are no accidents.”

Kit spent the next few hours idling in the gate-keeper’s lodge as a sort of quasi-captive — he was not locked up, nor was he free to go, for every time he got up and tried to leave, the porter came running after him, scolding in Spanish, and he was pushed back into the lodge. [I have no idea why I laughed so hard at this, but there you go.]

The old lady regarded her with a sudden intensity, then announced, “I’m going to adopt you, dear heart. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all,” Cass replied. “But do I look like I need adopting?”
“Not in the least,” Tess answered.

Probably, I should have locked Kit in the strongbox as well, she thought sulkily. [Wilhelmina, of course.]

“I am gobsmacked. … You clever little thing.” [Mina again. I love her dialog.]

“Don’t you know?”
He shook his head. “Nobody tells me anything.” [<– The story of Kit’s life, right there.]

“It does not matter where one starts; it is where one finishes that makes all the difference.”

summary

From Goodreads:

3spiritwell

The search for the map — and the secret behind its cryptic code — intensifies in a quest across time, space, and multiple realities.

But what if the true treasure isn’t the map at all . . . what if the map marks something far greater? Something one world cannot contain? Those who desire to unlock that mystery are in a race to possess the secret — for good or evil.

Kit Livingstone is mastering the ability to travel across realities using ley lines and has forged a link from the Bone House, a sacred lodge made of animal bones, to the fabled Spirit Well, a place of profound power.

His friend Mina is undercover in a Spanish monastery high in the Pyrenees, learning all she can from a monk named Brother Lazarus. Still determined to find Kit, she is beginning to experience a greater destiny than she can fathom.

Cassandra Clarke is overseeing an archaeological dig in Arizona when a chance encounter transports her to 1950s Damascus. There, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to the Seekers — the last living remnants of the Zetetic Society who need her help to track down the missing Cosimo Livingstone and his grandson Kit.

But there are darker forces at work in the universe whose agents always seem to be one step ahead of the rest–and they’re all desperate to gain the ultimate prize in this treasure hunt where the stakes increase at every turn. At the heart of the mystery lies the Spirit Well.

factoids

Genre/Category: Historical Fiction / Fantasy / Sci-fi / Time Travel / Christian / Contemporary

Age Group: Young Adult. Adults will enjoy too.

Published: 2012

Pages: 375 hardcover

Series?: Book 3 in the Bright Empires series. (Book 1: The Skin Map — read my review here. Book 2: The Bone House — read my review here.) Followed by The Shadow Lamp, and The Fatal Tree.

brightempireslawheadcollage

When Read: October 5-7, 2016

Favorite Character: Wilhelmina and Kit.

Source: Library

Other Notes: Be sure to pick up the first two books first! 🙂

findbook

{Goodreads} • {Amazon} • {Barnes & Noble} • {Author’s Website}


Thanks for reading!

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer

The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead

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(Yes, you get a random review from me today… I’ve posted it before on Goodreads but I may start posting older-ish reviews here on occasion. :))

5starrating

Title: The Skin Map

Author: Stephen R. Lawhead

review

I’m giving THE SKIN MAP 5 stars . . . with one reservation (which is what this review is for, naturally).

This is going to be just a little bit hard to review. I won this book in a giveaway from Robert Treskillard (a masterful author in his own right), and read it over the course of three days when I was sick, and it helped pass the time marvelously.

For most of the book, THE SKIN MAP was a resounding 5-stars. I enjoyed it so very very much and it was brilliant and unique and fascinating and awesome and funny and perfect.

Then the last 20 pages happened and it almost lost a star or dozen because, well, not to be specific or anything, let’s just say certain authors don’t mind killing characters and I may or may not have gotten really really sad and/or devastated at something that may or may not have happened. Ahem.

That being said, if I’d rated and reviewed THE SKIN MAP the instant I finished it, I probably would have been upset enough it would not have held the 5-star rating it so richly deserves. As it was, I went to bed after finishing it, with a hole in my chest and a determination to never read anything ever again. What can I say. I’m a drama-queen when it comes to books that play with my emotions.

But I let myself cool down, and now I have to say that THE SKIN MAP fully earned every one of those five stars. Again with that one reservation, which naturally only shows how well the book was written that it made me CARE that much. I didn’t like how it was handled, though. But I will say no more because spoilers…

I must say, I was surprised by how much I outright loved THE SKIN MAP when I started it. (And still do, of course!) But from the very beginning it hooked me and drew me in and I found myself thoroughly enjoying myself. So. Much. Enjoyment.

It also felt perfectly British at the beginning there (it went on to feel like other countries too, wherein lies part of its brilliance) and I just found myself loving this story to death.

The characters were so much fun!

  • I love our hero, Kit Livingstone, who had so much humor and normal Britishness.
  • The timeless old fellow Cosimo who I love love love every second of.
  • Arthur Flinders-Petrie himself, who can I just say was positively awesome; though I was a bit confused about his parts of the story and if they were all flashbacks…? But I suppose they were. The nature of time-jumping-ish stories can sometimes get confusing….
  • Wilhelmina surprised me by working her way into my heart. I don’t usually love the heroines of stories that much, but she had such unexpected spunk and determination. I found myself loving the parts with her and Engelbert and their Kaffeehaus the best of any parts of the book — which, again, surprised me, because in a way there wasn’t much going on with them compared with all the action and mystery in the other parts of the story. But the genius of Lawhead seems to be that he can make absolutely anything fascinating.

Following all these characters in all these different times/countries (modern-times, 1600s, and older; England, Prague, Egypt) was so much fun, so interesting, and masterfully handled. There was a particular “feel” to each section which was awesome. So well drawn!

The ley-line travel was fascinating and awesome and I can’t wait to read more about it.

Plus, aren’t those character names just delightful? I love almost everything about this book!

All in all, THE SKIN MAP is a fabulous read, full of mystery, awesome characters, and traveling through different times and localities, all richly painted in a masterful tapestry of ever-turning pages. I couldn’t stop reading, and enjoyed the whole adventure immensely.

Also I just learned that my library has all the sequels in this Bright Empires series, which makes me indescribably happy. I can’t wait to read the rest of these books and fill my life with more Lawhead brilliance.

summary

From Goodreads:

It is the ultimate quest for the ultimate treasure. Chasing a map tattooed on human skin. Across an omniverse of intersecting realities. To unravel the future of the future.

Kit Livingstone’s great-grandfather appears to him in a deserted alley during a tumultuous storm. He reveals an unbelievable story: that the ley lines throughout Britain are not merely the stuff of legend or the weekend hobby of deluded cranks, but pathways to other worlds. To those who know how to use them, they grant the ability to travel the multi-layered universe of which we ordinarily inhabit only a tiny part.

One explorer knew more than most. Braving every danger, he toured both time and space on voyages of heroic discovery. Ever on his guard and fearful of becoming lost in the cosmos, he developed an intricate code–a roadmap of symbols–that he tattooed onto his own body. This Skin Map has since been lost in time. Now the race is on to recover all the pieces and discover its secrets.

But the Skin Map itself is not the ultimate goal. It is merely the beginning of a vast and marvelous quest for a prize beyond imagining.

The Bright Empires series–from acclaimed author Stephen R. Lawhead–is a unique blend of epic treasure hunt, ancient history, alternate realities, cutting-edge physics, philosophy, and mystery. The result is a page-turning adventure like no other.

factoids

Genre/Category: Well gee, how am I supposed to answer that? Contemporary / Time Travel / Fantasy/Sci-fi / Historical Fiction…

Age Group: Young Adult

Published: 2010

Pages: 403

Series?: Book 1 in the Bright Empire series. Followed by The Bone House, The Spirit Well, The Shadow Lamp, The Fatal Tree. Series list on Goodreads.

When Read: February 2015

Favorite Character: Cosimo. (Closely followed by Arthur. Also have a soft spot for Kit… And Wilhelmina was awesome, so…)

Source: Won in a giveaway.

Thanks for reading!

Dream away in those pages!

~ The Page Dreamer

Rising Shadows by Ashley Townsend

4starratingTitle: Rising Shadows

Author: Ashley Townsend

review

*happy sigh* What an enjoyable tale! A shorter book, RISING SHADOWS is a fairly quick read. It’s the first in the Rising Shadows trilogy, and I had actually read book 2, CHASING SHADOWS, before reading this one — so this was kind of like a prequel backstory sort of thing for me, which was actually a fun way to read it. I think it’s a great introduction to the series, though, if you actually read it first (like one probably should… but since the story deals with time travel, I don’t feel TOO bad about reading out of order. ;)).

Things I loved:

+ For one thing, anything involving time travel is a lot of fun — I really enjoyed the setting of a medieval place called Serimone (sort of an alternate dimension type of thing?). Since I read the second book first, this was like getting to go back, and I was so happy to be in Serimone again! It just feels familiar and I like it. 🙂 Besides which, castles and forests are my favorite settings, so…
+ The characters. Sarah is an unexpectedly nice heroine; I love Karen, she really grows on you; and Seth too.
+ Will gets his own point on this list. 😉 He’s an extremely awesome fellow, one of my favorites, a slightly mysterious and dark but also reassuring and capable person. He’s probably the main reason I liked this book so much. 🙂
+ The hints at a growing romance was so adorable! Will and Sarah are so SWEET together! ❤ Gaah. And their dialog back and forth is the best — some really fun banter lines!
+ I absolutely ADORE masked-man-type stories, so The Shadow was super awesome and another favorite aspect of the story! He’s kind of Robin-Hood-ish too, with some serious archery skills. Anyone who goes around through forests and creeping into castles in a green cloak and hood being an undercover hero is awesome. I’m a major fan of this guy. 😉
+ Though perhaps a simpler, more straightforward plot, the story was exciting and kept me flipping pages.
+ The Christian aspect was lovely and I quite enjoyed the thread of faith winding through the story. 🙂
+ It’s quite clean.
+ I quite LOVED the ball and dancing! That was great! ^_^
+ And… I don’t know, I just enjoyed it a lot. 🙂 Sometimes a shorter, simple read with some loveable characters and adventure and a dash of sweet romance is just what you feel like, you know?

Things I didn’t love:

As for complaints, I don’t have many and they’re fairly minor.
+ Many books featuring a contemporary main character who is suddenly swept away into another world or time can suffer from a slightly awkward beginning/transition, so this one is not alone in that; but once it gets underway it doesn’t really matter. 😉
+ The sister, Lilly, seemed hardly there, like an afterthought? It’s not really important, but she was kind of vague.
+ Occasional typos or a few minor details that seemed off to me were pretty much the only downsides other than that.

Conclusion:

Overall a very fun read!

The book has a slight cliffhanger lead-up at the end, which transitions smoothly to the next book — which made me glad I had already read CHASING SHADOWS! 🙂 You can tell that it’s very much part of a series in the way many things are left with loose ends, so I’m looking forward to book 3, DEFYING SHADOWS, to see where it all goes!

If you like YA Christian adventure/romance with time travel and a hint of Robin Hood, you should definitely give this one a try!

(I received a free copy of this book from the author. I was in no way required to give a positive review. These opinions are my own.)

{Read my review of book 2, Chasing Shadows, on my other blog}

summary

From Goodreads:

Sarah Matthews is nearing the end of another eventless summer in the small town of Bethany, Oklahoma, bringing her closer to the start of her freshman year of college. Disheartened over the reality that yet another unexciting season is coming to an end, Sarah wishes for an unforgettable adventure. When mysterious circumstances transport Sarah and her younger sister back in time, she gets more of an adventure than she could have ever imagined.

The two sisters find themselves trapped in the twelfth century in a place shrouded with mystery and deception. Assassination plots, kidnappings, and tumultuous adventures force Sarah to rely on the Shadow, a masked hero who comes to her aid numerous times.

In order to uncover a conspiracy and save those closest to her, Sarah requests help from the Shadow and also from Will, the handsome and equally intriguing blacksmith she befriends. Sarah is strangely drawn to the excitement that seems to follow the town hero and begins to look forward to their secret encounters. She also finds herself caught in a romance with Will, despite the fact that their equally fiery personalities have a tendency to clash as they attempt to work together.

But Will’s past is filled with secrets and pains, and Sarah finds it difficult to break through the walls he has built around him. Can the faith and love of God that Sarah exhibits in her own life cause his hardened facade to fall away as he discovers that forgiveness and mercy are never too far from reach?

factoids

Genre/Category: Historical Fiction / Christian / Time Travel / Romance / Contemporary / Robin Hood

Age Group: YA

Published: 2012

Pages: 177 (Kindle)

Series?: Book 1 in the Rising Shadows Trilogy (followed by Chasing Shadows (book 2; read my review) and book 3: Defying Shadows, releasing soon!)

When Read: March 25 – 30, 2016

Favorite Character: Will, of course! (And the Shadow…)

Source: An e-copy from the author

Other Notes: Visit Ashley Townsend’s website, www.Ashley-Townsend.com, for more info about the series and fun stuff like character interviews! 🙂

findbook

{Goodreads} • {Amazon}


Thanks for reading!

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer

 

My Diana Wynne Jones Journey (So Far)

e5340-marchmagics

Since it is after all March Magics / Diana Wynne Jones month, I thought it would be fun to list all the books by that author that I’ve had the pleasure of reading so far, and a few thoughts on them and how I ended up reading them . . . I’m going to list them in order of when I read them, so they’ll be nicely organized by year, though not necessarily chronologically by series!

This may, I fear, be rather long, since I have now read 21 novels, a short story collection, an essay collection, and a smattering of other short stories, so far . . . making 23+ books… not to mention rereading a few… So if you don’t read the whole thing, there is no judgement. 😉 This is mostly for me, anyway . . . a pleasant reminiscence of looking back at my Diana Wynne Jones journey thus far. ^_^

(If I’d coordinated my time better at the START of the month, I suppose I could have divided it into several posts and posted them throughout the month . . . but oh well, better late than never!)

A note: I’m not bothering to put a star-rating on any of these. Diana Wynne Jones books get 5 stars. Period. (Well, that’s not entirely true, I suppose. I did rate one novel, Witch Week, 4 stars, because I was slightly disappointed in the ending; and I have been known to rate a few of the short stories 4 stars; and one short story I quite disliked. So you see, there are exceptions to every rule… but on the whole: 5 stars all the way!)

The titles all link to Goodreads.

2012

howl1Howl’s Moving Castle

Read: March 14 ’12

My very first book by Diana Wynne Jones, how fitting that it should have been this one — still my favorite of all — and that it should have been during March as well! I had several close calls and almost didn’t read it at all! I was recommended this book quite some time ago by a cousin who has superior taste in books, to whom I’m forever indebted for introducing me to this book which now ties for my favorite with The Lord of the Rings. I rather forgot about the recommendation for awhile . . . and then stumbled across Howl’s Moving Castle at a library sale. I remember I almost hadn’t gone, since I was definitely far too busy and had no business going. I remember that I saw the title, thought “ah! I remember being recommended this . . .!” and picked it up. I also remember, specifically, almost putting it back a couple times, because it looked so odd. I’m very glad I didn’t! At last the humorous-sounding back, with the high praise of a recommendation from my cousin, won me over in spite of the utterly weird cover. Never judge a book by its cover has never been a more apt phrase! This is still my top favorite DWJ book, Howl is still my favorite character, and I hold all the later ones to this standard of excellence. It’s simply a PERFECT book and I love everything about it. ^_^

houseways1House of Many Ways

Read: Nov 5 ’12

Remember, remember, the fifth of November… because that’s when I read my second Diana Wynne Jones book. 😉 I had no clue that Howl’s Moving Castle had any sequels — even as loose of “sequels” as it has — since this was before my time of Goodreads. But I remember somehow finding out there were sequels and getting excited. Then — oh joy! — I sighted this book at another library sale and snatched it up. So even though I was too busy to read due to NaNoWriMo, I read this book in a day all the same. I found it somewhat creepier than Howl’s Moving Castle, but a delight and so HILARIOUS, not to mention the best thing about it, namely Twinkle. Oh my goodness, TWINKLE. 😄

derkholm1Dark Lord of Derkholm

Read: Nov 14 – Dec 13 ’12

I found Dark Lord of Derkholm at the same library sale as House of Many Ways, and specifically remembered being recommended it alongside Howl’s Moving Castle… and once again I almost didn’t get it due to the cover. But I did anyway. I was so glad I did. I didn’t “get” it for a long time, but it was great fun to read and I hope to reread it soon. But the shenanigans — oh, I loved them! (Once I got used to them.) All the characters and insane happenings and fantasy creatures . . . it was glorious. I named my cat after one of the griffins, Callette.

2013

castleairCastle in the Air

Jan 7-8, ’13

It was only after I had read House of Many Ways that I found out that the other sequel, Castle in the Air, was actually chronologically BEFORE that one, after Howl’s Moving Castle. Oh well. I promptly got it from the library and devoured it and it was hilarious. The twists I for the most part did NOT see coming. It was so different but I loved it! Especially the relationship between Abdullah and the Soldier — so much humor!

mixedmagicsMixed Magics

Read: Feb 20 ’13

Also a library-sale find, I decided to eat this one next, but I’m afraid I didn’t really “get” this one at first either, since it’s a collection of short stories connected with the Chrestomanci series. I knew that they were fascinating stories, and that I was already addicted to the character Chrestomanci, even after only seeing him in a very few pages — his dressing gowns! — but this one left me a bit nonplussed at the time. I don’t think it’s a good introduction to the world(s) of Chrestomanci, but I didn’t know that then. Still, it was quite enjoyable; and I really loved it the second time I read it, once I’d read the rest of the series.

yeargriffin1Year of the Griffin

Read: Mar 12-13, ’13

I now own this one, but at the time, I found it from the library, completely excited there should be a sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm! It was great fun as well, though a mite hazy in my mind now… I loved the griffins though. And I hope to reread it soon too.

***

howl2At this point I reread Howl’s Moving Castle — starting it on May Day! How appropriate! — and it was even more glorious the second time! All the twists and things that you don’t get the first time . . . I think all Diana Wynne Jones books beg to be read at least twice… possibly more. 😉 Especially this one! ❤ Both because they are wonderful and need to be devoured more than once, and because they are so complex with so many twists and mind-rearranging necessary that it will be QUITE a different read the second time around! And it will probably take a third (at least) to fully appreciate.

2014

dalemarkvol1Cart and Cwidder

Read: Jan 31 ’14

At yet another library sale, I found a collection of the first two Dalemark books. I read this one in a day. It was utterly different from her other books I’d read — for one thing, it was an older one; for another, it was entirely set in another world with no connections to ours; and for a third, though it was funny from time to time, it wasn’t AS funny as often before. It was a new look at her books for me . . . and I realized that she could write amazing epic fantasy as well (with muskets!!).

ammetDrowned Ammet

Read: Feb 5 ’14

Needless to say, that same week I devoured the next one. It was utterly strange too and I had fun trying to piece together connections with the first one, since it was mostly off by itself. It was so strange but I loved it (which . . . kinda stands for all of her books. ;)).

dalemarkvol2The Spellcoats

Read: Feb 24 ’14

So then I had to rush out and find the next book in the series, from the library (except now I own it in a collection of its own! Oh joy!). This one was even stranger than Ammet, but I enjoyed it a ton. One of the things I like about her books is that they are all so DIFFERENT even in series. And this was the first time I really noticed the sibling relationship thing she had going (though thinking back, it was largely in Derkholm as well). It was wonderful, and I love how well she can juggle so many characters, especially in one family!

reflections1Reflections: On the Magic of Writing

Read: Aug 15-23 ’14

At this point, I had learned there was a collection of nonfiction essays on writing and other books and such lovely things, written by Diana Wynne Jones, and that my library had it, so I simply had to get it. It was SUCH a delight! I have a tendency to not read much in the way of nonfiction, but when I do, I often find it through liking an author’s fiction and therefore being rather assured that I’ll enjoy their nonfiction thoughts. So much wonderfulness in this book. ❤

crowndalemarkThe Crown of Dalemark

Read: Sept 6-11 ’14

I had tragically not had time to read this one when I read Spellcoats, so I got it from the library again and commenced on a truly fascinating journey. This was the first one that I read that was ENORMOUS. So I didn’t devour it in a day like I do with most. As usually, it started out being extremely odd, but I was so fascinated and excited with the goings-on in this one! For one thing, it started tying together the three previous books! Characters I had loved on their own were now starting to meet up with other ones, which was glorious. For another thing, it did the most brilliant thing I had ever seen: time travel. In a fantasy world. *flails* I. LOVED. THIS. It has some modern-type setting with trains and stuff, and then the almost-medieval-but-with-muskets time period the first two had, and then also linked in with the mythic pre-historic time that was like pre-medieval dalemarkwith more magical stuff. And it blended these all seamlessly, along with all the plots from the previous books, as well as its own plot, and so many rivalries and things between all the oodles of characters whom I loved, and just LKJLDKJALKDSJLFJ IT WAS AMAZING!!! It was really the ending that got me on this one. It was so flaily and unexpected and perfect and it left me an incoherent wreck of squealy awesomeness-overload. It was my favorite book I read in 2014 and became my favorite DWJ read after Howl’s Moving Castle.

charmedlife1Charmed Life

Read: Dec 11 ’14

Ah, classic Chrestomanci! This is what I hold as a standard for the later books in the series. I was instantly addicted. Loved this one! Cat Chant is a good hero and I want to live at Chrestomanci Castle (“I belong to Chrestomanci Castle!”) and Chrestomanci himself is awesome. This book is just… well, classic! I want to reread it… and the whole series…

The Lives of Christopher Chantchresvol1

Read: Dec 15 ’14

I was a bit surprised with this one. It was interesting to get Christopher’s backstory as a kid, though he wasn’t quite . . . himself, yet. But it was really good too. I loved all the different world things! And it was cool to get to find out where some of the things came from, like the cat and Milly of course, and Christopher/Chrestomanci himself. 🙂

2015

conradConrad’s Fate

Read: Jan 18 ’15

I knew that this one was later in the series (even though, chronologically, it was directly after The Lives of Christopher Chant and before Charmed Life) but I didn’t care. It was about Christopher Chant the future Chrestomanci who’s my FAVORITE, as a TEEN . . . and I simply had to read it right away! I think it’s my favorite in the series besides the last one… and the first one… But it was so FABULOUS!! I loved it to smithereens, especially young Christopher and Conrad’s relationship. I ADORE buddy stories! Especially when they annoy each other. 😄

chresvol2The Magicians of Caprona

Read: Feb 18 ’15

So then I had to devour the second collection of Chrestomanci books which I owned, starting with this one. One of the few downsides to the series is that Chrestomanci himself isn’t in them all the time, since they each usually follow different heroes/heroines, and he usually only shows up later on for a bit. But still, they’re all delightful! This one was great fun, set in a magical Italian type of setting. I loved this one.

witchweekWitch Week

Read: Mar 4 ’15

This was the one, also in said collection, that I actually didn’t quite rate 5 stars; just for the ending. You’d think it would be for some other reason, like that it was set mostly at a school, which I normally don’t enjoy… And yet other than the end, this was actually one of my favorites of the Chrestomanci books! I found it to be great fun, trying to piece things together and keep track of the characters, and Chrestomanci himself when he (finally) arrives, is in top form as always! I just… was a little bit sad about the ending, and other people probably won’t mind and I won’t say what it WAS, but I wished there had been a little… something different. Still, it was great overall, and actually led to one of my favorite quotes. 🙂

chresvol3The Pinhoe Egg

Read: Mar 9 ’15

AAAHH THIS BOOK! ❤ It’s the only Chrestomanci book I don’t actually own, which is entirely TRAGIC since it’s my favorite of them all! We’re back to Cat in this one, and Chrestomanci Castle, so it feels all comfortable and you’re glad to be back and makes you think of the first book, but there’s still lots of other new things going on and just all of the messes, and Chrestomanci’s in it a bit more and there’s a GRIFFIN and just alksdjfldkj I love it so much and need to reread it. CHRESTOMANCI! ❤

***

At this point, I had a rereading stretch.

I reread Mixed Magics that March, since I had finally read all of the other Chrestomanci books, and I LOVED it this read-through.

Then I managed to get my lovely bookclub on Goodreads to read the Howl trilogy; hey, I’ll take any excuse to reread Howl. 😉 So I re-read Howl’s Moving Castle in March-April, Castle in the Air I devoured once again on a day in July, and House of Many Ways I read again in August.

***

enchantedglassEnchanted Glass

Read: Aug 22 ’15

Yet another library book, I have an oddly incomplete memory of reading this book… o.o But I know I enjoyed it muchly, that it was characteristically funny and odd and fantastical, and that I loved the characters of Aiden and Andrew and so on. Also, a minor thing, but one of my favorite proposal scenes. 😄 And I loved the furniture moving and the vegetables. *giggle* (For some reason it made me think of Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit… just a little.) Also it made me make some shortbread cookies. Diana Wynne Jones books usually make me want to eat things (usually cucumber sandwiches and other sandwiches…).

power1Power of Three

Read: Sept 23 ’15

I don’t know WHY it took me so long to read this one… I’d had it from one of my many library sales for a long time… I think the cover wasn’t appealing. 😛 Anyways I finally read it and loved it so much! It has SUCH an enormous twist like half-way through… I just loved the twists in this one… Half of it feels like a medieval fantasy sort of thing, and the other half . . . well, I don’t want to spoil it. 😉 Oh, and the family dynamic was fun to read too. She’s so good about writing amazing and realistic but hilarious families! The style of writing was more like the Dalemark books and less like her characteristic whimsical voice… but there was that ONE scene (you’ll know if you’ve read it) that suddenly the style switched to her more normal one, and it was the most hilarious part of the book and the characters were drunk and it was 100% classic DWJ writing and I loved it. 😄 Anyways, this book was, again, so DIFFERENT and I loved so many of the characters.

archer1Archer’s Goon

Read: Nov 10 ’15

I had positively no business reading anything during such a busy and insane NaNoWriMo as this year proved to be. But I had scored this one at a library sale at the beginning of the month, and simply could NOT resist reading it as soon as I could. Oh my GOODNESS, what a wild ride! O_O It was utterly HILARIOUS (surprise…?) and had such a number of plot twists I was just flabbergasted most of the time… The characters are splendid too, especially reading about the siblings that are all so different. And it seamlessly blends contemporary, fantasy, sci-fi, and a bit of time travel both forward and back and just alskdjfldkj it’s AMAZING. It goes right up there with my favorites. MY BRAIN IS STILL REELING FROM PLOT TWISTS. Since my favorite is Howl’s Moving Castle, which can stand alone, and two of my other favorites happen to be the finale to their series (The Pinhoe Egg and The Crown of Dalemark) if you read just ONE Diana Wynne Jones book besides Howl’s Moving Castle, probably try to make it this once since it stands alone and is mind-blowing. 😛

2016 – so far

firehemlockFire and Hemlock

Read: Jan 1 ’16

*flailing softly* This book though! ❤ I wrote a long and rambly review-ish thing for it, so I will not reiterate all of it. But it was so awesome and I was so glad it was that big because I wanted to live in it forever and it was so worth staying up till past 3 a.m. to read it. I loved it so so much and Tom is one of my favorites and I’m slightly addicted to the idea of Tam Lin retellings now and need to go find several to read…

toughguideThe Tough Guide to Fantasyland

Read: Jan 28 – Feb 13 ’16

This one has the most exotic story about how I acquired it of any of the others… I found it at a Half-Price Books store in another state as a Christmas present of sorts from a wonderful uncle while I was on a roadtrip that memorable time when I was trying to do NaNo on the road… Since it’s organized as an A-Z guidebook, I had read most of it through randomly flipping through, but this year I finally sat down and read it cover to cover, and it was so funny to see all the tropes and cliches — but also ideas! Bwahaha — of my favorite genre… It’s half poking-fun, half homage to fantasy, and it’s fantastic. 😄

deepsecretDeep Secret

Read: Mar 22-23 ’16

And here we have my latest! I snagged it at the library specifically for March Magics and I’m so glad I did! I fully hope/expect (maybe) to try to write a review for it this week… if I can… But for now, it was very . . . different. o.o (Surprise. XD) It was darker, I think, than any I’d read before, but I loved it (of course) and am very proud of myself for exercising restraint and only staying up till 2:30 a.m. reading it and finishing it the next day. Heehee. It’s rather dangerous to start a 400 page DWJ book late. 😛

zfirebirdsMisc. Short Stories

I have also, at various times, read three “random” (i.e. in other collections) short stories by Diana Wynne Jones. These are they. (Short story collections are notoriously hit-and-miss. I haven’t read all of these through yet. But I had to pick out the Diana Wynne Jones ones. ;))

  • JoBoy (in The Dragon Book edited by Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois)2 stars. zdragonbookThis is the only thing by her I’ve specifically disliked that I’ve read so far. I didn’t quite get it, it was dark and depressing and ENTIRELY the wrong thing to read when I was ill one time. >.> Brilliant, yes, with some good bits, but too scary for my taste.
  • I’ll Give You My Word (in Firebirds Rising edited by Sharyn November)4 stars. This one was a lot of fun, with lots of strange and long words — loved a lot of it!
  • Little Dot (in Firebirds edited by Sharyn November) 5 stars. Oh my goodness, this story! It’s all from the point of view of a cat, and she refers to her owner, Henry, as if she’s the one who owns him, and they live on a farm in England and he’s a magician but nobody seems to know it, zfirebirds2and there are several other cats, and shenanigans ensue and it’s marvelous fun. Who know a cat’s POV could be such fun!

Tally:

2012: 3 books
2013: 3 books (+ 1 reread)
2014: 7 books
2015: 7 books (+ 4 rereads)
2016: 3 books . . . and counting!! 🙂
= 23 so far

So there you have my Diana Wynne Jones journey up to this point (there was also seeing the Howl’s Moving Castle movie, which is another story and which I also love, despite its enormous differences from the book, though I still like the book better).

I’m looking forward to continuing this journey, both rereading old friends and discovering new ones! Thank goodness she wrote a lot of books, so I’m not out quite yet. 😉

dianawynnejonesbook

Have you read any of these? Or any of DWJ’s books that I haven’t read yet? (Any recommendations??) If you HAVEN’T read any . . . well what are you waiting for?? No better time than the present. 😉

Thanks for reading! (*whistles innocently and pretends not to notice that this post is over 3K words long*)

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer