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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. πŸ˜‰ 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. πŸ˜‰ 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. πŸ˜„

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. πŸ˜‰ 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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ˜„

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ˜‰ 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. πŸ˜„ 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. πŸ˜› 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. πŸ˜‰ 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. πŸ˜„ 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. πŸ˜›

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. πŸ˜„

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. πŸ˜›

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!! πŸ™‚
= 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. πŸ˜‰

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. πŸ˜‰

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

Series Review: Jackaby, Beastly Bones, The Map, by William Ritter

jackaby1and2

Series: Jackaby

Titles: Jackaby (#1), Beastly Bones (#2), The Map (#1.5)

Author: William Ritter

review

Overall Thoughts

jkbybb

Okay, where do I even start? I’m addicted? I think I did overhype it to myself, so I didn’t love it as much as I hoped I would? But I still enjoyed it a ton.

This is basically what would happen if a Sherlock Holmes type person could see supernatural/fantastical things and had a female assistant instead of Watson, and was in late 1800s America instead of England. I’ll admit that I’m addicted primarily because of Jackaby himself, since he’s the sort of character that I like to read, especially the bickerings between him and the heroine, Abigail, through whose eyes the story is told.

I’m also torn on the fact that Jackaby and Abigail aren’t a romantic item. There’s… ahem… someone else for Abigail. And while she and said person are admittedly adorable together, some little part of me still kind of almost wants her and Jackaby to be a thing, especially with the other little part of me that wonders if Jackaby kinda-sorta-likes-her even if he would obviously never notice/admit it. But that’s not a big deal. Their friendship/partnership is still great as-is, and in a way it makes it better, I suppose, since romance isn’t tangled in between. So I can get on board with that, I guess. And the vague romance bits are a very minor sideplot — these are mostly about the mysteries, which was kind of refreshing in a sense. πŸ™‚

Thoughts by Book

jackaby

Jackaby (#1)

5starrating

I loved the “feel” of this one. Despite the touch of American stuff, which gives it just enough of a different kind of flavor, it feels almost like Holmesian London, which was fantastic. You get a sort of dark, shadowy, cobblestone street at night under a moon and gas streetlamps sort of feeling, where there could be a murderer or a creature from fantasy legend (or both) lurking in every shadow or towering building, and it’s fantastic.

The mystery is intriguing, with just the right amount of hints and evidence and mystery, with the ordinary police force thinking it’s ordinary, and Jackaby insisting it was unnatural. I just loved it! It’s kind of creepy, but in that way that I like (normally I don’t like creepy stuff, but this felt just right, somehow, so I didn’t mind; it wasn’t terrifying, just eerie).

I guessed the main parts of the mystery. Which was fantastic. One likes to feel smart, you know? Though there were, of course, a couple things that made me go “OH, of course I should have gotten that!” But the main things… totally had it. (Or at least variations. Which is fun too, because there’s so many things it COULD be, all your various guesses, and then you’re like “ohhhh, it was THAT one!”) I’m kind of addicted to mysteries, suddenly… I must read more!

Also, can I just say, the supernatural/fantasy aspect with the legendary creatures bits and so on, was a lot of fun. Especially with a banshee and… well… the other certain creatures of Celtic and other folklore, which I will not give away in this review. πŸ˜‰ But suffice it to say, it was really cool reading about it and going “oh, yes, I know about those legends!” It makes one feel connected.

jkbybb2The dialog was fabulous, of course. Jackaby and Abigail and their interactions are just my favorite thing about it. And Jackaby’s weird house/office and his laboratory and weird mix of science and fantasy, and the duck, and the pond on the third floor, and Jenny is interesting, and I love how Jackaby accidentally blows things up and stuff when he’s trying to cook. (Paprika, not gunpowder, Jackaby!) It’s just kind of a glorious mess and I love it. ❀ So that part, with all the quirkiness of him and his life, was definitely far from a disappointment! I think Abigail handles it all rather well. πŸ˜„

It’s also pretty hilarious/awesome his interactions with the actual police/detectives. They’re kind of wary and weary of him, and he’s just all chipper and “yep, let me just wander into the crime scene and poke around and it’s obviously a sinister creature who did this, by the way.” And the Inspector fellow is just like ready to strangle him. It’s awesome. Oh, and Charlie was a great character too! I guessed his twist too (or most of it) and… yes. Bwahaha. I really like his character. πŸ™‚ All the great characters!

Though I do wish we’d learn more about Jackaby himself! Since it’s all from Abigail’s point of view, we get little hints about him and his past and various things, but not nearly enough! I want backstory and reasons and his NAME and all the things about him being a seer and his history and everything and slkjdlkjdlkjl I just want to know about all the Jackaby things, please! *waits on the edge of my seat for book 3*

All in all, really enjoyed “Jackaby”!

beastlybones

Beastly Bones (#2)

4starrating

So even though this sequel kept me more hooked and turning pages faster than even the first one, I didn’t enjoy it as much as “Jackaby.” Possibly partly because of that… I don’t like being really stressed out by books? It went into a more creepy feeling than the first one, maybe? Other people might like this one even better, because it’s more “original” than the first book, but sometimes I prefer familiar to “original.”

It’s kind of hard to explain my thoughts on the book without giving major spoilers about the plot… but I’ll try.

I’m giving this one 4 stars primarily for Jackaby himself, of course, and how much I in general enjoyed his and Abigail’s and Charlie’s interactions with each other. As a sequel, I’m already immensely attached to this trio, so it was great to see them again and that’s the main reason. Part of the 4 stars is also, yes, for a couple of brilliant things in the plot, and for the fact that I couldn’t put it down, and for the humor/awesome dialog.

So if it had just been those things? Instant 5 star. As it was, I had complaints about this one, which might otherwise have dipped it into the three-star territory; and they’re probably all petty and inconsequential, but oh well. Also, I think that most of my complaints will be things in its favor from others’ points of view, because I’m an odd duck. πŸ˜› (My name is not Douglas, though. …Yes, I went there.)

For one thing, the setting was totally different than the first. I really enjoyed the London-esque feeling in the first, whereas this one was out in the American countryside and felt like it was trying and failing a bit, to be more like a western or… something? That was odd to me, and didn’t seem to fit the feel of the first one. (Like I said, others might find this cool/original.)

jkbybb3Then there was the fantastical/supernatural/fantasy element. In the first one, I really enjoyed the mentioned creatures/legends, because I felt like I knew them, and they were familiar. In this one, though, there were a bunch of weird random things, clever, yes, but some of them kind of creeped me out. So except for an eventual twist which did bring a fantasy creature I’m used to (and is a total spoiler but was kind of awesome and also terrible at the same time), I just felt… disconnected from the fantasy elements.

Also, in the first one, I could relate to Abigail pretty well most of the time, trying to find her way in a new place and deal with Jackaby. But in this one, it was all about her obsession with dinosaur bones and her wondering about being an independent woman. Now, no offense to anyone, but dinosaur bones bore me to death. I was just like can we please have something interesting now, please? And I think she was doing an okay job at being “independent” as a woman in the first one, without being stuck-up about it like these kinds of “strong women” do in books. In this one, there was this reporter lady who was feeding Abigail all these lines about such things, and I think Abigail did fine on her own before this lady came along. Ugh. So anyway, no to the dinosaur bones, until the twist in the plot (which I’d begun to predict–points for me! Though they really should have figured it out way earlier. EVIDENCE, peoples!) later in the story, which made it become interesting again. So that was kind of awesome. πŸ˜€ I won’t say anything more about it, but you’ll know when you read it. Fabulous. ❀

And then the characters. I didn’t like any of them.

…Okay, that may be harsh.

Obviously I still adore Jackaby, and also Charlie, and Abigail SOMETIMES… (we’ll get into that), and I have nothing against the old farmer, poor fellow. But everyone else I pretty much disliked, felt “meh” about, or loathed. Which is not good when I think you’re not supposed to? I’m sorry! I don’t usually rant, but pardon me for a moment while I rant about some characters, and I apologize to anyone who liked them.

Both the excavating fellows (forgot their names, sorry; I read this from the library and sent it back, so I don’t have the references for names or quotes — which is killing me because ALL THE AWESOME QUOTES WHICH I DON’T OWN) were awful — the younger one because I kept suspecting him of things because he was young/handsome/slightly slimy and very goodmannered, and the other because he was a total JERK who is simply painful to read about because he’s going around being grouchy and bullying everyone through contracts. I’ll admit he wasn’t so bad eventually, simply because the other characters wouldn’t play his game, but still. Bleh. It was awful with these dinosaur bone people treading all over this poor farmer guy’s rights and acting like they’re in charge. I hated that. They made me want to throw the book. Sometimes it’s just really hard to read things like that, for me at least.

The trapper fellow who was Jackaby’s friend was okay, but I never got into him. His accent was supposed to be some sort of mountain-man/western/southern/rural drawl thing, I think? Which I’ve never been into in print — it comes across as annoying to me, all the “ya’s” and… I don’t know, it doesn’t read well, somehow, and almost is demeaning because it’s almost like it’s being made fun of. I LIKE trappers/mountainmen/western/southern/rural people/places, but I don’t like when they seem backward. I don’t have anything against him, per se, I just didn’t click with him and thought it was weird that he and Jackaby were friends. The twist about HIM, I felt should have been all… “wow”? But I was just kind of “…um, okay then.” about it.

And then the reporter lady. UGH. I simply loathed her. And she’s supposed to be a likeable character, I think! But she just had this annoying “I do whatever I want” thing going and was always quipping things (kind of like Irene Adler in the Robert Downey Jr. movies, but without anything likeable about her) and annoying me over being a “strong heroine” sort of person who despises men and kept getting in the way and leading Abigail astray about poor Charlie (gaaahh.) and just… I loathed her. (And I don’t CARE what happened at the end, I still don’t like her and it can’t make me, and I suppose I should feel bad but I don’t.) She made me want to throw the book again. (I didn’t. It’s a library book. And I wouldn’t actually throw books because that would be wrong because books are still precious things even when one does loathe characters in them. But still.)

And I was annoyed at Abigail a good bit in this one. I liked her fine in the first book, and occasionally in this, but sometimes I just wanted to smack her in the back of the head with a noodle and go ABIGAIL COME ON. It’s petty, I suppose, but I wanted her to dislike the nasty characters as much as I did, but she was too patient with them. Okay, so that’s not good reason; I must be a horrible person. But really, did she have to put up with them?? And the bone obsession, which like I said, I just couldn’t understand. Mostly, though, her pigheadedness about Charlie through most of it. JUST MARRY HIM ALREADY, WOMAN. (Okay, so I have a slight uncertainty about that too because I kind of like the idea of her and Jackaby, too. Oh well. I apparently can’t decide. But still.) Though I must admit that a lot of this made for some really excellent scenes, where she was half getting romantic advice from Jackaby on the subject and he was just like “oh my goodness please no do not involve me seriously why are you doing this to me just stop” but at the same time giving her almost advice and it was hilarious and awesome. πŸ˜„ And then the ending… yes. All of the yes. With the train and all. πŸ˜€ *cackles*

But my goodness, I didn’t mean to turn this into a bashing party. I’m sorry! The book is actually quite good, I couldn’t stop reading it, it was very absorbing, and I really loved lots of it! It just wasn’t quite as amazing as the first one, to me. Like I said, though, I bet that all of the things I disliked about it, will probably not be a problem to other readers, so don’t let me stop you from reading/loving this book. It’s definitely an intriguing book, and I’m not going to stop reading Jackaby things because like I said, I’m addicted… I guess I just feel strongly about this book in many ways, which is actually a good thing!

And I can’t really be too mad at any of the problems, because then along comes Jackaby and some of the banter and I’m just “yep, I love this so much.” So.

BOOK THREE RIGHT NOW PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

themap

The Map: A Jackaby Story (#1.5)

5starrating

Oh my word, this story! GAH. *huggles it* Okay, so it’s a short story/novella type thing, which is free on Kindle, set between Jackaby and Beastly Bones. It’s a short, fun read, and has an even different feel than the other two, but I simply LOVED it.

It’s Abigail’s birthday, and Jackaby takes her on a treasure hunt with an old map and fantastical things ensue. But get this: it’s entirely based around trying to find the treasure from the Irish song “Whiskey in the Jar.” This kind of totally made my day!!! Just… the idea of it. I suppose for anyone who reads it who’s not familiar with the song, they’d just be like “whaaat?” but since I grew up on old Irish songs and always loved that one, it was simply fabulous.

I hardly have anything to say on this one because I don’t want to ruin any of the plot, but it was just a rollick and I loved it. It had its share of perils and such, but mostly it was just an excuse for Jackaby and Abigail to go on an adventure together and interact, which was just so much FUN! I think sometimes, some of my favorite character pairings/groups could just do NOTHING plot-wise and I’d still enjoy it. In a way, big scary mysteries/adventures/problems which constitute “plot” can even take away from the fun of simple character interaction which is my favorite part of some things.

(Like in Avengers 2, my favorite part is when they’re hanging out together trying to pick up Thor’s hammer, just bickering and having fun. It’s the BEST! I’d watch a whole movie about them hanging out; it’s almost not as fun when they have to go do PLOT things… So, just an example.)

Anyways, it’s so worth it just to see them interact, but the rest of the plot is fun too, and the hints from the song (some of which I guessed), and the touch of almost-steampunk with an airship and all, and the goblins with their semi-Scottish accents which was so fun to read, and THAT ENDING. So much. ❀

Basically, READ IT. It’s just fabulous and I adore it to bits.

summary

From Goodreads:

Jackaby (#1)

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

Beastly Bones (#2)

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer R. F. Jackaby are called upon to investigate the supernatural.

First, a vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens, and a day later, their owner is found murdered with a single mysterious puncture wound. Then in nearby Gad’s Valley, now home to the exiled New Fiddleham police detective Charlie Cane, dinosaur bones from a recent dig mysteriously go missing, and an unidentifiable beast starts attacking animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Charlie calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

The Map: A Jackaby Story (#1.5)

Abigail hopes that her birthday will slip by unnoticed and uncelebrated, but her employer, detective of the supernatural R. F. Jackaby, has other plans. Using magical party crackers that teleport the pair to unknown destinations in time and space and a cryptic map that may lead to a forgotten treasure, Jackaby intends to give Abigail what he considers to be the best gift of all–adventure.

Abigail and Jackaby must tame an enormous (and carnivorous) rabbit, defend a castle, and master a dirigible if they want to find the treasure and get back to New Fiddleham alive.

factoids

Genre/Category: Mystery, Fantasy, Historical Fantasy (also The Map had a touch of possibly Steampunk?)

Age Group: Young Adult (From my memory, they’re quite clean, which made me happy!)

Published: 2014, 2015, 2015, respectively

Pages: 299 hardcover (Jackaby), 295 hardcover (Beastly Bones), 57 kindle (The Map) (651 pages total, so far)

Series: Jackaby series list on Goodreads. These 2 and a half will be followed by a 3rd novel, Ghostly Echoes, releasing August 23, 2016 (I NEED IT YESTERDAY OH MY GOODNESS)

When Read: February 7-8, February 10, and February 12, respectively

Favorite Character: JACKABY (I’ll be honest, Charlie is also awesome)

Other Notes: Got the novels from the library, and the novella free on Kindle!

Cupcake awards to anyone who made it through reading this whole post.

(I should probably rethink my idea of doing a “series review” when I actually have a lot to say about each of the books… But I just like this idea of doing it all at once, so I did it anyway. :P)


Thanks for reading!

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer

 

Series Review: The Snow Spider, Emlyn’s Moon, The Chestnut Soldier, by Jenny Nimmo

mgcntrilogy

Series: The Magician Trilogy

Titles: The Snow Spider (#1), Emlyn’s Moon (#2), The Chestnut Soldier (#3)

Author: Jenny Nimmo

review

Overall Thoughts

These were slim books, each of which I read in a sitting, and I was in the mood for some short reads, so that was nice. I’m not sure what I think of them overall? I mean… I enjoyed them okay, some of the writing was lovely, and it’s obvious that they’re not meant to be taken too seriously — just fun adventures written for kids.

They follow a modern Welsh boy (Gwyn) from age eight to thirteen, as he discovers he’s the seventh descendant from the last magician in his family line — which has a magician every seven generations since a Welsh magician of legend named Gwydion. So Gwyn has inherited his ancestor’s magic in his blood, and he has to learn responsibility for it and how to look out for his friends and occasionally fight fantastical things, while trying to keep it all from the various relations/neighbors who, due to the modern setting, don’t understand these things. The usual. πŸ˜‰

I did really like the Welsh setting. I’ve read a few books, now, set in semi-modern-day Wales (these particular ones were from the 1980s) and they all had a similar “feel,” so I found that to be neat. The ancient craggy hills, the wild wind, the old legends creeping into modern day, the sort of almost-lilt of the slightly-odd way they talk even in English, and the occasional smattering of Welsh words dropped here or there.

It may just be the shortness of the books, but I did often feel like things were rushed or not explained well enough. Some of it was super vague and I was confused about what was going on a lot. But like I said, they don’t seem like they’re supposed to be super in-depth. Still, a bit more of explaining things might have been nice. Some of the characters seemed to change randomly, which was weird? But that might have been just me. Sometimes it just felt oddly… unfinished.

One thing that I didn’t like so much, and is a common problem in contemporary novels (one of the reasons I avoid them generally) was the dysfunctional/not getting along of families. Though at least these each tended to focus on one family/problem per book, and generally sorted out most of it by the end, so that was good. I do like seeing repaired families. πŸ™‚ Still, it’s rather difficult for me to get through the stuff before, in order to get there. I just… don’t enjoy reading that stuff. (Some people call it “conflict” and insist that books need that sort of thing. I believe there can be plenty of “conflict” without that sort of uncomfortable mess.) So, one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” sort of things for these books and me.

I quite loved the scraps of Celtic legend thrown in here and there, weaving into the story. That was great! I’m trying to remember specific things it mentioned that I knew about… But anyway, I feel like there were a few things I’d read of before, and even if I hadn’t, it felt… comfortable. In that eerie, mysterious Celtic way, you know. I’m just used to such myths and legends and it feels quite natural to have them built in like this. So that was enjoyable for me.

Oh, and something that really annoyed me (I know it’s inconsequential, sorry) was the excessive use of exclamation marks after dialog. I think it was just an ’80s thing and/or a children’s-book thing, but it felt like they were always quipping or yelling, even though they weren’t supposed to be, and it felt kind of condescending. But that’s just a minor issue and I eventually got mostly used to it. Still, thought I’d mention it.

So… I don’t know, a bit of a mixed bag. There were a few things I really enjoyed about it, but a lot of the overall feeling was one of incomplete meh-ness… but I dunno. By the end of the trilogy I did realize I’d become somewhat attached to the setting and some of the characters. It just felt kind of homey. I think I’ve figured out that happens to me for most things I spend three books in. πŸ˜‰

I’m not sure I particularly recommend them? But some people who like modern fantasy, and don’t mind small books about very young kids written for a younger age, might enjoy them. I’m not sorry I read them, or anything, and found some enjoyment for myself, they’re just not 100% my “thing” and I don’t know if they’d be others’ either.

Additional Notes on Each Book

snowspider

The Snow Spider (#1)

3starrating

I remember starting this out, accidentally, late one night, and then staying up to finish it. I was thinking, near the end, of possibly giving it 4 stars, since it was rather intriguing and some of the writing was pretty, and I tend to be fairly generous in my star-ratings. Then the ending was a little flat for me, so I settled on 3 stars. It’s not a bad book, it was just… okay for me. I wished a few things had turned out slightly different, and some of it wasn’t well explained. But I did enjoy it okay and it kept me interested, and the Welsh setting/legends were fantastic. (It’s also quite appropriate how Gwyn’s birthday/when people disappear and all, is on Samhain.)

emlynsmoon

Emlyn’s Moon (#2)

3starrating

This was mostly from the POV of Nia, a girl minorly mentioned in the first book. I think I wasn’t expecting that. This one actually reminded me a lot of the Julia Redfern books by Eleanor Cameron (just add a little magic). About a very young, very reckless/hotheaded girl who gets into scrapes, though her continued lying got to me a little, especially since half the time I really understood it, and half the time I… didn’t. I also loved Nia’s art school project part of the plot — quite lovely (though with some misfortunes along the way. *wince*). It was also quite interesting to see the hero of the first book, Gwyn, from another perspective! And then there was Gwyn’s cousin, Emlyn. There could have been more to his story, but I enjoyed his part of it all the same. He was a great addition (I’m sorry, I can never resist the golden eyed/slightly troubled boys).

chestnutsoldier

The Chestnut Soldier (#3)

4starrating

I don’t really do half-stars but… this one might be 3.5? I think I overall liked it better than the first two, but I’m not sure if it quite reaches 4 star distinction? I don’t know. The plot was much more interesting to me though, the whole mystery/legend surrounding Evan, the strange distant “cousin” (he’s not actually) of Nia who comes to stay at their village. The fascinating question of who he was, when, and all, kept me quite interested. I did wish that Emlyn had been in it more — he barely showed up, it seemed to me. This one was rather scarier than the first two, perhaps, but it also had more of the Welsh things instead of just the silvery people from the first two. All in all, my favorite of the trilogy. By this time I’d become rather attached, methinks. Anyways, it had its problems, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit and was pretty satisfied, I think, with how it all turned out. πŸ™‚

summary

From Goodreads:

The Snow Spider (#1)

1snspOn Gwyn’s 9th birthday, his grandmother tells him he may be a magician, like his Welsh ancestors. She gives him five gifts to help him–a brooch, a piece of dried seaweed, a tin whistle, a scarf, and a broken toy horse. One blustery day, unsure what to do with his newfound magic, Gwyn throws the brooch to the wind and receives a silvery snow spider in return. Will he be able to use this special spider to bring his missing sister, Bethan, home? THE SNOW SPIDER spins an icy, sparkly web of mystical intrigue that sets the stage for the next two books in this outstanding trilogy.

Emlyn’sΒ  Moon (#2)

2emmnYoung magician Gywn and his friend Nia have been warned to stay away from Emlyn Llewelyn, the strange boy who claims his mother lives on the moon. And yet, a mysterious magic continues to draw them to him. But why? It’s up to Gwyn and Nia to solve the mystery, with the help of Arianwen, the Snow Spider. Readers will race along with Gwyn in this fantastic magical adventure to rescue Emlyn and his family before it’s too late.

The Chestnut Soldier (#3)

3chsdrGwyn can feel danger coming in the wind. Somehow he knows the warnings have to do with the broken toy horse that holds the evil spirit of a prince who lived long ago. When Gwyn discovers that the prince’s dark soul has escaped from the horse and is seeking revenge Gwyn, Emlyn, and Nia have to figure out how to save the mysterious soldier who claims to be Nia’s distant cousin. With the help of the Snow Spider, can they recapture the prince’s soul without hurting the Chestnut soldier?

factoids

Genre/Category: Contemporary Fantasy

Age Group: Middle Grade

Published: 1986, 1987, 1989

Pages: 128 hardback, 154 hardback, 203 paperback (485 total)

Series: The Magician Trilogy (also called the Snow Spider Trilogy). List on Goodreads.

When Read: February 6, February 20, February 22, respectively (2016)

Favorite Character: Humm… Well, I liked Emlyn in the middle book, and in the final, I’d say Evan (sometimes… whenever he was… ahem… himself).

Other Notes: Book 1 I got from the library; book 2 was given to me; I found book 3 at a library sale.

Read for the Fantasy Love February Reading Challenge hosted by Grace @ Fictionally. (This is my first review for the mini-challenge… I will hopefully have a few more coming this week! Don’t worry, there will be some medieval fantasy adventures too. ;))


Thanks for reading!

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer