Giveaway winners; and links rounded up, part 2

First of all: The winners of the giveaway!

Karenlibrarian of Books and Chocolate! and!
Proper Jenny of Shelf Love!

Congratulations! I’ve sent you both an email, so let me know if you don’t receive it. And now, on to the links.

Just Book Reading expected Witch Week to be sort of like Harry Potter though in fact it turned out to be quite different.

Thomas of shepline thinks about his favorites of Diana Wynne Jones’s books. Spoiler: He likes Fire and Hemlock best because it is best. 🙂 Here he writes about how Fire and Hemlock influenced his own writing; and here he picks his top seven Diana Wynne Jones books (tricky!).

Kristen of We Be Reading sticks up for A Tale of Time City, causing me to rethink my stance on it. She thinks it would make a fantastic movie, which although ToTC is not my favorite DWJ book, I totally agree with. She did not expect to like Dogsbody as she feared the narration by a dog would be annoying, but she was pleased to find it was wonderful. She loved Charmed Life on a reread and wants to carry on reading DWJ books forever. Quite rightly.

Bellaonbooks’s Blog regrets that The Homeward Bounders is frequently overlooked, in spite of how brilliant it is. I second! It has one of my most favorite DWJ characters of all, and she writes damn good characters across the board.

Karenlibrarian of Books and Chocolate read four of the Chrestomanci books; her post covers The Lives of Christopher Chant and The Magicians of Caprona. She liked The Lives of Christopher Chant best. (yay)

Jeanne of Necromancy Never Pays liked Fire and Hemlock but was not sure Polly’s dreadful parents were realistic, and she disliked the end. It is quite fair to dislike the end.

Anastasia of Birdrain(ed) Book Blog remembers how her second-best friend in middle school, who liked Redwall and Homer, put her on to Diana Wynne Jones.

Jane of Teabag Central, who is my hero for transliterating the Greek from The Ogre Downstairs from me, loves the fairy tale tropes turned on their heads in Howl’s Moving Castle, which she calls “the classiest pantomime you could ever imagine”. P.S. I never saw a panto when I lived in Britain and I really, really regret it. She too sticks up for A Tale of Time City, the world of which she fell completely in love with. Then she reviewed Archer’s Goon, thank God, I was afraid nobody would and I truly love it, and blew my mind by saying there was a BBC TV adaptation of it which I now want more than I want to snuddle my puppy. She seems to have read the same trashy fantasy in her teenage years as I did and thus loved The Tough Guide to Fantasyland.

Bookwyrme of Bookwyrme’s Lair reread Enchanted Glass, and makes the point that Andrew’s academic life carries on being important to him even after he discovers magic. This is a nice thing about Diana Wynne Jones: her characters are interesting because they have interests. Year of the Griffin was a less-successful reread, as Bookwyrme felt it was a generic story; and The Game proved disappointingly easily resolved. But Eight Days of Luke, a longtime favorite, remained so on the reread; and Deep Secret was also a success except for the sci-fi convention.

Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library enjoyed Diana Wynne Jones’s short retelling of Puss in Boots, which, since she brings it up, I am not sure I have ever read. She also reread The Game and liked and understood it better this time.

Ana of things mean a lot is, as I mentioned, giving away a copy of Fire and Hemlock in her post about “What the Cat Told Me”, an excellent Diana Wynne Jones short story.

Shanra of Libri Touches had mixed feelings about The Merlin Conspiracy, as she does not care for first-person narrators and moreover did not buy it that the adults of Blest were being so clueless.

Erin of Aelia Reads loves the world of Charmed Life and wishes it could make friends with the world of Deep Secret and The Merlin Conspiracy. Her favorite character from The Lives of Christopher Chant is Throgmorten, which I think undersells the Goddess. Though she did not care for every story from Mixed Magics, she made it sound awesome and I hate myself for not buying it when I had the chance. And last but decidedly not least, she reviewed Howl’s Moving Castle, her most favorite DWJ book of all.

Jennifer of Jean Little Library enjoyed the Romeo & Juliet echoes in The Magicians of Caprona; and appreciated the lovely variety of stories in Unexpected Magic, except for the long one at the end. I remember quite liking that one myself but it’s been ages since I read it. And she likes that Conrad’s Fate works in spite of having a plot not entirely clear and a fairly passive protagonist.

Jenclair from A Garden Carried in the Pocket read The Magicians of Caprona and Witch Week and noted (told you so) that reading the Chrestomanci books out of order really doesn’t matter at all. (Though maybe don’t read Conrad’s Fate first.)

Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness found the first two Dalemark Quartet books to be disappointingly unresolved; she hopes good things of the later two.

Jeane of Dog Ear Diary has never liked any Diana Wynne Jones books nearly as well as Dogsbody; and this record was, sadly, not broken by Castle in the Air.

trapunto of Villa Negativa contemplates sexiness and mystique in Diana Wynne Jones’s books. Basically, who would you marry? Y’all know I’d marry the man who sends books to the object of his affections.

Heather of letters and sodas loved Fire and Hemlock (yay!) (yay!) (yay!), particularly the way that it integrated real regular life and what Polly and Tom call “hero business.”

Y’all are smashing. This has been awesome. Regularly scheduled posting will resume…at some point. I may be a bit absent from the blogosphere this week, as it’s my last week of the internship and I will be going home soon. I was going to write up some of my backlog of reviews yesterday, but instead of doing that, I watched the first season of Shameless and contemplated how much I love Paul Abbott. The stress of change takes me this way. I also ate up half a pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Second (or third, or fourth) chances

The story of my Diana Wynne Jones reading life is this:

Stage One: Begin book. Find world it is set in confusing. Find characters depressing and unpleasant. Give up reading it, or finish it with grim sense of duty to beloved author. Lament dissimilarity to books previously read by Diana Wynne Jones. Attain acceptance by telling self that no author can write good books every single time. Reread Fire and Hemlock consolingly.

Stage Two (discovery of DWJ – 2003ish): Receive assurances from sister that book in question is good. Doubt her taste because of Juliet Marillier and similar. Point out to her with superior air that no author can write good books every time and this one is simply not my cup of tea. Remind her about The Time of the Ghost. Insert fingers in ears. Go la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.

Stage Two (2003ish – present): Remember all those other Diana Wynne Jones books not loved upon first reading. Begin to doubt judgment. Remind self of Dark Lord of Derkholm, Archer’s Goon, Deep Secret, and Homeward Bounders. Remind self about Time of the Ghost. Struggle to hold onto feelings of justification in abandoning book.

Stage Three: Allow time to pass. Have no new Diana Wynne Jones books to read. Begin to feel book could not have been as bad as all that. Begin book again. Either return immediately to Stage One and do whole thing over with calcifying feelings of dislike for book, or carry on to Stage Four.

Stage Four: Finish book. Have no idea what was wrong with self before. Promise self to bear this in mind in future. Possibly give The Time of the Ghost another try, despite never ever progressing beyond Stage Three with it.

Knowing this will happen does not, by the way, fend it off. Out of Diana Wynne Jones’s dozens of books, there have been maybe six I liked on the first try. I do not know how to account for this, but I will say that it has given me a healthy doubt for the accuracy of my first impressions.

As you may have discerned, I have never progressed to Stage Four with The Time of the Ghost. It’s about the ghost of one of four sisters (she cannot quite work out which sister she is), who in present times, her own adulthood, has been in an accident and is lying ill in a hospital bed. She keeps traveling back in time to her childhood, and the events surrounding a game (a sort of game) about worshiping a dark goddess called Monigan. Some way, Monigan is connected to what has happened to the ghost, and she must change the past in order to keep herself from being claimed by the goddess.

I have read this book, in part or in full, at least seven times in the last decade; and each time I have found it tiresome and creepy and unspeakably dreary and awful. But as Diana Wynne Jones Week grew closer, I felt more and more that it was shabby of me to hold such a week while also retaining such strong dislike for one of Diana Wynne Jones’s books. When I saw it at a book sale a few weekends ago, therefore, I grabbed it.

“Ew,” said my sister. “You’re buying that?”

“I have disliked so many of her books, the first time through,” I said (stoutly) (firmly in Stage Three). “One of these days, I’m going to have a breakthrough with The Time of the Ghost. I’m going to read it, and I’m going to like it,” so I bought it.

And lo, it did come to pass that I curled up in a blue university armchair with The Time of the Ghost, and I did decline to read the flap copy on it for verily I remembered finding it confusing before. And I looked upon The Time of the Ghost and read it, and found it good; and yea, I did not know what was wrong with me before. And so it was that after ten years of travail and misery, The Time of the Ghost and I progressed to Stage Four at last, and I entered it into my catalogue on LibraryThing, that I might keep it forever as a sign of joy and a reminder of past follies.

I may have said a few times this week that I love Diana Wynne Jones. I love her for many reasons. Most of these are to do with her skill as a writer: the vivid life of her characters, her humor, her deft, elegant plots, and her boundless imagination. But I particularly love her for the dozens of times my experience of her books has reminded me to try again, to be aware that the reader has to be able to meet a book halfway in order to enjoy it. (People, too, as it goes.) My life is happier for these reminders.

This has been Diana Wynne Jones Week, lovely internet people. I am enchanted with my first experience of hosting a blog event and may do it again someday. Like maybe I will actually start up that mental health challenge I have been talking about for a year. A big thank you, again, to Sami Saramäki for letting me use her beautiful illustration for the button; and to you, delightful people of the blogosphere, for playing along with me. I shouldn’t be surprised, after two and a half years of blogging, at how amazing and fun and enthusiastic y’all are. I hope you all enjoyed your Diana Wynne Jones books and will read on. 🙂

If you haven’t entered my DWJ giveaway, hasten to do so, because it closes at midnight tonight!

The Dalemark Quartet, Part 2

Dalemark! Onward! As you will recall, the country is split by North and South, the South full of angry earls who do not like to hear talk of free speech, and the North full of angry earls who do not mind it so much. There are gods, called the Undying, who continue to take a lively if unpredictable interest in the doings of Dalemark and its occupants.

The Spellcoats jumps us back several thousand years into Dalemark’s past. Our narrator Tanaqui and her four siblings are forced out of their own village in a time of war, as they do not look like the other villagers and are believed to be Heathens or witches or both. As they travel, they gradually come to realize that the true enemy is not the Heathen but an enchanter called Kankedrin, who seeks to control the land and its gods and its people.

In The Crown of Dalemark, we are back with Mitt, who feels lost and lonely in the North, and still more so when an Earl orders him to assassinate a girl called Noreth who appears to be preparing a claim to the long-defunct throne of Dalemark. Two hundred years into Mitt’s future, a girl called Maewen is asked to go and take Noreth’s place as history unfolds; and without much ceremony, she is thrown into the middle of the political turmoil of Noreth’s life. Trying to do her best to masquerade as Noreth, she travels through Dalemark firming up her claim to the throne, accompanied by both Mitt and Moril.

The Spellcoats is about a group of really, really different siblings working together on something while growing into the adults they’re going to be, which I love. I cannot imagine why I didn’t care for it before! It’s done so beautifully! Tanaqui’s brother Hern is the same person all through the book, but the commander-of-armies Hern as the book nears its end has changed tremendously from the Hern who prayed to the Undying to be able to go fight the Heathen with his father at the beginning. It is one of Diana Wynne Jones’s best tricks, this true, natural growing up of her characters.

By contrast, the characters in The Crown of Dalemark seem to have done most of their growing up already. We see little out of Mitt that we haven’t seen before: his circumstances change (dramatically!), but we don’t really see the outcome of that change on him. The same is true of Maewen: her life changes and she stays the same. There is little of that growing self-awareness and its attendant strength that characterizes nearly all of Diana Wynne Jones’s protagonists. Not to say that the plot of the book isn’t interesting (it is! and it brings together dangling threads from all three previous books!), just that the characters do not get to grow as dramatically as I would like them to.

In my memory, The Spellcoats was easily the weakest of the Dalemark books, and The Crown of Dalemark easily the strongest. Not at all what I found reading through them again. I think I must be wanting different things out of books now than I was when I read these last.

I feel like I read somewhere that Diana Wynne Jones said she couldn’t write a sequel to Crown of Dalemark until she figured out what happens with Tanaqui at the end of The Spellcoats. I wish she would. I want her to do her growing-up trick to Mitt and Moril. They have had many bad things in their lives, and I am curious what they are like as grown-ups. This really speaks to Diana Wynne Jones’s skill at characterization–you truly feel they have a life beyond the story, and you wish you were in on it.

(I love Diana Wynne Jones and) I am so pleased I reread these books. It was a completely new reading experience to what I remember, and that was grand.

Rounding up links (part 1)

In case you were not aware, Diana Wynne Jones is very ill right now. If you enjoy her books and wish her well, now would be a good time to drop her a line and tell her so. Her semi-official fan site offers an email address; or if you prefer, her lovely publisher Greenwillow will forward snail mail to her: Diana Wynne Jones c/o Greenwillow Books, 10 E. 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022. It is at times like these that I wish I could change the universe by wanting it to be different. I know Diana Wynne Jones is full of books still, and they are all books I want to read. I hope she is able to write them.

If you haven’t already entered my DWJ giveaway, go forth and do so. You know you want to. And without further ado, here is what you have all had to say so far this week.

Erin of Aelia Reads had never heard of Wild Robert before. It is small and easily missed, so that’s understandable. She also reviewed Witch’s Business, Ms. Jones’s first book, which I get confused with Wild Robert and which is called Wilkins’ Tooth in the UK, I believe.

Kristen of We Be Reading read Witch’s Business, and said I had infinite wisdom. This may be an early sign that my childhood dreams of having everyone go “Correct as usual, Jenny,” are coming true. She also loved Fire and Hemlock (it is hard for me to express the joy I feel every time someone loves Fire and Hemlock); and here she remembers discovering Diana Wynne Jones.

Heather of Letters and Sodas read Dogsbody, and was impressed by Diana Wynne Jones’s clever star jokes. I definitely did not get the one about Cepheids either, but I have since looked it up on Wikipedia and feel much enlightened.

Fiona of The Book Coop found Eight Days of Luke a little hasty but liked it anyway.

A Tale of Time City did not live up to Memory’s memory. She is from Stella Matutina, and I’m sorry I made that joke but I could not resist it. I am running on five hours of sleep. Earlier today I forgot the word “dictionary,” and yesterday I spent an hour trying to remember the title of Catcher in the Rye, and all this is sort of Memory’s fault for mentioning North and South briefly in a vlog recently, which forced me to stay up really late watching the BBC miniseries of it. And now I have digressed. It’s because I’m so tired and cannot focus at all.

Ana of things mean a lot makes the confusing Hexwood sound appealing without spoilering it, and totally blew my mind by noting that she does not read DWJ for the plots, but for the dialogue, characters, and emotional resonance. I feel just the same. How did I fail to notice that this is my exact feeling about Diana Wynne Jones?

Jeanne of Necromancy Never Pays found Deep Secret satisfying, and wonders what makes a book aimed at this audience or that audience (I do not have the answers).

Eva of A Striped Armchair read Fire and Hemlock while hanging around on Twitter, a while back, and that was lovely (for me) (maybe less so for her) because I was all, What is happening now? What about now? Wasn’t that rehearsal scene good? What do you mean, you weren’t crazy about the end?

Gavin of Page 247 enjoyed The Lives of Christopher Chant despite not reading Charmed Life first. I didn’t read Charmed Life first either. It doesn’t matter!

Shanra of Libri Touches shares the tale of how she first “met” Diana Wynne Jones.

Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library found The Pinhoe Egg better her second time around. See? I’m not just saying that to make y’all reread DWJ books you were not wild about. The books are actually genuinely better on a reread. Unless they are A Tale of Time City. (That’s two votes against, and it’s not one of my favorites either. Anyone care to defend it?)

Proper Jenny of Shelf Love was impressed by The Merlin Conspiracy and its complex worlds and themes.

Lightheaded of everyday reads calls House of Many Ways infinitely charming, and even mentions Twinkle. There are so many reasons Twinkle is great.

Bookwyrme of Bookwyrme’s Lair liked House of Many Ways too, especially the urgent but low-key nature of the threat; and admires how The Dark Lord of Derkholm is a parody but not solely a parody. This is one of the things I like best about Dark Lord of Derkholm myself.

In rapid succession Jane of Teabag Central has reviewed three of Diana Wynne Jones’s most delightfully complicated books: Fire and Hemlock, Deep Secret, and Hexwood. She has also provided a link to the article Ms. Jones wrote about Fire and Hemlock and all its lovely myth strands, which if you have read Fire and Hemlock is rather enlightening.

trapunto of Villa Negativa read Enchanted Glass and then cracked me up with a description of what it is like to have a new Diana Wynne Jones book. I feel just the same!

Christy of A Good Stopping Point enjoyed Deep Secret despite its being slightly dated (it is, but I never thought about it before), and did not mind the way it tosses you into the middle of events. I told her to try it again because it’s better on a reread. That’s what I always say. But only because it’s true.

orchidus of epiphany read Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant, with all their coming-of-age goodness.

If you are wondering about the ending of Fire and Hemlock, you (should read the above-linked article and) are not alone; in the past arnique has had similar difficulties; and if you still cannot decide what books of DWJ you must read, try Kate Coombs’s post about DWJ’s books and her status as Queen of Children’s Fantasy. The Greenwillow blog (Greenwillow is Jones’s US publisher) has some very lovely things to say about her too; and, from 1992 but still ever so true, Orson Scott Card goes on at some length about the scope and variety of her fiction. It is all true! She is wonderful in a zillion ways!

If I missed your Sunday-through-Tuesday link, let me know. It is not because I don’t love you, but only because my computer is very slow and sometimes in the time it takes a page to load, I forget things. Carry on linking me your links on the giveaway post, for I will do another round-up later. Y’all are great, and I’m loving reading all your posts. This week is awesome so far.

The Dalemark Quartet, Part 1

Although I have charming matched blue copies of the Dalemark Quartet, the four books in this series are not among my favorites by Diana Wynne Jones. Why then, you ask, have I chosen the Dalemark Quartet as the only books to be properly reviewed during Diana Wynne Jones Week? Mainly for the exact reason that I have not loved them in the past–I wanted to give them another chance. Another reason is that they are among Diana Wynne Jones’ early YA-fantasy books, and I like seeing writers in progress. Hearts.

In Cart and Cwidder, we meet Moril, the youngest son in a family of Singers that travels around Dalemark playing in any town they happen on. Dalemark is divided into fifteen earldoms, which are further divided into North and South Dalemark; when Moril’s family travels in the South they have to remember to be careful of what they say, for fear they will be called traitors and cast into prison. Which is kind of what happens. To help his family, Moril must use his father’s cwidder, an ancient and (in this case) mythic musical instrument whose power Moril barely understands.

Drowned Ammet takes place before Cart and Cwidder, and follows a separate set of characters, although there is some overlap in time and events. Mitt is the son of a Southern freedom fighter; when his father is betrayed by his fellow freedom fighters, Mitt vows to grow up to avenge him. He gets his chance when he is fourteen, at the annual parade to honor the folk gods Old Ammet and Libby Beer; when this goes horribly awry, he stows away on a little pleasure boat owned by the grandchildren of the Earl, Hildy and Ynen. Class tension hilarity ensues.

Can we just take it for granted that everything I say this week should be prefaced by “I love Diana Wynne Jones and”? Everything. (I love Diana Wynne Jones and) I shall now talk about the Dalemark Quartet. (I love Diana Wynne Jones and) this is my week for learning about how copyrights work. (I love Diana Wynne Jones and) it’s hot outside. Thank you.

Though these books occur fairly early in Diana Wynne Jones’s writing career, she is already writing many of the themes that will recur over and over again in later books. Particularly for Moril, but hardly less so for Mitt, self-knowledge is crucial. Mitt and Moril spend a lot of time lying, whether deliberately (Mitt deceives the freedom-fighters into believing he is loyal to them) or by circumstance (Moril does not know about any of his father’s, shall we say, extracurricular activities, until well into the book). As much as their lies have protected them, it’s made clear that they cannot carry on lying to themselves, or to the people they trust. Moril cannot make the cwidder work for him, nor Mitt work out how to proceed after becoming a wanted criminal, until each of them has confronted the truth about himself and those around him.

Another common plot element of Diana Wynne Jones’s books is the thing of stories and myths coming true. It happens to Moril and it happens to Mitt. The myths start coming to life around them, whether they believe in them/understand them/want them true or not. What I like about these books as companions to each other is that while the boys live in the same country, they occupy completely different worlds, and they live by different myths. Far from making the books feel disjointed, the side-by-side mythologies expand the world of Dalemark–a traveling Singer would have different legends than a gutter boy of the South Dales.

As I remembered from previous readings, the writing and plotting in these books is not as tight as in some of Jones’s later books–Drowned Ammet peters off rather anticlimactically. I had intended to read these two for DWJ Week and worry about the second two some other time. But when I got through with these two, I found myself unable to remember what happened in the second two books and very unhappy about it. If not Diana Wynne Jones at her peak, they are still very worthy contributions to her canon.

Discovering Diana Wynne Jones

This one day when I was in middle school (I can’t remember if I was twelve or thirteen or eleven or what), I was at the public library looking through the plays, which were located near the young adults section. I used to feel terribly grown-up and sophisticated looking at the plays, which were mostly Chekhov, Shaw, and Shakespeare. I rarely checked any of them out, except for this copy of Romeo and Juliet that also contained the book for West Side Story, and this copy of Pygmalion that also contained the book for My Fair Lady. As I was sauntering casually away with Pygmalion, reading it while I walked, I glanced up to see if anyone noticed that I could walk and read classics at the same time, and my eye fell on this book on the display shelf called The Tough Guide to Fantasyland.

I read a lot of fantasy at that time in my life, most of which I was a bit ashamed of because I thought it was too young for me or else way too old. I ever-so-quickly snatched The Tough Guide off the display shelf and slipped it into my bag. Quickly because I was at that age where you feel like you are constantly being watched by a snide, unhelpful version of yourself that does not think much of you and will probably tattle. I got it home and read it straight through. Twice. Completely ignoring Pygmalion and laughing my head off. Then I started writing a story that was more or less completely stealing from Diana Wynne Jones (I am, to steal a phrase from her again but at least acknowledging it this time, bleached full of shame that I did this, and then showed it to people); and I also went back to the library and ran a search to see if she had written anything else.

Back in the day, before my library switched to a fancy new computer system, they had a fairly simple computer catalogue. You typed in your search terms, and the computer brought up a list of books they owned that would fit the terms. Any book held at the branch you were at would be highlighted in yellow.

I have this very clear memory of seeing the results pull up for “Jones, Diana Wynne”. There was a full page of results, all highlighted in yellow, which is the kind of thing I always hoped for with new authors but rarely got. My finger hit N accidentally, for Next, and the computer pulled up another full page of results, and then another one after that. In retrospect, this was one of the most good moments of my reading life, but I was fairly blase about it at the time. When I was younger, it seemed like there are a limitless number of authors to be discovered, with limitless backlists of books for me to read; it’s only as a grown-up that I’ve noticed what an amazing event it is when this happens.

It’s a shame you can’t know straight away when an author’s going to be your new favorite, and savor each moment accordingly. I almost never feel, looking back, that I welcomed my favorite authors with anything like the enthusiasm they deserved. But I do remember that moment at the computer (I remember which computer!), with all those books highlighted in yellow. For a small moment, it is extremely distinct in my mind.

For those of you who know Diana Wynne Jones already, how did you find her? Or do you cherish a memory of discovering a particular author for the first time?

Diana Wynne Jones Week begins

To kick off Diana Wynne Jones Week, I am holding a giveaway. I will be picking two winners, each of whom can select up to $20 worth of Diana Wynne Jones’s books from The Book Depository. The giveaway is open internationally, but make sure that you live in a country where The Book Depository ships.

To enter, leave a comment on this post telling me which book or books you would like to win and why. If you post a review or other celebration of Diana Wynne Jones on your blog this week, you may leave an additional comment with the links to those posts, and it will get you an extra entry. This is because I am afraid I will miss your posts when I am doing round-ups, leave your link out, and mortally offend you; and I am hoping that you will do my work for me if I incentivize it. Make sure to leave a working email address where I can contact you if you win.

(For those on time-limited book-buying bans, I am perfectly willing to delay sending your books to you; although you do run the risk that they will suddenly become out of print and you will be out of luck. Also you will have to remember to let me know when you are able to receive books again.)

This giveaway is open until midnight on Saturday. Failing some sort of computer or packing meltdown, I will pick the two winners on Sunday. If you do not know which books to pick, I refer you here and here, as I have said a few things about a number (but not all) of Diana Wynne Jones’s books and what they are about. (Fire and Hemlock is out of print. I am sorry about that. If I could make it be constantly in print using the strength of my will, I’d do it.) Also, you are not bound by what you say in the comments. If you say you want Witch Week and Enchanted Glass, and then find that actually you want Time of the Ghost and The Crown of Dalemark, that will be fine.

Yay! I am excited that this week is here at last!

More Diana Wynne Jones books

Don’t blame me. She has written a lot of books.

The One Where Words Are Mighty
Archer’s Goon


The world it is set in: Modern England, in a town
The premise: When Howard comes home to find a Goon in his kitchen, it is his first inkling that his town is controlled by seven very powerful wizards, all apparently hell-bent on taking over the world. But something is stopping them. They are all, for some reason, deeply interested in the two thousand words that Howard’s father Quentin writes each month, and each swears that she or he is not the one who has been receiving the words over the years. Quentin becomes determined not to write the words, as he fears the wizards will use them to take over the world, and in return the wizards begin persecuting his family. There are lovely layers of deceit and alliance and self-discovery. This is one of my favorites, although I rarely recommend it to people because it is hard to describe.
Something that pleases me: Torquil. With his outfits.

The One that is Clever and Emotionally Satisfying Despite Being Essentially a Parody
The Dark Lord of Derkholm


The world it is set in: The exact world as set forth in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, from the perspective of the people living there
The premise: A wicked man called Mr. Chesney, backed by a powerful demon, has been exploiting the world for years, forcing its inhabitants to set up their villages and towns for Tourists from another world to travel through. When a group of wizards consults an oracle to find out how to stop Mr. Chesney, mild-mannered wizard Derk finds himself saddled with the post of Dark Lord, though he would rather be designing new animals. Backed by his two human and five griffin children, Derk utterly fails at being Dark Lord, and everything goes absolutely spectacularly to hell. This should appeal to British audiences in particular, as things going spectacularly to hell are a staple of British humour.
Something that pleases me: The relationships between Derk’s griffin and human children. Diana Wynne Jones is good at siblings. Derk’s children have an excellent sibling dynamic.

The One That Is Less of a Cuddly Animal Story Than You Might Expect
Dogsbody


The world it is set in: An English village during the Troubles
The premise: Sirius, the Dog Star, has been accused of murder and exiled to Earth as a dog. As a dog he is adopted by an Irish girl called Kathleen who is living with her uncle, aunt, and cousins while her father is in prison. Sirius has been told that he may be reinstated as the denizen of the Dog Star if he finds a thing called the Zoi, which he has supposedly lost. His dog-self cannot quite articulate what a Zoi is, but he tries to find it anyway, with the help of the Sun and a group of other dogs who appear to have come from the same litter as he has.
Something that pleases me: Sirius making friends with the cats.

The One Where Words Are Mighty But the Plot Is Difficult to Describe (& It’s Not Archer’s Goon)
Power of Three


The world it is set in: A large moor occupied by three races of people
The premise: There is this large moor occupied by three races of people: Lymen, who have the power of words; Dorigs, who can shapeshift; and Giants, who have great strength and machines that work by themselves. There is some contention as to whose the Moor should be. The point of view character is a Lyman boy called Gair, who does not feel that he fits in with his family or his village, and who feels relentlessly ordinary next to his brother and sister, each of whom has a rare and exciting Gift. The title can be taken to mean any number of things, and although I am not describing this book very well, I promise that it is good.
Something that pleased me: Gair is friends with the bees. I don’t know why but this idea appeals to me.

The One with Magic Chemistry Sets and a Wicked Stepfather
The Ogre Downstairs


The world it is set in: Modern England, with attendant nasty schoolchildren
The premise: Actually I covered it pretty well up there. Johnny, Caspar, and Gwinny’s mother remarries, and they do not especially care for their new stepfather, who is sarcastic, or their new stepbrothers, who are posh and superior. The stepfather, in an apparent attempt at making peace, gets a chemistry set for Johnny and one for Malcolm, and these turn out to be magical. Hilary ensues.
Something that pleases me: Caspar and Malcolm switching places.

The One with Sex, for Grown-ups
A Sudden Wild Magic


The world it is set in: Half ours and half another world that is stealing ideas from ours
The premise: There is this other world that is stealing ideas from ours. This would not be so bad, except that the pirate world keeps introducing disasters into our world to see how our scientists and witches cope, and then copying all of those ideas. The witches from our world organize a strike team to go to the pirate world and destabilize them–using sex, as it turns out that all the people controlling the copying of ideas are celibate dudes. Rogue elements become a factor, in particular a lovelorn single mother with very strong wild magic; and things do not quite go according to plan. This is not Diana Wynne Jones’s best book, but I have become rather fond of it anyway.
Something about it that pleases me: Marcus’s baby talk. He says damn damn bitches for jam sandwiches, and like that. It is cute.

The One That Makes More Sense If You Are Up on Norse Myths
Eight Days of Luke


The world it is set in: Modern England, but with Norse gods running around making trouble
The premise: While trying to curse the unpleasant relations with whom he lives, David inadvertently conjures up a boy called Luke, who claims that David has set him free from prison and he wants to help David any way he can, out of gratitude. They have some good adventures together, although Luke does not seem entirely compos mentis at all times, and then people start showing up trying to catch Luke. David makes a deal with one of them, Mr. Wednesday, that if he can keep Luke safe until the end of the week, Luke will be allowed to go properly free. Although Diana Wynne Jones thoughtfully includes a note at the end of the book explaining who is who in Norse mythology and why everyone was behaving that way, you will probably get the most enjoyment out of this book if you had a book of Norse mythology stories as a kid.
Something that pleases me: This book gave Neil Gaiman the germ of the idea for American Gods. I like it that Neil Gaiman is always using Diana Wynne Jones’s ideas to write books that just really could not be more different.

Anyway, there you go. I have still not done all of Diana Wynne Jones’s books, notably sequels (including one of my very favorites, Witch Week, which is one of the Chrestomanci books although Chrestomanci doesn’t show until halfway through) and books that I have not read often enough to feel sure that I’d be able to give a good account of them. These include the Dalemark Quartet, of which I shall be rereading at least one for Diana Wynne Jones Week, A Tale of Time City, and the bewildering and scary Time of the Ghost, which if you’d care to read it and explain it to me, I’d be grateful.

Some of Diana Wynne Jones’s books (but nothing like all of them)

Because I care about y’all and I do not want you to leap into one of Diana Wynne Jones’s books not knowing what to expect, I have hereby decided to construct a list of her books that says what world they are set in and what they are about. And, since I love Diana Wynne Jones, and I find it difficult not to compliment her extravagantly every time I say her name, I shall also say one thing about each of her books that charms me and pleases my heart.

My Most Favorite One
Fire and Hemlock

(the pretty cover)

The world it is set in: Modern England. Mostly. More or less.
The premise: Fire and Hemlock is a (one might say the) retelling of the ballad “Tam Lin”. As Polly is packing her things to go to Oxford, she finds a book of short stories and is bewildered to find that she remembers the stories being quite different to what they are. The more she thinks about it, the more she finds that she seems to have two sets of memories: one quite ordinary, and one – not quite. In one set of memories, she had a longtime friend called Tom Lynn, with whom she used to make up stories about alternate, heroic versions of themselves that fight giants – and these stories had a disconcerting habit of coming true.
Something that pleases me: Tom sends Polly packages of books in the post. Massive packages of brilliant, necessary books.

The One that Uses a Number of Myths Including the Flying Dutchman
The Homeward Bounders


The world it is set in: Oodles of different ones.
The premise: Jamie discovers that a group of scary and powerful creatures he just calls Them are playing a vast and complicated board game with his entire world. He is made a Homeward Bounder, constantly compelled to travel from world to world trying to get back to his Home world. The rule is that if he gets back Home, he can stay. Along the way he picks up a girl called Helen, who has a right arm that can turn into anything, and a boy called Joris, who was a slave and a demon-fighter on his Home world. They are excellent characters, particularly Joris, who might in fact be my favorite Diana Wynne Jones character of all. He has pockets full of useful things.
Something that pleases me: The world with lollipops and circuses where everyone is a bit drunk all the time.

The One that Is Slow to Start but Eventually Becomes My Other Favorite
Deep Secret


The world it is set in: Modern England – again, more or less, in the fictional town of Wantchester
The premise: Rupert Venables is a Magid, responsible for caring for Earth and nudging it in directions that will help it to accept magic, and when his mentor dies, he has to find a student to become the junior Magid for Earth. He does this by arranging for all his possibilities to attend a fantasy convention. There are centaurs, and panel discussions where everybody screams at everybody else, and a quite cool use of the nursery rhyme about going to Babylon.
Something that pleases me: Janine’s ugly jumpers (sweaters). Also, the anxious Scandinavian receptionist who pushes buttons and doesn’t necessarily understand English.

My First One
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland


The world it is set in: A generic sort of epic fantasy world
The premise: It’s a travel guide to doing a tour in the generic sort of epic fantasy world. There are entries for things like Nunneries (“any Nunnery you approach…will prove to have been recently sacked”), Dreams (“They will be telling you something you need to know for the next phase of your Tour, but they will not be doing so very clearly”), and High Priest (“Sometimes he is fat, thick-lipped, and corrupt, sometimes tall, thin, shaggy-browed, and corrupt”). Thirteen-year-old me read a lot of Mercedes Lackey, and was charmed by the whole thing.
Something that pleases me: Look, everything. But if I had to choose just one thing, this book taught me the word numinous.

The One You’ve Heard Of
Howl’s Moving Castle


The world it is set in: A fairy-tale sort of world
The premise: As the eldest of three, Sophie Hatter does not expect much out of her life; and when her younger sisters go off to seek their fortune, Sophie stays home and minds the hat shop. But when a curse from the Witch of the Waste turns her into an old lady, she gives up minding about what she is supposed to do, and becomes housekeeper for the Wizard Howl, who is rumored to eat the hearts of young girls in the village. But she has made a deal with his fire demon that could end the curse on herself.
Something that pleases me: As in many of Diana Wynne Jones’s books, our own world makes an appearance. Diana Wynne Jones is brilliant at showing us our own world, with its technology and weather and strangeness, through the eyes of characters who come from very different places.

The One That Is Dedicated to Neil Gaiman and Is Confusing as Hell
Hexwood


The world it is set in: An English village. Also, another planet. Also, a strange area that doesn’t seem to obey normal space/time laws.
The premise: I hardly know. There is a young girl called Ann who is recovering from an illness and beholds some strange things when she looks out her window. She wanders into Hexwood, which is a bewildering time-shifting place controlled by something called the Bannus. She is perpetually running into a boy called Hume, who is never the same age when she sees him, and his guardian, Mordion, who looks like a death-mask. Arthurian legends are involved somehow, and so are virtual reality machines. Make of that what you will. I am only mentioning it because if you have not read Diana Wynne Jones before, I do not recommend that you start with this one. It is complex and tricky, and I am never sure if I’ve understood what happened. Also, it took me at least six tries before I even remotely liked it.
Something that pleases me: The scene of Hume reinventing the wheel

The First Chrestomanci Book, Which You May Also Have Heard Of
Charmed Life


The world it is set in: An alternate version of Edwardian England. There are pleasure steamers and petticoats and a courteous, frightening enchanter called Chrestomanci.
The premise: Cat and Gwendolen are orphans. Gwendolen, who is becoming a powerful witch and plans to rule the world someday, arranges for them to be adopted by Chrestomanci, an enchanter responsible for regulating magic on their world and any movement between worlds. This doesn’t go quite according to plan, as Chrestomanci forbids Gwendolen to use magic and then takes no notice of her, which she (as future ruler of the world, in her own mind) does not appreciate. Hilary ensues.
Something that pleases me: The game that the children invent of levitating a mirror and hanging onto it to fly across the room. I WOULD PLAY THAT GAME IF MAGIC WERE REAL.

Okay, that is enough for now. It is nine in the evening and still in the mid-eighties, and I have not screamed curses at the gods and stuck my head in a cold shower for nearly an hour. Will need to promptly rectify that situation, and then curl up with The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, which I made myself want to read again by finding excerpts of it to make you want to read it.

Diana Wynne Jones Week: 1 August – 7 August 2010

Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favorite authors in all the land. In her long career as a writer, she has written around forty books (novels and short stories), mainly for children and young adults, and each one is new and weird and wonderful in its own particular way.  She has been compared to J.K. Rowling, in that her books are set in fantasy worlds and are full of humor and charm; she has inspired many writers over the years, including two of my favorites, Neil Gaiman and Megan Whalen Turner. If you’ve been reading here for a while you’ll know that I love Diana Wynne Jones, and once I get started shrieking about how great she is, it’s difficult to make me stop. I want everyone to read her books, which have given me so much joy over the (something like) ten years that I’ve been reading her books.

To that end, I will be hosting a Diana Wynne Jones week from 1 – 7 August. To participate, just read one of her books and post a review during that week! I will be collecting links and writing my own reviews and remarks about her too (failing some sort of alarming computer failure, which (knock wood) I don’t anticipate). If you haven’t read anything by Diana Wynne Jones before, I will be only too happy to recommend a good book to start your Diana Wynne Jones fandom. There are many to choose from.

The button for this event uses a particularly beautiful illustration of Howl’s Moving Castle, one of my favorite Jones books, in three pleasing sizes. I’m using it here by kind permission of the artist, Finnish illustrator Sami Saramäki – feel free to add it to your sidebar!

I am well excited about this – I checked out loads of Diana Wynne Jones books from the library in anticipation, including (y’all, if you had seen how excited I was to get these two books, you would have thought I was such a dork) two books about Diana Wynne Jones’s writing.  I love reading criticism, because apparently being an English major in college makes you an English major FOR LIFE.