Witch Week: The Graveyard Book

As October turns to November, I hope you’re enjoying Witch Week as hosted by Lizzie Ross – she’s put together a wonderful array of posts on the theme of “Gothick.”

Today’s treat is a discussion of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. I was so happy to get to participate, along with Lizzie and two of my other favorite blogging friends, Chris of Calmgrove and Jean of Howling Frog Books. We had a long and fascinating discussion over Google Docs, which Lizzie has edited down for your reading pleasure.

In this dark time, Gaiman’s tales of life in the graveyard held a curious kind of reassurance for us. I hope you’ll read more about what we found there.


I’m on the Ruminate Blog

Ruminate Magazine is a wonderful publication I’ve recently discovered, which explores the creative and contemplative aspects of life through fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art.

I’m honored that a book review of mine was accepted as a guest post on the Ruminate Blog! You can check out my review of The Sixth Extinction there today.  I hope you’ll have a look, and come back here to let me know what you think.


March Magics guest post

Today, I’m pleased to be taking part in the Diana Wynne Jones March / March Magics event, hosted once more this year by We Be Reading. I offered to write a post on Three Diana Wynne Jones Books You Need to Read Right Now, a topic I’ve been thinking about for some time, and Kristen kindly agreed to make it part of the lineup. Here’s the introduction:

In an age of conflict, confusion, and uncertainty, it’s natural to reach for facts and verifiable truths to give a sense of firm ground. We might be forgiven for setting aside fantasy literature as a form of escapism, fine for comfort reading but basically irrelevant to the tasks that face us in the “real” world. An event like March Magics — which celebrates master fantasy authors Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett — might be seen as a fluffy distraction from the more important tasks on which we ought to be spending our time.

I feel that this would be a huge mistake. Our current crises stem from a failure of the imagination, which alone can bridge the gap between self and other and enable us to work out of love and empathy rather than narrow self-interest. Only through the imagination can we first conceive and then create a better future. And while undisciplined, wild fantasizing can lead us astray, it’s the truths of the imagination that can guide us through a world that seems to be splitting into a million alternative realities.

All fiction exercises our imagination, but in fantasy this aspect is brought to the fore, is made into the very substance of the story itself. Maybe that’s why fantasy has long gotten little respect in a society that primarily values materialistic success, and that in turn may be why we now seem so little versed in the ability to see through the delusions that are flying so freely.

Whatever the reason, it’s all the more reason to read and learn from the works of these two authors right now, and to share them with others in your life. I have the very great pleasure of reading out loud every night to my ten-year-old son, and I’m delighted that he’s decided that Diana Wynne Jones is one of his favorite authors. As we work our way through her books, I’m struck by how much they offer as a counterbalance to the negative forces at work today.

With these stories as part of his being, I have hope that my son’s imagination will grow strong and healthy to meet the enormous challenges in store for the next generations. And I myself appreciate them as nourishment for my own fight to preserve a world that he can grow up in.

Here are three books that strike me as particularly relevant at the moment. As you read your way through this month, I hope that you will share your own thoughts and insights with us.

Please visit Kristen’s blog to find out which three books I’m recommending you read right now, and keep visiting throughout the month for more celebration of two stellar fantasy authors.

Link Love: October 2015

i-capture-the-castleReview of the Month: I Capture the Castle

I’ve decided to start off my Link Love posts by highlighting a favorite review I’ve found elsewhere. This month it’s an insightful post about I Capture the Castle at the blog majoring in literature. Like all the best reviews, it makes me want to read this favorite classic all over again!

Here are some of my other favorite posts and articles this month:

Language matters

  • A spelling maven examines the language of Blackadder for accuracy — or lack thereof — at the Oxford Words blog.
  • From NPR comes an enlightening history of the book blurb. (Did you know that Walt Whitman, king of self-promotion, was the first to print one on Leaves of Grass — on the spine, no less?)
  • The author of the new book The Wolf Wilder takes a look at wolves in literature, for The Telegraph.


Readers and Recommendations


Words and pictures


Better blogging


Literary Pilgrimages


Image of the Month


Cartoon of Emile Zola, found here.

Shared in the Sunday Post hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Shiny New Books


The fall issue of Shiny New Books came out this week, and as usual there are so many tempting titles to explore…it’s going to keep me busy for some time. In the blowing my own horn department, I had two pieces included:

Suspense with Style: The Novels of Mary Stewart is in the BookBuzz section. I wanted to call attention to the new Chicago Review Press editions of Stewart’s suspense novels, but that wasn’t allowed in the Reprints section (UK editions only in there). I enjoyed pulling together some of my earlier posts about this favorite author and adding a teaser for her first novel, Madam, Will You Talk?

My review of Joan Aiken’s The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories celebrates the new UK edition from Virago Children’s Classics. Now readers on both sides of the pond can enjoy these delightfully funny and magical stories.

MadamTalk  SerialGarden


I do hope you’ll check them out, and sample other shiny new delights as well.

More Women in Translation: Two by Astrid Lindgren

To celebrate Women in Translation Month, today I’m highlighting a piece I did earlier this summer for Shiny New Books, in which I reviewed two classics by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren that are now available in lovely new editions from the New York Review Children’s Collection. Lindgren is one of the world’s most-translated authors, but many of her books are hard to find in English. These two show her range and versatility in writing for children, and are definitely worth seeking out.

SeacrowIf you’ve been lucky enough to spend summers as a child in a special place, you know that they carry a most particular magic. The long days of precious freedom, the siren call of wind and wave, the friends and neighbors one sees at no other time or place, caught out of the everyday world into a golden realm of potential. . . it’s an experience you can never forget.

Such a place and such an experience is evoked in Astrid Lindgren’s Seacrow Island, reissued in May by the New York Review Children’s Collection. The Swedish author is best known for writing the instant worldwide classic Pippi Longstocking, but in her own country she published over forty children’s books, as well as plays and screenplays, and was a respected children’s book editor, animal rights activist, and humanitarian. In Scandinavia, Seacrow Island is one of her most popular works (it was actually first written as a television series), but has been out of print in English since 1971.

That it’s now back is cause for celebration, because this is an absolute gem. Set in the Stockholm archipelago where Lindgren spent her own summers, it follows the adventures of a family that rents a tumbledown cabin sight unseen and fills it with their love and warmth, winning our hearts completely along the way. The father and head of the family is the well-meaning but disaster-prone Melker (a writer); then there’s nineteen-year-old daughter Malin, eminently sensible and kind in her role as surrogate mother to her young siblings, but becoming dangerously attractive to young men; robust Johan and Niklas, at twelve and thirteen, looking for and finding all kinds of adventure; and sensitive seven-year-old Pelle, who has a very special connection to animals great and small. . .

Check out the full review at Shiny New Books.

mio_my_sonThough it’s full of the magic of summer, Seacrow Island is a realistic book, without the fantasy elements that permeate much of Lindgren’s other writing. An example of her work in this mode is Mio, My Son, also reprinted by the New York Review Children’s Collection in May, and also an overlooked treasure.

Karl Anders Nilsson, an unwanted foster child in Stockholm, learns through a mysterious message that he is really the long-lost son of the King of Farawayland. He travels “by day and by night” to rejoin his father and become the beloved prince Mio. But all is not well in Farawayland. With his new friend Pompoo and his beautiful flying horse Miramis, Mio must fight evil Sir Kato, who has snatched other children away and imprisoned them in his desolate Outer Land.

It’s a familiar fairy tale theme, and Lindgren brings the best qualities of the literary fairy tale into play: images of beauty and delight as well as darkness and danger; the impossible quest of the small and weak to conquer the strong and mighty; a sustaining faith in the power of love. The language is poetic and evocative, but not overly lofty; the first-person narration by Mio speaks directly to the child reader of around his age, between seven and ten. . .

Check out the full review at Shiny New Books.

Shiny New Books


It’s that time again — time for another issue of Shiny New Books, filled with glorious temptation.

This time around, I contributed a review of two Astrid Lindgren reissues: Seacrow Island and Mio My Son, both from the New York Review Children’s Collection. These lesser-known classics from the author of Pippi Longstocking deserve a second look. Please visit SNB to learn why I loved them so much, and have a look round while you’re there. You’re sure to find something you’ll want to read next.



A book I fell in love with

Today, I’m over at Bookish Illuminations as part of a two-week celebration of “Books that we fell in love with.” What a great idea for Valentine’s Day! I’m talking about Beauty by Robin McKinley, one of my very favorite fairy tale retellings. Please check it out, and be sure to visit all the posts from February 5 to 20 for more lovely book recommendations.

I’m in Shiny New Books!


Today marks the publication of Issue Three of Shiny New Books, which, if you haven’t yet encountered it, is a terrific online quarterly put together by four UK-based bloggers, featuring the best new fiction, non-fiction, and reprints.

I’m thrilled to have two of my reviews included in this issue! I got to share my enthusiasm for The Road to Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead (US title: My Life in Middlemarch), which has now come out in paperback, and for the Europa editions reprint of The Hollow Land by Jane Gardam. Please visit SNB to find out why I loved these books so much, but be warned: you’re likely to lose an hour or two in browsing all the scrumptious offerings.