Books I’ve Recently Read | Magic Edition

Posted 26 May, 2016 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 19 Comments

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Books I've Recently Read

Way back in March (I swear that was like a week ago), Kristen from We Be Reading hosted a little party called March Magics. Every year she dedicates March to Diana Wynne Jones, and with Terry Pratchett’s passing she decided to add him to the month.

I’ve had Mort on my shelf for years, and I heard quite a bit about Fire and Hemlock from other bloggers during Book Blogger Appreciation Week, so I knew I needed to participate. Both books were good fun and I enjoyed them both–though they were very different from each other. If you’re a fantasy fan and haven’t read these yet or you’re looking to expand your reading horizon a bit, go ahead and add both to your list to read (but if you’re going to choose one, I’d vote for Mort).


Fire and Hemlock

TitleFire and HemlockAuthor: Diana Wynne Jones
Published: 1984 | Pages: 341 | Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Young Adult
Rating: Curious and Curiouser (in a good way)

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads

In Short: As a child, Polly wanders into a a funeral in an old mansion near her grandmother’s house. Although it is clear she does not belong, she befriends a young man, Thomas Lynn, with whom she forms a strange friendship. As Polly looks back on her childhood, she is not always sure how true some of her hidden fantastical memories really are. Could it really be that she and Thomas Lynn had the ability to imagine something and have it become part of reality?

Bottom Line and Recommendation: I read Fire and Hemlock for Kristen’s March Magics after seeing it mentioned several times during Book Blogger Appreciation Week. I’ve only read one other DWJ book (Howl’s Moving Castle), so I assumed this book would be about witches and warlocks and all kinds of different hocus pocus magic. What I received instead was an intriguing little story for which I didn’t quite understand what was going on but I was compelled to continue.

Fire and Hemlock was a curious and fun ride, and one that made me think and ponder quite a bit. I was especially struck by two thoughts as I read: the fascinating way in which a child’s mind works to make connections between fantasy and reality and the way that we remember our past in tandem with how our past actually occurred. Memory is an amazing thing–even if it isn’t always reliable. Recommendation? I’m not sure that I can recommend Fire and Hemlock widely–it is often a very strange read, but it’s a great way to dip your toes into fantasyland.


Mort by Terry Pratchett

Title: Mort | Author: Terry Pratchett
Published: 1987 | Pages: 316 | Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
Rating: Death is always good fun!

On Amazon | On Goodreads | On Audible

In Short: Young Mort is offered an apprenticeship with Death–yes, the grim reaper who ushers individuals into their next life after they die. While Mort is given more and more responsibility, Death decides to take a little vacation from his duties to see what this “living” thing is all about. Meanwhile Mort decides to play with the fates when he decides a certain princess might not be quite ready for the next world. Pandemonium ensues. Because of course!

Bottom Line and Recommendation: Are you like me and find the Discworld series to be a bit overwhelming? So many books! So many threads! This is my third Discworld book (after having read and enjoyed the first two in the series), and even though a few years have passed since I read those I was able to dive into this one without any problems. Well, except that I find Pratchett sometimes difficult to read. He doesn’t use chapter breaks, his writing is sometimes colloquial, and the paragraphs are metaphor rich that sometimes make my head spin.

But but but, Pratchett is also a delight to read (despite the head spinning) and I find myself chuckling quite a bit at the nonsense or astuteness of his social commentary. Mort was an enjoyable read, even if I have trouble wrapping my brain around fantasy plots sometimes–there was a lot of talk about alternate time and space and woooooo my brain is tired from newborning and a lot of the book went over my head. If you’re a fan of fantasy, satire, or just general fun, Mort is definitely a book to pick up.

A (nonspoilery) taste:

History unravels gently, like an old sweater. It has been patched and darned many times, reknitted to suit different people, shoved into a box under the sink of censorship to be cut up for the dusters of propaganda, yet it always – eventually – manages to spring back into its old familiar shape. History has a habit of changing the people who think they are changing it. History always has a few tricks up its frayed sleeve. It’s been around a long time (150).

There should be a word for the microscopic spark of hope that you dare not entertain in case the mere act of acknowledging it will cause it to vanish, like trying to look at a photon. You can only sidle up to it, looking past it, walking past it, waiting for it to get big enough to face the world (280).

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Have you read either of these books? What did you think? Are you a fantasy fan? Any go to authors I should add to my list?


19 Responses to “Books I’ve Recently Read | Magic Edition”

  1. I’m so glad you read these books! F&H definitely isn’t for everyone. I do strongly suggest that you give it a second whirl in a few years. And Mort is a fun one. I think next you should go for The Wee Free Men. It’s the first Tiffany Aching book and, because it’s considered YA, it’s almost all plot … and laughs!

  2. I think it’s the ending of Fire and Hemlock that makes or breaks that book. I was enjoying it, despite the weirdness, until everything rushed together at the end. I don’t NOT like it now, but it definitely wasn’t a favorite. Like Kristen said, I might try it again in a few years and see if some distance and a reread help me to see it better. It was certainly no Howl, though.

    • Very different from Howl! Did you recently read Fire and Hemlock? The ending…I’m just not sure what to do with it. I was so intrigued by the entire book and then couldn’t wrap my head around it all at the end.

      • No, it was several years ago. I never WAS able to make sense of it, but I’m still considering going back to it one day. I felt exactly the way you did.

  3. I haven’t read much fantasy though I’d like to try some. I’m definitely intimidated by the Discworld series! So many books and I’m already drowning in what I do have. However, I really do want to try Terry Pratchett so maybe I should just suck it up and get the first book! Fire and Hemlock sounds good despite (or maybe because of ) it’s weirdness. I’ll keep these on my list for when I try fantasy one day!

    • Can’t remember if it was you I talked about Discworld with? I’ve only read three books–the first two discworld and then this one and they’re all enjoyable! Pratchett is definitely a lot of fun, though I know what you mean about the intimidation of how to jump in!!

  4. I feel like I might be a fantasy fan, but there are just so many stories and I don’t know where to begin!

    I love your pictures. I tend to just borrow them from Goodreads, but your pictures look like I could reach through the screen and read a few pages!

  5. I can’t believe I haven’t read any Discworld. It sounds like something I would like.
    I read Howl’s Moving Castle which I loved. I need to read more of her books!

  6. I have read both of these! Not close together so I can’t really compare the two… Especially since I only read MORT this year and read FIRE & HEMLOCK like 10 years ago (that might not be an exaggeration either…). But, I love them both and love both of the authors!

  7. I still need to get to Terry Prachett. Maybe I should start with Wee Free Men but by the title makes me cringe for some reason.
    And if not for that awful bad spelling in F&H, I might have finished it. I need someone to fix those parts. (For those who don’t know what I am referring to, the main character in Fire & Hemlock writes letters to her friend and her spelling is atrocious. I just couldn’t figure out what words she was meaning and it totally disrupted the story… I had to DNF.)

    • I know what you mean about the letters. As Polly grew older, the spelling did get a bit better but I had to read some of them out loud to “hear” what she was trying to say. And honestly sometimes I just skimmed those parts. Shhhhhh.

  8. I do love fantasy but I’ve never read Prachett (am I kicked out of the club now?). I picked up Mort a few months ago, so I guess should actually read it, huh?

    • I’ve only read the first couple of Discworld books but I think you’d get a kick out of them. You might also check out Good Omens by Pratchett and Gaiman. The audio is a good one. ;)

  9. I enjoyed Mort, but my favorite Discworld books are Going Postal & the Tiffany Aching subseries. For Diana Wynn Jones, my favorite is probably Howl’s Moving Castle; but I really like The Magicians of Caprona also