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.

117 thoughts on “Diana Wynne Jones Week: 1 August – 7 August 2010

    • Wonderful! Deep Secret’s one of my favorites, although it can be a little hard to get into at first. I love that it’s set at a fantasy convention; once the characters get to the convention, the book is nonstop win.

  1. YAY! I’m so pleased for you, Jenny, and that button is STUNNING! Should I start with Howl’s Moving Castle (and then watch the film?)

    In a completely narcissistic way I am delighted to see another author-dedicated period for no other reason that to shares one’s passion for the writer and their work; I’m hoping to see more and more.

    Oh, and hell’s yes: once an English major, ALWAYS an English Major!

    • The film is roughly based on the book. It’s one of those movies which is brilliant, but which is much better if you mentally separate it from the book. I love Miyazaki, and I love Diana Wynne Jones– they’re both such brilliant storytellers. But in this case, Miyazaki really changes the book so much that it’s a whole new story (despite having a few characters in common).

    • Howl’s Moving Castle is always a good starting place. I’m probably going to do a post in early July with a list of the books and what they’re about – just so people can pick which ones sound good to them. Howl’s Moving Castle is good, but it’s often the only DWJ book people have read, which I think is a shame – she has others that I love more! 🙂

      I’m glad you like the button! I was so pleased when the author said I could use it!

    • My favorite bridge too! The South Bank is maybe my favorite bit of the world, what with the book stalls and the Wagamama and the wee Foyles, and the street performers and the National Theatre and everything. And I love the Hungerford Bridge – I will go out of my way to be able to cross the Thames on this bridge rather than any of the others.

  2. I haven’t been joining challenges lately, but I might just join you for this one. My friend Karen has been telling me for months that i need to read Howl’s Moving Castle.

    • I hope you do! It’s not really a challenge, just me praising Diana Wynne Jones slightly louder than usual, and encouraging others to do the same. :p Howl’s Moving Castle is a good first DWJ book – if you’re in the mood for something set in a slightly fairy-tale-ish world. If not there are other books that are not fairy-tale-like at all.

  3. Ooh! Ooh! Diana Wynne Jones is one of my Big Shameful Reading Gaps. I’ve only read two of her books, and one of them was so long ago that I don’t remember much about it other than that it was awesome. (And it involved a fancy automated diner in which one could acquire what sounded like the most delicious ice cream in the history of the universe). I gotta get in on this.

    • Oh, must’ve been A Tale of Time City. Did it have a little evacuee girl from World War II, and some people kidnap her?

      You should definitely play! Since you read a lot of high fantasy, maybe try The Dark Lord of Derkholm? It’s an (affectionate) send-up of the genre as well as being an excellent story – basically, there’s this high-fantasy-type world, and the world’s being used as a tourist attraction for people from our world. They come to the fantasy world, go around slaying dark minions and seeing sacked nunneries, finish their Quest and go home – but there are groups and groups and groups of tours, so it’s gutting the fantasy world. And this pleasant mild-mannered wizard gets appointed Dark Lord this one year, though in fact he would rather be inventing new creatures. It is charming.

      • Yep, that’s the one! I’ve got a copy back in Canada, but that doesn’t help me much right now. I really want to reread it, though, so I’ll see if I can track it down from the library. Ditto for THE DARK LORD OF DERKHOLM. And was it FIRE & HEMLOCK that you and Eva were raving about? Is that a stand-alone, or is it part of a larger series?

        I’ve got to get planning. I want to play along, but I’m still reeaaaalllly behind with posting my reviews, so I’ll probably have to read some DWJ pretty soon in order to get one posted during your celebration week.

      • Fire and Hemlock is a standalone; Dark Lord of Derkholm has a sequel, but it’s a new story, not a continuation of the old one. Some of the same characters make appearances, but it’s mostly a whole new cast.

  4. How wonderful! This is a great idea, and I will try to take part. I don’t think I’ve ever gushed about Howl’s Moving Castle on the blog, after all…

    By the way, I wanted to let you know that I got an ILL copy of Greensleeves! I’ll report back on how I liked it. *grin*

    • I hope you do! There can really never be enough gushing about Howl’s Moving Castle, after all. Have you read many of DWJ’s other books?

      That’s exciting about Greensleeves! Oh, I hope you love it! I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts. 🙂

  5. What books *about* her writing???? (I’m more than a little intrigued)

    I’ve got every intention of joining your event, and I’m so totally going to read a bunch of books!

      • I am a silly, silly fangirl for DWJ, so it was a good call. I had forgotten just how much I loved her stuff until I started re-reading it recently.

        I think the only author I might love more than DWJ is Robin McKinley… but they’re so different from each other that it’s hard to say for sure.

  6. OOh! Very exciting. Diana Wynn Jones is one of those authors where I’d *liked* to read all of her books.. sadly, I’ve only read Howl’s Moving Castle. BUT mostly because I don’t know where to start after that.

    • Howl’s Moving Castle has a sequel — Castle in the Air (which is followed next by House of Many Ways). If you like series, this would be a way of approaching it.

    • Well, let’s see. You like Neil Gaiman, right? Diana Wynne Jones wrote this book, Eight Days of Luke, that inspired parts of American Gods – it’s about an boy called David who lives with his awful relatives, and one day, by accident, he summons a boy called Luke, who says that David’s freed him from a prison. And basically all the Norse gods are after Luke, and David has to figure out a way to protect him.

      Or also there’s one called Hexwood, which is dedicated to Neil Gaiman because (I believe) he said something that gave DWJ the idea for it. It’s not one I would normally recommend to start with, though – very very high-concept and it can be hard to follow.

      The Homeward Bounders is another favorite of mine, and it’s got gods in it as well. It’s about all these people who have been cast out of their home worlds and are forced to wander from world to world trying to get back home. The idea is that there are these very powerful beings in each world who play the world like a game, and whenever somebody finds them, that person gets chucked out and has to wander from world to world. It’s quite good, but a bit sad.

  7. I like the banner! So appropriate – I imagine walking over the bridge straight to the bookstalls on the South Bank. 🙂 So, which book should I read? The only two I have read so far are FIRE AND HEMLOCK and HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE.

    • I can’t do better than recommend Fire and Hemlock, but it can be hard to find in the States. Castle in the Air is sort of a sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle – it’s set in the same world, and there are cameos by the characters from HMC, but it’s really a different set of characters. Most of her books are very wonderful! The Chronicles of Chrestomanci are the ones that tend to be easiest to find – try Charmed Life! It’s set in an alternate world that is sort of Edwardian, but with magic and nine-lifed enchanters.

      • the crestomanci series is pretty awesome, very very easy to get in the states. even available in omnibus format.

        read these a couple times when i was younger.. this will give me an excuse to search out my favorite versions and rebuy them!!

  8. Count me in! I reread Deep Secret last week, and I wish I had saved it. I’ve caught the flu or something and now all I want is Diana Wynne Jones and hot liquids.

    • Aw, I’m sorry! I hope you feel better soon. But Diana Wynne Jones will surely help – she is a lovely author to read on your sickbed. When I get sick I like to read Year of the Griffin.

  9. I’m totally in. I will probably be starting Enchanted Glass today because it’s due back at the library later this week but I also have A Tale of Time City in my TBR pile so I can read that in August. I also want to do a re-read of the first Chrestomanci volume. I love those stories!

    • Is the first volume Charmed Life and Lives of Christopher Chant? My two favorites of the Chrestomanci books are Lives of Christopher Chant and Witch Week, with Charmed Life close behind. I’m glad you’re participating! Is this the first time you’ve read Tale of Time City?

  10. Oh, looks like so much fun! I’m eager to try more of her books, as I’ve never found one that quite lives up to Dogsbody for me, but sure it must be out there.

    • What else have you read by her? I remember you’ve read Fire and Hemlock. Maybe try Power of Three. Power of Three is about three races of beings that live on this Moor, and how they struggle to get along – for some reason it has the same sort of feel to it as Dogsbody (I think) (though the plots are quite different). Or you might try The Dark Lord of Derkholm – the main character loves animals, and he invents new and interesting ones. Three of his kids are griffins! 🙂

    • Yay! Do you know what you’re going to read? Like maybe Fire and Hemlock, best book of all the books? Or else Archer’s Goon? Archer’s Goon is in some ways although none of them readily apparent like Witch Week…

      Actually I just realized I hadn’t suggested Archer’s Goon to anyone, and I love it quite madly. It’s not as good as Fire and Hemlock but it is very good. It’s about this town that is run by seven power-mad wizards, and they are inexplicably trapped there. Even though they’d rather be out taking over the world.

    • I feel it. I actually find DWJ a little hard to get into…I love her ideas, but find the books (fangirls, don’t hit me!) slow going at first. But I liked them in the end.

  11. I had decided last week to try to read as many of Jones’s books as I can and so far I’ve reread The Lives of Christopher Chant, Charmed Lives and Howl’s Moving Castle. I’ve never read Conrad’s Fate so I’m excited to get started on that one. The only problem is that I feel more like reading then reviewing so I haven’t written any reviews yet. Hopefully I’ll get myself back in the right mood soon.
    Enjoy your own reading!

    • Aw, Conrad’s Fate is good. I loved seeing Chrestomanci at a sort of halfway point between Lives of Christopher Chant and Charmed Life – you can still see the younger Christopher in him, and you can definitely see grown-up Chrestomanci too. Plus, Millie!

    • I hope you do! What book was it, do you remember? I love almost all of her books, but some of them are better introductions to her writing than others.

      • The Dalemark Quartet. I read it once when I was younger and just loved it, then found out the library had an edition with all four in the series together. It was such a giant, awesome looking book. I can’t wait to get it back again. Or maybe all four smaller ones, for easier carrying 🙂

  12. Jenny this sounds amazing. I’ve been wanting to read Howl’s Moving Castle for the longest time since I saw the Ghibli movie. A week is too short for me to read one book though so I’ll see if I can join or not later. But great idea and I’m sure you get lots of participants 🙂

    • If you can’t get HMC read by August to participate, I do hope you still participate! Be warned, though, the book is quite different to the film – Howl’s more, um, I guess I would say aggravating. A very very fun character – but aggravating.

      • I loved Howl in the book. I haven’t watched the movie because I heard it’s very different from the book, and I don’t like ruining my experience of the absolutely brilliant book. But Howl’s “aggravatingness” is what made me love him so much!

  13. Exciting! Maybe that will be the week that I will finally get around to reading Dogsbody, or maybe I’ll just reread Charmed Life or The Lives of Christopher Chant or Howl’s Moving Castle … decisions, decisions!

    • Aw, Dogsbody. I reread Dogsbody recently, and I felt so fond of it. I have not historically given Dogsbody the love and affection it deserves. :p

    • I second Dogsbody. I read it in my youth and then never saw another DWJ until I was grownup and had my own children. I found Howl’s Moving Castle and fell in love with her books all over again. I still love Dogsbody and now my daughter loves it also.

  14. Count me in too. Considering Diana Wynne Jones has been on my TBR for forever I think it’s time I finally read one of her books.

    • Do you know what you want to read by her? I will give you suggestions if you aren’t sure where to start (depending on what your library/bookshop has of hers).

  15. I’ll go see what the library has, but it sounds like I should read Howl’s Moving Castle or Eight Days of Luke (since I’m going to start American Gods here soonly.)

    • Those are both good. The only thing I’d say about Eight Days of Luke is that if you’re not up on Norse mythology (and I really am not), it can be sort of confusing. A lot of the references sailed over my head. If it had been Greek mythology, now…

      • It’s a slightly confusing book without knowledge of Norse mythology – but Diana Wynne Jones put in an afterword to explain everything. The book works without knowing the gods (I think), but it’s just a better read if you do know.

      • This book actually introduced me to the finer points about Norse mythology. I don’t think you have to know too much about it before reading. Maybe a quick Google search, but otherwise I think DWJ took into account that not many people would know too much about it. But if you know the days of the week, you can follow along and pick it up!

  16. Ooh, wonderful (and that button is just gorgeous!) – I have The Dark Lord of Derkholm on the TBR pile. I’d thought of starting it soon, but I’ll save it up for August. The same with Howl’s Moving Castle – was going to watch it (I am pretty sure I’ve seen it but the pictures in my head from the book are so vivid, I’m not certain) but will save it for that week.

    • Be warned, the film of Howl’s Moving Castle has a lot of differences to the book. I felt like they very much softened the character of Howl, which is a shame because he’s so much fun to read about!

      I’m glad you’ll be participating! 🙂

  17. I’m in! I’m in! I’m in! I adore DWJ and I heard she has a new book out! I may be treading the book blogging world somewhat irregularly these days but I’ll make time for DWJ! Lovely, lovely button!

    • Yes! Enchanted Glass! And it was good, exactly like a Diana Wynne Jones book! Sometimes when I discover an author and read their entire backlist, and then they release new books, the new books don’t feel like them and disappoint me. Not at all the case with Enchanted Glass, it was utterly Diana Wynne Jonesy. I’m looking forward to seeing what you think!

    • Definitely! It all kind of depends on your reading taste – I tend to recommend the Chrestomanci books, of which Charmed Life is the first, or else Howl’s Moving Castle, because they’re both very friendly and accessible. Charmed Life is set in an Edwardian sort of world with magic, and it’s about two orphan children who are adopted by the chief enchanter of the world, Chrestomanci. Cat, the boy, just wants some peace, but his sister Gwendolyn is determined to rule the world. And then Howl’s Moving Castle is a more fairy-tale type world, and it’s about a girl called Sophie, who knows that as the eldest and least beautiful of three sisters she won’t ever amount to anything. After being cursed by the Witch of the Waste, she finds herself going off to live with the wicked Wizard Howl, who is rumored to eat the hearts of pretty girls.

      But she’s written loads of books – I’m planning to do a post in July with a list of her books and briefly what they’re about, though, so stay tuned! You might see something that appeals to you more!

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    • Ummmm, I think Year of the Griffin might be a little old for them, especially for the five-year-old. There’s nothing inappropriate in there, but I think they’d like it better a few years on from now. If you could get hold of The Ogre Downstairs, that’s one of her earlier books for slightly younger children, and I like it a lot. It’s about these three kids whose mother remarries a man they hate, and they and their stepbrothers can’t abide each other, and one day their stepfather gets each set of kids a chemistry set. And it turns out to be magic. There are things in there that make them fly, and things that bring inanimate objects alive – I’m very fond of it.

      If your library/bookshop hasn’t got that, two others that are quite good are Charmed Life and Power of Three. But if I were shopping for a 9 and 5 year old, I’d go with The Ogre Downstairs.

      • Oh, thanks for reminding me about The Ogre Downstairs! That was great. It’s amazing how DWJ can write a book suitable for a five year old and also books that are complex and for adults!

  19. What a fabulous idea and a fabulous button as well! I am definitely in. Just brought home a stack of her books for my kids this summer so somewhat serendipitous that I find you through Nymeth this morning. Will cross-post about this during the week. Many thanks!

    • I love how many bloggers are excited about reading/rereading Diana Wynne Jones – looking forward to your participation! Will this be your kids’ first exposure to her?

  20. Count me in! I haven’t read anything by this author yet but so many bloggers have recommended Fire and Hemlock or Howl’s Moving Castle. Can’t wait!

    • Oh read Fire and Hemlock. But do be aware it’s the best of her books – her others are wonderful, but Fire and Hemlock is so complex and exciting and emotionally satisfying. I’m glad you’ll be participating too!

  21. Excellent, an excuse to read DWJ, I’m in! Well… hopefully. Re-reading HP in July but hopefully that won’t take me over a month.

    Everyone should read DWJ. As much as I love Harry Potter, JKR just doesn’t compare. Besides, it should be the other way around The best of DWJ came way before HP was even on the scene! HP should be the one being compared to the magnificence that is DWJ.

    • I hope you have time to participate! 🙂

      It’s difficult to compare them just because we know Diana Wynne Jones can write a fresh, original new book every time she sets pen to paper, and she hardly ever returns to the same ground she’s trodden before. Whereas JK Rowling, we know she can do one thing – Harry Potter – but so far we don’t know what she’ll do after that. I do think DWJ is a better writer than Rowling, just as far as adverbs and capslocks of doom go. :p

  22. I’m kind of… y’know ambivalent about the next book JKR writes if it isn’t Harry Potter. Weird that isn’t it? You’d think after 10 years of Harry Potter – which believe me I love beyond comparison – but I’m not really curious about what she writes next. I mean I’ll read it probably but I’m not about to get excited about it.

    She said she was going to publish under a different name for her first non-HP book which I really admire and totally makes me respect her more as an author because it’d be so easy to just publish it as JKR and it would gain instant success, for the short term at least.

    But still, DWJ is just ❤

    • I’m excited about it in the sense that I’m soooo curious what her brain will produce now that she’s done with Harry Potter. But I never think, Darn that JK Rowling! Why isn’t she writing more books for me to gobble up? the way I do about some of my authors. Such as Diana Wynne Jones.

      • I think the reason for that may be that JKR is so associated with HP that now that the story is finished and everything is resolved, people lean back and sigh in satisfaction – and feel like it’s the end. But with DWJ, she produces such a proliferation of different worlds that you’re always itching for the next one to explore.

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  24. wow, what a response!
    I’m in. I read a bunch of the Chrestomanci books back when my kids were reading them, and my feeling that she’s a children’s author persists, probably because my kids are pretty advanced readers and went through a period where they liked movies by the guy (Miyazaki) who made an animated Howl’s Moving Castle (although they said the movie wasn’t nearly as good as the book). So I thought I’d try reading one of the Dalemark books before August.

    • Okay…but be aware the Dalemark books probably aren’t her best effort. I’m going to be giving them another chance either for DWJ week or at some later point in the year, but as far as her more-grown-up books go, Fire and Hemlock and Deep Secret are my favorites.

    • I hope you do! A Sudden Wild Magic isn’t her best, but I’ve gotten more and more fond of it as I’ve gotten older. That won’t be your first of hers, will it? I feel like I definitely remember you saying you’d read Howl’s Moving Castle at least…

    • Why The Homeward Bounders? I mean I love it – it’s one of my favorites actually! – but it’s not usually the first one of her books that people pick up.

      I’m glad you’ll be participating!!

  25. Pingback: Diana Wynne Jones Week (Aug 1-7) | Tempting Persephone

  26. I’m definitely in! Dogsbody was my favorite book when I was a child, but sadly I was never able to get any of her other books growing up, so I have a huge back catalog to get through! I think I have six different books on hold at the library in anticipation. As I read through the comments I kept getting more and more excited about them. I may end up reading several!

    • I don’t think it matters at all. I’d read Charmed Life first, and Lives of Christopher Chant before Conrad’s Fate, but apart from that, I don’t think it particularly matters what order you go in.

    • I read the series completely out of order a number of times. It doesn’t matter, because although characters appear in multiple books, each book is a stand-alone story. Happy reading!

  27. Pingback: Diana Wynne Jones Week – August 1st thru August 7th « Page247

  28. I’ve only read one or two of her books but I enjoyed them. I’d love to participate but that’s the second week of my Great Camping Event so I’m not able to. Have fun!

    • Sorry you won’t be able to participate – but I’m always glad to hear from other Diana Wynne Jones fans. Do read more of her books, she’s superb! 🙂

  29. Jenny, count me in! I have been wanting to reread and finish the Chrestomanci series that I put off ages ago.

    Beautiful button, by the way! :]

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  32. Wow, Jenny, I love this idea! Obviously lots of people like it, judging by the amount of comments you’ve got here. As I said in post when I blogged this, my problem will be finding a Diana Wynne Jones book that I haven’t read yet. Reading through the comments, though, I think I’ve got it – I’ve never heard of Deep Secret before – but it must be good, because Amazon is out of it!

    Can you let us know which books about Diana you picked up? I’d love to read those!

  33. Pingback: letters and sodas: booknotes » Blog Archive » Dogsbody by Diana Wynne JonesGreenwillow (HarperCollins), 2001 (Originally Macmillan London, 1975)

  34. Pingback: The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones « Page247

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