A spread of books against a paper background. The books include What We Devour, Elatsoe, Now Entering Addamsville, Gallant, The Scorpio Races, and Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village.

Spooky Books for the Faint-ish of Heart

When the temperatures cool down and the days get shorter, sometimes you just want to curl up with a good book. Personally, I tend to associate autumn with a good something mysterious or spooky – probably because I always think of Halloween. A lot of readers probably reach for the latest horror or thriller novel if they’re looking for something spooky. Me? I’m a bit of a coward. I enjoy a good scare here and there, but I’d prefer to avoid something that’s going to keep me up at night or make me afraid to go out in the dark.

The good news is that there are still plenty of spooky books for the faint-ish of heart, and I’ve compiled a list of my favorites in this post. These books cover a variety of genres, from magical realism to historical fiction. The one thing they do have in common: ghosts, monsters, or something just the slightest bit unsettling.

A quick note before we begin: though these books would likely not be categorized as “horror,” many of them still contain themes the some readers may find triggering or otherwise wish to avoid. I’ve included links to the content warnings for each book so that you can be informed if you choose to read any of these books.

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Two stacks of several hardcover books with various titled against a book page background

The 2021 Maggie’s Musings Choice Awards

In response to a, uh, certain annual book awards that’s just a glorified popularity contest, I’ve decided to approach my end-of-year reading wrap up a little differently than usual. So, welcome to the inaugural Maggie’s Musings Choice Awards! This is the best of the best books that I read over the past year. Each award winner has its own incredibly specific category, because we don’t do things by halves around here.

Without further ado: The 2021 Maggie’s Musings Choice Awards!

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an image spread with a collection of books and other bookish items, including candles, tea, shirts, bath items, and stickers.

Small Business Gifts for the Reader In Your Life

Tis the season to stress out about what to gifts to give your friends and family. I can’t help with your whole list, but if you happen to know a book lover (or if you are one yourself), I have just the thing for you.

You might think shopping for a reader is easy – just ask what books they like, click “add to cart” on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and then boom, you’re done! But if you’re like me and you want to support a small business or independent artist, or you want to give something a little more unique and special, I’ve got what you need. The list below covers alternatives to Amazon and other major booksellers, as well as online shops that sell a plethora of bookish goodies.

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photo of figurines of Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase standing in front of a display of blue cupcakes

Chapter 28: I Throw a Fictional Birthday Party

“Hey.” Annabeth slid next to me on the bench. “Happy birthday.”
She was holding a huge misshapen cupcake with blue icing.
I stared at her. “What?”
“It’s August 18th,” she said. “Your birthday, right?”

The Last Olympian (pg. 372)

This is my third time rewriting this introduction, and this time I’ve decided that I’m just gonna be as weird as I want because this is MY blog and I do what I want.

Anyway, last weekend, my friend Rachel came up to visit and we threw a birthday party for a fictional character.

Now to be clear, this wasn’t just any fictional character, but Percy Jackson, hero and protagonist of the The Lightning Thief (which was recently named as one of Time‘s 100 Best YA Books of All Time), its sequels, and many spinoffs. For longtime readers of Maggie’s Musings, it should come as no surprise that I’m a huge fan of the Percy Jackson series. I grew up with these books, and even now as an adult, I still love re-reading them. They hold a special place in my heart.

I usually don’t remember dates like this, but Percy’s birthday just so happens to be the day after my brother’s birthday (speaking of which: Paul, if you’re reading this, IOU one (1) birthday gift and a cake or other treat of your choice). And since Rachel was already coming to visit that weekend and she also happens to be a Percy Jackson fan, we thought, why not? Let’s live the lives our twelve-year-old selves would’ve wanted us to have.

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Photo of two library books stacked on top of each other. They are The Merciful Crow and The Faithless Hawk by Margaret Owen.

Libraries Are For the Bird Books

It’s strange how when the world comes to an end, you focus on all of the big things that change. When the plague (you know what I mean) first started ramping up in 2020, we knew a few things we could expect. We knew that our work and school schedule would be disrupted, we knew we’d have to adjust to a “new normal” (ugh, I hate that phrase) in our daily lives.

But I think as things in the U.S. start becoming more normal-ish, I’m realizing that there are a lot more “little things” in my life that have changed. And while it might seem silly, one of the things that’s definitely changed is my reading habits.

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6 Funko Pop figurines based on the characters from Six of Crow. From left to right, they are Wylan, Matthias, Inej, Kaz, Nina, and Jesper.

DIY Bookish Figurines Part 2 (Featuring Criminals and Thieves)

Approximately a thousand years ago in June 2020, I wrote a blog post about a new hobby I started during the quarantine: creating Funko Pop figurines inspired by my favorite book characters. My first project was June and Day, the protagonists of one of my all-time favorite books, Legend by Marie Lu. In that post, I talked about my research, the tools I used, the sources that inspired me, and the process behind each figurine.

When I finally finished those first two figurines, I was feeling pretty proud of myself. I was pleased with how they’d turned out, especially for a first attempt, and I was already looking forward to the next project I’d be working on.

So, naturally, since I’m an overachiever, my next project was much more ambitious: the six main characters from Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology.

Since I’ve already gotten into the nitty gritty of my creation process in my first post, I’m going to spend this one focusing more on each character and the choices and challenges for each one. Without further ado, here they all are, in order of creation.

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A close up of a stack of books. The ones on the left are stacked vertically, while the ones on the right are stacked horizontally.

Book Blurb Wishlist

Do you ever just look at stuff that you wrote years ago and think, “Wow, what on earth was I talking about?”

I have that experience pretty often. I’ve had this blog for almost five years, you know. But this post isn’t about how cringeworthy I might have been when I first started this blog – in fact, it’s actually about one of my favorite posts I wrote in the early days of Maggie’s Musings.

Even as a high school student, I had a bone to pick with story tropes. Not much has changed in that regard, at least. I wrote a post about my “Book Blurb Blacklist,” 15 things that would immediately turn me off from reading a book. It was a delightfully snarky post, and looking back now, I still agree with pretty much all of it.

However, there’s a question that has gone unanswered for far too long: What are the things – tropes, phrases, whatever – that make me actually want to read a book?

I aim to answer that today.

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A stack of books. From top to bottom, they are: The Near Witch, Outside In, Circe, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, The Weight of our Sky, Unravel the Dusk, Children of Blood and Bone, and Ninth House.

10 Books I Want to Read Before I Collapse from Exhaustion at the End of 2020

In 2020, I set a goal to read 65 books. I set it a bit higher than my previous reading challenges, which were usually in the 45-50 range, but I knew I would be able to meet it.

The thing is… I wasn’t really expecting to meet it so soon.

Since I no longer have my big reading goal looming over me, I want to be more intentional about what books I read throughout the rest of the year. This is for two main reasons:

  • I still have some smaller reading goals to complete, like reading #OwnVoices diverse books and nonfiction books.
  • I may or may not have gone on a book shopping spree the last few months, and now I have several books on my shelves that I should read before I buy any new ones.

Charmaine did a list like this at the beginning of July (which makes a lot more sense, since she still had half a year to work with), so I stole it felt inspired by it and decided to make my own reading commitment for what’s left of the year.

So without further ado, here are 10 books I want to read before the end of 2020!

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Two funko pop figurines depicting Day and June from Legend by Marie Lu. The figurines are standing in front of a stack of the Legend trilogy.

Making My Own Bookish Figurines

It seems like everyone and their weird uncle has started a new hobby lately. Some people are baking bread, making soap or candles, or learning a new language.

Me?

Well, I’ve also started a new “quarantine hobby.” It was a terrible idea, not because I hate it, but because I’ve become practically obsessed with it over the past few weeks and I can’t make myself stop.

I started making custom figurines.

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A copy of The Hunger Games sits against a background of scattered book pages.

May The Odds Be (N)ever In Your Favor

Here’s your hot take for the week: We don’t understand The Hunger Games.

“But Maggie,” I hear you say, “How could we not understand The Hunger Games? It was the biggest teen movie franchise since Twilight! Don’t you remember reading about how well the movies performed commercially? Didn’t you give a presentation on the cultural impact of dystopian fiction on young adults?”

I did indeed give such a presentation, but that doesn’t debunk my claim right off the bat. There are plenty of readers and viewers of The Hunger Games who looked beyond the hype and saw the message of the story – we wouldn’t still be talking about it otherwise. But in general, our society has missed the point.

Let’s get one other thing out of the way: The Hunger Games is not my favorite book or film series, not by a long shot. If you asked me to name my top ten books of all time, I doubt it would make the list. That’s not to say it’s a bad book though! I think it’s an excellent read and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to better understand young adult literature. Personally though, I’m more interested in how The Hunger Games is (or maybe was) a cultural phenomenon.

For those reading this who missed out on The Hunger Games or just did not care, here’s the premise: a futuristic and dystopian nation known as Panem holds an annual “Hunger Games” in which 24 “tributes” between the ages of 12-18 are selected to participate in a televised fight to the death. The heroine, Katniss, volunteers for the Games to take the place of her younger sister Prim. Fair warning, there will be plenty of spoilers as we keep going!

18.1
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her sister’s place in the Hunger Games.

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