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 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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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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A cell phone displaying the Crooked Kingdom audiobook. The phone sits against a dark teal background.

A Defense of Non-Traditional Reading

It’s a common stereotype that readers are notorious for hating on e-books, audiobooks, and pretty much any form of reading that isn’t a hardcover from 1974 with a faded velvet bookmark. You’ve seen the poorly-formatted memes and comics – kids these days with their “Kindles” and “Nooks,” not reading scrolls by candlelight like we did in ye olde America. What happens when your e-reader’s battery is drained, or you can’t find your headphones?

Don’t get me wrong, “non-traditional” forms of reading aren’t perfect. The blue light from our smartphones and e-readers is considered harmful, though there continue to be ways to work around that effect. You could argue that people tend to retain written information better when it is on a page rather than a screen. And of course, the aesthetic – there is nothing quite like having a beautiful collection of books to surround yourself with.

At the beginning of the month, my campus library posted this poll on their bulletin board:

12 library poll

And recently in my papermaking/bookmaking class, we’ve been talking about how books and the methods we prefer to use when we read them. Despite what the memes suggest, people of my generation still love printed text.

Unfortunately, this love of traditional reading often comes with a disdain for other ways of consuming books. But let me confess something: I love having e-books and audiobooks. As time passes, they’ve become a more present part of my reading experience, and I’m incredibly thankful for it. These days, when I hear someone mocking non-traditional reading, it takes a lot out of me not to start an argument. So instead of starting an argument in person, I’ve decided to write a little bit about why e-books and audiobooks are in some ways better than printed pages.

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A stack of red and green books. Red and gold paper flowers sit at the bottom of the stack. From top to bottom, the books are Catching Fire, Linger, Vicious, and Insurgent

Fictional Festivities | 12 Days of Christmas Book Tag

‘Tis the season to curl up in front of a fireplace with a good book and a big mug of hot cocoa. Snowflakes are falling outside of your window, and the only sound you hear is the crackle of the fire and the crinkle of pages being turned. It’s just you and the book, no one else around.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it’s a big challenging to get into the “Christmas spirit” when you’re a student. My school wrapped things up particularly late this year, so I didn’t get to go home until December 19. Between research papers on medieval and renaissance literature and politics exams, it was easy to forget that Christmas was right around the corner.

And so I thought, what better way to get ready to celebrate Christmas than crank up my favorite Christmas music and participate in a Christmas-y book tag? This is the 12 Days of Christmas book tag, created by Falling Down The Book Hole, though I learned about it through Paper Fury’s post a few weeks ago. I did my very best to limit my answers to books I read this year, though you’ll see I bent the rules a tad bit…

Without further ado, let’s celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas!

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