Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Quentin felt different. He’s always felt different. Quentin grew up in Brooklyn, was a straight-A student, part of the gifted program in every school that he has attended.  He had the makings for a happy teenager, but never was. His only solace was in his favorite childhood books (depicting the adventures of the Chatwin children in the fabled land of Fillory – think Narnia) and his dime a dozen magic tricks.

Quentin was on his way to a college interview when his life changed. The interviewer was dead. The paramedic found an envelope with his name written on the front, inside… the never published final book of the Fillory series. Quentin was mesmerized with his findings, on his way back to his home, a page from the manuscript flies out of his hand and into a garden. He was in hot pursuit in the cold New York winter until he found himself at the end of the garden, looking into the summer sky of Upstate New York.

This was Quentin’s invitation to his real college interview, at the academy of Brakebills. After an afternoon of grueling exams, he was given an offer. He could join Brakebills, a school that studied magical arts, or he could go home and his memory would be wiped clean, he would never remember this experience. He could go on to Ivy League, eventually end up in an office, shuffling paper and pretending that life was exciting.

He chose magic.

This is the first installment of a trilogy; I’m a bit behind the times on The Magicians. I picked this copy up at a library sale several years ago; I wish I had read it sooner. Grossman’s writing mixes the world of J.K. Rowling with that of C.S. Lewis. The beginning is a bit slow as we grow to understand the rules of this world that we’ve been introduced too. This is an adult book. Imagine Harry Potter with sex and drugs, but not exactly R-rated, yet. I found it very interesting and at times sharp the way that Grossman speaks to the routines of life, the monotony of life, even though you may get your hearts desire, happiness and contentment is a much harder quest.

Favorite Quote:

“I got my heart’s desire, he thought, and there my troubles began.”

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Book Review Quickie: Fables: Camelot by Bill Willingham

Fables: Camelot is volume 20 in the ongoing Fables comic series. In this volume, Rose Red is determined to find her purpose in life. The one thing that will redeem her, a new Camelot, built on the idea of second chances.

We follow Rose while she sends the call out for heroes. Though hundreds show she narrows the pool down to six, Including a man who is no stranger to Camelot.

In the last trade, Bigby was killed, in this book is he slowly being pieced together. That is the timing of the entire book, a slow piecing together in promise of exciting things. 

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Book Review: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

Deborah Harkness fans may rejoice, it’s finally pub day for The Book of Life, the conclusion of the All Souls Trilogy. Was it worth the wait? Oh, I think it was!

At the close of Shadow of Night, Diana and Matthew take the first step of their timewalk back from Elizabethan England. As The Book of Life opens, we see the pair emerge into current day Sept Tours, the de Clermont family home. Diana and Matthew catch-up on what has happened while they were gone and feel the impact that this has had to their families. Diana, lost a close family member. Matthew, must once again come to terms with the death of his father Philippe, whom he was able to visit during their travel to the 1500’s.

During their time with Philippe, he made Diana his daughter. Now, that Diana is back at Sept Tours, she meets her new brother and sister (Baldwin and Verin, respectively). The greeting is not altogether warm. Baldwin is the head of the de Clermont clan and immediately tries to force his dominance on Diana, which at this point the reader’s know that no one dominates Diana.

Shortly after returning to Sept Tours, Diana and Matthew (along with a few family members) decide to return to the Bishop family home in the US to focus their search of the missing pages of Ashmole 782, aka the Book of Life.  Meanwhile, Matthew regains his focus on a cure for blood rage, an “illness” that he inherited from his vampire mother and passed down to his children. 

While all of this is going on, Diana is heavily pregnant with twins; which, is a visible assault against the Covenant, put in place hundreds of years prior by the Congregation, in order to keep the creatures (vampires, witches and daemons) separate. News of Diana’s pregnancy has reached one of Matthew’s children, Benjamin, who is controlled by pure blood rage.

I loved this book. I thought the ending was great. Its packed full of adventure and alchemy and libraries, all things that really make me happy. It was refreshing to see a strong female character in Urban Fantasy.

The Book of Life is on sale TODAY!!

Favorite quote:

“You will find me … altered.”

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FREE STUFFS: Deborah Harkness All Souls Trilogy - FREE STUFFS CLAIMED!

We are in the final countdown to the conclusion of Deborah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy. The final installment, The Book of Life, is set for release on July 15th. I don't know about you, but I've had mine pre-ordered since February. I cannot wait. 

The fine folks over at Viking have offered a giveaway for my readers. They have offered a set of holographic Book of Life pins AND Diana's commonplace book from Shadow of Night. This is Diana’s commonplace booklet as seen in Shadow of Night, containing new and original content by Deborah Harkness. It features spells, astrology, recipes, poetry, and drawings that Diana wrote down in her commonplace book, and also has plenty of room for its new owner to write notes or journal in.

In order to win, in the comments below, tell me which mythological creature (from the series) you would want to be. Vampire, witch, or daemon and let me know why you chose the creature that you did. The first to comment will win the swag and I will follow-up with that person for their mailing address. 

For all others, here is the link to the first chapter of The Book of Life.

Good luck! 


Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Hazel is a 16-year-old cancer patient. She's too sick to be in school. Her best friends are her mother and father. She's accepted this as her life, in many ways she's already dead. She will never get better, she's in a stasis of not getting worse.

Her mother forces her out into society in the form of a support group for cancer patients. One day a new boy shows up, he's incredibly handsome and as weird as she is, they immediately become friends. This is a story of how they fall in love. But, trite as it may be, it's much more than that. Green's writing is smart and funny. He is able to wound you or heal you with a sentence. 

I am writing this with a gapping would in my heart. I've purposely not read this book for a while, knowing that it would hurt to read, but I'm glad that I did. Green has been faulted with the narrator not having an authentic teenager voice, regardless of whether or not you agree, it takes nothing away from this story. This is worth the read and the inevitable pain of finishing this book. 

Favorite quote: I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once. 

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Book Review: The Fever by Megan Abbott

The book opens in a small town and is narrated from the point of view of the Nash family (Tom, Eli, and Deenie – mother, Georgia, is out of the picture due to an affair, on her part).  Deenie loses her virginity at the start of the novel, goes to school and avoids her best friend Lise – she doesn't want to tell her about having sex with a boy that she works with (we later find out why).

During their first class together, Lise has a seizure type episode and is sent home. Deenie worries about Lise and goes to her house to see if she’s ok. When Deenie arrives, she finds out that Lise was taken to the hospital because her heart stopped. By the Deenie gets to the hospital Lise is unconscious.

The next day Deenie’s other close friend, Gabby, has a similar episode during a school recital and is also taken to the hospital. Lise’s mom starts a campaign against the HPV vaccine that all girls at the school were given in the recent years.

Deenie also had the vaccine, she’s not convinced that it’s the cause; she is worried because Deenie, Lise, Gabby, and another girl at school, Skye, were all swimming in a highly contaminated lake the week before. But to further complicate matters, neither she nor Skye has been afflicted.

Then a number of other girls at school became ill as well.

When I heard about this book, I was instantly interested because 1) I love mass hysteria and 2) Megan Abbott is great at writing about messed up teenagers. The wrap-up of the book is great. However, similar to my comment in my last review of Abbott’s work, her characters don’t have much depth.  The narration slips between three completely different characters, but I often had to go back and figure out who was talking. 

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Book Review: New Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko


New Watch is the fifth installment of Lukyanenko’s Night Watch series – if you haven’t read the Night Watch series, stop right now and go read it, it’s amazing. Russian science fiction, what more could you ask for? 

While at the airport, Anton, sees a young prophet who says that the plane he is about to fly on will crash. Anton uses his abilities to persuade the child’s mother to skip the trip so that the prophet will survive. When the prophet meets Anton, he says, “You are Anton Gorodetsky, because of you, all of us…all of us…”

Anton reports back to Gesar, and finds that the plane did not crash though the probability of it crashing was almost certain. Something is protecting the boy. Gesar sends the Night Watch to find the boy and protect him until he can make his first prophecy. However, the Twilight sends out a creature, referred to as the Tiger, to kill the boy, ensuring that the prophecy is never heard by humans. If the prophecy is heard by humans, it will come to fruition.

Gesear brings the prophet to the Night Watch headquarters in Moscow. They try to speed up the boys prophecy, but they cannot kill the Tiger. If they fight the Tiger, they will die. The only thing that will stop the Tiger, is the utterance of the prophecy.

Anton recruits his daughter, Nadya (an absolute enchantress), to assist in getting the boy to speak his prophecy. She does her best then leaves just as the Tiger arrives at Night Watch headquarters. When the boy comes out of his room, he has spoken his first prophecy and no one has heard it, so the Tiger leaves.

However, the prophecy was recorded and only Anton knows this.

Now Anton must decide if he should listen to the prophecy, if so, he will be hunted by the Tiger. But because of the first experience with the prophet, Anton knows that the prophecy may have to do with him.

This was a fantastic read. The story is highly narrative, we spend a lot of time in Anton's head. We watch Anton struggle to understand his part in this world. He knows that in the end good and evil cancel each other out. Given this, really, why do we need Others? 

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Book Review Quickie: By Blood We Live by Glen Duncan

Another amazing installment in The Last Werewolf Series. As the book opens, we are narrated by Remshi (vampire from book 2). Remshi has been in hibernation for 2 years, unknown to him. His human mate, Justine, is explaining what has happened in the past 2 years when they are attacked by Militi Christi, a new organization which replaced the now defunct WOCOP. Remshi kills the attackers, but Justine is fatally wounded. This allows us to see a vampiric transformation in Duncan's world.

Meanwhile, Talulla is living with her pack. Her twins are 3 year olds now, and she remains with Walker. The day we are reconnected with Talulla, she receives a call from a vampire, Olek, and receives a package (Quinn's journals - which you may recall have been sought after since book 1). Olek promises Talulla a cure, if not for her, for her children. But she isn't sure that she wants to be cured. Wulf, though it torments, has given her life. 

The remainder of the story seems to be the trials of Remshi and Talulla to come together. Remshi believes that Talulla is the reincarnation of his lost love. Talulla doesn't understand the connection she has to Remshi but dreams of him, nightly -- to Walker's dismay. 

Narration switches back and forth a bit in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the concept of Jake's narration through journals, but its not true to the characters to expect the story to be continued in this fashion. I went into the book expecting this to wrap up the trilogy, it doesn't. I think Mr Duncan has been coy with us. This is obviously leading to a continued saga.

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Book Review Quickie: The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

Nora Eldrige is a middle-aged, school teacher near Boston. She had always thought that she would become an artist. She would marry and have a home filled with children. Instead, she does have children (her students), and she does make art (as a little passion to pass the time). She is in a complete stasis, until she meets the Shahid's. This small family completely shakes up her life. It begins with curiosity which morphs quickly into a consuming-coveting obsession.

She first meets, Reza, as her student.  He is foreign and beautiful; in desperate need to be cared for and watched over. Nora then meets Sirena, Reza's mother, who is also foreign and beautiful, but also an artist.

Sirena has the life that Nora so desperately pines for. Nora constructs reasons to see Sirena outside of school and soon they become friends. But friends in the way that you cannot fully love a wild-beautiful thing like Sirena. Nora begins to become jealous of the time the family spends without her and dwells on her feelings for them in a spiral of non-sensical thoughts. 

The story itself is not what makes this book great. Its the voice of the narrator, Nora is incredibly authentic and moving. The narration cuts a bit deep for those of us single ladies, who may find themselves as the "woman upstairs."

The hype of the book made me a bit disappointed at first, but now that I've fully digested the material I see the beauty of it. This is not the best book written, this will not change your life, read it and love it for its own merit. 

This is one of the few books that I've written in, I couldn't help myself. Messud is able to clearly explain things that I've felt myself but could never vocalize. Specifically, Nora, defines life as a fun house. She's been in the fun house for 40 years and wants to find the exit to real life. Do we all think this way? Or is it just us women upstairs?