Category Archives: RA

The Magicians – Book Review

If you are like me then you might be a little bit more than obsessed with Harry Potter – maybe you’ve stood in line at midnight to buy a book or possibly had a party with your friends before that including Potter themed appetizers – but I digress. If so, you might also have occassionally thought while you were reading Harry P. that honestly sometimes you just wished that Harry would say something that a teenager would say – like “This whole Voldemort thing is bullshit.” or “I’d like to bang my girlfriend sometime…” If you are in that category then you should try The Magicians by Lev Grossman – it is a cross between grown up Harry Potter with some grown up Narnia thrown in. Check it out….

Quentin Coldwater is on his way for his entrance exam to Princeton. When he shows up at the interviewer’s house he finds the man dead on the floor and a mysterious envelope with his name on it. Inside the envelope is a manuscript about Quentin’s fantasy series – a series about a fantasy world called Fillory (very similar to Narnia). While on his way home he drops the manuscript and the pages are blown everywhere. While trying to gather them up, he finds himself in a whole new world. He learns that he is right on time to take an entrance exam – not to Princeton but to magic college. We get to follow Quentin as he learns about real magic, develops crazy relationships at the college and finally what happens when you leave magical college. Ever wondered what the heck kind of a job a magician would have? This novel explores that problem and what would happen if magicians became bored….

This was a such an interesting and rare treat of a book. I can honestly say that I had no idea what would happen in the book and that more often than not it surprised me. Grossman obviously loves the fantasy genres and throws in all sorts of references including Harry Potter and Narnia. He really develops the characters richly with all of their quirks, issues and questionable choices. Quentin is the anti-hero – he’s not that nice and screws people over but you can’t help but like him (most of the time). It also has that literary quality that many people miss in many fantasy books. I really enjoyed this book and give it eight shoes!

Three Appeals : Fantastical story, literary quality, rich character development

Red Flags: Sex, Violence, Drugs, Language –Satan’s Quartet;)

If you like The Magicians try :

1) Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Centuries ago when magic still existed in England, the greatest magician of them all was the Raven King. A human child brought up by fairles, the Raven King blended fairy wisdom and human reason to create English magic. Now at the beginning of the nineteenth century, he is barely more than a legend, and England, with its mad King and its dashing poets, no longer believes in practical magic. Then the reclusive Mr Norrell of Hurtfew Abbey appears and causes the statues of York Cathedral to speak and move. News spreads of the return of magic to England and, persuaded that he must help the government in the war against Napoleon, Mr Norrell goes to London. There he meets a brilliant young magician and takes him as a pupil. Jonathan Strange is charming, rich and arrogant. Together, they dazzle the country with their feats. But the partnership soon turns to rivalry. Mr Norrell has never conquered his lifelong habits of secrecy, while Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous magic. He becomes fascinated by the shadowy figure of the Raven King, and his heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens, not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear. – This is an awesome book! (taken from Fantasic Fiction)

2) Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

When he was 19, James Stark was considered to be one of the greatest natural magicians, a reputation that got him demon-snatched and sent downtown – to Hell – where he survived as a gladiator, a sideshow freak entertaining Satan’s fallen angels. That was 11 years ago. Now, the hitman who goes only by Stark has escaped and is back in L.A. Armed with a fortune-telling coin, a black bone knife, and an infernal key, Stark is determined to destroy the magic circle – led by the conniving and powerful Mason Faim – that stole his life. Though nearly everything has changed, one constant remains: his friend Vidocq, a 200-year-old Frenchman who has been keeping vigil for the young magician’s return. But when Stark’s first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head that belongs to the first of the circle, a sleazy video store owner named Kasabian, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than he counted on, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future. . .(taken from Fantastic Fiction)

3) Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman

Doctor Impossible—evil genius, diabolical scientist, wannabe world dominator—languishes in a federal detention facility.  He’s lost his freedom, his girlfriend, and his hidden island fortress. Over the years he’s tried to take over the world in every way imaginable: doomsday devices of all varieties (nuclear, thermonuclear, nanotechnological) and mass mind control.  He’s traveled backwards in time to change history, forward in time to escape it.  He’s commanded robot armies, insect armies, and dinosaur armies.  Fungus army.  Army of fish.  Of rodents.  Alien invasions.  All failures.  But not this time.  This time it’s going to be different…  Fatale is a rookie superhero on her first day with the Champions, the world’s most famous superteam.  She’s a patchwork woman of skin and chrome, a gleaming technological marvel built to be the next generation of warfare.  Filling the void left by a slain former member, we watch as Fatale joins a team struggling with a damaged past, having to come together in the face of unthinkable evil.  (taken from Fantastic Fiction)


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A little soapbox and then a book review – Middlesex

Many of you may already know this but this week (Sept. 24 – Oct. 1) is Banned Books Week – one of my favorite weeks of the year (after Shark week natch;) So many classic, amazing books have been challenged in schools, public libraries and bookstores due to some perceived detrimental effect on society. Banned Books Week is all about remembering to fight for our freedom! To highlight this week I wanted to post the top ten challenged books from 2010 :

1) And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson – this is a sweet story of two male penguins who fell in love and took care of an adopted baby together is partially based on fact! This is my pick this year for my banned books read.

2) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

3) Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

4) Crank, by Ellen Hopkins;

5) The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins  (Who would want to miss out on this awesome book?!)

6) Lush, by Natasha Friend;

7) What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones

8 ) Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich

9) Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie

10) Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer (I could almost get behind this one but only for horrendous writing…)

So take some time out this week to pick up a banned book and see what all the fuss is about. For more information about Banned Books Week check out the ALA’s page on it ( ). They are holding a virtual read out and asking people to record themselves reading from banned books. Thanks for letting me get on my little soapbox.

Now on to my review…. Every once in a great while, I get this urge, which is mostly based on guilt of being a librarian who doesn’t particularly go for the literary stuff, that I should be more “well read.” I go to all of these lists and review sites and torture myself with counting how many of the book I have not read so I can point to obvious evidence that despite my reading 1-2 books a week consistently for a good 20+years that I am not “well read.” In doing this recently I kept seeing all this stuff about Jeffrey Eugenides’ new book (the soon to be released The Marriage Plot) which included EVERYBODY saying how amazing and life changing blah ba doo blah ba doo Middlesex is. This peaked my interest so I decided to actually read a literary novel despite my worry that it would be slow and boring and deal with maybe existentialism or surrealism or some other -ism. And guess what? It was a little slow, but definitely not boring and mostly just made me think about what it means to be a woman and to be in a family. Middlesex is all about Cal Stephanides born Calliope who is genetically a hermaphrodite. In order to really understand his life, Cal takes the reader all the way back to his grandparent’s generation as they are escaping from war-torn Greece to show how this genetic mutation happened. We follow the Stephanides through their escape to America, survival in the Depression in Detroit through Cal’s awkward adolescence as a girl and eventual discovery of his condition. It is only through understanding the WHOLE family history that we can appreciate his decision to become a male and the book’s final scenes.

As I said, this book can be slow and deals with some serious issues but it is an interesting and detailed journey through this family’s history. This is a super well-written book filled with awkward, fabulous and emotionally filled moments. Being the genre reader I am, a part of me would still like that excitement you get from reading an enthralling fantasy or mystery novel but  I would definitely recommend this book. I give it seven shoes because it wasn’t my absolute favorite but it was pretty darn good…a pair of clogs comfy but maybe not super fashion forward. BTW – this was a Pulitzer Prize winner if that means anything to you 😉

Three Appeals : Literary style, amazing family history, unusual subject matter

Red Flags : Sexual Situations and descriptions, some language

If you want to read more stories dealing with hermaphrodites or people dealing with bodies that feel foreign to them try :

1) Annabel by Kathleen Winter

In 1968, into the devastating, spare atmosphere of the remote coastal town of Labrador, Canada, a child is born: a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor fully girl, but both at once. Only three people are privy to the secret–the baby’s parents, Jacinta and Treadway, and a trusted neighbor and midwife, Thomasina. Though Treadway makes the difficult decision to raise the child as a boy named Wayne, the women continue to quietly nurture the boy’s female side. And as Wayne grows into adulthood within the hyper-masculine hunting society of his father, his shadow-self, a girl he thinks of as “Annabel,’  is never entirely extinguished. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)

2) Sacred Country by Rose Tremain

This novel begins in rural East Anglia in 1952. At the age of six, Mary Ward has the revelation that she is in fact, someone else and will grow up to be a man eventually. One, tragic, ineradicable belief alters a life in ways unimaginable to the rest of humanity, safe within fixed genders. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)

For similar literary quality and writing styles try :

1) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

In the years just before World War II, the beginning of the Golden Age of comic books, native Brooklynite Sammy Klayman, a Jew, teams up with his cousin Josef Kavalier, newly arrived from Nazi-occupied Prague. Together they create a magnificent comic-book hero, the Escapist, who battles Hitler and his minions on the printed page. At the same time, Joe tries unsuccessfully to rescue his
family from Prague. Pulitzer Prize Winner. (taken from Reader’s Advisor Online)

2) The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

Genre-bending” is an understated description for this novel: Chabon has written an alternative history featuring a murder mystery plot with elements of a noir thriller, and thrown in a good deal of Yiddish terms and phrases to boot. The novel takes place in modern day Alaska, in a settlement of Jewish residents who were displaced there when the separate state of Israel failed to become a reality in 1948 (this concept is grounded in historical fact), and follows the actions of Meyer Landsman, a cop trying to make sense of a neighbor’s murder. (taken from Reader’s Advisor Online)

3) The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

Enid, the mother of a quintessentially dysfunctional Midwestern family, struggles to reunite her three adult children with their ailing father for “one last Christmas,” in this darkly funny postmodern novel. (taken from Reader’s Advisor Online)

So there you have it, my stalwart readers. As always let me know if you have read this or any of these books and how you like it. If you haven’t already– take some time and subscribe to my blog.





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Book Recommendations for Muggles

In honor of the last Harry Potter movie coming this weekend (yeah!) I decided to make a list of books you might want to check out if you love Harry Potter (and who doesn’t). I’m not going to bother reiterating Harry Potter’s plot because frankly you should know it by now! These recommendations and annotations have been taken from Reader’s Advisor Online :

1) The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander

Taran the assistant pig keeper is desperate for adventure. Along with a band of friends he embarks on a quest which pits him against an evil lord. But will becoming a hero and falling in love with a princess be enough?

2) The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper

In this much loved series, five young friends join to fight the forces of evil by using maps, clues and magic.

3) The Dalemark Quartet by Diana Wynn Jones

Magic, witches, spells, time travel, terrible danger, spies, royalty, epic journeys and battles fill these related stories of four young people in the divided country of Dalemark.

4) The Earthsea Series by Ursula K. LeGuin

Long before Harry Potter, there was another impulsive young wizard with strong powers. And he went off to wizard school. This classic multilayered fantasy series explores serious themes against the backdrop of Earthsea–a magic world of uncharted islands and oceans.

5) The Wind on Fire Trilogy by William Nicholson

In this timeless world, everyone is judged and placed in society by their performance on exams. When their little sister fails a test and their father is banished to take a special course, Kestrel and her twin brother Bowman embark on a quest to find the voice of the wind singer in order to restore their family’s good name.

6) Circle of Magic Series by Tamora Pierce

Four young children from the Circle Sea are found to have unique powers. But sometimes their magic spells entwine and spin out of control. They are brought to the Winding Circle Temple to learn to control their massive talents and use them to work together.

7) His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman

Lyra’s Uncle Asriel learns of a parallel world where magic exists and people have animal familiars. Lyra and her daemon are pulled into this other world and meet Will, a boy from yet a third universe. Lyra must learn to use her talents to keep Will safe—and to play her part in the fight between good and evil.

Apparently I’m not the only book-minded person to have thought of this so check out these excellent suggestions as well:

This is a great article from a blog called RA for All. Fantastic suggestions for grownups who love Harry!




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Stories about Female Immigrants – a RA question

So after starting this blog, a friend recently emailed me with her own RA question. She was looking for a book where the main character is a female immigrant from Mexico. She had already found the title “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent” by Julia Alvarez but wanted to see if I could help her with a few more titles. (Apparently having not such good luck with her local librarian – I am shaking my head and tsking at said librarian…) Here is what I found :

1) Across a Hundred Mountains by Reyna Grande

Juana, 11, loses her baby sister in a flood, and the death sets off a chain of tragic events: her money-strapped father heads north from their small Mexican town for el otro lado ; Juana’s newborn baby brother is claimed by the town money lender; and Juana’s mother descends into alcoholism and violence. At 14, Juana leaves to look for her father, from whom they have heard nothing. On her painstaking journey, she meets Adelina Vasquez, an American runaway working as a prostitute in Tijuana, who takes Juana in. The narrative switches off between young Juana’s viewpoint, and that of Andelina, now 31 and a Los Angeles social worker, who returns to Mexico to find her own father and reunite with her mother.

2) Migrations and Other Stories by Lisa Hernandez

This collection won the University of California-Irvines Chicano/Latino Literary prize. All the stories focus on the immigrant experience and family secrets that come out in these migrations.

3) Esperanza’s Box of Saints by Maria Amparo Escandon

This novel follows Esperanza Diaz, who has just lost her child in a routine tonsillectomy. On the day of her funeral she has a vision of a saint who tells her that beloved child is still alive. Esperanza comes to believe that her daughter has been forced into prostitution and travels from brothel to brothel searching for her eventually ending in Los Angeles. She encounters many zany characters in seach of the truth about her daughter.

Take a moment and check out these books about female immigrants!




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