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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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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!http://raforall.blogspot.com/2011/07/harry-potter-readalikes-for-grownups.html




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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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