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The Magician King by Lev Grossman

Title: The Magician King (Magician #2)

Author: Lev Grossman

Publisher:  Viking 2012

Genre:  Fantasy

Pages: 416

Rating:  5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Fantasy; Mount TBR; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: I own it!

Quentin Coldwater should be happy. He escaped a miserable Brooklyn childhood, matriculated at a secret college for magic, and graduated to discover that Fillory—a fictional utopia—was actually real. But even as a Fillorian king, Quentin finds little peace. His old restlessness returns, and he longs for the thrills a heroic quest can bring.
Accompanied by his oldest friend, Julia, Quentin sets off—only to somehow wind up back in the real world and not in Fillory, as they’d hoped. As the pair struggle to find their way back to their lost kingdom, Quentin is forced to rely on Julia’s illicitly-learned sorcery as they face a sinister threat in a world very far from the beloved fantasy novels of their youth.
I am completely in awe of this book right now.  I finished it over an hour ago and am still waiting to decompress.  My first thought was “Wow that was harsh”  but in a good way.  This series reminds me a lot of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.  It has some wonderful fantasy elements, but also great discussions on philosophy and religion and life.  And they both take a turn for the dark at some point.  Yet, the dark made the stories more real, more grounded, even as they are set in very fantastical realms.
With the first book, I got a bit annoyed at Quentin and his whole “I am destined for something greater” attitude.  It was a bit too teenage angsty.  By the end of the first book, I was starting to get over it, but I still was a little annoyed.  In this volume, Quentin grew into his own.  He started to truly understand his place in the world (or worlds as the case may be) and I really grew to like him.  Plus we meet up with some old friends (and not so much friends) along the journey.  I loved seeing the characters deal with new and challenging obstacles.  I even started to like Poppy by the end of the book.
My only issue with the book has to do with the format.  The abrupt jumps between the present and Julia’s past were a bit jarring.  They definitely took some getting used to.  I had to keep reorienting myself to time and place.  It was messing with my reading brain.  Even though it bugged me a bit, I still loved being able to see what happened to Julia while Quentin was at Brakebills and beyond.  Her story really brought everything together in the end.  An excellent read.
The Magicians:
  1. The Magicians
  2. The Magician King

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Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Batman: Earth One preview

Title: Batman: Earth One preview

Author: Geoff Johns and Gary Frank

Publisher:  DC Comics 2012

Genre: Graphic Novel; Superheroes

Pages: 27

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Fall into Reading; Mount TBR

How I Got It: iBooks free download

Batman is not a hero.He is just a man.

Fallible, vulnerable, and angry.

In a Gotham City where friend and foe are indistinguishable, Bruce Wayne’s path toward becoming the Dark Knight is riddled with more obstacles than ever before. Focused on punishing his parents’ true killers, and the corrupt police that allowed them to go free, Bruce Wayne’s thirst for vengeance fuels his mad crusade and no one, not even Alfred, can stop him.

In the tradition of the #1 New York Times bestselling Superman: Earth One, writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank re-imagine a new mythology for the Dark Knight, where the familiar is no longer the expected in this long-awaited original graphic novel from DC Comics.

After reading this little preview of the longer Batman: Earth One volume, I might actually read some of the superhero comics.  So far, I’ve stayed away.  But I really enjoyed the idea of The Dark Knight.  While I love Adam West’s slightly zany Batman, the darker side of Batman has held much more pull with me.  Plus this volume is beautifully drawn.  Everything is a bit dark, but very clear and readable.  Enjoyable few moments.
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Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

Title: The Selfish Gene

Author: Richard Dawkins

Publisher: Oxford 2006 (30th Anniversary edition)

Genre: Nonfiction — Science

Pages: 523

Rating:  4 /5 stars

Reading Challenges: Dewey – 500s; Mount TBR; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: I own it

Richard Dawkins’ brilliant reformulation of the theory of natural selection has the rare distinction of having provoked as much excitement and interest outside the scientific community as within it. His theories have helped change the whole nature of the study of social biology, and have forced thousands of readers to rethink their beliefs about life.
In his internationally bestselling, now classic volume, The Selfish Gene, Dawkins explains how the selfish gene can also be a subtle gene. The world of the selfish gene revolves around savage competition, ruthless exploitation, and deceit, and yet, Dawkins argues, acts of apparent altruism do exist in nature. Bees, for example, will commit suicide when they sting to protect the hive, and birds will risk their lives to warn the flock of an approaching hawk.
This 30th anniversary edition of Dawkins’ fascinating book retains all original material, including the two enlightening chapters added in the second edition. In a new Introduction the author presents his thoughts thirty years after the publication of his first and most famous book, while the inclusion of the two-page original Foreword by brilliant American scientist Robert Trivers shows the enthusiastic reaction of the scientific community at that time. This edition is a celebration of a remarkable exposition of evolutionary thought, a work that has been widely hailed for its stylistic brilliance and deep scientific insights, and that continues to stimulate whole new areas of research today.
This is such a dense book.  Although I must say that I really enjoyed it.  Okay okay, I started to nod off here and there.  Basically those chapters that dealt with DNA and the really long explanations of genetics caused me to nod off a bit trying to read this before bed.  Once I got to the chapters on the applications of genetics on human behavior, I perked right up.  Those chapters sustained my interest through the rest of the book.  I love Dawkin’s way of explaining using a ton of analogies.  This really did help me understand the topic.  After reading this one, I am debating about when to read his other books.  I’m intrigued, but I might need a month or two to decompress.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Quote Wednesday – Aida

I want nothing in the world but myself to protect me and I won’t lie down, roll over, and die. — Aida

There’d be no ties of time and space to bind me and no horizon I could not pursue. — Aida

Quotes from one of my favorite musicals.  Back in 2000, my two best friends and I traveled to NYC for Spring Break.  We wanted to see a broadway show, but were pretty lean on cash.  We happened to notice a sign for “Student tickets” outside of the theater housing Aida.  We inquired and walked away with $20 tickets.  I thought we would be in the nosebleeds, but no, we were first row orchestra.  Holy crap!  We could see the individual sweat beads on the actors.  It was crazy!  I loved the show and the music.  After the show, we went to the backstage door to try and meet the stars.  The actress playing Aida, Heather Headley graduated from high school in my home town.  We waited and waited.  We met tons of the actors.  We chatted, we got autographs, but we really wanted to see Heather Headley.  Finally she came out of the stage door.  We immediately tried to grab her attention.  She came over.  We asked for autographs and photographs.  She obliged and asked us where we were from.  “Fort Wayne, IN!” we cried.  Then she asked us what high school we went to.  “Snider.”  “Too bad” was her reply.  She graduated from Snider’s rival, Northrop.  We had a great laugh about it, chatted a bit more, and then it was time to leave.  I’ll never forget my spring break trip to NYC, but seeing Aida and meeting Heather Headley was definitely the highlight for me.

“Elaborate Lives”

“Written in the Stars”

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Quote Wednesday

 

Packing for Vacation

Today I’ll be traveling back to Indiana.  The hardest part is always the packing of clothes.  How do I condense my crazy closet into a few easy, but fabulous outfits?  Plus, how do you deal with the changing weather?  I thought long and hard, and here’s what I figured out to pack.  (Minus the socks, underwear, and bras… nobody really needs to see those)

First up, the lounging and pajamas.  I went with one pair of flannel pj pants, one pair of heavier sweat pants, one lightweight short sleeve tee, and one lightweight long sleeve tee.  This way I can lounge without being cold but with light enough layers to sleep in.
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I decided to change up my packing by adding two dresses this time, both brown based outfits.  I can layer the khaki  jersey dress with either a long sleeve purple turtleneck or a short sleeve magenta turtleneck.  Add in brown tights, cute two-tone brown mary janes, and 3/4 sleeve ruffled cardigan and I have a cute outfit.  Or I can wear the magenta high low dress with cardigan, tights, and heels.  Two cute different, yet warm outfits for dinners or family get togethers.
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For the fancier events (I.e. New Year’s) or for bar visits, I went with two comfy but flashier outfits.  One pair of black stripe trouser jeans, pair of plain black pumps, one 3/4 sleeve black cardigan, and two sleeveless fancy tops (black, white, and gray snakeskin and pink ruffles).  Both adorable yet super comfy outfits.

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For the extra cold days, I packed my denim trouser jeans, Converse, and a black v-neck sweater or 3/4 sleeve white henley with purple cardigan and scarf.  That purple cardigan is super comfy and warm.  Plus I can wear it with the shirts below.
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More comfortable options for lounging days or shopping trips.  I packed my dark bootcut jeans, 3/4 turquoise tee, long sleeve purple “Believe” tee, and long sleeve foil reindeer and snowflake tee.  Obviously I can wear these with my Chucks, purple cardigan, and purple scarf.

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Finally my plane outfit.  I plan on wearing my dark bootcut jeans, tshirt, Urban Outfitters old man sweater, black checked scarf, and fake combat boots.  This way I can layer for warmth or take off if I get hot.  And all those pieces are very comfortable.

Combined with a few key jewelry accessories and I have some super cute and interchangeable outfits.  Plus it all fits in my suitcase with room for Christmas presents to spare.  I imagine I will coming home with a few things.  I really want some dark skinny jeans to wear with my tall boots.  Not so bad for my first time really documenting my packing list.

After my vacation, I plan on posting some picture highlights.  Hopefully You’ll be able to see what I look like in these outfits…

 

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2012 in Life

 

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The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees

Title: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

Author: Kelly O’Connor McNees

Publisher:  Berkley Trade 2011

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Pages: 384

Rating:  5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction; What’s in a Name – Calendar; Mount TBR; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: I own it!

A richly imagined, remarkably written story of the woman who created Little Women– and how love changed her in ways she never expected. Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O’Connor McNees returns to the summer of 1855, when vivacious Louisa May Alcott is twenty-two and bursting to free herself from family and societal constraints and do what she loves most. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire, she meets Joseph Singer, and as she opens her heart, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay for the rest of her life.
Little Women is one of my favorite childhood books.  I loved how this story allowed the reader to get to know Louisa May Alcott better, even if it is fiction.  McNees wove the historical life events of Alcott with great dramatic passages.  I especially loved the character of Joseph.  I could see exactly how Louisa/Jo could have fallen in love with him despite herself.  I also loved her reunion with him after all those years.  It gave closure to a tragic story.  Reading this book and short biographies of the real Louisa, I appreciate the story of Little Women even more.
This book was also our book club selection for November-December. Just like our last book club selection, all of us had a slightly different view of the book.  I loved the connections to her fictional works.  We had a great discussion on the family dynamic and the philosophies of the time.  We also discussed the obligations of women of the time period.  It was a great night sharing our love of books and some great food.  Plus, we did our gift exchange and picked our January selection.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Music Monday — Favorite Christmas Carols Part 3

It’s December.  Time to pull out the holiday music.  I thought I would share my all-time favorite Christmas carols.  I’ve even pinpointed my favorite versions of my favorite carols.  Part 1 of 3.  Part 2 of 3.

Lady Antebellum “Let it Snow, Let it Snow”

Harry Connick Jr. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”

Michael Buble “Ill Be Home for Christmas”

Point of Grace “Jingle Bell Rock”

Sarah McLachlan “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

Lady Antebellum “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Music Monday

 

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