Tag Archives: 5 stars

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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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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Words Words Words by David Crystal Words Words Words

Author: David Crystal

Publisher:  Oxford University 2006

Genre:  Nonfiction — Language

Pages: 216

Rating:  5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Dewey — 400s; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: Library loan

“Lexicography is not just an exercise in linguistic accounting,” writes preeminent English language scholar David Crystal in this exceptionally lively and erudite little book. “It is a voyage of lexical exploration and discovery.”
In Words, Words, Words, Crystal takes readers on a fascinating linguistic adventure, exploring the English language in all its oddity, complexity, and ever-changing beauty. Traveling from word origins and word evolution to wordgangs, wordrisks, wordplay, wordgames and beyond, Crystal shares his immense knowledge of, and equally immense delight in, language. He celebrates new words, old words, words that “snarl” and words that “purr,” elegant words and taboo words, plain English words and convoluted gobbledegook, eponyms and antonyms, spoonerisms and malapropisms, and a host of other written and spoken forms and variations.
I grabbed this book for my Dewey challenge simply because the 400s selection at my library is slim.  This was just about the only book not foreign language learning.  But I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.  Crystal obviously has a love of language and wants to make language accessible to others.  I learned some many interesting tidbits about language.  I also enjoyed the review of language construction.  This was such a fun book to read in an afternoon.  Now I want to rush out and learn more about language.  I think I will start with a word-a-day service.
Some interesting tidbits of information:
  • The origin of 404 messages comes from the room number of the researchers at CERN
  • We all have wordhoards (the collection of words in our heads)
  • A new word, debagonization (the cessation of anxiety when our luggage eventually emerges from the black hole of an airport carousel)
  • Latin evolved from a prehistoric tongue called Indo-European
  • Did you know that kingly is Germanic, royal is French, and regal is Latin?  Now you do
  • 98 of the top 100 English words (in terms of frequency) are Anglo-Saxon in origin
  • British accent is called Received Pronunciation while the US one General American
Dewey Decimal System

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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in Book Reviews


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The Boys: The Bloody Doors Off

Title: The Boys Vol 12: The Bloody Doors Off

Author: Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson, and Russ Braun

Publisher: Dynamite 2012

Genre: Graphic Novel

Pages: 170

Rating:  5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Mount TBR; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: J owns it

The war is over and the world is saved. The supes have been beaten down so far they’ll never get up again. So why would anyone want one hundred and eighteen metric tons of the only substance on earth that can kill them all stone dead? Bad days start coming thick and fast, as the Boys are caught in the last throes of the battle they were recruited to fight so long ago. Hughie, all on his own and out of luck, finds himself walking down one last bloody trail – and the truth he finds waiting for him at the end of it will be nothing short of shattering! Billy Butcher’s vengeance comes full circle, in this twelfth and final entry in the story of The Boys.
Wow!  What an ending!  I have to admit that I did not see that coming at all.  Of course there was always something else at play throughout the volumes, but I did not suspect.  It was nice to have an actual conclusion.  No major cliffhangers, not major questions.   Everything doesn’t end happily ever after, but I didn’t expect it would.  Instead, the ending makes sense for the story and the world.  I’ve really enjoyed this series.  Sure it’s violent, but deep down it’s a political thriller, a mystery.  I loved it!
The Boys:

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Posted by on December 5, 2012 in Book Reviews


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Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris

Title: Bridge of Scarlet Leaves

Author: Kristina McMorris

Publisher: Kensington 2012

Genre: Historical fiction

Pages: 438

Rating:   5 / 5 stars

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

How I Got It: I own it

Los Angeles. 1941. Violinist Maddie Kern’s life seemed destined to unfold with the predictable elegance of a Bach concerto. Then she fell in love with Lane Moritomo. Her brother’s best friend, Lane is the handsome, ambitious son of Japanese immigrants. Maddie was prepared for disapproval from their families, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed the day after she and Lane elope, the full force of their decision becomes apparent. In the eyes of a fearful nation, Lane is no longer just an outsider, but an enemy.

When her husband is interned at a war relocation camp, Maddie follows, sacrificing her Juilliard ambitions. Behind barbed wire, tension simmers and the line between patriot and traitor blurs. As Maddie strives for the hard-won acceptance of her new family, Lane risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost.

This book killed me.  I was in tears by the end.  It’s not that hard to see where the book is going, but I was still in tears by the end.  McMorris weaves a tragic story set in the tumultuous world of WWII.  I love how researched this book is.  I can tell that McMorris really delved deep into the various events and groups in WWII.  And that thought was verified in her acknowledgements sections.  A must read for history fans that don’t mind a bit of fiction with their history.

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Posted by on December 2, 2012 in Book Reviews


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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick / Blade Runnner

Title: Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep?

Author: Philip K. Dick

Publisher: Del Ray Books 1968

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 190

Rating:  5 / 5 stars  Movie:  5 / 5

Reading Challenges: Science Fiction; Book 2 Movie: Mount TBR; Fall into Reading; My Years — 1982 (for the movie)

How I Got It: Own it

By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn’t afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep. . . They even built humans.

Emigrées to Mars received androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn’t want to be identified, they just blended in.

Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job was to find rogue androids, and to retire them. But cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results.


Another science fiction book that tempted me but with trepidations.  I haven’t had the best luck with previous science fiction, but this one exceeded my expectations.  I immediately connected with the character of Rick and his struggles to be a success in this destroyed world.  This book was very character driven.  I loved the complexity involved.  Plus we get an interesting discussion on humanity and ethics.  The two Rachaels were a nice touch.  Definitely a must read for me.

Favorite quote:

“Empathy, he once had decided, must be limited to herbivores or anyhow omnivores who could depart from a meat diet. Because, ultimatley, the emphatic gift blurred the boundaries between hunter and victim, between the successful and the defeated. As in the fusion with Mercer, everyone ascended together or, when the cycle had come to an end, fell together into the trough of the tomb world. Oddly, it resembled a sort of biological insurance, but double-edged. As long as some creature experienced joy, then the condition for all other creatures included a fragment of joy. However, if any living being suffered, then for all the rest the shadow could not be entirely cast off. A herd animal such as man would acquire a higher survival factor through this; an owl or a cobra would be destroyed.” Page 27


I love the world building in this movie.  Everything is fantastical, but very lived in and run down.  The look just gets me.  And the special effects are still amazing even 30 years after.  While liberties are taken with the story, it makes sense in the world that Dick created.  The actors are all amazing and just perfect for their roles.  I especially love Sean Young’s Rachael.  She was my favorite character from the book and she’s my favorite character in the movie.  Overall, I just really enjoy this one.  And they got rid of Deckard’s wife, which definitely livened up the pacing.

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Posted by on November 30, 2012 in Book Reviews


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Poems of Emily Dickinson

Title: Collected Poems

Author: Emily Dickinson

Genre: Poetry

Pages: 212

Rating:  5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Mixing it Up – Poetry; Mount TBR; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: I own it

I’ve always liked Emily Dickinson and her poetry.  I think there’s something about her morbid outlook that speaks to me.  I am not an optimist and I have a feeling she wasn’t either.  Her poetry itself is often disjointed, but it all seems to go together.  This is one of those volumes that I pick up every few years.  It’s a comfort read, an old friend, a reminder of my past.  Dickinson is not for everyone, but she’s definitely for me.

My favorite: Hope

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

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Posted by on November 23, 2012 in Book Reviews


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