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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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A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Title: A Wrinkle in Time

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

Publisher: Bantam Doubleday 1962

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 198

Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Classics — Award Winner; Mount TBR; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: I own it

Fifty years ago, Madeleine L’Engle introduced the world to A Wrinkle in Time and the wonderful and unforgettable characters Meg and Charles Wallace Murry, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe. When the children learn that Mr. Murry has been captured by the Dark Thing, they time travel to Camazotz, where they must face the leader IT in the ultimate battle between good and evil—a journey that threatens their lives and our universe.

This is technically a re-read but it’s been a while since I read it.  This is one of those books from childhood that I enjoyed, but didn’t love completely.  I thought it was a bit fantasy adventure fun.  Reading it now, I see the whole story as a more interesting discussion about destiny, good and evil, science, and philosophy.  What do we make of Mrs. Which, Whatsit, and Who?  Are they good beings or just self-interested beings?  What about It?  Is It completely evil or having the potential for good?  I think this brings in a ton of questions.  I’ve never read the rest of the series.  J tells me that the next two are decent reads, but the last two are throw aways.  Reading this volume again, I am interested in reading the rest of the series.  Maybe next year…

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling — Part 2

Because there are two movies, I tend to think about this book in two parts.  So I am splitting my review into two parts corresponding with the break in movies.  Part 2 covers pages 503-759 of the hardcover edition.

Title: Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows

Author: J.K. Rowling

Publisher: Scholastic 2007

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Pages: 759

Rating:   5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: HP

How I Got It: Own it! (in pretty hardcover no less)

This one is a reread for me.  It’s been awhile since I read the series.  I remember reading the first couple of books out loud to the boys when they were infants.  SO that’s what, eight years ago?  I read the last few books as they came out, but overall it’s been awhile.

Instead of doing a traditional review, I thought I would just give you some of my reread thoughts.  Things I noticed, things I loved, quotes I like, etc.  And then I will have a mini review of movie vs. book.

Book fun

Favorite scenes:

  • Break-in at Gringotts —  This entire scene feels like an amusement park ride complete with scary dragon.
  • Harry standing up for Professor McGonagall — Such a small gesture, but beautiful.
  • The entire last 100 pages of the book — Of course.  Amazing.  Heartbreaking.  Satisfying.

Favorite character(s):

  • Neville Longbottom — Who knew the scrawny kid in the first year would eventually land the killing blow to Nagini and stand up to all of the Death Eaters.

Other odds and ends:

  • The story of Ariana’s death is just heartbreaking.  That story alone explains so much about Dumbledore and his regrets.
  • Along the same lines, Helena Ravenclaw’s story involving the Bloody Baron also breaks my heart.
  • Snape’s memories feel like a stopping in the story although I understand why they are there and that they set up Harry is truly understand what he needs to do.
  • I loved that Draco gets a semi-redemption in the end.
  • I burst into tears not when Fred, Remus, and Tonks died, but when the ghosts appear in the forrest.  Ugh!  I bawled for pages afterwards.
  • I still think I could have done without the epilogue…
Favorite quotes: 
“Because,” said Harry before Hermione could answer, “sometimes you’ve got to think about more than your own safety!  Sometimes you’ve got to think about the greater good!” (pg. 568)
“Hallows,” murmured Dumbledore, “not Horcruxes, Precisely.”  (pg. 713)
“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it.  Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprose that they wear it well.”  (Dumbledore pg. 718)
“NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!” (Mrs. Weasley pg. 736)
Movie fun Part 2
My favorite scenes:
  • Inside the Lestrange vault.  The multiplying treasure is just gorgeous to watch.
  • At much as I like the ending battle scenes, they are very different than the book’s versions.
Things I wished to see, but didn’t:
  • Some of the little moments in the book that just aren’t there.
Other odds and ends:
  • The opening shot of the dementors surrounding the castle and Snape standing in the window is breathtaking.  Beautifully shot.
  • I love the conversation between Griphook and Harry at the cottage.  Griphook has the right mix of contempt and curiosity.
  • The dead Gringott’s employees was a bit of a weird addition.
  •  Loved the little before the battle moments of preparation, especially Mrs. Weasley and McGonagall calling forth the statues.
Harry Potter:

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2012 in Book Reviews, Movies

 

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling — Part 1

Because there are two movies, I tend to think about this book in two parts.  So I am splitting my review into two parts corresponding with the break in movies.  Part 1 covers pages 1-502 of the hardcover edition.

Title: Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows

Author: J.K. Rowling

Publisher: Scholastic 2007

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Pages: 759

Rating:   5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: HP

How I Got It: Own it! (in pretty hardcover no less)

This one is a reread for me.  It’s been awhile since I read the series.  I remember reading the first couple of books out loud to the boys when they were infants.  SO that’s what, eight years ago?  I read the last few books as they came out, but overall it’s been awhile.

Instead of doing a traditional review, I thought I would just give you some of my reread thoughts.  Things I noticed, things I loved, quotes I like, etc.  And then I will have a mini review of movie vs. book.

Book fun:

Favorite scenes:

  • Goodbye scene with the Dursleys — It’s bittersweet.  You want to hate the Dursleys for how they treated Harry and yet I love how Dudley finally says something.  And I screamed at Petunia to say something comforting…
  • Bill and Fleur’s wedding — I love the descriptions and seeing all the Weasley’s together (expect for Percy of course).
  • Bathilda Bagshot and Godric’s Hollow — I know what’s coming but this scene still scares the crap out of me.  Maybe it’s the dead body, maybe it’s the snake.  All I know is it is extra extra creepy.

Favorite character(s):

  • Kreacher — Bet you weren’t expecting that one…  I really love how he begrudgingly but finally accepts Harry as his master.  Plus his sneakiness comes in handy when they are trying to find the locket.
  • Ron — He leaves, he’s a git, but he redeems himself by destroying the Horcrux and trying to get on Hermione’s good side throughout most of the book.

Other odds and ends:

  • I cried over Hedwig and downright bawled over Dobby.  I cried for them more than I did when Dumbledore died.  Plus I got a bit verklempt with George’s injury.
  • I detest Scrimgeour with a passion.  Ugh!  So not sorry when he dies.
  • I love the description of Luna’s bedroom with the painting of her friends.  She is always one of my favorite characters.
Favorite quotes: 
“He looked away, trying not to betray the resentment he felt.  There is was again: Choose what to believe.  He wanted the truth.  Why was everybody so determined that he should not get it?” (pg. 185) — When Harry learns of Rita Skeeter’s book.  He has to get over these selfish thoughts to see the truth later on…
Movie fun Part 1
My favorite scenes:
  • Big chase scene with the 7 Harrys — It’s different than the book but with the same adrenaline rush and danger.
  • Bathilda Bagshot and Godric’s Hollow — Creepiest scene ever.  I jumped in the theater when Nagini is revealed.  I jumped again in my home when I knew exactly how it was going to happen.  Creepy creepy!
  • Favorite hands-down: The Tale of the Three Brothers — I loved loved loved the animation and the creepy shadow figures.  It fits perfectly with the story and set-up.
Things I wished to see, but didn’t:
  • More Lupin and Tonks.  The movie cryptically alludes to Tonks’ pregnancy, but it’s mostly left out.  Pretty big deal in the books.
  • Something with Dumbledore and his family.  I like that side story in the books and yet no mention in the movies.
  • Wormtail death.  Stunning him in the cell just seems to let him off easily.  I would have felt more complete with his death.
Other odds and ends:
  • I liked the change in opening to Rufus Scrimgeour’s statement about the Ministry.  While it is untrue, I like the foreshadowing and foreboding it creates.  The same is true for Hermione, Ron, and Harry’s saying goodbye to their “homes.”
  • Fleur’s dress is just gorgeous.  I really wanted to see more of it.
  • I like how they folded visions from Voldemort into some backstory for those nonrabid fans.
Harry Potter:

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Book Reviews, Movies

 

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Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love

Title: Cinderella Vol. 1: From Fabletown with Love

Author: Chris Roberson and Shawn McManus

Publisher: Vertigo 2010

Genre: Graphic Novel; Fantasy

Pages: 144

Rating:  5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Fables Series; Mount TBR

When supernatural artifacts from the Homelands begin surfacing in the modern world, it falls to Cinderella, Fabletown’s best kept (and best dressed) secret agent to stop the illegal trafficking. But can Cindy foil the dark plot before Fabletown and its hidden, exiled inhabitants are exposed once and for all? Whether she’s soaring through clouds, deep-sea diving, or cracking jaws, Cindy travels from Manhattan to Dubai and hooks up with a handsome, familiar accomplice who may be harboring secret motives of his own. Meanwhile, trouble brews back home in Fabletown when Cindy’s overworked, under appreciated assistant decides to seize control of The Glass Slipper, Cindy’s exclusive shoe boutique.
A spin-off from the regular series, we get to know Cindy the spy just a bit better.  I loved the spy novel/Bond movie feel to the entire series.  Cindy is sarcastic, smart, funny, and down right dangerous.  I love her.  As much as I like Snow White in the regular series, Cindy is a whole new breed of Fable.  And I love how her cover in Fabletown is an affair with Beast and the vapid owner of a shoe store.  Nice cover Cindy!  It makes her real personality so much more fun.  I will definitely be adding the other Cinderella series, Fables are Forever, to my TBR list for next year.
Cinderella:
  1. From Fabletown with Love
  2. Fables are Forever
 
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Posted by on September 2, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

Title: The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3)

Author: Philip Pullman

Publisher: Alfred Knopf 2000

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 518

Rating:   5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Fantasy; Mount TBR; My Years — 2000

How I Got It: I own it!

The Amber Spyglass brings the intrigue of The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife to a heartstopping close, marking the third and final volume as the most powerful of the trilogy. Along with the return of Lyra, Will, Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel, Dr. Mary Malone, and Iorek Byrnison the armored bear, The Amber Spyglass introduces a host of new characters: the Mulefa, mysterious wheeled creatures with the power to see Dust; Gallivespian Lord Roke, a hand-high spy-master to Lord Asriel; and Metatron, a fierce and mighty angel. And this final volume brings startling revelations, too: the painful price Lyra must pay to walk through the land of the dead, the haunting power of Dr. Malone’s amber spyglass, and the names of who will live—and who will die—for love. And all the while, war rages with the Kingdom of Heaven, a brutal battle that—in its shocking outcome—will reveal the secret of Dust.

Good graciousness…  I could not be more blown away by this trilogy.  And I have no idea how these novels can be classified in the children’s section.  These have so many layers.  We get a bit of adventure, some romance, some theology, some philosophy… It’s just so layered that I had to pause every chapter or so to ingest what I was reading.  The moment that Dr. Malone finished the spyglass and saw the Dust flowing was a beautiful revelation.  I’m still processing this novel over 12 hours after finishing.  I think this trilogy will be one of those that we be reread every few years.  Read this for a challenge to your worldview.

His Dark Materials

  1. The Golden Compass
  2. The Subtle Knife
  3. The Amber Spyglass

 

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2012 in Book Reviews, Movies

 

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