Tag Archives: magic

The Magicians Trilogy – Lev Grossman

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This! This series was so so good. And then it wasn’t. And then it was again. So it all worked out.

The Magicians, the first book in the series, was awesome. It drew me in so fast, I read it in a six hour car ride. My parents got me The Magicians for Christmas three-ish years ago, and I LOVED IT. It’s about supposedly normal teens who are admitted to a school of magic (Muggle borns at Hogwarts, anyone?). The students grew up reading books about a magical land called Fillory, and upon graduation find out that Fillory exists, similar to the Narnia stories. They find a way to Fillory and end up, you guessed it, being named Kings and Queens of FIllory. There’s even a tree that grew from a clock, like the lamppost tree in Narnia. The author is clearly aware of the similarities though, he brings up the Narnia books at least once.

Like the Narnia stories, adventures ensue and the characters have to face danger after danger to save Fillory. **SPOILER ALERT** People fall in love, people die, and the story ends. Honestly, my favourite part of the story was when the teens were in school. The bonding that goes on is just so fun to read about. Don’t get me wrong, the whole story is great, but the first chunk where the students were at school was my favourite. There’s so much (mostly) good-natured teasing and sarcasm going around, it’s entirely entertaining.

The second book in the series, The Magician King, well… it was terrible. I hated it. It let me down completely after the great first book. It’s worth reading, if only to understand what is going on in the third book. Let’s just skip the second one all together and head right into the third book, The Magician’s Land.

I have seen people praise this book as “the best ending to a series ever” and I’m calling major b.s. on that. However, it is a good book. It wraps the story up nicely, tying up any loose ends as well as introducing new characters. The story takes place several years after the first and second stories, the original characters who were teens in the beginning are now in their thirties. It was pretty interesting to see how they grew, their personalities and their relationships with each other developed. It’s hard to explain the third book in a series when I haven’t even told you the characters names, but just trust me when I tell you it’s a good series. The characters are all likeable in their own way, if only because of the absolute unlikeableness they posses. Yes I realize that statement contradicts itself, but that’s life. It’s all about contradictions. Look at me, getting all philosophical.

Take this as you will, really it’s just a bunch of nonsensical rambling about a book series that I enjoyed, but I think you should read it. It being The Magicians trilogy, not this blog post. Clearly you’ve already read the blog post if you’re here. Clearly I stopped making sense a few sentences ago, and am in need of some sleep. Goodnight friends!

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Land of Love and Drowning – Tiphanie Yanique

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I hated this book. HATED. It was so twisted and disturbing, and not in a good way. I picked this book up because it was on nearly every “best books of the year” list I saw and the description sounded interesting. It seemed like my kind of book. Romantic relationships, familial relationships, magic, all sorts of twists and turns. And to be fair, it had all of that, but in the worst way possible.

I don’t even want to get into the plot because even though I read this over Christmas it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I think of it. Some of the issues I had include parental sexual activity with children, incest of the sibling variety, manipulation, et cetera. On top of these issues, the characters were completely unlikable. Every single one. They were manipulative, which I already mentioned, adulterous, mentally unstable (can’t really blame them for that one when their parent was sexually abusing them), lying, strange, obnoxious, and just icky. Blech.

Basically the book is set in the U.S. Virgin Islands, focusing on a set of siblings. When the sisters’ parents die, the older sister is left to look after her younger sister and to look out for their half brother. The little sister and little brother are inexplicable drawn together and bad things follow.

Okay I’m not even going to go past that because it just really disturbed me and I don’t want to get into it. I realize this is almost embarrassingly short but nope I just can’t do it. I’m definitely willing to acknowledge that this is an important book. It deals with racial, sexual, and ethnic issues. It takes place during the time of the U.S. taking control of the VIrgin Islands, during World War Two, during the depression. The plot covers all of these issues and more. I am more than willing to acknowledge that there are people who will very much enjoy this book. And that this book should be read. But it just wasn’t for me. Despite its dipping its toes in magical waters, this book was much too real for me. Sexual abuse, poverty, racism, and sexism among other things all combined to make a story that I just couldn’t escape in.

Have you read this book? Did you hate it too? Is there a book that you hate equally as much as I hated this one? Tell me in the comments!

Now that we’re through with the book related things, I’m going to cheer us (read: me) up a bit with a fun dad joke! Wahoo! Today’s bad/dad joke comes to you from a seven year old who told it to me at work…

What do you call a bear with no teeth? A gummy bear!

Ha! Okay bye.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

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You’ve all read a Neil Gaiman book before, right? Right?! Well, if you haven’t, I really recommend this one. Or Stardust. Or American Gods. Not Coraline, that freaked me out so much as a kid I don’t even want to think about it now. Seriously, those button eyes kept me up at night for weeks.

Anyway, I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane (which shall now and forever more in this post be known as Ocean) during a slow day at work in between actual guard rotations and cleaning. Granted it’s not very long, but I was also completely absorbed in the book and had a hard time putting it down. I think I was actually late on deck a couple of times because I couldn’t pull myself away (sorry coworkers…). I’m going to get into the plot later, but Ocean just serves to solidify Gaiman’s position as the master of nostalgic fantasy. There’s something about his books that just take you somewhere far away, deep into your head and heart, to some place or time that existed long ago. They make you remember things you had thought you forgot and people you wish you had. Which is funny because that’s exactly what happens to the narrator when he returns to his childhood friend’s home as an adult. Gaiman’s books perfectly encapsulate the expression, time period, or life stage they are supposed to represent. In this case, that happens to be childhood.

The narrator (we are never actually told his name) is a bright and very brave young boy on the verge of understanding the adult world but imperfect in his knowledge. He is very bookish, but also adventurous, and he doesn’t seem to understand why  adults are so habitual and always in a hurry.

“I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.”

“I lay on the bed and lost myself in stories. I liked that. Books were safer than other people anyway.”

“I went away in my head, into a book. That was where I went whenever real life was too hard or too inflexible.”

“I liked myths. They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children stories. They were better than that. They just were. Adult stories never made sense, and they were slow to start. They made me feel like there were secrets, Masonic, mythic secrets, to adulthood. Why didn’t adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and smugglers and dangerous fairies?”

“Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences. I was a child, which meant that I knew a dozen different ways of getting out of our property and into the lane, ways that would not involve walking down our drive.”

Oh alright I’ll stop. The point is, this kid is pretty perceptive. And very fun to read about. Anyway, he starts to encounter magic in his world. He doesn’t know that it is magic, not right away. For the first while it is just chaotic events, like a renter at their house using his father’s car to commit suicide, or a coin becoming lodged in his throat while sleeping. He eventually enlists the help of his neighbour, eleven year old Lettie Hempstock, a couple of years older than him and his new favourite friend.

Lettie takes the narrator with him to confront the magical being causing all of this chaos, and in a moment of distraction the narrator momentarily removes himself from Lettie’s protection. The monster lodges herself in him, and thus finds her way into his world. She comes into his life in human form as the nanny Ursula Moncton who seduces his father, is adored by his little sister, and much appreciated by his mother. It seems that she is fooling everyone except for him. Lettie, her mother, and her grandmother, who reveal themselves to be magic protectors of sorts, make it their mission to protect the narrator and remove this evil creature from the world. Obviously they face some troubles along the way. But these troubles of course make for a much more entertaining, much more mystical and magical story.

When the narrator reaches adulthood, he returns to his home town for a funeral and finds himself drawn to the Hempstock’s home and the pond that lays on their property, the one that Lettie had always insisted was an ocean. There he encounters the old Mrs. Hempstock, Lettie’s grandmother, who reassures him that the events that he is suddenly remembering did in fact happen, that he is alright, he will be alright. She also reveals to him that he had been back to visit many times before, though he remembers none of those visits. I loved this ending. It was just so perfect and honest. So many things we experience in childhood are forgotten or even repressed until we return to a certain place, smell a certain smell, hear a voice or see a picture or whatever else may trigger our memory. These flashbacks come and they may never return until we find that trigger again. Gaiman’s version of this was just so poignant and beautiful, I didn’t want it to end.

Okay confession time: I desperately wish magic were real. Of course I know it isn’t, at least not in the way it is portrayed in books. There is no Hogwarts, no Narnia or Fillory or Oz or any of the other magical lands written about in books. That being said, I have read about a lot of magical lands and beings, and Gaiman’s version was one of the most beautiful and enchanting versions I have experiences. The style of his writing, the prose was fantastic and the descriptiveness of it was just fantastic.

Now that we’ve covered the book side of things, lets get to the dad jokes. Today’s bad/dad joke is…. insert drum roll… What do you get when you cross a parrot with a caterpillar? A Walkie-Talkie! HA!

Alright, alright, I’m done.

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