“The Magicians” by Lev Grossman

This series came in when I still worked at the bookstore. The covers were unassuming and kind of bland, nothing really flashy or eye-catching. I had a few people tell me it was a good series, but there weren’t too many people who had read it outside of those few. Plus, there were so many other titles I wanted to read that I didn’t put this high up on my list of “might want to try”.

Then, the show came out. First episode my thoughts were “Harry Potter for people who wanted to see more sex.” and I abandoned the series. I tried again a little while later and it migrated from Harry Potter to Narnia. Like, almost direct rip-off (so it seemed, stay with me for a moment). So, I gave up again. I’m not sure what made me try the series AGAIN, but once I got past the “rip-off” part of the series, I was HOOKED.

So, when the books gravitated back to my little hands, I nabbed them. I wasn’t sure what to expect, having seen the show first. I’m always wary (as I’m sure we all are) of adaptations, ESPECIALLY when I see the show first. But, with this book, I was pleasantly surprised. My only issue is even with the books vivid descriptions, I still picture the actors from the show (they were INCREDIBLY cast by the way). I usually do it the other way around so someone else’s interpretation doesn’t muddle my own, so that is my only regret.

The show and the book loosely follow one another, but at the heart they are identical. That’s what I find makes a good adaptation. You have to vary story lines to keep the book fans entertained, but some shows venture too far and change the essence, or the heart, of the story. One of the reasons I enjoy the Harry Potter movies (besides the fact JK Rowling likes them, and everything in the movie had to go through her, so if it was in the movie, she gave it the OK) is because they change enough to be interesting, but stay true to the heart of the books. One that screwed it up royally, for example, was the Percy Jackson movie.

Back to the topic at hand – Quentin is not your typical protagonist; he is depressed, pessimistic, introverted, and not just for show or so he can be “fixed” by the love of his life. It’s just who he is and carries through the book. He views everything through a veil of darkness and, as a person who has Clinical Depression (AKA Mega Depression), it was nice to see it represented properly. It also makes for a very interesting narrative voice. While heading to a College interview, Quentin happens upon a dead body. They call the police, deal with the questions, and then a strange paramedic gives Quentin an envelope. The envelope contains the fabled sixth book of a children’s books series that shaped the lives of Quentin and all of his friends (of which there aren’t many). Also in the envelope was a note, but as he went to grab it, it blew away. Quentin follows it, on a dreary autumn day, and finds himself in the middle of a courtyard in summer. Enter Brakebills; a school of Magic. Another student, Eliot, is waiting for Quentin and escorts him to the entrance exam.

Long story short, Quentin makes it in. A whole new world he could never imagine is opened up to him. A world of mystery, magic, and danger.

SEVERAL times Grossman mentions Harry Potter, both directly and insinuating. And not in the way I was expecting. It was almost parody. Like, the main eating area being long tables with floating candles …in really ugly candelabras – the dishes and plates don’t match either. In their first class they learned that magic isn’t wand waving with fake Latin spells. It was constant shots, every chapter has one or two references. This gave the book a really weird self-awareness, which kind of made for a more fun read.

I was impressed. More than I thought I would be. I find myself, in about the late afternoon, thinking about the book and what’s happening, and what will happen next, how the show interprets what Grossman wrote, just generally getting excited to read again (I do 90% if my reading at night) …it’s taking over my brain. I’m so glad I gave the show extra chances, I knew I should have had more faith in Sera Gamble. She was a forerunner in Supernatural, so you know she’s talented and twisted. And the book is the perfect complimentary piece that represents mental illness, lgbtq issues, and many more.

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“Divine by Mistake” by P.C. Cast

As you all may know by now, I have a massive love-hate relationship with P.C. Cast. I read the first book in her House of Night series (which I only found out lately was spearheaded by her daughter) and absolutely HATED it. I got through the first book and just out of utter hatred I wrote a pretty nasty (I forgot I wrote it and when I found it later I actually shocked myself) review on GoodReads. I even abandoned the second book about 30 pages in. Then, my dear friend who always lends me her books gave me another P.C. Cast book to try and, shockingly, I loved it. I couldn’t put it down! (Moon Chosen, if you’re curious about my review!) So …when I was raiding her bookshelves and came across this, she told me to give it a try.

Well. This book fell smack dab in the middle, I didn’t hate it as venomously as House of Night, but I didn’t love it the way I did Moon Chosen. I am dead centre, and unfortunately that means I can’t really tell if I liked the book or not.

I do believe this book is an “adult” one, unlike her others that are YA, given they are at TINY bit darker. The book starts with English Teacher Shannon Parker (funny thing is I think Cast is an English teacher) on her summer break, and on her way to an auction to find something new and interesting. What she found was a clusterf*ck of cultures printed onto a vase that called to her. The woman on the vase looked identical to her, all the way down to the rippling burn scar on the back of her hand (which I promise will never be brought up in the book again). She forgoes the cool dragon painting and gets the vase. On her way home, there is a flash of light and ungodly burning and she wakes up in a strange world.

So, the premise of the story is Shannon is the alternate universe version of a Goddess Incarnate Priestess named Rhiannon, this world is a weird mash of Celtic and Greek mythology. Her clothing is Greek, her soon-to-be Husband is a Centaur, which is Greek, but everyone speaks with a slight Scottish accent. And the bad guys in the book are Irish. That kind of turned me off the book right away, her magical alternate world was basically just the UK. But it was olden times with no electricity, but they made modern references and had a grasp of modern medicine. They had toilet paper, knew about hand washing (which wasn’t implemented until 1847 – yet they knew nothing of vaccines and inoculations and the first one was in 1796), had shampoo in bottles …and a million other little nitpicky things. Like her overuse of the world “Zillions”. This stuff threw me off because it felt haphazard – a little bit of extra world-building would have ironed out all those wrinkles.

Shannon gets into this new world, meets the doppelgangers of her friends and family and decides to stay, even though Rhiannon is in HER world potentially ruining her life there. She meets ClanFintan, her husband-to-be, and falls in love instantly. But, one of the things no one warned her about were the dreams the Goddess (Celtic goddess of Horses, and the only Celtic Goddess worshiped by the Romans – so the mish-mash of cultures kind of makes sense, but it’s still jarring) can send her. She is lifted from her bed one night and sent flying over the land to a distant Castle where she sees the doppelganger of her Father. She is overcome with a sense of evil and suddenly white (like, corpse white), winged humanoids come rushing out of the trees and overrun the castle. The creatures kill everyone and kidnap the women. The Fomorians (Irish mythological baddies) are kind of like Vampires; can’t be out in daylight, feed on blood, and can’t cross moving water, but they have giant wings to help them glide and jump – not for flight. Shannon’s next dream shows her the women they are capturing and what they are doing with them. The lead Fomorian is impregnating the women, but it’s not a simple birthing …think Aliens, only not the chest.

When the plot revolves around Shannon and ClanFintan I’m bored out of my skull. Shannon is annoying and ClanFintan resembles a doting puppy (he is the typical romance novel male), Cast also has this habit of forgetting his size, apparently he’s gigantic but he always lounges casually on the chaise chairs. But when the Fomorians attack the story becomes much more fast paced and interesting.

And I will say, as much as I nitpick this book, there were a few parts that were amazing. First and foremost, no Girl-hate!! Every woman, doppelganger or not, was treated equally to Shannon, even the beautiful ones that most authors would have turned into a romantic rival, just become her friends. Her flares of jealousy are so small and slight they almost don’t exist, she rationalizes it away. There were so many scenes that could have gone down that path but she took the high road, and it made for a much better read. Girl-Hate is so easy to write because women are always portrayed as Catty Bitches, but most aren’t like that. It’s nice to see an author treating women like humans, not just caricatures of what the media tells us they are supposed to be. Rhiannon was a massive Bitch, so Shannon took it upon herself to basically undo all the cruel things Rhiannon had done (I forgot to mention only a few people know who she really is, but they all have to keep it a secret so their society doesn’t have a meltdown). These things may be small, but they mean so much to me. And as annoying as Shannon was, she at least has a personality. As slight as it was.

One of my BIGGEST issues with this book is the Sexy Lamp syndrome. Basically, you could replace Shannon with a sexy lamp and the story would proceed the same. Shannon was utterly useless, she just stood back and let everyone take care of things and do all the hard work, she just ate, drank, and fawned over her new Husband.

It’s a rather large series, there is Shannon’s story, and I think a few others with other characters. This is a good book for a mindless quick read, but don’t go into it expecting outstanding work. If you want a REALLY good book by Cast, get Moon Chosen.

“The Cruel Prince” by Holly Black

A friend of mine let me borrow a different Holly Black book, and to be honest, I rather enjoyed it (the Coldest girl in Cold Town). So when I went over to help her lay out a bedroom, I saw this book with about 2 dozen other books I’ve always been curious about. I’ve been hearing a lot about this book online, so when I saw the chance to borrow it, I took it. I came home that day with a literal laundry basket of books.

I have a soft spot for books about faeries. And this is one of those. The story is about twin sisters Jude and Taryn, and their older sister Vivienne “Vivi”, who were spirited away by Vivi’s father Madoc, after he kills their parents. Madoc is a redcap, and soaks his hat in the blood of those he has just killed. Most faerie stories have a redcap SOMEWHERE in the story.

The girls grow up in Madoc’s household, as his “daughters”, even though he is only Vivi’s father. Because of his love for the girls mother, he took in the twins. It’s an odd situation, and kind of creates this weird Stockholm Syndrome thing. Jude hates Madoc, but she also has this strange love for him, because he did raise them, protect them, and teach them. The girls can fight almost as well as any Faerie, are more intelligent than any Fae, but still can’t quite fit in. They are bullied by basically every teen Fae they come across, including Prince Cardan and his posse.

I enjoyed the book. It was fun, quick, and interesting. It is also cliched, predictable, and soaked in teen angst. A boy from Cardan’s group tries to get between the twins, Jude is asked by the soon-to-be High King to be his spy because of her unique ability to lie (faeries cannot lie, but they can bend the truth), and a Revel turns into bloodshed.

I have the next book in the series as well, and you can bet I will be reading it! It’s a teen book through and through, but it’s fun and there are some twists and turns I wasn’t expecting.

“Map of Chaos” by Felix J Palma

This is book three of the Victorian Trilogy (Trilogia Victoriana). I had been waiting for this book FOREVER and happened to find the hard cover for $3 at Good Will. I didn’t even realize it was out. So naturally I grabbed it! Went in for Cosplay, came out with a book …my life story.

The first thing I will say about Palma’s books is they are a SLOW BURN kind of story. They are all very slow paced and reading 5 pages sometimes feels like you’ve read 100 (which is why a 568 page book has taken me almost a month.), but he keeps it interesting enough that you WANT to know what’s happening, even if it is relatively dry and boring.

The thing about these books is Palma changes his formula every book. When I read Map of Time, I figured I had a pretty good understanding of how this author works (these formulas are how I could do things like predict big events in Game of Thrones – George RR Martin has a very big and obvious formula too). So when Map of the Sky came out, I was excited but I figured I would have this one figured out in the first few chapters. I was wrong, Palma changed his formula completely. Map of Chaos, changes that formula AGAIN. And with each addition to the book, he adds something new. Which I think is what draws me in because I CAN’T predict what he’s thinking because he hasn’t taught us. Video games teach you how to play and navigate in their worlds, authors teach you how to navigate their worlds as well. Palma teaches you a LEVEL and then completely changes it as soon as you level up.

If you haven’t read the previous two books, I recommend you stop reading here because I have to explain the twists to explain how Palma changes and adds to his formula.

In the first book, everything “Sci-Fi” was proven fake. Until the very end of the book where he turns everything on it’s head and reveals that the themes are real, just not the way everyone expects it to be. And there’s time travel. In the second book, he flips it on its head again and everything is real, and there are aliens …oh and more time travel.

That brings me to the third installment. The first two books allude and hint at things, this book is straight forward. You’re not trying to prove if something is or isn’t, it is an event that happens and everything is taken at face value. But the thing about this book is it kind of reads like a clusterf*ck. First off, the Prologue is 40 pages. It was about an HG Wells who was a scientist in a SteamPunk world. I thought, okay, makes sense after the Alien Invasion I guess? Or the diverted Alien Invasion as it would be? Then the prologue ended and Chapter one started us with Cornelius Clayton, an officer who investigates strange cases, but not in the Steampunk world. He believes nothing is real until he has his arm ripped off by a werewolf. Then it skips 10 years later, which is odd for Palma, his stories are usually linear unless there is “time travel”, but he doesn’t jump time like that (another formula change). Clayton is now investigating Spirituality in the Victorian era where there was an explosion in interest in seances and ghosts (this was an actual time period, started by the Fox sisters). Clayton investigated popular and apparently REAL Mediums to figure out if they are actually real, or fake. Most of them end up being fake, but on one investigation a strange “ghost” appears and tries to strangle an elder lady, screaming about needing a book. Clayton later goes to the old ladies house to make sure she was okay and she gives him The Map of Chaos, an apparent book that will save the world (the title is not ironic, but I’ll let you figure that out for yourselves). The Invisible Man attacks again and the old lady disappears from a secured room. Cue two years later when Clayton is knocking on HG Wells door to get him to help investigate an Alien Invasion.

This is where up-to-date knowledge of the previous books comes in handy. Every book I have ever read is stored in my mind so usually when I hit a reference I somewhat remember. Which is lucky because it’s been a while since I read them and I don’t own Map of the Sky.

From there it is a wild ride through Universes, Time, and Space, following the exciting exploits of Wells and his wife Jane. Up until the last 150 pages or so, it feels like thousands of stories are thrown at you (hence the clusterf*ck), but in those 150, they all start to come together, in a way that some times leaves me yelling “AHH!!” and pointing excitedly when I catch a references or something is revealed.

I don’t want to reveal too much more than that because this is an incredible book, and an even more incredible series. The slow burn does make these a little difficult to read, but it’s always worth it in the end!

“Supernatural: Coyote’s Kiss” by Christa Faust

I apologize for the schedule hiccup, my usual Monday doctor appointment was moved to Thursday because of the holiday (I have chronic pain so I have to go to my doctor once a week for injections). Today didn’t have a better start, hence why this is later in the day than usual. Right now all three of us have a lot of issues in our personal lives (adulting woo), so once that all clears up, we will be able to go back to three a day. Just be patient with us please!

As I mentioned last week, this review is basically sanctioned fanfiction. And by that I mean the creators behind Supernatural had no hand in the writing beyond clearing ideas. They probably did the same thing they did for the anime version – they have a supernatural “bible” they gave to the writers to keep the anime within the lines of Canon.

I love these books, they are all written by different authors so you get everyone’s own personal vision of Supernatural, and they aren’t limited by Camera’s and locations. A Japanese Oni loose in the streets, why not? A nightmare hag causing dreams to come real, why not? The boys hiking during an avalanche, sure! I prefer some writers over others, and some do take another lap with a second or third book. Christa Faust is a new author to the series, and up to this point, this is the only book I know of that she has written for this (she could have written others I haven’t come across yet, but in my own collection this is her only).

Her version takes us to very down South in the States, and even down into Mexico. Instead of keeping with mythology/culture/whatever centred around the States, Faust takes a different step and really highlights issues in Mexico. Illegal immigration, child prostitutes, Aztec history, among other things. I understand these are real issues that we should never shy from, but I felt Faust leaned very heavily into these “bad” things without really showing how beautiful the culture and land can really be. That might just be a personal preference; media is so focused on showing only the horrible parts of a country that the beauty of it gets passed over. They can label people horrible things if you only show the parts of their culture that represent that. Would a “gang-banger” be so threatening if you know he went home to his Grandmother, helped her make dinner, and every anniversary honors his parents that were killed so they are not forgotten in the afterlife? Though like I said …personal preference.

The book starts when a caravan of people trying to get across the border that all end up slaughtered, seemingly by a human-minded animal. Cops are called in, and of course, our boys follow. The story that follows is a face-paced adventure that travels from America to Mexico and delves into their Aztec origins. From shape-shifting beasts created from a woman on the point of violent death, to old gods, modern witches, gun-toting bad-ass women (which is pretty much a supernatural staple, especially in the books), and the oddity of soulless Sam.

These books really only work if you’ve seen the series. Each book takes place in between specific episodes so you can kind of keep up with the boys without the author actually having to write it. This book takes place in season six, between the episodes “Caged Heat” and “Appointment in Samara”. So if you don’t know the story up until then, the book will be confusing. They make references to other characters and other TV plots, and not much of a background is given. You’re literally thrown into the story and you just hold on for the ride. Bobby, Lisa, Ben …these names mean nothing and are given no context, it’s expected that you know the show. As a fan of the show, these books are fine for me because I know the history back-to-front and I know the characters, people who don’t know the show …maybe not so much.

If you enjoy the show and want an exciting fast paced read, this is it. This was not my favorite in the series, but it was still really good.

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

I tried SO hard to like this book, I heard tons about the play, and I think we all heard the “controversy” over a black Hermione (which I think was kind of cool. People have no issue with traditionally black characters being portrayed white, but the other way around causes havoc – whoops, did that get a little too political?). I tried to ignore the non-ignorant complaints and give this book a fair chance.

I have nothing against fanficiton. A lot of books I read are official fanfictions. Hell, next weeks review is technically a fanfiction as well. Some of it is incredibly well done, and some are incredibly horrible (looking at you 50 shades …which, FYI, is just Twilight fanfiction).

It felt like they took everything magical and fun about the world of Harry potter, and tried to write a HarryxDraco fanfiction …but through their sons.

The premise of the story is Harry’s eldest son is an entitled asshole with no redeeming qualities (I dubbed the book in my head “Harry Potter and the privileged white boy). He spends the entire book complaining how much it sucks having a super popular father, how he has no talent at magic the way his father did, and how no one likes him so he has no friends. I understand the pissy at popular dad part, but not to the extent they portray it. Plus, Harry was NOT a phenomenal wizard, without Hermione he’d be dead in his first year. So that entire situation really turned me off of Albus. The CONSTANT whining, the constant throwing everything in Harry’s face for NO reason. Though, I think this comes across this way because it is written as a play (not a screenplay like Fantastic Beasts, though the layout is different, there are more stage directions and reference to set pieces in this) and 4 years of Albus’ school life are shown as snippets of conversation and rapidly changing scenes. We get really not set up, they are writing as if we all have previous knowledge of the Potter Family in those 4 years …but we were only introduced to Albus as an epilogue.

My rant on my hatred of Albus ran a little long …and could run longer. But, I should move on.

The plot of this books is people believe Draco’s son is actually Voldemort’s son because everyone believes the death eaters still have their hand on a time turner (Ministry destroyed them all). So the plot is basically “fix all of Albus’ fuck-ups and don’t think about Voldemort having sex with some poor girl”. Amos Diggory had also heard the rumor and believes the Ministry has one hidden, so he wants Harry to go back in time and save his son.

I’m enough of a Doctor Who fan, I honestly yelled “fixed point in time!” at the book. As you can imagine, the rest of the book is an example why time-travel is bad, and why children should not play with it.

The end of the book is where Harry learns how to talk to his son, Albus learns not to be a dick (he still is, but I got a kick out of Draco’s son yelling pretty much all the same things I did at Albus), and it’s all heart warming and yadda-yadda (or at least, supposed to be, by that point I hated everyone). It was all 7 books of Harry Potter written backwards.

I know JK Rowling herself likes this, but I can’t. I just can’t. They take the magic, fun, and mystery out of Harry Potter and leave us with a shell of what it was. Many people liked it, and liked it a lot. So this is definitely a read at your own discretion, I will not be reading it again, or actively recommending it. Sorry hardcore fans, but I did try.

“Frankenstein: Prodigal son” by Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz is another author I have a weird relationship with. The first book of his I ever read was way back when I was introduced to James Rollins. The same lady that lent me his books lent me a Koontz book, it was a new author I wasn’t familiar with so I wasn’t going to say no. I enjoyed the book up until the ending, it was kind of a let down. I found out shortly after that that my step-dad loves Dean Koontz. When I started working at the book store I bought him the entire Frankenstein series, and then moved onto Odd Thomas. Fast forward to a few years ago when I attempted another Koontz book (Odd Thomas funny enough) and found it …not bad. He was overly wordy, to the point the story felt like it was getting lost in the words, like he was trying to emulate Stephen King. When we found this book super cheap somewhere we picked it up, I was willing to give Koontz another chance because the others I read weren’t BAD per se, just, not great.

I will say, though, I enjoyed this book. My biggest issue with the book is you’re following 5 or 6 different characters so there is no mystery, it also jumps a lot to cover all those story lines. The mystery of the murders in the story is ruined by the killers point of view, but at the same time, still interesting because you get to see his method and his reasoning behind why he’s doing it.

With little spoilers, I will say the novel follows The Monster, a female detective, Victor Frankenstein, the murderer, Victor’s wife, and sometimes there is a chapter or two from other characters.

The book starts from the Monster’s point of view, who is now calling himself Deucalion, and a letter he gets that sends him back to America. Back to the city where a murderer stalks the populace looking for the perfect body parts. In among these two story lines, is the one of Victor and his pursuit of perfection, a master race, and a future war …and a copy cat killer.

I’m good at following multiple story lines, so this wasn’t a problem for me, but I know it’s not something for everyone. I found all the story lines really interesting because in the beginning they all seem hodged-podged together, but they slowly start linking or colliding with one another to reveal a much bigger plot.

I found Koontz’ writing very different from the previous two I read. It was very straight forward, not overly wordy, and very quick to read. The way he ends certain story lines feels very lacking, but in the greater scheme it made sense in a way.

I will be reading the rest of the series, because it is rather interesting.