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29 March 2012

The Sea Wolves (Jack London #2)

The Sea Wolves is the second book in The Secret Journeys of Jack London by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon, illustrated by Greg Ruth. These authors have taken the already fascinating life of Jack London and added a supernatural element, telling stories that read like London's own books.

When Jack had had enough of the Yukon and the Gold Rush, he boarded the same ship, the Umatilla, that took him to Alaska to make his way back to San Francisco. When the ship is attacked by pirates seeking gold, Jack realizes that the pirates are killing people in their beds. Jack yells and challenges one of the pirates to alert other passengers to the danger.

Unfortunately for Jack, after a short fight, he is thrown overboard and ends up on the pirate ship. While the other prisoners from the Umatilla are locked in the hold, Jack has caught the captain's attention as the only passenger to fight back. Though Jack is unsure if he will be kept alive long, he is told the ship needs a cook.

Jack's uneasy time is made worse when he and the only woman on board, Sabine, are locked into a cabin one night. The cabin is the only secure place on the ship during a full moon - because the crew of pirates are all werewolves.

Golden and Lebbon have created an historical supernatural adventure surrounding one of America's heroes - using legend and lore woven in with the facts of London's life. Readers who like the supernatural but are looking for a story with more depth than some of the latest vampire books, look no further.

Golden, Christopher and Tim Lebbon. (2012). The Sea Wolves. New York: Harper.

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27 March 2012

The Difference Between You and Me

The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George is a story of choosing your battles.

Jesse is the head (and only member) of NOLAW - the National Organization to Liberate all Weirdos. She is an outcast at school. She tries to remain unnoticed as she goes through the school day. Then on Tuesday afternoon, she meets the most popular girl in school in the public library to kiss.

Emily is the student council vice president. She is on her way to a great college and an important career. She is dating the star athlete of the school. And on Tuesdays she meets Jesse at the library.

Emily and Jesse do not have anything in common other than gender and their attraction for each other. This does not get in the way of their time together because they don't really talk. If they did, their ideas about the world would clash.

George has written what feels like a light novel but touches on many of the important topics of today's society - from equality for all people regardless of sexual orientation to the roll multinational companies take advantage of incentives and loopholes in the law. Jesse is a great character who avoids many of the pitfalls of queer characters in fiction - she knows who she is and is not afraid to be herself. The Difference Between You and Me will appeal to fans of Libba Bray due to the writing style.

George, Madeleine. (2012). The Difference Between You and Me. New York: Viking.

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24 March 2012

The Magician's Apprentice

The Magician's Apprentice by Trudi Canavan takes place 600 years before The Magicians' Guild of the Black Magician series. It is a prequel that you should read after the series even though chronologically it happens first as it is the story of the creation of the Guild of Magicians.

Tessia is the daughter of and assistant to the village healer. She would love to become a healer herself but it is not a job women normally occupy. They can be midwives and assistants, but the deep medical knowledge and practice is left to men.

When Tessia and her father are called to the home of Lord Dakon - the Lord of Mandryn where they live - it is to treat a slave. Though the country of Kyralia does not allow slavery, a man from neighboring Sachaka has brought his slave with him on a tour of Kyralia. While at Lord Dakon's home, Tessia feels threatened by the Sachakan, Takado, and uses magic to repel him - magic she did not know she possessed.

Unlike wealthy families who place their children with a magician for training, Tessia's magic released itself. As the only higher magician in the village, Dakon takes on her training. Though Tessia is excited to have magic, she is not willing to give up the idea of being a healer. If there was some way to use magic to heal it would be the perfect combination, but so far no one has discovered how to combine the two.

Fans of Canavan's will delight in this novel that explains the current day politics and rules about magicians. She has created a complete world that I hope will be the setting of many future novels.

Canavan, Trudi. (2009). The Magician's Apprentice. New York: Orbit.

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20 March 2012

A Traitor in the Tunnel (Agency #3)

The Traitor in the Tunnel by YS Lee is the third book in The Agency series featuring Mary Quinn.

Mary is in the midst of her first assignment as a full-fledged member of The Agency - an all female investigative group that works out of an academy for girls in London. The series takes place at a time when women were deemed not as smart as men and therefore overlooked and the perfect people to overhear important information.

Mary has been placed as a parlor maid in Buckingham Palace. A few items have gone missing and it is her job to listen for gossip and rumor among the staff. Queen Victoria has forbidden gossip so there is little to overhear that will help Mary's investigation.

However, Mary overhears a more intriguing bit of news. The Prince of Wales has been brought home by the police after being involved in a fight. This incident, combined with a man who was arrested for starting the fight, plus Mary's love interest - Engineer James Easton - make for an exciting mystery that will have readers up all night to find out the truth.

Lee is a master storyteller. Mary Quinn is a great character who breaks the stereotype of women in late 1800s Britain. Combining mystery, a fascinating historical period, an irresistible love interest, and characters you'd like to have as friends, this series is a must read for all.

The Agency series would appeal to those who loved Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart mysteries. It would also appeal to fans of the Maisie Dobbs books - though Maisie is a more adult version of Mary Quinn.

Lee, YS. (2012). The Traitor in the Tunnel. New York: Candlewick Press.

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16 March 2012

The High Lord (Black Magician #3)

The High Lord by Trudi Canavan is the third book in her Black Magician trilogy. This is a great fantasy series that I highly recommend to people who are already fantasy readers as well as anyone interested in trying the genre.

Sonea is the first magician novice from the lower classes in hundreds of years. Magical ability is tested by established magicians in potential students - and always from one of the upper Houses of the city. Since Sonea is a dwell - the lowest class of people - her ability was never tested. And instead of her magic being released by someone else, she released it herself through sheer will. But magic, if not controlled, will destroy so the guild magicians began a search to find Sonea.

But dwells are afraid of magicians. They do not get to see any of the good work magicians do, only the annual purge when their class is driven outside of the city walls back into the slums. Using the help of the Thieves who control the underground / black market, Sonea hides from the Guild.

Now, two books later, Sonea is a novice at the Guild of Magicians. She has learned control and her magical strength is growing faster than many of her age group. She has gotten used to being surrounded by magicians and does not fear them anymore - with one exception.

The High Lord of the Guild earns his or her position by being the strongest magician. Akkarin is the youngest magician ever to hold the title. He fought twenty magicians to become the High Lord.

Okay, I cannot really say what is in the third book without giving away some spoilers, so just read the series. It is great.

The Black Magician trilogy has some of the feel of the Tamora Pierce books that take place in Tortall. It has a well developed world where the author understands the politics and magic thoroughly. A strong female protagonist who goes against the norm also links Sonea to Alanna and other of Pierce's characters.

Once you begin the series you will be thrilled to learn that after the Black Magician trilogy there are other books in the land of Kyralia - one stand alone that takes place 600 years before this series and an additional trilogy that follows this series (with all of the same characters). So get a copy of The Magicians' Guild and start reading today!

Canavan, Trudi. (2003). The High Lord. New York: EOS.

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12 March 2012

The Novice (Black Magician #2)

The Novice is the second book in Trudi Canavan's Black Magician trilogy.

Book two begins with the intake ceremony for summer novices where Sonea and others will take the first pledge to follow the guild, and continues through the first year of school. Sonea has learned to trust her guardian Rothen and his friend Dannyl but is still leery of many of the guild members. Some of her teachers and many of her classmates are not sure what to make of the slum girl in their school.One of her classmates will try to turn the other novices against Sonea to prove she does not belong. They will go against Guild law and harass her with magic to test her strength.

Sonea, Rothen and Administrator Lorlen know that the High Lord is practicing black magic. When Lord Dannyl is appointed Ambassador to Elyne, the country next door, the ask him to see if he can follow the research the High Lord studied when he was in Elyne. Dannyl thinks he is doing this because the High Lord lost his research before he returned to the Guild and has no idea that his questions may get him into trouble.

Canavan has written a fantasy series that readers will love. This series would be a great read alike for fans of Harry Potter who are looking for a new fantasy series to read or a great introduction to the genre of fantasy for new explorers.

Canavan, Trudi. (2002). The Novice. New York: EOS.

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04 March 2012

The Wild (Jack London #1)

The Secret Jouneys of Jack London: The Wild by Christopher Golden and Lebbon and illustrated by Greg Ruth is a story Jack London’s travel to the Yukon Territory in search of gold.

At the age of seventeen, Jack left San Francisco with thousands of others in search of Alaska gold. The trip was funded by his brother-in-law who accompanied him on the journey. The set off with hope and a good set of supplies on a ship bound for Dyea. But once they arrive at port, they realized that many of the people around them would gladly kill them to get their possible gold.

From Dyea it was necessary to travel by foot or horse over a mountain pass, cross a lake on a home-made boat, and then float that home-made boat down one of the largest rivers in North America – all while carrying everything you might need from food to clothing to tools. And all before the winter sets in and freezes everything in sight – including you if you do not have shelter and firewood.

Written in the style of London’s own books, The Wild is an historical adventure that will suck you into the story so well you will feel the cold of Alaska. Golden and Lebbon have combined a story of the period with Native legends. This is the first in a series of tales about Jack London by Golden and Lebbon; I will be reading them all.

Golden, Christopher. (2011). The Wild. New York: Harper. 

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