June 05, 2006

SUMMER READ - Magic: Use it or lose it

It's time to talk about Summer Reads again!
I know - it's not officially summertime until well into the middle of this month, but I don't care. I'm already giving in to the sapping sunshine, wanting to stretch out, catlike, with a book and let the world roll on without me.

If you're ready to dive into summer in another world, Justine Larbalestier's Magic Or Madness is a book that reaches out and pulls you in. Australia isn't where many fantasy novels are set, but the choice is perfect as the antithesis of the East Village, New York -- it might as well be another universe.

Reason Cansino is trying to escape from her grandmother - a crazy woman who is convinced she's a witch. Her mother has told her stories about The Witch for years - that she killed her cat, that she kidnapped kids -- and Reason knows enough to be wary and scared. Her mother, Sarafina, has taught her all sorts of things in case of emergency: the layout of her grandmother's house, things to do to drive her crazy, since she really believes she's magical -- and things to make her safe. Reason's name as good as locks her into believing in logic and rationality. But when her mother loses it and ends up institutionalized, there's no one left to live with but her grandmother - the witch. And then Reason starts to lose her grip -- the day she steps out of a locked door in her grandmother's house, she finds herself in New York.
Suddenly magic is real.
Why has her mother been lying to her all these years?
Who's the chick who gives her a coat and a hot fire to thaw her out, after she steps into an East Coast snowstorm?
What's going on?

This arresting novel comes with a sequel, which I'm hoping to jump into soon. It's a quick afternoon read, and has that page-turning intensity which would probably make is smarter to read the first one with the sequel right next to you!

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