Magic Lessons (Magic or Madness, #2)

ISBN: 1595141243
ISBN 13: 9781595141248
By: Justine Larbalestier

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Fantasy Fiction Magic Paranormal Series Teen To Read Urban Fantasy Ya Young Adult

About this book

Fifteen-year-old Reason Cansino has learned the painful truth that she?like her mother, grandmother, and new friends Tom and Jay-Tee?must face a choice between using the magic that lives in her blood and dying young, or refusing to use the magic and losing her mind. Now a new threat leaves Reason stranded alone in New York City, struggling to control a power she barely understands. But could the danger she faces also hold the key to saving her life? "Magic Lessons" is a stunning follow-up to Larbalestier's debut novel, "Magic or Madness, " which earned multiple starred reviews and a spot on the Locus 2005 Recommended Reading List, along with being named a Best Book of the Year by "School Library Journal" and the Young Adult Round Table of the TLA.

Reader's Thoughts

Ian Wood

This is the complete review as it appears at my blog dedicated to reading, writing (no 'rithmatic!), movies, & TV. Blog reviews often contain links which are not reproduced here, nor will updates or modifications to the blog review be replicated here.I rated this novel worthy!NOTE: UNHIDDEN SPOIULERS! Read at your own risk!Errata and clunkers:p100 "They didn’t burn everything else, but. Just left a pile of ashes. I added some of the chicken bones. But it hasn’t been noisy or violent since then. Now it just ripples." Seriously?!p118 "…every single person spoke completely different than her…" That's just clunky!The "Golem" was originally banana yellow, then it's remembered as being red-brown, "the same color as it was originally"?!! Hmm?Mere gets Jésus's magic and is able to fix her broken fingers, but when Tom gets a scrape she resorts to antiseptic and a Band-Aid®? Seriously? Clunky!Yes! It's Justine Larbalestier month! You didn't know? This is volume 2 in the Magic or Madness series. Volume one is reviewed here. Reason Cansino is now living (if not completely comfortably) with her grandmother, referred to as Mere, but whether as in 'Nightmare' or as in 'grand-mère' remains to be seen! Mere lives in Sydney Australia. Reason still visits her mother in the psychiatric home, and lives somewhat in fear of her evil grandfather, "Jason" (or Alexander - Jason Alexander!) whom she met in volume one. Her grandfather is a magic leech - that is, he has magic, just as Reason does, but if he uses it, he sets himself up for an early death (as does Reason). If he doesn't use it, he'll become insane (as will Reason). The only solution, so he and others believe (Reason disagrees), is to use it, but to prolong your life by leeching magic from other magicians. One of these is Jay-Tee, whom Reason met when she accidentally ended up on New York City after going through the magic kitchen door in Mere's house. Another is Tom, a sweet guy Reason met when she went to live with Mere.After a dangerous adventure on volume 1, Reason, Jay-Tee, and Tom are back with Mere, but Jay-Tee is dying, having been leeched almost dry by Jason. She has to take magic from Tom to give her a boost, which leaves him temporarily exhausted. Worse than this, someone is trying to force is way through the kitchen portal. At first they think it’s Reason's grandfather, but it turns out to be an ancient, all-but-inhuman ancestor of hers. This part of the novel was a really cool and interesting read, very well-written for the most part.Eventually this ancestor succeeds in pulling Reason back through the door into NYC. He's extremely powerful, but he seems not to want to harm Reason, but to actually help her, although she seems to be rather slow on the uptake in that regard, as indeed she was from time to time in volume one. She ends up in the freezing cold again in her pajamas. The ancient won’t let her back through the magic door, so she ends up with Jay-Tee's estranged brother who she briefly met when she was here the last time. There seems to be some wish-fulfillment going on here, in that Larbalestier frees Reason from her nomadic existence in volume one in the Australian outback, where she owned nothing more than a backpack, and delivers her into the luxury of her grandmother's house. Even in NYC, Reason enjoys the sweet comfort of Jason's accommodations for Jay-Tee in volume one, and of Danny's luxurious apartment in volume two.Reason decides to try and sniff-out the old man - since his horrible smell is easy for her to track - to see if she can discern what he's up to and why he's here. Why she didn’t simply ask him is unexplained. This part of the novel was not written at all well. I couldn’t figure out what Danny and Reason were supposed to have agreed they would do! Maybe it was just me because once I got past that confusing page, things made sense again. After being prevented yet again from going back through the kitchen portal, Reason discovers that the ancient stinky guy has put something inside her that helps her to track him without retching as the horrible nauseating stench he seems to trail behind him. It would seem he is trying to tell her something, but again why he doesn't simply speak - or put the information directly inside her head - is unexplained. She follows his path to a cemetery, which is evidently what he intended. Maybe his grave is there. This guy ultimately makes no sense in his behavior, serving only to be a deus ex machina plot-hole filler so... ok, I guess!I have to ask why YA authors never depict people being killed off by their hero? Jason Blake is pure evil. He shows up to drain Reason of her magic and steals a boat-load of it. Danny renders him unconscious, yet Reason never pulls her magic back from Jason. She doesn’t even get her share back, much less drain him and end the problem right there. Instead, she runs away. That's not even remotely heroic. At some point the hero has to put an end to the evil, period. Anything else is cowardice and stupidity. Danny and Reason at one point have him at their mercy but instead of stopping things there and then, they encourage evil to continue by running away. Not smart, but it does net the author a third volume, which frankly is a bit pathetic.No more spoilers! I finished this novel having had some issues with it, but overall I liked it and I do want to read volume three (which is just as well since I already have it to hand!). So what didn't I like (in addition to what I've already mentioned)? And why am I asking you? Larbalestier keeps tripping up her action by splitting the story up between Sydney where Jay-Tee, Mere, and Tom are, and NYC, where Danny and Reason are. That was annoying because it kept interrupting the action and larding-up the text with cheap and completely fake 'tragic' moments. I despise this 'cheap-thrill' kind of writing, so I was glad when it had to give way to a straight narrativeEventually it reached a point at the end of the novel where Reason is no longer the student but the master (mistress? Gender tropes in YA fiction!), so I guess Larbalestier achieved her stated goal in the novel's title. I was less thrilled about going into volume three after I’d read two, than I was about going into volume two after I’d read one, but I was still on-board with this series. It’s original and interesting - if a bit too indulgent of Le Stupide in this volume. That said I rate this a worthy read and I think it’s worth exploring what Larbalestier has to say in volume three.


I tried to read the second book to see if it was better. and that was my mistake. authors never make there second book better then there first book if the first one wasn't promising. I couldn't get into it so I gave up and stopped reading the series. I don't really like the idea of that u can use magic and die old with the amount u use, but if u don't use magic you go insane and try to kill yourself. it just is not the book for me


I was very disappointed in this second volume of Larbalestier's Magic trilogy. It almost seemed to have been written by a different, and far less capable, author. The action and dialogue were disjointed and the "rules" of the magical world incomprehensible. Plus, the Aussie lingo seemed forced, even though Larbalestier is a native speaker; if I read the word "chunder" one more time, I was going to, well, chunder. Surely the Australians have synonyms for vomiting?I'll read the third book because I'm incapable of abandoning a series, but I don't expect to like it. Maybe that's the most disappointing thing of all.


The first book was amazing! I was so thrilled to finally get the next installment....but that thrill quickly wore off. Some of the writing in this book was plain bad, like for example, when Tom was on the phone, there was a loud beeping noise. He observed: I wonder if monkeys were behind this, cause it sounded like a monkey's burp' Passages like these served no purpose and were nonsensical filler. Also, at the very beginning, they start a paragraph 'We met with the three old ladies at the meeting place' What meeting place? What was the role of these women, how did Reason come to contact with them? The author made scenarios really hard to imagine with this sloppy writing. Plot wise: first half was slow, second half got more interesting...but not enough to compensate for this terrible quality of writing! Overall, Not feeling it.


Book 3 in the Magic or Madness series. This is a really interesting series and I like it and all but I think the books need to be longer - so much of the book feels rushed like there's missing information. It is a neat take on magic - that it's not as cool as people think it is. This is a YA series but it has appeal for adult readers also. Warning: this book does have teen sex in it one time. It IS relevant to the storyline and has to happen but it was still a bit surprising.

Michelle Ross

I don't think I've ever seen writing like this before. It was confusing and rather boring. The transitions between points of view are confusing and more or less stop the story for the reader while they figure out whose point of view is being used. I kept hoping the story would get better, but it did not. Further, certain parts of the book read more like it was written for adults rather than children.


(part 1 of review)"Magic Lessons" by Justine Larbalestier is a 275 paged book. The main character in the book is Reason, Tom, and Jay-Tee. They are back in Sydeny after going through a magic door that goes to New York City. But, the door starts to shake and some odd shaped creature comes out of the door and attack Reason and every one else. After that, Esmeralda (Reason's grandmother) gives them their first magic lesson. Then at night in Sydeny the kids watch the door and when Tom and Jay-Tee are asleep the door shakes again and gets Reason, and then Tom and Jay-Tee wake up. Reason is back in New York and is helped by Danny (Jay-Tee's brother). But no one is sure who got Reason through the door without opening it.(part 2 of review) "Magic Lessons" by Justine Larbalestier is a 275 paged book. The main character in the book is Reason, Tom, Jay-Tee,and Esmeralda(Reason's grandmother). Right after Reason was saved by Danny, they went to his condo. Danny was suprized that Reason never watched T.V. or knew how a cell phone worked. After, Danny bought Reason some clothes to wear and it was night Reason could not sleep. She went in to Danny's room and then they had xxx. But in Sydeny Jay-Tee almost died so she ask Tom for his magic to stay alive. Then Jay-Tee found out that Esmeralda was dieing too. So they thought they could go through the door but when Mere (nickname for Esmeralda) touched the door something odd happened. When Reason was ready to open the door her Grandfather was following her. But Reason got in to the door in time. She found out how she went through the door. Her old ancestor wanted to get in to Sydeny and die there with his family. And in the end of the story Esmeralda finds out that Reason is pregnant.


Not to my liking. That said, I think it would work well for its intended audience. The setting (Australia and New York City) and the magic are different enough to be intriguing and the pace and language are good. But the characters spent too much time not knowing anything and doubting what and whom they thought they knew for me to really get into the story. Part of this may be because Magic Lessons is the second book of a trilogy of which I did not read the first. But based on this book, I'm sure Reason, the main character, will find a way to fix the "my peeps are dying" problem; however, I don't care if she does and am not curious as to how.On a side note, it's an interesting choice to show generations of teen pregnancies without heavy-handed commentary about how awful it is. There certainly are themes to that effect, but it's never in the forefront.


Sequel to Magic or Madness. The one where Reason gets sucked through the magic door from Australia to New York by a mysterious old man who has insanely strong magic and never speaks. Man, this was a mess. Critical facts (such as the old man's relationship to Reason and Esmerelda) would be revealed by someone "just knowing." But other important things were beaten into the ground; we'd see something happen to Reason in New York, and then we'd have an entire chapter of Reason recounting it for Tom back in Australia, and Tom telling JayTee. Also, alas, all ambiguity has now been removed from Reason's relationship with Esmerelda.I won't be seeking out book 3.(Locus poll 2007: #3 YA SFF novel.)


i read a very favourable review of this trilogy somewhere, but i didn't like it that much. the story is split between sydney and new york city, which could have been interesting, but i found the gratuitous use of slang to distinguish the american and australian characters annoying, especially because the characters were all so dumb. one of the australians had the excuse of living in small towns her whole life and never getting to know anyone but her mother, but are there really americans who wouldn't understand "my grandmother and i don't get on", for example? maybe if i hadn't been so irritated i would have liked the book better... i didn't dislike it enough to not read the rest of the trilogy, though, especially since it's ya and therefore easy to read quickly.

Kat Alexander

Wow. There's so little that can be said about the book without spoilers... Still, it was fantastic.Magic Lessons continues the story of Reason, Jay-Tee and Tom, keeping the same fast pace as the last novel and further exploring the rules of magic. The trio have only just begun to learn more from Esmerelda when a strange phenomenon occurs with the door that none of them can explain. Soon, they're questioning the fundamentals of magic they'd just begun to except, namely the choice of magic-weilders: die young or go insane. My only problem with this one is probably the same as my problem with the first (which I haven't read in a while): descriptions can go a bit haywire, leaving the reader struggling to work out exactly what's going on. Still, Magic Lessons is well-worth the read.


Great book. I liked this one much better than the first book in this series. Once i started i didn't want to put it down. Can't wait to read the next one!


I loved the first book (Magic or Madness). It was wonderful, and I was addicted. THEN I found THIS thing.I never finished it, to be perfectly honest, and I'm not really sure if I ever intend to. It was so boring. I had to force myself to read it, before getting bored and putting it down for good.I really don't have much to say, because there's really not much to say. I just couldn't get through it. The end.


** spoiler alert ** I didn't like this book as much as the first (which I thought was 4 stars!). I didn't even completely read this one. I skimmed through the last few chapters just to find out what happened. It was kind of a weird book. Some parts I had to skip over just because I thought some of it was inappropriate and wasn't quite for me... Okay, so this girl who's 15 has sex with this 18 year old which came to happen because she wanted to kiss this boy and she'd never kissed anyone before and was somewhat afraid she was going to die and never kiss someone (I think that was what happened.). So how is that teaching kids the right thing to do? I believe sex before marriage is inappropriate...even if you are dying! (I'm sure it probably wasn't a graphic detail (I skipped over this part so I can't be sure)).Perhaps the third book of the series will close the book nicely and add some morals to it. Also, it seemed to take forever to get to the whole point of the book. It was like I'm waiting and waiting for the big reveal...and then it's just weird at the end (although again, I didn't completely read it all...lots of skimming, so that could be why...well, no, it was weird.). I'll probably read the third book because I'm curious though. I mean, probably the only reason I didn't like this book was some improper scenes. I like the characters though. And I think Justine's take on magic is an unusual one and that makes it more interesting. I really wanted to like this series, but this second book was not up to par. And it perhaps made me not want to recommend this book...or rather series, to anyone. Sad. Oh, but it did kind of scare me. I was kind of scared reading the book. Haha. What a wuss.


Continuing saga of Reason Cansino who was raised to believe that magic isn't real-only to discover that most of her family is magic. Chapters from Reason's point of view are written with Austrialian words and slang while those of her friends in NYC have an American slant. This is book one of a trilogy-and unlike many trilogies the story and characters are strong all the way through-I highly recommend all three books. Of course I love the idea of walking through a door from a warm "Aussie" summer into a cold NYC winter (and back).

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