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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: magic, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 313
1. Education in other ways and other worlds (link)

"... a genre author's options are a lot cooler: magical boarding schools, technology-fueled SF cram sessions, apprenticeships involving wizards, aliens, and more... We've compiled a reading list for each non-traditional, SFF approach to learning, and we hope you'll suggest your own examples in the comments!" From Tor.com

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2. Furthermore, by Tahereh Mafi

To be honest, I was first drawn to this book because of the gorgeous cover. Who wouldn't fall for the jeweled toned rich hues suggesting autumn evenings wrapped up in cashmere? Then I noticed the girl, front and center oddley white except for a hint of a blush on her cheeks and gold toned eyes. I was curious.

Furthermore joined me on my journey upstate to my summertime reading retreat.  It's August pub date meant it wasn't the first book that I read, but I kept eyeing it as I pulled others from the shelf.  Clocking in at 393 pages, this is not a slight read, but once I started it, I put it down only to sleep.

Alice, almost twelve, is filled with anticipation for Ferenwood's annual Surrender. She is anxious for life to change, because frankly Alice's life hasn't been so easy lately.  Not only is Alice considered odd, even by Ferenwood's magical standards, her father is still missing.  Alice's father is the one who really cared for her and understood her despite her differences from everyone else in Ferenwood. He indulged her and listened to her. And now it was only Alice, her three little brothers and her mother.

 "Alice was beginning to realize that while she didn't much like Mother, Mother didn't much like her, either. Mother didn't care for the oddness of Alice; she wasn't a parent who was predisposed to liking her children." (p.10)

Because of her situation, the Surrender is more important to Alice than she can really say.  Ferenwood is a magical place, and everyone who resides there has magical gifts. The Surrender is the time when all the 12 year olds share their gifts upon the stage.  At the end of the surrender, only one child would be celebrated and given a task. The task is always an adventure of some sort and is rather secretive as well. This year there are 86 twelve-year-olds. Alice meeds to win the task in order to leave her home.

But Alice is odd, and she believes that in this magical world, her love of dance is her gift. After all her father always encouraged her to listen to the earth and to dance when she feels it.

Alas.

Alice's failure on the stage, however, is not the death knell for adventure. An acquaintance of hers named Oliver approaches her with a request. One that will bring her on the adventure of her life if she chooses to accompany him.

What follows is an adventure reminiscent of the Phantom Tollbooth, with a dash of Through the Looking Glass and a coming of age bent.  Furthermore is a place like no other. The orderly magic of Ferenwood is wild here, and the rules seem to change from town to town.  Will Oliver and Alice be able to find her father and bring him home?

This is a fantasy adventure that will keep readers on the edge of the page. Interestingly both Alice and Oliver are unlikeable at times for very different reasons which get slowly revealed as their adventure moves along. At first I was worried about the idea of Alice being white in the sea of color that is Ferenwood.  What did it mean? But it works in that it others Alice in a way but helps explain her own magic as the story unfurls. 

I enjoyed the voicey nature of Furthermore. Alice, though exasperating, is endearing as well. I was charmed by the chapter sections' headings as well as the fox! There is a cinematic aspect to Furthermore and I would *love* to see it on the big screen.

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3. Discount of the day: Daughter of the Sun (Cult of the Cat series, Book 1) only $.99!



Title: Daughter of the Sun (Cult of the Cat series, Book 1)
Author: Zoe Kalo
Genre: YA mythological fantasy/paranormal
Word count: 93,000 words / 330 pages
Official Launch: May 1, 2016

Only $.99 until Wednesday May 11th(regular price $4.99)

Get your copy on Kindle today!

Daughter of the Sun, Book 1 - blurb

Sixteen-year-old Trinity was born during a solar eclipse and left at the doorsteps of a convent along with a torn piece of papyrus covered with ancient symbols. Raised by nuns in the English countryside, she leads a quiet life until she’s whisked away to the Island of Cats and a grandmother she never knew.

But before they can get to know each other, her grandmother dies. All that Trinity has left is a mysterious eye-shaped ring. And a thousand grieving cats. As Trinity tries to solve the enigma of the torn papyrus, she discovers a world of bloody sacrifices and evil curses, and a prophecy that points to her and her new feline abilities.

Unwilling to believe that any of the Egyptian gods could still be alive, Trinity turns to eighteen-year-old Seth and is instantly pulled into a vortex of sensations that forces her to confront her true self—and a horrifying destiny.

What readers are saying….

“This was an amazing story!” –Hot Off the Shelves

“This book was so super good! Great writing, great characters, great plot. Very immersive reading experience.” –Awesome Book Assessment

“Wow- this book was a stunning, magnificent adventure! Very well written and full of intricate details, I was immediately drawn in and just absolutely did not want to put this one down... The intrigue just leaves you racing through the pages to find out what will happen next! I absolutely, completely enjoyed this book and can't wait to see what happens in the next one!” –The Recipe Fairy

“The way [Zoe Kalo] writes cats into the book is astounding. Every little quirk, mew and lick is incredibly authentic. I love it when a writer is skilled at writing about the animals in the character’s story, it makes it more warm and fuzzy, no pun intended.” –Samantha Writes

“Daughter of the Sun is an intriguing young adult mythology read full of mystery, magic, action, and history… [it] kept me flipping pages like an addict.” –Fishing for Books

“Oh my God. This is definitely a ‘something.’ This concept and the plot is soooo unique and weird and fascinating that I did not want to put this down. I literally breezed through this one…. This book was an overdose of kitty love.” –Grape Fruit Books

“If you are looking for a Young Adult Fantasy book that is different from the norm, then look no further. Daughter of the Sun is full of Egyptian mythology, with layer upon layer of mystery just waiting to be uncovered.” –Archaeolibrarian

About the Author
A certified bookworm, Zoe Kalo has always been obsessed with books and reading. Reading led to writing—compulsively. No surprise that at 16, she wrote her first novel, which her classmates read and passed around secretly. The pleasure of writing and sharing her fantasy worlds has stayed with her, so now she wants to pass her stories to you with no secrecy—but with lots of mystery…
A daughter of adventurous expats, she’s had the good fortune of living on 3 continents, learning 4 languages, and experiencing a multicultural life. Currently, she’s working on a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature, which she balances between writing, taking care of her clowder of cats, and searching for the perfect bottle of pinot noir.
Connect with Zoe Kalo on the web: www.ZoeKalo.com /Facebook / Twitter

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4. Bloom (in Frosting): Mixing Magic and Realism, Guest Blogger - Alexandra LaFaye!

 Did you know it takes warmth to make flowers bloom? This month's series is called Bloom. It should make you really toasty! Join me in welcoming the talented author Alexandra LaFaye as she takes over Seize the day! She is about heat up your mind with a huge dose of mixing magic and realism. Writers, get ready to bloom!


Bloom (in Frosting): Mixing Magic and Realism

 credit: Bigstock

Many of the rules of fiction haunt us – like spirits of drafts past or critiques gone wrong—they loom over us chanting, “show don’t tell” and the like, but as a writer and a mentor of writers, I’m not a fan of “the rules.” In fact, I would suggest that rules, grammar, and all of the conscious mind clutter that occupies our thoughts in the editing phase should take a backseat in the creation stage. Writers are often more empowered, creative, and productive if they write from their subconscious and leave all of the rules for the revision, or better yet, the editing phase.

And my topic for today is about getting our readers to move closer to their subconscious and loosen their grip on the rules of reality as they’re reading so that they can buy into a fictional world that resembles their own, but is infused with elements of fantasy—young wizards living under the stairs, angels hidden away in the potting shed, and the like. I’m not talking about magic realism here. That’s a whole other approach to writing that is very culturally grounded and often misunderstood. For more information on magic realism, this article would be a great start: Magic Realism

What I am talking about it reality-based fantasy or stories so well-grounded in reality that a.readers are surprised to discover that the world they’re in contains elements of the fantastic and/or b. the fantastic is convincing enough to allow readers to “buy into” the otherworldly elements being portrayed.

Since I’m generally opposed to rules, I’ll have to say that for every guideline I give you here, you’ll no doubt know of at least half a dozen works that thwart the general rule and that’s the mark of great art—knowing the rules well enough to work around them or defy them all together—creating your own magic as you go. Still, these guidelines may be helpful in giving you a place to start.

And the starting line in reality-based fantasy is “A Voice in the Fog”
On a foggy night at sea a sound in the distance has a magical quality to it simply because we cannot explain it. The change in our environment puts us on edge just a little, piquing our interest, and leading us to question our surroundings—keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.

This “voice in the fog” in a story is the small element that tells us something is not quite normal in the world we’ve just entered.

To illustrate my points, I’m going to use my short story “Testing, Testing 1, 2, 3...” from the anthology Shelf Life edited by Gary Paulsen and filled with great genre-based stories by writers like Gregory Maguire, M.T. Anderson, and Jennifer Holm who are quite good at drawing readers into realistic worlds fused with fantasy and I hope my story holds its own among this talented crowd.

In “Testing,” the main character, Patrick Troy is struggling to pass standardized tests in eighth grade and in jeopardy of not being able to enter high school, so he’s only allowed to leave the house to attend school and keep up his lawn mowing job. His newest client, Mrs. Whitamore, has hired him through the mail.

As he explains, “That may seem odd, but I get a lot of weird stuff in the mail. When I hit second grade, I started getting a blank card each week. I didn't know who sent them. There was never a return address on the envelope. No postmark. Just my name. Each one was a different blind you bright color, but they never had one word on the card inside. Mrs. Whittamore's card was bright too. There was no return address. I even thought it was another blank card, but instead she asked me to mow her lawn for her every Saturday at noon.”

Here, we know something is out of the ordinary, but we’re not sure exactly what it means. This gets our “magic sense” tingling and moves us into the next element of combining fantasy and reality:

The Scully Factor (AKA Plausible Deniability)

When we’re given a fantastic premise, “being hired through the mail” it should be deniable at first or at least explainable. Here, we learn that Patrick has often gotten strange things in the mail. What we learn later is that the lawn mowing request and the cards that came before it are also a test of worth (an early stage of the hero quest plot pattern that appears in most fantastic stories). But when we first encounter them they are a foreshadowing of the magic to come and an undercutting explanation for why he’d get hired through the mail.

To draw readers into the fantasy within the realism of a story like this one, writers must

Incubate Their Dragon Eggs

Besides their size, dragon eggs aren’t that shocking. Why they could simply be housing a fetal emu for all we know. But when the dragon hatches, it’s no longer possible to deny that something fantastic is afoot or awing. And in reality-based fantasy, writers must raise the stakes, increasing the elements of fantasy, decreasing the elements of reality until the fantasy is no longer deniable—it is the new reality of the story.

When Patrick accepts the mail-delivered job offer, he is excited to see into Mrs. Whitamore’s yard because she has nine foot hedges and is suspected of being a witch—no one sees her, she has a hidden yard, and there are odd chimes emanating from her house. When he arrives, the wind opens her screen door and ushers him through the dark house to a backyard with rings of flowers that spin right up to her back porch—all increasingly unusual things that could be explained.

Mrs. Whitamore doesn’t speak, she delivers directions on cards that are, at first look, blank, but as Patrick describes the first one, “As I got up farther, the card seemed to have gray squiggly lines that moved around like curly hair caught in the wind. Standing right in front of her, squinting, the lines darkened and stiffened into letters. I thought I needed to get my eyes checked for new glasses. That happened every spring.

The card read, ‘The butterflies need exercise.’

She smiled, her misty eyes getting all shiny.

Here we get a sense that she may be writing them with her mind or he may have eye sight issues—plausible deniability (the Scully Factor at work), but we also learn that Mrs. Whitamore is a bit more than unusual because she wants him to mow her flowers to give her butterflies exercise.

His payment that first day is a blank book. He finds this odd, especially when his watch tells him the whole job took only five minutes—but he blames the time shift on a broken watch—he often makes them stop on account of his “magnetic personality,” so reality is still in the lead, but when he returns the next week and discovers that the flowers are as tall and in full bloom as they were the week before we know for certain that magic is definitely at play.

And when she tells him that the book she gave him is as blank as the card she’s holding, Patrick realizes that the magic in his life is undeniable and he has a enchanted book that eventually teaches him how to stop time and finish the standardized tests that have dogged him all year long.

In many ways, reality-based fantasy is

Like a Layer Cake with Mythical Frosting

At the base, you have a pretty ordinary plate that may be wrapped in foil, but alone it’s as ordinary as mowing the lawn, then comes the first layer which is mostly cake and homework and standardized tests, and then there’s a layer of mythical frosting where reputed witches can hire you to mow their lawn through the mail, then you mow rings of flowers as a host of butterflies take flight—the decorations on the layer of cake that’s all lawn clippings and tests looming.

Layer by layer, the elements of reality shrink like the layers of the cake and the frosting and decorations—the magic of fantasy—take center stage and we have a kid who can stop time to give himself the room he needs to learn what he wants to know and finish the blooming test. When you look at the story as a whole the glittering magic is what resonates with us, but the emotional satisfaction of a test passed is the cake in our belly.

So, I’ve either shown you how to mix fantasy and reality or simply made you hungry for cake. Either way, I’m so grateful that you joined me on this journey and I want to offer you the opportunity for seconds or at least “cake” decorating tips. AKA What questions do you have for me about blending fantasy and reality?

After all, I have this short story, a novel about a girl who discovers her adoptive parents are shape-shifting seals (Water Steps), a novel-in-verse about an Appalachian girl who can see the future (Pretty Omens), and a book about a girl whose widowed father is confidently waiting for his wife’s return (The Keening).

But don’t just take my word for it. Feel free to explore other approaches to the same fusion of reality and fantasy, here’s a good article from Fantasy Faction to get your started: "Reality Made Fantastic" If you have questions or comments, please share them here. You can also stop by and visit me on my own blog Wordy Wanderings Thank you once again, to you for reading, and to Molly Blaisdell for the opportunity to be a guest on her blog. Have a famtastic—hopefully, cake-filled day!

www.facebook.com/alafayeauthor
www.alafaye.com
a@alafaye.com

Thank you for sharing your genius, Alexandria! This whole post warmed me up. I'm about to bloom. Readers, thank you for dropping by and I hope that you come back next week for more of the bloom series.  

Finally, we already had some doodles, but here is a quote for your pocket:

She told me about rolling hills covered with cornfields and treeless miles of land without water. I dreamt of cornfields dotted with yellow rosebushes A. LaFaye, The Year Of The Sawdust Man

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5. Ted Sanders, Author of The Keepers: The Harp and the Ravenvine | Selfie and Shelfie

Check out Ted Sanders’ Selfie with The Keepers: The Harp and the Ravenvine, the second in the magical series that began with The Box and the Dragonfly.

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6. The Gallery of Wonders: Magora: Book One, by Marc Remus | Dedicated Review

The Gallery of Wonders, by Marc Remus, is an incredibly engaging middle grade book for ages nine and up—especially those that dabble in art, magic, and defending against the dark arts.

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7. THE MIRROR KING by Jodi Meadows // More Of An Okay Book Than Anything...

Review by Sara... THE MIRROR KING The Orphan Queen #2 By Jodi Meadows Hardcover: 544 pages Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (April 5, 2016) Language: English Goodreads | Amazon Wilhelmina has a hundred enemies.HER FRIENDS HAVE TURNED. After her identity is revealed during the Inundation, Princess Wilhelmina is kept prisoner by the Indigo Kingdom, with the Ospreys lost somewhere in

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8. The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann


The Unwanteds By Lisa McMann


      In the world of Quill, creativity is bad. It counts as an infraction, and on the day of the Purge, every thirteen year-old is put into three categories: Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds are honored, Necessaries become slaves, and Unwanteds are sent to their deaths.When Alex Stowe is sent to the Death Farm after the Purge, he discovers that being Unwanted doesn't bring death... it brings the discovery of a whole new world called Artime.

       In Artime, creativity is allowed. Even encouraged. The wild-haired leader, Mr. Today, helps each artistic Unwanted learn that they can hold their title like a badge. Because in Artime, creativity is a magical gift... and a weapon.

       It's the first book in the Unwanted Series, and I am so excited for the last one to come out in April! If you like dystopian novels and magic, then you should totally try this book out!

-Grace

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9. 8 Reasons You Should Never Read V. E. (Victoria) Schwab's Shades of Magic Series \\ A Darker Shade of Magic - A Gathering Of Shadows

I I know you've probably been hearing a lot about this series, and how amazing it is, and how the world-building is incredible and the characters are awesome and blah, blah, blah. But I'm here to tell you to think twice before starting these books. Here are 8 reasons you may want to steer clear. 1. You're going to want a magic coat that changes every time you flip it around and you can't

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10. #826 – Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen by J. L. McCreedy

Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen Written by J. L. McCreedy Penelope Pipp Publishing   11/18/2012 978-0-9882369-1-2 256 pages     Ages 8—12 . “The average ten-year-old girl seldom travels far from home. She doesn’t worry about being kidnapped by witches or imprisoned in medieval castles where children meet their unspeakable demise. She rarely …

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11. Sorcerer to the Crown

cover artZen Cho’s book Sorcerer to the Crown has had so many people crowing about how wonderful it is that I caved in and had to find out for myself what the buzz was about. When I first started reading it I thought, uh-oh, this is so Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell-y how can this possibly not have people crying derivative! But the similarities didn’t last long and in the end it turned out to be a very different novel. Thank goodness.
 
The story is set in Regency England. English magic is on the wane and no one knows why. The British are in an uneasy truce with France agreeing that neither will use magic against the other. But there are goings on in the small nation of Janda Baik that might make things very bad for England without some careful diplomacy. It also turns out that England’s magical stores are shrinking because of some unhappy and very powerful lamiae and witches in Janda Baik. And the fairies are rather peeved at an English sorcerer who broke a treaty with them regarding taking new familiars from the land of Fairy.
 
In the world of this book anyone can have magic but of course the ones in charge, the thaumaturges, are all men and there is a definite hierarchy. Magical women are scandalous. Sure no one minds the maid or the cook using a little magic to help them in their daily duties but a female of gentle birth using magic? Girls are sent to special schools so they can learn how not to use their magic. The male thaumaturges are convinced that the female frame is too delicate for anything more than minor household magic. Are they about to get a rude awakening!
 
The very popular Sorcerer Royal, Sir Stephen, dies suddenly one night and is immediately succeeded by his protégé, Zacharias. The only problem is that Zacharias is a black man, a former slave, bought by Sir Stephen when he was a baby and brought up as if he were his own son. To be a sorcerer, one must have a familiar and the familiar of the Sorcerer Royal has been passed down from one to the other. What has happened to Sir Stephen’s familiar? Rumors spread that Zacharias killed both of them. To add even more complications to his situation, Zacharias returns from giving a speech at one of those special schools for girls with one of the girls.
 
Prunella, whose mother was Indian and father British, was orphaned young and raised by the proprietess of the school. Prunella has some powerful magical abilities that impress Zacharias so much he brings her back to London to teach her how to be a thaumaturge. Since Prunella does not have an independent fortune, she gets Zacharias to agree to have Lady Wythe, Sir Stephen’s widow, launch her into Society that she might find a husband with money. Prunella is a sassy, savvy girl who speaks her mind and has a penchant for adventure and trouble-making. Both she and Zacharias have secrets that make for all sorts of delightful twists and turns in the story.
 
Along with being a fast-paced tale full of magic and adventure and a number of I’m-not-taking-any-crap-from-you magical women, the story also very nicely weaves racial and gender issues throughout. It is done in such a subtle way too that not one of the thaumaturges who votes to remove Zacharias as Sorcerer Royal ever mentions it has anything to do with him being a black man, but as the reader you understand it has almost everything to do with it. There is also a quiet revelatory moment during which the ghost of Sir Stephen comes to understand that his protégé’s life has been very different than he had thought because the white Sir Stephen had no reason to notice all of the slights and sly remarks directed at Zacharias because of his color.

It is because of Zacharias and Prunella that the book has gotten so much attention. A fantasy novel with a hero and heroine who aren’t white and that doesn’t make excuses or tie itself into knots in order to make that happen is a big deal. That the book also manages questions of race and gender so adeptly and in such a matter-of-fact manner is also a big deal. At the same time, it is kind of sad that the race and gender of the main characters of the book are unusual enough that it has people buzzing. Hopefully one day there will be so much diversity in books that it is no longer such a newsworthy item.

Sorcerer to the Crown is Zen Cho’s first novel and she is a little surprised I think by its popularity. Born and raised in Malaysia, Cho moved to the UK to pursue a law degree. She began practicing law in the UK, got married and a couple years ago started writing the novel. She had been writing short stories and fan fiction, had even done some editing so she wasn’t a complete novice. She still practices law part time, at least according to one interview I read. And she is at work on another novel, purportedly one that takes place in the same world as Sorcerer but with different main characters, though Cho has said Zacharias and Prunella will make an appearance.

I found Sorcerer to the Crown a delightful book. It is well paced and plotted, the characters aren’t always so very three-dimensional but they are interesting and definitely not cardboard cutouts. Sometimes Prunella seems a bit too wise to the ways of the world and society and just a smidge too composed for her age and upbringing, but her sass and confidence are contagious and make it easy to overlook the other things. Quite the debut, it will be fun to follow Cho’s career and see where she goes from here.


Filed under: Books, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy Tagged: magic, race and gender, Regency England, Zen Cho

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12. New issue of The Lorelei Signal (link)

The Jan - Mar issue of The Lorelei Signal is out: www.loreleisignal.com
Stories include:

The Dead Lady's Hand - Maureen Bowden

A reborn sorceress must confront an ancient enemy who has waited for her through the centuries.

Dragon Slayer - Charles Kyffhausen


Slaying dragons is supposed to be something knights aspire to do. But for an American living in the time of King Arthur, slaying a dragon comes only as a matter of duty and carries deep emotional scars.

Finding Persephone - Charlotte Lee

Demeter embarks on an interstellar search for her missing daughter, aided by the love of her worshipers, only to discover that all is not as she assumes it to be.

The Garden Shop - Vonnie Winslow Crist

Those with an affinity for growing things do not appreciate those with an affinity for death.

Btw, if you enjoyed the magic and sentient plants in The Garden Shop, you might enjoy Crystal Quest in: Issue 17 of Mystic Signals, which combines the Jan 2012 issue of The Lorelei Signal and the Feb 2013 issue of Sorcerous Signals: https://www.createspace.com/4169883

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13. ENDURE by Sara B. Larson // The RIGHT Way To End An Amazing Series...

Review by Krista  ENDURE by Sara B. Larson Series: Defy #3 Hardcover: 320 Publisher: Scholastic Press (December 29, 2015) Language: English Goodreads | Amazon The remarkable third novel in Sara B. Larson's bestselling Defy series!At last, Alexa and King Damian are engaged to be married. But their lives are far from safe. The kingdom of Antion is under siege, and Rylan is a prisoner of the

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14. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine




Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is a creative retelling of Cinderella. As a baby, Ella was cursed by a fairy to obey any orders that were given to her, no matter what they were. So when her mother dies and her father remarries, Ella must live with her stepsisters, Hattie and Olive. Quickly, Hattie discovers that Ella will obey her and uses that knowledge to her advantage. Instead of being treated as an equal, Ella is forced to be her stepfamily's servant.

Ella meets Prince Char. Together, they have exciting adventures. Slowly, they fall in love, but she knows that if she marries him, an enemy of the throne could command her to do something awful to him. She struggles to protect him and break the curse, but it seems impossible with such a burden as hers. Will she ever gain the freedom required to be with her true love?

-Grace


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15. Happy Fairy Friday


WINGS OF THE WISPS
Original Painting Available Here: 

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16. Review Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars

Sometimes, it takes a little while for things to change from what they were to something different. Imagine a new seedling nudging its head up through the earth for the first time, no longer a seed, not yet a tree. This miraculous transformation of being represents the way I felt reading Martine Murray’s new mid-grade […]

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17. One Book. Two Perspectives. My Diary from the Edge of the World, by Jodi Lynn Anderson

 Oh, twitter.  Sometimes you are a wonderful thing!  Last July I was at my daughters' swim lesson reading away, and I shared a shot of the book I was reading online.  Barbara, it turns out, was reading the same book and we began somewhat of a back and forth as you are want to do when you find out someone besides yourself is smitten.  We decided we would co-blog closer to the publishing date, and here are our thoughts!

Barbara:  Gracie Lockwood's voice immediately drew me into the story. She keeps a careful record of the family's journey in a diary, a gift from her mother. It is lovingly inscribed with these words, To Gracie, May this diary be big enough to contain your restless heart.  Gracie is a girl with strong opinions, stating from the outset that her purpose in keeping a written record is to "prove that I knew it first." Her friend Oliver's observation, "You're kind of fiery" is an understatement. In addition to Gracie's fire, readers witness her gradually evolving realization that the world is much more complex than she initially imagined it to be.  She begins to temper her original strong judgments. "I've realized I may have been completely wrong about my dad."  "I wondered about the word 'beast.' I wondered if sometimes, the way everything looks - who's the beast and who isn't - depends on where you're standing."  I love this statement of self-realization:  "Every year I realize how dumb I was the year before." 

One of this book’s striking aspects is the comparisons I made to Homer’s The Odyssey.  The book’s 416 pages is itself a reading odyssey.  It requires an investment of time, attention to storyline, and a commitment to the characters. Reading Gracie's diary becomes a personal journey for the reader.

The travelogue aspect is certainly an integral part of this family's epic saga. We follow Gracie and her family on an extended journey to known and unknown places, several described in vivid detail. The mode of travel is symbolic. The family first travels via Winnebago, a name reflecting a Native American Tribe who excel in oral storytelling. Later they board the Weeping Alexa.  Alexa is a reference to Alexander the Great, the “protector”. These modes of transportation give added meaning to the family’s quest. 

​The major characters read like the cast from a Greek drama.
We meet good guys, bad guys, both real and mythical. Sea monsters and mermaids inhabit the waters. Dragons and unicorns take flight through the skies. 
Homer’s motifs take the form of the individuals the family encounters on their journey:  an oracle (Grandma), sirens (Luck City), Penelope’s suitors (Captain Bill).
Not since the Coen brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? have I encountered such an imaginative homage to Homer’s epic classic.

Without question, the theme which resonated with me and continues to haunt my thinking is the concept of fate. This also reflects the Greek concept of The Fates: goddesses who controlled the life of every mortal from birth to death and watched that the fate assigned to every being proceeded without obstruction.

Stacy: I read quite a few books.  Especially during the summer when I am fortunate enough to be lakeside and poolside depending on the day. So it’s not everyday that a story really makes me sit up and notice it. In the first few pages of MDFTEOTW I found myself looking up from the pages and grinning.  Reading bits aloud.  And then tweeting this to my friend Barbara -

@moonb2 thanks for the spotlight on this book, Barbara. I'm only on page 7 and I'm already delighted!”

By page 7 we know this: Cliffden Maine isn’t the Maine that we know in 2015. It is a Maine where there are the expected things like McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s, schools and houses. But people in town are scuttering around because the dragons are on their way to hibernate and they’ve been quite destructive this year. Protagonist Gracie is out at her favorite spot (where she’s not supposed to be) on top of the hill overlooking town and writing in the journal her mom gave her for her 12th birthday.  

Dragons aren’t the only odd things in the sky in Maine. There are also Dark Clouds. These are not the storm clouds we know that release the likes of lightning and rain. Rather they come to town and take away the people who are meant to die.  And now a Dark Cloud is settling right in Gracie’s yard.  Gracie is worried about her little brother Sam, who is often ill.  Complicating family matters is the fact that Gracie’s dad’s crackpot theories about the Extraordinary World have just ousted him from his job.  So when Gracie comes home one day to see a Winnebago in the front yard, she’s not too surprised that her dad means to pack up her mom, sister, brother and Gracie and head out of town.

Obviously this is a story about a journey, but it wasn’t until I had back channeled a bunch with Barbara that I could see the Odyssey’s tracks.  For me, the Lockwood family was running from crisis and desperately grasping at possibility.

Gracie truly makes this books shine. Whether it’s seeing her witchy grandmother’s house through her eyes, feeling her affections for Sam, seeing her longing to have a relationship with older sister Millie, or having those moments of embarrassment followed by yearning to believe in her father, if Gracie’s voice was less Gracie, the story wouldn’t work half as well.

The other high point for me was Anderson’s world building. The magical mixing with the mundane is presented so matter of fact, that readers simply have to buy it.  The journey has them landing in places like Luck City, Big Tex’s Circus, The Crow’s Nest, a broken down L.A. and even Cliffden itself and of the places contain different magic, but the magic follows the same rules. 

And then there’s the idea of hope. Inextricable hope tangled up with fate. Which one rules the day?

What a pleasure it was to virtually read My Diary from the Edge of the World with Barbara across geography and time.  Clearly, both Barbara and I love this book, and though we both approached it differently, it worked for us.  I can’t wait to share this with a big cross section of readers. It works on so many levels that I am sure it will be a crowd pleaser!

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A big note of thanks to Barbara Moon for co-blogging with me this time.  Barbara is a retired librarian who reads up a storm! Member of 2009-2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee, 2012 Odyssey Award committee, 2014 Margaret A. Edwards Award committee. Currently servicing on the 2016 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award committee. You can find Barbara blogging at Reading Style

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18. That One Time Lauren Oliver Interviewed H.C. Chester About Curiosity House

Bestselling author Lauren Oliver and notorious relics collector H.C. Chester interview each other about Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head (HarperCollins, 2015).

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19. Real Life Tween Review - The Imaginary, by A.F. Harrold

I figured, since I live with you real live tweens, it is high time that I have them write some of the book recommendations that appear on this blog.  Tween 2 read The Imaginary before school was out, and she loved it!  The following is what she has to say about it!

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I had just finished a book, and as always, I was looking for a new one. Just like most kids, I like it when a book sticks to me. Sometimes I read the first two chapters of one book and I do not like it and then same with the next, and so on. As usual I asked my mom/librarian for a suggestion. She usually gives me like 8 books and I don’t like any of them, so it is usually hard for her to give me suggestions. This time she gave me this book, and it hooked me right from the introduction. I checked it out and just read it.


The one thing that keeps Amanda happy is her imaginary friend Rudger. After all, she is an only child.  There is just him and her. They are best friends. But Amanda’s mother thinks there is something wrong with Amanda. Amanda loves to imagine. Rudger and Amanda always go on adventures in the backyard. Then one day Mr. Bunting comes to the door.


Mr. Bunting hunts Imaginaries. Rumor has it that he eats them! He sniffs them out and this time he has sniffed out Rudger. With Mr. Bunting’s (well let’s say) “assistant” he has almost got Rudger in his clutches! With Amanda unconscious in the hospital, Rudger is alone with nobody believing in him.  He is starting to fade away with Amanda not being able to imagine him. All at once he is trying to get to Amanda, escape from Mr. Bunting, and not fade before it is all done. On his way he meets some other imaginaries that help him. But can he make it before fading?


A.F. Harrold has created humor, with scary moments and magic all in one plot. This book was super amazing! Emily Gravett has so many great and detailed pictures. The illustrations and the book work in harmony together. This is a must read book! Ten out of ten stars! **********

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20. Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester

I’m thrilled to be part of The Girl Who Could Fly blog tour!  In celebration of the upcoming release of The Boy Who Knew Everything, I have a copy of The Girl Who Could Fly up for grabs, and the publisher asked bloggers to answer this question:

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

With all of the health issues in my family right now, I would want the the ability to heal.  First, I’d fix my hip, so I would be ready to hit the road and get my mom squared away, too.  I’d stop by the barn and give some pain relief to all of the older horses, because they, unfortunately, develop arthritis and life-altering illnesses, too.  Then off I’d go, healing anyone or anything in pain or suffering from an illness.

Which superpower would you choose?

About the books:


You just can’t keep a good girl down . . . unless you use the proper methods.

Piper McCloud can fly. Just like that. Easy as pie.

Sure, she hasn’t mastered reverse propulsion and her turns are kind of sloppy, but she’s real good at loop-the-loops.

Problem is, the good folk of Lowland County are afraid of Piper. And her ma’s at her wit’s end. So it seems only fitting that she leave her parents’ farm to attend a top-secret, maximum-security school for kids with exceptional abilities.

School is great at first with a bunch of new friends whose skills range from super-strength to super-genius. (Plus all the homemade apple pie she can eat!) But Piper is special, even among the special. And there are consequences.

Consequences too dire to talk about. Too crazy to consider. And too dangerous to ignore.

At turns exhilarating and terrifying, Victoria Forester’s debut novel has been praised by Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight saga, as “the oddest/sweetest mix of Little House on the Prairie and X-Men…Prepare to have your heart warmed.” The Girl Who Could Fly is an unforgettable story of defiance and courage about an irrepressible heroine who can, who will, who must . . . fly.

There is a prophecy.

It speaks of a girl who can fly and a boy who knows everything. The prophecy says that they have the power to bring about great change . . . .

The boy is Conrad Harrington III. The girl is Piper McCloud. They need their talents now, more than ever, if they are to save the world-and themselves.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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21. this week....

mixing up a little bit of *magic*....



spending afternoons with this sly little guy...


working on a self portrait, of sorts...

and...
sketching cute little snowmen, just for the fun of it (and because i'm WINTER OBSESSED!!!).

{that's what's going on}

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22. "The Last Vanishing Man"

Littleton Opera House, Littleton, NH c.1900, a location in the story
I have a new story — my first (but not last) of this year — now available on the Conjunctions website— "The Last Vanishing Man".

This one's a bit of a departure for me, in that it is a serious story that will not, I'm told, make you want to kill yourself after you read it. In fact, one of my primary goals when writing it was to write something not entirely nihilistic. Various people have, over the years, gently suggested that perhaps I might try writing a ... well ... a nice story now and then.

(I actually think I've only written one story that is not nice, "Patrimony" in Black Static last year. And maybe "On the Government of the Living". Well, maybe "How Far to Englishman's Bay", too. And— okay, I get it...)

So "The Last Vanishing Man" is a story that has an (at least somewhat) uplifting ending, and the good people triumph, or at least survive, and the bad person is punished, or at least ... well, I won't go into details...

Here's the first paragraph, to whet your appetite:
I saw The Great Omega perform three or four times, including that final, strange show. I was ten years old then. It was the summer of the Sacco and Vanzetti trial, a time when vaudeville and touring acts were quickly fading behind the glittering light of motion pictures and the crackling squawk of radios. What I remember of the performance is vivid, but I am wary of its vividness, as I suspect that vividness derives not from the original moment, but from how much effort I’ve put into remembering it. What is memory, what is reconstruction, what is misdirection?
Continue reading at Conjunctions...

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23. A fairy tale is more than just a fairy tale

When some one says to you "that's just a fairy tale," it generally means that what you have just said is untrue or unreal. It is a polite but deprecating way of saying that your words form a lie or gossip. Your story is make-believe and unreliable. It has nothing to do with reality and experience. Fairy tale is thus turned into some kind of trivial story.

The post A fairy tale is more than just a fairy tale appeared first on OUPblog.

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24. #735 – Scrap City by D. S. Thornton

Scrap City Written by D. S. Thornton Capstone Young Readers    10/01/2015 978-1-62370-297-7  352 pages       Age 10—14    “Beneath a small Texan town lies s city unlike any other . . . “Eleven-year-old Jerome Barnes isn’t expecting to find anything interesting in crazy Wild Willy’s junkyard. But then he discovers Arkie. Arkie …

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25. Interview with Christopher Nuttall, YA Fantasy Author of ‘Trial By Fire’


nuttall_pix_med (1)Christopher Nuttall was born in Edinburgh, studied in Manchester, married in Malaysia and currently living in Scotland, United Kingdom, with his wife and baby son. He is the author of 20 novels from various publishers and thirty-nine self-published novels. More than 100,000 ebooks in the Schooled in Magic series have sold since March 2014.
Sample Chapter HERE.
Purchase on Amazon / OmniLit
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Trial By Fire, Book 7 in your Schooled in Magic series. When did you start writing and what got you into fantasy? 
Well, I started writing seriously around 2004-2005 and … well, I write the sort of books I like to read. I began with a military thriller, then went through alternate history and alien invasion before starting to experiment with fantasy. Frankly, I’m still fond of all four genres, although military science-fiction is probably my favorite. 
What is your book about? 
Oh, a hard question.
The Schooled in Magic series follows the adventures of Emily, a teenage girl from our world who is accidentally kidnapped by a necromancer and swept into an alternate world where magic is real, dragons fly through the sky and young magicians are sent to boarding schools to learn magic. But it’s also a series about the introduction of new ideas into a static society and just what happens when those ideas are developed, then start to mutate.
Trial By Fire follows Emily as the repercussions of her actions in earlier books finally come back to haunt her, putting her at the center of a deadly plot that will force her to fight for her life – or die at the hands of a relentless enemy.
What type of challenges did you face while writing this book? 
Making it convincing, alas.
Ok, that sounds absurd; fantasy is not, by definition, convincing. A world where someone can be turned into a toad with a snap of a witch’s fingers isn’t our world. However, it does have to follow its own logic – and, if that logic is violated, people tend to protest. (They also protest if humans don’t act like humans, although creatures like Elves get a free pass – they’re not human.)
TrialByFire_med1One very notable example comes from Harry Potter (I use this because most of my readers will probably be familiar with the series.) In Goblet of Fire, Harry is forced to compete in a deadly contest that could easily leave him dead … apparently because having his name put in the titular Goblet creates a magically-binding contract that enforces participation. But we know Harrydidn’t put his name in the Goblet … which raises questions about how the contract was binding in the first place. (And why, if you can create a contract binding someone, they don’t use it on the Dark Lord.)
(Personally, I tend to think that Dumbledore was the one under contract; he’d sworn to make sure anyone whose name came out of the Goblet had to compete, which would have included Harry as well as the other guy. And it would be perfectly in character for Dumbledore to keep mum about this and push Harry forward.)
In Trial By Fire, I worked hard to put together a trap for Emily that wouldn’thave a thinking fan banging his head off the wall. I hope I succeeded. 
What do you hope readers will get from your book? 
Well, I hope they will have an enjoyable story.
Let’s be honest here. I’m not trying to write something that will echo down the ages, something with the staying power of the Foundation series. I’m writing so my readers will have fun reading the books. If they learn something about the importance of technology, the spread of ideas and just what can happen when whole new approaches are explored … well, that’s a bonus. 
Did your book require a lot of research? 
The series absorbed a great deal of research . I actually spent years reading about the Middle Ages, just to flavor my work. The Allied Lands themselves have a great deal in common with Europe, particularly in the Reformation era. I studied how those societies worked, what drove them, how their people thought and what weakened them in the face of stronger enemies.
Of course, there are differences – the presence of functional magic, for a start. 
Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to right. Can you relate to this? 
Sometimes. Oddly, I feel it while crafting the next installment in a successful series.
Trial By Fire was originally intended to serve as the end of the first arc of novels set within the Schooled in Magicuniverse. I knew it had to be spectacular, the moment when Emily steps up and takes firm control of her life, and so I was nervous about actually having her do it. I hope it lives up to its purpose. 
Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined? 
Very disciplined. Truthfully, you don’t get anywhere in writing unless you’re disciplined.
I get up, eat breakfast and drink coffee, then get to work. I set myself a goal of three chapters a day, except for the first day; that generally takes around five hours. Then there’s the task of checking the beta reader comments and editing the manuscript. Between drafts, I generally try to move to something different or edit completed manuscripts. 
How do you define success? 
Success comes in the form of people buying my books and writing good (and thoughtful reviews). I know; I probably won’t win any major awards. (I did win the Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards for Bookworm.) However, I’m happy with being paid and being told I did a good job. 
What do you love most about the writer’s life? 
I get to work from home, set my own hours and generally be my own boss. And then there’s the fact I get to meet fans, even if I am a little shy. 
Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work? 
I have a website, a blog, a mailing list and a Facebook fan page.
The website contains free samples – I try to give away at least a couple of chapters, sometimes as many as ten – and a number of older books that are completely free. They’re really ones I wrote during my first period as a writer; not good enough to be published, perhaps, but people liked them. A couple have even been rewritten for later publication.
The blog and Facebook page cover everything from my musings to fan comments and suchlike, allowing a degree of fan participation. All are welcome. The mailing list, however, is only for new releases – I believe in trying to avoid spamming people where possible.
Where is your book available?
The ebook version of Trial By Fire is available for purchase from Amazon Kindle, Apple iBookstore, BN Nook, Kobo Books, OmniLit, etc.
The print version of Trial By Fire will be available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble Bookstores, Brodart, Coutts, Davis-Kidd Booksellers, Emery-Pratt, Follett, Ingram, The Book Despository, The Book House, etc.
Purchase links will be available on the chapter excerpt page:
What is your advice for aspiring authors? 
I think I’ve said this before, time and time again, but the best advice I can give is work hard, work hard and work hard. Writing is 10% inspiration and 90% hard work. It is very rare to get a first novel published, unless you have VERY strong connections with the publishing industry or a name you can exploit (and those books tend to be terrible). Eric Flint said you really need to write at least a million words before you have something worth reading and I tend to think he was right.
Once you have a manuscript, get a few readers to look at it and give you honest feedback. If they said “this sucks, because [insert reason here]” listen to them. They may be wrong, which is possible, or you may have failed to explain something properly. Either way, they should make you think about it … which is better than having a review that boils down to “this author is an idiot.”
And grow a thick skin. You’ll need it. 
Anything else you’d like to tell my readers? 
I offer cameos for anyone who reads a book and reports an error to me. All (again) welcome.

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