July 27, 2013

I Would Probably Date a Half-Man/Half-Evil Dragon, unless he had scales.

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker

If Emily Croy Barker has not pumped, pummeled, chiseled, manipulated, drawn, emptied, probed, gasped, fluttered, whirled or wafted the sequel to this book out within the next twenty-four hours, I may cry.  If I don’t have my hands on the sequel tomorrow, I will most definitely be throwing a tantrum.  There will be ugly crying, feet stomping, curses brewing, and magic steam coming out of my ears.  I will stand now on my soap box and let you all know that The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic is the best fantasy book I’ve ever read.

This is one of those times when I purposely found the author on twitter and tweeted her obsessively.  Luckily, she’s one of those darling authors who responds to crazy people.

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@michellecerva tumblr

Okay, lets start from the beginning.  Penguin graciously sent me two books in the mail and after reading the first twenty of each book I decided to read The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic first.  It took me WEEKS, people, WEEKS to pick this book up again because I was just dreading reading a book that wasn’t of my choosing during the summer.  Ugh, isn’t it ever my turn.  How silly am I?  As my students would say, I was acting like a Boom Boom.  Once I picked up this book, I couldn’t even watch a full hour of reality television without picking it up again during commercial breaks.  Then, I would have to pause The Real Housewives bickering so I could finish the chapter.  Thank goodness, Barker thought about her reader and made the chapters relatively short so that a girl could get through a chapter in a tweaked sitting.

You’ll notice in one of those tweets that I called this an “adult fairytale.”  I was totally serious.  It’s the story of a “thinking woman” who of course I pictured as myself the entire time I was reading.  I’m one of those narcissistic readers.  She is a graduate student who falls into a world-crease and ends up in a magical land.  That just made it sound really lame and I’m sorry guys.  If it helps, Barker uses words like, demonstrative, sadomasochistic, etc.  The thing I loved about this story was it felt very Lord of the Rings without being overly-thought-out.  (No offense to Lord of the Rings fans, my boyfriend will be very disappointed that I just wrote that sentence).

Just a touch of magic

TWGTRM has its own language, its own land maps and truly its own story.  How many novels do you meet a girl who feeds William Carlos Williams to an ice demon?  It’s a book that’s obviously written for the adult mind in terms of situational elements, vocabulary, and the believable within the unbelievable, but it still has everything we love as children reading fairytales.  It’s a bit gritty, and a bit romantic, without having a princess who is stupid enough to believe a crown and a chiseled jaw are the only important things involved in happiness.  This princess is far from glass slipper.  Nora is tough, sarcastic, sassy, honest, and calm.  In the beginning, I was sure that I would loathe her for the entire book, but turns out I couldn’t even loathe the bad guys.  The two worst characters are so well-written that I even liked them a little bit, which is all enchantment and hullaballoo.

Language of Ors (Language used in novel)

Language of Ors (Language used in novel)

Nora meets an array of fine characters and as my grandmother would put it, “unsavory” specimen throughout her journey in the new world.  We meet the Faitoren who might be fairies that escaped our land during an old-time war.  If you’re reading this Emily Croy Barker can we get a full explanation on them and Ilissa?  The main Faitoren are llissa and Raclin, both beautiful and dirty.  Raclin is pretty sexy during the day though so we give him the benefit of the doubt.  There are magicians and wizards who make the world their marble by using the nature around them to develop powerful skills.   I really liked how she described magic in this world because it dealt heavily in connecting to your surroundings and using the trees, woods, and land as the grounded source of your power.  My favorite character, Mrs. Toristel, is grandmotherly to the bitter end.  She’s the true woman of the household and bittersweet in all the right ways.  I adore her protectiveness over the people of her house even without knowing their secrets.  She was a profound and beautiful character for a story that usually wouldn’t have very many humble main characters.

For being a five-hundred page book, it never lulled.  Even when it wasn’t action-packed, it was still intriguing because you wanted to know equally what was happening between the characters as what was happening within the plot.  They need to put “unputdownable” on the book jacket to sell this one because that’s what my mom looks for when picking out my father’s books.  He liked The Hunger Games so I think I’ll pass this one on to him next, which says a lot about the book because my father and I do not read the same books usually.  This is that kind of book though, it’s the kind of book that a daughter can eat for a week and then pass to her father for him to eat over the weekend.  Delicious in all its sweet fantasy.  (I typed fantasty accidentally and thought that would be a perfect made-up word for this book).



I wish I could tell you more about the plot, but I don’t want to ruin even a single hair of this book for your reading.  It’s available on August 5th in hardback.  Just a warning though, this is a book where you have to hide from your family in order to actually read in peace because you won’t want to do anything but veg and fantasize.   If you absolutely can’t wait, then enter my giveaway!  If you enter and win, you will just email me your address and Penguin will send you a beautiful hardcover of this thrilling novel.  Good luck to everyone who enters because this is a darn-tootin’ good one.

35 comments so far.

35 responses to “I Would Probably Date a Half-Man/Half-Evil Dragon, unless he had scales.”

  1. This doesn’t sound like the kind of book I would normally pick up and want to read, but after your rave, I’m really intrigued. And I did love fairy tales as a kid and Angela Carter’s retelling of them in “The Bloody Chamber” as an adult, so if it’s anything like that, I may get hooked. I’ll put it on my wish list

    • Cassie says:

      It definitely didn’t sound like what I normally read either. I didn’t love the title and I think that’s what I was really unsure of with this one. It’s a little less dark than Angela Carter from what I know of her, but still great. She’s also writing a sequel so I suppose this will be a series. 🙂

  2. My wife and I were two of the original friends who read ECB’s book back when it was in manuscript form (She’s been friends with ECB since childhood) – It was pretty hilarious getting this huge stack of printed pages to go through and comment on. It’s been fascinating watching it go from that initial form to the published work. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it so much! I hope it’s going to be a huge success, as she really deserves it for all the work she’s put into it. On a personal note, ECB is one of the nicest people you could ever want to meet, so there is that, too.

    • Cassie says:

      This is SO awesome. I would love to be given the gift of getting first dibs on a friend’s work. That just makes my day and the fact that your blog name has fried in it. Haha, that’s the southern girl in me.

      I hope that this book is a big hit as well because it’s just such a fabulous escape. Thank you for helping this one along into my hands. Adore it! Can’t help but love it more that the author is such a wonderful person.

      • I’m really looking forward to reading the finished hardcover edition, to see what all has been changed and rearranged for final print. When we first read it a few years ago, my wife sent back this long and elaborate critique and commentary and I know that a lot of stuff got revised and cut during the ensuing editing. (My own comments were pretty crude, mostly just, “More action! More fights and swords and explosions!” Though I did lobby hard to make Nora less passive, because I remember wanting to throttle her during the first third of the original draft because she was SO nice and accommodating)

        I’m also eager to see ECB do her first cons and stage talks and such, partly just out of curiosity to see how she does (She really is a sweetheart, she’s very soft spoken and quiet and thoughtful… so they’re going to have to turn her mic up another couple of volume notches) but also to see her get the sort of reception she deserves for her work.

        Oh, and I’m glad you like my blog name 😀 (We’re southern too, NC in this case) I just write movie reviews and web comics for fun, nothing special. I’m more Joe Bob Briggs than “serious” reviewer. For your bemusement:

        • Cassie says:

          I will have to get on youtube and search for some of her speaking engagements then as soon as the book is out. I think the little fold-out thing that Penguin sent along with the book tells when she will be doing readings and things. I’m from NC as well so I definitely won’t be going up to NY to see her read, but I will definitely search afterwards. I was also sent a Q&A that I didn’t end up posting here, but it was wonderful to see some of the background to the book.

          Did you get more swords and action, or do you have to read the hardcover version to find out? I would love to hear what you thought of it when you do read it! Nora is definitely not passive so you got your wish. I think it’s really awesome to see how she grows throughout the whole book. If she was passive, it would NOT be nearly as good in my opinion so that was great advice. : )

      • You do know that she’s from NC also, yes? She and my wife grew up in Greensboro together. We still visit with her regularly when she comes back down for holidays and such. I strongly suspect that eventually she will end up doing some sort of promotional stuff around these parts.

        As for the whole editing and tuning and such, I’d rather not post the details and specifics here because I don’t want to spoiler anyone. If you want more “making of” backstory, drop me an email at trevertalbert@yahoo.com and I can dish some of our initial back-and-forth commentary. You can also email my wife at lokifreya@yahoo.com – She can give you more specific replies than I can. My critiques were mostly broad and along the lines of “I want to shake Nora and tell her to DO something!” whereas my wife was jotting down notes for every paragraph with stuff like, “You mention here that the curtain has ten tassels but on page 147, paragraph 3, you described it as having 16 tassels.”

        • Cassie says:

          I didn’t know she was from NC! Let me add her to my list of people who are awesome and from this state. I will be on the lookout to see if she comes to any independent bookstores around where I or my parents live.

          Your wife sounds like she could write a book! I have to really focus on reading for fine tuning in order to read like your wife. She sounds like a true editor! Someone in the industry needs to hire her. 🙂

          • My wife (Who is also named Emily – In school, they were Emily Allen and Emily Barker, and have become forever nicknamed EA and EB to friends) could definitely be an editor, yes. She’s very good at being analytical. Also, she’s read fantasy all her life and is still an avid reader at 48, so that helps.

            My own comments were semi-useful, I guess – I was always qualifying my reactions because I was conscious that I was not the intended audience of the book (I’m not normally a fantasy reader, and am much more prone to pick up a Jack Reacher novel than anything with elves these days). Most of my comments were from that male reader perspective… “Make her more proactive”, “Make her more aggressive”, “Make her actions drive the plot more”, that sort of thing.

  3. Bea says:

    I just love fairy tales!, and happy endings, of course. This book sounds wonderful, and so does the author. It was nice of her to respond to your crazy tweets. I know you can be obsessive when you love a book.
    It makes me happy to see how the blog world shares it’s love of books, and the joy that comes out in the writing of those blogs. Good blog, and it certainly sounds like a great book.

  4. Brianna Soloski says:

    Throwing my name in the hat for the giveaway. I love when authors respond to tweets from readers.

  5. I agree with Brianna ^^ I love it when authors tweet or message you on Goodreads! Makes me happy 🙂 This book sounds awesome by the way. Fun and entertaining = my kind of book!

  6. All your words are true. I’ve just started, and I totally resent having a world beyond demand things of me, like feeding people and attending work. WTH?! I need to stay home and finish this beast!

    • Cassie says:

      I saw that you were reading it on twitter and am so looking forward to hearing what you think. The pace of that book is unreal, I didn’t want to stop. I will totally be on the lookout for your review, darling!

  7. mishmishiyya says:

    Hey Cassie– great review! Kinda got me all fired up for a good read. Now how do I throw my name in the pot???

    *fingers crossed*

  8. Jason says:

    Looks like fun, I’ve added it to my reading list. Will have to wait for the kindle release.

  9. Elisa says:

    OOOOOOOOOOOOOO I just placed a hold on it at the library, they have it on order august 13!! sigh, now I have to wait again..must quit reading your blog, must read and clear out the 5 bookshelves at home before gaining MORE books….HA

    If only I might figure a way to make money from all of this…
    wonder if it will help if i squint when I say or think that?

    • Elisa says:

      OOOOOOOOOOO a giveaway!! (i didn’t get to read ALL of your review before I went googling my local library)

      • Cassie says:

        Eeeeeeeeee! I wish my library got new books that fast. That would be awesome. Maybe you’ll win the giveaway when I pull a name out and you won’t even have to wait! Yay!

  10. Ooh, want. You do realize if you love a book, about 99.9% of the time, it goes on my TBR list, right?

    It’s really gotten out-of-control long.

    And I almost always love them so, so much.

    • Cassie says:

      It’s the same for me darling. If you are ooouuuing and swooning over a book, I just know I will love it. Absolutely. Can’t wait to hear what you think of Safe As Houses!

  11. zettew says:

    This book sounds wonderful! Thanks for the review, I want to put my name in for the giveaway!

  12. PS – Dunno where you are in NC, but she’s coming here for a reading in Durham on September 16th:

  13. Dravite says:

    And what if you can’t wait, but don’t live in America? -.- why must 90% of all giveaways be only for Americans? It’s bloody unfair

    • Cassie says:

      I wish it weren’t so as well. They tell you when they let you do the giveaway that it can only be US residents. Don’t feel bad though, I can’t get books on netgalley from UK or Australia. It’s payback.

  14. Geo.Fyre says:

    This sounds great, consider it added to my Goodreads list.If it’s not too late, please add my name to the list!

  15. kt says:

    Aaahhh I’ve had this on my to read list for awhile! So excited now to pick it up!

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Hi, I’m Cass

I am a writer, educator and genuine creative living on the coast of NC. Our house is built on sunshine with my husband BJ, dog named Tucker, and our two very sassy cats: Fromage and Jasper.

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