Customer Reviews for

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic Emily Croy Barker. ARC

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic Emily Croy Barker.

ARC provided by Netgalley.

I love books about magic, but as this is Emily's début novel I didn't know what to expect. Its been compared to Deborah Harness Witches trilogy which I love, so I put in my request...
The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic Emily Croy Barker.

ARC provided by Netgalley.

I love books about magic, but as this is Emily's début novel I didn't know what to expect. Its been compared to Deborah Harness Witches trilogy which I love, so I put in my request. Started it yesterday and was engrossed and transported into a different world.
It starts in a fairly conventional way, then Grad student Nora wanders off from a wedding party into a churchyard...and steps through into another dimension, populated with all sorts of folk including the Faitloren, a magical group who need her for a specific reason. There follows all sorts of adventures. Fabulous parties with amazing food and clothes, sunshine and sweetness everyday. Nora meets all sorts of people from history, goes all over the world in the blink of an eye and doesn't find anything strange about this, except occasionally a little voice in the back of her mind says “is this real”, but then Ilissa plans another party and the roundabout starts again. Once Raclin marries Nora then a different side to the group emerges, and she learns the truth about her friends but she's trapped.
The story is full of kidnappings, rescues, escapes, magical creatures and dangerous undertakings. The magician Aruendiel has taken her in reluctantly, and over the following months she works in his household with his long time housekeeper. Slowly she persuades him to teach her magic, it takes up time but that’s something she has in abundance, not knowing when or if ever she can return home.
The descriptions, first of the wonderful parties Ilissa has, and then of the castles and places Nora visits are wonderful. They really took me into a magical realm, where it seemed normal to heal by magic, to mend pots and things using magic, and to have transport made of sticks and feathers that could fly, doors in walls that were hidden and opened by witchcraft. The descriptions too of the differences between Wizards and Magicians and the spell books were fabulous. I felt as if I was there with Nora, learning as she learned, feeling all that she felt. Loved that, I like to get so absorbed in a story that I become part of it and swinging in the shade on my hammock in the garden yesterday that’s exactly what happened. I've always had a vivid imagination and enjoyed books about magic. As a child my mum used to try to persuade me to more practical books, rather than the fairies and magic I preferred, and I can recall a conversation with my father over why he couldn't buy me a magic wand for Christmas. “They're so expensive we couldn't afford to buy presents for anyone else” “but dad, I could just magic them” Logic of a child :) I was always being told off for having my head in the clouds, and getting board rubber thrown at me by teachers for daydreaming...well, fantasy was so much more interesting than the real world and still is to me at times....
Anyway, back to the story, there were some things that didn't work so well for me. It took time for me to warm to Nora, at first she seems too anodyne, and I didn't ever really warm to her as a person, which made it hard for me to empathise with her. I felt a bit detached and need to be almost one with the main characters to feel and worry about them even though its fiction.... Then the world of Ilissa; I know Nora was under many spells but I think we needed to have that reinforced a few times, because I began to get impatient with her when she just accepted everything. This was explained much better later by Aruendiel, and I understood more but it could have put me off earlier as I was soo “Nora, get a grip girl!!” and of course later I learned why she couldn't, however if it wasn't a review book I may have given up then, and missed out on a magical treat. It is a long book, and I love long novels but there is a lot in it that tends to drag a little that maybe could have been tightened. I guess for me its because I’m always looking for the romance, this isn't marketed as a romance ( I think anyway ) but for some reason I expect one to develop. Maybe because of the one in the Harkness trilogy which is the cornerstone of those books. Anyway I was always looking for some developments between Nora and Arundiel – I suspect that he does want her but for whatever reason won't allow himself, and its clear Nora at times has feeling for him.
The ending is somewhat opaque, it suggests to me that there will be another book and that may have the romance that I wanted but missed – who knows? I can't find any references that say there's a follow up, and this can easily be read as a stand alone but it just seems to me to hint at more to come – or perhaps its wishful thinking on my part, as I'd love Nora and Arundiel to get together and to be back in that magical world.
Overall a good read, and at £3.99 for a massive 572 pages its a bargain on my VFM scale.
Stars: four, I needed that romance :) and a little more explanation of Nora earlier, and to make her more likeable. That would have made this a five star read for me but then we all need different things and I'm sure for others Emily has got this spot on.

posted by jeanniezelos on August 1, 2013

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

Anon

Why would I have to read this book now after all the very long reviews full of plot spoilers. Iaccidentally read one and now know the whole story. So I shall look elsewhere for a fantasy story where I won't find reviews that tell me everything!!

posted by 8820040 on January 28, 2014

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Page 1 of 2
  • Posted August 1, 2013

    The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic Emily Croy Barker. ARC

    The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic Emily Croy Barker.

    ARC provided by Netgalley.

    I love books about magic, but as this is Emily's début novel I didn't know what to expect. Its been compared to Deborah Harness Witches trilogy which I love, so I put in my request. Started it yesterday and was engrossed and transported into a different world.
    It starts in a fairly conventional way, then Grad student Nora wanders off from a wedding party into a churchyard...and steps through into another dimension, populated with all sorts of folk including the Faitloren, a magical group who need her for a specific reason. There follows all sorts of adventures. Fabulous parties with amazing food and clothes, sunshine and sweetness everyday. Nora meets all sorts of people from history, goes all over the world in the blink of an eye and doesn't find anything strange about this, except occasionally a little voice in the back of her mind says “is this real”, but then Ilissa plans another party and the roundabout starts again. Once Raclin marries Nora then a different side to the group emerges, and she learns the truth about her friends but she's trapped.
    The story is full of kidnappings, rescues, escapes, magical creatures and dangerous undertakings. The magician Aruendiel has taken her in reluctantly, and over the following months she works in his household with his long time housekeeper. Slowly she persuades him to teach her magic, it takes up time but that’s something she has in abundance, not knowing when or if ever she can return home.
    The descriptions, first of the wonderful parties Ilissa has, and then of the castles and places Nora visits are wonderful. They really took me into a magical realm, where it seemed normal to heal by magic, to mend pots and things using magic, and to have transport made of sticks and feathers that could fly, doors in walls that were hidden and opened by witchcraft. The descriptions too of the differences between Wizards and Magicians and the spell books were fabulous. I felt as if I was there with Nora, learning as she learned, feeling all that she felt. Loved that, I like to get so absorbed in a story that I become part of it and swinging in the shade on my hammock in the garden yesterday that’s exactly what happened. I've always had a vivid imagination and enjoyed books about magic. As a child my mum used to try to persuade me to more practical books, rather than the fairies and magic I preferred, and I can recall a conversation with my father over why he couldn't buy me a magic wand for Christmas. “They're so expensive we couldn't afford to buy presents for anyone else” “but dad, I could just magic them” Logic of a child :) I was always being told off for having my head in the clouds, and getting board rubber thrown at me by teachers for daydreaming...well, fantasy was so much more interesting than the real world and still is to me at times....
    Anyway, back to the story, there were some things that didn't work so well for me. It took time for me to warm to Nora, at first she seems too anodyne, and I didn't ever really warm to her as a person, which made it hard for me to empathise with her. I felt a bit detached and need to be almost one with the main characters to feel and worry about them even though its fiction.... Then the world of Ilissa; I know Nora was under many spells but I think we needed to have that reinforced a few times, because I began to get impatient with her when she just accepted everything. This was explained much better later by Aruendiel, and I understood more but it could have put me off earlier as I was soo “Nora, get a grip girl!!” and of course later I learned why she couldn't, however if it wasn't a review book I may have given up then, and missed out on a magical treat. It is a long book, and I love long novels but there is a lot in it that tends to drag a little that maybe could have been tightened. I guess for me its because I’m always looking for the romance, this isn't marketed as a romance ( I think anyway ) but for some reason I expect one to develop. Maybe because of the one in the Harkness trilogy which is the cornerstone of those books. Anyway I was always looking for some developments between Nora and Arundiel – I suspect that he does want her but for whatever reason won't allow himself, and its clear Nora at times has feeling for him.
    The ending is somewhat opaque, it suggests to me that there will be another book and that may have the romance that I wanted but missed – who knows? I can't find any references that say there's a follow up, and this can easily be read as a stand alone but it just seems to me to hint at more to come – or perhaps its wishful thinking on my part, as I'd love Nora and Arundiel to get together and to be back in that magical world.
    Overall a good read, and at £3.99 for a massive 572 pages its a bargain on my VFM scale.
    Stars: four, I needed that romance :) and a little more explanation of Nora earlier, and to make her more likeable. That would have made this a five star read for me but then we all need different things and I'm sure for others Emily has got this spot on.

    5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2014

    Must Read!

    I loved this book! Hands down one of the best things I've read this past year! I couldnt put it down!
    If you love The Magicians, The Discovery of Witches, & Harry Potter you will love this too!
    I can it wait for the sequel!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 17, 2013

    Loved story line , pace, and characters. Hope there is #2 in th

    Loved story line , pace, and characters. Hope there is #2 in the pipeline.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2014

    Anon

    Why would I have to read this book now after all the very long reviews full of plot spoilers. Iaccidentally read one and now know the whole story. So I shall look elsewhere for a fantasy story where I won't find reviews that tell me everything!!

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2013

    Amazing

    I loved this book, it is so creative and captivating. I didnt want it to end, I hope she writes a sequel!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2013

    Crafty girl

    More please!!! Loved it, couldn't put it down.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2013

    Involved--But Worth It.

    Involved--But Worth It. This is a novel which is going to take a chunk of time to read; it's involved and extremely detailed. However, those are not bad elements. This is a wonderfully imaginative novel--so much so it is rather mind boggling. Tipping her hat to everything from 'Alice in Wonderland' to Harry Potter, Narnia, and Tolkien, Barker has crafted an incredible epic starring a Ph.D. candidate whose life is a mess. Nora's boyfriend has dumped her; her dissertation is stalled; her cat has bee run over--and all she wishes is that her life was different. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Stumbling into another world, one dominated by magic and wizardry, Nora is forced to come of age. While this will keep you up to the wee hours, it is not necessarily a quick read; Barker's world is dense. There are endless characters and plotlines--to the point they are sometimes hard to keep straight. While the author's place and character names are extremely creative, they are also extremely hard to pronounce at times. While we learn endless details about this magical world and how its people live, its societies operate (sexism runs rampant), there are definitely chunks that drag; it could use some editing. And while there are those that keep insisting upon comparing this to the 'Discovery of Witches' trilogy--I really do not see it except for the idea of 'young woman immersed in magical world.' This is beautifully written, starkly/wildly original with a heroine who, while not always totally likeable, is given a true arc of character development. Barker makes not only Nora a real person but this incredible world real as well. I have NEVER found that in either of the 'All Souls' novels. Additionally, the romance here is tension-filled, understated, and smacks of a real relationship. Those readers looking for the ridiculous (and icky) over the top sexual fantasies of a 'Twilight' or 'All Souls'--between beyond gorgeous people--need not look here. This is a romance between two very physically and emotionally damaged people that is more a meeting of the minds than of the bodies. Also--anyone looking for neatly tied up plotlines will be disappointed; I cannot help but think there has to be a sequel here. Several characters' fates are left uncertain; Nora's final choices seem rushed, and that relationship with her mentor, Arundiel, seems to have unfinished business. What I like most about this is that the title really is true--this IS a thinking woman's novel full of fantastic worlds, beautiful writing, all sorts of literary allusion...a really amazing debut that I really hope has a follow up.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2014

    This book drags on and on...

    Starting out with a great premise, I got sucked in and couldn't wait to find out what would happen with the main character. Sadly, things took a dark and ridiculous turn and now she's on a seemingly never-ending journey that is boring me to tears. I forced myself to read on... And on... And on... Never to be rewarded. I had high hopes for this book but am sorely disappointed.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Think back to the first book that transported you on a journey t

    Think back to the first book that transported you on a journey to elsewhere: not a rapid movement, but a gentle realization that the world in the book is all around you.  For me that was Through the Looking Glass. I found much of the same wonder and enjoyment in this book: a subtle return to those moments when reading where all outside influences cease to exist, and hours pass before they return. 




    Emily Croy Barker uses a smooth and beautifully descriptive writing style, to craft this story that incorporates references to classics, poetry and poets and the age-old battle of dark versus light.  It is not a quick read at over five hundred pages, but a thoroughly charming one.




    Nora is a grad student, stuck on her thesis and recently single. She hates her life at the moment, her self-esteems is shot, and she wants nothing more than to escape: from the sympathetic looks, the abominable men, her own feelings of failure and those few extra pounds that never seem to go away. And escape she does: an early morning wander in the woods leads to an old cemetery with a poem that attracts her. Lacking paper to write it down, she memorizes it, speaks it aloud and moments later, her world changes. 




    From here we are brought into a world of the impossible and improbable: where healing is by magic, clothes and people are always beautiful, the sun always shines and the most important event on the calendar is the day’s entertainment.  Using time-periods that are iconic in their shapes, feel and essence to readers, Barker manages to use that sense to define fashion, style and furnishings with a nod to those eras: the 20’s, the 60’s, Elizabethan and Georgian and Victorian.  There were moments early on when Nora’s complacency with the scene changes and situation made her difficult to understand, while some piece of the reader knows that she is under a spell, a bit of reinforcement of Ilissa’s power and influence on her memory and questioning earlier would have made it easier to understand her apparent passivity. 




    Aruendiel, however, was far more solid in his consistency and behavior, preferring the term ‘magician’ to ‘wizard’, although their capabilities are similar: in this world wizards tend to use their skills on a whim, to suit their current fancy.  And Nora had been spelled, several times over, which presented a severe risk to her own mental health and safety.  Nora shows her tendency to gravitate toward more ‘alpha’ and knowing personalities in her growing feelings for him: even as he must teach her to survive a return to Ilissa and eventually back to her own world. 




    This book is a wander to the end, throughout the story we are really given few clues to time passing, much like Nora’s inability to solidly define how long she had been away from her own world and life. These allows and insists that the reader simply drink in the moments and descriptions, and enjoy the slow unfurling of the plot: use their instincts as each new character is introduced to determine if they are friend or foe, and see if Nora really is able to find her way home. Not as action packed as some high fantasy stories I have read, there is forward progress with each chapter as we learn more, see more and watch Nora navigate this new and different world that is full of the impossible. 




    If you want a directly forward moving story, loaded with action and dramatic spell-offs: this is not the book for you.  However, if you want a gentle moving story that is filled with beauty and description, a unique look at magic and its use, and a main character that has issues that many can relate to in their own lives: this is the book for you. 




    I received an eBook from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 9, 2014

    Absolute MUST Read

    If you have a penchant for the fantastic and incredibly well-done worldbuilding, then you absolutely must read Emily Croy Barker's "The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic." I haven't been so transported by a book since the Potter series, and I turned the final page with the same sense of excitement and horror. Thrill for the wild and wonderful ride I'd just been on, and terror at the prospect of not being able to go again until the next book. Barker's mastery of the written world will leave you certain that magic exists, and she's the greatest witch of them all. I can't wait for the next installment!

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  • Posted September 7, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Nora Fischer has just been dropped by her boyfriend and her Supe

    Nora Fischer has just been dropped by her boyfriend and her Supervisor has informed her that her slowness with her dissertation writing is proving to be a problem that might mean she’ll be out of the program.  All in all, she’s in a bad place, unable to be inspired to do the requisite research and writing and in a surrealistic way unable to accept that her former lover has dumped her.  So she decides she needs a break and sets off to a friend’s wedding.  One day she decides to take a walk, one that will change her life forever!
    For Nora has literally walked into another world, time and place!  Ilyssa becomes Nora’s mentor, guiding her with gifts of dress, makeup, and introductions to the “partying” crowd who share love and fun indiscriminately.  In time Nora can hardly believe she was the troubled woman of before as now she sees herself in an entirely new way – beautiful, smart, and loving life!  Ilyssa’s son Raclin is an artful, teasing and seductive lover with whom Nora becomes obsessed!  It all seems too good to be true and so it is – after their wedding, Nora begins to realize that something is dreadfully wrong.  Raclin has no time for her and disappears for days, eventually telling her that now she is pregnant, he will have very little time for her.  Now Nora begins to realize something is dreadfully wrong and that these people are far from human and are her sinister imprisoners.  One ray of hope appears in the magician Aruendiel who will rescue Nora, albeit reluctantly!
    Nora longs to return to her own life but must learn the magic she abhors in order to go home. This portion tends to slow down and drag a bit but she will learn what she needs to, to a certain degree.  The relationship between Aruendiel and Nora seems to be of growing attraction the never really evolves to reality for some unspoken reason.  However, the last portion of the story picks up the pace with a few unexpected and stunning turn of events, leading this reviewer to believe there will definitely be a follow-up to his intriguing novel.
    There are allusions to Pride and Prejudice, Game of Thrones, Alice in Wonderland and a few other vaguely veiled connections.  I’m not sure these work so well but they perhaps increase the tension-filled plot.  The origins and purpose of the enemy are slowly and even lately provided, which is interesting to a point but then inches into frustration.  Standard formulaic fare or a new addition to the Harkness, Potter, Martin-style fiction – you the reader must decide!
    Interesting, Ms. Baker! 

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  • Posted August 15, 2014

    Great start to a new series

    I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the rest of the series. No, it's not Harry Potter and it's not The Magicians, but if you like those sorts of books, you might enjoy this book as well.

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  • Posted January 23, 2014

    LOVED LOVED LOVED this book. I like the stubborn/strong woman, t

    LOVED LOVED LOVED this book. I like the stubborn/strong woman, that also has a softer side. Loved the characters, good use of magic and spells, and really hoping she writes another. Wish she had titled it differently though, I can never recall the damn name when recommending it to others.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2013

    Intriguing

    An interesting plot line with a comforting ending. Will there be a Volume 2?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 18, 2013

    When I first began reading I thought I'd made a big mistake by p

    When I first began reading I thought I'd made a big mistake by purchasing this book, because the first part of the story was very wierd and disjointed, although I was happy the author pretty much jumped right in to the action. After reading further, I understood why the beginning was so odd. In the beginning, I did not care for Nora at all, thinking her shallow and, quite frankly, an air-headed bimbo. Once I got to know her and her story, I became rather fond of her and found myself in admiration of her courage and determination. She ends up having more integrity than I ever thought her capable of and thought she was missing in the beginning. I found I could relate to her plight. (I don't want to go in to too much detail or it will spoil the story for new readers.) I honestly can't wait for the next book. As soon as I finish this review, I'm going to see if it is out yet.

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  • Posted October 15, 2013

    Really loved this book. Hope there's a sequel.

    Really loved this book. Hope there's a sequel.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2013

    When can i get the sequel

    Loved it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2013

    Another series?

    While I really enjoyed this book, it's obvious it was written as a first title in a series. I'm a little tired of series, and may not have started it had I known. I'm already waiting on 3 new titles in book series. Seems since Harry Potter, this is the strategy for many authors.

    But it is a good story. Good vs Evil, magic, romance--it's all in there. Entertaining but not deep. Good for a weekend read.

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  • Posted September 12, 2013

    I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the book. I was f

    I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the book. I was first attracted to the title and cover (yes, in this case, I did judge the book by its cover). I had no idea what to expect, but found myself anxious to read more. I like that the characters have flaws.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2014

    Awesome

    Loved it!

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