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

1 out of 3 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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  • 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 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 September 3, 2013

    GREAT BOOK

    Loved this book! Really hopong book 2 comes out soon :)

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • 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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  • 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 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • 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!!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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

    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 3 people found this review helpful.

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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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2013

    Intriguing

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

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

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

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

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 22, 2013

    The story was entertaining but there is nothing new here.  A bit

    The story was entertaining but there is nothing new here.  A bit formulaic.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 18, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Nora Fischer is graduate student in a funk.  She can't make prog

    Nora Fischer is graduate student in a funk.  She can't make progress on either her studies or her love life, despite her ability to discern poetic minutia.  Little can she guess how much her world will be turned upside down when she goes away for the weekend to attend a wedding.  She stumbles upon a gateway to another world where magic is all too real.  Will she ever make it back home?  Will she want to?

    This book remind me quite a bit of Harkness' A Discovery of Witches, a book that I really enjoyed.  It deals with a woman coming to grips with a world she previously has no clue existed (although in Harkness' book the heroine is aware of magic), and then learning to use magic.  It also reminded me of Joyce Carol Oates' The Accursed, and book that I did not enjoy at all.  Nora is abducted, bewitched, and forced to breed with a magical being much like one of the characters in Oates' novel.  (I have to say I enjoyed Barker's novel much more than Oates', which I really struggled to finish.)

    Some parts of the book seemed to move a bit slow to me.  I had a really hard time getting into the novel in the beginning, and I actually contemplated just putting it down and not finishing.  However, I really think once Nora was rescued that things picked up a bit and I was able to continue.  I think what really kept me going was the desire to find out if she and her rescuer would ever realize their relationship potential. 

    I think the title is a bit ironic, and I'm not sure if the author intended this or not.  In many cases, it seems to me that Nora is anything but a "thinking woman."  She does experience some growth and is able to solve a few big problems on her own, but otherwise she is always depending upon someone to rescue her from situations that she largely got herself into.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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