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The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic | [Emily Croy Barker]

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic

Emily Croy Barker’s riveting debut novel is a must-read for fans of Lev Grossman and Deborah Harkness. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic follows grad student Nora Fischer as she stumbles through a portal into a magical world. Having been transformed from drab to beautiful, Nora finds herself surrounded by glamorous friends. Life seems perfect. But then things take a terrible turn, and Nora must learn magic from a reclusive ally if she is to have any hope of survival...
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Publisher's Summary

Emily Croy Barker’s riveting debut novel is a must-read for fans of Lev Grossman and Deborah Harkness. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic follows grad student Nora Fischer as she stumbles through a portal into a magical world.

Having been transformed from drab to beautiful, Nora finds herself surrounded by glamorous friends. Life seems perfect. But then things take a terrible turn, and Nora must learn magic from a reclusive ally if she is to have any hope of survival...

©2013 Emily Croy Barker (P)2013 Recorded Books

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (350 )
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  •  
    Amazon Customer BOLIVAR, MO, United States 08-23-13
    Amazon Customer BOLIVAR, MO, United States 08-23-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "In most ways, this is just the kind of book I seek"

    This was a treat. I like longer books with lots of detail and respect for the reader's need for a plausible story. If an author wants to send me through time or into another dimension, then I want at least a fair explanation of how that happened. I'm one of those unfortunate people who can't suspend my understanding of reality and just go with a story...give me something to let me think the strange circumstances MIGHT happen. This story does that.

    The publishers' summary gives you an idea of the plot. I don't like reviews that retell the story, so I won't do that here. Here are the pros and cons as I see them.

    Cons: The author seems to have an ax to grind with pretty people, Only one character who I would classify as "good" gets to be attractive; a female magician who befriends the heroine. All the other favorably portrayed characters are plain, disfigured or elderly (not that older people aren't still beautiful). I get that it's nice to read a book about romance between characters that aren't unrealistically handsome and beautiful. But this story goes a step further; almost implying that real aesthetic human beauty does not exist, but rather is always an illusion.
    Men don't fare much better. The hero is surly and sour and killed his first wife. (no spoiler here. This information is provided early.) There is a handsome knight, who is pretty dim and "dismissable". There again, pretty can't have anything else going on.
    My last con: This is the beginning of a series? trilogy? I knew that going in, but this book doesn't end, it just stops, mid story. This isn't so bad if the next installment is in the works and can be expected in a reasonable amount of time. Let's hope the author doesn't operate on a timetable similar to Harkness (A Discovery of Witches) or Gabaldon (Outlander Series). While I understand the amount of detail and research I love takes time...three year cliff hangers take away from the enjoyment of the story. (IMHO)

    Pros: This is an interesting take on magic and travel between other versions of our world. The descriptions of the heroine's life in this strange world are rich. Magic is treated as any other area of study: the student might have aptitude for a subject, but hard work and practice are the key ingredients. Don't get me wrong..we're talking magic here. Some smart theories about how it works, and even the implementation of good old Algebra are utilized, but the basis of the story is the ability of many of the character to cast spells and enchant others. So it's escapism..but with some thought required.
    Others reviewers have said they wouldn't put this book in the romance genre. While there's no bodice ripping or endless declarations of love, there is no denying this is a love story. A complicated and unfolding one. I like that too. Love is complicated and messy, and the author does a remarkable job presenting it as such.
    The narrator is good.

    So, if you like shifting between worlds, magic, a slow burn love story, patient character development, and yes, a little Algebra on the side, I recommend this book. Be prepared to want to scream with frustration at the end of the book, and realize it might be a little while before you get to pick of the story again. If you can deal with that, it is a great way to spend 26 hours.

    38 of 38 people found this review helpful
  •  
    N. Raine San Francisco Bay Area 09-18-14
    N. Raine San Francisco Bay Area 09-18-14 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Heroine is more thoughtless than thinking"

    If you found yourself suddenly in Midieval Europe, would you be so idiotic as to insist that the whole culture adopt your 21st century values? Or would you realize that you need to adapt to the times in which you live, perhaps just pushing the envelope a tiny bit? This is an interesting story, ruined by a thoughtless, self-centered protagonist, who is supposed to be a literature doctoral student, but is incomprehensibly thoughtless in too many situations to really be an educated person, trained in critical thinking. I wish this were an early draft, and about to be re-written to present a more thoughtful and creative protagonist. Despite her, the overall plot is compelling.

    The author has a unique voice and beautifully captures subtle feelings and observations. She also presents a compelling new story about fairies, different origins of magic, and different worlds. It is a creative story with an unfortunately formulaic heroine. I listened to the whole thing, frustrated at times with the protagonist, but drawn in none-the-less. The ending is abrupt and disappointing, and presents yet another example of the heroine's severe lack of ability to think.

    Loved the narrator. She infused the story with deep emotion and gave the many characters distinct voices that felt right. I would seek out books narrated by her again.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maggie LAKE BARRINGTON, IL, United States 09-25-13
    Maggie LAKE BARRINGTON, IL, United States 09-25-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Boring, predictable, and frustrating!"

    Not only does the author waste time on a strange series of scenes in the beginning that could have been told much quicker, the book seems to have multiple personalities. In addition, the author telegraphs later events by heavy-handed foreshadowing. Most frustrating though are the inconsistencies of the main character. She has an incredibly difficult time believing a situation that she can see and hear and feel, yet she dismisses a murder committed by another character simply because it is acceptable by his society's standards. Overall, the book dragged by and made me angry every other chapter.

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ananda Miami, FL, United States 09-01-14
    Ananda Miami, FL, United States 09-01-14 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent!"

    If you're still waiting for you letter from Hogwarts or Breakbills, if you knock on the interior back of any likely looking wardrobe, if you've thought about going to Oxford to see if just maybe they have the time travel department set up yet; this may be the book for you.
    Some of the reviews I looked at compared it to "Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness, but I don't really see it. Maybe it was the more adult (note that's adult grown-up not adult sexy time) telling of the story.
    If you're looking for steamy paranormal romance, you may want to go elsewhere, this book has more in common with "Pride and Prejudice" than the Sookie Stackhouse books.
    Suffice it to say, I loved this book! It's the story of a recently dumped Grad student who almost literally stumbles into another world filled with magic yet seemingly stuck in the Middle Ages.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robin in Vermont Vermont 08-14-13
    Robin in Vermont Vermont 08-14-13 Member Since 2009

    Winter's coming -- almost time to huddle up with my ipod and hot chocolate!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fantasy for Adults"

    I really loved this book. It is grown up fantasy (without sex), wherein the characters are all adults who act and speak rationally, interact with each other as adults, and think before they act. It's really very refreshing. Oh, and did I mention there is magic?

    Nora takes a walk up an unfamiliar mountain path and accidentally crosses over into another world. She is immediately taken in by a group of Fae and their queen. The magic they use enchants her, making her feel calm and happy and more beautiful, but all is not as it seems. She ends up having to escape their clutches, and the person who helps her, ends up becoming her protector and teacher in the ways of magic.

    This is Nora's story as she learns to survive in a totally new world. It is also about her discovering her own magical abilities, and about her concern for her family left behind. It's also about love.

    And I loved every minute of it.


    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Audrey Deer River, MN, USA 08-04-13
    Audrey Deer River, MN, USA 08-04-13 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "Grimm meets Austen"
    Any additional comments?

    This book has that special "something" that made me want to savor each moment, each interaction, and each event. The pace is perfect: unhurried, but never dull. Because nothing is rushed, readers are allowed to settle into a new world right along with Nora. Further, Nora is NOT whiny, wildly beautiful, given unlimited powers, or loved by hoards of men with sculpted abs and square jaws (thank goodness). Nora is neither young nor old, at 30, which is a nice change from the late-teen and early 20-something predominance in the genre (if this can be said to have a genre.) The narrator adds to the experience by emoting with restraint; the feeling is in her voice, but it never approaches melodrama.

    I am just sad that it ended. I wanted to stay there, with them, a while longer. There will, no doubt, be a sequel, but now I have to settle in for the long wait. I wish I were you, having not yet started this journey yet, just so I could do it all over again.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jerri Volunteer State 07-30-14
    Jerri Volunteer State 07-30-14 Member Since 2011

    Tell us about yourself! Love supernatural fiction. ESP Trilies. Suspense and mystery.I read for pleasure not truth!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "My kind of novel"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, although some may be put of my the length. But, this is a novel to sink your teeth in. So be patience and give it a read, you want be disappointed. It is rich with the use of magic, friendship, and overall great story line.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The tutorship of Nora and the intricate details set the stage for a great novel. I love a book with details to the story line, setting, and each characters, probably why the book is more than >24 hrs long.


    Which character – as performed by Alyssa Bresnahan – was your favorite?

    Nora was my favorite. Although she was very rude to her delivers at first, but she was quick to apologize. She maintained her knowledge from her previous life and she use that knowledge to adapt to her new universe. She is passionate about the ill treatment of women in this alternate world.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    There were more than one moment that particularly moved me, so I will just say the entire novel was moving.


    Any additional comments?

    For those readers who enjoy a long novel , interesting character, great story line this is your book. I want rewrite book in this review. It is a great book and deserves FIVES across the board. This book is completely different than any other ( it's genre) I have read.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tara HUDSON, NH, United States 10-08-13
    Tara HUDSON, NH, United States 10-08-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "Enchanting"
    Would you listen to The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic again? Why?

    I would listen to this again. It was pure magic and made my long commute to work a joy. I looked forward to listening to it every day and even had to sneak in some non-commute listening during especially absorbing passages.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Nora and Aruendiel were electric in their scenes together. So much tension, and I never knew how it would turn out.


    Any additional comments?

    Loved.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tiffani The Woodlands, TX, United States 07-29-14
    Tiffani The Woodlands, TX, United States 07-29-14 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    71
    ratings
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    31
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    6
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    "Return..."

    This will be my first book to return. As my daughter often says, "It was just stupid."

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jane 01-21-14
    Jane 01-21-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Can't wait for the next installment!!!"
    Would you listen to The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic again? Why?

    Absolutely! It was wonderfully rich and enticing!!


    What did you like best about this story?

    The deeply seated desire that doesn't quite break the surface.


    Which character – as performed by Alyssa Bresnahan – was your favorite?

    Aruendial of course!! He's brooding, crotchety and masculine all at the same time


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, but unfortunately it was my driving to work entertainment, I never wanted to turn off the vehicle.....


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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