Category Archives: magical realism

A Sneak Peak at Bronte’s Thunder

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Author pic 2018I’m super excited to share this prequel to my new YA book, Bronte’s Thunder. Strange connections to thunderstorms have always surrounded sixteen-year-old Bronte Monroe. Her grandmother claimed she was born under the sign of Blue Lightning and has the gift of barter—mysterious exchanges that change fate.


Bronte’s Omen

   A whoosh and a tock.

   Silence.

   Whoosh. Tock. My eyes flutter open to everything white and foreign with strange, pungent odors spinning around me. A clear tube runs to my face and into my nose. If I wasn’t so weak, I’d scream.

   The ventilator pumps like a medieval monster. I’ve never been in a hospital before. The only good thing about my captivity—at last, I can breathe.

   A figure appears in the doorway to my room. Backlit from a window across the hall, the dark silhouette pauses for a moment. He approaches the bed with stealthy footsteps.

   Nick. Nick Ford.

   He’s come for revenge.

   My heart races, the organ threatening to burst from my chest. All he has to do is rip the tube from my nose or yank the ventilator’s electrical cord from the outlet. I’ll stop breathing.

   I’ll die like his brother.

   I bolt up in bed, hot sweat beading my forehead like condensation on my mother’s glass of whiskey. The walls of my bedroom reassure me I am no longer in the hospital. I’m no longer eight years old.

    Dishes clang from downstairs, the familiar sound of Aunt Flo preparing breakfast. The slate sky outside the window does nothing to brighten my spirits. I rub sleep from my eyes and stretch my legs. Throwing back the covers, I wiggle my toes. Hot-pink polish brightens each nail. Today is my first day of school as a junior.

    Sitting on the edge of my mattress, I picture Nick Ford sneaking into my hospital room all those years ago, the image as vivid as yesterday’s junior orientation.

   At eight, I believed he intended to kill me. An eye for an eye. At my bedside, Nick extended his arm, and I cowered, convinced he’d strike me. He brushed an errant strand of hair from my eye, his touch as light as butterfly wings, surprising for an eight-year-old boy.

   He tilted his head and studied me. “Are you okay?”

   I nodded, though a lingering fear shot into the pit of my stomach. We were in the same class in third grade, but we had never actually spoken. With my senses on high alert, I stared at him, his blue eyes captivating. Then he did something I couldn’t believe. He reached for my hand and gently held it. His voice came almost in a whisper, “My grandma had pneumonia once.”

   Marching footsteps approached. A woman stood in the doorway, her hair disheveled, her eyes red and swollen. In a low, almost menacing, tone, she said, “Get out of there this instant.”

   Nick obeyed his mother and followed her from the room. In the doorway, he glanced over his shoulder. I couldn’t tell if I saw pity or disdain in his eyes.

   At that moment I morphed into a leper like in the Bible story told in Sunday school, flesh decaying, someone everyone stayed clear of. Worse than that, Nick’s little brother had been killed that day by my mother.

   Aunt Flo’s shrill voice snatches me from my dark memories. “Bronte! Breakfast will be ready in five minutes.”

   “Be there in a moment.”

   For years Nick’s kindness in that hospital room baffled me. I finally gave up trying to understand it. Thunder Moon is a small town, and news travels fast. He must have heard I was admitted to the hospital. Yet how could he have been so caring when his little brother lay lifeless and cold?

A year after Johnny’s death, the Fords moved away. Grief probably drove them from Thunder Moon.

   In my attic bedroom, a low roll of thunder rumbles through the rafters and sends shivers down my back. Thunderstorms never did me any favors, at least none that didn’t leave me feeling guilty.

   Two hours later, I stride through the halls of Thunder Moon High, a disturbing sense of unbalance hanging over me. Am I unhinged from the dream that morning and the memories the nightmare brought back? Maybe the threatening clouds on my way to school triggered my mood.

   Girls’ chatter in the high school restroom pricks my attention.

   “New guy alert.” A girl giggles. “Nick Ford’s so hot.”

   I turn to stone behind the stall door.

   “Heard he’s trying out for the football team,” another said. “Hand me my lip gloss.”

   “I could drink that tall glass of water.”

   Riding a cloud of choking perfume, laughter fills the room.

   My stomach clenches. After all these years, I still can’t face Nick. Just the news that he moved back brings the horrible event to life. That was the day my mother disappeared.

   I remained behind to carry the shame of Johnny Ford’s death.

   My stomach turns sour. Maybe I can talk Aunt Flo into homeschooling me. Highly unlikely, my instincts warn.

   I hurry past the cliquish girls and escape into the hall. A hundred yards down the corridor, I turn a corner and run face to face into Nick Ford. His eyes widen. I almost don’t recognize the boy from the hospital room all those years ago, except for those smoky-blue eyes. How has that skinny little boy grown into such a good-looking guy? The girls were right. He is hot. On the other hand, he probably thinks I look as plain as an unbuttered pancake.

   I stand frozen. As I stare, the image of little Johnny Ford rises from all the nightmares I’ve had over the years. Johnny Ford, pale and dead, lips blue. The misty specter of Johnny haunting my dreams like in Dicken’s novel, his boney finger pointing at me, always pointing at me.

   Nick nods.

   I rush past him, lungs tight, membranes burning, once again unable to draw a breath. Farther down the hall, I gasp, air rushing in as I remember to breathe. Through the school’s cinderblock walls, a thunderclap sounds, the explosion a warning of things to come.

* * *

Follow BrontVector Rain Cloud Background.e’s story in the new YA novel, Bronte’s Thunder.

BUY NOW on Amazon

Bronte’s Thunder is Lucinda Stein’s second YA novel. Inkspell Publishing published her first YA book, Jadeite’s Journey. Lucinda is the award-winning author of several adult books.

An avid reader, Lucinda loves good coffee, great books, and anything vintage. She likes to camp with her husband, Rob, and her shelter-rescue dog, Opie. See her bookish bookstagrams on

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Bone Gap Revisited

Have you ever read a book and knew you wanted to read it again? Bone Gap by Laura Ruby was one of my favorite reads in 2017. The story introduced me to the genre, magic realism, and I was hooked. I had checked the book out from the library and knew I liked the story enough to buy a hardcover copy! The book arrived with a Printz gold medal and a National Book Award finalist seal. Perhaps I read the book too quickly the first time, maybe the story is so unique, but as I read it a second time, I appreciated the book even more. You’ll find Ruby’s writing as surprising, rich, and fascinating as her plot.

People call Finn: Spaceman, Sidetrack, Moonface, Loner. Everyone in Bone Gap knows Finn is odd. He’s different. Finn and his older brother, Sean, live alone after their mother left them to marry a man out of state. But when a stranger arrives in their barn one night, their lives change. Beautiful Roza doesn’t tell them why she’s on the run or who hurt her. They take her into their home, and their loneliness fades as Roza becomes part of their life. Sean falls in love with her.

But when a strange man kidnaps Roza at a county fair, Finn blames himself. He was the one who saw the stranger, but at the time, he thought Roza wanted to leave them, just like their mother did. Only when Roza looked back from the SUV, did Finn realize something was terribly wrong. Sean and Finn report her disappearance to the local law enforcement. But when Finn is unable to give physical details of the abductor, the townspeople wonder if Roza was truly kidnapped. Or worse, did Finn have something to do with her disappearance.

Finn not only lost Roza that day, he lost his brother. Heartbroken, Sean withdraws into his work and ignores his younger brother. Finn’s guilt and loneliness makes him miserable until he starts spending time with Petey, a girl most people in town consider homely.

That’s a brief summary of the story, but it’s the theme that makes this a great book. The theme is about people being “seen,” really seen for who they are inside.

Rosa has drawn attention from men her entire life. But they only see her outward beauty and want her for their own selfish desires. Her Polish grandmother told her, “There will be boys who tell you you’re beautiful, but only a few will see you.”

Petey knows how the people of Bone Gap talk about her. How can she be so homely when her mother is pretty? Only Finn really “sees” her.

Finn falls in love with Petey because she sees him for who he is, not the odd boy everyone else knows.

Sean falls in love with Roza but not just for her beauty. When he looks into her eyes, his gaze demands nothing, unlike the other men she’s known. It’s what’s inside her that draws him to her.

Hints of magic scatter through the beginning of the story. It emerges further as Roza describes her captivity. The reader soon learns this is no ordinary man who has kidnapped her. The stranger is otherworldly. Magic also surfaces when a black horse appears in Finn’s barn. He takes Petey for rides late at night, and they travel through forests that don’t exist in Bone Gap and fly over cliffs that are not part of the natural terrain.

You might wonder how the title of the book, Bone Gap, fits into the story. Hint:  gaps in the world, places to lose yourself, slip into, retreat to. I won’t give any spoilers, but know that the ending blossoms into a powerful culmination of the theme. Ruby proves to be a fantastic writer and storyteller! A must read for young adults and adults.

School Library Journal: Grades 10 and up

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The Lie Tree

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Fourteen year old Faith is the “good girl,” the rock, the trustworthy daughter, and considered dull. At the turn of the 20th century, those traits fulfilled the expectations for a girl. The story begins with the family making a hasty departure from England to the island of Vane. Faith overhears a conversation and discovers her father, a minister and a renowned naturalist, has been accused of fraud. Faith doesn’t believe the rumor and doesn’t understand why anyone would attack his reputation.

Product DetailsDefinitely cover love for this title! The latest cover for the book is one of the most unique and creative covers I’ve seen. I saw an earlier cover on Amazon, which wasn’t as appealing—perhaps why the publisher changed it.

Back to the story, Faith proves to be anything but dull, and when her father is found dead, hanging on a tree beneath a cliff, his death is called a suicide. Faith begins her journey to find out who murdered her father. Before his death, she had accompanied her father to a cave where he hid a plant. This tree thrives in darkness. She begins to suspect the unusual plant is the cause of the scandal—-and the murder.

The unusual tree bears fruit only when someone whispers a lie to it. In turn,

the fruit delivers a hidden truth.

This story is a mixture of historical fiction, magical realism, and mystery.

The author’s research into the time period reveals itself in every detail. It definitely portrays how women of this time period were viewed:

  • Women didn’t need much education as their role was to run a household and raise children.
  • Women were not as intelligent as men.
  • A married woman must ask her husband for meager spending money.
  • A woman had no control of the finances unless she became a widow.

The story kept my interest, and Faith is a well-developed main character. I enjoy magical realism, but I struggled with the concept of a plant comprehending lies. The author created a twist on the biblical Tree of Life, and perhaps it’s only me, but I had trouble with the story’s scenes involving the tree. The rest of the scenes kept me involved in the story. As I said before, the research for the time period is impeccable, and the protagonist is a strong character. Overall, I would rate the book as 3.5 to 4 stars. (I couldn’t decide!)

I love creating bookstagrams. Follow me on Instagram at lucindastein.

 

 

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Leslye Walton’s magical realism novel promises to take you on a unique journey into the magical and the ordinary, an elixir of both.

How many of us can relate to this line in the story: Love makes us such fools? But the story moves on to show sometimes it’s a matter of opening our eyes.

The women in Ava Lavender’s family have been anything but lucky in love. It has affected everyone down to sixteen-year-old Ava who is born with the wings of a bird and her twin brother, Henry, who is mute. Because they are different, their mother keeps them sheltered at home away from the town’s critical eyes.

Ava’s grandmother, Emilienne, throws herself into her work at the bakery, believing love is something to be warded off.

Ava’s mother, Viviane remains heartbroken over her first love, ignoring the love that appears right before her.

Teenage Ava dreams about being a normal girl, not a creature with wings that makes people think she is everything from a freak to an angel. Then one day, Ava makes a friend who talks her into coming out to the reservoir, the place teens congregate at night. Her life will never be the same.

But it is Henry, who speaks only when it is of utmost importance, who warns the family of the tragedy to come. Will they listen before it’s too late?

Guideline only: School Library Journal rates this book Grade 9 and up.

Follow me on Instagram at lucindastein.  Check out the picture I created for this book!

A Peculiar Story

I picked this book up, not knowing what to expect except this story would be unusual. Peculiar is a perfect word for it! Sixteen-year-old Jacob has heard weird stories from his grandfather for years. When Jacob was little, he believed in these strange characters–children with special abilities, but as he grew older, he realized the tales were mere fairy tales.

When Jacob finds his grandfather gravely injured outside in the dark, he also sees a monster in the shadows. Or does he? Jacob’s parents send him to a psychologist, thinking he’s having trouble with his grandfather’s death.

But Jacob remembers his grandfather’s dying words, as strange and coded as his many stories, and Jacob is determined to go to the remote island where his grandfather lived as a boy–Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. There he finds the ruins of the building, walls crumbled from an air attack during WWII. But soon he realizes the house is not abandoned!

You’ll enjoy the many real–strange–photographs in the book. The author, Ransom Riggs, perused through vintage photos in flea markets and antique stores, which he used in writing the story. I found myself intrigued with the book, turning page after page. Read the book before you see the movie! If you like series, two sequels to this book are already available: Hollow City and Library of Souls.

Follow me on Instagram at lucindastein. Check out my bookstagram pic for this book!

Butterfly Bones

Butterfly Bones: The Metamorphosis Series Book #1 by Rebecca Carpenter

Be prepared for a story unlike any you’ve ever read. Fifteen-year-old Bethany suffers from a rare bone disorder and looks years younger than other kids her age. She’s often mistaken for an Butterfly Bones Cover Ebookelementary student. Her only friend is a handsome boy who’s the star quarterback at Springs High School. Bethany has a big crush on Jeremiah, but she realizes the sexy teen only views her as someone to rescue. Despite reality, she daydreams about her first kiss with Jeremiah.

When a new student, beautiful Zoey, mistakes her for a lost little girl, Bethany is afraid to correct the well-meaning teen. Later when Zoey discovers the truth and becomes the laughing stock on social media, she’s out to make Bethany’s life miserable. Like a true bully, Zoey takes great enjoyment at making others laugh at her victim. Though weak on physical strength, Bethany has no shortage of witty comebacks. This only provokes Zoey to further torture Bethany in and out of school. Life is difficult enough as a teen, but it’s intolerable when you’re considered a freak.

Bethany never knew her mother, who died when Bethany was only a toddler. Her father is an obsessed scientist who is working on a cure for her bone disorder. He uses B. selene3 hormone made from Boloria selene butterflies to keep the disease under control. Unexplainably, the butterflies appear to have a strange connection to Bethany and surface at the most unexpected times in her life.

When her father uses accelerated doses of the hormone, the results spin out of control, placing Bethany’s life in danger. Like the mice in his home laboratory, she realizes her own father has used her as a test subject. He warns her that her body will soon enter into metamorphosis and a chrysalis will form around her body. She will fall unconscious and plunge into a coma. Even worse, her father admits Bethany might not survive this unprecedented procedure. She may never live to be sixteen or experience Jeremiah’s kiss.

This SciFi novel has it all: suspense, gore, death, romance, and secrets. This debut book in the Metamorphosis Series from Lakewater Press is available at Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble. A must read!

The Weight of Feathers

Musing Mondays is hosted by MizB every Monday. This is a weekly meme where participants have to answer one of the pre-set questions plus a random question.

AM CURRENTLY READING…

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore. One of the reasons I am enjoying feathers-coverthis book is the fact the story comes as a refreshing change from the paranormal and fantasy novels I’ve been reading and reviewing. The storyline is definitely unique. Two gypsy-like families, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have feuded for years. Both family acts travel throughout the countryside, the Palomas dressing like mermaids and performing in the lake; the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, presenting escapades in tall trees.

That in itself creates a unique story, but both families also possess fantastical traits. The Palomas are born with escamas, dime-sized scales that shine like abalone (fits the mermaid aspect, doesn’t it?). The Corbeaus have black feathers that grow beneath their hair. When these feathers loosen and float on the breeze, the Palomas consider it part of the Corbeaus’ black magic.

Fate brings Lace, a Paloma girl, and Cluck, a Corbeaus, together when a tragedy at the local chemical plant sifts a cloud of chemicals over the small town where both families are performing. Not understanding the danger, Lace is caught outdoors, the chemicals blazing through her skin when Cluck comes upon her. He understands full well the dangers of the chemicals because his grandfather used to work at the plant. Cluck tears at her clothes, knowing the chemical has a violent reaction to cotton material. He brings Lace, severely burned, to the local hospital.

One of the burns forms in the shape of a feather, leaving Lace to think she was cursed by Cluck. She believes the only way to erase the curse is to seek out the Corbeaus who touched her. He is unaware that she is a Paloma and gives her a job applying makeup for the Corbeaus girls before their performance.

Another wonderful aspect of the book is the often lyrical and literary language. Here’s an example from page 158:

“His own words hovered in the air like dragonflies. Even when he went out the back door to hang up his shirt, he could hear the humming of their wings.”

By page 163, where I am currently in the book, romance is heating up between the two rivals. At this point of the story, I have no idea how this can turn out. After all, the families remain fierce rivals and enemies. I’m looking forward to discovering how the story progresses. Even though I’m only a little over halfway through the story, I highly recommend this magical-realism book.

RANDOM QUESTION:

If you were a character, which author would you trust with your life (to write your story)?

I would trust author, Bonnie Jo Campbell, to tell my story. Campbell has a true talent to get into a character’s mind and soul. But what I especially appreciate is the once-upon-a-riverunderlying empathy she holds for all her characters, shallow to complex, good to bad, Campbell will reveal how that character’s life experiences have molded him or her. She would pull out things from my character that I may not be conscious of and would probably surprise even me. Her literary style is, at the risk of an old cliché, the cherry placed on top of her whipped-cream writing. If you haven’t read her work yet, I recommend Once Upon a River and Q Road.