Tag Archives: Magical Realism

Guest Post: Andrea Lochen author of Imaginary Things

Raven Haired Girl is thrilled to welcome Andrea Lochen author of Imaginary Things

divider-transparentandrea-lochen-authorAndrea Lochen is the author of two novels. Her first novel, The Repeat Year (Penguin 2013), was praised by Kirkus Reviews as “an engaging, satisfying read that explores friendship, love and who we really are when it truly matters.” A draft of the novel won the 2008 Hopwood Novel Award. The Repeat Year was also produced as an audiobook (Brilliance Audio) and translated into a German edition (Ullstein Buchverlage). The film option was sold to Ineffable Pictures. Andrea’s second novel, Imaginary Things, was published by Astor + Blue in 2015. Lori Nelson Spielman, bestselling author of The Life List, called it, “a beautiful book, filled with vivid scenes, unforgettable characters, and oodles of heart. With a page-turning plot and an utterly unique concept, Imaginary Things entertains, inspires, and provokes thought—a perfect book club pick.”

Andrea earned her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she was a Colby Fellow. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was the Fiction Editor of The Madison Review, a nationally-distributed, student-run literary magazine. Since 2008, she has taught undergraduate writing at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha and was recently awarded the UW Colleges Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Andrea currently lives in Wisconsin with her husband and daughter and is at work on her third novel.

Listen to an interview with Andrea on Milwaukee Public Radio’s “Lake Effect.”

Read an interview with Andrea about her writing process and her advice for aspiring writers.


Guest Post

Ten Most Delicious Desserts Inspired by Novels
by Andrea Lochen

As an avid reader with a major sweet tooth, I love when authors include the recipes for the yummy desserts they’ve made me drool over throughout their book. It’s a marriage of two of my favorite activities—reading and baking! And if you’re a book club member, what better treat to bring to your meeting than a dessert straight out of the novel? Here are ten of my favorite book-inspired desserts!

1) Southern Caramel Cake from The Help by Kathryn Stockett


Who hasn’t wanted to try a bite of the scrumptious-sounding caramel cake that Minny makes in The Help? (Maybe not so much her chocolate pie, however!) Though Stockett didn’t include the recipe in the back of her book, this food blog has the The Junior League of Memphis Cookbook recipe that supposedly inspired her.


2) Coconut Cake from Amy E. Reichert’s The Coincidence of Coconut Cake


The titular coconut cake in Reichert’s The Coincidence of Coconut Cake earned its place on the cover of this heartwarming book. To the main character, Lou, baking her grandmother’s cake is the ultimate expression of love. In the book, those who get to eat it earned their slice, which certainly made me crave a piece all the more!


3) Crème Caramel Flan from Anita Hughes’ Island in the Sea: A Majorca Love Story


In Hughes’ newest novel set in Spain, she describes how Majorca’s restaurants serve a mouthwatering variety of delicious fresh fish and locally grown vegetables and how many diners like to end the meal with a dessert that satisfies any sweet tooth while not being heavy or cloying. This creme caramel flan recipe certainly does the trick!


4) Lemon Cream Cake from Juliette Fay’s Shelter Me


Fay introduces the concept of “pology cake” in her first novel, Shelter Me, as something you bake for someone you’ve wronged in the hopes of that person forgiving you. Though according to Fay, it doesn’t need to be a particular kind of cake, her recipe for lemon cream cake in the back of the book and on her author website sounds fabulous!


5) Peanut butter bars from Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal


Though there are several delicious dishes described in Stradal’s debut novel about Midwestern foodie culture, it was the blue-prize winning peanut butter bars recipe from Lutheran church lady, Pat, that caught my eye. I made this for my book club and these chocolate-frosted bars are just as decadent as they sound!


6) Thumbprint Cookies with Jam from Kelly Simmons’ One More Day


Baking figures prominently in Kelly Simmons’ book because in One More Day, the main character, Carrie Morgan, bakes with her grandmother, as she did when she was a little girl. However, it’s not clear whether her grandmother is dead or alive! These thumbprint jam cookies look like just the thing to bake when you’re in a nostalgic mood (or simply in the mood for something buttery and sweet)!


7) Mantecadas from Tina Ann Forkner’s Ruby Among Us


In Ruby Among Us by Tina Ann Forkner, Kitty and her granddaughter Lucy spend a lot of time together talking over cookies and tea. Lucy even has a special tea cup that she drinks out of with her grandmother Kitty who is keeping a lot of secrets about Lucy’s past. Below is a link to Kitty’s secret recipe for Lucy’s favorite cookie, Mantecadas. Yum!


8) Nanaimo Bars from Miracle Beach by Erin Celello


Nanaimo Bars are served in the cafeterias of the ferry boats between Vancouver Island and mainland Canada. In Miracle Beach, when main characters Magda and Jack come to the Island, they fall in love with the sinfully sweet bars. Author Erin Celello testifies that they’re amazing!


9) Damascus’ Pumpkin Spice Pound Cake from The River Witch by Kimberly Brock


In The River Witch, a family feast brings an estranged southern family together. When ten-year-old Damascus Trezevant’s summer ends with a bounty of pumpkins, she sets out to heal deep wounds with a sweet, old recipe for Pumpkin Spice Pound Cake and faith in the magic of a mother’s love. You won’t be sorry you tried this recipe!


10) The Best Chocolate Cake Ever from The Repeat Year by Andrea Lochen


What dessert list is complete without a delectable chocolate cake? In The Repeat Year, main character Olive is named after her maternal grandmother who passed away the week before she was born. In addition to her grandma’s name, Olive also inherited her recipe for the “best chocolate cake ever” which her mom bakes as a peace offering for their family in a time of major transition.


What are your favorite recipes inspired by novels? Comment below!

Andrea Lochen is the author of two novels, Imaginary Things and The Repeat Year. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and her BA in English at the University of Wisconsin. Since 2008, she has taught undergraduate writing at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. When she isn’t teaching, reading, or baking, she is hard at work on her third novel. To learn more about her, visit her website.


About Imaginary Things25106194

Watching children play and invent whimsical games of fantasy is one of life’s great joys. But what if you could actually see your child’s imagination as it unfolded? And what would you do if your child’s imagination suddenly became dark and threatening?

Burned-out and broke, twenty-two-year-old single mother Anna Jennings moves to her grandparents’ rural home for the summer with her four-year-old son, David. The sudden appearance of shadowy dinosaurs forces Anna to admit that either she’s lost her mind or she can see her son’s active imagination. Frightened for David’s safety, Anna struggles to learn the rules of this bizarre phenomenon and how best to protect him. But what she uncovers along the way is completely unexpected: revelations about what her son’s imaginary friends truly represent and dark secrets about her own childhood imaginary friend.

Living right next door is Jamie Presswood, Anna’s childhood friend who has grown much more handsome and hardened than the boy she once knew. Jamie reminds her of simpler times—Ferris wheels and sparklers, picnics by the river, and Neapolitan ice cream—but due to past regrets and the messy lives they’ve since led, rekindling their friendship proves easier said than done. Between the imaginary creatures stalking her son and her tumultuous relationship with David’s biological father, Anna doesn’t have any room left in her life or her heart for another man. But as David’s visions become more persistent and threatening, Anna must learn to differentiate between which dangers are real and which are imagined, and who she can truly trust.


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Filed under 2016, April, Fiction, Guest Post

Review: Outrageous: The Victoria Woodhull Saga, Volume One: Rise to Riches by Neal Katz


About Outrageous: The Victoria Woodhull Saga

What compels a woman and her youngest sister to overcome abject poverty and violent abuse to grow up to defy convention and obliterate every barrier to become the first women to own and operate a Wall Street brokerage firm and publish their own newspaper?

How did Victoria Claflin Woodhull (1838 – 1927) become the first woman invited to speak to the United State Congress, and then the first female to run for President. What made Tennessee Celeste Claflin (1845 – 1923) so beguiling that the richest man in America, Cornelius Vanderbilt, fell completely in love with her?

What caused the sisters to live out their long lives as royalty and peerage in Europe. Victoria living as landed gentry outside of London, and Tennessee in a huge castle like a queen? Why aren’t these empowered and independent women iconic in our culture?

Volume One of The Victoria Woodhull Saga tells the poignant, lascivious, and compelling inside story of how the sisters worked closely with Cornelius Vanderbilt, who at age 74 fell in love with the beguiling 24-year old Tennessee. Victoria provided the titan of industry “Inside Her Information” gathered through the soiled sisterhood, the ladies of the evening working at the top seven brothels servicing the rich and famous of New York City.

This relationship resulted in the great lion of industry having his last public roar as together they manipulated the financial markets and created the impending collapse of the U.S. economy in the gold scandal of 1869. To avert the crash, President Ulysses S. Grant provides the richest man in America insider information on the Gold market and telegrams Vanderbilt that his railroad company is “Too Big To Fail!” Vanderbilt was proclaimed ‘The Savior of the American Economy’ for intervening in a crisis he helped create.

View Victorian America through the eyes and thoughts of one of its leading heroines. Watch as the infighting and elitism of the earliest suffrage women denigrating, castigating, and denouncing other passionate suffrage rights women delayed woman suffrage and equal legal standing for five decades. Learn wonderful anecdotes of the origins of products and phrases used today. Learn the story of The Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, the most popular man in America, who transformed Christianity from his father’s Fire and Brimstone theology to one of a compassionate and loving Jesus, who will redeem all who turn to salvation with complete confession of their sins. The reverend’s personal life did not imitate his lofty and popular theology of his weekly sermons at Plymouth Church. He was a notorious womanizer, often bedding, and sometimes impregnating the wives, sisters, and daughters of his most ardent backers and deacons of the church.

Written in the first person from Victoria’s viewpoint, Neal Katz weaves a compelling page-turner story that cleverly unfolds history while providing a wonderfully entertaining ride. Neal has pledged one half of his proceeds to charities dedicated to the empowerment and sustainable economic improvement of women, especially single mothers.

My Review

Great story of a trailblazing woman in history – Victoria Woodhull. For those of you familiar with Woodhull you will appreciate the fact Katz emphasizes her intellect, strength, independence and her ability ro rise above a challenging family situation. Others unfamiliar with Woodhull will find yourself captivated by this amazing womans story hopefully opening the flood gate to discover more of females impacting history.

Impressive debut from Neal Katz, a man clearly understanding and appreciative of women as his ability to enter their inner workings is undeniable. The story starts out with formidable force as Katz demonstrates the mettle of young Victoria Woodhull vowing  to carve a life for herself as she clearly rises from the depths of despair.

I plan on continuing with this riveting saga, Katz pays homage to a woman unheard of to most but should be more than familiar, women such as Woodhull and countless others paved the road for women such and myself and my fellow sisters.

Historical fiction fans, those interested in women in history, feminists, history buffs in general will want to read this well penned saga of Victoria Woodhull.

About Neal Katzabout-the-author

Neal Katz is a semi-retired, successful, serial entrepreneur, CEO with a passion for women rights. He lives a life based on self-awareness and Love. He practices Yoga, meditates daily, has taught A Course in Miracles, produced Oregon wines under the LOVE, a Wine Co. label, enjoys reciting Vedic sutras, and writes his own inspirational poetry.

The saga of Victoria Woodhull appeals to Neal, as it serves three purposes. First, the story provokes public awareness of the historical and continuing degradation and subjugation of gender prejudice. Second, the tale exposes the historical basis for the manipulation of the “free markets” of stocks, bonds and commodities. Third, the story shows how existing financial and political power structures use prison and seizure of assets to prevent innovation and social change. Victoria Woodhull overcame all these obstacles in a remarkable life.

In addition, Neal has had to overcome many of the same trials and tribulations that confronted the sisters, Victoria and Tennessee. He believes in their motto: “Upward & Onward” and personally transforms challenges into positive manifestations. Neal often says, “We have so much more power than we allow ourselves to think. Create the life you want!”

Neal chose to write in first person using Victoria’s words, thoughts, and point of view to tell the tale, inviting the reader to see through her eyes. The style is magic realism along the lines of Allende, Marquez, and Kathleen McGowan (The Magdalene Trilogy). The books are an expression of the HeForShe solidarity movement for gender equality promoted by Emma Watson, and Neal proudly proclaims himself a male feminist!

Prior to becoming an author, Neal formed and managed several businesses, specializing in finance, operations, marketing, and exit strategies. His work spanned advising and working for newly formed start-up, initial public offering, and Fortune 100 companies. Once a licensed securities broker, Mr. Katz is familiar with the financial markets from an insider’s perspective.

Neal has conceived and defined a new financial paradigm—CREDIT FUNDING—to create jobs while providing continuous and renewable funding for many charitable endeavors, such as micro-finance, low income housing, vocational training, and infrastructure renewal. The concept is based on using the credit, not cash, of wealthy individuals and corporations to fund charities, which can institute a payback or pay-it-forward scenario. Something like parents who co-sign a car loan or guarantee a young couple’s first home loan. The idea is to do this on a national scale and infuse $1 Trillion into the economy. It can and will be done!

Neal has pledged fifty percent (50%) of his author’s royalties from book sales and all ancillary revenues, including foreign print distribution and Hollywood rights to a foundation formed in tribute to Victoria Woodhull and her passion for woman rights, or fund a like-minded existing program. The foundation will promote and prove programs based on the Charitable Loans concept for the empowerment and sustainable economic improvement of women, especially single mothers.

Neal enjoys entertaining, especially cooking proteins for large groups. He prides himself on his fast cook, 25# defrosted turkey in two hours total cook time at 550 degrees, and his slow cook, duck, leg of lamb, or turkey confit style cooking at 180 degrees for 12 – 14 hours. He also excels at vegetarian protein dishes, often infusing playful twists of colors, crunch, and some homemade chili oil.

Always challenging himself, Neal has trained for and completed a triathlon; studied the Torah, Talmud, and Judaic mystical texts in Hebrew, Aramaic, English and even some Latin; produced exquisite wines in Oregon; taken a company he co-founded public and advised many others; studied and became a cotton farmer; learned and taught A Course in Miracles; written poetry; designed a macro economic financial system; and has become a successful author.

Being of service is Neal’s credo and he is ceaselessly mentoring, sharing, teaching and learning in one form or another. Neal prides himself on being accessible to others and being of service. He will answer, in time, any serious inquiry. You can contact him at nealkatz@thevictoriawoodhullsaga.com


Filed under 2015, Fiction, November, Review

Review & Giveaway: The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto (424x600)

•Hardcover: 512 pages
•Publisher: Harper (November 10, 2015)

Mitch Albom creates his most unforgettable fictional character—Frankie Presto, the greatest guitarist to ever walk the earth—in this magical novel about the bands we join in life and the power of talent to change our lives.

An epic story of the greatest guitar player to ever live, and the six lives he changed with his magical blue strings.

Mitch Albom has a way of incorporating poignant messages mixed with spirituality and unforgettable characters. His books are uplifting and leave you renewed, hopeful and refreshed.

Frankie Presto is memorable, his story is compelling and you’ll be investigating to see if there is a genuine Frankie Presto, admittedly I did, goodness he felt so realistic. With the unmistakable music icons tossed about through the narrative you swear this is a nonfictional account as opposed to fiction.

Another attention grabber is the ‘spirit of music’ serving as narrator, very clever, making this an even more fascinating read. Using music as the focal point was another genius move, after all music is universal, we all relate to music in some form no matter your race or religion. Albom used magical realism gently delivering his many messages, it captures your attention and lifts the narrative and Frankie to yet another level.

Unique presentation, with a wonderful main protagonist, lots of fantastic messages, music enthusiast or not this is a very entertaining story. Albom always goes straight to your heart in a subtly powerful way.

About Mitch AlbomMitch Albom

Mitch Albom is a bestselling novelist, a screen-writer, a playwright, and an award-winning journalist. He is the author of six consecutive number-one New York Times bestsellers and has sold more than thirty-four million copies of his books in forty-two languages worldwide. Tuesdays with Morrie, which spent four years atop the New York Times list, is the bestselling memoir of all time.

Albom has founded seven charities, including the first-ever full-time medical clinic for homeless children in America. He also operates an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He lives with his wife, Janine, in suburban Detroit.

Find out more about Mitch at his website, connect with him on Facebook, follow him on†Twitter, and sign up for his newsletter.


Enter for a chance to win a copy of The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, please complete the giveaway form below. Open to US residents only. Ends 10/9/15

Thrilled to be included in the tour for The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom. Be sure to click on the TLC banner to check out the entire tour schedule. Thank you TLC!

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Filed under 2015, Fiction, October, Review

Review & Giveaway: The Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick

The Sparrow Sisters (430x648)•Paperback: 384 pages
•Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (September 1, 2015)

The Sparrow Sisters are as tightly woven into the New England seaside town of Granite Point as the wild sweet peas that climb the stone walls along the harbor. Sorrel, Nettie, and Patience are as colorful as the beach plums on the dunes and as mysterious as the fog that rolls into town at dusk.

But when Patience Sparrow’s herbs and tinctures are believed to be implicated in a local tragedy, Granite Point is consumed by a long-buried fear—and its three-hundred-year-old history resurfaces as a modern-day witch hunt threatens.

I’m not a huge fan of magical realism, however, in proper doses, weaved into a narrative deftly it is thoroughly enjoyed. I found this book delightful, whimsical, the end hinted of a possible sequel, hope so, my curiosity it piqued.

You can’t help but fall in love with the small village of Granite Point. The Sparrow Sisters are oddly fascinating. Patience Sparrow possesses the gift of healing through her herbalist knowledge, she knows instinctively what a person needs. Admittedly, the references to the various plants and their uses was educational and very interesting. The sisters are a close-knit trio, and the author reveals just a smidgen of info of each sister creating an enigma not to mention a weird fascination. The mystery in which the plot centers isn’t really a bona fide mystery, very predictable but it raises a lot of issues regarding small town mentality, exposing inhabitants true colors – both good and bad. Just enough romance sprinkled to add another level of interest.

The narrative was awkward for lack of a better description. There were times when the setting felt as if it was long ago, while on the other hand a scene would jar you into the present. The delivery felt off too, however, I’m betting the next book will be smoother, unless this is the authors signature style.

A charming story full of interesting characters, magical realism well done.

About Ellen Herrick

Ellen Herrick was a publishing professional in New York City until she and her husband moved to London for a brief stint; they returned nearly twenty years later with three children (her own, it must be said). She now divides her time between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a small town on Cape Cod very much like Granite Point.

Find out more about Ellen at her†website†and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


Enter for a chance to win a copy of The Sparrow Sisters, please complete the giveaway form below. Open to US residents only. Ends 9/8/15

Proud to be included in the tour for Ellen Herrick’s The Sparrow Sisters. Be sure to click on the TLC banner to check out the entire tour schedule.

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Filed under 2015, Fiction, Review, September

Review: The Last Illusion by Porochista Khakpour


A feral boy coming of age in New York, based on a legend from the medieval Persian epic The Shahnameh, the Book of Kings.

Porochista Khakpour certainly crafts quite a yarn. Her prose flows with fluidity, it’s magical in its own right. Imaginative, creative and downright beautiful.

A patchwork of characters leaving you questioning this amazing tale, but somehow through the gorgeous and ugly wreckage Khakpour fuses a bird boy, a clairvoyant and a illusionist made of smoke and mirrors and I’m barely scratching the surface. You will feel overwhelmed, a dichotomy of emotions ruling as the story unravels as if a ball of yarn rolling down the steepest incline.

Magical realism, myth, legend and love create a memorable coming of age story of Zal, a young man desperately trying to find a normal place in this chaotic crazy world. You’ll find yourself questioning what is normalicy as we follow Zal on his incredible journey.

More than a story, Khakpour’s language creates an experience for the peruser. Dramatic with insertions of wry humor, topics fade and shine in their own magical way, dark becomes light, light becomes dusk. A wonderful read of history blending with a dose of fiction, legend and reality all collide forming a starburst. Highly recommend this unique read. Looking forward to reading more from this undoubtedly talented authoress.

•Hardcover, 336 pages
•Published May 13th 2014 by Bloomsbury USA
•ISBN13: 9781620403044

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Filed under 2015, April, Fiction