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READ: Review, Harriet Beamer Strikes Gold by Joyce Magnin

How do you solve a problem like Harriet Beamer? That’s the question her son, Henry, often faces. And it seems to arise more often now that his salt-and-pepper-shaker collecting, adventure-seeking mother, Harriet, has moved into the home he shares with his attorney wife in Grass Valley, California. In the first book of this series by award-winning author Joyce Magnin, we traveled with Harriet as she made the trek to her son’s home via bus. Now, she’s doing her best (most of the time) to make Grass Valley home. Lacking the close relationships she had back in Pennsylvania, she spends time at a neighborhood café only to get sucked into a deal that seems too good to be true. Harriet may have left the road, but her journey continues. In this novel, the reader joins her as she travels through pending grandmotherhood, a tenuous relationship with her son and daughter-in-law, and important lessons like forgiveness and letting go. All that glitters may not be gold, but the hidden nuggets in Magnin’s latest Harriet Beamer novel make it well worth the delightful, come-as-you-are read. Well done! Note from Marti: I consider author Joyce Magnin a friend, but I loved her work long before I met her. A frequent conference speaker, Joyce will keynote our Florida Chapters Word Weavers Retreat this October where she’ll speak to us about the Power of Words. I’ve posted two WRITE interviews with her, which you can read here and here. (FTC Disclaimer: I received this book as a gift from the publisher. I was not required to post a review or a positive response.) Have you read any of Joyce’s previous books? What other novels have you read with a senior citizen as the main character? I’d love to receive your comments and will pass them on to the author.  Find a local Christian bookstore Find this book on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, or at Christian Book...

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WRITE: Words with Friends: Joyce Magnin, author of CAKE

Today, I’m proud to share with you an interview with award-winning author Joyce Magnin as the start of a new blog feature, Words with Friends. God has allowed me to build some great relationships with other authors, and I don’t want to hide those when I feature their books. In Words with Friends, I’ll share an interview and  a bit of personal information, too.  Joyce and I first met a few years ago when we both served on faculty at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. At our first in-person encounter, I bowed at her feet to show my extreme appreciation for her talents. We share an off-center sense of humor, a love for great literature, and a deep appreciation for Lemon Squares. Elsewhere on this blog, you can read my earlier interview with Joyce and my review of her most recent work, CAKE. Joyce, a frequent conference speaker and writing instructor, is the author of the popular and quirky Bright’s Pond series along with two recent middle grade novels, Carrying Mason and Cake. When she’s not writing or reading, Joyce enjoys baseball, needle arts, video games, and cream soda, but not elevators—especially glass ones. She listens to many kinds of music, shamelessly confesses to enjoying American Idol, and has never eaten a scallop or sky dived. Joyce has three children, Rebekah, Emily, and Adam;  three grandsons, Lemuel, Cedar, and Soren; and one son-in-law, Joshua. Joyce, her son Adam, and their crazy cat Mango live in Havertown, Pennsylvania where Joyce cares for an eighty-year-old onion plant. Welcome, Joyce. Let’s jump right into our discussion. What were some of your favorite books as a child? Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books. Loved them all. Still do. Emily of New Moon, she was one of the lesser-known heroines of Lucy Maud Montgomery, although Anne of Green Gables was a favorite also. The poems of Emily Dickinson even though I didn’t understand most of what I was reading, I just loved to read the words. Harriet the Spy Winnie the Pooh Grimm’s Fairy Tales Pippi Longstocking made me want to have big feet and strap sponges on them to scrub the kitchen floor. Oh, and to have a monkey. Mom wouldn’t allow it, which was kind of disappointing considering our mother let us keep every animal we brought home, including dogs, cats, a flying squirrel, snakes, birds, guinea pigs, mice, and a pig for a short while, but my favorite was the dogs. Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales But, believe it or not I became enamored with Sherlock Holmes when I was around eleven years old. When and why did you decide to start writing for young readers? I was nine. No, really. Middle Grade literature...

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READ: Review, CAKE by Joyce Magnin

Some books take you to places you’ve never visited. Some introduce you to people you’ve never met. And some pull you into an adventure that becomes a journey of your own. The second of Joyce Magnin’s middle-grade novels, CAKE: Love, Chickens, and a Taste of Peculiar (Zonderkidz, January 2013) contains the whimsical, magical elements that made books like Charlotte’s Web and The Secret Garden the childhood favorites I still enjoy. Twelve-year-old Wilma Sue has bounced from one foster home to another before landing in the unlikely dwelling of sisters Ruth and Naomi. The steady love and acceptance the retired missionaries show their new addition meshes with the quirky elements that have become Magnin’s signature style. In CAKE, these include neighbors from a variety of backgrounds, bonding time with a tribe of chickens, and luscious homemade cakes that produce more-than-unusual effects. When a new friendship goes from worse to horrific, Wilma Sue faces the biggest challenge of her life. And as she moves from struggle to struggle and cake to cake, she learns a little about baking and a lot about the nature of genuine love. Magnin’s rich imagination and keen insight into human nature make this book as rich—and as tender—as one of Naomi’s delectable delights. Go ahead. Cut a generous serving of CAKE. You’ll savor every bite. Find a local Christian bookstore. Find this book on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, or at What are some of the favorite books you read as a child? Why do you think they captured your attention and interest? Feel free to share your stories, and watch for a WRITE interview with author Joyce Magnin coming soon.  (FTC Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reading Copy of this book free from the publisher. I was not required to post a review or a positive...

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READ: Review, Blame it on the Mistletoe by Joyce Magnin

Somehow, Christmastime evokes the best and the worst. You receive that toy you’ve always wanted, but you also get the itchy wool sweater that ends up at the bottom of your dresser drawer. You look forward to Grandma’s famous gingerbread cookies, but Aunt Fannie’s prize macaroni-and-marshmallow salad? Not so much.    Here in Bright’s Pond, Christmas offers the best and worst as well. A Thanksgiving spent with friends—and a Hawaiian-themed feast. The Fountain of Youth—and nursing home residents cavorting like drunken kindergarteners. A long-awaited wedding—and the potential of broken hearts. When it comes to the elements that make a great story, however, author Joyce Magnin offers up only the best. Once again, she draws readers in via her skillful presentation of awkward-but-endearing characters in situations that seem absurd and realistic all at once. Blame it on the Mistletoe pulls on some loose threads from earlier Bright’s Pond offerings (Will librarian Griselda get her pilot’s license? Can she choose between longtime beau Zeb and pilot Cliff, the new man in town?). But the twists, turns, and irregular bumps we’ve come to expect from this series find their way into this novel as well, along with an enduring message of love, faith, and the power of community. Whether you’re shopping for a Christmas gift or seeking sweet relief from the holiday madness, I highly recommend this engaging read. Buy the book. After all, you can always Blame it on the Mistletoe....

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YA Friday: READ Review, Carrying Mason by Joyce Magnin

I’m an unabashed fan of the Bright’s Pond series* by rising star and author Joyce Magnin. That’s why I found it scary to open her middle grade novel, Carrying Mason. But—as is often the case when we face our fears—I’m so glad I did. Not only does Magnin have the chops to write for the children’s market, but she kept me reading from first page straight through to the end without a break. Yes, plane trips can provoke such attention, but I had options. When thirteen-year-old Luna’s best friend and companion Mason dies, she has options, too. But as she sees it, her decision to move in with Mason’s mentally disabled mother, Ruby Day, and care for her in his stead involves nothing more than simple obedience.  “Mason died, and now she’s by herself, and Jesus said to help the widows and orphans, so that’s what I intend to do.” This determined veteran of the road less traveled has plenty to learn, and Magnin grants us the privilege of joining her journey. As the story unfolds, we see the unspoken cruelties of a life like Ruby’s and the gentle but flawed way Luna and others respond. We remember that love endures when all else fails. And we’re reminded that everybody matters to God. Kudos once more to Magnin for creating characters I’d know if I met them on the street, for writing dialogue so real I can hear it as I read, and for pouring truth through story in a way that moves me to step back in awe. And read straight through to the end.  What other middle grade/YA novels have had an impact on you and your life as a reader and/or writer? Feel free to leave a comment. I’ve missed my blogger family and have more reviews–and some mission trip stories–to share with you soon.  *Click the titles to read my blog reviews of The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow, Charlotte Figg Takes Over Paradise, and Griselda Takes...

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WRITE: Interview with Joyce Magnin

Joyce Magnin loves stories, video games, cream soda, Parcheesi but not laundry or elevators. She is a frequent conference speaker, the mother of three amazing children, three grandsons, and a parakeet who thinks she’s a chicken. Her previous Bright’s Pond releases include The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow (Library Journal’s Top 5 Christian Books of 2009; ACFW Carol Award nominee) and Charlotte Figg Takes Over Paradise. Note from Marti: I’m back after a wonderful few days at the Florida Christian Writers Conference and another few spent with my parents while my dad had cancer surgery. I know you’ll enjoy this interview with Joyce Magnin, author of last week’s READ review, Griselda Takes Flight. You and I share the experience of falling in love with writing during our elementary school years.  Would you please describe your beginnings as a writer? It all started in the third grade. My teacher, Mrs. Nichols asked us to write a story. I wrote about Martians who invaded Earth to knock over Fort Knox. Apparently Martians eat gold—who knew? She loved the story and asked me to read it to all the classes in the school. She then told me that I had been “gifted with words.” I was smitten because it was at that moment I felt God’s hand on my shoulder and knew that I knew that I knew she was right. How did you decide on the fictional small town of Bright’s Pond as a setting? I enjoy small towns. Bright’s Pond is really an amalgam of a bunch of quirky, little towns in the Wilkes Barre/Scranton part of Pennsylvania. There is just something unique and wonderful about small communities that feel more like family than neighbors. Your work, although often humorous, also touches on deep issues. How do you decide on the struggles your characters will face?   They come that way. Truthfully, I don’t think I have ever sat down and had to think or consider what sorts of issues my characters struggle through. But, that being said, all you have to do is listen to friends, read prayer requests for your church, eavesdrop on a few conversations at work or the grocery store and you get a clue for what people are handling every single day. You’re keeping busy these days as a full-time novelist and part-time editor/conference teacher. What upcoming projects can readers expect? Oh boy, well on the writing front after Griselda Takes Flight there are four more Bright’s Pond novels coming. Blame it on the Mistletoe will release in September. Also in September my first Middle Grade novel for Zonderkidz, Carrying Mason, is releasing and I also have novels coming out with Zondervan including Harriet Beamer Takes the...

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