Review & Giveaway: The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman

the glass casketTitle: The Glass Casket

Author: McCormick Templeman

Publisher: Random House

Pub. Date: February 11, 2014

Genre: Young Adult

Rec. Age Level: 14+

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Life in Nag’s End is steady and predictable for Rowan Rose and her best friend Tom Parstle, until the day five riders thunder through town bound for Begger’s Drift, a place rumored forsaken by the Goddess. The arrival and subsequent sinister disappearance of the riders mark both the arrival of beautiful and mysterious Fiona Eira and the beginning of evil’s descent upon the superstitious village of Nag’s End. Rowan’s gentle scholarly father grows suddenly cold and distant, distracted by something he keeps closely guarded in his study, and forbids Rowan from speaking to Fiona, who she discovers is her estranged cousin. When Tom first sees Fiona, he falls suddenly and irrevocably in love with the dark-haired, scarlet-lipped beauty and begs Rowan to break her father’s commandment and convince Fiona to meet with him. As the youth of Nag’s End experience first love, unexpected pain, and dream of happy endings, a dark and violent force creeps into locked rooms, leaving nightmarish scenes and death in its wake. When tragedy strikes, madness and fear reach a fever pitch among the town’s inhabitants as they seek to unmask the evil in their midst. With THE GLASS CASKET, McCormick Templeman gives readers an ominous and horrific fairy tale filled with the darkest, bloodiest bits of their nightmares.

I have very mixed feelings about McCormick Templeman’s THE GLASS CASKET. On one hand, I found it impossible to put down. I felt compelled to unravel the mystery surrounding the disturbing deaths plaguing the people of Nag’s End; the horror and mystery aspects of the novel are remarkably well done. As Templeman demonstrated with her debut novel, THE LITTLE WOODS, and proved once again with this sophomore offering, her writing is sumptuous and richly detailed. I found it easy to imagine the setting and characters of THE GLASS CASKET as I read, an aspect that made the horror elements of the novel especially frightening.

My disappointment with the novel stems from the characters. I found it impossible to connect with any of them. I, quite honestly, loathed them all… On multiple occasions, I was so frustrated that I nearly gave up on the novel. It sometimes felt that Templeman was employing character idiocy and horrible communication to further suspend the mystery, which might be fine if this tactic didn’t make the characters so unbearable. In retrospect, I realize that the characters are very much products of their upbringing within the village. They’re quick to judge, with those judgments, more often than not, grounded in superstitions and first impressions rather than careful observations and rational thought. But Rowan, the girl who dreams of escaping Nag’s End and who claims to be above this superstitious upbringing, is the worst of the lot! I might have been able to handle the others, but Rowan’s ridiculous reactions and shortsighted judgments proved too much for my patience.

Though I was extremely put off by the characters within THE GLASS CASKET, there were many elements that I appreciated, so I’m happy I read this one. I’ll definitely read Templeman’s next book, but with my fingers-crossed for characters that live nowhere near Nag’s End.

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Q&A with Karen Foxlee, author of Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

For those of you who don’t already know this, I adore Karen Foxlee’s debut middle grade novel, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy. Furthermore, I cannot express how thrilled I was to be able to interview Karen and that I’m able to share her answers here at The Hiding Spot. Please take the time to read my review of Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy as well… I’ve done my best to capture how absolutely wonderful this novel is and I can only hope I’ve done it justice! A big thank you to Karen Foxlee for taking the time to answer my questions!

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karen foxlee

Karen Foxlee is an Australian writer. She is the author of two young adult novels: “The Anatomy of Wings” and “The Midnight Dress”. Her first middle grade novel “Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy” is to be published in January, 2014. She lives and writes in Queensland, Australia.

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OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY is your first MG novel, as your first two published novels were YA. Did you set out to write a MG novel or did Ophelia’s story simply feel right as MG?

OPHELIA was written during a break from writing my second YA novel THE MIDNIGHT DRESS.  I was struggling with that one and just wanted to go away and have some fun.  I started with the small idea of a boy locked away in a museum room and it grew from there.  In the beginning I wasn’t sure at all what age group it was for.  I was only really interested in finding out why the boy was there and what his story was – solving the puzzle of the story for myself. Many drafts later, Ophelia arrived, and all the pieces started falling into place.   I guess somewhere around then I started to have the first inklings that it was a children’s book.

I adored Ophelia’s exploratory trips through the museum because we were treated to descriptions of the various rooms and curiosities. Did you base Ophelia’s museum on real-life museum trips or is the museum (and its curiosities) entirely from your imagination?

I’ve always loved museums and the older the better.  I went to the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia once.  It’s vast and a bit run down and the little old guards watch you like hawks (and sometimes knit).  So there is a little of the Hermitage in my museum.  Most of it is from my imagination though and mixture of different places I have been.  Oh, I loved thinking about that museum! I love making characters but I’ve never grown up a huge building!  That’s how it felt.  I gradually got to know that museum in my mind and through my writing; all its twists and turns and staircases and elevators and glittering galleries and murky corridors.  I loved thinking about the exhibits too.  Nearly all of those strange collections are things that I’ve loved, or read about, or wondered about, or seen.

Did you have trouble writing any of your characters or specific scenes within the novel? Or, were any characters or scenes particularly easy to write?

I always felt very comfortable slipping into the boy’s voice when he tells his story.  And when Ophelia appeared in later drafts to find the boy, well, I just knew everything was going to be okay.  She took over from there.  I loved her immediately.  The hardest scenes were the ones between Ophelia and her mother. The sad parts.  I would get very emotional and have to go and lie down and have a good cry.

Has the title changed or stayed relatively the same as your novel journeyed towards publication?

ophelia and the marvelous boyThe title wasn’t there from the beginning because Ophelia wasn’t there from the beginning.  As soon as she arrived I chose that name.  I worried about if it was too simple but now it feels like there could never ever have been another title.

What book or author has most influenced you as a writer or in general?

Wow.  So many, too many, each in different ways.  Fairy-tales as a child introduced me to the emotional punch of literature, to magic, to story-telling.   I loved the adventure stories of my childhood.  THE FAMOUS FIVE (Enid Blyton)!  Kids running around the country side solving mysteries.  What could be more exciting?  The big journey stories of Baum’s THE WIZARD OF OZ– the excitement of turning those pages.  Too many grown-up books to name.  But in particular I remember reading Arundhati Roy’s THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS and thinking: imagine being able to create something so perfect and so beautiful!  After reading that book I decided I wanted to keep trying and trying to learn how to write the best books I could.

What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a writer/published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing?

I have always worked as a registered nurse since I was eighteen years old and still do today.  Nursing made me the person I am so I guess in that way it has shaped my writing.  I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many amazing people through nursing and hearing and witnessing so many wonderful stories.  The stories of people’s lives I mean.  Everyone has a story.

If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?

The first that springs to mind is Chandelier.  I’ve always had a thing for that word! It is just so lovely to look at and sounds exactly like the object I see in my mind, a glittering waterfall of glass and light.

My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?

I am an experienced day-dreamer.  I schedule day-dreams into my writing day.  I day dream about my characters and my stories, about myself, about the future, about the past.  I’d say that is where I escape and let go.  My stories are born out of those day-dreams.

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More about OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY

My Review / Add to Goodreads

Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard, her sister, Alice, and their father, the world’s leading expert on swords, leave home for a foreign city where it always snows. Ophelia’s father has been hired to curate a museum exhibit and, while exploring the museum, a confusing, drafty place full of curiosities, Ophelia discovers an abandoned room. Within the room is a small door. On the other side of the door, is a boy. As you might expect, this is no ordinary boy, but a Marvelous Boy, the prisoner of the sinister Snow Queen. The Queen has kept him prisoner for near 300 years and he’s been waiting for Ophelia. Only she can help him defeat the Queen… and time is running out. Scientifically-minded Ophelia must look within herself – and to the memory of mother – to find the magic she holds within herself. A gorgeous retelling of The Snow Queen and an unforgettable story about friendship, love, and grief, OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY is sure to be loved by readers of all ages.

— Excerpt from The Hiding Spot review

Review: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

ophelia and the marvelous boyTitle: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

Author: Karen Foxlee

Publisher: Random House

Pub. Date: January 28, 2014

Genre: Middle Grade

Rec. Age Level: 8-12

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Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard, her sister, Alice, and their father, the world’s leading expert on swords, leave home for a foreign city where it always snows. Ophelia’s father has been hired to curate a museum exhibit and, while exploring the museum, a confusing, drafty place full of curiosities, Ophelia discovers an abandoned room. Within the room is a small door. On the other side of the door, is a boy. As you might expect, this is no ordinary boy, but a Marvelous Boy, the prisoner of the sinister Snow Queen. The Queen has kept him prisoner for near 300 years and he’s been waiting for Ophelia. Only she can help him defeat the Queen… and time is running out. Scientifically-minded Ophelia must look within herself – and to the memory of mother – to find the magic she holds within herself. A gorgeous retelling of The Snow Queen and an unforgettable story about friendship, love, and grief, OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY is sure to be loved by readers of all ages.

Ophelia has much to overcome in her journey to defeat the Snow Queen. Not only must she brave Misery birds, ghosts, a cold museum director, and other sinister and fantastical beasts, she has to overcome the grief of the recent loss of her mother and her own leaning towards empirical truths. Ophelia’s mother, even in death, has a lasting impact on Ophelia and her struggle to find magic and hope in the cold world of the Snow Queen. When she doubts herself or the Marvelous Boy, Ophelia looks to memories of her mother, a writer who was always ready to believe in fantastical and everyday magic. And, in time, she looks within herself, where she finds her mother is always present.

I adored the setting of OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY. Foxlee’s words paint an amazingly detailed world full of wonder and, of course, magic. Not much is known about the city, except that it’s always snowing there, but I couldn’t help but imagine the museum was in a large Russian city. There are gorgeous black and white illustrations within the book by Yoko Tanaka that beautifully complement the text, giving readers a visual treat in addition to Foxlee’s lyrical descriptions.

I urge you to read OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY, regardless of your age. Its magic will transport you, leaving you satisfied even as you mourn leaving Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy behind.

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Don’t miss my interview with OPHELIA author, Karen Foxlee, here!