Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Flower Bowl Spell blog tour: excerpt and review

The Flower Bowl Spell 
by Olivia Boler 
Genre: Paranormal

Blurb: Journalist Memphis Zhang isn’t ashamed of her Wiccan upbringing—in fact, she’s proud to be one of a few Chinese American witches in San Francisco, and maybe the world. Unlike the well-meaning but basically powerless Wiccans in her disbanded coven, Memphis can see fairies, read auras, and cast spells that actually work—even though she concocts them with ingredients like Nutella and antiperspirant. Yet after a friend she tries to protect is brutally killed, Memphis, full of guilt, abandons magick to lead a “normal” life. 

The appearance, however, of her dead friend’s attractive rock star brother—as well as a fairy in a subway tunnel—suggest that magick is not done with her. Reluctantly, Memphis finds herself dragged back into the world of urban magick, trying to stop a power-hungry witch from using the dangerous Flower Bowl Spell and killing the people Memphis loves—and maybe even Memphis herself. 

An excerpt from THE FLOWER BOWL SPELL:
I wake from a light doze, no more than ten minutes. Outside, the sun has barely shifted. Cooper lies by my side watching me, a smile on his lips, his eyes a little confused with love.
“Time for the sunset now?” I yawn.
“Yes, by all means. The sunset.”
He rolls to the edge of our bed and I watch him walk out the door to the bathroom. I hear him turn on the shower and start to mumble-sing “TorĂ©ador” from Carmen, his favorite shower song.
Cooper knows about my Wiccan upbringing and refers to me and Auntie Tess as the Asian Pagan Invasion. I’ve even shared tales of some of the more far-out stuff, like the green glow that would suddenly emanate from candles when our former coven would chant around a pentacle circle. But we don’t talk about fairies. Or inanimate objects coming to life. I tried to once, and he told me I had a very active imagination as a child, a sure sign of greatness of mind. Who am I to argue?
Besides, I knew he’d say something like that. Cooper is supportive and easy to read. It’s why I chose him. But he’s not able to handle the fact that my imagination only gets me so far. For reasons I don’t even understand, I can see and do things other witches can’t, things you read about in fairy tales. Only two others know about me. One is Auntie Tess, yet we never talk about it. Something stops me from sharing too much, and something stops her from asking. The other person—well, we haven’t spoken in a long, long time.
I study the ceiling, my old friend. There’s a crack that’s been there forever, before I moved into this place. I’ve never liked the ceiling light fixture and pretty much ignore it, even though each time I pass a lamp store I study the possibilities. Cooper tells me to wait until we buy a place of our own. But I doubt we’ll ever leave this apartment. Still, that lamp with its 1950s design of starbursts and boomerang angles just does not fit with the Edwardian crown molding and—
Something behind it moves.
My breath catches. I blink. What could it be? A mouse? A giant spider? Something small. Something that darts. With wings.
A face peeks over the rim of the lamp. As I sit up it ducks away, disappearing from my view. I feel something, almost like a raindrop, hit my belly, and I jump low into a crouch. Slowly I stand up on the bed, trying to balance on the lumpy old mattress. I reach for the lamp. I’m too short.
“Did you just spit on me?” I holler. “What do you want?” And where, I wonder, have you been?
Footfalls pound down the hall. Cooper stands in the doorway of our room, dripping wet and naked. He looks me up and down. The shower is still running.
“Why are you yelling? What’s wrong?” he asks.
“Nothing. There’s something there.”


I point. “The light. The lamp.”
For a second, I don’t think he’s heard me. He continues to stare at me like maybe this is the moment where he sees the truth about me and it all ends between us. It’s only a fraction of a second and then he steps onto the bed—he’s a good foot taller than I—and unscrews the knob that holds the shade in place. Carefully, he removes it before peering inside. He raises his eyes to me.
“You’re right. There’s something here.”
I open my mouth but don’t say what I’m thinking: Are you magickal after all? He pauses, making sure I’m ready. I nod. He holds the shade toward me like—I can’t help thinking with a wee shiver—it’s a sacrifice.
Inside are bits of asbestos. Dead flies. Lots and lots of dust.
“Oh,” I say. “Oh.”
“Confess.” He wipes the dripping water from his wet hair out of his eyes. “You just wanted me to pull the ugly lampshade down. Am I right?”
I look up at the glaringly bright lightbulbs in their sockets. There’s a hole next to them—a swallow could fit through it, or something of that ilk.
“Yeah, big C,” I say. “You caught me.”
“You are a piece of work, Memphis Zhang.”
“You mean a control freak.”
Comme tu veux.”
Cooper goes back to the bathroom. He turns off the shower and I hear him toweling off. I stretch out on the bed and study my bod. The spot where I felt something drip on my skin is dry, clean as a whistle. Cooper comes back into our room and starts to dress.
“What did you think was there, anyway?” he asks.
I raise my hands in a helpless shrug. “A squirrel?”
He snorts. “A squirrel.”
“Yeah, you’re right. That’s crazy talk. It was probably a fairy.”
“Or the ghost of Columbus.”
“Ha ha.”
Yet, I know it was a fairy because he smiled at me.

Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes/iBookstore | Smashwords | Kobobooks

About the author: Olivia Boler is the author of two novels, YEAR OF THE SMOKE GIRL and THE FLOWER BOWL SPELL. Poet Gary Snyder described SMOKE GIRL as a "dense weave in the cross-cultural multi-racial world of complex, educated hip contemporary coast-to-coast America...It is a fine first novel, rich in paradox and detail."

A freelance writer who received her master's degree in creative writing from UC Davis, Boler has published short stories in the Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWAA) anthology Cheers to Muses, the literary journal MARY, and The Lyon Review, among others. She lives in San Francisco with her family. To find out about her latest work, visit her website.

Author links: Website | Facebook | Twitter  

I'm happy to be a book blogger. There are so many books to read and authors to learn about and meet. And there are also the reading experiences I have. Some books catch me off guard. I may base an opinion by its cover or blurb but once I dig into the story, I change my mind. The Flower Bowl Spell is such a title. This book is a gem--one of those 'special' books I find by participating in book tours. I wasn't crazy about the cover but the blurb totally piqued my curiosity. 

Author Olivia Boler captured my attention from the opening page with main character Memphis Zhang's voice. Part snark/part humorous and a way bit over her head, Memphis (got to lovvvvve her name) grows on the reader until she feels like a good friend. Her world is like ours, contemporary, except for the flying fairies, ducks that knit, and demons that send greetings while posing as video game characters.

Memphis' magical world is refreshingly offbeat and zany and honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way. I never knew what to expect page to page: the funky characters (a preacher named Jesus Christ), the situations (a cat with a bomb), the changing sets (CA towns), this story is a fun trip of a read. There is a wide cast of characters and I never needed a scorecard to remember who's who. Memphis was raised a Wiccan but stopped practicing until recently. Fairies in the subway and in her apartment made her change her mind (they would make me change mine too). She's a music writer and after her piece on a rising rock band is printed, she's asked to tag along with the band on tour as their biographer. Before her trek, an old Wiccan friend literally drops her two young daughters off at her doorstep, and leaves.

Job, babysitter, lapsed Wiccan--Memphis has her work cut out for her. But things get really weird in the world of magick when witch friends turn up dead, Memphis has no choice but to begin practicing again. As she tries to figure out what's happening, her steady relationship with live-in boyfriend Cooper is tested by singer Ty, her childhood best friend's older brother. She feels a charge when he touches her and then, when he kisses her.... Well, I guess you'll have to jump into Memphis' book to find out what happens with Ty, Cooper, those fairies and everything else.

The story moves along at a steady pace and Boler's writing has a nice style to it. Memphis has a unique viewpoint and her choice of words made her even more interesting. The world of magic and witches, though the genre and characteristics have been overdone, the author infuses enough of her creativity and imagery to stamp her own unforgettable mark in the paranormal market.

With her Buffy-esque snark, Wiccan spells and magical mysteries to solve, Memphis is a contemporary Tabitha from Bewitched. The Flower Bowl Spell will bewitch and entice fantasy and paranormal fans. Highly recommended.

Rating: 4 **** Really enjoyed this.

Cover comment: Please, get a new cover for this! Try to capture some of the magic found inside the book on the outside and then I bet fans will flock to this. I'd love to catch a side glimpse of Memphis' face with some of the quirky characters and items from her story in the background.

Book source: I received a promotional ebook copy of this novel from the author for my honest review to be posted during a book tour.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for the ebullient (I'm trying to expand my adjective bank) review! I love that you love the book. As for the cover, here's the story: I'd asked my cover designer (who is herself a student) if it was possible to find a cool picture of a girl, but she was working for, ahem, peanuts practically, and couldn't come up with one we could afford. Thus, the magickal lotus blossom design, which I love. But definitely will be on the lookout for other ideas for the sequel and YA prequel. Thanks again!