Saturday, June 1, 2013

Book Review: Stirring Up Trouble by Juli Alexander

Stirring Up Trouble Cover YA paranormal chick lit with witches and magic potions

Stirring Up Trouble by Juli Alexander

Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: January 17, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Pages: 186 pages
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By:Kate McMurry

Fifteen-year-old Zoe and her mother are witches living in Knoxville, Tennessee. They are descended from a lineage of alchemists who were granted the gift of making magical potions from the ancient Greek god, Zeus. Unlike her mother and grandmother, who have no particular talent or interest in making potions, Zoe is a potions prodigy. Not only can she concoct classic, time-tested potions, but she experiments and develops new twists. Her magnum opus is devising multiple, viable substitutions for toad slime, a crucial-but-disgusting ingredient in thousands of potions.

Magical potions can do almost anything imaginable, including making someone rich, slender, recover from serious illness--or turn into a lovesick fool. There's one big catch, though: witches have to use their magic selflessly for others. If they employ it for their own personal benefit, there is a dangerous price to pay. The witch sprouts facial deformities commensurate in their eyesore quotient with the size of the witch's ill-gotten gains, and her health also suffers. In short, any witch foolhardy enough to continue long term with self-serving magic will eventually end up as an abysmally ugly corpse. Fortunately, there is an escape hatch from these terrible consequences. A witch who does a potion for herself can make restitution by performing good deeds.

Zoe's father is a brilliant, nuclear physicist and non-witch who doesn't believe entirely in magic, but over the years he has enthusiastically aided Zoe with her potion experiments, with the same tight protocols he utilizes for his own research at work. But her dear, dependable dad blew up their family, and his relationship with Zoe, a year ago when he dumped her mother for another woman. Not long ago her father's girlfriend dumped Dad as well. But instead of coming back to Mom, he has started dating someone else. And to Zoe's horror, it's someone she knows--the mother of one of her tenth-grade classmates, Jake.

Zoe has been secretly in love with Jake for years, to no avail, because until very recently, he was her best friend Anya's boyfriend. Suddenly, Anya drops Jake for another boy, but before Zoe has a chance to date Jake herself, the craziness of their parents' romance gets in the way.

Zoe is an extremely sympathetic heroine. I loved the way she uses her magic for others and her goals for her future life as a witch.

This is a terrific, paranormal, chick lit novel, with a fun romance between Zoe and Jake.

This isn't a comedy that merely offers an occasional smile to the reader. In fact, there are frequent laugh-out-loud moments generated by the need for Zoe and her mother, and later their visiting witch friends, to keep their magic secret from non-magical friends. The climax occurring on Halloween is wonderful, with tons of comic, magical mayhem.

All the threads of this story are tied up in a satisfying way at the end, but there is a strong setup for a sequel, and I for one cannot wait to read it.

This book is a "clean read," appropriate for readers as young as 11 or 12, but it is a clever enough story that all ages will enjoy it.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 5

Subcharacters: 5

Chick Lit Plot: 5

Romance Plot: 5

Writing: 5

Overall: 5

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