Monday, 10 April 2017

Yellow-billed Magpie by Nancy Schoellkopf + Giveaway

Yellow-billed Magpie by Nancy Schoellkopf
Published by Butterfly Tree Publishing in September 2015.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Received a review copy via iRead Book Tours
(See the other stops on the tour)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unlike their black-billed cousins, yellow-billed magpies are rarely found outside California’s central valley. So when they begin showing up in Samantha O’Malley’s dreams, she wonders: are they calling me home?
Disappointed by failed fertility treatments and the break-up of her marriage, Samantha returns to her home town and slips into old habits, resuming her teaching career, even hooking up with an old lover. But she also renews her friendship with Craig, the school custodian she honors as her spiritual guide. The work they do together with Samantha’s special education students will lead her to discoveries she never thought possible.
Yellow-billed Magpie is a love story, a spiritual journey, a quest to look beyond appearances to the mystical rhythms that guide the human heart.

I am delighted to be taking part in my first iRead Book Tours during April. The Nancy Schoellkopf tour is actually for her second Easter Family novel, Red-tailed Hawk, and you can enter a giveaway for that book below. However, as I hadn't read the first instalment, I was kindly supplied with copies of both!

Yellow-billed Magpie is very different to my usual reading fare in its style so I was interested to discover the world that Schoellkopf creates for her characters. The story has strong spiritual elements and I was particularly taken with the repeated dream sequence motif in which Samantha envisages herself as various animals. Although brief, these scenes are beautifully vivid.

When awake, Samantha's life is dominated by her attempts to understand her place and role in life, and to establish a loving and rewarding romantic relationship. Initially we see her leaving her materialistic marriage and returning to much of her pre-married life by buying a house in her old town and restarting her employment as a special needs teacher. I liked the exploration of questions raised by her decision. Is this a backward step to the ease of familiarity or the completion of a circle to where Samantha can be strong again? We are witnesses to much of Samantha's inner voice and her perpetual questioning does slow the novel's pace which might frustrate some readers, but at the same time this insight gives a deeper, thoughtful layer to the story.

Samantha does have serious self-esteem issues and I was disappointed that she needs so much male validation in order to appreciate her talents. Despite being a teacher herself, she reverts to pupil status when interacting with the significant men in her life. I also felt the men sometimes leant towards being caricatures, illustrative of certain types, rather than being fully-evoked in every sense. Craig in particular irritated me immensely as, despite his apparent spiritual advancement, he is very patronising! Yellow-billed Magpie did appeal to me on a deeper level than I expected from its synopsis and encouraged me to think about which elements of my life are especially important. I am now looking forward to revisiting the Easter Family in its sequel, Red-tailed Hawk.

Nancy Schoellkopf is the author of Yellow-billed Magpie, the first in her Easter Family series. Nancy has been telling stories and writing poems for many lifetimes. It goes without saying that she'd need a second income, so this time around she has happily taught amazing children in special education classes in two urban school districts in Sacramento, California. A full time writer now, she enjoys lavishing attention on her cats, her garden, and her intriguing circle of family and friends.

Connect with Nancy via her website, Twitter and Facebook

And now it's giveaway time!
Win one of three signed copies of Red-tailed Hawk, plus one winner will also get a $20 Amazon gift card. There will be 3 winners in total and the giveaway is open until the 6th of May (Sorry, it's USA & Canada entrants only)

Here's the giveaway widget:

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Good luck!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Nancy Schoellkopf / Women's fiction / Books from America


  1. Thank you for your thoughtful review!

    1. You are very welcome! I am looking forward to reading Red-tailed Hawk :-)