Cynthia’s Attic: Christmas with Daisy, an Echelon Short by Mary Cunningham

It’s not too late to pick up a fun, short Christmas read with “Cynthia’s Attic: Christmas with Daisy” by Mary Cunningham.

It’s Christmas, 1964, and a reclusive aunt nicknamed “Crazy Daisy” is spending the holidays with Cynthia’s family. But is she really crazy? Gus and Cynthia are determined to find out, but are unexpectedly transported back to 1914, where they learn a quick lesson on the dangers of jumping to conclusions, and where compassion and friendship give new meaning to the spirit of Christmas.

Having recently finished, The Magician’s Castle, Book 4 in the Cynthia’s Attic series by Mary Cunningham, I was eager to read this short story download from Echelon, which I won during the author’s virtual book tour. 

As delightful as the series, we follow the girls on their latest time-traveling adventure, learning more about them and their family as we go along. Cunningham has added a new aspect to this book by having the girls sent back in time without the assistance of the magic trunk in Cynthia’s attic, so it will be interesting to see what the author plans for future books in the series.

A fun and inspiring story of the season, your tween will enjoy “Christmas with Daisy”.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher: Echelon Press
  • ISBN: 1-59080-711-1
  • PDF or HTML-Web formats
  • Price: $2.50

  • Bookmark & Share


Cynthia’s Attic: Book 4, The Magician’s Castle by Mary Cunningham

 Cynthia and Gus return in Book 4 of the Cynthia’s Attic series, The Magician’s CastleThe time-traveling duo return to the year 1914, this time to a Swiss Castle, in order to prevent Cynthia’s family from financial and personal ruin.

Sebastien the Great, a magician whose fiancee, Kathyrn, disappeared through the magic trunk vows revenge if Cynthia and Gus don’t find the missing page from the “Book of Spells”. Traveling back in time to 1914 to meet with Sebastien’s grandmother, Eva, Cynthia and Gus find clues that lead them to an enchanted garden ruled by a rock monster and into the Alps.

But when the girls travel fifty years into the future, not only do they get the surprise of their young lives, they also encounter another set of best friends, and discover new clues that could lead to Kathyrn’s return.

There is much to enjoy in this imaginative and delightful time-traveling tale. Gus (real name Augusta Lee) and Cynthia are two best friends who couldn’t be more different if they tried; yet their friendship works, even when they get on one another’s nerves from time to time. This book opens in 1964, and many of the historical references were familiar to me, so that made it especially fun. 

With The Magician’s Castle, Cunningham has created a uniquely woven tale of lost love, jealousy, mystery, and strange discoveries. Though this is the first book of this series that I’ve read, I was certainly able to climb into Gus and Cynthia’s world right away. Cunningham sprinkled in enough backstory so that I had a some idea of how Gus and Cynthia had discovered the magic trunk in Cynthia’s attic and learned a bit of their previous adventures, while not slowing down the pace of the current day events. 

Once the reader opens the cover of The Magician’s Castleshe won’t want to put it down until she reads the final page.  With numerous twists and turns, this is one time-traveling adventure that is sure to please readers and find them impatiently waiting for the next Gus and Cynthia adventure.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher: Echelon Press/Quake
  • ISBN-10: 1590806565
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590806562
  • SRP:  $10.99
  • Find our interview with Mary Cunningham, author of the Cynthia’s Attic series, here.

    Bookmark & Share

    Give the Gift of Reading this Holiday Season

    Over at The Book Connection I listed some of my favorites of all the books I’ve reviewed so far this year. Today I would like to share my favorites in children’s literature for 2009. Each section is not listed in any particular order.

    These books are available at

    Top 10 Picture Books

    Tony & The Pizza Champions by Tony Gemignani

    Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully by Julianne Moore

    Rita and Whatsit by Jean-Philippe Arrou-Vignod

    Wenda the Wacky Wiggler by Christopher Aslan

    The Puzzle King by Nina Cordelia Craft

    Stubby’s Destiny by Dixie Phillips

    One Noble Journey by Dixie Phillips

    Colonel Trash Truck by Kathleen Crawley

    Jordan’s Guest by Davy Liu

    Top 5 Chapter Books

    Katie and Kimble: A Ghost Story by Linda Theiman

    Katie and Kimble: The Magic Wish by Linda Theiman

    Horse Crazy by Alison Lester

    Ivy & Bean: Doomed to Dance by Annie Barrows

    Wright on Time: Arizona, Book 1 by Lisa Cottrell-Bentley

    Top 5 Middle-Grade Books

    The Junior Geography Detective Squad: State of Quarries by Elysabeth Eldering

    Double Dare Clare by Yvonne Prinz

    The Crypto Capers: The Legend of the Gold Monkey by Renee Hand

    The Horrible Huckleberry Hex by Alani M’echel Weathers

    The Secret of the Sacred Scarab by Fiona Ingram


    Top 4 Young Adult Books

    Across the Pond by Storyheart

    Slob by Ellen Potter

    Just Breeze by Beverly Stowe McClure

    It’s Not about Me by Michelle Sutton

    Bookmark & Share

    Interview with Mary Cunningham, Author of the Cynthia’s Attic Series

    Joining us today is Mary Cunningham. Mary is the author of the Cynthia’s Attic series, a set of fantasy/mystery time travel books for tweens. Book 4 in this series, The Magician’s Castle was recently released by Echelon Press. We’ll talk to Mary about this series, the challenges of writing for tweens, and what the future holds. 

    Welcome to The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection, Mary. We’re thrilled to have you with us. Can you start off by telling our readers a bit about yourself? 

    So happy to be here, Cheryl! Here’s sort of a Reader’s Digest.

    I’m the author of the award-winning ‘tween fantasy/mystery series, “Cynthia’s Attic,” and am proud to announce the release of book four, The Magician’s Castle, DEC 1. 

     I’m also co-writer of the fabulously funny (No! Seriously, it really is) women’s lifestyle book titled, Woof: Women Only Over Fifty, and am especially proud of my newly  published short story, “Ghost Light” and my first “Cynthia’s Attic” short story, “Christmas Daisy”.

    I’m a member of The Georgia Reading Association, and the Carrollton Creative Writers Club (A crazy-good bunch of writers!). When I give my fingers a day away from the keyboard, I enjoy golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where I make my home with my husband.

    How long have you been writing and what is it that made you put pen to paper? 

    I guess I inherited the desire to write from my dad. He was a journalist for over 40 years and my inspiration. In fact, I’d go with him, on occasion, when he interviewed an interesting character for a story. Wish he’d been around to see the books! 

    From the time I was in 3rd grade, I was told to never stop writing.  And, sure enough…40 years later, my first book was published! I have written all my life, but never considered writing fiction until I got the idea for “Cynthia’s Attic.” The first story was prompted by a recurring dream I’d had for over 20 years about playing in a mysterious attic. Once I realized that the attic was in the home of my childhood best friend, Cynthia, the dreams stopped and the writing began. 

    What about writing for the tween market is appealing to you? 

    I guess the best answer is that this age group is so open and honest. I do writing and idea presentations at elementary schools and I find the students to be so enthusiastic, not only about reading, but also about writing. I love the questions and the excitement on their faces when they describe a particular scene in one of the “Cynthia’s Attic” books. If I can inspire even one student to write, then I’ve done my job. 

    What is the greatest challenge of writing for this market? 

    Being on your toes! If you’re not completely factual, then this group will catch you. 

    Tell us about the Cynthia’s Attic series.  

    Disappearing stairs and a spooky attic filled with dusty antiques–what more could two adventurous young girls ask for?  Best friends, Cynthia and ‘Gus’ are as “different as bubble gum and broccoli”. They discover a magical trunk in Cynthia’s attic, and are swept through the trunk back in time, into the lives of their ancestors, including their twelve-year-old grandmothers. So far, there are four books in the series, The Missing Locket, The Magic Medallion, Curse of the Bayou and The Magician’s Castle. 

    Did you plan this as a series from the very beginning?  

    Not at all! It began as a simple, 5-page memoir about playing in Cynthia’s attic. That didn’t satisfy my muse. So I started writing a fantasy/time travel story that turned into a 160 page book that led to the second book. Each story ended with a cliff-hanger leading to another Cynthia-Gus adventure. 

    Can you talk briefly about the first three books in this series and Cynthia and Gus’s adventures? 

    Each story is loosely based on family stories and ancestors. In The Missing Locket, Cynthia and Gus travel back to 1914 and are compelled to help find a missing heirloom, a gold locket. During their search, they meet their 12-year-old grandmothers who are also best friends! An unexpected trip across the Atlantic Ocean brings danger and friendship with a young ghost. 

    The Magic Medallion finds the girls in the middle of a family’s battle for a precious magic medallion. They journey to a circus where they are forced to perform with the clown troupe, get caught in the swirling waters of an underground river and then a forest fire! 

    Our time-traveling duo find immediate danger in the Louisiana Bayou. They’ve traveled back to 1914 in Curse of the Bayou searching for Cynthia’s great-grandfather who disappeared while taking a boat load of produce down the Mississippi River. Pirates, shape-shifting puma, an old Cajun guide named Mudbug and a hungry alligator keep them on the move. 

    What is it about Cynthia and Gus that readers will like and relate to?

    Great question! Since the characters are based on me (Gus) and my real childhood friend, Cynthia, I’d love readers to embrace the loyalty and unquestioned friendship between the two girls. Although they argue from time-to-time, they always have the other’s back. Older readers will also enjoy the different time periods detailed in the books.   

    In Book 4, The Magician’s Castle, a magician whose fiancée has disappeared through the magic trunk is seeking revenge against Cynthia’s family. What year are we in during this book and where is it set? 

    Cynthia and Gus travel back to a 1914 Swiss castle searching for clues to the Kathryn’s disappearance, then move unexpectedly forward to Southern Indiana in 2014, where they get the surprise of their lives when they meet another pair of best friends. 

    In addition to Cynthia and Gus, there is a long list of characters featured in the front of the book. Do you have a favorite character(s) from this book? 

    I have favorite characters in all four books, but in The Magician’s Castle, I guess my favorite character is Molly. When I began writing the fourth book, Molly, my 16-year-old adopted mix doggie was a huge part of my life. Halfway through, I lost her to old age. During my grieving process, a friend suggested I write her into the book. What a great idea! She plays such a significant role, in helping Cynthia and Gus discover clues, that I can’t imagine the story without her, and am satisfied that I’ve honored her memory for years to come.    

    Where can readers purchase a copy of The Magician’s Castle and the other books in this series? 

    The books are available in paper back on Amazon and just about any online bookstore. They’re also available as downloads on Kindle and through Fictionwise. 




    Quake/Echelon Press  

    Do you have website and/or blog where readers can find out more? 

    Mary Cunningham Books and Cynthia’s Attic Blog. 

    What does the future look like for Cynthia’s Attic? Any news you would like to share with fans of Cynthia and Gus? 

    Although I’ve written another cliffhanger at the end of Book Four, I haven’t decided on a storyline or even who the main characters are going to be! Stay tuned. 

    Is there anything else you would like to add? 

    I’m excited about a Cynthia’s Attic short story that’s coming out at the same time as The Magician’s Castle, titled, “Christmas With Daisy.” All buy links for short stories and books can be found on my website

    Thanks, so much, for having me as a guest author. I’ve enjoyed the interview and hope readers of all ages will want to discover the time-travel adventures of Cynthia and Gus. 

    Thank you for spending time with us today, Mary. We wish you continued success.

    Bookmark & Share

    Faith and Fiction in Children’s Literature by Dixie Phillips (Guest post & Giveaway)

    Today’s guest blogger is Dixie Phillips. She is on a virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion to discuss one of her newest releases, One Noble JourneyMake sure you read to the end of this post to find out how you can win a copy of One Noble Journey.

    My husband and I have been in fulltime ministry for nearly thirty years. We have discovered even on the best days – life can be difficult. Parents are weary of hearing bad news and long to escape the pressures from the daily grind. They fear for their children’s future and crave an infusion of hope. An inspirational book has the power to transform the mundane into paradise and become an important building block in their child’s faith.

    In 1988, our church started a Christian school. As we began training the students, we understood in order for them to experience optimal spiritual health they needed appetizing “soul food.” Force feedings were never beneficial. We realized rigid rules without a healthy relationship would breed rebellion in a child. They needed to laugh often and be loved unconditionally. Blending faith and fiction in children’s literature is another way we can pass our beliefs along to our children. The characters of a story can be chiseled on the heart and conscience of a child; shaping their small souls and causing them to embrace timeless truths from God’s Word.

    Every day children are bombarded with conflicting messages and destructive images. Parents cannot afford to be silent, but must be proactive and provide positive character-building literature, which will nourish the child’s spirit and help replenish relationships, encourage significant conversation, and foster a vibrant faith in the heart of the child.   

    I believe the seeds of influence from my children’s books – Angel Eyes, Stubby’s Destiny, One Noble Journey, Baby Jesus is Missing, and the children’s books I write in the future, will live longer than I do, produce a harvest of wisdom and help ignite a blazing faith in the hearts of children, which will change a generation and time my eyes may never see. 

    Dixie Phillips began writing seasonal plays for children in 1987. These delightful programs have been published by Abingdon Press, Standard Publishing, Eldridge Publishing, Evangelizing Today’s Child and Gospel Publishing House. One of Dixie’s children’s books, Stubby’s Destiny, was awarded the 2008 Best Children’s Animal Story by Books and Authors. Guardian Angel Publishing has released Angel Eyes, One Noble Journey and Baby Jesus is Missing. Cinderfella and the Furry Godmother and Stilts the Stork will be released in 2010.

    Dixie also has a passion for writing God’s truths for adults. She has contributed to an award-winning devotional book and has ghostwritten books on marriage, health, poetry and personal testimonies. She is currently a topical curriculum writer for Randall House. Dixie is a pastor’s wife of more than 30 years. She and her husband, Paul, have four grown children and have served the Gospel Lighthouse Church in Floyd, Iowa, for 28 years.

    You can learn more about Dixie’s books and the Phillips’ ministry by visiting

    To see where Dixie stops next on her virtual book tour, visit every weekday in December between now and December 16th.



    1) Comment here with your working email address so that we can contact you if you win.

    2) Get one additional entry for blogging about this contest. Leave a comment here telling us where you blogged about it.

    3) Get two additional entries for tweeting about this contest. Don’t forget to let us know here that you tweeted!

    This giveaway will run from today until 11:59 p.m. (Eastern) on December 31st. A winner will be announced in early January.

    This contest is open to residents of the United States and Canada only.

    Bookmark & Share

    It’s Not about Me by Michelle Sutton

    Note: This is the first book I have reviewed here that is aimed toward an older teen audience. As such, the content of this book is of a more mature level than what has been previously discussed at this blog.

    Annie has a charmed life: she’s beautiful, graduated from high school with honors, has been accepted at the college of her choice, is surrounded by family and friends who love and support her, and has a handsome steady boyfriend. 

    But one night, her perfect life is shattered and everything changes so quickly she’s not sure which way to turn.  Caught between her boyfriend and his brother, both of whom claim to love her, Annie is torn as to who she should choose to be with while trying to heal from the event that altered her once easy life.

    Will she choose Tony or Dan? And will she finally truly come to know the One whose love will never fail, even in her darkest hour?

    What a powerful and moving debut from young adult author Michelle Sutton.  Dealing with such topics as false Christians, pornography, peer pressure, alcohol abuse, and pressure to engage in sexual activities, It’s Not about Me meets teen readers right where they are, tackling issues that they come up against on a regular basis.

    This first book in Sutton’s  A Second Glances Series, gets readers thinking, “What would I do in this situation?”  This book’s strength definitely resides in its well-developed, strong, often complex characters whose personal battles and desire to do God’s will is as challenging as understanding the world around them.  And while admittedly faith plays a significant role in this book, I wouldn’t say that the reader would need to be a Christian in order to enjoy reading It’s Not about Me.  Most of the issues the characters are dealing with affect all teens, regardless of belief system.

    The second book of this series, It’s Not about Him is also available.  I look forward to reading that one soon.

    With It’s Not about Me, Sutton delivers an edgy and entertaining story that young adults will devour with zest.

    Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Publisher: Sheaf House Publishers 
    • ISBN-10: 0979748518
    • ISBN-13: 978-0979748516
    • SRP:  $12.99

    Bookmark & Share