Today I’m going to introduce you to the first book in the Wonderland Academy series by Melanie Karsak. We have some goodies that you might expect – a giveaway and an excerpt – but also something a little more original – a recipe from the book! But before we get to those: here’s a little bit about the novel.
Themes and genres: YA Fantasy, retelling, fairytale, magic
Welcome to Wonderland Academy. Don’t lose your head.
Getting into Wonderland Academy is easy:
You must be a little mad.
You must follow the white rabbit.
You must find the key to enter Wonderland.
You must not be named Alice or risk being beheaded by order of the Queen of Hearts.
We might have an issue with that last one.
My name may be Alice, but Wonderland Academy is everything my real life isn’t. Who wouldn’t want to learn how to ride a jabberwocky, train with a vorpal sword, cast spells using a teacup, or shapeshift into a fairy? As long as no one figures out my real name, I should be fine.
The only problem? Aden, the Queen of Hearts’ son, is quickly becoming my best friend. And then there’s Corbin. Brooding, surly, tattooed, and definitely not my type, I can’t stop thinking about him. But Corbin has secrets of his own, and Wonderland and secrets don’t mix.
How I’m going to pass my classes and protect my secret like my life depends on it is beyond me. But I better find a way. Because in Wonderland, no Alice is safe.
Wonderland Academy re-imagines the fantastical world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland for a fresh, new adventure. Combining whimsy, magic, and a splash of steampunk, New York Times best-selling author Melanie Karsak invites you into this beautifully re-envisioned fairy tale adventure.
Trigger Warning: This novel includes references to a school shooting.
Setting my bag in a chair by the window, I pulled on my coat. It was pouring. Drops rolled down the windowpane, distorting the view of the sidewalk below. As I pulled my jacket on, however, I noticed someone on the sidewalk below. He was looking up at the window. I couldn’t make him out clearly, but from what I could see, he was wearing some kind of period costume and a top hat. He had long, pale blond hair that almost looked white.
“You all think I’m a lunatic? There’s some guy standing outside in the rain in a Victorian get-up and top hat.”
“What?” Mom asked. “What are you talking about?”
“I don’t know. Just some rando guy standing in the rain,” I said then turned, zipped up my coat, and grabbed the bag.
Nurse Gilman stepped to the window and looked outside. “It’s really coming down,” she said, eyeing the sky. She then strained her neck to the left and right. “Your mystery man must have gone back inside.”
“He was right there,” I said.
A sick feeling rocked my stomach. No, no, no. He was there. Dammit, he really was there. I edged toward the window and looked outside. I was right. The man was standing right there, looking up at the window.
He waved at me.
“Where?” Nurse Gilman asked, looking up and down the sidewalk.
“There,” I said, motioning hesitantly.
“I must have missed him,” Nurse Gilman said with a shrug.
I stared at the man.
He waved again.
Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.
“Yeah,” I said. “Maybe they’re doing a show in the children’s wing or something,” I muttered then turned from the window.
I didn’t want Nurse Gilman to see my face.
Mom, however, caught my eye. Her eyebrows scrunched together as she gave me a hard look.
I dropped her gaze.
I absolutely, positively, did not want to have that conversation on the way home.
“I’m ready,” I told Mom.
“Good. Let’s get you the hell out of here.”
“Be well,” Nurse Gilman said. She motioned to the nurses’ station. The door to the waiting room unlocked with a click. Nurse Gilman motioned to us that we were free to go.
Mom and I headed down the dim hallway of the fifth-floor psych ward. The narrow hall felt like it was a million miles long. It wasn’t until we were safely inside the elevator that I finally exhaled.
“Your phone,” Mom said, handing it to me.
I had a few missing calls, messages from old friends, but there wasn’t anyone I wanted to talk to anyway. I stared at the screensaver, which had a picture of Nicholas and me. The photo had been taken just before homecoming, before everything went to shit. We’d gone for a hike that day. The autumn leaves in the background were bright orange and burnt red. We were both bundled up, our cheeks red, faces pressed together. We’d spent the entire hike planning a future that would never come to pass.
I turned off my phone and stuck it in my pocket.
Mom punched the elevator button for the ground floor.
I kept my eyes on the lights above the door, praying Mom wouldn’t ask anything.
It wasn’t until we’d passed the second floor that Mom whispered, “Lacey, are you seeing—”
“I’m fine. Really. I’m fine.”
She didn’t answer, which told me she knew well-enough I was not fine.
They’d been popping up in my periphery more frequently for the last two weeks. People who were there then not there. Flickers of light. Shadows that whispered. Otherworldy shapes. Their presence wasn’t anything new to me. While I was more prone to see them during times of stress, they’d been there all my life. I knew that if I really looked, I’d see them. It was better to ignore them.
A mermaid had taught me that.
Mom and I headed to the front of the hospital. I couldn’t wait to get away from the terrible hospital smell. A weird mix of the scents of bleach, chrysanthemums, green beans, and Band-Aids perfumed the place. It was enough to make a person gag.
Raining or not, I was relieved when the hospital doors opened. I inhaled the sweet scent of the rain-soaked air. Mom’s rusted-out Mustang sat waiting just outside.
“Okay. Let‘s run for it,” Mom called, and we sprinted to the car.
Holding my plastic bag above my head, I ran, flinging open the door of the vehicle. But just before I climbed inside, I cast a glance down the sidewalk.
The man was still standing there. He pulled something from his pocket and tapped on it. He waved to me, a broad smile on his face.
“Lacey, you’re letting the rain in,” Mom yelled.
I slipped into the car, slamming the door behind me.
Mom revved the engine then drove off, her nineties rock springing to life. I leaned forward and clicked off the music. The last thing I needed was the dulcet tones of Nirvana shouting at me post suicide watch.
Sighing, I leaned back into the seat and closed my eyes.
Why was I seeing them again?
The white-haired man had been pointing at a pocket watch. A pocket watch.
What in the hell did that mean?
I hadn’t meant to kill myself.
Not this time.
It figured. On the morning I’d been discharged from the psych ward, I was beginning to lose my mind.
Bumpalump Cookie Recipe (Overthere Edition)
In Wonderland Academy, Lacey is enrolled in the Alchemy of Baking. She makes a cookie that will turn you as thin as paper. Perfecting a Bumpalump cookie with standard Overthere ingredients proved challenging, but if you would like to make your own batch, try the below recipe. Karsak children approved!
Ingredients for Bumpalump cookies:
2 ¾ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 cup butter (softened)
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup maple (Tumtum) syrup. Note: this will make your cookie slightly browner.
1 tsp vanilla extract
Sprinkle of salt
2 tsp. rose syrup. If you use the rose syrup, reduce the maple syrup by about 2 tsp to compensate for the wetness. This ingredient can be omitted.
Ingredients for Grapeish crystal topping:
Purple sugar cookie crystal sprinkles
1-3 Tbs lemon juice (more lemon = sourer, but don’t overdo or the acid in the lemon will curdle your milk)
1 cup sugar
¼ cup milk
Oven to 375f degrees (190c degrees)
Mix dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt) and set aside.
Cream butter, sugar, and maple syrup. Add in egg, vanilla, and rose syrup.
Gradually add dry ingredients to wet mixture.
Roll into balls and bake on a greased cookie sheet.
Depending on the thickness of your maple syrup, your dough might be a bit wet. Feel free to add additional flour if needed. Add just a little at a time.
Bake 8 – 10 minutes or until golden around the edges. Keep in mind the maple syrup will darken the cookies. Depending on the brand of rose syrup used, you may have additional coloration.
While cookies are baking, prepare the grapeish topping (aka lemon glaze with sprinkles)
Whisk sugar and milk until smooth
Add the desired amount of lemon (1-3 Tbs)
Spoon or drizzle over warm or cool (but not hot) cookies.
Shake sugar crystals on top. *If your cookies are very warm, the sprinkles might melt, causing discoloration.
Enjoy! No guarantee these will turn you as flat as paper, but I hope you’ll enjoy the unique floral and lemony flavors of this cookie.
Where you can buy the book:
Want to win a signed paperback of Wonderland Academy? Enter the giveaway!
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Melanie Karsak is the author of The Airship Racing Chronicles, The Harvesting Series, The Celtic Blood Series, Steampunk Red Riding Hood, and Steampunk Fairy Tales. The author currently lives in Florida with her husband and two children. She is an Instructor of English at Southern New Hampshire University.
Find her here: