Snow Like Ashes: A Review

Snow Like Ashes by Sara RaaschSixteen years ago the kingdom of Spring invaded Winter. The Winterians were captured and enslaved during the invasion and the kingdom was left without a ruler or the locket that serves as a vessel for its magic.

Eight survivors escaped that day. They have spent the years since hiding, training, and following any clue that might bring them closer to reclaiming their lost kingdom. Meira has lived among the refugees for most of her life. Her memories of Winter come from the stories of her older companions, leaving the ruined kingdom feeling more like a concept than a home.

Meira is determined to prove her worth among her band and show that she can and will do whatever it takes to save Winter and to protect Winter’s heir, Mather–the boy Meira loves even though she knows he will need to forge a powerful alliance for Winter with his marriage to someone more influential and powerful.

When the refugees have a solid lead on part of the Winterian locket, Meira impetuously strikes out to steal it back. The mission doesn’t go as planned thrusting Meira and her friends on a dangerous path toward unknown magic, risky alliances, and a destiny Meira never could have imagined in Snow Like Ashes (2016) by Sara Raasch.

Find it on Bookshop.

Snow Like Ashes is the first book in Raasch’s Snow Like Ashes trilogy. Meira’s story continues in Ice Like Fire and Frost Like Night.

Meira narrates this novel in first person present tense. The close focus on her perspective leave a lot of room in the narrative for unexpected twists and surprises as the story moves forward. Because of her distance from the events of Winter’s past it also leads to a lot of information being passed along in clunky accounts of memories and past lessons.

Winter is part of a world with eight kingdoms, four seasons and four rhythms which move through all four seasons. While the concept is interesting, it’s never fully explained as Meira spends more time focused on fighting with her chakram and proving herself to the leader of the refugees. Meira is headstrong and often reckless but her heart is in the right place and she’s definitely a strong female character.

It’s worth noting that this novel makes nods to diversity but doesn’t quite meet the mark. Characters from other kingdoms have different coloring but the cast here is overwhelming white including the light skinned Spring citizens and Winterians who are winter pale with white hair.

Snow Like Ashes is a breakneck story filled with intense action, carefully described fights, and lots of battles. Raasch dives right into the action at the beginning of the book and doesn’t let up throughout the novel. Recommended for readers looking for plot driven fantasy above intricate characterization.

Possible Pairings: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, Frostblood by Elly Blake, Roar by Cora Carmack, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace, The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, Furyborn by Claire Legrand, Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller, The Young Elites by Marie Lu, Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Snow Like Ashes by Sarah Raasch, Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi, The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury, The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace, Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

Dumplin’: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Dumplin' by Julie MurphyWillowdean Dickson has always been comfortable in her own skin. Even when she knows small-minded people might make unfavorable comparisons between Will and her beautiful best friend, Ellen. But Will knows who she is and she is okay with it. At least, she thinks she is until she takes a summer job working at Harpy’s–a local burger joint–alongside Private School Bo.

Bo is a former jock and totally hot. Of course Will is attracted to him. What gives her pause is that Bo seems to be attracted to her too.

When this unexpected romance makes Will question everything she thought she knew about herself (and her self-esteem), she knows it’s time to take a step back and make a change.

Inspired by all of the things her aunt let herself miss out on because of her weight, Willowdean decides to enter the Miss Clover City beauty pageant to prove to herself and everyone else (and maybe even her mother) that she can.

Entering the pageant might be the worst idea Will has ever had but with help from her friends, inspiration from Dolly Parton, and a lot of humor along the way, Willowdean will take Clover City by storm in Dumplin’ (2015) by Julie Murphy.

Find it on Bookshop.

Dumplin’ has a very strong sense of place as Willowdean’s first person narration brings her small Texas town to life complete with its quirks and charms. And a love of Dolly Parton, of course.

Will is a charming and authentic narrator. Like many people, she has moments of doubt and often gets in her own way when it comes to being happy. She is also refreshingly self-aware and can identify these behaviors even if she can’t always stop them. While it’s hard in parts Dumplin’ to watch Willowdean being her own worst enemy, it’s also incredibly empowering to see her get it right and go after what she really wants.

Murphy’s sophomore novel highlights a lot of diverse lifestyles in this story including single parent homes, poor families, and some others that I can’t mention because they’re small spoilers.

Dumplin’ is an effervescent novel with a lot of heart and as much charm is its one-of-a-kind heroine. Recommended for readers looking for a sweet romance, thoughtful characters and an empowering story. Bonus appeal for readers who enjoy stories that feature beauty pageants.

Possible Pairings: The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander, Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman, Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg, You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, The Truth Commission by Susan Juby, The Romantics by Leah Konen, How to Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras, In Real Life by Jessica Love, The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills by Joanna Pearson, If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

*An advance copy of this book was acquired from the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2015*

Bone Gap: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Bone Gap by Laura RubyNo one in Bone Gap is surprised when Roza disappears. People have been leaving the O’Sullivan brothers for years and it only makes sense that the girl who appeared out of nowhere should leave just as suddenly.

Finn O’Sullivan knows that Roza didn’t just leave. And he knows that he didn’t do anything to save her.

Months later most everyone in Bone Gap has given up pretending to believe Finn’s story about the man who took Roza. Even Finn’s brother, Sean, is tired of hearing about the man with the unique stillness and the face Finn can never quite describe.

Finn refuses to stop looking. His search will take him deep into the secrets of Bone Gap to places he couldn’t imagine. In trying to find Roza, Finn will learn that sometimes you have to stop looking before you can truly see in Bone Gap (2015) by Laura Ruby.

Find it on Bookshop.

Bone Gap is a rich and atmospheric novel. The town of Bone Gap is a strange place filled with secrets and magic that most people have forgotten. In a town populated with strange and vivid characters even Bone Gap itself becomes an indelible part of this novel that is firmly grounded with a strong sense of place.

Some would call Bone Gap magic realism but references to fairy tales and magic bring a purer form of fantasy to mind in this story where beauty can be a curse and being blind is sometimes the best way to see.

Bone Gap masterfully blends myth and magic in a contemporary setting to create a thoughtful story filled with unlikely heroes, surprising twists and a plot that expertly subverts traditional fairytale tropes. Bone Gap is a lovely, unexpected novel that is incredibly smart. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby, The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block, The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu, Dreamology by Lucy Keating, The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry, The Weight of Feathers by Anne-Marie McLemore, The Boneshaker by Kate Milford, The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy, The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan, Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff, American Street by Ibi Zoboi

The Dolls: A Review

The Dolls by Kiki SullivanEveny Cheval hasn’t set foot in Carrefour, Louisiana in fourteen years–not since she moved away with her aunt Bea after her mother’s suicide. After years spent in Brooklyn, New York, Bea and her aunt are moving back to Carrefour just before Eveny’s seventeenth birthday.

Upon her return, Eveny is stunned by the stately old houses and the pristine gardens. Even her new classmates are flawlessly beautiful–so much so that most people call them the Dolls. Drawn in by Peregrine Marceau and Chloe St. Pierre, Eveny is soon at the center of the decadence that is the Dolls’ world.

But beneath the wealth and charm, Carrefour is hiding a secret, one that leads to murder and dark truths about Eveny and her past in The Dolls (2014) by Kiki Sullivan.

Atmospheric writing and genuine chills enhance this story that is populated with familiar mean girls, gorgeous boys and a generally clever narrator (however readers like me may wonder why a girl who left town at the age of three has quite so many memories of the town she left behind).

Sullivan capitalizes on the southern setting here to spine-tingling effect as the story moves in a surprising direction involving voodoo magic and sinister forces at work around Carrefour. Spooky moments and incidents of near-peril are tempered with campy fun and a hint of romance with one of the numerous beautiful boys to be found in this narrative. Although Eveny fits in seemlessly with the Dolls she remains equally sharp-witted and sharp-tongued throughout the story, making her easy to cheer for throughout the story.

Sure to be popular with fans of similar books as well as Veronica Mars.

Possible Pairings: Compulsion by Martina Boone, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shephard, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

*A more condensed version of this review appeared in the June 2014 issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen in various sites online including an SLJ Spotlight*

Cruel Beauty: A Review

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund HodgeNyx was raised to marry a monster. She has always known she would marry a beast on her seventeenth birthday. She has been betrothed to the Gentle Lord since the disastrous day her father’s bargain blew up in his face–as bargains with demons generally do.

Nyx has been training for just as long to kill the Gentle Lord and free her people from his curse which surrounds their kingdom. It’s unlikely Nyx will survive this mission. Sometimes she isn’t even sure she will succeed. But isn’t it a worthy goal to die saving her people? Isn’t that something a normal girl without hate coursing through her veins would be eager to do?

As she is dressed and dragged through a sham wedding, Nyx is far from eager.

Inside the Gentle Lord’s castle she expects to find a ravening demon and a heap of ruins. Instead Nyx finds luxurious surroundings and Ignifex–a husband who is an charming as he is infuriating. As she learns more about Ignifex and the strange shadow that follows him everywhere, Nyx is torn between her sense of duty and her sense of what is right. The longer she spends in the castle, the more likely it seems that Nyx has had everything very, very wrong in Cruel Beauty (2014) by Rosamund Hodge.

Cruel Beauty is Hodge’s first novel.

Hodge draws on Greek mythology and fantasy elements to create an enchanting world filled with magic and demons; a world where bargains always have a price.

Nyx is a flawed, selfish heroine. And, given her upbringing, understandably so. She is realistic about her own faults as well as the limitations of her surroundings which makes her a very prickly, often angry, narrator. She isn’t always sympathetic but never doubt that she is interesting.

By comparison, Nyx’s new husband Ignifex is decidedly dull. Their romance, such as it is, is never quite as believable as this premise demands.

Ultimately the biggest problem with Cruel Beauty is that the underlying premise feels very seedy. Nyx is meant to seduce Ignifex and then kill him–essentially prostituting herself to save her people. The preoccupation in the first fifty pages with making Nyx look a delectable bride and easy to strip come the wedding night is decidedly uncomfortable.

This story should have a strong heroine and that heroine should be Nyx. She rails against the lot she has been given. She is furious about the societal constraints that have shaped her life. Then she meets her husband and tears open her own dress saying she is desperate for his touch to deflect any consequences from threatening to kill him. It all felt very clumsy and disagreeable.

Aside from the character issues, Hodge works with a lot of source material in Cruel Beauty. There are several references to Greek myths and fairies in this supposed retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Toward the end elements of the legend of Tam Lin also appear. While all of these things are interesting and have the potential to create a wonderful story, together it became a rather jumbled world with a lot of moving parts to follow just to understand the background of the story.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios, Entwined by Heather Dixon, The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

How to Love: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

howtoloveBefore everything went to hell, Reena Montero had loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she could remember. Watching Sawyer and wanting him from afar in their small Florida town came as natural as breathing. Sawyer always seemed so distant, so unattainable until one day he suddenly isn’t. After circling each other for years, Reena and Sawyer are finally together for a torrid, messy moment before it all falls apart. Sawyer blows out of town without a word and Reena is left behind. Pregnant.

Almost three years later and Reena has finally made sense of what a life without Sawyer should look like. Her dreams of college are long behind her but most days her daughter Hannah more than makes up for that. Then, quick as he left, Sawyer is back and supposedly a changed man. Reena has her doubts. As these two circle once again all of the ugly parts of their past are brought to light but in the midst of all the painful memories there are some beautiful ones too.

It’s taken Reena years to get over Sawyer LeGrande and make a new life for herself. With so many other changes is it possible to leave all of that past behind for a new future with Sawyer in it in How to Love (2013) by Katie Cotugno?

How to Love is Cotugno’s first novel. Chapters alternate between Reena’s “before” as she and Sawyer first get together (told in past tense) and her “after” with Sawyer coming back into town and finding Reena and daughter Hannah. Although the book ostensibly contains two stories (one YA and one more Emerging Adult  since Reena is a mother now) Cotugno expertly blends the two plots together to create one larger narrative that spans years.

This book is extremely well-written. Cotugno is a prize-winning writer and her skill here shines through every page. Reena is a dimensional, realistic narrator. Even with her flaws and extremely poor decisions, Reena is mostly a heroine readers will want to like and want to succeed. Cotugno’s descriptions of Reena’s Florida landscape are evocative and vibrant.

Outside of the lovely writing, How to Love is a book riddled with barely developed secondary characters, a poorly paced plot and a tragically unsympathetic love interest.

Cotugno does a good job conveying the difficulties and stigma Reena faces as a teen mother and also shows the complexities of Reena’s family life. However, many aspects of Reena’s story are presented in a one-sided way. It is never quite explained how this responsible girl winds up pregnant except for her to say that she had thought she and Sawyer were “careful.” The possibility of abortion is explained away with Reena’s religious family but the idea of adoption is never once discussed even in passing.

There is also a strange correlation throughout the story between Reena standing up for herself only to have to face dire consequences (in one instance her father, who has a bad heart, has a heart attack after Reena yells at him). By the end of the story, Reena gains a bit of agency and is able to move past her role as a teen mother to try and make a better life for herself and her daughter. The problem is that all of this agency comes from finding out that Sawyer came looking for Reena before he left town years ago. Reena’s relationship with her best friend is also handled strangely. Allie shifts from an obstacle, coming between Sawyer and Reena’s flirty budding relationship, to a plot device as she becomes part of an inciting incident that brings Reena and Sawyer together.

A lot of how you feel about this book will depend on how you feel about Reena and Sawyer and their supposed epic love that looks a lot like standard lust. Basically Sawyer is a train wreck. He brings out the absolute worst in Reena at every turn before the pregnancy and leaves an impressive wreckage of mistakes in his wake. He is a user in every sense of the word and even Reena knows at the peak of her infatuation that it is only a matter of time before Sawyer implodes.

How to Love is marketed as a story of one couple falling in love twice. The problem is that Sawyer getting even a first chance with Reena makes no sense much less him getting a second one. The fact that Reena is continuously drawn to Sawyer after seeing him at his worst again and again exhibits the worst kind of self-destructive behavior.

Possible Pairings: I Remember You by Cathleen Davitt Bell, The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, City Love by Susane Colasanti, The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols, Golden by Jessi Kirby, The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen, Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney, This Raging Light by Estelle Laure, The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle, Summer in the Invisible City by Juliana Romano, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke, Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker, The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Across a Star-Swept Sea: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana PeterfreundTrouble comes to the twin islands of New Pacifica when violent revolution breaks out on the island of Galatea. The neighboring island of Albion can do little more than watch as revolutionaries rise up against the ruling class with the worst weapon imaginable. Centuries after war and Reduction nearly destroyed the world, the Galatean revolution is threatening to bring the last remnant of civilization back to the brink of collapse.

And no one seems able to intervene save for one bold Albion spy known only as the Wild Poppy.

No one can know that the Wild Poppy is really Persis Blake. With her vapid persona as a frivolous, stupid member of court no one could that Persis is the spy undermining the revolution at every turn. No one can suspect if Persis wants to continue her work.

The stakes become even higher when a Galatean medic named Justen Helo enters Persis’ orbit. As she and Justen engage in an extravagant flirtation as part of her cover, Persis has to work to keep her true identity a secret and her potential enemies close. With romance and confrontation on the horizon, Persis can lose much more than her heart if her secrets begin to unravel in Across a Star-Swept Sea (2013) by Diana Peterfreund.

Across a Star-Swept Sea is Peterfreund’s post-apocalyptic retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel. It is also a companion novel to Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars.

Though the novel references the same basic world building and certain characters, Across a Star-Swept Sea is essentially a stand alone novel that works on its own.

This time Peterfreund returns to the post-apocalyptic world after a world-ending war and Reduction in a very different setting with very different ideas. Across a Star-Swept Sea seamlessly expands the world introduced in For Darkness Shows the Stars while creating a new setting and plot that is entirely its own.

Given the revolutionary backdrop, Across a Star-Swept Sea is much more plot-driven with lots of action and adventure. The unique way New Pacifica has evolved post-Reduction also creates opportunities for conversations about the politics of the islands. On a personal level it also offers moments of introspection for Persis as she reconciles the personal costs of her double life with the benefits in lives saved.

Like its predecessor, Across a Star-Swept Sea moves beyond its source material to become more than a retelling. With a heroine who is as stylish as she is fierce, this novel is an anthem for stong women and a delightful read for anyone looking for a dramatic page-turner with just a bit of romance thrown in.

Possible Pairings: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter, The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston, These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Legend by Marie Lu, The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

Born of Illusion: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Fortune-telling laws are getting stricter and stricter so all it takes is one disgruntled client ratting us out to the authorities and we’re in deep trouble. They allow us to hold our magic and mentalist shows because they’re considered harmless entertainment. It’s the private seances the authorities object to, but the amount of money we get is worth the risk.”

Born of Illusion by Teri BrownAnna Van Housen has been a part of her mother’s mentalist act for years. She has also helped break her mother out of jail countless times when she is arrested during one of their fake seances. Herself a gifted magician, Anna loves performing magic in front of a crowd almost as much as she hates the seances. But the money makes it impossible to stop.

Posing as a medium and performing false seances might be a crime, but for Anna the real risk isn’t being outed as a fraud; it’s having people find out she really does have psychical powers.

As she and her mother start once again in Jazz Age New York City, Anna begins having strange visions of her mother in danger. Surrounded by new people, in a new city, Anna’s powers become stronger and dangers seem to be everywhere. As she tries to learn more about her abilities and her mysterious downstairs neighbor, Anna is drawn into a world of psychical abilities and the paranormal.

In order to get to the root of her visions, and her own complicated relationship with her mother, Anna will have to separate the illusions from the truth in Born of Illusion (2013) by Teri Brown.

Born of Illusion is the first book in a series. The sequelBorn of Deception is scheduled to publish in 2014.

Born of Illusion is a wonderful blend of fact and fiction as Brown integrates real people and events into a completely unique plot. Anna is a refreshingly self-assured, confident heroine who knows exactly what she wants if not always whom.* The supporting cast in Born of Illusion is equally well-written and enjoyable. In a book that operates in grey areas, all of the characters are realistically human and, yes, sometimes flawed. While the story centers on Anna and her unsettling visions, Brown also expertly unpacks Anna’s complex relationship with her mother throughout the story.

Anna’s checkered past as a show-woman and her magic act add even more atmosphere to a delightful story.

There are a lot of books set in the 1920s. Many of those books are set in New York City. Brown adds something new to that conversation with her novel filled with magic and adventure. Born of Illusion will be a delight for readers of historical fiction and paranormal novels alike.

*There is a lover triangle of sorts in this book and it isn’t a strong  story element although I understand the need for it. Ultimately I enjoyed the book enough to overlook it.

Possible Pairings: The Diviners by Libba Bray, The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, Always a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Selling Hope by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

A Trick of the Light: A Review

A Trick of the Light by Lois MetzgerMike Welles thought his life was pretty great. He did well in school, he played on the school baseball team. He and his best friend Tamio have a great time talking about stop motion animation and watching old movies.

Everything was fine.

That was before things started going wrong at home. Mike’s parents started to act strangely. Especially his mom. And his dad is just gone for huge chunks of time.

Mike thinks he can still handle all of the changes–even talking to a beautiful new girl at school–but it just keeps getting worse. He’s out of shape. He’s losing control. It’s all just so wrong.

Mike keeps hearing a voice that wants to help him. The voice says that Mike can be stronger. Better. But no one else can hear the voice. And the voice never tells Mike what that kind of strength can cost him in A Trick of the Light (2013) by Lois Metzger.

At a slim 208 pages (hardcover) it is really hard to talk about this book without spoiling some of the twists Metzger has skillfully created. Suffice it to say, Mike is in trouble.

What I can tell you is that despite touching on some familiar territory, Metzger comes at the issues in A Trick of the Light in a very clever and original way. Mike is not the typical protagonist in this type of story.

The narrator of this book is not typical either. (It’s not a spoiler to say it is not Mike but I’ll leave it at that.) Metzger’s choice of narrator is extremely interesting and makes for a very creepy read. At the same time it also adds a lot of distance between Mike and the reader as Mike’s story is told at a remove. The technique works but it does make the book a little confusing at first.

That said, once you get into the rhythm of the story this book really takes off. Metzger expertly draws readers into Mike’s struggles without ever coming across as heavy-handed or preachy.

A Trick of the Light is a subtle, engrossing read that would be ideal for reluctant and avid readers alike.

Possible Pairings: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Skinny by Donna Crooner, Paperweight by Meg Haston, Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King, The Beautiful Between by Courtney B. Sheinmel, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Exclusive Bonus Content with a SPOILER: This book is a fascinating read about eating disorders but I can’t stop wondering if it could be a trigger or a workbook for kids who are at risk for eating disorders. Lots of stuff to unpack with this one. I think it’s a totally great book but I feel like it’s one that really begs to be discussed.

You can also read my exclusive interview with Lois Metzger!

Just Being Audrey: A Picture Book Review

Just Being Audrey by Margaret Cardillo, illustrated by Julia Denos

Just Being AudreyAs the title suggests, this picture book is about Audrey Hepburn–her early life, her aspirations to become a ballerina, her success in Hollywood and her later-life work with UNICEF.

I love Audrey, who doesn’t? Cardillo’s text was an interesting insight into the background of an actress who many still remember as the epitome of style and elegance. The text offered an interesting but slightly unbalanced look at Audrey’s life from her childhood to her old age. (A timeline at the back details key events that were not mentioned in the narrative.) However there are very few transitions with each page spread seeming to have little connection to the pages that come before or after. The overall effect was a very choppy story albeit one filled with interesting tidbits.

Denos’  illustrations are gorgeous with beautiful details and color. The pictures all have a lovely sense of movement as Audrey “glides” through the pages.

There is certainly enough here to pique a child’s interest about Audrey Hepburn but fans looking for more thorough information will have to find a different book.

This would be a fun addition to a “non-fiction” or “biography” themed storytime with it’s large, bright pictures and relatively short text.