Surprising Reads: Lighter Than My Shadow, Thornhill, and The Witch Boy

Here’s three new books this year that I didn’t know I would be reading.  On a whim, I picked these up and ended up reading each in a single day.  While they aren’t the best books I’ve read this year, I wanted to share them with you because of their content and the questions they ask and answer.  Read on for brief summaries and my thoughts and opinions on each.

Lighter Than My ShadowLighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green

Summary:

Like most kids, Katie was a picky eater. She’d sit at the table in silent protest, hide uneaten toast in her bedroom, listen to parental threats that she’d have to eat it for breakfast.

But in any life a set of circumstance can collide, and normal behavior might soon shade into something sinister, something deadly.

Lighter Than My Shadow is a hand-drawn story of struggle and recovery, a trip into the black heart of a taboo illness, an exposure of those who are so weak as to prey on the vulnerable, and an inspiration to anybody who believes in the human power to endure towards happiness.

My Thoughts:

This is a painfully frank and graphic description of what it feels like to live with an eating disorder.  As someone who has not lived through this but loves to eat and frequently stress eats, I’ve often wondered what it feels like.  Since this is a memoir, I can only assume that the author has the authority to speak on this subject as I have no point of reference.  Even without color, I found myself drawn into this powerful story of pain, suffering, asking for help, and following through again and again.  If you want to see inside the head of someone battling a variety of eating disorders and the kind of help you can seek.  I’m looking forward to reading this story again in color when it releases to see what impact that provides.

-Reviewed from an advance copy through work, trigger warnings for sexual abuse, nudity, and slicing off body fat

Thornhill

Thornhill by Pam Smy

Summary:

Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as Ella unravels the mystery of the girl next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she’s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2016: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past.

My Thoughts:

Here’s two stories that parallel each other, told through differing mediums.  The past is told through journal entries belonging to Mary while Ella’s present story is told through wordless illustrations.  The story flowed really well and I devoured the whole book in one sitting.  My main issue with the story is that <SPOILER> it appears that Ella commits suicide at the end to be friends with Mary, who had also committed suicide due to bullying.  And a third girl is introduced at the end, mirroring the beginning of the book and suggesting that the cycle will probably continue.  So I’m conflicted about whether I’d be comfortable recommending this book to middle schoolers, who I believe are the intended target audience.

-Reviewed from an advanced copy through work, trigger warnings for suicide, bullying, and possible off screen rape

The Witch Boy

The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag

Summary:

In thirteen-year-old Aster’s family, all the girls are raised to be witches, while boys grow up to be shapeshifters. Anyone who dares cross those lines is exiled. Unfortunately for Aster, he still hasn’t shifted . . . and he’s still fascinated by witchery, no matter how forbidden it might be.

When a mysterious danger threatens the other boys, Aster knows he can help — as a witch. It will take the encouragement of a new friend, the non-magical and non-conforming Charlie, to convince Aster to try practicing his skills. And it will require even more courage to save his family . . . and be truly himself.

My Thoughts:

This story did not go the way I thought.  From the description and the beginning of the story, I thought this might be about transgender expectations.  Instead, the story tackled gender a little differently.  I’m not sure that the characters did much for me, but I like that this graphic novel is something that can be given to middle schoolers as part of the ongoing discussion of why we separate genders in so many areas.  It may not be my favorite, but I already know a few people I’ll be sharing this.

-Reviewed from an advanced copy through work, no overt trigger warnings

 

 

 

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Manic Monday: Heathen Vol. 1 by Natasha Alterici

Heathen

Paperback, 115 pages
Published August 8th 2017 by Vault Comics
First off, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I downloaded this title from NetGalley.  The cover art looked intriguing and it kept popping up all over the place.  So I decided to give it a shot.  And I’m very glad that I did because Heathen was a beautifully illustrated tale that weaves together Viking folklore, bisexuality, fighting for your dreams, and many other threads and themes in a way that appears seamless.

Continue reading

Waiting on Wednesday: The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel

The Sand Warrior (5 Worlds, #1)

Hardcover, Graphic Novel
Expected publication: May 2nd 2017 by Random House Books for Young Readers
I ran out of time to read this one before it publishes, but I still wanted to share it with all of you.  This full-color graphic novel features a diverse group of children and fun-sounding magic.  It’s still definitely on my TBR!

Summary:

The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves and more to their worlds than meets the eye. . . .
The clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, Oona Lee is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine.
A boy from the poorest slums, An Tzu has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations.
Star athlete Jax Amboy is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends?
When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!

Top 10 Tuesday: Visual Elements

This week’s Top 10 focuses on visuals!  Which is awesome because there are so many fun books that I’ve collected and read based on artwork.  See where the meme started here!

This is just a brief listing of some of my absolute favorite art accompanied stories 🙂

Princess Ai: Ultimate Edition

A manga that featured an art style that embraced music, pop rock, girly pretty things, and gothic lolita fashions.

Kitty & Dino

Not only is this a cute picture book about a cat that finds itself sharing a home with a newborn dino, but the art is gorgeous enough to frame.

Gotham City Sirens #1

My favorite trio of characters from the Batman universe presented in a lovely art style.

Stardust

There’s a lovely illustrated novel of Stardust that features the art of Charles Vess.

Flora and the Peacocks

Another picture book, this one tells the tale of newly formed friendships without using words.

MeruPuri, Vol. 1 (MeruPuri, #1)

I fell in love with author/artist’s art back in high school, and I still re-read this manga series occasionally.

The Tiger (Love, #1)

This graphic novel tells the everyday life stories of various animals without using words.  It focuses on the main animal but shows the environment and other animals in the area as well.

Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery

Here’s a graphic novel series that’s basically Dungeons and Dragons with an all-female, butt-kicking cast!

Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening (Collected Editions)

The art is actually what drew me to this graphic novel, and now I can’t wait for volume 2.

Return to Labyrinth, Vol. 1

If you love the Labyrinth movie, then you’ll love this sequel manga series.

Sailor Moon, Vol. 01 (Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon #1)

So no visual favorites list would be complete without a Sailor Moon reference, so here’s one of my oldest, favorite manga of all time.

 

What books drew you in based on the artwork?  Share your lists below!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Dinosaur (Love #4) by Frédéric Brrémaud

Love Volume 4: The Dinosaur

Hardcover
Expected publication: February 7th 2017 by Magnetic Press
After loving the first three volumes, I was excited to see The Dinosaur on NetGalley and downloaded it right away.  I enjoy the storytelling using only image cells and two page spreads.  And this book did not disappoint and even included extra drawings and studies in the back matter.
It did seem shorter than the other ones though, and I don’t know if that was because of the e-format that I read it in, or it was fewer story pages, or maybe I just read it too quickly.  The ending was both humorous and bittersweet.  A good addition to the LOVE series, and I hope there will be more soon.

Summary:

Life in the primordial swamps of prehistoric Earth was a daily trial of survival, especially for the smaller dinosaurs just trying to get by without being trampled, attacked, or eaten. Not even the biggest beasts were safe, as there always seemed to be an even bigger threat looming on the horizon. This exciting tale, written by Frederic Brremaud, is told without narration or dialogue, conveyed entirely through the beautiful illustrations of Federico Bertolucci. A beautiful, powerful tale of survival in the animal kingdom that explores the all-too-identifiable, universal concepts of Life, Courage, Aging, and ultimately Love.
The fourth volume in the lavishly illustrated series of wildlife graphic novels, each following a single central animal through an adventurous day in their natural environment. Each tale depicts genuine natural behavior through the dramatic lens of Disney-esque storytelling, like a nature documentary in illustration.

Book Review: Monstress #1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu

Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening

Paperback, 202 pages
Published July 19th 2016 by Image Comics
 This was such a fun read!  I was worried that it was being overhyped, but it was not.  Both the story and the artwork was luscious and played off each other with ease.  This is a great fit for anyone looking for a more diverse graphic novel and fans of Marjorie Liu should be ecstatic about another well-made story.
Book two doesn’t have a release date yet, but I believe these were being released in single magazine format as well…  Maybe?  I’m definitely going to have to go looking to find out.  I’m really excited to know what happens next in this story!

Summary:

Set in an alternate world of art deco beauty and steampunk horror, Monstress tells the epic story of Maika Halfwolf, a teenage survivors of a cataclysmic war between humans and their hated enemies, the Arcanics. In the face of oppression and terrible danger, Maika is both hunter and hunted, searching for answers about her mysterious past as those who seek to use her remain just one step behind…and all the while, the monster within begins to awaken…

Collecting: Monstress 1-6