Book Review: A Skinful of Shadows

A Skinful of Shadows is tender and bold, perfect for lovers of darkly intricate stories of adventure.

 
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Here’s the publisher’s summary:

When a creature dies, its spirit can go looking for somewhere to hide.

Some people have space inside them, perfect for hiding.

Makepeace, a courageous girl with a mysterious past, defends herself nightly from the ghosts which try to possess her. Then a dreadful event causes her to drop her guard for a moment.

And now there's a ghost inside her.

The spirit is wild, brutish and strong, but it may be her only defence in a time of dark suspicion and fear. As the English Civil War erupts, Makepeace must decide which is worse: possession – or death.

Frances Hardinge never fails to come up with delightfully creative premises for stories. Each of her books is wonderfully original, and this one is no exception. A Skinful of Shadows follows Hardinge’s tendency to begin with an intriguing concept that seems clear at first, but (no spoilers) is quickly revealed to be something else.

Protagonist Makepeace’s world is full of supernatural and political complications, as well as familial conflict and danger. This world of angry mobs, ghostly possession, and shady palaces is carefully constructed, and Makepeace’s journey to protect and save those closest to her is daringly intricate.

Hardinge isn’t afraid to push at this framework with nuances and twists. Impressively, it’s with each new intricacy that arises that the story shows its strength. The stakes are high, and the story rises to meet them.

I was struck by this book’s ability to take contrasting themes and bring them together. There are many parts of this story I found visceral and frightening, and plenty of tense moments that knotted my stomach. But underlying this story is a bold tenderness.

The relationships between characters are fascinating and reveal their vulnerabilities. In Makepeace’s world, vulnerability is often at odds with safety and is always the key to triumph. Hardinge’s willingness to expose the soft spots in her characters and narratives is an admirable choice from a writing perspective, but also makes for even more gripping conflict in an already-intriguing story.

If this book sounds awesome to you, that’s because it is. It also means that you should check out Frances Hardinge’s other books - she has novels ranging from middle grades to young adult, and all of them are wonderful and compelling. Check out her website:

You can find a list of her books and short stories in “The Library” of her Twisted City website above, and stop by The Story Shop to grab SIGNED COPIES of Frances Hardinge’s books before they’re gone!

Happy reading!

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Festival Visiting Young Adult Authors

YA Author Review

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The Queen’s Rising: In this epic debut fantasy, inspired by Renaissance France, an outcast finds herself bound to a disgraced lord & entangled in his plot to overthrow the king.

Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion & to be chosen by a patron. Growing up in Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her. While some are born with a talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, & knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she chose knowledge. However, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true: she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, she reluctantly accepts. But there is much more to his story, for there is a dangerous plot to overthrow the king of Maevana—the rival kingdom of Valenia—& restore the rightful queen, & her magic, to the throne.

With war brewing, Brienna must choose which side she will remain loyal to: passion or blood.

The Queen’s Resistance: The newest chapter in Brienna’s story, just out this past March!

Why pick the series up? So many secrets! Ross creates such a rich world, one full of intrigue, surprises, the bonds of chosen family, & becoming who you were born to be. A perfect tapestry of a novel. The sequel does not disappoint!

Echo North: Echo Alkaev's safe & carefully structured world falls apart when her father leaves for the city & mysteriously disappears.

Believing her father is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf - the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an ultimatum: if she lives with him for one year, he will ensure her father makes it home safely. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes. 

In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, each room must be sewn together to keep the home from unraveling, & something new & dark & strange lies behind every door. When centuries-old secrets unfold, Echo discovers a magical library full of books-turned-mirrors, & a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear & Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf's enchantment before her time is up otherwise Echo, the wolf, & Hal will be lost forever.

Why pick up? Magical in every sense, this book is perfect for bibliophiles & fans of fairy tale retellings. Meyer’s retelling follows in the vein of the master Robin McKinley, with it’s own kind of magic to boot. True love, betrayal, & the most amazing library of all time.

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The Light Between Worlds: What happens when you return to the real world after being in a fantastical one like Narnia?

Six years ago, sisters Evelyn & Philippa Hapwell were swept away to a strange & beautiful kingdom called the Woodlands, where they lived for years. But ever since they returned to their lives in post-WWII England, they have struggled to adjust.

Ev desperately wants to return to the Woodlands, & Philippa just wants to move on. When Ev goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair & the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.

Walking the line between where fantasy & reality meet, this lyrical & magical novel is, above all else, an exploration of loss & healing, & what it means to find where you belong.

Why pick it up? Weymouth really captures the ache of needing to belong to a greater world. Perfect for those who wished for Narnia to be real as children (or, let’s be honest, yesterday). A lyrical portrayal of grief, sisterhood, & what it means to be home. Trigger warnings: Depression & suicide.

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The Reinhold Chronicles: It's been twelve years since the volcano drove young Arliss & her clan from their island home. Now, things are changing in their newfound kingdom. Princess Arliss is almost sixteen. Her father, King Kenton, urges her to take more responsibility--& to find a young man to carry on the line. But Arliss begins to question the class boundaries that divide her city on a hill. When her father forbids her friendship with the young peasant swordsman, Philip, Arliss sets off on a defiant quest to the heart of the land. Little does she know that she will discover an evil more threatening & ancient than she could imagine--& a prophecy that speaks of a fiery arrow.

Why pick up the series? Headstrong princess out to have an adventure & prove herself all at once, while shenanigans & complications ensue. For the reader who loves action and vibrant prose.

Festival Visiting Middle Grade Authors

MIDDLE GRADE AUTHOR REVIEW

The Benefits of Being an Octopus: Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Not that her mom seems to appreciate it. At least there's Lenny, her mom's boyfriend—they all get to live in his nice, clean trailer.
At school, Zoey tries to stay under the radar. Her only friend Fuchsia has her own issues, & since they're in an entirely different world than the rich kids, it's best if no one notices them.
Zoey thinks how much easier everything would be if she were an octopus: eight arms to do eight things at once. Incredible camouflage ability & steady, unblinking vision. Powerful protective defenses.
Unfortunately, she's not totally invisible, & one of her teachers forces her to join the debate club. Even though Zoey resists participating, debate ultimately leads her to see things in a new way: her mom’s relationship with Lenny, Fuchsia's situation, & her own place in this town of people who think they're better than her. Can Zoey find the courage to speak up, even if it means risking the most stable home she's ever had?

Why pick it up: Braden has written a tender & honest book that vividly captures childhood poverty. Readers will appreciate her characters’ strong perspectives & the hope that runs throughout the story.

First line: I settle onto the couch with the chocolate pudding I saved from Friday’s school lunch.

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Just South Of Home: Twelve-year-old Sarah is finally in charge. At last, she can spend her summer months reading her favorite science books & bossing around her younger brother, Ellis, instead of being worked to the bone by their overly strict grandmother, Mrs. Greene. But when their cousin, Janie arrives for a visit, Sarah’s plans are completely squashed.
Janie has a knack for getting into trouble & asks Sarah to take her to Creek Church: a landmark of their small town that she heard was haunted. It’s also off-limits. Janie’s sticky fingers lead Sarah, Ellis & his best friend, Jasper, to uncover a deep-seated part of the town’s past. With a bit of luck, this foursome will heal the place they call home & the people within it they call family.

Why pick it up: Karen Strong has created a playful-yet-gripping story about the ghosts that haunt the South. Her characters encounter traditional spirits, but also the echoes of a dark past that can still be felt today. This is a story of place & of heart.

First line: It wasn’t a mirage but a miracle.

Hope in the Holler: The poignant—and funny— story of a girl trying to be brave & find her place in the world after she’s sent to live with scheming relatives.
Right before Wavie’s mother died, she gave Wavie a list of instructions to help her find her way in life, including this one: Be brave, Wavie B! You got as much right to a good life as anybody, so find it! But little did Wavie’s mom know that events would conspire to bring Wavie back to Conley Hollow, the Appalachian hometown her mother tried to leave behind. Now Wavie’s back in the Holler—& in the clutches of her Aunt Samantha Rose. Life with the devilish Samantha Rose & her revolting cousin Hoyt is no picnic, but there’s real pleasure in sleeping in her own mother’s old bed, & making friends with the funny, easygoing kids her aunt calls the “neighborhood-no-accounts.” With their help, Wavie just might be able to prevent her aunt from becoming her legal guardian, & find her courage & place in the world.

Why pick it up: This book is nothing short of glowing. Wavie’s story immerses the reader in Appalachia—both its magic & its poverty. Fans of precise & powerful writing & captivating storytelling will fall hard for this one.

First line: An actual clown conducted my mama’s funeral.

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The Splintered Light: Ever since his brother Luc's disappearance & his father's tragic death, Ishmael has lived a monotonous existence helping his mother on their meager farm where everything is colorless. Until one morning a ray of light fragments Ishmael's gray world into something extraordinary: a spectrum of color he never knew existed. Emboldened, Ishmael sets out to find answers hoping his long lost brother might hold the key.

He finds Luc in the Hall of Hue, one of the seven creative workshops at The Commons, the seat of all new creation. Luc is completing the final days of his training as a Color Keeper, adding the finishing touches of color to a brand new world designed & built by a team of young artisans. Although his heart calls him to a future as a Color Keeper, Ishmael feels too guilty to leave the duties of his old life behind. But when a catastrophe destroys nearly all of the color & light at the Hall of Hue, Ishmael & Luc are suddenly at severe odds. Torn between his family & his destiny, Ishmael must learn when to let go of the past, when to trust the path ahead, & when to believe in himself.

Why pick it up: This book is perfect for those who love unique world building. Johnson’s characters are full of intriguing & deliberate conflict & readers will appreciate her ability to craft powerful images.

First line: Ishmael’s first memory was rolling down Commons Hill, its massive stone wall behind him and the open market square before him.

Festival Visiting Picture Book Authors

PICTURE BOOK AUTHOR REVIEW

Gabrielle Balkan: Balkan’s playful and fun nonfiction style will keep young readers engaged while also teaching them incredible facts they won’t forget!

Also by Gabrielle: 50 Cities of the USA, Book of Bones, Book of Flight (forthcoming), The 50 States Fun Facts, The 50 States Activity Book

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Jonathan D. Voss: Jonathan’s lovable characters are full of whimsy and imagination. His books are perfect for lovers of friendship and adventure.

Also by Jonathan: Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh, Imagine That: A Hoot & Olive Story (forthcoming).

LK James: An illustrator & designer, LK’s debut picture book is sneakily reflective in a whimsical package. The colorful but muted tones set the stage for a thoughtful story time.

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Jessie Sima: Most recent winner of the GA Picture Book Award! Her books are cheerful, colorful, and hilarious.

Also by Jessie: Harriet Gets Carried Away; Love, Z

Illustrated by Jessie: Snow Pony & the Seven Miniature Ponies

Shelli R. Johannes: The Cece books encourage curiosity and determination. Perfect for tiny scientists!

Also by Shelli: Cece Loves Science & Adventure (forthcoming)

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Shanda McCloskey: Shanda’s writing is adorable and hilarious. Robots, missions, and dogs, oh my! Perfect for children of the technological age.

Also by Shanda: T-Bone the Drone (forthcoming)

Crystal Swain-Bates: Crystal’s books are confident and bold! Perfect for young ones with big personalities or those in need of encouragement.

Also by Crystal: I’m a Pretty Princess; Big Hair, Don’t Care

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Bart King & Jacob Wenzka: This author & illustrator team knows how to engage their audience, whether it’s a sneaky sleepy-time book or encouraging the power of imagination.

Also by Bart & Jacob: Juniper Gets Wet, The Girl Who Kept Night in Her Closet

Join Us for the First Annual Monroe Children's Book Festival

The Monroe Children’s Book Festival is a city-wide celebration of stories, imagination, and the community that blooms out of both.

 
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This FREE EVENT will take place on Saturday, May 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.. We’ll have family-friendly activities and events for bookworms of all ages.

The Lineup

 
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Authors and Illustrators Ann Braden, Bo Burnette, Gabrielle Balkan, Jessie Sima, Joanna Ruth Meyer, Jonathan D. Voss, Karen Strong, Laura Weymouth, LK James, Lisa Lewis Tyre, Rebecca Ross, Shanda McCloskey, Ginger Johnson, Crystal Swain-Bates, Bart King, Jacob Wenzka, and Shelli R. Johannes will be joining us for this year’s festival.

Authors and Illustrators Ann Braden, Bo Burnette, Gabrielle Balkan, Jessie Sima, Joanna Ruth Meyer, Jonathan D. Voss, Karen Strong, Laura Weymouth, LK James, Lisa Lewis Tyre, Rebecca Ross, Shanda McCloskey, Ginger Johnson, Crystal Swain-Bates, Bart King, Jacob Wenzka, and Shelli R. Johannes will be joining us for this year’s festival.

 

Events

BOOK SIGNINGS:

  • Guests will get the opportunity to meet the authors in the Celebration Room or the Wardrobe at The Story Shop.

  • We will have the authors’ books on sale in the room at the time of the signing, as well as in our online shop.

  • In order to reserve a space in the signing line, guests must purchase the author’s book(s) from The Story Shop.

  • Pre-orders encouraged to guarantee a spot in the signing line. Pre-orders also get a privileged spot in line.

PRESENTATIONS & PANELS:

  • Many of our authors will give fun, interactive presentations at the Wayfarer Music Hall.

  • Author panels will be in the Wayfarer Sunroom, where authors will discuss their books and their writing process.

  • We will have two additional community panels involving the students of the Georgia Writer’s Project, as well as local teachers and librarians!

  • Story times will be in the Wardrobe at The Story Shop,

Don’t miss Indie Author Alley near the Monroe-Walton Center for the Arts. Many great indie authors will be set up there - stop by and meet them!

At noon, the Storybook 5K & fun run will begin at Childers Park followed by a costume contest at 2pm at the Historic Courthouse.

There will be plenty more fun events, such as puppet story time at the library at 11am, the Monroe-Walton Center for the Arts writing contest participants on display, photo ops with On Stage’s Peter Pan characters at the MWCA from 10am-12pm, opening day for the farmer’s market, the cow train, food trucks, bouncy houses, and more!

We can’t wait to see you there!

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Celebrations at The Story Shop

What do we love almost as much as reading?


Celebrating!

 
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Celebrations at The Story Shop are whimsical, bookish, and so much fun. We celebrate everything - birthdays, baby showers, bridal showers, retirement parties, ladies’ tea, and so much more. We provide beautiful decorations, place settings, entertainment, and cleanup, so all you have to do is enjoy!

Kids’ Celebrations

Pin the rose on Belle

Pin the rose on Belle

 
Coloring and temporary tattoos

Coloring and temporary tattoos

 

Our children’s celebration packages cover a variety of ages and themes. We provide fun activities like “party name” name tags, pin-the-tail games, a scavenger hunt, temporary tattoos, and story time through the Narnia wardrobe. It’s the perfect place for your child’s celebration, no matter the occasion!

 
Naming ceremony

Naming ceremony

 
Peter Pan

Peter Pan

 

Adult Celebrations

 
Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

 
Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time

 

Our adult packages are classy and versatile. In addition to the place settings, decor, and cleanup, we provide mini clipboards that hold several social games for the guests to fill out at their own pace. The setting is perfect for a sit-down affair or casual mingling.

 
Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

 
Woodland Fairy

Woodland Fairy

 

Here’s a sneak peek at some of our other lovely themes, as well as more details on how to book your celebration today. (We’ll even tell you how to get beautiful and theme-coordinated invitations from the geniuses at Gratuity Paper Co.!)

 
Woodland Fairy

Woodland Fairy

 
Harry Potter

Harry Potter

 
Construction Trucks

Construction Trucks

 
Unicorns

Unicorns

 
Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

 
Peter Rabbit

Peter Rabbit

 
Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are

 
Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

There’s one more thing you should know before you book: we have partnered with Doyle Wallace Photography to offer a photography package for your party!

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The photos are sure to be elegant and fun, so you can take the celebration with you when you leave. To add a photography package to your celebration, simply click “Photographer” in the add-ons section when booking.

We hope The Story Shop inspires you to find something to celebrate (and come see us when you do)!