A Snicker of Magic

by Natalie Lloyd
First sentence: “‘They say all the magic is gone up out of this place,’ said Mama.”
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Content: Because the main character collects words, some of the vocabulary might be more advanced for some of the younger readers. Also, there’s a bit of a romance(ish; they’re more just really good friends though the hint is there) but it’s pretty tame. Is in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

All Felicity Juniper Pickle wants is to stop moving. Sure, she’s used to her mother’s wandering ways — the longest they’ve ever stayed in one spot has been six months — but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t long for the comforts of a true home and the ability to make friends. So when the Pickled Jalapeño (that’s their car) rolls into Felicity’s mom’s hometown of Midnight Gulch, Tennessee, Felicity hopes that they will finally settle down and call this Home.

Of course, getting her mom to settle down isn’t all that simple. And the longer they stay in town the more secrets are revealed about the town’s history. About why the ice cream there is so good. About why Felicity can actually see words floating through the air. And, mostly, about why her mother is so keen on wandering, and how Felicity can get her to stop.

And it all involves… a snicker of magic.

It’s a very quiet book, this, with a quiet sort of magic. And as I was reading this charming little story, the thought that came to me the most was that this felt a lot like Ingrid Law’s Savvy. This one is more Southern and small-town-ish than Savvy is, but at its heart, they’re quite similar. Both have a strong female character at the core, one who is determined to not only keep their family together, but to figure out how she fits in with everything else. And the magic is similar as well. Felicity sees words and “catches” them, by writing them down. (Which leads to a lot of fun word play: in addition to making words up — like spindiddly — words have textures, shapes and colors. It’s pretty cool.) The Blackberry Sunrise ice cream makes you remember. Her uncle sees colors when he plays notes. Someone in town doesn’t show up in pictures. Nothing grand, nothing life-changing, but magic nonetheless.

But it was more the feel of the book, the discovery of finding a home, a place to fit in. And Felicity’s desire to help her mother move past her divorce (dad just walked out on them), and their realization that home can mean a lot of different things. Full of delightful characters and quirky magic, it’s a delight to read.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

by Leslye Walton
First sentence: “To many, I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: March 25, 2014
Review copy sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an IndieNext blurb.
Content: There are a few mild swear words, but lots of sex (none of it graphic), including a rape scene. It also reads more like an “adult” book than a “teen” one. I’ll probably shelve it in the Teen (grades 9 and up) section, though it might do better in the general fiction section at the bookstore.

While the title of the book suggests this book is about a girl named Ava Lavender, there is more to this story. In fact, it’s about Ava Lavender only because she’s the granddaughter of Emmaline Roux and daughter of Viviane Lavender. It’s equally their story. And it’s (to be honest) a difficult story to tell.

There’s foolish love, unrequited love, passion, and most of all a magic running through it all. It’s the magic of Like Water for Chocolate: Things happen because of the passion. Not the least of which is that Ava Lavender was born with wings. Not just little wings, either. Full-fledged, huge speckled wings. Her mother, being the person she is, doesn’t allow Ava to leave their hilltop Seattle home. But. Ava longs to be a “normal” teenager. Unfortunately, normality comes at a price.

The magic runs in other places as well: Ava’s twin, Henry, only talks when he needs to, and that’s not very often. Her grandmother sees ghosts. Her mother sense of smell is beyond extraordinary. The man down the road inspires people to confess their sins. Things like that.

The writing is… lyrical. The book… magical. And me? Well, I read it. See, magical realism and I don’t really get along terribly well. I wanted… something more to happen.  It’s not that it was a bad book; it wasn’t. It just wasn’t, well, my cup of tea.