Review | The Girl From the Sea by Molly Ostertag

Fifteen-year-old Morgan has a secret: She can’t wait to escape the perfect little island where she lives. She’s desperate to finish high school and escape her sad divorced mom, her volatile little brother, and worst of all, her great group of friends…who don’t understand Morgan at all. Because really, Morgan’s biggest secret is that she has a lot of secrets, including the one about wanting to kiss another girl.

Then one night, Morgan is saved from drowning by a mysterious girl named Keltie. The two become friends and suddenly life on the island doesn’t seem so stifling anymore.

But Keltie has some secrets of her own. And as the girls start to fall in love, everything they’re each trying to hide will find its way to the surface…whether Morgan is ready or not.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Having previously loved Molly Ostertag’s other work I was super excited to get the chance to read this one and it did not disappoint! This story had the perfect level of real world conflicts mixed with some magical aspects as well. It’s a Sapphic love story as well as a story about changing friendships, families and more. As always I enjoyed Ostertag’s vibrant art style and colors and loved how the setting and people were depicted. While a number of heavier topics were touched upon such as parents divorcing or Morgan’s inner conflict regarding her sexuality they were all handled really well. The story itself was very touching and whimsical, showing Morgan’s growth through the summer as she came to know herself better as well as those around her.

Happy reading!

Review | This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf

Everyone has a secret they’ll do anything to hide…

Twenty-five years ago, the body of sixteen-year-old Eve Knox was found in the caves near her home in small-town Grotto, Iowa—discovered by her best friend, Maggie, and her sister, Nola. There were a handful of suspects, including her boyfriend, Nick, but without sufficient evidence the case ultimately went cold.

For decades Maggie was haunted by Eve’s death and that horrible night. Now a detective in Grotto, and seven months pregnant, she is thrust back into the past when a new piece of evidence surfaces and the case is reopened. As Maggie investigates and reexamines the clues, secrets about what really happened begin to emerge. But someone in town knows more than they’re letting on, and they’ll stop at nothing to keep the truth buried deep.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I found this book to be really fast paced and a quite compelling read. It had really good character development, especially for characters like Nola who were a bit out there. I also really enjoyed the small town dynamics as they lent to the story itself. I did feel however that there were a number of choices made, especially by the main character that weren’t realistic, such as the risks she was taking while 7-8 months pregnant – I understand her obsession and need to move forward with the mystery, but it still felt a little off for me. Still, it had a lot of great twists that kept me guessing and I enjoyed the slightly creepy elements that kept me reading.

Happy reading!

Review | The Secret Garden: A Graphic Novel by Mariah Marsden & Hanna Luechtefeld

Green-growing secrets and magic await you at Misselthwaite Manor, now reimagined in this graphic novel adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s tale.

Ten-year-old Mary Lennox arrives at a secluded estate on the Yorkshire moors with a scowl and a chip on her shoulder. First, there’s Martha Sowerby: the too-cheery maid with bothersome questions who seems out of place in the dreary manor. Then there’s the elusive Uncle Craven, Mary’s only remaining family—whom she’s not permitted to see. And finally, there are the mysteries that seem to haunt the run-down place: rumors of a lost garden with a tragic past, and a midnight wail that echoes across the moors at night. 

As Mary begins to explore this new world alongside her ragtag companions—a cocky robin redbreast, a sour-faced gardener, and a boy who can talk to animals—she learns that even the loneliest of hearts can grow roots in rocky soil.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

As someone who read The Secret Garden when I was much younger and know that there are certainly problematic elements to the original story (which is purely attributed to the time in which it was written) this was a good example which contained the basic and main plot while shedding those elements. As a good introduction to the story and the overall journey, I felt it was pretty good. The art isn’t as vibrant as I personally would like with a story featuring a garden, but that’s a me thing. I did really enjoy the whimsy in the drawings of flowers and animals, plus the noticeable changes in Mary as she grew over the story.

Happy reading!

Review | Cici’s Journal by Joris Chamblain

Cici dreams of being a novelist. Her favorite subject: people, especially adults. She’s been watching them and taking notes. Everybody has one special secret, Cici figures, and if you want to write about people, you need to understand what’s hiding inside them. But now she’s discovered something truly strange: an old man who disappears into the forest every Sunday with huge pots of paint in all sorts of colors. What is he up to? Why does he look so sad when he comes back?

In a graphic novel interwoven with journal notes, scrapbook pieces, and doodles, Cici assembles clues about the odd and wonderful people she’s uncovered, even as she struggles to understand the mundane: her family and friends.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I reallly enjoyed this story about Cici, her friends and the mysteries that she discovers and feels compelled to solve. At times she goes to the extreme to do this and learns the consequences of putting these mysteries above all else. She has struggles with friends, her mom and life in general while also navigating the mysteries and writing in her journal. Her journal itself includes pictures, drawings, newspaper clippings and other mixed media elements that will draw in readers and make it feel like an interactive experience. There are also a couple pages that younger readers could customize to feel like they are part of the story. The artwork (as well as what is included on the journal pages) is beautiful and full of whimsy, with a softer color palette that perfectly suits the story and Cici’s style.

Happy reading!

Review | Zatanna and the House of Secrets by Matthew Cody & Yoshi Yoshitani

Welcome to the magical, mystical, topsy-turvy world of the House of Secrets, where Zatanna embarks on a journey of self-discovery and adventure…all with her pet rabbit, Pocus, at her side.

Zatanna and her stage magician father live in a special house, the House of Secrets, which is full of magic, puzzles, mysterious doors, and storybook creatures-it’s the house everyone in the neighborhood talks about but avoids. Not that Zatanna cares, though, because she is perfectly content.

But at school one day, Zatanna stands up to a bully and everything changes- including her friends. Suddenly, Zatanna isn’t so sure about her place in the world, and when she returns home to tell her father, he’s gone missing, lost within their own home.

With thrilling twists from writer Matthew Cody and dazzling artwork by Yoshi Yoshitani, Zatanna and the House of Secrets will delight readers at the turn of every page-and the opening of every door!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I found this graphic novel to be very cute and while the bulk of it is more fantastical, there are definitely some real world middle school age issues that Zatanna deals with at the same time. The art style was cute and colorful, so it will definitely draw the eye. I would have liked some things to have a little more attention paid to them, such as the sub-plot with her friends and the events that happened with them. If someone is looking for a magical graphic novel with vibrant art and a great story for younger readers, I think this is a solid choice.

Happy reading!

Review | The Sweetest Kind of Poison by Katie Wismer

The Sweetest Kind of Poison is a collection of poetry about toxic relationships and letting go of what no longer serves you. It takes you through the fall, the collapse, the withdrawal, the recovery, and the now, chronicling a journey of abuse, heartache, confidence, self-love, letting go, and growing up. Because sometimes only our darkest experiences can bring out our raw strength and help us find the people we are meant to be.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After reading Katie Wismer’s other poetry collection, I knew I wanted to pick this one up as well. This collection did have some of the same themes, such as toxic relationships, abuse and being able to heal from those experiences. Her poems are very emotional and packed with beautiful language that get her points across no matter the length of the poem itself. After enjoying both collections I will definitely pick up any further collections she publishes.

Happy reading!

Review | The Marvelous Mirza Girls by Sheba Karim

To cure her post–senior year slump, made worse by the loss of her aunt Sonia, Noreen is ready to follow her mom on a gap year trip to New Delhi, hoping India can lessen her grief and bring her voice back.

In the world’s most polluted city, Noreen soon meets kind, handsome Kabir, who introduces her to the wonders of this magical, complicated place. With Kabir’s help—plus Bollywood celebrities, fourteenth-century ruins, karaoke parties, and Sufi saints—Noreen begins to rediscover her joyful voice.

But when a family scandal erupts, Noreen and Kabir must face complicated questions in their own relationship: What does it mean to truly stand by someone—and what are the boundaries of love? 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this mother/daughter story that featured locations in New Delhi and a great relationship between them. I loved the travel aspect and the descriptions of different locations as well as the touches of culture that were included. The writing style was easy to read and flowed well, though I did find that there were some things that were maybe left as loose ends or mentioned and then not returned too. The story did involve a lot of current topics and the situations associated to those felt very real and well written, which I appreciated. I could see some people wanting more depth to the story, or wanting some refinement but I found it to be a really enjoyable and fun read.

Happy reading!

Review | Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

Priyanka Das has so many unanswered questions: Why did her mother abandon her home in India years ago? What was it like there? And most importantly, who is her father, and why did her mom leave him behind? But Pri’s mom avoids these questions—the topic of India is permanently closed.

For Pri, her mother’s homeland can only exist in her imagination. That is, until she find a mysterious pashmina tucked away in a forgotten suitcase. When she wraps herself in it, she is transported to a place more vivid and colorful than any guidebook or Bollywood film. But is this the real India? And what is that shadow lurking in the background? To learn the truth, Pri must travel farther than she’s ever dared and find the family she never knew.

In this heartwarming graphic novel debut, Nidhi Chanani weaves a tale about the hardship and self-discovery that is born from juggling two cultures and two worlds.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really enjoyed the story about the choices we make, how life may be different in different countries and the different rights women may have in different cultures. In it we follow Priyanka (or Pri) who is a normal teenager in many respects but also struggling with a number of questions she has about her mother’s past and about where she comes from. She knows little of India and as the story goes on finds that she wants to know more.

I did enjoy the touch of supernatural/magical aspects and found that it was a good plot point once it got to the resolution, but getting there was a little confusing. I would have liked a little more backstory than the brief explanation that was given towards the end. Still, I found it to be an enjoyable and touching read.

Happy reading!

Review | Mythopedia: An Encyclopedia of Mythical Beasts and Their Magical Tales by Good Wives and Warriors

From the West African fable of Anansi the Spider, to Michabo, the magical hare who rebuilt the world and Tanuki, the sweet but troublesome raccoon-dog of Japanese folklore, Mythopedia is an encyclopedia of mythical creatures that covers legends, tales and myths from around the world.

Lovingly created by the illustration duo behind popular flipbook Myth MatchGood Wives and Warriors, this book contains pages upon pages of cultural folklore from around the world.

Let these weird and wonderful creatures spark your child’s imagination for their own storytelling and drawing while teaching them about international cultures. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

When I initially heard about this book I knew I wanted it on my shelves, but in person it is absolutely stunning! I love that mythical creatures from all areas of the world were included, but almost feel like there could be multiple volumes of this since it only scratched the surface. The art within perfectly accents each description of the creatures as well as the selected stories/legends that go along with a number of them. I really felt that the cultures and depictions of these creatures were well represented. If you’re interested in mythical creatures from cultures all over the world at all I would recommend adding this to your collection.

Happy reading!

Can’t Wait Wednesday | 5/12

Can’t Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings based on the meme Waiting on Wednesday by Breaking the Spine. In this weekly post people share a book that they’re excited about being released.

As soon as I heard about this upcoming book I wanted to get my hands on it. I love the sound of it and will hopefully be picking it up as soon as it releases!

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Happy reading!