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!

Review | Stargazing by Jen Wang

Moon is everything Christine isn’t. She’s confident, impulsive, artistic . . . and though they both grew up in the same Chinese-American suburb, Moon is somehow unlike anyone Christine has ever known.

When Moon’s family moves in next door to Christine’s, Moon goes from unlikely friend to best friend―maybe even the perfect friend. The girls share their favorite music videos, paint their toenails when Christine’s strict parents aren’t around, and make plans to enter the school talent show together. Moon even tells Christine her deepest secret: that she sometimes has visions of celestial beings who speak to her from the stars. Who reassure her that earth isn’t where she really belongs.

But when they’re least expecting it, catastrophe strikes. After relying on Moon for everything, can Christine find it in herself to be the friend Moon needs?

New York Times–bestselling author-illustrator Jen Wang draws on her childhood to paint a deeply personal yet wholly relatable friendship story that’s at turns joyful, heart-wrenching, and full of hope.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As I’ve enjoyed some of Jen Wang’s work before I was sure I would enjoy the art in this one, knowing that it had some personal elements to it made me even more excited to get to it. I was not disappointed at all with this one. Not only does it perfectly depict some of the struggles and emotions that young teens/tweens deal with when navigating friendships and finding their place among their peers – it also touched upon some large issues in the element that was Moon’s sudden health condition. I also really loved some of the cultural aspects that were included, such as different experiences that Asian Americans may have, as well as their family dynamics. There were moments that were joyful or funny but also some that tugged at the heart for both Christine and Moon while they figured out their emotions, friendships and life in general.

Happy reading!

Review | Soft Thorns II by bridgett devoue

Bestselling poet Bridgett Devoue shares insight and advice into the powerful world of unrequited love and abuse.  

Soft Thorns Vol. II is a continuation of the deep and emotional journey author Bridgett Devoue started with her debut poetry collection Soft Thorns. Similar to her first book, Devoue’s lyrical and comforting writing is perfectly complemented by gorgeous illustrations.  Focusing on themes of online bullying, abusive relationships, and unrequited love, Devoue’s topics resonate.  As she explores and elaborates on these issues over eight chapters of poems, the reader will discover all the knowledge and power to be gained from facing hardships head on. Soft Thorns Vol. II is for those who are struggling to reckon with their past, apprehensive of what is to come, and a little nervous about everything in between.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This poetry collection was absolutely beautiful, but also heart wrenching. Part of this may be that a lot of the subject matter and emotion woven into it really resonated with me and I could empathize since I’ve had similar feelings and experiences. Keep in mind before going in that there are definite trigger warnings for trauma, rape, rape culture and toxic relationships. I loved the language used and the imagery that was woven not only in words, but also in the illustrations that were peppered throughout the collection. This one really spoke to be and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a poetry collection that will make you sit with it and absorb as well as just power through it depending on your mood.

Review | Starfell: Willow Moss & the Lost Day by Dominique Valente

The ordinary becomes extraordinary in this sparkling first book in the Starfell series, a modern classic perfect for fans of Nevermoor and The Land of Stories.

Willow Moss’s small magic has always seemed unremarkable. But when the most feared witch in the land of Starfell appears on the Moss family’s doorstep looking for help, it’s not Willow’s talented sisters she seeks, it’s Willow. Because Willow is a finder of lost things—and Moreg Vaine says that last Tuesday has gone missing.

Willow and Moreg set out on a perilous journey across the wilds of Starfell, looking for what they’ve lost. If they don’t discover what happened to the missing day, the repercussions could be devastating for the entire kingdom.

Can Willow find the day, to save the day?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Oh my heart – I loved this story about Willow who is able to find lost things (and doesn’t think that’s much of a magic power to have) going on a quest to find last Tuesday, which has gone missing. I immediately felt for Willow as you very quickly see how certain members of her family treat her because of how unremarkable they see her power, which reinforces Willow’s feelings. Throughout her adventure she meets a lot of interesting people and creatures and is able to grow and discover that maybe her power isn’t so bad after all. If you’re looking for a fast paced adventure with a young witch (especially if looking for alternatives to something else) this is a great one to pick up. Keep in mind there are trigger warnings for slight bullying and death of a loved one.

Happy reading!

Review | One Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak

When Serenity Alston swabbed her cheek for 23andMe, she joked about uncovering some dark ancestral scandal. The last thing she expected was to discover two half sisters she didn’t know existed. Suddenly, everything about her loving family is drawn into question. And meeting these newfound sisters might be the only way to get answers.

Serenity has always found solace at her family’s Lake Tahoe cabin, so what better place for the three women to dig into the mystery that has shaken the foundation each of them was raised on? With Reagan navigating romantic politics at her New York City advertising firm, and Lorelei staring down the collapse of her marriage, all three women are converging at a crossroads in their lives. Before the summer is over, they’ll have to confront the paths they walked to get there and determine how to move forward when everything they previously thought to be true was a lie.

But any future is easier to face with family by your side.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

For a summer read I felt this one really fit the bill. It was more than just a light fluffy read, but still had a lot of those elements that factor in to a summer or beach read. I thought the interactions between the three half sisters were really interesting, especially the fact that they didn’t immediately get along or bond. There were a couple elements that felt like they were left as loose ends, almost as if they were forgotten, which was a little frustrating. Each sister had her own struggles and personal issues that they were bringing to the table, which definitely factored in – which lent to the growth that each sister had throughout the story. The writing style flowed easily and made it a pretty quick paced read. Still, even though there were some things that I had some issues with it was a really enjoyable read.

Happy reading!

Review | Ghosthunting Oregon by Donna Stewart

As part of the America’s Haunted Road Trip series, Ghosthunting Oregon takes readers along on a guided tour of some of the Beaver State’s most haunted historic locations. Local author Donna Stewart researched each location thoroughly before visiting, digging up clues for the paranormal aspect of each site.

In Ghosthunting Oregon, Stewart takes readers to some of the spookiest haunts across the state including: Oaks Park in Portland, where visitors have reported a ghostly apparition of a child in a 1920s or 1930s style dress; the O’Kane Building in central Oregon, where people have reported seeing “ghostly smoke” and strange lights; and Pioneer Park in Pendleton, where some have reported apparitions and hearing voices.

With a copy of Ghosthunting Oregon in hand, readers can visit some of the spookiest haunts across the state and compare their experiences.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I did really enjoy the unique spin that this book and books in the series have in that they focus specifically on places that are open to the public or able to be visited. Most of them allow tours or have options of staying. I really enjoyed the first half of the book, but the writing style became more dry and didn’t flow as well in the last few sections, which made it really hard for me to read. I liked that the author talked about the history of each place and looked at the lore with an objective eye. I also really liked that there are resources in the back if you want to visit these places, but I’m sure as time goes on some of these resources may become outdated. All in all I did enjoy learning about the different places, but as it went on the writing did let me down a bit.

Happy reading!

Review | Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by debut author Joya Goffney is the story of an overly enthusiastic list maker who is blackmailed into completing a to-do list of all her worst fears. It’s a heartfelt, tortured, contemporary YA high school romance with epistolary elements. Fans of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Kristina Forest’s debut I Wanna Be Where You Are will love the juicy secrets, leap-off-the-page sexual tension and the enemy-to-lover romantic arc.

Quinn keeps lists of everything—from the days she’s ugly cried, to “Things That I Would Never Admit Out Loud,” to all the boys she’d like to kiss. Her lists keep her sane. By writing her fears on paper, she never has to face them in real life. That is, until her journal goes missing…

An anonymous account posts one of her lists on Instagram for the whole school to see and blackmails her into facing seven of her greatest fears, or else her entire journal will go public. Quinn doesn’t know who to trust. Desperate, she teams up with Carter Bennett—the last known person to have her journal—in a race against time to track down the blackmailer.

Together, they journey through everything Quinn’s been too afraid to face, and along the way, Quinn finds the courage to be honest, to live in the moment, and to fall in love. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As someone who to this day carries notebooks around with them (and would be in a panic if I lost any of them) the premise of this one really intrigued me from the start. Quinn’s notebook comes across more as a journal, so that would make losing it all the worse. It’s apparent pretty quickly that Quinn has lots of areas where she could grow, her notebook contains a lot of things she’s scared about, dreams about and more and without it she has to learn how to gain courage and sometimes take chances to face her fears.

There are definite themes of racism, blackmailing, general high school pressures (including those from parents) and more. With everything that was packed into this book I almost felt like the romance wasn’t needed since there was so much more to unpack, but it was still a nice addition. All in all I really enjoyed this debut and would look forward to reading more from Joya Goffney in the future. The writing style flowed really well and made it a fast paced read for me.

Happy reading!

Review | Lightfall: The Girl & the Galdurian by Tim Probert

Deep in the heart of the planet Irpa stands the Salty Pig’s House of Tonics & Tinctures, home of the wise Pig Wizard and his adopted granddaughter, Bea. As keepers of the Endless Flame, they live a quiet and peaceful life, crafting medicines and potions for the people of their once-prosperous world.

All that changes one day when, while walking through the woods, Bea meets Cad, a member of the Galdurians, an ancient race thought to be long-extinct. Cad believes that if anyone can help him find his missing people, it’s the Pig Wizard.

But when the two arrive home, the Pig Wizard is nowhere to be found—all that’s left is the Jar of Endless Flame and a mysterious note. Fearing for the Pig Wizard’s safety, Bea and Cad set out across Irpa to find him, while danger fights its way out of the shadows and into the light.

Will these two unexpected friends find the beloved Pig Wizard and prevent eternal darkness from blanketing their world? Or has Irpa truly seen its last sunrise?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I had heard great things about this graphic novel, so I had to pick it up. The first thing that got me was the fact that the art style is so whimsical and colorful, it really sucks you into the world. Also, I LOVED the way Bea’s anxiety was portrayed, both in her explaining what she was feeling as well as the graphic representation. As someone who deals with pretty bad anxiety a lot of the time, it was such a perfect portrayal. I’m kind of sad that there’s no expected release date yet for the 2nd installment as by the end of it I was so invested in the story, characters and where their quest would take them.

Happy reading!

Review | Small Cures by Della Hicks-Wilson

From the much-loved viral poet Della Hicks-Wilson, comes a powerful first dose of small interconnected poems about the heart, letting go and a healing love readers can carry and quote for a lifetime.

‘darling,
you feel heavy
because you are
too full of truth.

open your mouth more.
let the truth exist
somewhere other than
inside your body.’

In this beautifully tender and ambitious debut collection, Della Hicks-Wilson weaves together more than one hundred and fifty poems written over the course of seven years into a single one — to form a stirring and intimate meditation on love and recovery after heartbreak. Using the stages of pathology as an extended metaphor, this book-length poem skilfully takes the reader on a persuasively healing journey in three parts. In what reads like an effortlessly honest and lyrical conversation, Hicks-Wilson works through the complexities of pain, love, loss, self-love, acceptance, growth and repair with both sensitivity and confidence.

Featuring never-before-seen poems and follower favourites, Small Cures is the transformative and soothing bite-sized prescription every person craving to fall in love after love with themselves has been waiting for.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

First and foremost, I really enjoyed the format of this collection as the poems were all interconnected and clearly portrayed a journey. While some of the poems were the super short tumblr style poetry that I don’t always love, the fact that there was variety made me not mind these types of poems interspersed in the collection. There were some poems that were really standouts, whether because of the emotion they portrayed or the imagery in them. While the collection dealt with some heavy topics it was an enjoyable and quick read.

Happy reading!