Six fabulous children’s books!

I’m hoping to get back to some longer fiction in the coming weeks, as my TBR is piling up and there are so many that I want to read, but it’s been so hard to have time to sit down and properly devour a long book lately that I can only consume comics, novellas and children’s books. I’m really loving the ones I’m finding! Some seriously adorable and inspiring works here!

♡ thank you netgalley for the free arc in exchange for an honest review ♡ 

Opal the Octopus is Overwhelmed by Ashley Bartley

‘Opal Octopus says yes to everything, without taking time to think through it. Now she’s overwhelmed by too much on her plate, because she’s quick to agree’

Summing up this book in three words is easy: PRECIOUS. RELATABLE. IMPORTANT.

My mind feels squishy and scattered. I can’t focus on one thing at a time. Wanting to be perfect at everything I do really makes my anxiety climb!

Preach, Opal. As a perpetual juggler of too many things at once, I related to this lovely little book so much. Like, honestly, everyone should read this whether they’re a kid or an adult. Trying to balance everything at once is exhausting and stressful and, in the words of dear Opal, anxiety-inducing. Listen to this octopus and make time for yourself!

I Can Say No by Jenny Simmons

I can use my words
If someone looks down on me.
For the color of my skin
Or the makeup of my family.
I can say, ‘No!
There is no room here
For hate, injustice,
Unkindness, or fear.’

Why, what a wholesome, powerful little book about teaching kids to stand up for themselves and others, to show the importance of boundaries and individuality and self-care. Gotta say, for such a short and sweet book, it packs a profound punch. The pictures are absolutely gorgeous, vibrant, rich and detailed. There’s excellent diversity and representation. Definitely a fantastic book for kids!

I can say NO
to the thoughts in my head
that tell me I’m worthless
because I messed up again.

Um, yes?! Let’s be instilling this in everyone. *throws confidence confetti into the air* Say no with gumption, kids! Talk down your demons and embrace your own path!

My no is my no – there’s no need to explain.

HEAR HEAR

Of course, the author does illustrate the importance of choosing when to say no, or when you can’t – like listening to your parents about chores, haha – and thus provides a balanced approach to saying no.

How to Tap a Maple! by Stephanie Mulligan

This is a cute little informative book about the process of tapping maple syrup from trees in the winter snow. It’s a good explanatory book for children curious about how syrup is refined through boiling and straining before it can be served. It’s set in Maine, which is a lovely state, but of course now I’m missing Canada! And I also want pancakes. 😉

The Froggies Do Not Want to Sleep by Adam Gustavson

Seriously, 100%, could not stop laughing at these froggies.

This absolutely gorgeously illustrated book is light on the words, but the artwork is some of the best I’ve seen in a while. Simply splendid! The writing, honestly, reads like some exasperated, knowing parent, who simply cannot get the froggies to go to sleep and I just cracked up laughing every page.

‘They want to sing opera while firing themselves out of cannons’ but they certainly do NOT want to go to sleep.

I giggled. Hard.

The Speckled Feather by Johanna Ries

The artwork in this straight up left me like:

I think it’s hand drawn, water-colour-y and lush and lovely, and I’m absolutely enamoured. You just want to fall into the artist’s world and live inside these colours. So, so beautiful. Hats off to the artist!

The story itself is an important one about friendship, care and the downside of selfishness. Three birds live with an elephant and are protected from predators by the elephant until they start fighting with each other about who gets to keep the speckled feather that blows their way one day. Mr Elephant ain’t about that nonsense and teaches them a valuable lesson.

Definitely recommend!

Norman’s First Day at Dino Day Care by Sean Julian

Maybe together it’ll only be half as scary

Aww, this is a sweet little story about how to believe in yourself, even when you’re shy and nervous and don’t feel up to public speaking. A great message for kids! And the drawings are adorable.

Buffy, Willow and Comics Galore!

Oh my gosh, the new Buffyverse comics by BOOM! Studies are simply wonderful. The Willow comics take place after Hellmouth, which happens partway through the new Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics. So I suggest starting with Buffy, Volume 1 and then going to the Willow comics when the timelines diverge. Basically, the comics reboot the original show in the modern day, with all the characters’ appearances based on the actors themselves i.e. Buffy looks like Sarah Michelle Gellar, etc. The whole thing feels like an AU (but in a great way!).

The Willow comics are such a fabulous side adventure to the new Buffy. And isn’t the artwork so lush? I’m obsessed with these covers, my word. In this storyline, Willow’s a witch from the start, not after spending ages researching alongside Giles like in the show and she’s taking a break from Sunnydale after events in the Buffy reboot. It’s only five issues long so far – not sure if it’s getting more? – so it’s a fun little fest that’s a great way to spend a couple hours. And, again, the artwork. (✿◠‿◠)

SPOILER WARNING! The Buffy reboot starts with Buffy, Willow and Xander in very different places than they started in the show. Willow has a girlfriend from the start, Xander is much less of a ‘nice guy’ and more nuanced (thank goodness), Joyce has a boyfriend who treats Buffy well, Giles and Jenny are already dating, Robin Wood is in school with the rest of the cast and has a side story with Kendra, and Spike and Drusilla arrive in season one. I haven’t reached Angel’s appearance yet in the comics, but I’m sure he’s coming as there’s also an Angel reboot comic.

In addition to all the Buffyverse comics, I also tried out Artifice and Vision #1. I also read and reviewed two great kids books: We Are All Under One Wide Sky and Theo’s Princess. All very good!

And now on to the Angel comics … (^o^)

ARCs TBR

I have a growing list of ARCs to read and review in the next month or two. I’m so excited for all of them and I wish I had more reading time to get to them faster, but alas I’m busy and slow and it takes me time to catch up. Very excited to read these, though.

The Wolf and the Water by Josie Jaffrey:

Some secrets are worth killing for

The ancient city of Kepos sits in an isolated valley, cut off from the outside world by a towering wall. Behind it, the souls of the dead clamour for release. Or so the priesthood says.

Kala has never had any reason to doubt their word – until her father dies in suspicious circumstances that implicate the city’s high priest. She’s determined to investigate, but she has a more immediate problem: the laws of the city require her mother to remarry straight away.

Kala’s new stepfather is a monster, but his son Leon is something altogether more dangerous: kind.
With her family fractured and the investigation putting her life in danger, the last thing Kala needs is romance. She would rather ignore Leon entirely, however difficult he makes it. But when she learns the truth of what really clamours behind the wall at the end of the valley, she faces a choice: share what she knows and jeopardise her escape, or abandon him to his fate along with the rest of the city.

If she doesn’t move fast, then no one will make it out of the valley alive.

I really love Josie Jaffrey’s writing style, and I’ve read a few of her stories already, so I’m excited to start in on this one.

Bloodlaced by Courtney Maguire:

Kanjin hardly view their servants as human. Even less so when they are different.

Asagi is different. Both a man and a woman.

In the wake of his failure to protect a boy he saw as a son from their abusive master, Asagi is sold into the house of a young nobleman, Mahiro, who is the opposite of everything Asagi has ever known—gentle, kind, and generous.

Mahiro bonds with Asagi and their friendship blooms into a deep and profound love. But when Asagi is poisoned out of jealousy, Mahiro reveals himself to be youkai, a demon who feeds on blood, and he has no choice but to turn Asagi to save their life.

Asagi awakes reborn, strong, and eternally youthful. But the price for Asagi’s new life is high.

The blood of the innocent. Just as Asagi’s trust in Mahiro falters, the boy he failed to protect, now a man, reappears.​

New master, same threat.

With both a literal and proverbial monster at the door, Asagi must decide what it means to be human to protect what they love most.

I’m always excited for more fantasy stories, so I super excited for this one!

Buried Vapors by Matthew Kesselman:

When Ian arrives in the City, he reminisces about a time when he was a boy, staring at the stars. Now, as a young man, he wanders aimlessly through work, a budding romance, and the subway, his smartphone in hand, feeling lost.

That is, until he stumbles upon something different: the dreams of strangers. Mesmerized and enchanted, Ian follows his curiosity but quickly finds himself thrust into a situation he did not expect. Before too long, an ever-accelerating chaos of surreal nights and stark days surround him. Soon there is only one option: he must find answers before his life dangerously unravels and he loses everything.

Thoughtful, innovative, and magical, Buried Vapors is a poignant and timely novel that explores the deep yearning for purpose in all of us as humanity journeys adrift into the twenty-first century. Buried Vapors helps us find the light, even within utter darkness.

The writing in this one is soooo good so far.

Jinnik: The Asset by Gideon Asche:

From 1947 through 1991, the United States and her allies faced off against the Soviet Union and her proxy states in clandestine operations worldwide during the Cold War. It was not a conventional shooting war, but make no mistake, both sides lost thousands of brave men and women who fought for what they believed in. Eastern Europe was home to some of the most intense and harrowing missions as NATO forces directly opposed the Soviets behind the Iron Curtain. Jinnik: The Asset is the true story of one man’s role in the conflict.

Gideon Asche was the typical American soldier stationed in West Germany in 1979. He dreamed of getting out and going back home to California as a civilian who’d done his small part for liberty. Little did he know that his longtime girlfriend, Petra, was a Mossad agent who’d likely been recruiting him from the beginning. After his enlistment was up, Gideon found himself with an offer he couldn’t refuse: to become a covert operator helping people trapped beyond the lines of freedom.

For ten years, Gideon lived in the shadows under false identities, transiting border checkpoints and Eastern Bloc nations with supplies and much-needed cash for the resistance. He lost team members, contacts, and friends, but he made a difference in Eastern Europe. No mission was refused because it was too hard or had never been done before. The only thing that stopped him was his eventual capture and torture by the KGB in Bulgaria. Somehow, miraculously, he survived the ordeal to tell his story.

This one looks super intense, but I’m really curious to see what it’s all about.

Anyone else reading these? ♡

Short Story Review: An Indelible Day (2020)

An Indelible Day by Cairo Marques (2020)

“We just weren’t compatible. Still, we’re going to exist within one another eternally. We’ve created indelible memories together.”

An Indelible Day is quite an interesting short story that makes for a quick, thought provoking read. The story is divided into three sections and each one is framed around conversations the main character, John C., has with three other people. The main characters are not given last names, only initials, which was an interesting stylistic choice. I think the last time I saw that was in classics, which is cool. The monologues of the characters and the way the story is framed reminded me of older stories, too, like Salinger’s style in Franny and Zooey, just having two characters engaged in a long conversation. It definitely flowed well.

I will say that I would’ve liked a bit more characterisation to really get to know each character and perhaps some backstory, and I do wish it had been expanded a little bit, with perhaps a bit more detail, but overall it made for a very interesting and engaging read.

I received a free ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. Cross-posted to Goodreads.